Family ski holidays

2016’s best Christmas markets in Europe for families

Last updated 9th June 2017

strasbourg-christmas-lights

Start the family holiday season early with a visit to one of the best Christmas markets in Europe. From the ancient marvel of Salzburg to Strasbourg’s Capital of Christmas, here’s where your kids will really want to go shopping this year.

1/7 Strasbourg, 25 November to 31 December

Strasbourg is the Capital of Christmas and has taken 400 years to perfect a fairy tale market so gorgeous it’s now a visitor attraction in its own right. The medieval half-timbered houses, immense gothic cathedral and pretty cobbled streets give the city a bit of a natural edge. But the real magic comes from cinnamon scented air, twinkly lights, forests of Christmas trees and hundreds of stalls stacked high with colourful gifts. Snow is almost guaranteed, the Strasbourg posting is a career high for Santa and even Parisians hop on a train just to stock up on festive goodies at this market. Go for scarlet ribbon-tied bredele biscuits and the certainty of snow.

Find out more about Strasbourg Christmas Market

How to get there: In November and December KLM flies from London Heathrow to Strasbourg, via Amsterdam, from £142 return.

Travel time: The flight from London to Strasbourg is around 3 hours and 15 minutes.

vienna-christmas-market-baubles

2/7 Vienna, 12 November to 23 December

Vienna is always a European great, but when temperatures dip and days get shorter, nowhere else in the world is as captivating. The city freezes ice rinks in any available space, sales of Sachertorte are in overdrive and at least ten delightful Christmas Markets spread cheer round the streets, squares, parks and gardens. First to open is the Viennese Christmas Market in front of the City Hall with younger kids’ events inside the grand building, skating outside and irresistible stalls everywhere else. Teenagers love the vintage-style at Spittelburg and the Schönbrunn Palace evening market just gets more and more impressive. Go for the original gifts and ice skating trails through city parks.

Find out more about Vienna’s Christmas Markets

How to get there: In November and December Austrian Airlines flies from London Heathrow direct to Vienna from £94 return.

Travel time: The flight from London to Vienna is 2 hours and 20 minutes.

christmas-tram-basel-christmas-market

3/7 Basel, 24 November to 23 December

With Switzerland, France and Germany in the mix, it’s not surprising Basel is the Swiss city of Christmas. Glowing, glittery and light-trimmed from pavements to rooftops, this beautiful city is also where you’ll find the country’s biggest markets. Over 180 stalls spread across historic Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz sell everything little hearts could desire and stacks of grown-up treats too. Go for the crisp, snowy weather and exceptional shopping.

Find out more about Basel Christmas Market

How to get there: In November and December Ryanair flies from London Stanstead direct to Basel from £36 return.

Travel time: The flight from London to Basel is around 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Aerial view of the City Hall with the Christmas market in Hamburg

4/7 Hamburg, 21 November to 23 December

The fabulous Christmas markets of Hamburg are specialists in exciting kids of all ages. Spielzeugasse is the Street of Toys, then there are avenues of sweets and cakes and entire boulevards of beautiful arts, crafts and gifts. Try and tear young shoppers away for long enough for a walk by the River Elbe. Hamburg lights up its ancient sailboats for the festive season and the city’s cutest little market is on Fleet Island. Go for charming hand-made toys, kids entertainment and gourmet food stalls.

Find out more about Hamburg’s Christmas Markets

How to get there: In November and December Ryanair flies from London Stanstead direct to Hamburg from £43 return.

Travel time: The flight from London to Hamburg is around 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Salzburg Christmas market

5/7 Salzburg, 17 November to 26 December

Christkindlmarkt in Salzburg is one of the world’s oldest Christmas markets and the one with customs, choirs and a spectacular view of Europe’s finest Baroque city. It also ticks all the essential boxes for delightful, sticky treats and acres of toy stalls. Visit on a Saturday and kids can see the Christkind and her angels walking through the market at dusk. It’s an ancient tradition and the amazement on little faces is one of the reasons it’s survived so long. Go for the atmosphere and the angels.

Find out more about Salzburg Christmas Market

How to get there: In November and December British Airways flies from London Gatwick direct to Salzburg from £131 return.

Travel time: The flight from London to Salzburg is around 2 hours.

budapest-christmas-market-shoppers-try-mulled-wine

6/7 Budapest, 10 November to 6 January

Europe’s longest lasting Christmas market gives you plenty of time to enjoy the stalls, the funfair and see the city’s glamorous shops too. Pretty artisan tree decorations to keep forever are a speciality here along with hearty local street food – it’s cold in Budapest in December – and lots of entertainment from puppeteers to string quartets. Go for satisfying frostiness and heirloom baubles.

Find out more about Budapest Christmas Market

How to get there: In November and December Ryanair flies from London Stanstead direct to Budapest from £65 return.

Travel time: The flight from London to Budapest is around 2 hours and 30 minutes.

innsbruck-christmas-market-christmas-tree-in-square

7/7 Innsbruck, 15 November to 6 January

Innsbruck has its first skiers on the slopes in late October. So by the time stalls are set out for the famously lovely old town market in mid-November, the capital of Austrian Tyrol is just about as Christmassy as can be. If you want to build the anticipation for kids: take the cable car up the mountain late afternoon and let them gaze down at the city just as it starts to light up for the evening – sheer enchantment. Go for delicate, hand-made, glass tree ornament and super-sweet doughnuts.

Find out more about Innsbruck Christmas Market.

How to get there: In November and December Lufthansa flies from London Heathrow to Innsbruck, via Munich, from £154 return.

Travel time: The flight from London to Innsbruck was, until recently, around six hours. However, from 26 November 2016, BA and Easyjet have direct flights to Innsbruck during ski season, cutting the journey from a one-stop, six-hour slog to about two hours, with very low prices.

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Are your kids itching to meet the real Santa? Think about a family Christmas in Lapland.