Tis the season for Christmas markets
These festive gatherings offer something to suit all tastes, says Simone Kane. And you can enjoy them at home or abroad
Sunday 15 November 2009
For family fun
In the chic French resort of Le Touquet, made magical at this time of year with hundreds of twinkling lights, families can enjoy carriage rides, fairytales, skating, and an atmospheric snow garden. You can follow the ice trail through the enchanted forest to the house of Father Christmas and browse the traditional chalet market from 18 December to 3 January.
When: 27 November to 3 January (letouquet.com/noeluk).
Go with: SeaFrance (seafrance.com) offers a day return for car and five passengers from £19.
Stay at home:
Newcastle and Gateshead's festive offerings include a lively Continental Market, outdoor performances, and a Frost Fair starring Bjorn the Polar Bear, a life-size puppet who will be telling tales of Nordic life to a young audience.
When: 28-29 November (newcastle gateshead.com).
For music lovers
Music lovers can visit three advent markets in one trip on a four-night cultural cruise of the Danube aboard the MS Vivaldi, which takes in the cities of Vienna, Budapest, and Bratislava. Guests will be treated to a private concert in Schönbrunn Palace and on-board festive performances, as well as enjoying some seasonal shopping.
When: Departs 5 December.
Go with: Voyages Jules Verne (vjv.com) from £647 per person, based on two sharing, for four nights' full board with return flights.
Stay at home:
Enjoy the atmospheric setting of Winchester Cathedral this winter as it hosts a traditional German-style market. After browsing the stalls of handicrafts and local produce, shoppers can listen to a seasonal concert. When: 27 November to 20 December (winchesterchristmasmarket.com).
For style setters
Helsinki's snowy harbour will host two Christmas markets in December. The Ladies Market specialises in handicrafts, decorations and produce – all made by women – while the St Thomas Christmas Market has more than 120 stalls laden with gifts handmade from birch, iron and wool (visithelsinki.fi).
When: Ladies Market, 2 to 6 December; St Thomas, 7 to 20 December.
Go with: Black Tomato (blacktomato. co.uk) from £499 per person, based on two sharing, for three nights' B&B and return flights.
Stay at home:
Head to Old Spitalfields Market, London, where extended shopping hours will allow plenty of time to select from the art, antiques, fashion and vintage goods on offer here, with festive events laid on, too.
When: 1 to 24 December (oldspital fieldsmarket.com).
For history buffs
Take a break in Berlin as it celebrates the 20th anniversary of the fall of the wall. The city is also the setting for some of Germany's best Christmas markets: wood carvers, flax embroiderers, tailors and goldsmiths compete for shoppers' attention in the main market square, which will be filled with the scents of mulled wine, sausages, and gingerbread. When: 23 November to 31 December.
Go with: Cox & Kings (coxand kings.co.uk) from £695 per person, based on two sharing, for four nights' B&B in November or December.
Stay at home:
Step back in time at the Medieval Christmas Fayre in Caerphilly, Wales. Inside the walls of one of the greatest castles in Western Europe, visitors can browse goodies to a soundtrack of period seasonal music.
When: 12 to 13 December (caerphilly.gov.uk/christmas).
In the Danish city of Aarhus, Santa Claus arrives rather early and by boat on 27 November. Don't miss the atmospheric market in Ridehuset (equestrian hall), where you can pick up Danish handicrafts and warm up with a cup of Christmas punch.
When: 28 November to 19 December (visitaarhus.com).
Go with: Ryanair (ryanair.com) flies from Stansted to Aarhus from £34 return.
Stay at home:
Edinburgh celebrates the arrival of Santa Claus in Princes Street Gardens on 12 December with a lantern parade. But the Scottish capital's seasonal programme of events begins well before then and includes a giant inflatable snow globe, storytelling in Santa's Igloo Village, as well as offering four different markets to choose from.
When: 26 November to 4 January (edinburghschristmas.com).
Visitors to Warsaw can fill their bellies as well as their shopping bags on a seasonal spree to the Polish capital. The Jarmark, on the old town market square, features everything from fashion to fiery food such as bigos (a hunter's stew with sauerkraut), smoked meats in spices and red wine, and pierogi (pasta parcels of cheese, meat, or porcini), washed down with warming wine.
When: 27 November to 23 December (poland.travel).
Go with: Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com) flies from London to Warsaw from £29.99 each way.
Stay at home:
The Belfast Continental Market in the grounds of the City Hall will be selling gourmet goodies, including a giant cheeseboard featuring the finest cheeses from the Netherlands, France, and Ireland. The nearby St George's Christmas Food Markets are a foraging ground for foodies seeking a taste of local produce.
When: 17 November to 19 December (belfastcity.gov.uk/markets).
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