The Christmas markets cruising season will soon be in full swing. When you’ve had your fill of glühwein in souvenir mugs it’s easy to sidestep Europe’s more touristy markets to shop for vintage goods, contemporary designs and quality foodstuffs.
Want to make your money go further? Consider making those gift-list ticks outside the eurozone, in Prague or Budapest. Here’s our guide to alternative Christmas shopping in some of Europe’s most festive cities.
While this jewel of the Danube’s most famous festive market is on Vörösmarty Square, the freshest designers in art and fashion ply their wares daily in December at the Budapest Design Terminal. Snap up original artworks, homewares and fashion at this Bauhaus-style former bus depot on Erzsébet Square.
On December 3, 10 and 17, drop in on the WAMP design fair at Millenáris exhibition space for fashion, jewellery and homewares. Foodies will love trying stuffed cabbage, goulash and perhaps even rooster testicle stew from stalls in the city’s Vörösmarty Square. Visit the Central Market Hall for wines, spices, preserves and cured meats.
The source of many Christmas traditions, Germany is a festive-cruise favourite. Cologne and Berlin dominate, but Hamburg, on the Elbe, has attractive canals and edgier shopping options. Swap fairy lights for the Reeperbahn district’s Santa Pauli Christmas market. Expect candles and chocolate in erotic shapes, saucy messages iced on gingerbread and even a family business selling hand-carved dildos.
Despite its seedy image, this area where The Beatles spent their early days has more than its fair share of classier music venues now.
If you’d prefer to see baubles hung from traditional appendages, head for the City Hall market or Winterwald temporary forest.
Most festive cruises to Copenhagen call at several Scandinavian ports. You’ll find hygge, the Danish concept of cosiness, in abundance at seasonal markets. For gifts and homewares that channel Scandi chic, swap the stalls at Tivoli Gardens and Kronborg Castle for interiors and craft shops such as Hay House (pictured below) on Strøget or Designer Zoo at Vesterbrogade 137. For a fair with a souk vibe, try The Grey Hall in Freetown Christiania.
The Meatpacking District is a fashionable place to eat, not least at foodie weekend market Kødbyens Mad & Marked.
The festive focus in Amsterdam, often visited on Rhine cruises, is the traditional Wintermarket and ice rink on Museum Square – handy for the famous galleries. For art without multimillion-pound price tags catch the Dutch designers’ Museum Market there on December 18, or the Sunday markets at Spui square.
Westergasfabriek, the converted gas station that now houses restaurants, bars and clubs, is hosting advent pop-ups including the Funky Xmas Market and food and vintage stalls. Tuck into waffles, sausages and oliebolen (a doughnut/dumpling hybrid), from Christmas stalls around Leidseplein Square or drop into one of Amsterdam’s pancake houses.
Several design markets ring the changes in Vienna, a favourite on Danube itineraries. The stalls at Maria-Theresien-Platz and Rathausplatz are traditional honeypots, but for vintage finds and upcycled goods try the Saturday Moonlight Bazaar at Ottakringer Brewery. For gifts that are bang up-to-date, find contemporary handicrafts, textiles and fashions at Kunst & Kram Christmas Market on the second and third weekends in December.
Offering old-town atmosphere without the kitsch, Spittelberg market has culinary and arts and crafts gifts. Foodies should visit the Naschmarkt for wine, olive oils, sweets and pop-up restaurants, while the Museum Quarter offers seasonal street bars and DJs.