Europe’s Christmas markets: Germany, Sweden, and beyond

Visiting Europe’s Christmas markets is a great excuse for a city break in December, just when we could all do with a treat. It’s sure to put you in a festive mood, too.

Cologne, Germany
Many of the symbols and traditions we now associate with Christmas in Britain originally came from Germany, courtesy of Prince Albert, so it’s not surprising that many of us think of Germany when we imagine a classic Christmas.

Cologne has seven Christmas markets. The largest of these is arranged around the cathedral, with a huge Christmas tree as its centrepiece. Elsewhere, you’ll find the maritime Harbour Market, the Angel Market lit by shining stars, and the Stadtgarten market, offering more unusual crafts and gifts.

While a fir tree in your hand luggage might be pushing it a bit, there are lots of smaller gifts and treats to choose from. Find hand-carved wooden ornaments, gingerbread hearts and stars that can be personalised with a loved one’s name, candles, and delicious chocolates.

There’s plenty to see and do around the markets. The more adventurous can try the skating rink, though you might prefer to sit down with a glass of mulled wine and enjoy a performance by a live band.

Other European Christmas markets
Germany is the country best known for Christmas markets, and you will find them all over Germany, in the well-known cities such as Berlin and Dresden, but also in smaller places: for example, our photograph at the top of this newsletter was taken in Annaberg-Buchholz in Saxony.

Further afield, you can find Christmas markets all over Europe. France, Belgium and Holland are conveniently close to home for us, but you can go as far afield as Finland – for a Scandinavian take on the season – or Estonia for a distinctive eastern European flavour.

Gothenburg, Sweden
Gothenburg, in Sweden, also has several Christmas markets to choose from, including one in the Liseberg amusement park. Short days and cold nights give a real festive feel. Take the opportunity to try traditional Swedish cuisine, like seafood, reindeer meat, and, of course, excellent coffee accompanied by gingerbread biscuits and saffron buns. For family and friends, bring home some sweets. Salt liquorice is a classic – try it first because it certainly isn’t to everyone’s taste! – but there are plenty of sugary alternatives.

In Haga, the old town in Gothenburg, the cobbled streets give a timeless atmosphere to the market. Browse for handmade gifts and local produce at the stalls, and also in the quirky boutiques that line the route.

For something truly modern and unique, head for Gothenburg’s Röda Sten Art Centre. You’re sure to find the perfect gift among the wares created by artists and craftspeople from all over Sweden.

A souvenir of your trip
And finally, you deserve a little gift too, so why not take home a commemorative bauble decorated with the city and the year, to remind yourself of your visit?