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Think­ing of vis­it­ing a Christ­mas mar­ket this year? Ciara McDon­nell looks at some of the best Europe has to of­fer

Irish Examiner - Weekend - - Inside -

THE air is crisp, the nights are long and the fire is crack­ling – what bet­ter time of year to visit the win­ter won­der­land of Europe’s best Christ­mas mar­kets this year? Here are our top picks. Frank­furt

Dat­ing all the way back to the 14th cen­tury, Frank­furt’s Christ­mas mar­ket is one of Europe’s most pop­u­lar fes­tive des­ti­na­tions, and at­tracts around three mil­lion visitors ev­ery year. Open from Novem­ber right through to Christ­mas Eve, the mar­ket is renowned for its marzi­pan-based del­i­ca­cies, which are tra­di­tion­ally given as Christ­mas love gifts by men to women on their radar. Set in the his­toric quar­ter of the city, around Römer­burg and Paulsplatz, the mar­ket of­fers a fab­u­lous start­ing point for any­one look­ing to ex­plore this his­toric city on foot.

www.frank­furt-touris­mus.de/en/Dis­cover■ Ex­pe­ri­ence/Events/Fes­ti­valsinFrank­furt/Frank­furtChrist­mas- Mar­ket.

S t a y : The Grand­ho­tel Hes­sis­cher Hof is owned by the Land­grave and Prince of Hesse fam­ily foun­da­tions and is as pala­tial as this sug­gests. Con­sider heavy hang­ing win­dow dress­ings and deeply piled car­pets — this is old school lux­ury.

www.grand­ho­tel-hes­sis­cher­hof.com

For those on a bud­get check out 25Hours Ho­tel by Le­vis, a supremely funky spot that’s walk­ing dis­tance from the train sta­tion and has comfy beds, great rain show­ers and a roof ter­race to drink a hip­ster cock­tail in peace. http://www.25hour­sho­tels.com/en/ho­tels/ frank­furt/by-le­vis.

Get There: Aer Lin­gus, Lufthansa and Bri­tish Air­ways all run reg­u­lar flights from Dublin to Frank­furt.

Salzburg

The Christ­mas mar­ket in Aus­tria’s Salzburg has been known as the Saint Ni­cholas’ Mar­ket since the 17th cen­tury, when it ran for two weeks be­fore and af­ter St Ni­cholas Day on De­cem­ber 6. To­day, it is known as The Salzburg Christkindl­markt and runs from the first Sun- day of Ad­vent and closes on De­cem­ber 26, sell­ing hand­made gifts and hot sea­sonal food to visitors from all over the world. One of the big at­trac­tions of The Salzburg Christkindl­markt is its daily pro­gramme of choral per­for­mances, guided tours and fes­tive story time for chil­dren. www.salzburg.info

■ Stay: If you want to be ul­tra fancy, book into the Ho­tel Villa Auersperg, where you will en­joy mod­ern lux­ury (think an­tique desks with Eames chairs) and an or­ganic, lo­cally sourced break­fast. www.auersperg.at

On the more mod­est end of the scale, Alder­hof is a tra­di­tional-style pen­sion within walk­ing dis­tance to both the train sta­tion and the old town. Rooms are sim­ple and tra­di­tional, but homey and wel­com­ing. www.pen­sion-adler­hof.at.

Get There: Ryanair flies di­rect from Dublin to Salzburg.

Bu­dapest

Bu­dapest plays host to two of Hun­gary’s big­gest Christ­mas mar­kets from early Novem­ber right through to the end of De­cem­ber. The mar­ket on Voros­marty Square is renowned for its range of hand­crafts and Christ­mas gift ideas, as well as be­ing the old­est fes­tive mar­ket in the city, while the mar­ket on St Stephen’s Square is held in the shadow of the stun­ning St Stephen’s Basil­ica and sells fes­tive treats like Hun­gar­ian Chim­ney Cake as well as hun­dreds of gift from the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Folk Artists. bu­dapestchrist­mas.com

■ S ta y : 5 star lux­ury abounds at The Bos­colo Bu­dapest, where sweep­ing stair­cases lead the way to bed­rooms that are so lux­u­ri­ous; you’ll find it hard to leave.

Be pre­pared to fall in love with the spa­cious bath­rooms, clad in mar­ble. www.bos­colo­ho­tels.com

Ger­lóczy is a small ho­tel over a fan­tas­tic café in the heart of the city.

Its rooms all boast a king­size bed and mod cons, which defy its mod­est price tag. www.ger­loczy.hu/ rooms Get There: Both Ryanair and Aer Lin­gus have reg­u­lar flights from Dublin to Bu­dapest.

