Europe’s best Christmas markets in 2018
Stock up on unique festive gifts from across the continent while enjoying a fun weekend away
Here are some of the top Christmas markets of the season.
You’d think a place like Venice couldn’t get any more picturesque but, come December, it really comes into its own, with whimsical Christmas lights reflecting along the canals. Street vendors pitch up in Strada Nuova bewteen Campo di San Felice and Campo dei Santi Apostoli, and throughout the narrow streets, selling all kinds of traditional crafts and goodies. Stock up on authentic Italian fare such as nougat, white truffles, balsamic vinegars, fine olive oils and – because who can resist a good souvenir – some Murano glass baubles.
Mid-December-6 January; christmasmarkets.com
Where to stay: Boscolo Venezia. If you’re going to treat yourself to a trip to Venice then you may as well push the boat out (pun intended) and book yourself into one of the city’s most unique hotels, just a short boat ride from the markets. The canalside Boscolo Venezia hotel is housed in a building dating back to the early 15th century and its luxurious interior – think marble, period frescoes and restored artwork – provides the backdrop for the rustic meets contemporary charm of the wellness centre and exquisite food in the hotel's Il Giardino Segreto restaurant. The authentic Venetian rooms are lavish and opulent with oriental rugs, Murano lamps and canal or garden views. It is a special occasion after all…
Deluxe rooms from £210 per night; venezia.boscolohotels.com
The popular Christmas Market in Skansen (an island close to the city centre) has been held on the site of the world’s oldest open-air museum every year since 1903, so you can expect a thoroughly traditional and authentically Scandinavian affair. Stock up on handmade Swedish decorations and gifts, and cast all thoughts of Rudolph aside as you snack on smoked reindeer, sausage and salmon – all washed down with a cup of warming glogg.
Saturdays and Sundays from 24 November-16 December; skansen.se. Photo by Henrik Trygg
Where to stay: Downtown Camper by Scandic Hot on the heels of the recent launch of Haymarket, the trendy Scandic hotel group have done it again with the newly opened Downtown Camper. The sprawling new hotel is located in the city centre, close to Stockholm’s must-see attractions and Christmas markets. Interiors are typically Scandi-cool with a focus on sustainable design but it’s the unique Camper Co-Living concept that’s a real selling point, where up to 12 people can stay in adjoining rooms. Handy if there’s a whole party of you making the trip.
From around £119 a night, scandichotels.com
Stockholm’s festive offering looks positively futuristic compared to the Dresden Christmas Market (or Striezelmarkt as it’s officially known) in Germany, which has been held in the Baroque city for more than five centuries. The word ‘streitzel’ comes from Hefestriezel, one of the original types of stollen, Germany’s famous festive sweet treat, which you’ll find in abundance in the market along with handmade crafts, toys and sweets.
29 November-24 December; germany-christmas-market.org.uk
Where to stay: Gewandhaus Dresden The five-star Gewandhaus hotel was built in around 1770 and is renowned as one of the city’s most beautiful buildings, which is really saying something in a city as architecturally spectacular as Dresden. The interiors are equally elegant with just the right blend of modern luxury and period charm. Located in the heart of the city’s Old Town, it’s a leisurely five-minute stroll to Striezelmarkt – perfect for when you’ve overspent on stollen.
From around £166 a night, gewandhaus-hotel.de
Find a gift that your loved ones will actually want (does anybody really like panettone?) at Dublin’s indoor festive weekender – now in its fifth year of operation. The Dublin Flea Christmas Market brings together over 135 independent local traders offering everything from vintage knick-knacks, maps and posters to record players, contemporary art, upcycled furniture and handmade jewellery.
6-9 December and 13-16 December, dublinchristmasflea.ie
Where to stay: Dylan hotel Ostensibly you’re going to Dublin for a spot of Christmas shopping, but everyone knows an Irish weekender is really all about the craic. So, make sure you stay somewhere full of it, like five-star boutique bolthole Dylan. The hotel’s austere Victorian facade belies a playfully eccentric interior scheme with 44 individually designed rooms, an award-winning restaurant and seriously stylish bar.
From around £272 per night, dylan.ie
The balmy Croatian capital may not seem like the most obvious festive pitstop but the annual Zagreb Christmas Market has steadily grown in popularity since launching in 2010, and even won the coveted title of Europe’s Best Christmas Market two years in a row. Advent celebrations kick off from the end of November, when Zagreb is adorned in pretty fairy lights and decorations while traditional food and souvenir stalls, live DJs, an ice rink and dance displays take over the central Zrinjevac park area.
2 December-6 January; europeanbestdestinations.com. Picture courtesy of The Zagreb Tourist Board
Where to stay: Esplanade Zagreb The five-star Esplanade Zagreb originally opened in 1925 as a refuge for passengers of the Orient Express, so you know you’re in for a luxurious experience. The imposing hotel is one of the most iconic in Croatia and has hosted a whole heap of A-listers, from Josephine Baker and Elizabeth Taylor to David Beckham.
From around £106 per night, esplanade.hr
The Advent Feast at the Basilica in Budapest is the city’s most popular Christmas event, entering into its seventh year in 2018. The Basilica serves as an incredible backdrop for a massive festival with free attractions for visitors of all ages, including ice-skating and crafts. If you’re after something a little more unusual, there will also be flash mobs and a 3D light show.
27 November-2 January, europeanbestdestinations.com
Where to stay: Corinthia Hotel Budapest This beautiful historic building is located in the heart of the city. For the Christmas season, the five-star Corinthia is offering a package that includes a room upgrade, breakfast, access to the spa and a bottle of Champagne on arrival. The hotel was first opened in 1896, and has since been renovated to include several eateries and two bars, so you will definitely have something worthwhile to tuck into after a Christmas market flash mob.
Festive packages starts from around £145, corinthia.com