Boughs of prickled green holly adorns the top of cabined huts. Bratwursts sizzle in the crisp night air. Mitten-hands hold cups of warm mulled wine. The jingling sounds of All I Want for Christmas can be heard from far and wide. It can only mean one thing – the Christmas markets are on their way and your presents is required!
Amsterdam Christmas Markets
It’s not a well-kept secret that Amsterdam is one of the prettiest cities in Europe, especially when the winter weather hits and the canals are glossed over with a clear sheen of ice, ready for the brave souls that skate across them. But if you’re new to this Dutch gem, and wanting to avoid the areas that are bustling with bicycles, Contiki is on hand to show you the magic of Christmas. Think fairy-lights, holly and ivy above quaint cafes, mulled wine steaming from outside teapots and enough Christmas trees to be rockin’ around until the new year – yule be sorry to miss it!
Paris Christmas Markets
Paris for Christmas? The city may well be the romantic capital of the world but the annual Christmas markets take it to the dizzying heights of romance that you only see in the movies.
If you’re spending your day as a tourist and lapping up the Parisian culture, climbing to the 2nd floor of the Eiffel Tower or catching a glimpse of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, then the Magic of Christmas (or La Magie de Noel for all the fluent French speakers) is next to this world-famous museum. Here, you’ll get to walk through the miniature village of cabined wooden huts, picking up homemade pastries or warming the cockles with a French wine tipple or three.
Escape the hustle and bustle of the Paris city centre and venture into the cultural hub of Montemartre. Home to the Sacre-Couer, meaning the Sacred Heart of Paris, this delightful spot gives you Instagram-worthy views of the city (spot the Eiffel Tower in the distance!) and authentic Parisian cafes full of warm croissants and pain au chocolat. This Christmas market is a classic choice for anyone into the arts and crafts, with many people of the arts using Montemartre as inspiration for their work and showcasing them at the market!
Barcelona Christmas Markets
The thriving Spanish city of Barcelona sets the standard high for the magic of Christmas with a sleigh-full of Christmas markets with all Santa’s finest goodies.
A Christmas market against the backdrop of Gaudi’s finest buildings? Yes please. Fira de Nadal de la Sagrada Familia sits in front of one of the most famous buildings in the world – La Sagrada Familia. With over 100 stalls to enjoy and the man in red himself doing his rounds, it’s the perfect place to take the family for a walk in a winter wonderland.
There’s snow way that you’ll run out of Christmas markets in Barca though, especially with its oldest Christmas fair, Fira de Santa Llucia bringing the North Pole to this European hotspot. Think Nativity scenes, arts and crafts, Christmas trees aplenty and enough tapas to feed a nation – we’re booking our tickets already…
Rome Christmas Markets
There’s no better time to go to Rome than when it’s dusted with a wintery layer of white snow and your Contiki tour can take you there. The romance, the history, the magic of Christmas cloaking the Coliseum; it’s enough to make you want it to be Christmas every day!
Wrap yourself up against the winter chill and enjoy the smells of chestnuts roasting on an open fire at the Piazza Navona Christmas market by Bernini’s Quattro Fiumi. Whether you’ve been naughty or nice this year, you’ll still be treated to festive rides on the nostalgic carousel, enjoy live Christmas acts and unique arty presents that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. Got a hunger pang that chestnuts just can’t fill? Give your sweet tooth exactly what it’s looking for with some delicious Roman sweets. Well, you know what they say, when in Rome…
Venice Christmas Markets
Venice needs little in the way of introduction but what you might not know is this Italian city is a festive gem come December time. Leading up to the big day, the whole of Camp Santo Stefano becomes home to a live-singing, all-dancing, food-offering, present-buying Christmas Village. Yes you read this right, not a market but a whole village awaits you. This classic Christmas experience gives you all the authentic Italian traditions that you dream of – homemade breads, buttered pastries, olive oils, balsamic vinegars, pastas and of course, flavour-filled panettone freshly baked and ready for your Christmas Day dinner table. The food isn’t the only thing that should be setting your heart racing, there’s so many wonderful gift ideas that you won’t have to opt for an Amazon gift card late Christmas Eve. This could prevent a whole load of arguments on 25th December morning…
Vienna Christmas Markets
Ah Austria, you absolute beauty. With its rolling hills and breath-taking landscapes, it’s almost impossible not to fall instantly in love with this country and least not, it’s capital city Vienna. Famed for its unforgettable festive markets, Vienna has become a trending Christmas destination over recent years, with every Instagram story within a 12-country radius giving us FOMO for opting out of the Vienna-life and staying put in the flu-infested office.
But this year, it could be you showing off on your Insta story with panoramic shots of the Viennese Dream Christmas Market, sat in front of the City Hall and illuminated by thousands of gold twinkling lights. Here, you’ll be taught how to make the most delicious festive cookies this side of Europe, ready for you to showcase your culinary skills on Christmas Day. Whilst you’re tackling the chunky chocolate dough, you can singalong to the Christmas carols, performed live by choirs from across the country, before exploring the independent stalls for handmade jewellery, scented candles and soaps, and chocolate. Lots and LOTS of chocolate. Mmmm.
Berlin Christmas Markets
There’s no Christmas market more authentic than in its original birthplace – Germany. The Germans know how to delight guests in their country and it’s with Christmas Markets bursting at the seams with Bratwursts, Currywursts and basically, any giant, deliciously meaty sausage ending in ‘wurst’.
If you’re in the capital enjoying selfies by the Brandenburg Gate or Checkpoint Charlie, then it’s almost Grinch-like to not take a sneak peek into the festive markets. We know it’s not all about size but if you’re looking for a big one (market that is), then head to Spandau – it’s huge. Decorated with thousands of fairy lights and a whole host of wonderful twinkling decorations illuminating the city far and wide, it’s safe to say that they definitely do know it’s Christmas. Here’s our tip though, make sure you try some traditional Stollen, Spritzgebäck and Lebkuchen washed down with a cup of piping German mulled wine.
London Christmas Markets
Don’t forget Contiki tours start in London and London does big well. Big Ferris wheels. Big bridges. Big skyscrapers. And most importantly, they sleigh it with BIG Christmas markets.
The most popular Christmas market that this cosmopolitan city has to offer is the aptly dubbed – Winter Wonderland. Situated in the middle of London’s Hyde Park, Winter Wonderland welcomes over a million visitors every December to celebrate the festive season with heart-stopping rides, live entertainment (think Cinderella on skates – like really) and a Christmas market filled with trinkets, hot chocolate, handmade jewellery, personalised Christmas cards and a whole host of other festive delights for you to enjoy.
If the busyness of Winter Wonderland puts you off, you can have a calmer festive experience at London’s Southbank. Although on a much smaller scale, the Southbank Christmas market gives you the space to see each cabin’s offerings at your own leisure whilst tucking into a roasted marshmallow or cup of eggnog as you browse!
There’s so much to see and discover in Europe in winter time, least not when Contiki offer tours that take you to these Christmassy-decorated cities. We’ve got the tours, have you got your passport?