Top 10 East European Christmas Markets

Christmas Markets are a true highlight of the advent period and are sure to get everyone into the festive spirit.  Head to one of the many markets in Eastern Europe to enjoy some real festive fare including local wine, beers, sausages and artisan crafts.  Here’s our top ten…

Vienna Christmas Market
Vienna Christmas Market

Vienna, Austria

During Advent Vienna is a city of nostalgia and romance with many concerts, nativity displays and traditional Christmas markets taking place throughout the city.  The most renowned markets include the Viennese Christmas Markets on Freyung, at Spittelberg, at Am Hof and in front of the church of St. Charles Borromeo (Karlskirche).

Prague, Czech Republic
Christmas is a special time of year in Prague and the Christmas markets (Vanocni trh) are a key ingredient in the Czech festive magic. The Prague Christmas markets bring visitors and locals together to share the holiday spirit in a true ‘winter wonderland’ setting.  The main markets can be found at the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square with smaller ones at Namesti Republiky and Havelske Trziste.  Open 9am to 7pm daily.

Ljubljana, Slovenia

The Festive Fair, held in the Town Centre (Breg and Cankarjevo nabrežje embankments, Prešernov trg square) is well known for its vibrancy and cheerful atmosphere. Festively decorated green stalls, designed specially for the fair, sell a fine choice of products suitable for giving as gifts including food and drink, clothes and fashion accessories.  Open from 10am to 10 pm daily.

Nuremberg, Germany

Each festive season Nuremberg’s Old Town is decorated in its Christmas regalia and the tempting aromas of mulled wine, sweet roasted almonds, sausages and gingerbread create a truly unforgettable atmosphere. The Christkindlesmarkt is situated in the heart of the city which is steeped in more than 400 years of tradition providing an international showcase for all Franconian and German Christmas Markets.  While younger visitors can enjoy the Kinderweihnacht (Children’s Christmas Market) where historic steam-powered merry-go-rounds and other activities are waiting for them.  Open from 9.30am to 8pm Monday to Thursdays, 9.30am to 10pm Fridays and Saturdays, 10.30am to 8pm on Sunday.

Cologne, Germany

Cologne holds an impressive seven Christmas Markets. The four largest Christmas markets are located at Cologne Cathedral, on the Alter Markt (Home of the Heinzel Christmas Market), on the Neumarkt and on the Rudolfplatz (Fairytale Christmas Market). Every year these four markets attract almost 2 million visitors. Open every day from 11am to 9pm.

Berlin, Germany

With well over 50 Christmas Markets and advent bazaars every year, Berlin features prominently on Germany’s calendar of Yuletide events. A popular market is situated next to Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church amidst the bustle of shoppers on the high street between the Kurfüstendamm and Tauenzien. The Berlin Christmas Market shown on the map on the left is WeihnachtsZauber situated on the Gendarmenmarkt. This is probably one of the most popular markets in Berlin and is well sited in terms of nearby hotel accommodation.  Open 9am to 9pm daily.

Budapest, Hungary

One of the most popular Christmas fairs in Europe awaits the lovers of winter programmes this year again in the heart of Budapest, in Vörösmarty Square.  There are more than 100 wooden pavilions, which sell unique high quality folklore and applied arts products. Christmas decorations, small presents, candles, gloves, woollen hats, wrought iron and woven products are also sold here, as well as other special articles that cannot be found anywhere else. You can experience the real wonders of winter while enjoying traditional products that have been evaluated by a jury, and satisfying your appetite at typical Hungarian buffets, which offer mulled wine, kürtoskalács (sweet Hungarian pastry), roast chestnuts and other market snacks.  Open 10am to 8pm daily.

Sibiu, Romania

Sibiu Christmas Market is one of the most popular events of the year in the city. Being the first traditional Christmas Market opened in Romania, it was first held in 2007, in the Little Square located in the downtown area, with a total number of 38 wooden cabins. In 2008 and 2009, Sibiu Christmas Market took place in the Large Square, one of the best places to be visited in the historical center of the city.  Open from 10am to 9pm daily.

Cologne in London, UK

Once again Londoners and visitors to the city can enjoy a taste of Cologne this Christmas at the London Southbank Christmas Market.  While wandering about, look for and find unusual Christmas presents such as amber and silver jewellery, hand-crafted toys, fragile glass ornaments for your Christmas tree, hand tatted laces, tin toys, candles in all shapes and sizes, hand-made ceramics and creative metal design.  Sip on a glass of glühwein or bottle of Kölsch”  and nibble on some gingerbread hearts, roasted almonds and candies or even a delicious crepe. Open 11am to 8pm Mondays to Thursdays, and Sundays, 10am to 10pm Fridays and Saturdays.

