10 of the best Christmas shopping cities in Europe | Travel


Lisbon

Why go
Lisbon sparkles at Christmas (check out the massive tree in Praça do Comércio), but is more cool than twee. The scent of chestnuts fills the air, and concerts are held in churches, but festivities feel refreshingly uncommercialised.

Best buys
Great independent shops include A Vida Portuguesa for local products from soap to shoes. Of four stores, the Largo do Intendente branch, in a former tile factory, is the biggest and best. There’s a retro feel to shopping here, with lots of old, family-run shops, such as 1930s-era Conserveira de Lisboa – tinned fish may not sound sexy, but the decorative or hand-wrapped cans here are art forms in themselves.



Gloves at Luvaria Ulisses. Photograph: Alamy

Luvaria Ulisses, which opened in 1925, sells beautiful, handmade leather gloves. In the Baixa district, Chocolataria Equador offers sweet stocking-filler solutions, with chunky chocolate bars and multicoloured bonbons. Embaixada, a 19th-century palace turned tasteful shopping centre, features lots of Portuguese brands under one roof – try UOY for men’s tailoring or Boa Safra for homeware.

Pitstop
For coffee and pastries, there are open-air kiosks everywhere. To try bolo rei – the local Christmas cake, circular, sweet and full of dried fruit and nuts – head to 19th-century patisserie Confeitaria Nacional on Praça da Figueira; it also serves massa de filhós, a festive doughnut. Bacalhau (salt cod) dishes dominate menus year round, but a special version is served on Christmas Eve (and in restaurants in the run-up) with potatoes and eggs. Zapata on Rua do Poço dos Negros and Cervejaria Ramiro are both known for reasonably priced seafood.

Where to stay

Hotel Riverside Alfama



Hotel Riverside Alfama

Hotel Riverside Alfama, in the maze of the old town, has eight bright, simple rooms (from £98 a night in December). In a grand old building in arty Bairro Alto, the Independente is part hostel, part hotel, with clean dorms and a popular restaurant. Dorm beds from €14 with breakfast.

Getting there
There’s plenty of choice from BA, Tap Portugal and the budget airlines. EasyJet has return flights from Gatwick from around £110 over weekends in the runup to Christmas.

Lille, France

Lille Christmas Market



Lille Christmas market Photograph: Laurent Ghesquiere/OTCL Lille

Why go?
The colourful facades of 17th-century merchants’ houses in the old town area, Vieux-Lille, look beautiful on a frosty day, and its cobbled streets, packed with shops, cafes and bars, are an enchanting place to shop. The Lillois are renowned for enjoying a party, so there’s a more jovial atmosphere than in some French cities.

Best buys

Lille Christmas Market



Figurines on sale at the Grande Braderie flea market. Photograph: Maxime Dufour/OTCL Lille

Vintage and antiques. Thanks to the colossal Grande Braderie flea market, which attracts 2.5 million vintage aficionados each September, Lille is awash with secondhand shops. The booksellers in the inner courtyard of the Vieille Bourse (Tues-Sun afternoons) will have gifts to impress intellectuals. A bottle of genièvre, the local, juniper-infused firewater, is perfect for any decadent relation’s stocking. Buy wine for the Christmas table from Les Chais du Savour (Square du Ramponneau), and thin waffles filled with vanilla cream from Méert (27 rue Esquermoise) for someone you love so much you can resist scoffing them on the way home. Stock up on delicacies and cheeses from Wazemmes market, south-west of the centre (Tues, Thurs and, particularly, Sun).

Pitstop
Beer, not wine, is the default Lille tipple, and at Au Fût et à Mesure (289 rue du Faubourg des Postes) each table has its own DIY beer pump. Grab a gaufre fourrée (filled waffle) with a cup of chocolat chaud wherever you see them, and end the day at Saint Sauveur, a former goods station that’s now a banner project for the city – a multi-arts venue, with a great bistro/club, the St So.

Where to stay

Hotel l’Arbre Voyageur, Lille



Hotel l’Arbre Voyageur, Lille. Photograph: Marc Vidal

Theatrically decorated L’Arbre Voyageur (two-night minimum most weekends in November/December; otherwise doubles from €106 room only) is close to the Grand-Place, with 48 rooms. Hostel Gastama (dorm beds from €19) has a bar with 14 beers on tap, and good rooms for groups, with cool wood-and-metal bunk beds.

Getting there

Eurostar: returns from £123, (eurostar.com) trains take around 1 hour 25 mins from St Pancras to Lille, with returns from around £123 over weekends at the end of November and through December. Or drive via Eurotunnel (from £120 return).

Ghent, Belgium

St Nicholas church, Ghent.



St Nicholas church, Ghent. Photograph: Allan Baxter/Getty Images

Why go?

Less packed with Christmas market crowds than Bruges, less posh and fashiony than Antwerp, Ghent offers a charming Belgian city experience, with all the cosy craft-ale bars, medieval and neo-gothic architecture and creative design a winter break needs.

