All eyes on the north’s mag­i­cal mar­kets

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - TRAVEL 2013 - CHRIS LEAD­BEATER

IF YOU are head­ing to colder climes then the Christ­mas mar­kets are a must. They’re a win­ning mix of craft stalls and food sell­ers, slot­ted into city-cen­tre squares, amid the tin­sel rus­tle of De­cem­ber.

They of­fer a chance to buy quirky gifts – wooden toys, tree trin­kets – while leav­en­ing the process with a mug of glüh­wein or a mus­tarddrowned bratwurst. And they are also, of course, an ex­cuse for travel to ur­ban hotspots across Europe – or even fur­ther afield…

Though tra­di­tion seems to de­mand it, a Christ­mas mar­ket does not have to be staged in a for­mer East­ern Bloc square.

Madrid (es­madrid.com) of­fers a Latin vari­a­tion on the theme with an an­nual flurry of stalls in the Plaza Mayor – the rec­tan­gu­lar space which, with its el­e­gant three-storey build­ings on each side ( and the mod­ern cafés that lurk un­der its cloisters), has been the heart of the Span­ish cap­i­tal since 1576. (ny­cgo.com), where Man­hat­tan is fes­tooned with fes­tive mar­kets in the run-up to De­cem­ber 25.

Two of the best are held in Colum­bus Cir­cle (at the south-western cor­ner of Cen­tral Park) and at Union Square (see ur­banspacenyc.com for de­tails on both).

PIC­TURES: REUTERS

ELAB­O­RATE DIS­PLAYS: The Frank­furt Christ­mas mar­ket af­ter its of­fi­cial open­ing this week.

SCENIC SQUARE: Place Vendôme, next to the Lou­vre in Paris, is all decked out in Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions as the fes­tive sea­son gets un­der­way.

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