With Christmas just eight weeks away, now is the perfect time to book at trip to one of Europe’s most unique Christmas Markets.
As TV adverts bombard us with the latest gadgets, festive food and ´must-have gifts´ our thoughts will turn to the Christmas shopping. When to start? What to buy? Who to buy for?
Europe´s Christmas markets offer a vast range of gift ideas you won´t find on the high street, and provide the perfect setting for a pre-festive break.
Here, we look at five of the most quirky Christmas markets in Europe, 2014.
The Christmas Market, Rome
Avoid Rome´s tourist hordes and visit the Eternal City in December.
Combine a visit to the Italian capital´s vibrant Rome Christmas Market in the Piazza Navona, with a sightseeing tour in the uncrowded city centre.
The Piazza is stuffed with stalls selling a vast choice of seasonal gifts, hand-made confectionery, toys, nativity figures and decorations to suit all tastes and budgets.
Nativity scenes fill the streets and the smell of roasting chestnuts drifts through the air.
Street processions, live music and colourful events take place throughout December and New Year.
Whatever your religious persuasions are, midnight mass in Rome on Christmas Eve is a memorable experience. Thousands of visitors flock to Saint Peter´s Square where a life-size nativity is set up, and the Pope says midnight mass inside the Basilica, which is shown throughout the square on large TV screens.
The Fira de Santa Llúcia, Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona may not be high up on everyone´s list of ´Christmas market destinations´ but this beautiful city is home to one of the oldest and most traditional festive fairs in Europe.
The Fira de Santa Llúcia Market includes hundreds of stalls packed into the Plaza de la Seu (outside Barcelona Cathedral) selling a wide choice of Christmas trees, mistletoe, toys, leather goods and handicrafts.
What this authentic Spanish market lacks in mulled wine and hot dogs, it certainly makes up for in traditional gifts and a warm festive atmosphere, especially in the evenings when the lights reflect against the backdrop of the cathedral.
Enjoy the Nativity scene contest, musical parades and exhibitions, including the popular life-size Nativity scene in Plaça Sant Jaume.
The Vorosmarty tér, Budapest, Hungary
Budapest´s Vorosmarty tér takes place from the end of November to the beginning of January and is situated in the heart of the Pest area.
Traditional food, folk dancing and live music are highlights of the market, which offers over 150 stalls selling everything from honey biscuits and mulled wine to leather goods and decorations.
The Fair also offers a choice of artistic and cultural events which take place throughout the streets.
The Budapest Christmas Fair is a foodie´s paradise. Aside from the usual sweet treats, try the traditional Hungarian dishes, including goose-stuffed cabbage, pork knuckle and grilled spicy sausages.
The Christmas Markets, Vienna, Austria
Visitors to Vienna during December are spoilt for choice when it comes to Christmas markets, which run from mid-November.
The festive season in Austria is a huge social occasion for the Viennese, who meet up to enjoy a glass or two of mulled wine, roasted chestnuts and spicy Christmas cakes and biscuits.
Rathausplatz is one of the most famous markets in the city, if only for a glimpse of the Advent windows on the Town Hall which are decorated by local artists. The Schonbrunn Palace Market enjoys a spectacular backdrop and upmarket stalls. Altwiener offers a more edgy, arty feel and sells a range of handicrafts. Spittelberg Market offers a range of unique goods not found elsewhere and is set in cobbled streets between Burggasse and Siebensterngassse.
Winter Wonderland, London, England
Christmas shopping at Winter Wonderland Hyde Park, London is made all the more pleasurable by carol singing, festive music and a lot of fun along the way.
Hyde Park´s stunning tribute to all things Chrismassy offers a vast range of things to see and do for all the family. Try the fairground rides, wander around Santa Land or through the Christmas markets, accompanied by festive tunes along the way.
Entry is free, and highlights include a Giant Observation Wheel and two Christmas circuses. You will also find a Winter Wonderland ice rink which is illuminated with over 100,000 lights.
Enjoy the themed bars with real fires or the Ice Bar (without a real fire for obvious reasons).
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland is a great attraction for all ages.
If you are planning a trip to Europe´s Christmas markets in 2014, check out our vast range of rental apartments, studios, villas and holiday accommodation in Rome, Budapest, London, Vienna and Barcelona.