It’s almost that time again. It’s when city centres across the country are transformed into a maze of wooden stalls, bathed in the aroma of glühwein and stocked with an abundance of bratwurst and stollen – yes, we’re talking about Christmas markets.
These markets have become an integral part of the festive season and Christmas doesn’t feel like it’s started until you’ve had a stein of beer while perusing over whether to buy a wooden penguin. Although the tradition is inherently German, each country has adopted the markets and put their own special twist on the occasion.
While many will flock to Bavaria to enjoy the authentic festivities, here are five alternative Christmas markets you never thought of visiting.
Zagreb, Croatia – November 26th 2016 – January 8th 2017
Croatia has enjoyed a surge in tourism in recent years thanks to its picturesque beach resorts and interesting towns, but the Balkan nation knows how to celebrate Christmas. The capital Zagreb hosts a packed ‘Advent in Zagreb’ programme every winter enticing thousands of visitors to the city.
Voted as the ‘Best Christmas Market 2016’ by a poll of over 100,000 travellers on website European Best Destinations, the capital is transformed into a winter wonderland over the festive season. The streets and squares are decorated with colourful Christmas trees, ice sculptures and, of course, the obligatory wooden market stalls serving up glühwein and sausages.
The event also includes walking tours, a huge ice skating rink and daily concerts to get you in that Christmas feeling. Come and see why it has been voted Europe’s best Christmas market.
Barcelona, Spain – November 27th – December 23rd 2016
Christmas is a big deal in Catalonia so you won’t be surprised that Barcelona holds its own extravagant Christmas market. Known as the Feria de Santa Llúcia o de Navidad (Christmas Market of Santa Lucia) it is held outside the magnificent Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia in the Avinguda de la Catedral square.
Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter is a hive of festivities with stalls selling nativity scene figurines, Christmas trees, decorations and treats to satisfy the sweet tooth. There are also markets in the shadow of the famous Sagrada Família church allowing you to combine sightseeing and the Christmas spirit.
Rome, Italy – November 26th 2016 – January 6th 2017
It will come as no shock that a city home to the Vatican goes to town when it comes to Christmas. Each year Rome hosts its Christmas market in the beautiful square Piazza Navona. Set on the former site of the Roman Stadium of Domitian, the square is brought to life during Christmas with stalls selling everything from Christmas sweets to decorations.
By night, street performers, jugglers and artists entertain tourists and locals alike. The market is centred around the figure of the Befana, an old woman who, in Italian folklore, delivers gifts to children throughout Italy on Epiphany Eve (January 5th). It’s sort of Italy’s version of Santa.
Dubrovnik, Croatia – December 6th 2016 to January 8th 2017
We’re heading back to Croatia for our next Christmas market pick. Dubrovnik is one of the most unique places in Europe and its festive celebrations are in-keeping with the city’s nature Held in the beautiful atrium of the Convent of St. Claire, it is a treasure trove of arts and crafts.
The market stalls feature handicrafts made by traditional craftsmen ranging from candles, toys and glassworks to ceramics and porcelain. That tempting aroma you’ll smell is the freshly made Christmas cookies and traditional Dubrovnik sweets known as kontonjata. Each night there are renditions of traditional Dubrovnik carols to get you in the festive spirit.
Malaga, Spain – November 27th 2016 to January 6th 2017
Photo credit: Fuengirola Parties via Facebook
How about a Christmas market in the sun? Malaga is the place to be. The Andalucía city maybe the go-to destination for a summer break but it provides an interesting alternative for a festive retreat. The city embraces the Christmas spirit being decked out in illuminations and rows of market stalls.
See the best of the lights in Calle Larios, Paseo del Parque and Plaza de la Constitución while you can take to your skates on the ice rink outside the Corte Ingles department store. Stick around until December 28th for the Holy Innocents and Verdiales Fair, Spain’s equivalent of April Fools’ Day, where Malaga celebrates with music and dancing.
Visit these exciting Christmas markets for yourself. Search www.sunmaster.co.uk and find a great package deal on a whole host of destinations.