10 tastiest Christmas markets in Europe: A treat for every taste!
Good Christmas markets are all about the eats. Nicola Brady tucks into 10 of Europe’s finest...
1. Waffles in Bruges
Colin Farrell has made it impossible to think of Bruges without cursing, but this gorgeous Belgian city makes for a perfect festive break. As soon as you smell the sugary note of waffles in the air, you won’t be able to resist. In the pretty town of Bruges, you’ll likely have two to choose between — a Brussels waffle is square with deeper holes, and a Liege waffle is uneven in shape, denser and chewier.
How: November 25 - January 2; visitbruges.be. TravelDepartment.ie has a three-night trip to Bruges departing December 4, including a city tour, from €399pp.
If you like that, try: You can’t go to Belgium without getting a cone of frites, topped with a generous splodge of mayo.
2. Trdelník in Prague
You’ll see scores of folks wandering through Wenceslas Square with a Trdelník in hand — it would be rude not to join them. These spiralised pastries are made by wrapping dough around a stick and toasting it over an open fire, before generously dousing it in sugar and walnuts. The result? A chewy, flaky treat that’s perfect fodder for market browsing.
How: December 2 - January 6; prague.eu. Clickandgo.com has a three-night break including flights and a 5-star hotel, with breakfast, from €239pp.
If you like that, try: A hearty bowl of soup and dumplings to warm the cockles.
3. Poffertjes in Holland
As with all the best Christmas market food, Poffertjes are sweet, carby and easy to eat on the hop. These baby pancakes are bite-sized, super fluffy and often smothered in melted butter and powdered sugar. For something a little different, head to the Valkenburg Christmas Market, near Maastricht. Held in a candlelit cave underneath the city, this is possibly the most atmospheric market you could ask for.
How: November 17 - December 23; kerstmarktgemeentegrot.nl. Fly to Eindhoven with Ryanair (ryanair.com) — Valkenburg is around a 90-minute drive from the airport.
If you like that, try: Keep the stodge coming with stamppot, a blend of mashed potato and veg topped with a sausage.
4. Schmalzküchen in Berlin
There’s certainly no shortage of Christmas markets in Berlin, a city that dives into the festive season with aplomb. The one at Winterwelt is one of the most popular, partly due to its huge toboggan run and ice-skating. After you’ve had your fill of snow, grab a few Schmalzküchen. These little German doughnuts are made with a lemon and vanilla dough and topped with powdered sugar.
How: November 3 - December 31; visitberlin.de. GoHop.ie has 4 nights in Berlin, room only, from €180pp on November 17.
If you like that, try: Reibeküchen — these potato fritters are served with a dollop of apple sauce.
5. Raclette in Montreux
If there’s one place that does winter comfort food oh so well, it’s Switzerland. And the gorgeous town of Montreux is the perfect spot to fill yourself with the Christmas spirit. At Montreux Noël, you’ll find little wooden chalets stocked to the hilt with treats. There’s plenty of great food on offer, but make a beeline for the raclette stall and fill your belly with as much melted cheese as you can.
How: November 23 - December 24; montreuxnoel.com. Fly to Geneva with Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com) and get the train to Montreux — the market is right next to the station.
If you like that, try: Head to the Lumberjack Village for a wood-fired pizza.
6. Blaas at Winterval
It’s Ireland’s biggest Christmas festival, and this year’s Winterval is set to be one of the best yet. Waterford’s Winterval Market is home to the best treats, with stalls serving up food and drink to beat the band. While you’re perusing the stalls, pick up a native blaa, filled with something meaty — it would be rude not to.
How: The market is open every weekend from November 17 to December 23, and every day on the last week; winterval.ie.
If you like that, try: Switching the mulled wine for a hot cider.
7. Gingerbread in Salzburg
Traditionally, you shouldn’t eat the Austrian ‘Lebküchen’ until December 24, but we all know that Christmas is the time to break rules. These cookies have all the seasonal flavours you’re after — cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, as well as a hefty dose of sugar. They make pretty Christmas gifts too, if you can last the flight home without nibbling off a few corners. Salzburg Christkindlmarkt is all over the old town of the city.
How: November 23 - December 26; see salzburg.info. Ryanair (ryanair.com) flies to Salzburg from December 16.
If you like that, try: Krapfen, little crispy pastries often filled with cheese.
8. Onion Soup in Paris
Christmas market food needn’t be fried. Break with the norm and dive into a bowl of hearty onion soup in one of the Paris markets — this silken, rich broth is a perfectly French winter warmer, topped with slivers of cheesy baguette. There are markets all over the city, but the one at La Defense is a winner, with more than 300 chalets and a huge variety of food stalls.
How: November 23 - December 28; parisinfo.com. Fly to Paris with Air France (airfrance.ie) or CityJet (cityjet.com).
If you like that, try: A crêpe with Nutella and banana is non-negotiable.
9. Roasted chestnuts in London
It’s physically impossible to eat roasted chestnuts without singing about it. But as well as starring in one of the best Christmas songs, roasted chestnuts are a delicious (and quintessential) festive treat. You can find them at Winter Wonderland, the Christmas extravaganza that takes over Hyde Park — the market is filled with a multitude of food options.
How: November 17 - January 1; hydeparkwinterwonderland.com.
If you like that, try: Book a space at the Ice Bar where everything, even the glasses, is carved from ice.
10. Pierogi in Krakow
They might not win any beauty pageants, but pierogi are the perfect winter snack. These dumplings can be stuffed with a sweet or savoury filling, but you’ll more than likely find them filled with meat or cheese, slathered in butter, sour cream or fried onions. The most dazzling market is held in The Rynek, with the beautiful Cloth Hall building illuminated behind.
How: November 24 – December 26; krakow.pl. LimerickTravel.ie has a three-night break from €249pp, including breakfast, one dinner and a sightseeing tour.
If you like that, try: A Polish sausage — once you smell one sizzling, you won’t be able to resist.
NB: All prices subject to change/availability. Check the location of hotels before you book packages to ensure yours is close to the market. See also itaa.ie/offers.
PS. Krampampuli in Budapest
Ready for a tipple? If you’ve had your fill of regular Glühwein, try Krampampuli, a Hungarian punch that’s set alight before drinking. The result is smoky, spicy with a hint of caramel, and it’ll certainly put a spring in your step. The oldest market in the city is in Vörösmarty Square, a traditional affair with free concerts and a lightshow in the evening.
How: November 10 - December 31; budapest.com. CassidyTravel.ie has 3 nights in Budapest from €139pp, departing December 10.
If you like that, try: Soaking up the booze with lángos, a kind of thick flatbread topped with garlic, sour cream and grated cheese.
Read more:10 Christmas hotel breaks to skip the seasonal stress in 2017