Hamburg Christmas Markets

While many major cities across the UK host festive events and markets in the lead up to Christmas day, it is always tempting to jump across to the continent on a mini cruise to experience traditional European Christmas markets. But the problem is what European market do you go to? German, Dutch, French or Belgian. With a Christmas market cruise, there is the opportunity to taste Glühwein in Hamburg on one day or indulge in Belgian chocolates in Antwerp on another day. Ensuring that even the most Scrooge-like individuals among us begin to feel the Yuletide spirit, and with only 15 weeks to go until Christmas day, here is a roundup of the best European markets this winter.

Rouen/Honfleur

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Beautiful Rouen is a sea of red and white lights over the festive period. Most years the quaint city is home to over 70 chalets in the main Cathedral Square at the event known locally as ‘Rouen Givrée’. Be sure to follow the streets lined with beautiful lights as they guide your way from stall to stall through Rouen.The market is a melting pot of traditional and modern handmade gifts. You can pick up wooden children toys, gingerbread treats, organic cosmetics and many more items which make perfect stocking fillers. In Rouen, a large Ferris wheel and ice-rink dominate the Place du Vieux Marché, just a short 5 minute walk from Cathedral Square.

As part of our French Christmas Markets cruise, you also have a day stop in Honfleur where a small market pops up around the marina and quaint stalls sit alongside the moored boats. This market is great for picking up local arts and crafts and be sure to sample the Norman Cidre, calvados brandy and the regional cheeses. Check out the local restaurants create festive menus to tempt shoppers to rest and indulge. You can pick up a special brochure from the local tourist office which lists the restaurants and their Christmas specialities.

Whilst most Christmas markets are known for Glühwein, the French vin chaud, literally warm wine, is a staple which can be found bubbling away in copper vats at most French Christmas markets. Slightly more flavoursome than its German cousin, vin chaud is spiced and infused to create something more similar to mulled wine. Also, the little French delights of Beignets are deep-fried choux pastry which is then filled with French cream or chocolate. Perfect if you are looking for a little afternoon pick-me-up.

Dates

Rouen Givrée

23 November – 31 December 2017

Cathedral Square and Rue des Carmes

Best cruise

French Christmas Markets

Departing London Tilbury Sunday 10 December for three nights on board Magellan.

Antwerp/Bruges

kerst035

While many will be tempted to stay in Antwerp to enjoy a taste of Belgian Christmas during their mini cruise, it is actually a great starting point for you to explore further and go on to Zeebrugge for Bruges or Ghent to enjoy the traditional Belgian Christmas markets on a more varied scale.

Antwerp’s Christmas market normally stretches from Groenplaats through to the main Market Square. Over 100 stall holders can be found selling modern unique gifts and traditional Belgian wares. Be sure to indulge in a rich hot chocolate which will take away the winter chill.

Throughout the market, there are chances to purchase and sample many European delicacies, ranging from hundreds of cheeses to hams and sausages. Be sure to keep an eye out for organic honey as there is often the chance to purchase numerous variations which are all subtly different and locally produced.

Bruges’ market stalls are found in the main market square under the watchful eye of the 13th century Belfort belfry. The stalls are a great place to pick up handmade items, leather goods and, naturally, chocolates!

The Christmas Market in Bruges is open from mid-morning most days with stands and wooden huts selling a tempting array of Christmas decorations, gifts, chocolates and lace as well as tasty local delicacies and warming glasses of Glühwein.

And for those in need of a sweet treat be sure to purchase oliebollen a truly traditional Belgian treat of small, deep-fried dumplings covered in powdered sugar. Whilst they may look like a donut or churros they are much softer and have a chewy consistency.

Dates

Antwerp Market

10 December 2017 – 8 January 2018

Grote Markt

Bruges Christmas Market (Kerstmarkt Brugge)

24 November 2017 – 1 January 2018

Market Square

Best cruise

Antwerp Christmas Market

Departing London Tilbury Wednesday 13 December for two nights on board Magellan.  

Festive Getaway 

Departing London Tilbury on Monday 18 December on board Columbus.

Amsterdam

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Whilst not well-known for one specific Christmas market, The Netherlands have a much calmer and relaxed way of celebrating Christmas offering various activities and shopping delights throughout December. Their Christmas celebrations start earlier in the month, with the main day of celebration on 5 December when Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas) comes to visit the good children of the Netherlands arriving into port by boat.

One of the most beautiful sights in Amsterdam over the festive period is the Christmas tree in Dam Square. Normally the tree is over 20m, 66ft, tall and is covered in over 40,000 energy-saving Christmas lights, ensuring that the Yuletide spirit is truly felt in the heart of the Dutch capital throughout December.

Why not ice skate next to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam’s Museum Square (Museumplein), in summer the gardens are awash with tourists taking pictures of the famous ‘I Amsterdam’ sign. However, in winter the grounds are taken over by the ice rink which is exceedingly popular with the locals. 

Bitterballen is another deep fried delight, although this time on the savoury side of life. Beef or veal is shaped into a ball and then coated in breadcrumbs before being fried, a perfect lunch time treat which is great to eat whilst walking alongside the famous Dutch canals.

Poffertjes are small, delicate pancakes with a soft texture which are served with butter and sugar. A great way to enjoy a light snack while wandering through market stalls during your mini cruise break.

Dates

Various throughout December

Best cruises

Amsterdam & German Christmas Market

Departing London Tilbury on Thursday 14 December for 4 nights on board Columbus.

Festive Getaway

Departing London Tilbury on Monday 18 December on board Columbus.

Amsterdam Advent Break

Departing London Tilbury on Thursday 21 December on board Columbus.

Hamburg

Christmas Market Hamburg

Be sure to visit the Altona, Ottensen Christmas market with over 1,001 gift ideas across more than 40 traditional wooden hut stalls. Let the scents of mulled wine, almonds and pine trees excite your senses. Extending from Altona central station to Spirtzenplatz, the stalls carry all types of wonderful traditional German products and gifts.

Try the white mulled wine, a slightly lighter version of the traditional red, it still packs a punch and is sure to warm you up. And while you are indulging in a tipple be sure to try Feuerzangenbowle, a traditional drink which is a rum-soaked sugarloaf set on fire with the escaping liquid collected and poured into your glass.

The Altona market is unparalleled for its diverse collection of goods and gifts. One stall to visit is the Altona ‘Bauernhaus’ stall which is home to locally produced olive oil, chutneys and marmalades.

Dates

Altona, Ottensen Christmas Market

27 November – 23 December 2017

Altona Central Station to Spiritzenplatz

Best cruise

Amsterdam & German Christmas Market – C800

Departing London Tilbury on Thursday 14 December for 4 nights on board Columbus.

Europe is awash with Christmas markets during December. A mini cruise to Belgium, Germany, Holland or France allows you to see the festive season across colourful and individual cultures.