Tomorrow the Hlavné námestie square and the Františkánske námestie square in Bratislava will become a hub of activity with the splendid atmosphere of Christmas. The most beautiful part of the town is full of savour of various delicacies and Christmas carols can be heard. Here it is possible to purchase wonderful gifts such as handicraft products, ceramics, wood, glass, cornhusk and textile products of the counters of the lovely stalls in the square as well as in the courtyard of the Old Town Hall.
Visitors can enjoy Christmas dished and drinks corresponding to the traditional national gastronomy, mainly cabbage soup and dishes of fish and meat barbecued directly in the front of them. There is also an abundance of sweets for sale such as wafers, lokše (baked potato pancakes), honey cakes, plus a tasty hot toddy of punch or Christmas mead. Then, just before Christmas vats with live carp and Christmas trees appear for sale!
To get into the Christmas spirit visit Bratislava this December for some festive cheer!
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…
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
The Czech Republic is one of the most popular places visited by European and American Westerners alike. If you are taking a trip this Easter check out some of the beautiful Easter Markets – they are simply not to be missed! An Easter Market is held every year in the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square in Prague. Stalls with souvenirs and Easter products lure locals and visitors alike from 20 March to 11 April. In addition to shopping, an interesting cultural programme awaits. Spectators will enjoy folklore, folk music and dance in Old Town Square. There will also be a workshop for children, providing the youngest ones the possibility to braid switches into so-called “pomlázky” (birch rods) and to dye eggs.
Market places will of course sprout up in a variety of places in the Czech Republic. The South Moravian city of Znojmo, for instance, will celebrate the spring holidays from 29 March to 4 April. Easter markets filled with artisans, culture and attractions for children are being prepared. Children also can look forward to tours of Znojmo underground designed specially for them. www.znojmocity.cz
In Ceský Krumlov, Easter markets are held from 1 to 5 April and the attractive programme will be complemented this year by passion plays in the monastery garden. www.ckrumlov.info
People can also celebrate Easter at castles and chateaus. From 3 to 5 April, the event titled Princely Easter at Krivoklát will take place. You can expect to see an Easter market and concerts as well as masses and theatre performances. www.krivoklat.cz
Once again we were off on another, if slightly more whirlwind, trip to Eastern Europe. This time the destination was Berlin, and the aim was a combination of site-seeing and the consumption of Glühwein, Schnitzel and Strudel.
We spent most of the first afternoon, and if I’m honest, evening, wandering around aimlessly. I’d like to claim that this was intentional, but it had more to do with a rubbish map and bad street signs. However we did manage to consume more Glühwein than a person probably should, and, albeit in the dark, got to see the Brandenburg Gate and Reichstag. In fact, I personally think this added significant ambience because at night the lighting makes both seem even more dramatic.
Monday was the only full day we had, so we had to make the most of it. The day started, as most do, with breakfast. We ended up in the fanciest tray service café I have ever been in; it had its own candelabra. It looked ideal! With the below freezing temperatures wewanted some sort of warm potato and sausage-based breakfast and this café had plenty of both. Except, upon ordering we were told that there weren’t any hot potatoes, despite a mound of them being on fairly prominent view. Having argued the point and lost due to linguistic inability, we conceded defeat and ordered sausage and cold potato salad, not ideal, but surprisingly nice.
AMAWATERWAYS, the fastest growing river cruise line in Europe, is offering a series of European river cruises in November and December to take in the famous Christmas markets in Germany, Austria, Hungary and The Netherlands, with prices from £1,085 for a 7 day cruise, including breakfast, lunch, tea, dinner with wine complimentary on-board bicycles and organised tours.
Each town’s market has its own style, some with a medieval theme, some specialising in handicrafts but all of them brimming with atmosphere as shoppers browse the wooden stalls piled high with handmade gifts and decorations, and the scent of mulled wine and baking gingerbread wafts through the air.
The seven-night Christmas Time Cruise operates on two AMAWATERWAYS vessels, Amalyra and Amadolce, between Nuremberg and Budapest, with ample time in the markets at Regensburg, Linz, Vienna and, for Advent with a Hungarian flavour, Budapest. There’s also an optional excursion to romantic Salzburg, a tour of the abbey at Melk and complimentary guided walks and tours in every port.
The Kornelia Country House is in a quiet area, 300m from the town of Vandans. The attractive holiday home is on the first floor and has a shared entrance with two pleasant bedrooms, a large bathroom and a kitchen. A beautiful, furnished garden and a children’s playground are next to the house. In a very convenient position, the town centre, shops, public swimming pool and the many cycle routes and walking paths are all within 100-300m.
From the 29th August to the 8th of September the Schubertiade Festival Schwarzenberg takes place in Hohenems (32km from Vandans). This is the most significant and distinguished Schubert festival in the world. Chamber and orchestra concerts, lieder recitals, exhibitions etc. A festival for Franz Schubert which would accord him his due place alongside Mozart and Beethoven -this was the idea behind the first Schubertiade, which was founded by Hermann Prey in 1976 in the small town of Hohenems situated in the most western part of Austria. This quickly developed into one of the most renowned of all festival locations, becoming an annual meeting place for an international audience that seeks an exceptional cultural experience: hearing music performed by outstanding artists in idyllic surroundings. The concerts, furthermore, are not presented in some anonymous or interchangeable international festival, but are part of a structured festival programme whose distinctive identity is formed by an uncompromising dedication to the art of Franz Schubert.
