6 of the unsung Christmas market heroes

It happens so gradually that you almost don’t notice until it’s too late. The Halloween decorations have been stored away and the embers of Bonfire night are finally fading; but there is something changing in your city centre.

The streets you once saw as just the mundane slabs of concrete are becoming occupied with a series of kitsch wooden huts. There is a feint aroma in the air. What is it? It smells like mulled wine – it is mulled wine. There are stalls selling burgers of exotic meats – how about trying an ostrich burger? – and there is so much knitwear knocking about.

The Christmas markets are back! Adding that sprinkle of festivities to your city centre, they get you in the mood for the holiday. While the UK versions are great, how about venturing abroad for a truly magical time? We’ve picked out some destinations that throw an amazing Christmas party.

Lisbon, Portugal – December 6th-10th

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Photo credit: PortoBay Events via Flickr.

Do you like festive cakes? How about some classic ribbon candy or some live music? Well, how about all of those things but in one of the most stylish cities in Europe? Then grab yourself a huge slice of Lisbon.

Every year the Portuguese capital hosts the Nata E Na Fil market – a five-day extravaganza of all things Christmas.

Split into four different areas visitors can wander through a traditional Christmas market sampling delightful treats such as bolo rei king cake (Portugal’s take on the Christmas cake). They can indulge their sweet tooth at the Conventual Candy Market, buy arts and crafts at Opportunities Market and socialise in the Greater Indoor People’s Fair.

Seville, Spain – mid-November-January 5th

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If your idea of Christmas is more basking in sunshine and less huddling around a fire then head to Seville. The Spanish city has everything you could want from a Christmas market but with the added bonus of warm weather.

The festivities start in mid-November and go on well into the New Year. This delightful corner of Andalusia is transformed into a winter wonderland. The main market (Mercado Navideno Sevilla Capital) runs along Avda. Luis de Morales and to the Corte Ingles and Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan football stadium. Pick up artisan gifts, locally made pottery and jewellery and, of course, have a warm glass of sangria. Delicious.

Strasbourg, France – November 24th-December 24th

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Okay, we’re now entering the left-field section of Christmas markets and we’re heading to the charming city of Strasbourg. Residents have been hosting a Christmas market in Place Broglie since 1570 – making it the oldest of its kind in France.

The city is illuminated with Christmas lights as the sound of carols fills the air and visitors tuck into traditional Advent sweets known as Bredle. Stroll around the village du pays invité which this year is dedicated to Belgium, visit Christmas Delights of Alsace in place d’Austerlitz where you can feast on local delicacies such as foie gras and Alsace wine and finally sing carols in Cathedral Square – you will feel like you’re in a fairytale.

Bologna, Italy – throughout December

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When it comes to Christmas markets, Bologna is not a destination that immediately springs to mind. However, we’re saying “Buon Natale!” to this jewel of northern Italy. The festivities are spread across two parts of the city – the piazza in front of the 12th century San Pietro Cathedral and near to the church of Santa Maria dei Servi.

The former hosts the Fiera di Natale market while the latter has been home to the Antica Fiera di Santa Lucia since 1796. It’s all about the food in Bologna with the markets serving a huge wealth of yummy snacks including torrone (seasonal nougat made with almonds and honey). And don’t forget to check out the humble Nativity scene.

Barcelona, Spain – November 24th-December 23rd

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If you thought Barcelona was a beautiful city during the rest of the year, wait until you’ve seen it at Christmas. The Catalan city has its own unique take on the festive period but you better believe it knows how to do a market.

In the neighbourhood of Sagrada Familia, in the shadow of the famous church, there is the Feria de Navidad de la Sagrada Familia. This is Barcelona’s most traditional market with artists, craftsmen and exhibitors showing off their latest work. Head to the Gran Via to discover a quirky craft market where you can buy unique gifts.

And if that excitement isn’t enough then you can spend your evening exploring Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter – the perfect way to enjoy the Christmas period.

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Discover these Christmas markets for yourself by booking a winter escape with Sunmaster. We have a huge range of deals direct from your local airport to give you the ideal early Christmas present. Search www.sunmaster.co.uk to find a package right for you.