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It’s that time of year again. Whether it’s a decorated tree in the family home, or twinkling lights strewn across the main street, preparations are getting underway around the world to make this year’s Christmas as festive as possible.
Everyone loves that age-old image of being together with friends and family and fighting off the winter cold with a hot mug of mulled wine. And what better way to get in the Christmas spirit than with a visit to an old, Dickensian-style Christmas Market?
So it’s not quite official, but the Christmas market in Dresden is widely considered to be the world’s oldest. It’s been running since way back in 1434 and now boasts over 250 stalls. Around two million people arrive here every year to soak up the idyllic atmosphere.
Stretching throughout the entire month of December up until Christmas Day, highlights include a mock fairytale castle, a giant advent calendar, the famous ‘Stollen’ cake and a more than plentiful supply of ‘gluhwein’.
The Fairytale Christmas Market: Strasbourg, France
While Dresden has a mock castle, Strasbourg goes one better. Its annual Christmas Market (from the 29th November to the 24th December), is set in and around the beautiful Notre Dame Cathedral. And this breathtaking setting makes it one of the best yuletide markets around.
Somewhere between one and two million people visit every year, and regularly come back for the cheering mix of timbered buildings, spicy sausages and freshly baked gingerbread. And as if that weren’t enough, there’s even an ice rink for nightly skating.
Brussels’ Christmas Market runs throughout the month of December and represents Christmas offerings from across Europe. Along with the 240 wooden chalets selling everything from food and drink to trinkets, there’s a huge illuminated Ferris wheel and an array of fairground carousels.
What really makes the market, though, are the decorations of the nearby Grand’Place. Its gothic buildings are lit up at night by the famed Electrabel Light exhibition. So once you’ve shopped around the market, you can kick back in the square and watch as Christmas goes electric.
As with everything else in America, Chicago’s Christmas Market is big. Massive, in fact. Spread out around the Daley Plaza between the 22nd November and the 24th December, the market attracts in excess of one million visitors every year.
Chicago’s yuletide epicenter includes just about everything you could ask for on your Christmas Market wish list, including choirs, a nativity scene, an enormous, illuminated tree and a visit from the big man himself. America’s biggest is definitely one of the best.
The White Christmas Market: Quebec City, Canada
Ever since Bing Crosby sang those immortal lines, we’ve all been dreaming of a White Christmas. And with temperatures firmly in the minus, as a general rule, it doesn’t get much whiter than in Quebec, Canada!
Quebec’s Christmas Market is the quintessential Christmas experience. There are carol singers, sledging, mulled wine (and ice cold cider!), along with market stalls selling some of the best food from the region. And, of course, everything is covered in fantastically pristine white snow.
Christmas at its very best.
The Oriental Christmas Market: Sapporo, Japan
It’s not everyday in Asia that you get to slug Bavarian beer, sip warming ‘gluhwein’ and enjoy all the other trappings of an ‘olde’ European Christmas. But that’s exactly what the Munich Christmas Market in Sapporo allows.
The market lasts from the 22nd November to the16th December and takes place in Odori Park. Amongst the food, the drink and the earmuffs, there are some bargains to be had. So if you happen to be in that part of the world, Sapporo’s Market really brings Christmas to Japan.