Christmas just isn’t Christmas without its coloured baubles and funny wooden huts. From Prague to Montreal, the Christmas market is THE place to be in December. Oh, and you can always pop into a cosy bar or restaurant if the tinsel gets too much for you.
Until 27th December, Reims Cathedral is the backdrop for the town’s Christmas market. The atmosphere is lively as the musicians from Déambul' Jazz band stage several concerts. It’s also a great excuse to admire the incredible way the façade has been illuminated. A dynamic polychrome light show designed by Hélène Richard and Jean-Michel Quesne, transforms the architecture and sculptures, bringing out the finest details of the building. Had enough tinsel? Stay at the Domaine des Crayères, set in a castle. Their twenty rooms are decorated in classic French style and open onto the beautiful park, which is where it all happens in Champagne. Michelin-starred chef Philippe Mille signs a menu focusing on the Champagne terroir with champagne pairings, developed with chef sommelier Philippe Jamesse. The astonishing champagne cellars of Veuve Clicquot and Ruinart are just footsteps away, though they are closed in winter. You’ll just have to come back in spring.
Every winter, the public square ‘Museumplein’ turns into a real ice village. The traditional chalets stock all sorts of Dutch food and drinks as well as toys, crafts, jewellery and accessories. The real attraction here though is the skating rink, which is installed for ten days only (20th to the 30th December) right in the centre of the square. Pull on your skates for a glide around the rink or enjoy taking part in a game of human bowling on ice. Yes, you heard that correctly. Had enough tinsel? The Hôtel de l’Europe, along the river Amstel offers a special festive package, including a champagne tea.
Welcome to Germany at its very best. If any city knows how to do a Christmas market, it’s Munich. The Bavarian capital has several markets, each of which has its own identity and atmosphere. However, the most important one is on Marienplatz in front of the town hall. Held until 24th December, the market showcases traditional crafts: toys, pottery, and wooden objects. Take a stroll down to Schwabing district, Munich’s trendy neighbourhood. It’s impossible to resist a slice of Apfelstrudel washed down with a mug of mulled wine or hot chocolate. Had enough tinsel? Try a complete change of scene by going for dinner with friends at Enter The Dragon. This elegant restaurant serves Asian cuisine with a Vietnamese twist and dishes to share. Sip a classic cocktail or a more daring creation while listening to live music.
Until the end of December, Lausanne oozes Christmas spirit. In the Pepinet district, the designers’ market highlights local artisans with sleek and contemporary products. On Place de l'Europe, a giant igloo houses a market packed with locally sourced produce and wine. For more traditional dishes, head to the Marché des Amis at the Terrace Bel Air or the big covered market of Saint François. Had enough tinsel? Finish your festive walk at the Beau Rivage Palace opposite the lake to dine chez Anne-Sophie Pic. France’s three Michelin-starred female chef expertly puts Swiss products in the spotlight, such as the Arctic char and frog legs from Vallorbe.
Not one but two beautiful markets are held in the Old Town Square until 24th December: Staré Město Náměstí and Václavské Náměstí. Smaller markets have also popped up on Námestí Míru and Námesty Republiky. Taste some culinary specialties such as ‘Vanocka’, a braided brioche, or try a decorated gingerbread. Next, pick-up some of the beautiful wooden crafts like a puppet or find some Bohemian crystal. It’s impossible to resist the stunning tree decorations and corn paper garlands, just make sure you pack an extra bag! Had enough tinsel? Dine at Cottocrudo set within the Four Seasons Prague, where chef Leonardo di Clemente plays around with modern Italian cuisine. Indulge in a glass of Ruinart Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne while savouring dishes inspired by the Mediterranean with Tuscan and Piedmontese twists.
OK, so Montreal’s market can’t quite compete with Europe, who are by far the masters of the little wooden chalet, but the tradition seems to be taking root in Quebec City. Until the 24th December, a large Christmas market is held on the Place des Arts esplanade. It’s pretty close to the real thing: mulled wine, illuminated kiosks, Christmas tree sellers, traditional wooden houses. You name it, it’s there, alongside local foods, crafts, delicacies and even organic produce. Had enough tinsel? Head to the Mont-Royal district for a cocktail or alcoholic tea at Mayfair. The cosy, late 19th-century atmosphere evokes the wealth, elegance and romance of the Victorian era. Try the Sir Wilde cocktail with Belvedere Vodka, Hennessy VS Cognac, Ardbeg whisky, lime and pine syrup, lemon and pineapple juices.