5 ways to... Visit Christmas markets

Browse the food and craft stalls to stock up on holiday cheer this year

There is something vastly appealing about the concept of the Christmas market. While this winning mix of craft stalls and food sellers, slotted into city-centre squares, seems to be ever-more visible amid the grey of November as well as the tinsel rustle of December, it offers a less nakedly commercial take on the year-end shopping frenzy than a Saturday in a shiny mall.

Here is a chance to buy quirky gifts - wooden toys, tree trinkets - while leavening the process with a mug of glühwein or a mustard-drowned bratwurst. And it is also, of course, an excuse for travel, to urban hotspots across Europe - or even further afield...

By heading to a true classic

The idea of the Christmas market is distilled to its essence in Prague (praguewelcome.cz), a city whose cobbled medieval core is an ideal framework for the soft-focus, children's-choir vibe of the season. Pockets of festive commerce are dotted across the Czech capital at this time of year - although the motherlodes are found in Old Town (30 November to 1 January) and Wenceslas (30 November to 12 January) squares.

A three-night stay at the five-star Aria hotel in the Mala Strana district costs from £539 per person, with flights, private transfers and breakfast, via Kirker Holidays (020 7593 1899; kirkerholidays.com).

By heading south, not east

Though tradition seems to demand it, a Christmas market does not have to be staged in a former Eastern Bloc piazza. Madrid (esmadrid.com) offers a Latin variation on the theme with an annual flurry of stalls in the iconic Plaza Mayor - the rectangular space which, with its elegant three-storey buildings on each side (and the modern cafés that lurk under its cloisters), has been the heart of the Spanish capital since 1576.

A two-night break with breakfast at the five-star Ritz Madrid, departing Heathrow on 6 December, is £259 a head (two sharing), with British Airways Holidays (0844 493 0772; ba.com/holidays).

By quick-hop rail journey

One of the most accessible markets on foreign soil is in Lille (lilletourism.com), a mere hour-and-a-half train ride from St Pancras in London to the city in the northern-most corner of France. This highly rated Christmas bonanza will fill the central Place Rihour with the aroma of gingerbread and sugared gaufres from 20 November to 30 December. Those who want a lofty view of proceedings can find it on the giant ferris wheel stationed in the adjacent Grand Place.

A two-night trip, leaving on 6 December, staying at the four-star Suite Novotel Lille Europe (room only), costs £258 per person (two sharing) via Eurostar (08432 186 186; eurostar.com).

By crossing the Atlantic

America is, of course, the home of Christmas with maximum dazzle. So it proves in New York (nycgo.com), where Manhattan is festooned with festive markets in the run-up to 25 December. Two of the best are held in Columbus Circle (at the south-western corner of Central Park - 3 to 24 December) and at Union Square (21 November to 24 December - see urbanspacenyc.com for details on both). A three-night jaunt, flying on 6 December from Heathrow and staying at the four-star Refinery Hotel in Midtown, costs from £932 per person (two sharing, room only) through Virgin Holidays (0844 557 4321; virginholidays.co.uk).

By staying on home turf

Contrary to opinion, Britain can rival continental Europe for frosty al fresco shopping. Birmingham's "Frankfurt Christmas Market" is the biggest event in the country, its odd name a tribute to both the event's ambience and the city's twinning relationship with the German metropolis, which has endured since 1966. Now into its 12th year, the market envelops Victoria Square, New Street, Centenary Square and Chamberlain Square - and will be in situ from 14 November to 22 December (birmingham.gov.uk/frankfurtmarket). Doubles at the Hotel Du Vin (0844 736 4250; hotelduvin.com) start at £135, room only.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
Buddy DeFranco
people
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
filmIdris Elba responds to James Bond rumours on Twitter
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
film
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Accounts Administrator

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £30,000 Uncapped

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Day In a Page

    Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

    Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

    Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog
    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
    Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

    Finally, a diet that works

    Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
    Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

    Say it with... lyrics

    The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
    Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

    The joys of 'thinkering'

    Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
    Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

    Monique Roffey interview

    The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
    DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
    Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

    How we met

    Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

    Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

    Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
    Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

    Who does your club need in the transfer window?

    Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month