Vi­enna

There are over 20 Christ­mas mar­kets which take up res­i­dence in Vi­enna each Novem­ber, all of­fer­ing a charm of its very own. Ex­pect proper roasted chest­nuts and an ex­ten­sive ar­ray of heav­ily dec­o­rated Christ­mas cook­ies at the mar­ket in front of City Hall, and don’t miss out on the carol con­certs which take place each Fri­day un­til the end of De­cem­ber. The Christ­mas Vil­lage at Belvedere Palace is a must see, as it trans­forms the palace grounds into a fairy­tale won­der­land of can­dle­light and fes­tive cheer. Spit­tel­berg is the mar­ket to visit for ceram­ics, warm jumpers, rugs and jew­ellery made of sil­ver, enideas amel and brass and hand­made or­na­ments and na­tiv­ity sets can be found at the mar­ket in front of the Schön­brunn Palace. www.aus­tria.info.

Stay: The Guest­house might sound like a pen­sion­style ho­tel, but to stay here is to ex­pe­ri­ence ex­treme lux­ury. De­signed by Ter­ence Con­ran, there are in­cred­i­ble touches all over the ho­tel, and each room has a wine cooler stocked with free wine and beer – bonus! www.theguest­house.at

Ho­tel Kun­sthof of­fers a range of room sizes, from king size to sin­gle, all at af­ford­able prices. The walls are cov­ered with art­work that is avail­able to buy, and af­ter a long day pe­rus­ing the Christ­mas mar­ket, their fully stocked Hon­est Bar is al­ways wel­come. http:// www.hotelkun­sthof.at.

Get There: Aer Lin­gus flies di­rect from Dublin to Vi­enna.

Am­s­ter­dam

Am­s­ter­dam em­braces a city­wide fes­tive at­mos­phere come Novem­ber, with six main Christ­mas mar­kets tak­ing over the city.

Head to the Win­terVil­lage at Am­stelveen Square where over sixty stall­hold­ers ready to sell you your en­tire Christ­mas list sur­round an ice rink. Hip­sters will love the Funky Xmas Mar­ket, where de­sign­ers, artists and other cre­atives sell their wares di­rectly to the pub­lic.

From mid-De­cem­ber, Mu­se­umplein is trans­formed into a won­der­land with Christ­mas games, mar­kets, en­ter­tain­ment and near con­stant carol sing­ing and Kromhouthal hosts a mar­ket es­pe­cially for last minute gift in­spi­ra­tion on De­cem­ber 22 and 23. www.iams­ter­dam.com.

Stay: The Hox­ton Ho­tel in Am­s­ter­dam oozes cool. All rooms have dou­ble show­ers and su­per so­phis­ti­cated fin­ishes, and the bar and restau­rant ar­eas are like the sit­ting room you al­ways wished you had. www.the­hox­ton.com.

Volk­shotel used to be a news­pa­per head­quar­ters and is now home to lots of quirky ho­tel bed­rooms, rang­ing from teensy to small apart­ment-sized. It has a sauna on the roof ter­race, which is the best place to start the day from in this city. www.volk­shotel.nl

Get There: Aer Lin­gus flies di­rect from Cork to Am­s­ter­dam.

Gothen­burg

Ex­pect a Smor­gas­bord of fes­tive fun at Gothen­burg’s fa­mous Christ­mas mar­ket.

Swe­den’s largest fes­tive mar­ket takes over Lise­berg Amuse­ment Park and wel­comes over half a mil­lion visitors each year. With over 80 stalls and a spe­cial de­sign mar­ket, it’s a shop­pers dream, but chil­dren will adore the tra­di­tional Santa House, where the man him­self is on hand to make Christ­mas as mag­i­cal as pos­si­ble for lit­tle visitors. www.gote­borg.com.

Stay: Up­per House is ex­clu­sive and ex­pen­sive, but you get what you pay for here — it is lo­cated in the

posh­est area of Gothen­burg and is re­plete with all kinds of mod cons and re­ally lovely beds. It has an in­door and an out­door pool for wa­ter seek­ers. www.up­per­house.se

City Ho­tel of­fers a range of room op­tions from a sin­gle room with a hand basin to a dou­ble deluxe with en­suite. It’s lo­cated on a quiet cen­tral street and all room rates in­clude break­fast. http://city­hotel­gbg.se

Get There: Aer Lin­gus flies from Dublin to Stock­holm and from there, get the train to Gothen­burg. Al­ter­na­tively, fly from Cork to Lon­don Stand­sted and catch a Ryanair flight from there to Gothen­burg. Dres­den

Ex­pect the waft of warm mulled wine to warm your cock­les as you wan­der around Dres­den’s 12 Christ­mas mar­kets.

Fa­mous for can­dles and hand carved wooden fig­ures, it’s an ideal spot to pick up Christ­mas gifts, but what­ever you do, don’t miss out on try­ing Stollen, the fes­tive cake which Dres­den is fa­mous for.

