A popular seasonal short break is to visit Christmas markets. The most popular ones are in Germany and Austria but they are also increasing in popularity in the UK.
Christmas Market coach trips in Europe – One of the most popular ways to visit the European Christmas markets is by taking a coach trip. These can cover one or several markets and usually include bed and breakfast accommodation, sometimes dinner too, all transport and occasionally other excursions. The most popular destination is Cologne which has one of the best markets, but other popular destinations are Berlin and Munich in Germany, Brussels and Bruges in Belgium, Vienna, Salzburg and Gras in Austria, Amiens, Lille and Paris in France, and slightly further away Prague in the Czech Republic. Some of the trips will go to one market, and others will be a multi-centre trip, offering you the opportunity to sample more than one.
Christmas Markets in the UK – Christmas markets were traditional in the lead-up to Christmas until they were prohibited by Oliver Cromwell. Victorians revived the tradition to a certain extent but they were not really known as Christmas markets at that time. Some markets last for several weeks, and some are just for a weekend. It is wise to research the markets first to make sure they will be on during the time you are in the area. The first city to revive the Christmas market tradition was Lincoln and the Christmas market there is now one of the most popular and one of the largest in the UK. It has now been going for over 25 years. Lincoln is a city worth visiting at any time and it has a beautiful cathedral, but during the Christmas market season the place really comes alive with entertainment and special events, and traders selling food and gifts.
Some cities and towns have themed Christmas markets. For example, Rochester in Kent has a Dickens themed Christmas market, near the castle. Traders dress in Victorian costume, entertainment is available and sometimes artificial snow is used to decorate the street. Other cities such as Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds, London and Oxford sometimes have German-style Christmas markets. Winchester’s Christmas market is held near the cathedral and includes an outdoor ice rink. In such a beautiful setting this is worth visiting for the experience of ice skating followed by a cup of mulled wine from one of the stalls. In some places accommodation may be harder to find during the Christmas market period, so try and book a hotel or B&B as far in advance as possible.
Smaller venues – It isn’t only large cities which have Christmas markets. Take a look at events guides for stately homes and National Trust properties, as many of these also have smaller Christmas markets which are also worth visiting.