With Christmas lights already a-glow in many towns and cities up and down the country, it seems that Christmas fever is already in full swing. It won’t be long before the Christmas Markets set up shop. Favourites include those in Germany and Prague, which fill us with yuletide cheer, but our list comes with a twist! Here are 4 of Europe’s lesser known, but equally endearing Christmas Markets that will give you your festive fix for a fraction of the price….
One of the newest cities to pull up a pew at the Christmas Market table, Tallinn’s annual market began in 2001. With a huge Christmas tree taking centre stage, not to mention plenty of twinkling lights and music, the medieval city centre is the perfect back drop, especially when blanketed in snow. The temperatures will be pretty chilly, but it only adds to the atmosphere and there is plenty of Estonian fare on offer to warm you up from the inside out. Why not try the obligatory hot mulled wine as well as sizzling stir fries, hot soups, warm cookies and plenty of other tempting treats like gingerbread and marzipan. There are of course plenty of traditional gifts for sale too, including homemade candles, wreaths, woollen hats and slippers, ceramics and so much more. The Tallinn Market is hosted at Rotermann Square between November 26th 2011 and January 8th 2012.
The Budapest Christmas Market is a sea of lights and a pretty special event indeed. There are over 100 stalls at the market every year with hoards of unique gift ideas displayed for your perusal, whilst you are entertained by various Hungarian folk musicians and other performers.
Good food and Christmas go hand in hand and there is no shortage of this in Hungary; the smell of bread baking in the clay ovens could easily be the official mascot of the market. Aside from bread, you can gorge on pastries and strudels, meat grills and other sweet treats. Wash it down with apricot brandy or Hungarian wine. If you opt for some traditional mulled wine, you will get to keep the souvenir mug that it’s served in; the design is different each year. Another highlight worth mentioning sees one of the buildings on the square turned into the Advent Calendar whereby 24 different artists will exhibit a different painting in one window. This year marks an anniversary year so there will plenty of additional surprises to be enjoyed. You can visit between 19th November and 29th December 2011.
Latvia is said to own the tradition of Christmas tree decoration, with the world’s first decorated Christmas tree made in Riga in 1510. It goes without saying therefore that the Christmas tree in Riga is always pretty special.
It doesn’t stop at the tree though, the gifts on offer are truly spectacular; take home wooden toys, hand-made Christmas decorations as well as woollen clothes, gloves, glassware and more. Soak up the smell of roasting almonds and sample some traditional treats. Children will be chuffed when they get to visit Father Christmas in his wooden house and have a great time on the ice skating rink too. The market starts on 28th November and runs until 28th December 2011.
The already beautiful medieval town of Sibiu lights up for Christmas when the market comes to town. It is hosted in the Large Square and encourages you to soak up the holiday charm with a huge Christmas tree and an equally large stage where you are serenaded by Christmas carollers and other festive performers.
There is also a large area filled with mechanical attractions to awe the children, as well as an ice skating rink. Pick from a stunning selection of hand-made arts, crafts, toys and clothes for that extra special gift for your loved one back home and feast on local delicacies. The event gets bigger every year as hundreds of people both locals and tourists turn up to have their hearts warmed by the buzz of Christmas. This particular market runs for 5 weeks from November 26th to January 2nd 2012.
Each of these cities come alive at this time of year, making for a comfortingly Christmassy city break without breaking the bank. Plus, they’ll be less busy than their German and Czech counterparts making for an authentic experience!