4 of the best Christmas markets in Europe

With just 60 days, 12 hours and 10 minutes to Christmas Day (who’s counting?) why not visit one of the stunning Christmas markets in Rome, Budapest, Barcelona or Vienna? Europe´s Christmas markets offer a vast range of gift ideas you won´t find on the high street, and provide the perfect setting to recharge your batteries before the festivities begin. Here, we look at four of the best Christmas markets in Europe:

The Christmas Market, Rome

Avoid Rome´s tourist hordes and visit the Eternal City in November or December. Combine a visit to the Italian capital´s vibrant Rome Christmas Market in the Piazza Navona, with a sightseeing tour in the uncrowded city centre. The Piazza is stuffed with stalls selling a vast choice of seasonal gifts, hand-made confectionery, toys, nativity figures and decorations to suit all tastes and budgets. Whatever your religious persuasions are, midnight mass in Rome on Christmas Eve is a memorable experience. Thousands of visitors flock to Saint Peter´s Square where a life-size nativity is set up, and the Pope says midnight mass inside the Basilica, which is shown throughout the square on large TV screens.

The Fira de Santa Llucia, Barcelona

Barcelona may not be high up on everyone´s list of ´Christmas market destinations´ but this beautiful city is home to one of the oldest and most traditional festive fairs in Europe. The Fira de Santa Llucia, Barcelona includes hundreds of stalls packed into the Plaza de la Seu (outside Barcelona Cathedral) selling a wide choice of Christmas trees, mistletoe, toys, leather goods and handicrafts. What this authentic Spanish market lacks in mulled wine and hot dogs, it certainly makes up for in traditional gifts and a warm festive atmosphere, especially in the evenings when the lights reflect against the backdrop of the cathedral. Enjoy the Nativity scene contest, musical parades and exhibitions, including the popular life-size Nativity scene in Plaça Sant Jaume.

The Vorosmarty ter, Budapest

Budapest’s Vorosmarty ter takes place from the end of November to the beginning of January and is situated in the heart of the Pest area. Traditional food, folk dancing and live music are highlights of the market, which offers over 150 stalls selling everything from honey biscuits and mulled wine to leather goods and decorations. The Fair also offers a choice of artistic and cultural events which take place throughout the streets. Try the traditional Hungarian dishes, including goose-stuffed cabbage, pork knuckle and grilled spicy sausages.

The Christmas Markets, Vienna

Visitors to Vienna during December are spoilt for choice when it comes to Christmas markets which run from mid-November. The festive season in Austria is a huge social occasion for the Viennese, who meet up to enjoy a glass or two of mulled wine, roasted chestnuts and spicy Christmas cakes and biscuits. Rathausplatz is one of the most famous markets in the city, if only for a glimpse of the Advent windows on the Town Hall which are decorated by local artists. The Schonbrunn Palace Market enjoys a spectacular backdrop and upmarket stalls. Altwiener offers a more edgy, arty feel and sells a range of handicrafts. Spittelberg Market offers a range of unique goods not found elsewhere and is set in cobbled streets between Burggasse and Siebensterngassse. If you are planning to visit one of the top Christmas markets this year, why not combine your trip with a guided tour of Vienna, Budapest, Barcelona or Rome and make the most of your stay in these beautiful cities.

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