Time To Get into the Christmas Spirit

With the festive season fast approaching it’s time to book that visit to one of Europe’s Christmas markets

It’s Christmas market time again… And there’s nothing like a trip to one of the hundreds of Christmas markets on the Continent to get yourself in the mood for the festive holidays.

Most Christmas markets get underway in the middle of November and run right through until Christmas Eve, with the Markets in many Eastern European running a week or so into the New Year to cover January 7, ‘Russian Christmas’ in the Gregorian calendar.

Tallinn, Estonia’s Medieval Old Town takes on an especially magical quality this time of the year especially when a fresh powdering of snow covers its gabled rooftops and outdoor candles fill its cobblestone lanes with a flickering glow. Though the nights may be dark, winter is when you’ll find Tallinn at its most enchanting. Estonia’s enchantingly pretty capital is also the home of the world’s first Christmas tree. This tree was erected on Tallinn’s Town Hall Square and was the focal point of a ritual, that began in 1441, and involved unmarried merchants singing and dancing with local girls around a tree, which was then burnt.

From shopping at the charming, old-fashioned Christmas Market, which is fast becoming one of Europe’s favourite Christmas markets, to skating on Old Town’s outdoor ice rink to enjoying a cup of hot, spiced wine in a cosy café, every day brings new delights. And the city is further brightened up by a full schedule of classical concerts, jazz events, film screenings and other engaging activities. Tallinn’s Christmas Markets run from Nov 17 right through until January 7, to cover the date of the ‘Russian Christmas’ a legacy of Estonia’s Soviet past. Christmas Eve not Christmas Day is the highlight of the festive season in Sweden.

Nearly everyone is on holiday, and having enjoyed the well-stocked smorgasbord, that special knock at the door is awaited – the arrival of Santa Claus and presents. Christmas in Sweden has become more modern, mixing domestic and foreign customs. Christmastime is when cities, towns and villages are at their most magical with snow on the ground generally matched with blue skies and sunshine – it really is Christmas card perfect.

Wrap up in scarves, hats and gloves and warm yourself with a glass of spicy mulled wine (glögg) whilst browsing over the most gorgeous handicrafts and Christmas decorations at the Christmas markets in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmo. Sample Swedish Christmas delicacies at the markets. Look out for smoked sausage, reindeer meat and traditional Swedish Christmas sweets.

At least four Xmas Markets take place within the city area of Stockholm, namely Skansen, on the park island of Djurgården, where the Christmas markets date back to 1903, Gamla Stan, commonly known as  the Old Town just south of the Royal Palace, in Rosendal Palace which is a little way from the centre of  Djurgården and Kungstradgården, a large urban park near the tourist and shopping area.

The Liseberg Christmas Market which takes place in Gothenburg is reputed to be the largest in Sweden with over 60 stalls and an open air ice rink nearby. Outdoor stalls sell Swedish Christmas sweets, smoked sausages, reindeer meat, glögg (mulled wine), and a wide range of Swedish handicrafts and other gifts. Most Christmas markets run from mid-November right up until Christmas Eve but it’s best to check before you book your dates of travel. Christmas Markets are special in Northern Europe but it is Germany in particular that is universally accepted as the home of Christmas markets in Europe, and almost every city or town of any size boasts their own Christmas market.

The towns and cities along the Rhine and Moselle valleys provide an especially idyllic setting for a romantic Christmas Market break. Half-timbered buildings are festively lit and the aromas of mulled wine out of the local vineyards and cinnamon permeate the air at traditional Christmas markets. in Germany. One of the most popular are the Christmas markets in Dusseldorf which transform the metropolis at the Rhine into a magical festive world. Meanwhile, datng back to 1393, Frankfurt Christmas Market is one of the oldest in Germany. Go along and enjoy hot Applewine and Bethmännchen almond candies under Germany’s tallest Christmas tree!

There are around 60 Christmas Markets in Berlin. The really popular Berlin Christmas Market is centrally situated and a real effort is made to maintain the quality of products sold at the Xmas Markets in Berlin. The world famous Nuremberg Christmas Market attracts visitors from around the globe. The Nuremberg Market dates back over 400 years and visitors will find the charm of the city’s festive offering as compelling and irresistible. Experience the advent season in Cologne with its festive illumination and visit one of the seven Christmas markets all with their unique atmosphere. UK Christmas Markets, such as the one in Belfast, often have Continental themes bringing over French, German or Italian traders.

