5 Christmas markets you should check out this season

Xmas market - Cover

Soon we’re halfway through November, and it’s already a long time since the retail world brought out their Christmas decorations. But mid-November marks the start of many Christmas markets around Europe, so I thought I would share a handful of fist hand recommendations…

Odense, Denmark

Where: The old part of town (Sortebrødre Torv)

When: Dec. 4.-6. + Dec. 11.-13.

What: My home town – and the birthtown of fairytale writer Hans Christian Andersen – offers a perfect setting for the annual Christmas market in his name: H.C. Andersen Julemarkedet. Located along Xmas market - Odensethe cobblestoned streets in the old town, this market has an authentic feel.

Browse the wooden stalls, between the historic houses and have a taste of the Danish Christmas traditions; gløgg (mulled wine with almonds and raisins), æbleskiver (donut like balls) and Risengrød (rice pudding topped with cinnamon and sugar).

Why: The Christmas market in Odense is a nice alternative, or addition, to the more famous market in Tivoli, Copenhagen. Spend a day and enjoy the rest of the decorations in the Christmas-dressed city center.

Web: H.C. Andersen Julemarkedet

Lübeck, Germany

Where: Mainly the old town (Altstadt)

When: Nov. 23rd – Dec. 30th

What: If you fancy a trip to Northern Germany you’ll have a chance to experience one of the oldest Christmas markets in the world, and naturally one of the most famous in Germany. From late November to the end of December, the festivities are spread all over the city centre, but the main attraction is found around the UNESCO listed old town.

For more than 350 years locals have enjoyed the city’s Christmas market, which today offers a wide range of crafts, decorations and plenty of food – enjoyed by 250.000 visitors each year. Heat up with a glass of Glühwein (mulled wine) and treat yourself to a sweet bite at Café Niederegger – run by Niederegger who’s known for its marzipan for more than 200 years. Check the top floor for the Marzipan Museum.

Why: This is tradition at its best and a highly atmospheric market, which is a must for Christmas lovers. A short trip (60 km) away and a good day out, if you’re staying in Hamburg.

Web: Lübecker Weihnachtsmarkt

Cardiff, Wales

Where: City Center (The Hayes, St. John Street, Working Street, Hill Street and Trinity Street)

When: Nov. 12th – Dec. 23rdXmas market - Cardiff

What: A great alternative to the classic shopping trip to London. The underrated Welsh capital offers a new perspective, with its cozy city center market and the impressive Cardiff Castle as a backdrop.

Browse the wooden stalls for local craft and treats, and why not bring home a Welsh love spoon as a gift for your loved ones. Don’t miss the family fun nearby at Gorsedd Gardens, where the popular Winter Wonderland offers ice skating and attractions in front of the beautiful town hall.

Why: The city center is compact and very walkable, and Cardiff is one of the UK’s best cities for shopping. Get lost in the old victorian arcades or go gift-hunting in the modern St. Davids centre. You can reach Cardiff easily via Bristol Airport.

Web: Cardiff Christmas Market

Paris, France

Where: Champs-Elysées and La Défense.

When: Champs-Elysées Nov. 15th – Jan. 4th / La Défense Nov. 19th – Dec. 27th

What: Paris oozes romance all year around, and the darkness of winter leaves the ‘City of Lights’ more stunning than ever. The ‘magnifique’ Champs-Elysées and Place de La Concorde is lined by market stalls and 400 sparkling trees, that will absorb you in Christmas spirit – if you don’t mind a crowd. If you want traditions in a modern frame, then head to the towering La Défense area, where more than 350 wooden stalls of International treats are surrounded by skyscrapers.

Why: Paris is Paris – and every season shows a new side of this iconic city. These two markets shows the contrasts between two very different neighbourhoods, and there will be plenty of other markets to discover while exploring the city.

Web: Christmas markets in Paris

Madrid, Spain

Where: Plaza Mayor

When: DecemberXmas market - Madrid

What: The Spanish capital might not be the typical choice for a Christmas holiday, but Madrid has a lot to offer – in both atmosphere, traditions and shopping opportunities. The historic Christmas market at the magnificent Plaza Mayor is like a box of holiday spirit, with a lid of ‘floating’ lights. This market has been running for more than 100 years, and is one of the oldest in Spain. The stalls are packed with toys, sweets and equipment for home based nativity scenes.

If you visit with kids you shouldn’t miss the Madrid-tradition of ‘Cortylandia’ – giant singing cartoon figures on the facade of El Corte Inglés (near Plaza del Callao). And don’t forget to try a piece of Turrón – the holiday nougat that comes in many different variations.

Why: Though Madrid is extremely busy during Christmas, it’s very walkable and the streets are nicely decorated. If you want to shop for presents, you definitely won’t miss anything here.

Web: Christmas in Madrid

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By Brian Schæfer Dreyer