With the month of December now upon us, Limerick Voice reporter Aine Freeman chooses the best alternative Christmas markets to visit this winter.
The festive spirit succeeds in bringing a certain magic to every city in the world, so it’s only right you should get to dwell deep into this spirit by grabbing your passport and jumping straight on a bus to the airport. With Christmas market season upon us, the urge to drink hot chocolate while wrapped in never-ending layers of clothes is beginning to get overwhelming.
Here are some of the more alternative, yet authentic Christmas markets to visit.
Germany may be the original king of Christmas markets but Dresden is the king’s advisor, so to speak. The East German city boasts one of the oldest Christmas markets in the world, dating back to 1434.
The Dresden markets are a real treasure trove for traditional, handmade gifts, toys and decorations. The market is set up in the Altmarkt square where a romantic and festive feeling is easy to create due the stunning olden architecture surrounding it. The focal point of the Christmas market is the world’s tallest Christmas Pyramid, with a height of 14 metres and the world’s biggest nut cracker.
You won’t go hungry or thirsty either with culinary attractions taking place daily along with the never-ending flow of mulled wine and German sausages.
The Dresden Christmas Markets are open until December 24.
‘Croatia? In winter?’ I hear you ask.
Yes, the small country, most renowned for its dazzling coastline and sizzling sunshine, deserves its place on the list of best Christmas Markets too.
Zagreb has been presenting an ‘Advent in Zagreb’ programme for the last few years in an attempt to rival the top Christmas Market destinations, and rival them, it has. The Croatian Capital was, last year, named ‘Best Christmas Market’ following a poll of more than 100,000 people. It is also nominated for the 2016 Best Christmas market of the year.
There are a number of Christmas markets spread across the city, meaning the entire city is overcome with the festivities. The programme is jam packed with themed walking tours and markets stalls offering all kinds of wonderful goods, both edible and not.
The markets, which are sure to have you seeing Croatia in a new light, finish on January 8.
Krakow has been rising to prominence as a city worth visiting in the last decade. The destination in southern Poland is especially attractive at Christmas time.
Krakow’s huge central square hosts the scores of wooden stalls selling all your Christmas dreams.
The square, located in the very centre of the city, is overlooked by the Renaissance Palace and the Basilica of St Mary and boosts beauty itself. Traditional Polish sausages and festive treats are on offer all over this square, along with internationally loved mulled wine.
The low prices in Krakow are sure to have you eating and drinking to your hearts content.
The Krakow Christmas markets runs until December 26.
Innsbruck is a city in western Austria which is becoming internationally renowned for its high quality Christmas markets. This snow-covered mountain town’s stunning location makes for a dreamy Christmas market location.
The main market is set up in the old town and offers ornaments, hand-crafts goods and treats. Traditional food and drink such as kiachln – pastries filled with various sweet sauces – and Gluhwein are available to indulge on.
The Family Christmas Market is a very attractive element of the markets in Innsbruck, especially for those travelling with kids. A carousel, petting zoo and colouring competitions will all be in place to make kids eyes sparkle, as well as numerous visits from St Nicholas himself. This market is guaranteed to leave the whole family filled with festive joy.
The really unique aspect of these Christmas market is Hungerberg, a village within Innsbruck, is its location higher in the mountains. It is connected with the centre by a cable cliff railway. Once at the top, you will not only be guaranteed breath-taking views of Innsbruck and its surroundings, but also plenty of culinary delights and a wide range of Christmas souvenirs.
All these markets are open until January 6.
Spain has also began to prove it’s year-round worth with it’s ancient Christmas festival, Fira de Santa Llucia. The three week festival has been in operation since 1786 and this year will continue until December 23.
The classic Christmas markets features more than 300 stalls selling home-made decorations, gifts and mistletoe. The Fira de Santa Llucia, however, is authentically Spanish and does not conform to the typical German feel that many markets across Europe try to imitate.
The festivities include a parade and a huge crib celebrating the story of Christmas. In Barcelona, this scene also features a bizarre character called the craganer or ‘The crapper’ who squats with his trousers around his ankles.
These Catalon markets would definitely kick off your Christmas in a unique fashion, allowing you to soak up all Barcelona has to offer, while getting in the festive spirit.
The festival runs until December 23.