The traditional Glasgow Christmas Market takes place in St Enoch’s Square and will attract traders from all over the world, with a second market at George Square. There will be two Christmas markets in Glasgow this year at St Enoch Square and George Square. Whether you are looking for distinctive hand-made gifts, stocking up your cupboards or simply soaking up the atmosphere, Edinburgh Christmas Markets will make your Christmas shopping sparkle.

Great Late-night shopping, unbeatable festive atmosphere, together with a celebrated ice-rink, and Christmas Markets – the historic Scottish capital has Christmas all wrapped up. Probably the best and biggest Christmas attraction in the UK is London’s Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. Get together with family and friends for a festive adventure, with ice skating, fairground rides, big top shows, Christmas markets and seasonal food under sparkling Christmas lights.

Winter Wonderland returns to London’s Hyde Park for the 11th year. This free-to-enter family event includes a host of festive fun and activities, including Winter Wonderland ice skating, big top shows, an observation wheel and a huge Christmas market. Top activities at Winter Wonderland, which runs from November 17 to January 1, includes the UK’s largest outdoor ice rink which circles the Park’s Victorian Bandstand, or you can go on a deep sea adventure past mystical water creatures made from ice and snow in the Magical Ice Kingdom; and watch The Imperial Ice Stars’ world and national championship-level skaters perform a thrilling interpretation of Cinderella on Ice.

You can also enjoy acrobatic wonders at Zippos Circus’ family daytime Christmas show or evening Cirque Berserk spectacular while you can also take a seat on the iconic Giant Observation Wheel for a flight 60m (200ft) above Hyde Park, offering stunning views of London’s skyline. The traditional German Christmas market houses more than 200 charming chalets overflowing with festive goods and you can also explore the 150 chalets of the Angels Christmas Market, to shop for unusual and unique items, including arts and crafts, trinkets, jewellery and decorations.

You can find more information on visiting Christmas Markets throughout Europe and beyond on christmasmarkets.com.

Five Weeks of Festive Spirit in Front of Belfast City Hall

The highly successful and much anticipated Belfast Christmas Market will be returning to the grounds of the Belfast City Hall for the 13th year.

The gates will be open every day from November 18 to December 23 for visitors to explore a number of countries from across the world including Germany, Spain, France, Italy and a number of local traders.

Santa will be visiting the market to meet families as there will be plenty of entertainment during our visit. The famous City Hall provides a wonderful backdrop for the Belfast Christmas Market, situated right in the heart of the City Centre and its attractive retail shopping areas. These fabulous City Hall grounds are transformed into a bustling continental village providing a great shop around Europe opportunity in the heart of this famous City Centre.

Among the retail theatre taking place each day, visitors will be able to avail of the now infamous culinary delights including a range of products such as cheeses, olives, Italian nougat, Belgian chocolates, French tarts, (made on site by a fantastic Breton Patisserie) Mouthwatering foods will be available for customers to sample and buy as they wander around the Yuletide market – giant Bratwurst sold from a traditional Schwenkgrille, Spanish Paella, exotic and rare meats from around the World such as Alligator, Impala, Kangaroo and Wild Boar.

For those who enjoy Crepes one of the best Creperies in Europe will be selling both the sweet crepes and savoury Galettes alternatively the Dutch equivalent the Pofitjes (or mini pancakes) will be served with a variety of toppings. Marketplace, operators of the market, have also handpicked a selection of traders selling a wide range of unique art and craft products from various countries around the world for you to find that special gift or just a treat for yourself. And of course bringing a great splash of colour is the Dutch Bulb and Plant Garden selling a fabulous array of bulbs, trees, shrubs, garden ornaments and bird feeders.

The market features some fantastic refreshment areas such as the Continental Bar and Lavery’s traditional Irish Bar where you can hear some great live music or wander around the German Gluwein and Bratwurst Stands enjoying a great glass of warming mulled wine. And if all that shopping, eating and drinking doesn’t satisfy you, you can also take the family to visit Santa in his specially designed Grotto.

Running from Monday to Thursday, from 11.00am to 2.00pm, the Belfast Christmas Market run the Buddy Scheme tours. These tours operate during quieter times of the market for people who may have accessibility issues. To book a tour contact Market Place info@mpel.co.uk Operators Marketplace also offer local primary schools the opportunity to take part in our Free Educational Tours!

These allow for young children to visit the market with their teachers to meet the traders, learn about all the different cultures being represented at the market and to try some  tasty foods at the festive market. The market runs from 10.00 to 8.00pm, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, 10.00am to 10.00pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and 1.00pm to 6.00pm on Sundays.