If you hap­pen to be in the city on De­cem­ber 9 you’ll be treated to the Dres­d­ner Stol­len­fest, where af­ter a pa­rade, a gi­ant stolen is cut into thou­sands of pieces and dis­trib­uted amongst visitors. wwww.dres­den.de

Stay: Rich with the Baroque in­te­ri­ors that Dres­den is fa­mous for, the Bülow Res­i­denz is a tes­ta­ment to vel­vet and tapestried up­hol­ster­ies. www.buelow-res­i­denz.de

The B&B Ho­tel in Dres­den is cen­trally lo­cated and of­fers brightly coloured ba­sic rooms at an ex­cel­lent price. Stay­ing at this ho­tel is kind of like stay­ing in a mod­ern univer­sity dorm — bright and clean but with no free ex­tras. www.hotelbb.de

Get There: There are no di­rect flights from Ir­ish air­ports to Dres­den, but you can fly to Ber­lin from Dublin with ei­ther Aer Lin­gus or Ryanair and catch the In­ter­city Ex­press train, which will bring you to Dres­den in around two hours. Paris

If it’s grown-up Christ­mas-ing you’re af­ter then there is no greater spot Paris.

Un­for­tu­nately the fa­mous mar­ket on the Champs-Élysées has been can­celled this year, but the one at the Notre Dame Cathe­dral is just as mag­i­cal.

With over 50 stall­hold­ers sell­ing crafts, toys and fes­tive food, this is a fab­u­lous way to kick off the Christ­mas cel­e­bra­tion. The mar­ket opens from mid-De­cem­ber un­til Christ­mas and is well known for its glass sculp­tures, so be sure to keep an eye out. www.en.paris­info.com

Stay: If you are com­bin­ing ro­mance with Christ­mas shop­ping, then a splurge at Ho­tel Par­ti­c­ulier in Mont­marte is a must. Housed in an 18th cen­tury man­sion and sur­rounded by a pri­vate gar­den, this ho­tel has only five suites and is at­tended to by dis­creet and highly trained staff. www.en.hotel­par­ti­c­ulier­mont­martre.com Ho­tel des Gran­des Ecoles is a pen­sion-style ho­tel on the Left Bank that has been in op­er­a­tion since 1927. Ex­pect old-fash­ioned hos­pi­tal­ity, a good bed and a de­cent con­ti­nen­tal break­fast that will set you up for the day.

Get There: Aer Lin­gus flies di­rect from Cork to Paris. Ed­in­burgh

With a whole month of free events tak­ing place in the run-up to Christ­mas, Ed­in­burgh is an ideal place to get your fes­tive fix. It is host­ing two Christ­mas mar­kets from the mid­dle of Novem­ber un­til Jan­uary, in Princes Street Gar­dens and Ge­orge Street. Both mar­kets prom­ise to of­fer a unique and to­tally Christ­massy ex­pe­ri­ence for their visitors, with hun­dreds of crafts­peo­ple, artists and food pro­duc­ers sell­ing their wares. www.ed­in­burgh­schrist­mas.com

Stay: The G&V Royal Mile Ho­tel is homage to muted splen­dour. Ex­pect tex­tu­ral throws and tones of grey in your room, which comes with a Ne­spresso ma­chine and a fab­u­lous bath­room.www.quorvus­col­lec­tion.com/en/gandv-hoteled­in­burgh

Ger­man brand Mo­tel One has made its mark on Ed­in­burgh with two ho­tels in the city. Their ho­tels are stylish and luxe, de­spite a low price point, and of­fer mod cons, great rooms and ex­cel­lent ser­vice. www.motelone.com Get There: Aer Lin­gus flies from Cork to Ed­in­burgh. Cologne

The city is home to three sep­a­rate Christ­mas mar­kets which are open for the whole of Ad­vent. Cologne is world fa­mous for its fes­tive cel­e­bra­tions. Spe­cially con­structed huts or Bu­den sell arts and crafts, toys and Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions to mil­lions of visitors each year. Fa­mous for gin­ger­bread and mulled wine, the Cologne mar­kets are open from the end of Novem­ber right through to Christ­mas. www.cologne.de

Stay: Housed in a dis­used wa­ter tower and fea­tur­ing a roof ter­race that of­fers panoramic views all over the city, the rooms at the Wasser­turm are chic, mod­ern and ul­tra com­fort­able. See www.ho­tel-im- wasser­turm.de.

The Dom Ho­tel is cen­trally lo­cated, newly ren­o­vated and has rooms that are com­fort­able and wel­com­ing.

Best of all, the Cologne Christ­mas mar­ket is lit­er­ally mo­ments away from its front door. See www.domho­tel.com

Get There: Ryanair flies di­rect from Dublin to Cologne.

Frank­furt’s Christ­mas mar­ket dates back to the 14th cen­tury and at­tractsmorethan three mil­lion visitors ev­ery year.

Am­s­ter­dam boasts six Christ­mas mar­kets across the city.

Cologne is world fa­mous for its fes­tive cel­e­bra­tions and mar­kets.

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