Christmas markets are a well-known tradition in many European countries, and they are becoming an increasingly popular addition to the run-up to Christmas in this country too. You will find unusual or handmade gift ideas, in an atmospheric and festive setting and you may even be able to get most of your Christmas shopping done in one enjoyable hit! It’s also good to support local and independent businesses

I never knew that there was a prestigious award for ‘the best Christmas markets in Europe’, but thousands of people voted in 2014 to create a Top Ten:

  1. Strasbourg, France
  2. Dresden, Germany
  3. Brussels, Belgium
  4. Lille, France
  5. Nuremberg, Germany
  6. Basel, Switzerland
  7. Vienna, Austria
  8. Cologne, Germany
  9. Birmingham, England
  10. Barcelona, Spain

As you can see, you’re spoilt for choice for options of where to head in the exciting run-up to the Festive period. Any of the above are a good bet for some Continental pre-Christmas fare to fill your heart with Christmas cheer and your shopping bags with all sorts of goodies to bring back and put under the tree!  With Europe within easy reach of the UK via a flight or trip through the EuroTunnel, the markets and the other picturesque attractions on offer in these cosmopolitan and historic European cities make it easy for young and old to enjoy the warmth and magic of Christmas with an overseas mini-break.

With edible specialities such as spice bread, confectionery, pastries and mulled wine on offer, as well as Christmas fripperies such as baubles, tinsels and other glittering Christmas decorations – make sure you have enough room in your luggage to accommodate all of your purchases!  With the £ currently performing well against the Euro, it’s a good year to get more Euros for your £ sterling, and more goodies for you and your family to enjoy.

Each market has its own specialities, as well as each city having a selection of markets to choose from – Strasbourg, for example, has the oldest Christmas market in France, the famous “Christkindelsmarik”  – introduced way back in 1570,  the Village of Sharing and the Christmastime arts, crafts and produce market.

Visit Europe’s Christmas markets without breaking the bank.

One surprise in the list compiled above, is the fact that Birmingham has a world-renowned market, I had no idea! Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas Market and Craft fair runs from the 13th November to 2nd December, from 10am to 9pm.  “The largest authentic German market outside Germany and Austria” and the centrepiece of the city’s festive calendar returns to Birmingham each year in mid-November for 5 weeks.  We are promised over 180 stalls selling gifts, jewellery, decorations, handmade toys, delicious German fare – and the warming teutonic cheer of the Gluhwein!

Birmingham is a bit of a trundle away from Sussex, so we’ve rounded up some more local options to tempt you into some pre-Christmas spending and traditional festive nostalgia:

Leeds Castle

The magnificent Leeds Castle in Kent is the enchanting backdrop for the Gingerbread Christmas festivities.  There is a festive Christmas market on the lawns which is open from 10am to 5pm from 6th December until 23rd December. Stallholders will be offering a range of Christmas gifts, local produce and festive food and drink. Santa’s reindeers are also resting on the lawns before their busy period arrives!  Soak up the atmosphere of the season by looking round the castle itself which will be transformed with a traditional gingerbread theme with beautiful decorations and a breathtaking central display. Children will have a fabulous time on the Gingerbread Quest, searching the Woodland Walk and the Adventure Playground to track down the Gingerbread men that are on the run!  They would also love a visit to Father Christmas, where the elves greet excited children before they enter Father Christmas’ magical grotto and receive a special gift (this needs to be booked in advance).

Rochester Dickens Festival

Dickens is forever associated with Christmas because of the cautionary-but- ultimately-heartwarming story of Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, and this festival brings to life not only this tale by the legendary Victorian author, but also many of his other eccentric and well-love literary characters.  His much-loved stories are brought vividly and interactively to life by the Seven Poor Travellers Procession, the Grand Parade, a candlelit procession, an open air carol concert and roaming street performers.  Rochester is an apt backdrop for this festive Dickens-fest as the author spent five of his childhood years in Medway from 1817 to 1822 and he returned for the last few years of his life, dying at Gads Hill in 1870.  Added bonuses are the many shopping stalls and a guaranteed snowfall, framed by Rochester’s fairytale cathedral and castle.  This is on from 6th December to 7th December this year.

Arundel by candlelight

The picturesque West Sussex town, dominated by its awe-inspiring Castle and Cathedral, is a lovely setting for this festive event.  The whole town sparkles with the magic of the season as shops, restaurants, pubs and private houses are decorated with Christmas trees decked with simple white lights.  This popular annual event allows visitors to browse a wide range of stall-holders selling such seasonal treats as roasted chestnuts, mulled wine and hog roasts and many gift ideas. To add to the ambience of the festive feel, there are also traditional carols, Father Christmas himself, brass bands and local choirs.  The beautiful centre-piece Christmas tree lights will be switched on by Her Grace, The Duchess of Norfolk.  This event is happening on 6th December between 1pm and 7pm.

So whether you prefer to immerse yourself in the pre-Christmas glow by visiting a Christmas market at home or away from the UK, there are just a few of the many events happening to fill your heart with Christmas cheer and your shopping bags with all sorts of delicious and delightful treats.

Click here to find out about local Christmas markets, which sell local produce and crafts.

Enjoy!

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