Christmas Markets 2015
Have fun with your Christmas shopping AND see fabulous European sights at the same time on a colourful Christmas Market break. These are centred on key historical landmarks of the host city and feature unusual gifts, traditional crafts and local delicacies. We offer a great choice of Christmas markets around Europe including Germany, France, Belgium and Austria and many diverse cities such as Cologne, Lille, Prague, Salzburg, Berlin and Brussels. We also combine great shopping trips with river cruises for a unique Christmas break experience.
Brightly coloured wooden stalls display their wares and the smell of roast chestnuts and mulled wine wafts by. The sound of festive music fills the air;.. welcome to a magical, European Christmas market.
Each year, festive stalls form a carpet of colour in many of the squares and cobbled streets of towns and cities across Europe, each selling unusual gifts and trinkets that you just can’t resist.
A Christmas market, also known as Christkindlmarkt, Marché de Noël, Christkindlesmarkt, Christkindlmarket, and Weihnachtsmarkt, is a street market associated with the celebration of Christmas during the four weeks of Advent. These markets originated in Germany, Austria, South Tyrol, North Italy and many French regions such as Alsace, Lorraine, Savoy, but are now being held in many other countries. The history of Christmas markets goes back to the Late Middle Ages in the German-speaking part of Europe and in many parts of the former Holy Roman Empire that includes many eastern region of France and Switzerland. Dresden's Strietzelmarkt was first held in 1434. The Christmas markets of Bautzen (first held in 1384), Frankfurt (first mentioned in 1393) and Munich (1310) Augsburg (1498) were even older. The Vienna "December market" was a kind of forerunner of the Christmas market and dates back to 1294.
In many towns in Germany and Austria, Advent is usually ushered in with the opening of the Christmas market or "Weihnachtsmarkt". In southern Germany and Austria it is sometimes called a "Christkind(e)l(s)markt" (German language, literally meaning "Christ child market"). Generally held in the town square and adjacent pedestrian zones, the market sells food, drink, and seasonal items from open-air stalls, accompanied by traditional singing and dancing. On opening nights (and in some towns more often) onlookers welcome the "Christkind" (originally boy Jesus, but more often depicted as an angel-like girl), acted out by a local child.
Popular attractions at the market include the Nativity Scene (a crèche or crib), Zwetschgenmännle (figures made of decorated dried plums), Nussknacker (carved Nutcrackers), Gebrannte Mandeln (candied, toasted almonds), traditional Christmas cookies such as Lebkuchen and Magenbrot (both forms of soft gingerbread), Bratwurst, and for many visitors one of the highlights of the market: Glühwein, hot mulled wine (with or without a shot of brandy), or Eierpunsch (an egg-based warm alcoholic drink). Both help stave off the cold winter air which sometimes dips below freezing. More regional food specialties include Christstollen (Stollen), a sort of egg bread with candied fruit in Saxony, and hot Apfelwein and Frankfurter Bethmännchen in Hesse. Many other handmade items, toys, books, Christmas tree decorations and ornaments (and in recent years less useful gadgets) can be found at a Christmas Market.
Famous Christmas markets are held in the cities of Augsburg, Dresden, Erfurt, Frankfurt, Nuremberg and Stuttgart, making them popular tourist attractions during Christmas holiday season. The Nuremberg and Dresden markets draw about two million people each year; the Stuttgart and Frankfurt markets attract more than three million visitors. The two most visited Christmas markets in Germany are to be found in Dortmund with more than three and a half million visitors of 300 stalls around a gigantic Christmas tree creation that stands 45 metres tall, and in Cologne with 4 million people.Additionally, Berlin claims over 70 markets, which open in late November and close just after Christmas.
In 1982 Lincoln, England established an annual Christmas market in early December, and this remains one of the most extensive such market by area in the United Kingdom, with a claimed total of over 300 stalls attracting more than 100,000 visitors over its four days.