Kick off to Christmas
Christmas markets are a tradition across many Northern European cities from the first week of Advent onwards. A school trip to see the markets is a great opportunity for your students 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 school tour to remember.
Voyager highly recommends school tours within a short transfer time of Calais such as Lille, Aachen and Strasbourg. Groups willing to fly can take a school trip to Christmas destinations like Prague, Berlin and even New York.
Lille is just an hour and a half away from London by Eurostar so it's a perfect choice for a short school trip; some groups take only two-day school 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 in Europe and it has taken place every year since 1570. This market stands out because it has been influenced by French and German Christmas traditions because it the city has been occupied over the centuries by the two countries. As you walk 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 takes place in the old town. Also known as Brussels Winter Wonderland, it is usually open from late November until early January and features the usual delights of a Christmas market as well as an ice-rink.
The Aachen Christmas Market is Germany's nearest Christmas market to the UK 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 market destination.
As Beethoven's home town, Bonn is not short of musical goings-on during its Christmas market period. There are over 170 wooden chalets selling decorative crafts, local delicacies, mulled wine and roasted chestnuts. The sound of resident choirs and orchestras playing really add to the festive atmosphere. Bonn is transformed into a giant advent calendar, complete with enormous ice rink.
Each year Cologne holds four Christmas markets around the city, the most impressive and popular is held around the 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.
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 18th century chapel. These Santa’s grottos are the oldest and largest underground Christmas markets in the whole of Europe.