Holiday home Hollinger is located in a pretty and quiet area at an attitude of 1000m altitude. Verditz has a family-friendly ski area with good pistes where you can enjoy stress free ski ing without having to wait around for ski lifts. On the langlauf pistes at 1900m you can enjoy a splendid panorama over the Nockbergen and when there has been a sufficient amount of frost you can skate on the Afritzer See. Other ski areas like Kleinkirchheim, Dreiländereck and Gerlitzen are also easily accessible and after an exhausting day why not relax in the thermal baths of Villach or Bad Kleinkirchheim. Villach (20 km) is definitely well worth it with its zoos, swimming pools, nature parks, museums and castles. From the 8th to the 13th of September 2009 the world’s largest Harley-Davidson meeting is held on one of Carinthia’s most scenic lakes – Faaker See.
The unique atmosphere of this small lakeside village has an almost magical appeal for the bikers. It is however the people, the bikers and motorcycle fans from all over Europe and even further afield with their gleaming chrome machines, who add to the fascination. The Harley-Davidson brand brings together men and women, young and old, social classes and indeed whole nations. You simply have to experience the European Bike Week for yourself to feel the good vibrations that emanate from this event!
The Luxnachmühle castle is a very unique place and former monastery in the Alps dating back to 1200. Completely restored in 1998, it became a luxurious 5 star hotel and was awarded the most beautiful hotel in Austria in 2003. Today, you can stay at this country estate and enjoy all its facilities. The residence is 1150m2 and can only be described by superlatives. There are 5 luxury 2 person bedrooms, 7 suites and 13 ultra luxurious bathrooms. Most of the suites have four poster beds, separate living areas and a separate bedroom. Some suites have an open fireplace and some have several bathrooms. The furniture is sourced from around the globe. There are Italian bathrooms, authentic Greek baths, French tiles and much more.
At Luxnachmühle you can also enjoy the benefits of a wellness centre. It is divided over three floors with every luxury provided. There is a sauna, luxury Turkish steam bath, beauty salon and massage. There are various living rooms and dining rooms on the ground floor, including the old Lechtalstube where barons and baronesses used to dine. The wine cellar may be used after consultation with the owner. There is a large garden with terraces. The grounds even have their own spring where they produce their own pure mineral water. An open air swimming pool with sunbathing terrace completes the package.
If you’re looking for a dreamy white Christmas, the Tyrolean ski resort of Seefeld is a safe bet. A wealth of festive events add to the atmosphere during the Romantic Advent period. Wooden huts topped with powdery white snow sell all kinds of goodies and tasty snacks at the advent markets, while the local brass band keeps everyone entertained. For the kids there’s a special play area where they can create their own decorations and presents or send a letter to the Christ Child (the equivalent of writing to Father Christmas).
For something a little more sedate there are plenty of Christmas concerts held in the local churches of the valley. The Baroque Orchestra and Choir of Innsbruck University perform in the St Oswald Parish Church on 7 December with a programme of Bach and Vivaldi. Five villages make up Seefeld and one of these is Leutasch, where, every Christmas, traditional walks around the mountain chapels take place in torchlight to the sound of Christmas folk songs.
Enjoy a superb holiday with friends or family in this newly renovated holiday home situated in the heart of the Hohe Tauern National Park, one of the most beautiful regions in Austria. Guaranteeing pure comfort and furnished in a modern style, the home is 285m2 and based across three floors. There is a balcony, a terrace, a large garden, a sauna with a relaxation area and a bar. The large, attractive live-in kitchen is very well equipped and all eight bedrooms have cable TV. The ski-room has a heated boot rack with the ski-run a mere 100m from the house. (Though, you can take a free ski-bus only 20m from your door)
The Grossarltal is connected to the Gasteiner Tal, which is one of the most beautiful ski-areas in the Salzburgerland. You can enjoy trips to the many other enchanting parts of the Sportwelt Amadé. After an exciting day’s skiing you can relax in the sauna with friends and family. It’s the ideal end to a perfect day.
The tradition and ambiance of Salzburg’s Christmas market make an ideal setting to start off the Christmas season. Every year visitors are enchanted by the charm of Cathedral Square, the traditional booths, the strings of light and the quality of the diversified items on sale. Come and enjoy some of the magic this year: from traditional handicrafts, fine baked goods, aromatic tree ornaments and various objet d’art for the Christmas season. Salzburg’s Christmas market is a feast for all the senses: the delicious scent of mulled wine wafts around booths adorned with precious, decorative, old and new items. Performances by traditional Salzburg choirs and children’s school groups lure a crowd of visitors year after year. The market will be opened by the archbishop on the 1st Saturday in Advent right after the blessing of the Advent wreaths.