From the first week of Advent, Christmas Markets are a traditional feature across many Northern European cities, providing an ideal opportunity to practise language skills, experience the local customs and kick off the festive season.
Every year, squares and streets are transformed into a paradise of lights and colours, festive sounds and seductive smells. Brightly lit market stalls with exquisitely made gifts, children singing carols, freshly baked biscuits and the scent of hot Gluhwein, all add up to a wonderful yuletide experience.
Our Recommended Locations are destinations within a short transfer time of Calais. Groups willing to fly can experience the increasingly popular Christmas destinations of Prague, Berlin and even New York.
Lille is just an hour and a half away from London by Eurostar, and as such makes an excellent choice for those of you in favour of a perhaps shorter stay; we even have groups taking only 2 day trips to this wonderful destination. Furthermore, Lille hosts Northern Europe’s largest Christmas market, with a Christmas Ferris Wheel, skating rink, snow covered village and an 18 metre high Christmas tree. There are also some excellent museums and galleries, which add to the attraction of this nearby city.
Strasbourg hosts one of the most famous Christmas markets throughout Europe and is influenced by both the French and German Christmas tradition, as it has been variously owned and occupied over the centuries by the two competing countries. Despite, such level of political turmoil however, the Christmas market around Strasbourg's imposing Cathedral has been taking place every year since 1570. While walking through this most Christmassy of cities enjoy looking at the huge and varied output of Strasbourg's talented craftsmen and don't miss out on the Bredle Market (Bredle is a traditional Alsatian biscuit), where you can taste delicious treats traditionally prepared during the Advent period. You can buy Christmas decorations, Christmas food, and even take a ride on the giant Ferris wheel and special winter boat trips.
The Brussels Christmas Market occupying the charming areas of the old town, known as Brussels Winter Wonderland, is usually open from late November until early January and features the usual delights of a Christmas market as well as an ice-rink to top it all off.
The Aachen Christmas Market is Germany's nearest Christmas market to the U.K. and can be reached from London in less than four hours. Home to one of the most spectacular cathedrals in Germany, the city’s streets and alleys are transformed into a festive paradise with coloured lights and stalls selling speciality goods, including Aachen Printe, a kind of gingerbread traditional to the area. Aachen is probably our most popular Christmas Markets destination.
As Beethoven's home town, Bonn is not short of musical goings-on during its Christmas market period. 170 wooden chalets offer decorative crafts, local delicacies, mulled wine, roasted chestnuts and all to the back drop of performing resident choirs and orchestras, allowing for a truly festive atmosphere. Bonn ends up looking like a city transformed into a giant advent calendar, complete with giant ice rink.
Each year Cologne holds four Christmas markets around the city, the most impressive and popular of which is the one located around its Gothic Cathedral. It is said that the famous "Heinzelmannchen" gnomes, found at the Christmas market outside the cathedral, are responsible for all the Christmas splendour and prevent mass-made goods from taking over the traditionally made ones. Every year, these markets attract about 2 million visitors. Brightly decorated booths await you at the cathedral, followed by the old market in front of the town hall, then finally the new market in the aptly named Rudolfplatz.
Visit the lively and atmospheric Winterland in Maastricht, for a traditional Dutch Christmas Market complete with a skating rink, Christmas train, merry-go-round and giant Christmas tree.
The Christmas Market in Valkenburg is the most anticpated Christmas event in Holland; with two Christmas markets both staged in illuminated municipal caves featuring a fairy-tale theme of "Christmas Around the World." The caves where the Christmas Market Fluweelengrot takes place, hark back to the ancient legends of Valkenburg and a walking tour through the market will lead you to an illuminated Christmas cave within which is a magical eighteenth century chapel. These Santa’s grottos are the oldest and largest underground Christmas markets in the whole of Europe.
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