Bright, festive and a lot of fun, these 9 fabulous markets from around the world are proof that not all the best Christmas markets are in Germany.
Prague at Christmas (Dreamstime)
You won’t find anyone gathering winter fuel in Prague’s famous Wenceslas Square over the festive season – just thousands of people happily wandering around chocolate box stalls that sell trinkets, delicious treats and warming drinks in the town squares of one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Czechs love their Vanocni trh (Christmas markets) and for good reason. Large hams are roasted on spits, barbequed sausages (klobása) are served straight from the grill, and cakes and pastries, like trdelník (a hot sugar-coated pastry) are prepared in front of you.
Czech beers aren’t too bad either. They’re the perfect way to celebrate that Bohemian crystal trinket you picked up at a knock-down price.
More: Central and Eastern Europe’s best Christmas markets
Birmingham Christmas markets (Visit Birmingham)
With over 180 stalls selling gifts, jewellery, decorations and handmade toys, the Birmingham Christmas markets are the biggest in the UK and the largest outside Germany and Austria. They’re authentic too, with the bretzels and Glühwein just as delicious as those on offer in Frankfurt and Munich.
2016 marks the 50th anniversary of Birmingham twinning with Frankfurt. To celebrate, the markets will be open for an extra seven days. Keep an ear out for Birmingham’s famous singing moose – Chris Moose – as he belts out Christmas favourites from the bandstand in front of Council House. Also, be sure to try one of the city’s famous Baileys hot chocolates. One of these should be enough to warm you on the chilliest of nights.
More: The UK’s 7 best Christmas Markets
Christmas Market in Gamla Stan. (Dreamstime)
The Swedes embrace Christmas with gusto. Advent candlesticks illuminate every window and Christmas markets pop up all over the city. There’s the Design Christmas market in Garnisonen, a botanical-themed Christmas market at Rosendal and a pop-up market in front of Drottningholm Castle on the first weekend of December.
The most famous one is the traditional Christmas market held each year in Stortorget Square in the old town, Gamla Stan. The cobbled square is packed with little red stalls selling Swedish Christmas sweets, smoked sausages (reindeer and elkmeat), glögg (mulled wine) and a range of Swedish handicrafts and decorative arts.
For an even more traditional Swedish Christmas experience, head out to the Christmas markets in Skansen, a recreation of a traditional Swedish village on Djurgården. Here, the treats are a little more rustic and served by people dressed in traditional costumes from days of yore.
Vienna Christmas Market (Dreamstime)
Little wooden huts selling hot punch and roasted chestnuts pop up around Vienna in the run-up to Christmas, all leading you to the main event: Christkindlemarkt, on the main square in front of the City Hall.
Take a stroll between perfectly decorated trees in the city’s main park and forgive yourself if you momentarily feel part of a real life Christmas card. Keep an eye out for Herzerlbaum – the tree with hearts – while you’re there, stop off for a romantic moment under the illuminated hearts.
More: Central and Eastern Europe’s best Christmas markets
Solstice Parade performer in Toronto (Dreamstime)
Toronto Christmas market certainly lives up to its motto: “Inspired by the Old World and influenced by the New.” Held in the city’s historic Distillery District, it combines the charm of a traditional European market with a few Canadian twists.
Listen to Bavarian brass bands and organists, watch folk dancers from Slovenia and Ukraine, and feast on poutine, a calorific fix of French fries, gravy and soft cheese curds. Invented in rural Quebec in the 1950s, the dish is one of Canada’s guilty pleasures.
Kid’s will love playing in the life-size gingerbread house, while their parents browse stalls selling Canadian beeswax candles, wooden toys and other traditional gifts. St Nicholas arrives on the 5th of December as part of a spectacularly colourful procession.
More: Canada’s best Christmas Markets
Christmas market in Riga (Dreamstime)
In 1510, a guild of merchants from the city of Riga decorated a fir tree with flowers to commemorate the birth of Christ and, legend has it, the Christmas tree was born. Riga’s festive market, held in Dome Square in the old town, has featured decorated trees in honour of the tradition for over 500 years.
The market has a rustic charm, selling intricately woven baskets, painted silk and sheepskin clothing amongst the 19th century wooden houses and art nouveau architecture of the Latvian capital. Keep warm with a mug of green tea, a slab of fiery gingerbread or some roasted almonds.
More: Central and Eastern Europe’s best Christmas Markets
Christmas in Florence (Dreamstime)
Tucked away on one of Florence’s most beautiful, but lesser known squares, the Christmas market on Piazza Santa Croce combines the best of German and Italian Christmas traditions.
It may look like most other Christmas markets, but hidden amongst the Christmas decorations and German pretzels, you’ll find Tuscan festive snacks and national staples, like panettone, pandoro and panpepato.
There’s also a traditional carousel that adds to the festive cheer.
More: 5 stunning Italian Christmas Markets
The hundreds of candy-striped stalls that fill Daley Plaza make Chicago’s German market the largest in the United States. Here you’ll find hand-carved nativity scenes from Bethlehem, Ecuadorian ponchos, and cuckoo clocks from the Black Forest, as well as stalls selling Bavarian winter staples, like bratwurst with sauerkraut, potato pancakes, goulash and mugs of warming glühwein.
Once your Christmas shopping is done, head down to Chicago’s Magnificent Mile where designer shops, such as Tiffany & Co and Armani, stage elaborate window displays and the streets are adorned with hundreds of illuminated Christmas trees.
More: Christmas Attractions in the USA
Christmas at Tivoli Gardens (Dreamstime)
Copenhagen’s magical Tivoli Gardens provides the perfect setting for the most beautiful Christmas markets in the world. The stalls are set amongst hundreds of Christmas trees and under thousands of twinkling fairy light, while the Garden’s main lake is transformed into an outdoor ice rink where you can hire skates.
Make sure you try the Danish glogg, a mulled wine mixed with liquor and spices. The delicious hot apple dumplings also make for a warming mid-shop snack.