October 2014 – The nights may be long and dark in winter but you can always brighten the day with a visit to a Christmas market in Europe. Whether you’re seeking inspiration, looking for fun ice-skating, or just a special treat under the fairy lights, there are many seasonal goodies to be found.
Amsterdam – open 30th November to 21st December 2014
At Christmas time, all Amsterdam’s markets have a festive flavour! The Sunday Markets have become quite the institution with the Funky Sinterklaas Market (30th November) and the Funky Xmas Market (14th December). The Flower Market or floating Bloemenmarkt is the place to pick up your Christmas tree or smaller quirky plant goodies. The main Christmas market can be found at either end of the Leidsestraat with many festive stalls and alongside you can find the Christmas Palace – a unique emporium of merry gift and decoration ideas.
You can reach Amsterdam by train in 4 hours 40 minutes from London. Catch Eurostar to Brussels and then change onto a high speed Thalys service to Amsterdam. Fares start at £117 standard class return per person.
Cologne – open 24th November to 23rd December 2014
Cologne really takes on a magical atmosphere over the Christmas period, which thousands of people come to enjoy. Festive goodies are on sale in the specially designed huts or “Buden” from the last Monday before Advent. A lovely touch is the presence of craftsmen demonstrating their skills – glassblowers, pewter pourers and wreath binders are amongst those delighting the audience. The air is filled with the aroma of chestnuts roasting, mulled wine brewing and gingerbread cooking. Christmas decorations, arts, crafts and music enchant not only the children but all the visitors to this charming event.
You can reach Cologne by train in 4 hours 20 minutes from London. Catch Eurostar to Brussels and then change onto a high speed Thalys or ICE service to Cologne. Fares start at £110 standard class return per person.
Barcelona – open 26th November to 22nd December 2014
Barcelona has several Christmas markets but the most famous is probably the classic Fira de Santa Llúcia held just outside Barcelona’s Cathedral and dating back to around 1786. The majority of stalls sell mistletoe, Christmas trees and decorations but the typical Catalan Christmas ornament is the Caga Tió– a Yule-log with a happy face! Barcelona is delightful at this time of year and the lovely ‘plazas’ are where you will find plenty of other Christmas gift stalls. As a winter short break destination Barcelona is ideal with its historic buildings, narrow streets and friendly atmosphere.
You can reach Barcelona by train in 10 hours 25 minutes from London. Catch Eurostar to Paris and then change onto a high speed TGV France Spain service to Barcelona. Fares start at £166 standard class return per person.
Bruges – open 21st November 2014 to 2nd January 2015
Bruges is gorgeous at any time of year but at Christmas it is simply perfect. There is an ice rink constructed on Market Square and fairground rides abound for the children. Bruges is picture postcard perfect with its cobbled streets, medieval buildings and canal towpaths. Shops sell warming Flemish beers, waffles and famous Belgian chocolates.
You can reach Bruges by train 3 hours 20 minutes from London. Catch Eurostar to Brussels and then change onto a local service to Bruges. Fares start at £79 standard class return per person.
Strasbourg – open 28th November to 31st December 2014
Strasbourg is home to one of the most famous Christmas markets in France, and the largest – with over 300 stalls! It is simply spectacular, dating back to the sixteenth century and welcomes around two million visitors a year. It sits at the bottom of the magnificent cathedral of pink sandstone, with its famous clock, just one of the sights of Strasbourg that look enchanting at this time of the year. The stalls sell handicrafts, bridle cakes – very traditional – and warming glasses of mulled wine. The smaller Alsatian Christmas market of Colmar takes place a little further down the Rhine.
Take the train from London and you could be in Strasbourg in 5 hours 40 minutes. Catch Eurostar to Paris and then change onto a TGV service to Strasbourg. Fares start at £99 standard class return per person.
Basel – open 27th November to 23rd December 2014
Basel, city of culture, also boasts the largest Christmas market in Switzerland. The hundreds of stalls line the Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz, and they are simply brimming with Christmas decorations, children’s toys, typical souvenirs and all sorts of arts and crafts. There is even a Basel Christmas Tattoo to enjoy leading up to the holidays fashioned on the summer version that welcome participants and visitors from all over the world.
You can reach Basel by train in 6 hours 30 minutes. Take Eurostar to Paris and then change onto a high speed TGV Lyria service to Basel. Fares start at £110 standard class return per person.
Reservations and information – For more information on Christmas markets visit http://uk.voyages-sncf.com/en/be-inspired/christmas-markets.
To find out more about travelling to Christmas markets, visit Voyages-sncf.com, call 0844 848 5848 or pop into the Voyages-sncf Travel Centre at 193 Piccadilly, London W1J 9EU.
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