Archive for the 'Christmas Markets' Category


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April 17, 2010

Paris

Christmas in Paris beckons artisans nationwide, filling the stations and squares with glowing timber houses: Les Marches de Noel have arrived. One of the crowd-puiling giants is held in the futuristic La Defense district (November 29-December 31): incongruously, it rolls out 10,000sq m of twee stalls, sprawling beneath the gigantic Grand Arche de la Defense (an angular modern take on Paris’s landmark l’Arc de Triomphe). Shoppers glide a few turns on the central ice rink, then warm up on slugs of vin chaud.

More traditional? The French region of Alsace, with its roots in Christmas-loving Germany, clutters the Champs-Elysees all through December. Stock up on beautiful sparkling glass baubles, and seek out bredele: spiced, sugary biscuits – they make great stocking-fillers (particularly if you eat too many). Things are shamelessly commercial at Le Marche de Noel a la Gare de l’Est (December 5-15): the arches of Paris’s oldest station are awash with sweets and savouries from Alsace. Buy slices of gingerbread, pots of duck or goose foie gras and moist slabs of birewacke -cake laden with fruit, nuts and alcohol. Wash down with spiced tea, before a nap at Hotel du 7eme Art, in the Marais district (20 Rue Saint-Paul; 00 33 1 4454 8500, www.paris-hotel-7art.com; doubles from

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Author: admin
April 17, 2010

Prague

You could call Prague the ‘import’ Christmas market – you’ll have seen many of the toys, ceramics and Russian dolls sold here elsewhere. But what it may lack in unique wares, it makes up for in tingly ambience as you wander, muffled up. There are markets (Vanocni trhy) across town, but the best are in Old Town Square, and 10 minutes walk away, at the bottom of Wenceslas Square.

The prettier is the Old Town Square market: sweet little wooden huts are shadowed by pastel houses in fairytale Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance styles, all curls and beams. Against the thorny-spired Tyn and St Nicholas churches, you’ve got Christmas card photo opportunities: a fir tree towers and choirs sing carols, blowing plumes into the chilly afternoon air. Fortify yourself with svarene vino (mulled wine) and a klobasa with chleb (sausage and brown bread) or trdlo, a rolled pastry of cinnamon and nuts.

For range, Wenceslas Square is a better bet. Look for the stall selling screw sculptures: tool-box finds welded into figures (some naughty, some nice). Now pop into U Provaznice, by the Mustek metro entrance. After a plate of pork with bread-dumplings and cabbage, you’ll be ready to return to the fray. Stay on Wenceslas Square at Hotel Elysee (Vaclavske nam 43; 00 420 221 455111, www.hotelelysee.cz), which has doubles from £68, B&B. Airlines serving Prague include CSA (www.czechairlines.com) from Heathrow and Dublin, and EasyJet (www.easyjet.com) from Bristol, Gatwick and East Midlands.

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Author: admin
April 17, 2010

Vienna

They celebrate Christmas with such style and tradition in the Austrian capital that it can almost lay claim to the franchise. It’s a Dickensian tableau of diamond lights, fuelled by chestnuts, punch and gluhwein (spiced mulled wine). They are so purist about it all that Santa is outlawed as a tacky Hollywood import. In his place is the Weiner Christkindl, the city’s ‘Christ-child’:  Teutonic maiden with blonde locks.

The Christkindlmarkt, as the market is known, rolls up its shutters on November 15 in the Rathausplatz – the square in front of the stately town hall, with its spire soaring above the trees. Windows of the Neo-Gothic landmark have numbered curtains that are opened, one by one, throughout Advent. It’s all chocolate-box traditional: choirs warble free concerts of seasonal music in the Rathaus (Town Hall), while the nearby park is ablaze with Yule-themed bulbs, marking a midwinter celebration that dates back 700 years. There is the inevitable sprinkling of Christmas kitsch on sale, but also scented beeswax candles, handmade decorations and toys, and vats of pleasantly intoxicating warm drinks. Vienna has numerous smaller Christmas markets, from the well-heeled affair outside the Sch6nbrunn Palace to odd clusters on street corners, but Rathausplatz is unmissable. Not far away, Hotel Adlon (Hofenedergasse 4; 00 43 1 216 6788, www. adlon-wien.at) has doubles from £65, B&B. Airlines serving Vienna include BA (www.ba.com) from Heathrow and Aer Lingus (www.aerlingus.ie) from Dublin.