Tallinn, Estonia

Estonia’s medieval capital is inherently festive and though temperatures do dip quite drastically this time of year, the city’s celebratory atmosphere does well to dispel the cold.  Tallinn’s Christmas Market may be one of the most recently established but it is now among the most well-loved in Europe.  December’s darkness is dispelled with colourful lights, music and an abundance of activity.  Head to Tallinn’s Town Hall Square, Raekoja Plats, and visit more than 50 merchant stalls featuring products by local artisans.  These stalls surround a beautiful Christmas tree.  Open daily from 10am to 6pm.

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100th Anniversary of Western Synagogue in Frankfurt

The Westend Synagogue was one of only a very few Jewish places of worship in Germany to survive the Second World War. This year, the renowned religious venue is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its establishment. The impressive Jugendstil structure continues to serve not only as the religious centre of the city’s Jewish community, but also as a place of remembrance and commemoration.

The origins of Frankfurt’s Jewish population can be traced back as far as the 11th century. Their settlement, protected by imperial decree, was originally located near the later Frankfurt Cathedral. A Jewish ghetto was established outside of the city in 1464, inhabited by up to 2,200 persons. In 1797, French artillery bombarded the ghetto, razing it to the ground. Only in 1864 did Frankfurt’s Jewish community achieve equality of treatment and full civil rights.

Western Synagogue Frankfurt

From this time on until the rise of fascism, Frankfurt’s Jewry enjoyed their most prosperous era. Numerous charitable foundations were established thanks to the social engagement of Frankfurt Jews. Many of the founders of Frankfurt’s Goethe University were of Jewish faith, the university also being the first in Germany to appoint Jewish professors.

Prior to 1933, Frankfurt’s Jewish community counted some 28,000 members, making it at that time the second largest in Germany after Berlin. Ludwig Börne, Max Beckmann, the Rothschilds, the Oppenheimers, Anne Frank, Paul Ehrlich, Theodor Adorno are all highly significant names in the long history of Frankfurt. Over the centuries, Frankfurt’s Jewish inhabitants have helped to shape the city into what it is today, while also playing an important part in Frankfurt’s social life. Today, Frankfurt’s Jewish community continues to be the second largest in all of Germany, with over 7,000 members.

A number of interesting sightseeing attractions highlighting Jewish life remains in Frankfurt am Main:

