Europe's must-see winter wonderlands

Thinking of visiting a Christmas market this year? Ciara McDonnell looks at some of the best Europe has to offer.

A view of a busy Prague christmas market.

Amsterdam

Achingly cool, Amsterdam is predictably trendy during the festive season. As well as the traditional Christmas markets the city is famous for, it’s also home to markets aimed directly at the hipster contingent.

The Funky Xmas market takes place every Sunday throughout December at Westergasfabriek and features the work of local artists, fashion designers and creatives while the Amsterdamsche Kerstmarkt houses a Christmas fair in an industrial warehouse and features live music and children’s entertainment each day.

Insider Tip: Take a 30-minute train ride to the Lelystad Christmas Market, where be-lanterned stalls abound, and vendors sell treats from tables piled high with delicious pastries.

Stay: The WestCord City Centre Hotel Amsterdam does just what it says on the tin. A five-minute walk from Dam Square and Central station, the hotel has all the facilities a city break requires, great coffee and excellent beds.

westcordhotels.com

Fly: Aer Lingus fly from Cork to Amsterdam.

Edinburgh

East Princes St Gardens is the home for this year’s Christmas Market in Edinburgh.

This super traditional festive celebration showcases a huge range of the craftsmanship that Edinburgh is famous for, as well as lots of gorgeous artisan food.

There are free concerts and events taking place throughout the month of December, and the onsite fairground features all kinds of rides and attractions to keep even the most demanding of thrill seekers entertained.

Insider Tip: Theatre lovers should include a visit to the Festival Square Spiegeltent, which will host the spectacular La Clique Noël — Part Deux as well as shows geared towards families throughout December.

Stay: The B+B Hotel offers excellent value for modernised rooms housed in a Victorian mansion. Beds and bathrooms are basic but spacious, and they welcome pets too, should that be important to you.

www.bb-edinburgh.com

Fly: Aer Lingus fly from Cork to Edinburgh.

Paris

The spectacular Champs-Élysées Christmas Market is back for 2018 after being closed last year as a result of a dispute between its organisers.

The bigger and better festival is now known as La Magie de Noël has a new home in Tuileries Garden next to the Louvre.

There’ll be 100 chalets featuring the yummiest French food and wine, as well as a full carnival experience and an ice rink.

Insider Tip: Don’t miss the incredibly gorgeous Christmas market that takes place at Marché de Noel Notre Dame, located on the Left Bank, just across the Seine from the cathedral. If you want to pick up some crafty gifts, then this is the place to buy them.

Stay: Live the bohemian dream at Hotel Henriette; a simple and laid-back hotel nestled in a quiet street on the Left Bank. Decorated with a nod to vintage theatrics, this hotel is cosy and has a very cutesy garden in which to enjoy morning coffee. hotelhenriette.com

Fly: Aer Lingus and Air France fly from Cork to Paris.

Prague

Prague goes big when it comes to Christmas, and its markets are no different. The entire city becomes a living testament to festivity, with live nativities, and markets strewn throughout the city.

It’s no surprise that Prague tops the list of Christmas markets — it’s the birthplace of King Wenceslas after all.

Make like royalty and enjoy a meander through the lantern-lit streets with a mug of mulled wine in hand. prague.eu/en/christmas

Insider Tip: Don’t miss out on the incredible array of Christmas cookies at the market. Czech Christmas cookies are traditionally flavoured with cocoa or coconut, nuts and the occasional splash of rum.

Stay: Located in the old town, just a few steps from the Charles Bridge, Hotel Liliova is well priced and offers double and triple rooms all decked out in traditional décor.

hotelliliovaprague.com

Fly: Aer Lingus and Ryanair operate flights from Dublin to Prague.

Budapest

Set against the backdrop of St Stephen’s Basilica, the Christmas fair in Budapest is one of the many festive extravaganzas that take over the city from the last weekend in November until the first of January.

Ideal for families, there is an ice rink and lots of family-friendly entertainment throughout the city.

Be sure to try some Hungarian chimney cake before picking up some gorgeous handcrafted gifts to bring home.

Insider Tip: If you’re on an adults-only break, take a dip in one of two open-air thermal pools at the Széchenyi Baths in the city centre — it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Stay: The Bo33 Hotel Family & Suites is situated right beside the city centre and is extremely family friendly. Its family suites feature two connecting rooms, great beds and crucially, a Nespresso machine.

bo33hotelbudapest.com

Fly: Aer Lingus and Ryanair operate daily flights from Dublin to Budapest.

Lisbon

Not necessarily the most traditional choice, but the Portuguese are Christmas obsessed, and Lisbon is the hub of their festive cheer.

There are a number of smaller craft markets dotted throughout the city, but the icing on Lisbon’s Christmas cake is at Parque Eduardo VII, which transforms into Wonderland Lisboa for the month of December.

Here you’ll find more than 50 stalls selling crafts and delicious sweet treats, as well as lots of free entertainment for the kids.

Insider Tip: Don’t miss a stroll down Avenida Da Liberdade, where Christmas lights twinkle on the facades of Lisbon’s fanciest shop fronts.

Stay: The super hip Internacional Design Hotel encourages guests to choose their room from a choice of four designs.

Whether you are of a tribal, urban, pop, or zen state of mind, all rooms are full of mod cons, and the hotel is situated right in the city centre, making it an ideal base for exploring.

idesignhotel.com

Fly: Aer Lingus flies direct from Cork to Lisbon.

Munich

Traditional craftsmanship is the centrepiece of Munich’s Christmas extravaganza. The main market stretches over 20,000 square metres, from Marienplatz Square out into the corners of the old city.

It features world-class performances from carollers and choirs throughout the month, retaining a feeling of old-fashioned cheer that some of its counterparts have lost.

Traditional Bavarian crafts can be found at most stalls – the handmade tree ornaments are worth the trip alone.

Insider Tip: Hot roasted chestnuts are a speciality here, and be sure to try a Zwetschgenmandl.

Stay: Hotel Torbreau is located right in the city centre, near the main Christmas market, making it an ideal base for a festive getaway. www.torbraeu.de


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