The one thing that you can always be sure of at this time of year is that the media and airwaves will feature wall-to-wall editorial content on all things Christmas. From ‘How to roast the perfect turkey’ or the ‘Best way to wrap presents’, we, as consumers seem to have an insatiable appetite for all things christmasy (and yes, there is such a word as every one uses it!). So why try to fly in the face of adversity? So this week’s blog is about — yes, you’ve guessed it! — Christmas markets!
When we think of Christmas markets, we tend to think of northern rather than southern Europe as such events tend to be associated with northern climes and snowflakes and mulled wine and all things chilly and dark and Germanic and that’s no surprise really as modern Christmas as most of us celebrate it, is really a German construct from the 19th century, although the Christmas tree is said to have originated in either Riga (Latvia) or Tallinn (Estonia) in the early 16th century so let’s give them credit for that. I haven’t been to Riga but I did spend a memorable weekend once in the Estonian capital and I have to say it is one of the most architecturally beautiful medieval cities I have ever visited and must look amazing at this time of year!
So, if you love this time of year (and let’s face it, must of us do) where can or should you go to soak up the whole Christmas experience? The good news is that you’ll be spoilt for choice as every major city in Europe worth its salt (and many not so major ones too) have cottoned on to the tourism influx that such markets generate at this time of year. Indeed, my own home town of Waterford has developed a great christmas festival of its own over the past couple of years which they have, in a moment of sheer inspiration, called ‘Winterval’ so if you don’t like flying, you should definitely check it out. Further afield, you’ve got the big traditional destinations such as Vienna, Budapest and Prague, along with Cologne — where I spent a magical 24 hours just last week — along with lesser known Christmas markets in places such as Manchester (the largest such market in the UK) and balmy Madeira. Leipzig is one of the largest (and oldest) in Germany and you could certainly do worse than check out Helsinki, Zagreb, Brussels or Lille. Still looking for something a bit off the beaten track? Then why not check out Christmas markets in the following destinations: Dresden, Strasbourg, Lille, Colmar (France), Brussels, London, Nuremburg or Aachen!
Of course, the ultimate Christmas experience still has to be that visit to Santa in Lapland and no one does it better than those great people in Sunway, the premier tour operating company in Ireland and acknowledged masters of both day trips and multi-night packages north of the Arctic Circle. Be forewarned; they are not cheap but I guarantee you that your children (or grandchildren) will return with memories that will live with them as long as they live. How can you possibly put a price on something as magical as that?