rlrMrcbftcerts of seasonal music in the ftathaus (Town Hall), while the nearby park is ablaze with Yule-themed bulbs, marking a midwinter celebration that dates back 700 years. There is the inevitable sprinkling of Christmas kitsch on sale, but also scented beeswax candles, handmade decorations and toys, and vats of pleasantly intoxicating warm drinks. Vienna has numerous smaller ‘Christmas markets, from the well-heeled affair outside the Sch6nbrunn Palace to odd clusters on street corners, but Rathausplatz is unmissable. Not far away, Hotel Adlon (Hofenedergasse 4; 00 43 1 216 6788, www. adlon-wien.at) has doubles from £65, B&B. Airlines serving Vienna include BA (www.ba.com) from Heathrow and Aer Lingus (www.aerlingus.ie) from Dublin. >

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Author: admin
April 17, 2010

Barcelona

Every year since 1786, Saint Lucy’s feast day (December 13) has kicked off Barcelona’s glittering Fira de Santa Llucia. The narrow streets around the Gothic cathedral twinkle with stalls selling olive-wood bowls and soft-leather bags. The real fun lies by the cathedral steps, where stalls sell clay figures from pessebres – the nativity scenes so beloved of Catalans. Jesus, Mary and the shepherds are there, the star is the caganer, the ‘Christmas crapper’. The squatting figure’s defecation is said to signify fertilisation of the soil and the ordinariness of humanity. He’s been around for 400 years and is now available in many forms, from George Bush to the Pope.

There’s more Catalan scatology to be found with the stacks of smiley-faced logs. The caga tio (or ‘pooping log’) is the local answer to a pihata (suspended package of sweets ritually whacked open by Spanish children). In Barcelona, every Christmas, the сада tio gets the figurative crap beaten out of him by children with sticks, singing ‘Shit, log, shit’, as he drops gifts. When you’re hungry, visit Can Culleretes (C/Quintana 5). It’s been around as long as the market, and is great for a plate of goose stewed with pears. Nearby in El Born district, Hotel Banys Orientals (C/Argenteria 37; 00 34 93 268 8460, www.hotelbanys orientals.com; doubles from £85) is central, cheap and stylish. Airlines to Barcelona include Jet2 (www.jet2.com) from Belfast International, and EasyJet (www.easyjet.com) from Luton.

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Author: admin
April 17, 2010

Copenhagen

With the possible exception of Lapland, nowhere is the magic of Christmas more fantastically rendered than at Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens. Seasonal cheer is dished out with a strong Scandi twist: trees are dressed with flair, giving branch space to pagan and Christian icons alike. But be warned – a finely-worked elf or angel costs the same as a box of baubles from your local High Street. Trees, lights and ice create a winter-wonderland around the brightly painted stalls selling crafts, candles, porcelain and wooden dolls. Decorations are the bestsellers. A glass of glogg (mulled wine laced with liquor and spices) is essential on chilly Copenhagen nights, along with aebleskiver (hot apple dumplings).

Dating back to 1843, Tivoli is Europe’s first amusement park, and it’s always been a place of make-believe. At Christmas – for overgrown kids who like that kind of thing – it surpasses itself. By day, the famous rollercoasters and rides rattle away, and ponies parade around carrying children. Some of Tivoli’s restaurants open, too, serving pickled herring, pate and meatball lunches. But it’s after dark that Tivoli truly shines: thousands of lights adorn the trees round the central lake, which becomes a skating rink. And Hotel Centrum (00 45 33 313111, www. dgi-byen.com), 400m from the park, at Helgolandsgade 14, has doubles from £99, B&B. Airlines serving Copenhagen include Bmi (www.flybmi.com) from Edinburgh and Leeds Bradford, and SAS (www.flysas. com) from Heathrow and Birmingham International.

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