Christmas can be one of the most exciting time to visit Europe – with the splendid Christmas Markets popping up in major cities and towns in most countries offering a unique opportunity to experience the festive cheer and buy traditional Christmas gifts...
We review some of the local markets visited by Back-Roads Touring over this period.
The winter season may not be the obvious time to consider a holiday to the UK and Europe, however, there are plenty of exciting events over this period, and as the summer crowds hibernate this is a real opportunity to experience local life and enjoy some of the Christmas cheer.
It is only in recent time that Britain has seen a resurgence in popularity for Christmas Markets which once decorated medieval city squares in the UK every year until they were banned by Oliver Cromwell. Lincoln was the first city to overturn this ban, their markets now in their 26th year! Other cities to have embraced the Christmas Markets in the UK include Bath, London, Bury St Edmond, Gloucester, Durham, Cardiff, Canterbury, Oxford, Winchester and countless local towns across the country. Each market will have their own special local flavour, however, you can also find traditional German Markets, Victorian and Dickenson themed markets and local fayres. The cities and towns are adorned with bright and colourful Christmas lights and decorations with the Christmas Tree standing in prominent position for all to admire – times seem not to have changed since Victorian times! The markets themselves are a treasure chest of goodies and treats, here you will find local crafts, traditional gifts and lots of delicious food and warm mulled wine! Of course Santa usually makes an cursory appearance and there are usually carol singers making the atmosphere all the more festive! As the day get darker and the lights brighter, there is a real sense of excitement as locals and visitors alike prepare themselves for the upcoming Christmas festivities.
Christmas Markets Dates in the UK
Bury St Edmonds Christmas Fayre – 25 Nov – 27 Nov 2011
Southbank/London Eye Cologne Christmas Fayre – TBA
Durham Christmas Markets – 02 – 04 Dec 2011
Dickens Christmas Market At Rochester Castle – 30 Nov – 18 Dec 2011
Oxford Christmas Market – 02 – 18 Dec 2011
Winchester Christmas Market and Ice Rink – 24 Nov – 21 Dec 2011
Bath Christmas Market – 24 Nov – 11 Dec 2011
Across the Channel on the Continent, the Germans and Austrians have been hosting Christmas Markets uninterrupted for centuries!
In Austria, Vienna’s market is one of the largest in Europe and is known as one of the forerunners- the market dating back to 1294. Today the city hosts about 25 markets during November and December and is a great distraction from the normal shopping its landmarks making impressive surroundings. Each market will have traditional gifts and Austrian delights – try the local sausage, cheeses and of course the mulled wine. Across Austria most local towns will have their own Christmas Markets and fayres. The local village markets in the Tirol are smaller, however arguable all the more atmospheric with the gorgeous snow-capped Alpine backdrop – a real Christmas feel!
Austrian Christmas Markets
Vienna Markets start from the 19 Nov 2011 – January 2012
Graz Christmas Market – 18 Nov – 24 Dec 2011
Innsbruck Christmas Market – 15 Nov 2011– 06 Jan 2012
Tours visiting Christmas Markets include: Winter Getaway
One cannot fail to include to mention Germany when speaking about Christmas Markets. Most of the markets are concentrated in the Rhineland, however, Munich put on a great show – its market dating back to the 14th century! Traditional Bavarian gifts can be found alongside wooden carvings and the famous gingerbread! Beer lovers will enjoy the festivities and singing in the beerhalls whilst music lovers should visit the town hall where there are Christmas concerts at this time of year. There are 20 markets scattered around the city so there will be something for everyone!
Munich Christmas Markets
Munich – 24 Nov – 24 Dec 2011
Start your tour in Munich on the Winter Getaway - Austria and Germany
Whilst the Christmas Markets in Italy are not on such a grand scale or as numerous as those in Germany they are popular for both local and mainly European visitors. They are known locally as Mercatino di Natale and are characterised by the elaborate nativity displays as well as local fare. You can expect delicious local Italian food, traditional gifts and presents in magnificent settings in Rome, Venice, Verona, Florence and Naples amongst others. In Rome the Piazza Navona is transformed into a Christmas scene with Santa and life-size nativities whilst Campo Santo Stefano in Venice is transformed with wooden huts occupying the square selling traditional gifts, food and wine all accompanied by Italian music. In northern Tuscany the Lucca’s hosts Piazza San Michele and in Borgo Giannotti houses more than 70 stands selling crafts, food and wine, Christmas decorations, toys and candy.
Christmas Market Dates Italy
Milan - 02 Dec to 01 Jan 2012
Rome – Nov 2011 to Jan 2012
Siena – 01 Dec – 23 Dec 2011
Florence – 03 Dec – 21 Dec 2011
Visit some of these markets on Back-Roads Italian Winter Indulgence