The festive season is fast approaching and with shops already stocking the shelves with gift ideas and novelty presents, there's little time left to make plans for the Christmas period. An ever-popular idea (and with good reason) is to head into Europe for a long weekend of stunning snowy scenery and, of course, the joys of bustling Christmas Markets. Whilst there's still time to book and use up the rest of your annual leave, we present a selection of our favourites below.
Nothing says Frohe Weinachten like a visit to the plethora of stalls and shops that line the streets of Berlin in December. It's almost impossible to cover everything that's going on in text (with over 60 Christmas markets in Berlin), let alone on foot, but a good place to start is at Gendarmenmarkt. Possibly the most famous Christmas Market in the world, it provides a large programme of live entertainment including music, theatre and dance performances.
A true winter wonderland in the heart of Berlin, Gerndarmenmarkt is filled to the brim with snow-white tents and stalls, decorated and lit up to make for an incredible spectacle. Based in a beautiful square and flanked by the German Cathedral, French Cathedral and Concert Hall, the entire area is a stunning sight. Try an assortment of merriful drinks and snacks, including Rostbratwurst (Thuringian sausage) with mustard, Bratappfel (an apple drink with a shot of alcohol and bits of fruit) and the obvious choice of Gluhwein (mulled wine).
When buying Gluhwein, be aware that you will most likely be charged over the advertised price. This is a deposit for the mug or cup that you receive the Gluhwein in and will be refunded when returned. Or, you could just keep the mug as a reminder of your special day!
France is an ultra-romantic place to be over the Christmas period, which only serves to enhance the spectacular Christmas markets in Lille which really come to life during the night. Come and experience the joie de vivre and draw in the festive atmosphere that erupts from Place Rihour.
Sweet treats, winter warmers and gift ideas overflow from eighty-something stalls set up along the street - the perfect place to grab your latest christmas decorations too. Grab some local delicacies and traditional Christmas favourites to keep you going before embarking on the entrancing big wheel, lit up in the night sky and giving you a wonderful view of the market area and the sizeable Christmas tree nearby.
Alternatively, Brussels has five full weeks of fun-filled festivity in the form of Winter Wonder, a now famous event drawing visitors from afar to come and sample the two kilometres of stalls, rides and attractions. Featuring a strong variety of stalls offering everything from perfume to unique tasting sessions, you'll undoubtedly find something to your taste here.
The star of the show (or on top of the tree) is most certainly the ice-skating rink which is a delight to glide upon amongst all the hustle and bustle of the market - except perhaps if you fall over! Still, there's a parade and a light and sound show to take in, which is especially good if the kids get restless from the stretch of stalls. A walk through this historic town centre will be a joy for most, almost as much as sights of Father Christmas will be a joy for the kids.