It’s the time of year when Christmas market stalls are opening up, the glühwein is being warmed and antique fairground rides are coming back into action. The Christmas market is a longstanding tradition, but that doesn’t mean that tradition is followed without creative touches. Each offers its own unique slant, and of the many that are dotted around Europe, here are the most unique Christmas markets around.
Valkenburg Christmas Markets, Netherlands
The Netherlands is always a winner when it comes to weekends away, with is excellent sense of humour, reasonable prices and unique culture. And the Christmas markets at Valkenburg is just another reason. Near to Maastricht, the main festivities take place in the cavernous location of the Municipal Cave, which is the largest, oldest and most visited underground Christmas market in Europe. Nearby, the tempting-sounding Velvet Cave is an equally Instagrammable grotto-liklocation. And taking their Christmas celebrations seriously, there’s also a Christmas parade through the town every Wednesday and Saturday evening.
- 17 November to 23 December
Winter Pride Hamburg, Germany
For a contemporary take on Christmas markets, the queer Christmas market in Hamburg is one to try. Open for the LGBTI community, friends and supporters, the market features top-drawer entertainment on Friday and Saturday evenings, as well as markets selling wares, jewellery and accessories. Expect a few other different attractions too, like the Schrottwichteln (rubbish secret Santa), in which visitors can exchange their awful Christmas presents. Smart thinking there.
- From 27 November to 30 December
Vipiteno Christmas Market, Italy
In Italy’s South Tyrol, Vipiteno’s Christmas market is pretty darn spectacular. Not only is it a cute-as-a-button mining town which has remained authentic in its style and offerings, but the market takes place under the watch of the illuminated tower of Zwölferturm, built in 1486. During the day, find out about its history in a special exhibition of how it came to mine its nearby mountains.
- 24 November to 6 January 2018
Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen
Any time of the year, it’s novel that Copenhagen features a fairground in the centre of the city. But it’s even more of an attraction in winter, which it turns into a fairytale fairground for Christmas. It means both kids and adults can enjoy the broad selection of rides, browse the 60-odd stalls, enjoy hot drinks, and even indulge in some top-class Danish food at their above-average food stands. Plus there are light shows three times an evening, so there’s always a choice of activities.
- 18 November to 31 December
Ravenna Gorge Christmas Market, Black Forest, Germany
With Germany being the spiritual home of the Christmas market, it’s not surprising there are plenty of unique takes in the country. Another example is the market at Ravenna Gorge, deep in Germany’s Hochschwarzwald aka the High Black Forest. The dramatic location is its USP: it’s settled in a slopy viaduct, with more than 40 stalls offer unusual and imaginative handmade Christmas gifts and regional products as well as activities for children. The market is open at weekends only, with a nominal entry fee of €4.
- From 1 to 23 December