  • The Jewish Museum at the Lower Main Quay (Untermainkai) offers a highly interesting look at the turbulent history of Frankfurt’s Jewish community. At home in the monument-listed, classicistic Rothschild Palace on the banks of the River Main, the museum’s permanent exhibition informs not only on Jewish history, but also on religious practices at home and in the synagogue, on life as a Jewish individual and as a community, at work and on religious holidays. A variety of changing exhibitions, many featuring accompanying fringe programmes, lectures and special events round off the offer spectrum of the Jewish Museum.
  • During the construction of the new municipal works building at Börneplatz in 1987, workers uncovered the historic remains of several Jewish houses, ritual baths and wells. The workers had in fact come across the southern end of the Jewish ghetto’s “Judengasse”, or Jewish Alley. Significant portions of the findings were saved, thereby helping to preserve some 800 years of Jewish history. The discovered site was integrated into the main administrative building of Frankfurt’s municipal works department and today forms Museum Judengasse. Börne Gallery, part of Museum Judengasse, presents changing art and culture exhibitions of smaller scale, focusing on diverse topics of the Jewish past and present. There is also a special database here, which contains the names and biographies of the deported and murdered Jewry of Frankfurt, in supplementation of the memorial at Neuer Börneplatz.
  • At the Anne Frank Youth Centre, a permanent multimedia exhibition, entitled “Anne Frank. A Girl from Germany”, offers an interactive look at diverse “layers of history”. Here, the personal environment of Anne Frank is embedded amidst historical settings and supplemented by references to contemporary times. Anne Frank’s world-famous diary is at the centre of the exhibition, with various quotes guiding visitors through topics such as persecution, going underground, war, the holocaust and Anne’s own questions, such as “Who am I?”, “What is happening to me?” and “What’s important to me?”.
  • Various Jewish cemeteries pay a final tribute to well-known Frankfurt individuals of Jewish faith. These include, among others, the Old Jewish Cemetery (Alter Jüdischer Friedhof) and the Jewish Cemetery on Rat-Beil-Straße, where between 1828 and 1929 the vast majority of Jewish personalities of the past two centuries were laid to rest. In 1928, a further Jewish cemetery was founded on Eckenheimer Landstrasse, north of the Hauptfriedhof, the city’s main cemetery. This cemetery continues to be used today. It is open on Saturdays and all Jewish holidays.
  • Of the four main Frankfurt synagogues, only the Westend Synagogue escaped the carnage of World War II. It is still in use today. Frankfurt’s main synagogue (Hauptsynagoge), located at Börneplatz, was burned to the ground in 1938 on what is commonly known as “Reichkristallnacht”, or “The Night of Broken Glass”. Max Beckmann, the renowned artist, eternalised the synagogue in one of his most famous works, which today is on display at the Städel Museum at Frankfurt’s museum embankment.
  • The synagogue at Friedberger Anlage also fell prey to the Pogrom Night of 09th November 1938. In its place, the National Socialists erected an air-raid bunker. Today, the former shelter houses an exhibition entitled “The East End – Insights into a Jewish Quarter.” It tells many interesting stories of Jewish life in pre-1933 Frankfurt.
  • The Memorial at Neuer Börneplatz is without doubt one of the most impressive places of remembrance of Jewish persecution in Frankfurt. The memorial’s most imposing feature is the over 11,000 stone blocks, integrated into the cemetery wall and depicting the names of all the deported and murdered Jews of Frankfurt.
  • The “Jewish Community of Frankfurt am Main” was officially reformed in July of 1945. Today, it has its seat at the Ignatz Bubis Community Centre in Savignystrasse. The centre also includes two kindergartens, Isaak Emil Lichtigfeld Primary School, a youth centre, a community welfare department, a senior citizen’s club and a kosher restaurant, “Sohar’s”. An annual Jewish cultural festival, very popular amongst both Jewish and non-Jewish denizens of Frankfurt, has been held at the community centre since 1982. Together with the Jewish Museum, the Fritz Bauer Institute (Study and Documentation Centre on the History and Impact of the Holocaust) of Goethe University and the comprehensive Judaica Collection at the University Library, the Jewish Community of Frankfurt am Main have taken great strides in maintaining and expanding Jewish life and culture in the Main metropolis.

Guided city tours focusing on the subject of Jewish Frankfurt may be booked via the Frankfurt Tourist+Congress Board. For further information visit www.frankfurt-tourismus.de

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The Cologne Fine Art & Antiques: From Antique to Modern

Cologne Fine Art & Antiques FairThis November the Cologne Fine Art & Antiques 2010 will meld modernism with tradition. It will bring together a rich mix of rare and exceptional objects spanning two thousand years of cultural and artistic history. Ninety leading international galleries and dealers have been selected to show highlights of European and non-European art from a broad range of collecting fields spanning classical antiquity to the 21st century. The Vintage Design sector, launched in 2009, will be expanded to include Contemporary Design.

The Fair’s sleek new design and elegant ambience provide a handsome setting for galleries and dealers to show high-end collectibles in all disciplines. It is a treasure trove for cognoscenti and collectors looking to invest in genuine quality and solid value.

The 2010 edition of the Fair is set to build on the success of its new formula. The exhibitor list features top dealers returning after the successful 2009 Fair. They are joined by an exciting mix of high-profile newcomers whose exhibits broaden the spectrum of disciplines and enhance cross-cultural interaction. Five unmissable, art-packed days for every collector’s November diary.

The Cologne Fine Art & Antiques Fair will run from 17 to 21 November 2010.  For more information visit www.cfaa-fair.com

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25Hours Hotel Tailored By Levi Jeans in Frankfurt

25Hours Levi

Iconic lifestyle brand Levi  has teamed up with leading hotel brand Design Hotels to create a new hotel story focusing on the interesting history of the Levi’s jeans. Located next to the German headquarters of Levi Strauss, the hotel’s design focuses on the famous label and its influence on fashion, music and art from the past century. The 76 individually-designed rooms strongly reflect the denim theme and come in different shades of blue – cobalt, azure, turquoise, aquamarine and indigo. The rooms are categorised the same way garments are categorised into sizes: S, M, L and XL. Each floor reflects a different decade from the 30s to the 80s and features an original pair of jeans representing the fashion trend of the specific decade.

