The Top 10: Christmas markets

Roast chestnuts, mulled wine and Santas by the sackful. The season of festive fairs is almost upon us. Simone Kane offers a selection


1 Heat and gifts in New Delhi

Adventurous shoppers can experience all the trimmings of a traditional German Christmas market in New Delhi, India, over the weekend of 9 and 10 December. Every year the Indo-German Chamber of Commerce puts up Christmas trees and decorations and sets out stalls laden with European present possibilities in the German House in the diplomatic area of the city. At the heart of the market is a beer garden, where foaming steins, sausages and nibbles are available. There's even carol singing and don't be surprised if Santa Claus shows his face. If all this Christmas spirit isn't enough, keen shoppers can also fill their sacks with goodies from the tailors and traders at the nearby Khan and Sharojni Nagar markets.

How to get there: Indus Tours (020-8901 7320 ; indutours.co.uk) offers four nights at the Oberoi Hotel in Delhi, from £680 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights, accommodation, transfers and a guide.

2 German with a Brum accent

For five days each year Victoria Square and upper New Street in Birmingham city centre plays host to the Frankfurt market. Open daily from 10am-8pm, 16 November-23 December, this year promises to be bigger and better, making it the largest authentic market of its type to be held outside Germany or Austria. More than 75 stalls will sell handmade gifts such as ceramics, candles, jewellery, glasswork and Christmas decorations, and traditional German gifts such as nativity scenes and puppets. Expect plenty of mulled wine and beer, grilled sausages, marzipan sweets and gingerbreads.

How to get there: For information on a wide variety of accommodation packages, contact Visit Birmingham (visit birmingham.com).

3 Brussels without the sprouts

Tour three Christmas markets in three days. First stop the seasonal market in Brussels, set around the beautiful buildings of Grand Place. Next, it's on to medieval Bruges, where you can pick up gifts of Belgian chocolates and local lace. And the final port of call is Valkenburg in the Netherlands, to explore one of Europe's most unique festive markets. The city's Gemeentegrot caves, a network of passageways carved out of limestone dating from Roman times, provides the scene. Lit with fairy lights, the effect will be of a series of grottoes, creating a truly seasonal atmosphere. Above ground, the streets of Valkenburg, full of festive stalls, will echo with traditional music and songs.

How to get there: Leger Holidays (0845-458 5599; legerbreaks.info) offers a three-centre Christmas market tour for £169 per person, including three nights' b&b, return coach travel and most excursions. Departures on 1, 8 and 15 December.

4 Cool cruising on the Rhine

Experience the best of the Christmas markets in and around Cologne on a six-market escorted tour. Each has its unique character and combined they offer seasonal shoppers a huge choice of arts and crafts, gift ideas and decorations. Climb aboard one of the Rhine cruise ships to look around the floating market. Dip into a medieval market set up in the chocolate museum, where you'll find musicians and acrobats mingling among the craft stalls. And don't miss the market in Roncalliplatz, which boasts the biggest Christmas tree in Rhineland. A scenic cruise along the Rhine, past fairytale castles and vine-clad hills, will offer a further shopping opportunity at the market in the pretty town of Rudesheim.

How to get there: Great Rail Journeys (01904 521980; greatrail.co.uk) offers the Cologne Christmas Market Break from £395 per person, based on two sharing, for departures on 27 November and 3 and 9 December. The price includes return rail travel with Eurostar from London via Brussels to Cologne, three nights' four-star b&b, all excursions and a tour manager.

5 All the fun of the fair in Denmark

Join the million visitors who descend on the Christmas Festival in Copenhagen's Tivoli Gardens each year. From 15 November to 30 December, the beautifully decorated gardens will be home to restaurants serving seasonal specialities such as hot and spicy red wine and round pan-fried cakes served with sugar and jam, with fun rides on offer too, such as the world's tallest swing carousel, the Star Flyer. Listen to the carol singers and a band of mechanical Danish pixies, pop in to see Santa Claus and catch the Crazy Christmas Cabaret. Or just browse the villages of shops.