Best buys

Dille and Kamille, Ghent



Great for jams, decorations, homeware and utensils … Dille and Kamille, Ghent

For arty presents, print shop Topo Copy (Coupure Rechts 308) has unusual posters and prints – and machines to print your own, maybe for personalised wrapping paper. Dille and Kamille (Hoornstraat 15) is great for low-key homeware and wooden utensils, felt tree decorations, apple and cinnamon jam, and crackers. Hit Riot (Dendermondsesteenweg 80) for art books, Zoot (Hoogpoort 46a) for party shoes, and the Bij Sint-Jacobs flea market (Fri-Sun mornings) for vintage treasures. Tierenteyn (Groentenmarkt 3) has craft mustards blended to a recipe created in 1790. The city’s famous cuberdons, or “red nose” sweets, sold on two competing street carts, would be a witty treat to leave out for Santa.

Pitstop

A festive bar in Ghent.



A festive bar in Ghent. Photograph: Christophe Vander Eecken/Visit Gent

What could be more Christmassy than dining in a church, and giving to those in need while you’re at it? Parnassus (Old Houtlei, open noon-2pm Mon-Fri) is a social project in a Franciscan church offering healthy meals and employment to disadvantaged people. A glass of Kerst Pater – a sherry-like, 9% Christmas ale – shouldn’t be missed: try it canal-side at De Dulle Griet (Vrjdagmarkt 50).

Where to stay

Treck Hostel, Ghent



Treck Hostel, Ghent

Treck Hostel (caravans from €20pp), an indoor caravan park in a former brick factory, has kitsch caravans painted in mad themes – “Hawaii” has surfboards outside; “Jungle” a giant cuddly tiger.

Getting there
Eurostar via Brussels from St Pancras (from around £200pp return over weekends at the end of November through December), or drive via Eurotunnel (as above).

Munich

Christmas market at Chinese Tower, English Garden.



Christmas market at Chinese Tower, English Garden. Photograph: Alamy

Why go?
Because of the bastardisation of the “German” Christmas market across the UK it’s easy to write them off as naff, but if anywhere does them tastefully and traditionally, it’s Munich. The city embraces Christmas to the full, with a Christmas tram, Christmas shopping storage, a tree lit with 3,000 candles, Bavarian singalongs and a nativity trail. Apart from all that, the architecture, warming winter food and drink, and Alpine atmosphere (the mountain resorts are just 1-2 hours’ drive south) are sufficient to warrant a festive foray.

Best buys

Stollen, Germany’s Christmas cake.



Stollen, Germany’s Christmas cake. Photograph: Alamy

Stollen, Germany’s Christmas cake, which originates in Dresden and whose shape is supposed to symbolise baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes, can be found in the vast Viktualienmarkt food market (Mon-Sat), alongside other Christmas treats, from gingerbread hearts to hang on the tree, to marzipan, cheese and salami.

Munich is strong on unusual concept stores: ethical/vegan fashion at Dear Goods (Am Glockenbach 12); cool stationery and homeware at Weissglut (Hohenzollernstrasse 8 and Hackenstrasse 1); glamorous vintage clothes and pink silk lingerie at fairytale-esque Alva-Morgaine (Hans-Sachs-Strasse 9). For old-fashioned Bavarian gifts like cuckoo clocks, music boxes, nutcrackers, beer steins and candle pyramids, try Herrmann Geschenke (Neuhauser Strasse 2).

Pitstop

Germany Bavaria Munich, popular Augustiner -Keller restaurant



Augustiner-Keller restaurant. Photograph: Alamy

Dip into the twinkly chaos of the Christmas market around Marienplatz for a snifter of glühbier – beer spiced with vanilla and chilli, or cacao and rum. Traditional Bavarian fare will supply the calories required for serious pavement beating – try suckling pig with red cabbage, pork escalope, white sausage, potato rosti, and apple fritters or Bavarian vanilla cream pudding at Augustiner Keller (Arnulfstrasse 52), a classic biergarten near the Hauptbahnhof. There are cosy indoor spaces too; plus, in winter, you can hire the curling rink.

Those postponing indulgence until 25 December can grab a healthy bowl of raw veg, grains and seeds with a matcha latte or “blood cleanser” juice at vegan Rebella Bex Cafe (Sonnenstrasse 23) instead.

Where to stay

The Flushing Meadows Hotel



The Flushing Meadows Hotel Photograph: Arnold Jaeger Werner/PR


Flushing Meadows (doubles from €208 room only) is a super-cool hotel and bar in the happening Glockenbach district, with interesting independent shops on the doorstep. Or Bold Hotel (doubles from €54 room only) has two hotels in the city with smart, neutral rooms.

Getting there
EasyJet flies to Munich from Manchester, Edinburgh, Gatwick, Stansted and Luton, from around £60 return over weekends in November and December.