25Hours Levi

For more information visit www.designhotels.com/25hourslevis

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This Winter Sample Bavarian & Bohemian Christmas Markets

German Christmas markets have become almost a cliché, especially seeing the crowds at Munich, Nuernberg and Cologne. However, Bavarian Forest Holidays has come up with a different angle: a long weekend on any of the four advent weekends before Christmas, with accommodation in a five star village apartment, giving visitors the opportunity to see Christmas Markets in the big cities of Passau and Regensburg, as well as the smaller towns and villages of Bavaria and Bohemia.

Bavaria

Each weekend can be tailored to suit the preferences of a family or group and most of the markets can be visited by great value German public transport – so there are no restrictions on testing the Gluehwein! Accommodation is in the pretty Bavarian Forest village of Bayerisch Eisenstein, directly on the border with Czech Republic. Prices for three nights in five star accommodation (excluding travel and meals) range from €200 for a couple in a one bedroom apartment, up to €425 for 6 people in a 3 bedroom, all ensuite apartment. A welcoming glass of Gluehwein will help to get you in the mood. And, of course, award-winning Bavarian Forest Holidays can advise on travel by rail to and from the UK as well as to and from the Christmas Markets.

For more information visit www.bavarian-forest-holidays.com

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Bavarian Forest National Park Celebrates 40th Birthday

The Bavarian Forest National Park, the oldest National Park in Germany, will celebrate its 40th birthday this year with a range of events and the active support of its National Park Partners. The 76 Partners – hotels, guesthouses, bed and breakfasts, restaurants and self catering accommodation providers – work with the Bavarian Forest National Park to provide holidays in harmony with nature right through the year. One of these is ‘Bavarian Forest Holidays’ in Bayerisch Eisenstein, whose English owners came to the Bavarian Forest from England in 2004.

More and more English speaking international visitors are making their way to the Bavarian Forest – thanks to the marketing activities of Margaret Leach and Martin Holborow who have also designed their 9 holiday apartments
(8 with 5 stars and 1 with 4 stars, awarded by the German Tourism Association) to specifically meet the needs of international guests.

Bavarian Forest

The National Park, which includes the largest area of forested wilderness between the Atlantic and the Urals, offers opportunities for peaceful walking and cycling as well as seeing rare indigenous wildlife such as lynx, wolves, brown bears and capercaillie in vast enclosures in the forest. The National Park visitor centres also provide education and
entertainment related to the National Park. The Bavarian Forest National Park also directly borders the Sumava National Park in Czech Republic, providing access to nearly 100,000 hectares of protected nature.

The National Park Partners offer quality accommodation and comprehensive information on the area to their visitors. They make an important contribution to sustainable tourism and exceed the usual criteria for eco-friendliness and quality. All are passionate supporters of the motto of the National Park ‘Let nature be nature’. Once they have qualified to become
Partners they are obliged to attend regular briefing sessions and hikes in the National Park in order to keep their knowledge up to date.

This year the Bavarian Forest National park celebrates its 40th birthday with many events during the year and a major celebration on 9th-10th October in the Lusen National Park Centre.

For more information on Bavarian Forest Holidays visit Forest Holidays.

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328 Steps to Frankfurt’s Spectacular Views

This summer Frankfurt finally welcomed back one of its most popular sightseeing attractions. Now, visitors to the city will once again be able to climb up the 328 steps of Emperor’s Cathedral, closed off to the general public some 11 years ago due to structural damage. Having been painstakingly reconstructed, the stairway is once again open to the top of the tower, from where visitors are guaranteed an unmatched view of the surrounding old town, including: the Römer, the city’s time-honoured town hall, St. Paul’s Church, Frankfurt’s famous skyline in the background, and the museum embankment along the River Main.

Frankfurt Cathedral

The breathtaking view from atop Emperor’s Cathedral, also known as Frankfurt Cathedral or St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral, isn’t the only thing making this time-honoured venue well worth the visit. Its historical significance and range of artefacts on display have played an equally important part in making the cathedral one of the city’s foremost sightseeing attractions. Consecrated in the name of St. Bartholomew, the Gothic-style cathedral was erected between 1315 and 1358 where a dilapidated palace chapel built by Louis the Pious in the 9th century had previously stood. During the Middle Ages, the cathedral served as the official seat of the imperial chapter of St. Bartholomew. In 1356, Emperor Charles IV declared Frankfurt to be the new electoral site of German kings, and from 1562 to 1792 as the coronation site for 10 emperors of the Holy Roman Empire. Today, the “electoral chapel” remains as a place of prayer and silent contemplation.