How to get there: Original Travel (020-7978 7333; original travel.co.uk) offers two nights' b&b at the 71 Nyhavn Hotel for £315 per person, based on two sharing. This includes return flights with BA or SAS from London and transfers.

6 Mull it over in Alsace

Travel to Strasbourg in the French Alsace between 25 November and 31 December to enjoy some of the oldest markets in Europe. The city's Christkindl market dates from 1570 and is the largest in France. The pedestrianised streets around the Notre Dame cathedral come alive in the crisp evening air as people stroll around sipping mulled wine and nibbling on spicy sausages, cakes and biscuits, such as the Alsatian bredele. Processions, street shows and nativity plays are performed across the city. The market is particularly good for handmade Christmas decorations such as reindeer, Santas and candles, and finely crafted toys, jewellery and ceramics. Don't miss Petite France, a neighbourhood of timber buildings full of seasonal shops and a gingerbread bakery.

How to get there: The Hotel Beaucour- Baumann Romantik in Strasbourg (00 33 3 88 76 72 00; hotel-beaucour .com) offers doubles from £86 per night room only. Air France (0870-142 4343; airfrance.com) flies direct from Gatwick via Paris from regional airports from £96 return.

7 Take in a Catalan al fresco carnival

Barcelona embraces the festive season with the Feria de Santa Lucia, which is held in the open air below the city's stunning 13th-century Gothic cathedral of La Seu, just off the Ramblas in the centre of town. The stalls will be filled with stunning and uniquely Catalan decorations and ideas for gifts to give your loved ones. Look out for the typical caga tio, a log with a painted face and a traditional hat, which it is customary to wrap in a blanket with hidden sweets and given to children. Nativity scenes, or belenes, are just as popular here as in northern Europe - almost every house, shop and office has one, and with a character of a kind that you will not see anywhere else. Catch the huge nativity scene outside the Betlem church on the Ramblas, then pick up some Spanish figurines to add to your own festive collection.

How to get there: The five-star Princess Sofia Hotel (00 34 93 508 10 00; expogrupo.com) offers two nights' b&b during December for £135 per person, based on two sharing. Flights from Gatwick with easyJet (0905-821 0905; easyjet.com) cost from £85 return.

8 Ale and hearty in the Baltics

Head to the Baltics in search of seasonal shopping in Tallinn from 19 November to 24 December. The beautiful old town, with its winding cobbled streets, is the scene of its Christmas market. Hunt out Estonian handmade decorations, basketwear, woollen sweaters, sheepskin, felt hats and patchwork blankets, as well as antiques, amber jewellery and pottery. If all that shopping proves too exhausting, duck into one of the many cellar bars for a warming mulled wine and a hearty meal.

How to get there: Baltics and Beyond (0845-094 2125; balticsandbeyond .com) offers a three-night winter break in Tallinn from £99 per person, based on two sharing, including three nights' b&b in a four-star hotel in central Tallinn, transfers and a city information pack. Flights with easyJet (as above) from Stansted start from £60 return.

The best winter wonder: chilled out in Gothenburg

The Liseburg Amusement Park in Gothenburg will be transformed into a winter wonderland from 17 November to 23 December for the annual festive market. FlyMe (00 46 770 790 790; flyme.com) flies from Stansted to Gothenburg from £42 return. The four-star Elite Park Avenue Hotel (00 46 771 788 789; elite.se) offers doubles from £94 per night.

The best all-round fun: Scotch on the rocks

Edinburgh's market, brought over from Germany each year, is held in Mound Precinct from 23 November to 24 December. A traditional Scottish market is open nearby, too. And don't miss skating on the outdoor ice rink or a turn on the city's wheel. A Christmas Experience break at The Balmoral (0131-556 2412; roccofortehotels.com) offers doubles from £165 per room per night.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
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: Car Sales Executive - OTE £36,000

    £12500 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This established Knaresborough ...

    Beverley James: Accounts Payable

    £23,000: Beverley James: Do you have a background in hospitality and are you l...

    Recruitment Genius: Cleaning Manager - York and Bradford

    £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The post holder is a key member of the V...

    Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Breakdown Recovery Drivers

    £18000 - £28800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Breakdown Recovery Driv...

    Day In a Page

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower