Nuremberg’s famous Christkindlesmarkt on the Hauptmarkt square in the old town is hard to beat. Each year, more than 200 stallholders show off traditional wares: spicy gingerbread, fruit loaves, baked goods, sweets, Christmas decorations, candles, toys… The Nuremberg Kinderweihnacht is the children’s market and has an old-fashioned carousel, Ferris wheel and steam train and is linked to the main market via a nativity scene trail.
The advent season starts on November 15 in Vienna and sees thousands of locals and tourists flock to public squares for live concerts, nativity displays and Christmas markets – a tradition that dates back to the 13th century. Popular stops include the plaza in front of City Hall, the markets in Freyung, and the ones occupying the Spittelberg neighbourhood. Be sure to stroll from City Hall (where you’ll hear carolling) to Rathauspark, home to installations depicting popular fairytales, trees decorated with colourful lights, pony rides and the Christkindl Express (a nostalgic merry-go-round).
The markets in Basel are widely regarded as among the prettiest in Switzerland. The two main markets are at Barfüsserplatz in the Old Town and Münsterplatz, next to the cathedral. The former comes to life with Christmas decorations and fairy lights, while the latter is home to a towering Christmas tree. At both, stands and wooden huts are piled with arts and crafts, mulled wine, waffles, Basler Läckerli biscuits and sausages. The festivities kick off in late November with live music and entertainment.
France’s Christmas markets may have their origins in the northern Alsace region, but it’s hard not to be caught up in the romance of those in Paris, defined by their clusters of wooden chalets. The Village de Noël des Champs-Elysées is the largest in the capital and is a great place for mulled wine, gingerbread, sausages and regional culinary specialties. The Christmas Market at La Défense has 350 stands selling arts and crafts and local food produce, while the market and ice rink at Trocadéro features about 100 stalls selling souvenirs.
A rail romance
Add a touch of romance to your European travels by jumping on a train. Rail Europe’s Eurail Select Pass offers travel around and across four adjoining countries. Options range from five to 10 days of travel within two months. raileurope.com
Around two million people descend on Nuremberg’s Christmas markets each year.
Vienna’s treats include roasted chestnuts and boozy Christmas punch.
Paris’ Rue Montorgueil.