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
  • Get to the point
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: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Recruitment Genius: Centre Manager

    £14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Guru Careers: Accountant

    £28 - 45k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Accountant is needed to take control of the ...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Assistant Manager

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This hotel in Chadderton is a p...

    Day In a Page

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk