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European Christmas Markets – AA Roadwatch

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The most wonderful time of year is fast approaching, and with it the traditional Christmas markets that fill entire cities across Europe with the warm scents of mulled wine and hot chocolate. Originating in Germany and Austria, where the biggest markets are still held, the tradition has spread to cities right across the continent. No matter where you go, you’re guaranteed a Christmas experience to remember. Here are some of AA Roadwatch’s favourites for 2017, all a relatively short flight away from Ireland.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][image_with_text image=”21603″ title=”ONE OF THE OLDEST IN EUROPE – VIENNA”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]No-one is entirely sure which Christmas Market is the oldest, but Vienna’s claim certainly holds weight: the city’s residents were first granted permission to hold a December Market (Krippenmarkt) in 1298. The main market is held in the park outside the City Hall on Rathausplatz. You can’t fail to feel the Christmas spirit as you enter the square through a giant candlelit arch, leading to 150 stalls selling tree decorations, handmade crafts and confectionery. This year, you can also skate your way there, with ice rinks forming paths through the park, and the event spills into the City Hall itself, home to gingerbread workshops for children. Elsewhere, there are three Christmas villages in the city – at Maria-Theresien-Platz, at Belvedere Palace and in the Altes AKH – where shoppers are serenaded by carol-singing gospel choirs. And if it’s tradition you’re after, try the Old Viennese Market for classic mangers and ceramics. For late arrivals, the Christmas Market at the Schönbrunn Palace transforms into a New Year’s Market on December 27th: why should the festivities end before the season is out?

DATES FOR 2017:

Vienna Christmas Market (Rathausplatz): November 18 – December 30

Maria-Theresien-Platz: November 22 – December 26

Belvedere Palace: November 24 – December 26

Schönbrunn Palace: November 18 – January 1

Photo © Vienna Tourist Board[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][image_with_text image=”21601″ title=”THE BEST CHANCE OF A WHITE CHRISTMAS – helsinki”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]While Christmas spirit certainly won’t be lacking at any of this year’s Christmas Markets, there’s no beating a white Christmas. Flurries can’t be guaranteed but it looks like your best chance of a snow-covered market trip is in Helsinki: early indications forecast around 15 days of snow this December. Finland is the home of Santa Claus and its capital prides itself on Christmas traditions, particularly the St Thomas Market (Tuomaan Markkinat), which fills Senaatintori Square with over 120 stalls selling handmade Finnish decorations, craftwork and food. Smaller markets are also held on Mannerheimintie (Helsingin Joulumaailma) – with traditional wooden cabins – and on the harbour, where all products are made by Finnish women and sold for charity (Naisten Joulumessut Wanhaasa Satamassa). To warm up, try a mug of Glögi, the traditional Christmas drink made of spiced wine, almonds and raisins, sometimes with a dash of vodka for good measure. As well as the market stalls, watch out for the Tiernapojat – a traditional play acted out daily in the streets by boys dressed as the Three Wise Men. When you’ve finished your shopping, head to the train station: the esplanade outside becomes an ice rink each winter, complete with a café serving a perfect winter’s hot chocolate.

DATES FOR 2017:

Tuomann Joulumarkkinat (St Thomas): December 2-22

Helsingin Joulumaailma: December 3 – January 7 (except 24-26)

Naisten Joulumessut: December 6-10

Photo © Jussi Hellsten / Visit Helsinki[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][image_with_text image=”21602″ title=”A DAZZLING ARRAY OF LIGHTS – GOTHENBURG”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Gothenburg may only see six hours of daylight each day in December, but that’s not a problem at Liseberg theme park, where the Christmas market is adorned with over five million fairy lights. For the full experience, you can arrive by either vintage tram or canal boat, with mulled wine served on board. The market is the biggest in Sweden, with 80 stalls offering candles, decorations, roasted almonds and hot chocolate, which you will definitely need with the temperature generally hovering around zero. And if you haven’t crossed everything off your shopping list by the time you’ve finished your chocolate, there’s also a unique designer market within Liseburg tower. Along with the usual theme park rides, you’ll find a medieval village, a Lapland-inspired zone and a children’s area inhabited by giant rabbits. Outside of the park, Gothenburg city centre is also home to a number of smaller markets, including an eight-day Christmas festival at Tjolöholm Castle.

DATES FOR 2017

Liseburg Amusement Park: mid-November – late-December

Tjolöholm Castle: November 17-26 (except 14-15)

Photo © Go:teborg[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][image_with_text image=”21587″ title=”The Biggest Choice OF MARKETS – Berlin”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Christmas markets are synonymous with Germany, where the Christkindlmarkt is a centuries-old tradition. For a true German experience, head to Berlin: with over 60 individual markets scattered across the capital, there’s no escaping the smell of roasted chestnuts and glazed fruit. The largest is held in Spandau, Berlin’s Old Town, boasting over 1000 types of Christmas decorations and a huge range of German delicacies, including glühwein and Lumumba (cocoa with a dash of rum). One of the most atmospheric markets is held in the grounds of Charlottenburg Palace, with stalls selling crafts and seasonal food, as well as a children’s amusement park complete with a petting zoo and carousel. Right in the city centre, a market in Gendarmenmarkt specialises in traditional embroidery and wood-carving, gourmet food and an impressive programme of shows. For a different choice, try the Scandinavian-themed Lucia Weihnachtsmarkt in Prenzlauer Berg, with Swedish fires and Nordic music. Of course, you could also just wander the streets at random: with dozens of markets in the city, you’re guaranteed to stumble across some gems.

If this has piqued your interest in the German capital, click here for our Berlin travel guide.

DATES FOR 2017:

Spandau: November 27 – December 23

Charlottenburg: November 27 – December 26 (except 24)

Gendarmenmarkt: November 27 – December 31

Lucia Weihnachtsmarkt: November 27 – December 23[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][image_with_text image=”21582″ title=”SOMETHING OUT OF THE ORDINARY – BARCELONA”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Barcelona is one of the few cities where Christmas Markets don’t follow the German template: you’re more likely to find horchata and chorizo than glühwein and bratwurst. Following Catalan traditions, the Fira de Santa Llucía is held outside the cathedral and divided into sections, each offering different products. It’s something of a local tradition to buy a few handmade figurines a year until you have a complete crib scene. On other stalls, you’ll find mistletoe, trees and handicrafts, as well as the (in)famous Caganer. The Caganer is a typical Catalan Christmas decoration: a man in typical Catalan dress, squatting, with his trousers down. Bizarre as it seems, this figurine has been a staple of otherwise religious Catalan nativity scenes since the 1700s, and he is said to bring good harvests for the following year. You’ll also be able to buy a handmade Caga Tío: a log with a face that Catalan children look after until Christmas Eve, when it fills its litter tray with presents. Not too far away, the Fira de Reis stretches along the Gran Vía, specialising in toys, jewellery and churros con chocolate. And if you stay until after Christmas, you can join the fanfare and see the Three Wise Men arrive by boat on the night of January 5th. The trio then parade through the city, handing out gifts and sweets to the waiting children.

DATES FOR 2017:

Fira de Santa Llúcia: November 24 – December 23 (approx.)

Fira de Reis de la Gran Via: December 21 – January 6[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

If you’ve been inspired to plan a Christmas trip away, be sure to purchase Travel Insurance first!

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Click here to check out Lauren’s guide to a Scottish getaway in Edinburgh.

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Austria Europe France Germany Italy

Are you prepared for your Winter sports holiday?

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Planning on hitting the slopes this winter? According to a previous AA Travel Insurance survey of almost 9,400 respondents, almost 9% said they had taken a skiing or snowboarding trip or both in the last five years.

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There’s no question that planning your break – choosing the resort, your chalets or hotels and flights, as well as sorting out your ski or boarding equipment – is great fun as it sharpens anticipation of the excitement ahead. But you mustn’t neglect the most important purchase of all – your winter sports cover. It is vital that you upgrade your travel insurance to the appropriate additional level to ensure you’re covered to participate in such winter sports, as well as the likes of lost or damaged equipment. If you don’t then you could invalidate your policy.

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Skiing and Snowboarding Holidays

[/vc_column_text][vc_separator type=”normal”][vc_column_text]If you suffer an injury that is worse than a dented pride and a few bruises it could cost a fortune between heli rescue, x-rays, surgeries and hospital stays.

Many people don’t realise that collisions on the slopes are dealt with in much the same way as a car accident. If a collision is clearly your fault, you could well be held personally liable so insurance is absolutely fundamental. It’s the same as with car insurance – it’s there to protect others just as much as protecting you.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” angled_section=”no” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern” css_animation=”” css=”.vc_custom_1448544346578{margin-bottom: 20px !important;}”][vc_column][vc_column_text]AA Travel Insurance suggests a few simple points to help make sure you enjoy your holiday – and get home again in one piece:

  1. Only attempt runs suitable for your ability
  2. Take some lessons if you’re a beginner or out of practice
  3. Pay attention to signs and markers on the slopes
  4. Leave plenty of space when overtaking another skier or boarder
  5. Only stop at the edge of the piste or where you can easily be seen
  6. Ski or snowboard on the marked runs – these are protected from unexpected alpine dangers
  7. Don’t ski alone – there’s safety in numbers
  8. Ensure you and your party have a piste map, and don’t stray from the main areas
  9. Do some exercise and get fit before you go
  10. Après-ski is just that – avoid alcohol until you have finished skiing or boarding for the day
  11. Make sure your winter sports holiday insurance is up to date before you go

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All AA winter sports single trip and annual multi-trip policies can be bought online, and you can now avail of a 20% discount if you are a private medical insurance policyholder.

