European Christmas Markets Feature The Travel & Leisure Magazine November 09

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  • 1.ESCAPE to CHRISTMAS MARKETSIn the market forChr stmas Christmas in Augsburg Bavaria TourismTraditional Christmas markets in towns and cities throughout the Continent and farther afield are nowhugely popular for festive get-away breaks.Dave Richardson explores their attraction C onsidering that Im notancient Polish city of much of a shopper, myKrakow, and the tem- first experience of a tradi- perature was 20C tional Christmas marketbelow freezing. came as a revelation. It wasYet more snow dust- nearly 20 years ago in the ed Krakows many spires Children with toffee apples in Lemgo German National Tourist Board November/December 2009The Travel & Leisure Magazine 15

2. Cologne'sPrague market and Christmas cathedralmarketLeonardo Mediabank Leger Holidays Bruges at Christmas Rostock market German National Tourist BoardDertour Christmas in Liege as darkness fell in mid afternoon, creating a although many of these are not traditional Jesus. This is the case at Nuremberg, one oftrue Christmas card scene. I followed the and as far away as Japan, Canada and the the best markets, also home of gingerbreadcrowds to the vast Market Square said toUSA. Germany and France both have aboutwhich is one of the favourite festive foods.be the largest in Europe and made straight80 listings, with Austria having 29 and The market at Munich, held on thefor a stall selling hot mulled wine.Belgium 16.Marienplatz in front of the guildhall, is one Everyone around me seemed happy and In Germany as in Krakow, no doubt of the most impressive with over 120 stalls.soon I forgot about the cold as I wolfedthis years markets will have an extra reasonMany stalls still concentrate on traditionaldown sausage and fried cheese, before buy-to celebrate. November marked 20 years toys and festive fare, although inevitablying some woollen slippers and wooden toys since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the endthey have been infiltrated by modern gadg-at bargain prices. I went away feeling warm of Communism in Europe, which led to the ets and clothing.and also the warmth of humanity, and ever revival of many traditions including a festiveLook for regional variations, such as asince I try to visit a European Christmas Christmas. Glhwein (a warm mulled wine) Christmas pastry at Frankfurts Christmasmarket far from the blandness and rip-off and eierpunsch (an alcoholic drink withmarket. Bethmnnchen is made from marzi-prices in Britain.eggs) can be found everywhere. pan with almonds and sugar, and young men Im not alone in wanting to flee theseused to send it as a token of their love. If ashores as Christmas approaches, despite theNearly one person in four is girl kept it they could remain hopeful ifincreasing number of festive markets in this planning a festive break not, they had to look elsewhere.country. According to research by Leger Cologne is another highly popular GermanHolidays, nearly one person in four is plan- Christmas markets started around 1400 inmarket, being held near the immense cathe-ning a festive break and a key reason isthe German-speaking part of Europe, with dral which is one of the worlds largest. Manywanting to escape the over-commercialisa- Dresden (1434) being one of the first andof the most charming traditional markets aretion of Christmas.now attracting two million visitors a year.in smaller places, such as Trier, Mainz, Krakow is actually a fairly unusualOpening of the markets in early December Koblenz, Kaiserslautern, Speyer and Wormschoice, as the most popular traditional mar-or late November coincides with the Advent which call themselves the Romantic Citieskets are in Germany. The websitereligious festival, and some are calledof Germany. Historic Highlights of Germany,Christmasmarkets.com offers information Christkindel Markt (Christ child market) a group of 14 cities, has four recommendedon over 400 markets in 22 countries,with a child playing the role of the boy routes taking in the markets.16 The Travel & Leisure Magazine November/December 2009 3. TallinnChristmasmarketEstonia Tourist OfficeOut of theOrdinaryHere are a few more ideas for aChristmas market break with adifference: Tallinn, capital of the tiny Baltic countryof Estonia, has revived a festive marketwhich was popular long ago but abolishedduring Soviet rule.The 64 wooden stallsare set out in the medieval Town Hall Belgian Tourist OfficeSquare around a huge Christmas tree, asFather Christmas and his elves Scribbleand Scrabble work the crowd. Choirs,dance groups, poets and musicians keepyou entertained.The market runs fromNovember 29-January 7.Christmas markets in Belgium, in its central Just across the Baltic from Tallinn is The Christmas square and adjacent Place du March. In the Helsinki, capital of Finland, a countryangel atNuremberg Flanders part of Belgium you will find mar- which claims Santa Claus for its own (askets in every city, including Bruges (a great does Greenland, among others).Thecity break destination in itself) and justLadies Christmas Market runs fromacross the Channel Ostend. The snow and December 2-6 with handicrafts made byice sculptures in Bruges are an added attrac- Finnish women, followed by the maintion from November 20-January 10, while inmarket in Esplanade Park.the Belgian capital Brussels, a large ice rink The Hungarian capital of Budapest iscan be enjoyed as well as the market. another ex-Eastern bloc city to revive its You can reach Brussels in less than twoChristmas traditions.The venue ishours by