Three of the best European Christmas markets

Chris Carter looks at some of the best Christmas markets, including a fantastical fair in Aachen presided over by a gingerbread man.

Aachen Christmas Market

(Image credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Set against Aachen's sombre town hall in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the Christmas market looks fantastical, with an added dash of Harry Potter spookiness, say Katja Schnitzler and Irene Helmes in the Sddeutsche Zeitung. Festive cheer permeates through the city's squares and alleys around the cathedral and town hall. In front stands the Printenmann, a six-foot-high "gingerbread" man, who serves as the Christmas market's mascot. It's said that the gingerbread men (a local speciality) have taken the form of soldiers since the early 19th century, when the people of Aachen wanted to cut the occupying armies down to size one bite at a time. However, these days, peace reigns a message that's carried along the Aachen Crib Trail, with its festive images from different eras and cultures.

Until 23 December

Kaysersberg: an authentic wonderland

For an authentic Christmas set in a festive wonderland of traditional timber-framed houses, head to Kaysersberg in the French region of Alsace, says Philippe Bohlinger in Le Figaro. It hasn't changed a bit in over 30 years. The decorations in this wine-growing town near Colmar, the region's capital, are perfect down to the last detail from the green Christmas tree and red bows to the non-flickering lights. Meanwhile, the medieval town centre provides the ideal setting in which to immerse visitors in the ambience of the Christmas market. Foie gras, aromatic herbs, organic wine all of the specialities of the region can be found here.

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Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until 23 December

Lige: the capital of Christmas

Lige in Belgium is used to welcoming visitors with open arms, says Mathias Renaux in Le Soir. But during the festive period, the atmosphere in the city is even more convivial than usual. Lige was even voted the European capital of Christmas in 2018. No wonder. The city has hosted Belgium's biggest Christmas market for 32 years and it knows how to put on a show. After all, the city transforms itself into a veritable Christmas village. Visitors can shop for presents or merely stroll around, soaking up the festive atmosphere around the 200 wooden chalets and tasting local specialities. Be sure to try a little of Belgium's peket eau de vie between a couple of glasses of warming mulled wine, without forgetting, of course, to visit the toboggan run installed in the Place de la Cathdrale.

Until 30 December

Chris Carter

Chris Carter spent three glorious years reading English literature on the beautiful Welsh coast at Aberystwyth University. Graduating in 2005, he left for the University of York to specialise in Renaissance literature for his MA, before returning to his native Twickenham, in southwest London. He joined a Richmond-based recruitment company, where he worked with several clients, including the Queen’s bank, Coutts, as well as the super luxury, Dorchester-owned Coworth Park country house hotel, near Ascot in Berkshire.

Then, in 2011, Chris joined MoneyWeek. Initially working as part of the website production team, Chris soon rose to the lofty heights of wealth editor, overseeing MoneyWeek’s Spending It lifestyle section. Chris travels the globe in pursuit of his work, soaking up the local culture and sampling the very finest in cuisine, hotels and resorts for the magazine’s discerning readership. He also enjoys writing his fortnightly page on collectables, delving into the fascinating world of auctions and art, classic cars, coins, watches, wine and whisky investing.

You can follow Chris on Instagram.