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Categories
Austria Europe France Germany Hungary

Christmas Markets in Europe

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Europe comes alive this time of the year, where they dust off the snow globes, unravel tinsel and switch on the fairy lights. Immerse yourself into the backdrop of your very own seasonal fairy-tale and visit some Christmas Markets that are just a short plane journey away. Here are some of our top picks that are certainly worth a visit this winter.

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Source: Croatia Week

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Strasbourg, France

[/vc_column_text][vc_separator type=”normal”][vc_column_text]Strasbourg is the champion of European Christmas markets, in fact it is commonly referred to as: “Strasbourg, the Capital of Christmas”. Better than that, it was voted by European Best Destinations 2015 as the best Christmas Market in Europe 2015 for the 2nd year running.

It is one of the oldest European Christmas market when it first popped up its stalls in 1570 and coined the name as Christkindelsmärik (market of the infant Jesus). So it is unsurprising that it is also the largest Christmas market in Europe boasting an impressive 300 stalls, extending across 12 areas of the city.

This market promises even the modern day Scrooge’s of the world to whistle along to the tune of the angelic carol singers.

When?

From 27th of November to 31st December 2015.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” angled_section=”no” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern” padding_top=”20″ padding_bottom=”50″ css_animation=”element_from_fade”][vc_column][image_with_text image=”19426″]

Source: Aachen Weihnachts Markt

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Aachen, Germany

[/vc_column_text][vc_separator type=”normal”][vc_column_text]Although Strasbourg practically invented Christmas markets in Europe, nobody quite does Christmas like the Germans. Touted as the Christmas City, Aachen Christmas Market attracts approximately 1.5 million visitors every year from all over the world, both young and old.  With a sprinkle of some magic dust, each year the squares and streets surrounding the Cathedral and the Aachen Town Hall are transformed into a winter wonderland. Wander the stalls, sample some Aachen Printen, a local gingerbread speciality in the nearby Christmas Village and wash it down with some fine mulled wine.

When?

From 20th of November to 23rd December 2015.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” angled_section=”no” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern” padding_top=”20″ padding_bottom=”50″ css_animation=”element_from_fade”][vc_column][image_with_text image=”19422″]

Source: Alphacom

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Vienna, Austria

[/vc_column_text][vc_separator type=”normal”][vc_column_text]Hear the sleigh bells ring and whisk yourself to the Viennese Christmas Markets. The main Christmas market takes place in front of City Hall where the little ones can learn how to make Christmas cookies and candles. The delicious aromas of signature festive punch, roasted chestnuts and other delicacies are sure to lure everyone into the seasonal joy.

Our very own director of consumer affairs, Conor Faughnan recommends trying the local Glühwein. This is a concoction of mulled white wine, a hint of cinnamon, sugar and spice and all things nice which is sure to prepare you for another round of stall gazing.

When?

From 13th of November to 26th December 2015.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” angled_section=”no” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern” padding_top=”20″ padding_bottom=”50″ css_animation=”element_from_fade”][vc_column][image_with_text image=”19423″]

Source: Gotohungary.com

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Budapest, Hungary

[/vc_column_text][vc_separator type=”normal”][vc_column_text]The Hungarian capital’s market is a popular choice for those who want to do a spot of shopping where they can purchase unique gifts and crafts. The main Christmas Market takes place in Vörösmarty Square where you can see the windows of Gerbeaud House transform into a giant Advent Calendar counting back the days until Christmas.

When?

From 28th of November to 31st December 2015.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” angled_section=”no” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern” padding_top=”20″ padding_bottom=”50″ css_animation=”element_from_fade”][vc_column][image_with_text image=”19425″]

Source: Christmas Markets

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Nuremberg, Germany

[/vc_column_text][vc_separator type=”normal”][vc_column_text]Enjoy a cup of hearty mulled wine to keep warm as you stroll through the traditional markets. Be sure to try the lauded Nuremberg gingerbread, Lebkuchen a local recipe that dates back 600 years. With over 180 stalls, you are sure to find the perfect gift for all your friends and family.

Visit St. Nicholas himself at Santa’s grotto located in the Children’s Christmas Market, which is sure to make a believer out of some sceptics.

When?

From 27th November to 24th December 2015.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” angled_section=”no” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern” padding_top=”20″ padding_bottom=”50″ css_animation=”element_from_fade”][vc_column][vc_column_text]

If we have swayed you to book a flight to any of the above listed destinations, be sure to purchase Travel Insurance to ensure you have a truly merry trip.

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