Emperor’s Cathedral houses many artistic treasures, including the Sleeping Mary Altar, created by an unknown artist in the 15th century, a painting depicting the Lamentation of Jesus Christ by Antonius van Dyck, the tombs of various famous Frankfurt personalities and a frieze of the cathedral’s namesake, St. Bartholomew. Those interested in finding out more about the life of Bartholomew or the history of the cathedral are urged to pay a visit to the neighbouring Cathedral Museum, which offers a chronological tour highlighting the history of the cathedral. A collection of burial objects found in the tomb of a Merovingian maiden, discovered in the 1950s and dating back to the 07th century, is of particular interest.

Frankfurt Cathedral View

Emperor’s Cathedral has also endured its share of hard times over the years. It was ravaged by fire in 1867. Nearly a century later, in March of 1944, it burned out again and also suffered heavy structural damage during a series of Allied air raids. The reconstruction necessitated by these two fateful events has of course influenced the appearance of the cathedral. The present-day cathedral presents itself as a three-nave hall church. Its monumental western tower, built in the 15th century, is one of the most important representations of the German Gothic period. One of the most unique parts of this unique structure is the belfry, featuring “Gloriosa”, Germany’s second-heaviest church bell, weighing in at an impressive 11,950 kilograms.

Tickets for a tower visit may be purchased at the small box office situated at the base of the tower. Adults pay three Euros, while children get in at half price. The panorama view from the top of the tower makes the climb more than worthwhile. A family ticket is available for five Euros and groups of over 20 persons pay reduced price as well. Tower access is limited to 50 people at a time. Unfortunately, group reservations are not possible. The cathedral tower is open daily from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. This year, the tower will remain open until 1st October. In 2011, the tower will be accessible once again from 1st April until 1st October.

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Unique Viewing: Long Night at the Museum in Berlin

Long Night at the Museum, BerlinOn the 28th of August Berlin will hold its very own Long Night of Museums event, after other cities, including London have heralded the occasion as an overwhelming success.  In Berlin, on almost 400 square kilometres, between Glienicke Palace, the Museum at the Waterplant Friedrichshagen and the Museum of Local History Reinickendorf, more than 100 museums and cultural institutions will give access to their exhibitions, collections and art objects throughout the night.

This is sure to be a magical and exciting experience, so if you find yourself in Berlin on the 28th, do make sure you make the most of it!

Where? Rotes Rathaus, Berlin, Germany

Where can I find out more? www.lange-nacht-der-museen.de

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The Cannstatt Beer Festival in Stuttgart

From the 24th of September to the 10th of October, Stuttgart will attract millions of enthusiastic visitors to the 165th Cannstatt Beer Festival where candy floss, grilled sausages, chicken and most of all, beer will be enjoyed by all.  Originally founded in the year 1818 as a celebration of thanksgiving, the festival is now firmly established as one of the biggest and best of its kind in the world.

Stuttgart

Following the official opening ceremony with the traditional tapping of the first barrel of beer by the Mayor of Stuttgart, Dr. Wolfgang Schuster, the action starts on the Wasen fairground; the fairground rides begin to move and the beer tents open for business. The big wheel, the roller coaster, the chairoplanes, the “Wild Mouse” switchback.  With more than 300 providers and new attractions each year plenty of variety is guaranteed. In the beer tents, which hold up to 5000 guests, you can be sure of a fabulous atmosphere where celebrations continue late into the night. The beer flows more or less non-stop, and Swabian specialities such as Kässpätzle (cheesy noodles), Maultaschen (stuffed pasta), Rostbraten (roast) or Schupfnudeln (potato noodles) with sauerkraut make sure no-one need go hungry.  The thought of all that food and beer is making me salivate as we speak. I think this is my must-take trip of the year!

For more information about Stuttgart visit www.stuttgart-tourist.de.

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Order A Free Germany Brochure & Win Prizes!

Want to cruise down the Rhine, stand on top of the Reichstag in Berlin or have a cold beer at the Oktoberfest? Then order the new Discover Germany brochure!  Just make sure to fill in the survey and you could be in it to win a trip to your favourite German destination. Plus, the brochure will enable you to learn more about the many facets of Germany’s towns, natural scenery and cultural attractions.  And if you don’t win the ultimate prize then there is still a chance to win one of 20 rucksacks with lots of German goodies!  Visit FreeGermanyGuide to find out more.

Prizes will be drawn from all questionnaires completed before the 15th of August 2010.

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