Eurostar train from London, whileVrsmarty Square, which is decoratedGerman National Tourist Boardthe journey to Lille in northern France iswith a huge Christmas tree and aneven faster at 80 minutes. Lilles market isadvent calendar.one of the best in France, a highlight beingwhen Father Christmas descends an 80- Traditionalmetre-high belfry on December 19.Christmas tree decorations If you prefer to fly then there are morecountries to choose from, where you can Many visitors gravitate towards larger combine a Christmas market with a histori- cities as there is so much more to do, espe- cal city or even some skiing. Markets are cially during the long evenings at the darkest held in most Austrian cities including time of the year. Another reason some cities Vienna (a very cultural choice in the run-up are very popular is ease of access from theto Christmas), Salzburg and Innsbruck. UK , which is why Belgian and French mar- Viennas market is in front of City Hall, kets come into their own.where children can create their own presents Liege holds one of the oldest and largestat Santas Workshop, and dispatch them German National Tourist Board November/December 2009The Travel & Leisure Magazine17 4. Salzburg Christmas market Salzburg Tourist Office from a special post office without the possi- Christmas market factsbility of postal strikes! Musical programmeswith choirs and pastoral plays are performedon the steps of Salzburg Cathedral, while inWhen to goInnsbruck, a daily attraction at 5.30pm is theChristmas markets take place from late November or early December. ManyTurmblser, a brass band which playsclose just before Christmas but some continue until New Years Eve and evenChristmas songs from the city tower.into January.Innsbrucks main market is in the medievalOld Town by the 14th century balconyGetting there German National Tourist Boardknown as the Golden Roof, with dozens ofYou can fly from main UK airports to major Germanstalls decked out with Christmas decora-cities including Munich and Frankfurt, and Frankfurttions, locally-crafted wood and glassware,airport has an inter-city rail terminal for trains all overand typical Tyrolean clothing.the country. Brussels and Prague also have good UK airPrague has several Christmas markets, connections, but remember that low-cost airlines have strictthe most important being in Old Townlimits on baggage with big supplements to pay if you stock up on ChristmasSquare and Wenceslas Square. Brightly-dec-goodies.This makes rail a good option, including Eurostar to Lille and Brussels,orated wooden huts sell traditional Czech with easy connections in Brussels to Cologne and other German cities.Alsoproducts from handicrafts to corn on theconsider coach tours, or drive yourself using Eurotunnel or ferries. Fred Olsencob, sausages and other local specialties, andis one of the cruise lines with a Christmas Markets theme departure.in Old Town Square children can strokesheep, goats and even a llama althoughTour operators includewhat connection a llama has with Christmas, Shearings (0844 824 6352, www.shearings.com), Dertour (020 7290 1105,or the Czech Republic, is not clear. As withwww.dertour.co.uk or www.christmasmarkets.co.uk), Leger Holidaysmost markets, however, it has a Bethlehem (0845 408 07 69, www.legerbreaks.info),Travelsphere (0800 567 7372,crib scene depicting Mary, Joseph, baby www.travelsphere.co.uk), Newmarket Holidays (0845 226 7756,Jesus and the Three Kings.www.newmarket.travel), Short Breaks Ltd (0844 482 2940,Whether the Three Kings arrive on www.short-breaks.com),Titan HiTours (0800 988 5823,camels or even llamas, you can be sure of a www.titanhitours.co.uk), Great Rail Journeys (01904 521 936,lot more atmosphere when visiting a www.greatrail.com)European market than if you stay in Britain despite the best efforts of home-grownSample pricesChristmas markets such as York, Lincoln orDertours huge choice in Germany and other countries includes a two-nightBath. They operate throughout Decemberbreak to Nuremberg by air costing from 339 and extra nights from 53.and fares are usually low at this time of yearLeger Holidays two-night break to Brussels and Bruges, by coach, costs from 149. especially midweek. Most cities otherGreat Rail Journeys features a three-night trip to Cologne for 445, includingmain attractions are a lot less crowded thanfirst-class travel by Eurostar and a Rhine cruise to Rudesheim market.in the summer.Maybe, like me, youll find that visiting More information German National Tourist BoardChristmas markets becomes the habit of aThe website www.christmasmarkets.com has alifetime. You certainly wont be pining for comprehensive listing, with hotel and travel offers.Britains dreary shopping malls, with a glass German National Tourist Office: 020 7317 0908,of steaming glhwein in one hand and a siz- www.germany-tourism.co.uk andzling bratwurst sausage in the other!TL www.germany-christmas-market.org.ukHistoric Highlights of Germany: www.historicgermany.comDave Richardson got fed up with Christmasshopping in Britain at a very early age, when heRomantic Cities of Germany: www.romantic-cities.comhad to queue for an hour to meet Santa at a Austrian markets: www.christkindlmarkt.co.at anddepartment store in Liverpool. In over 30 yearsof travelling he has visited nearly every country www.weihnachtsmarkt-salzburg.atin Europe, and has a particular interest in Central Bruges: www.winterinbrugge.beEurope including the former Communistcountries.Tallinn Christmas Market: www.christmas.ee 18 The Travel & Leisure MagazineNovember/December 2009

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