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Top 5 Christmas Markets in Europe 

The festive season in Europe is spectacular and a wonderful time to visit the beautiful Christmas markets.  There is something for everyone; whether it’s handmade Christmas gifts, delicious foods and hot drinks or struggling to skate on an ice rink!  Indulge in the lovely smell of Christmas trees and festive treats, not forgetting the sound of traditional Christmas Carols. So why not visit a European Christmas Market this winter to get this amazing experience.  Here are the top 5 worth visiting.

Zagreb, Croatia

The Christmas markets of Zagreb have been voted the best in Europe for the third year in a row! The magical atmosphere around the city begins from as early as mid-November, continuing through to early January, which gives travellers plenty of time to visit over the advent period. Zagreb offers a special atmosphere which must be experienced. All of the city’s roads and squares are lit up and invite you to partake in singing and dancing whilst offering samples of traditional delicacies. For those who like activities, the ice park is an integral part of this experience, where you can skate for as long as you like whilst surrounded by wooden huts offering delightful foods for spectators.

The Trg Ban Jelacica is the city’s main square, home to the huge Christmas tree which is no stringer to selfies. It is known as the Rockefeller tree of Europe, so really is a big deal! Zrinjevac Park is one of the greatest spots in Zagreb, with lanterns lighting up the avenues of trees. Enjoy the great selection of Christmas food such as baked štrukle, a warm baked pastry dish with soft cheese, as well as winter drink specialities from decorated tiny wooden huts. No wonder it has been voted number 1 again!

Flickr | Miroslav Vajdic
Colmar, France

It is the ambiance of the old town which ranks this the 2nd best Christmas Market. The historic setting makes this place magical, where lights illuminate the numerous architectural treasures. The magic of Christmas in Colmar is a multitude of food specialities; numerous sugary pleasures and festive drinks that fill the window displays of specialist stalls. There are a variety of events such as concerts and other open air events until New Year Eve, so there is always something going on any day you visit. This annual event is open from the 23rd November to the end of December each year, attracting many tourists from all over Europe.

Each of the 5 markets is almost a mini-village, with a variety of marquees selling high quality handmade gifts for all ages. Be tempted to purchase the quirky Christmas tree decorations from one of the sixty or so little wooden chalets. Make your Christmas tree better than all your neighbours! This market recreates the atmosphere of a traditional gothic village. It is dedicated to local products, and offers a host of tasty treats like cold meats, homemade chocolates, liqueurs, biscuits and many other festive temptations. So why not visit this old town market, you’ll feel like you’ve travelled back in time!

Flickr | Office de Tourisme de Colmar
Vienna, Austria

In the lead up to Christmas, Vienna’s remarkable squares transform into fairy-tale Christmas markets. The aroma of the fresh chestnuts, festive cheese and hot chocolate draws visitors into the lit up streets and gets the whole city into the Christmas spirit. The popular Christmas Village ‘Belvedere Palace’ looks out onto the glorious baroque backdrop, Vienna‘s most beautiful and significant sights. Over 40 festively decorated market marquees offer traditional handcrafted goods, Christmas decorations and delicious Viennese foods.

Huge nativity sets dotted around the city bring the real essence of Christmas, where visitors can admire carol singing from in front of the sets. In terms of shopping, you’ll find everything you’re after, from jewellery, warm jumpers to handcrafted goods and gift wrapped chocolates. What’s more, for those who like to have fun, there’s an ice rink along with numerous funfair rides such as a carousel and reindeer train, for all ages! What makes the Vienna markets so great is the backdrop of the picturesque buildings which are illuminated by Christmas lights. This really is photograph worthy!

Flickr | Brian Colson

Budapest, Hungary

Forget the Budapest spas during the festive season; it’s all about the Christmas markets and Winter Festival. The plaza in the heart of the city turns magical, with 40 cottage-style wooden stalls offering unique gifts for loved ones, and traditional foods giving off a delicious scent of honey cookies, cinnamon and mulled wine.  This aromatic scent simply lures you into the market!

There are 12 food and drink stalls in Vörösmarty Square, making Budapest a thriving city and resolutely traditional. On Sundays at 4pm, there is ceremonial lighting of an advent candle, bringing the essence of biblical tradition. Like other Christmas markets in Europe, this one doesn’t disappoint; there is a new ice-skating rink near St Stephen’s Basilica which is fun for the whole family! This opened in 2011, and it has a wonderful atmosphere and makes a nice picture standing on the stairs of the basilica.

Flickr | Top Budapest

Brussels, Belgium

Brussels turns into a winter wonderland from the end of November until New Years and is the biggest Christmas market in Europe. Visitors will be enchanted by the 2km trail of wooden stalls that are filled with food treats and stocking fillers. They almost resemble gingerbread houses, covered with snow-top roofs. The markets countless illuminations sparkle delightfully throughout the city; the hot chocolate queues in the historical streets will drag you in, warming up both hearts and hands.

A fun fair with merry-go-rounds, Ferris wheel and a large ice rink in the centre brings music to ours, making it that little bit more fun and adventurous (and not just for the kids!).  It truly is five weeks of captivating encounters and fantastic gift ideas, making Brussels’ winter wonderland a legendary key event during the festive season.
There is a lot going on in the advent period such as a Christmas Ball, choirs at the Palace Sainte- Catherine, and a massive Christmas tree with a light show every evening.

Flickr | Kathryn BurringtonThese are 5 of the most magical Christmas markets in Europe which create the essence of a winter wonderland. They are definitely a must-go-to over the festive period, where you can enjoy the great selection of Christmas food, browse or shop at the traditional stalls and even practice your ice-skating skills!

By Sophia-Harri Nicholaou - Online Journalism Intern

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