Copenhagen

Tivoli Gardens



Tivoli Gardens. Photograph: Alamy

Why go?
Cool but cosy, the Danish capital blends the best of old and new: from castles and palaces to sleek contemporary design stores, from old-fashioned restaurants to trendy microbreweries and hip diners. Hans Christian Andersen’s adopted hometown has even more of a fairytale feel over the festive season. Historic amusement park Tivoli Gardens is all lit up with a Christmas market and pretty old commercial port Nyhavn is lined with stalls selling festive treats.

Best buys
There’s tasteful shopping at every turn (even Illum department store is endlessly stylish), but try cobbled Jægersborggade street in Nørrebro: it’s packed with small shops selling everything from vintage clothes to handmade caramel (plus tons of cosy bars, too). In Høj Copenhagen look for homeware by small Nordic brands, or try Ladyfingers for jewellery by local designers. Urban Room No 11 nearby has fun prints and cool clothes (on Facebook). Comb Vesterbro for presents in stores like Dora, which is brimming with interiors ideas.

Pitstop

Nørrebro brewpub Brus



Nørrebro brewpub Brus

Get festive with æbleskiver (Christmas pancakes), and gløgg, a red wine punch, at street food haven WestMarket in Vesterbro. Tivoli Corner, a new food hall with around 20 restaurants and stands, selling everything from fish tapas to burgers, has just opened. Nørrebro brewpub Brus has a fun bar with special Christmas beers on tap – To Øl’s Shameless Santa or Sur Yule.

Where to stay

Steel House hostel, Copenhagen



Steel House hostel, Copenhagen

The former headquarters of the Danish Union of Metalworkers reopened this year as Steel House, a central hostel with an industrial chic vibe. There’s a bar, pool (yep, a hostel with a pool!) and kitchen facilities, plus private rooms and dorms (which can be rented in their entirety). Doubles at pre-Christmas weekends cost about £130 a night (less than half that midweek), and it’s £30pp in a six-bed dorm (£15 midweek).

Getting there
Multiple airline options include: Ryanair, from Stansted and Luton, Norwegian from Gatwick, and easyJet from Gatwick, Manchester, Bristol and Edinburgh. Weekend flights pre-Christmas from around £80 return.

Ledbury, Herefordshire

Ledbury, Herefordshire



Photograph: Sefton Samuels/REX/Shutterstock

Why go?
There may be more obvious places for a festive UK shopping spree – Bath, with its Georgian backdrop and artisan quarter; Brighton for its fun vibe; Manchester and London for the sheer choice – but little Ledbury in Herefordshire is a picturesque, stress-free option. With its stilted 17th-century Market House, timber-framed buildings, great independent shops and arty vibe, the market town has bags of atmosphere. Plus it’s in a particularly lovely part of the country, should a winter walk beckon.

Best buys

Hus & Hem



Hus & Hem

Hus & Hem is packed with beautiful Scandi homeware and clothing (plus there’s a special Christmas room – check out the retro wooden santas by Kay Bojesen). The tiny Three Counties Cider Shop has over 100 to choose from and you can try before you buy. Browse Tinsmiths for original artist prints and beautiful quilts, and Letterpress posters by local firm Tilley Printing. The Three Counties Bookshop on the High Street caters for all bookish needs, and satisfy sweet-toothed friends with a little something from The Velvet Bean Chocolates opposite Homend Shopping Mall – the handmade truffles are made with cream from local farms.

Pitstop
Ledbury has some brilliant old coaching inns. On a cobbled street, the 16th-century Prince of Wales is a locals’ favourite, with good pub grub, a choice of real ales and ciders, and a long gin menu. The Seven Stars is one of the oldest pubs in town, and has a great restaurant and its own farm.

Where to stay

The Seven Stars, Ledbury



The Seven Stars, Ledbury

At The Seven Stars there’s limited weekend availability in three rooms in November and December (doubles from £69 room only, £90 Fri and Sat). The Talbot – another historic pub, with a wood-panelled dining room – has added six bedrooms in the Old Stable Cottage, bringing the total to 13 (from around £150 B&B at the weekend in November and December).

Glasgow

George Square, Glasgow



George Square, Glasgow. Photograph: Alamy

Why go?
Combine full-on Christmas cheer with shopping on brightly lit lanes full of independent retailers, or in the many glittering arcades. The season brings plenty of off-beat nightlife, such as the Gatsby Club 1920s winter ball (£18, 25 November), or Christmas movie nights at Sloans bar (£15.95 for two including hot snack). The hunky mountain scenery within easy reach bolsters its appeal.

Best buys

Napiers, Glasgow



Napiers the Herbalists, Glasgow

The West End is packed with independent stores, such as 150-year-old Napiers the Herbalists (61 Cresswell Street), with its stylish range of natural face products and teas, including the calming Superbitch brew. At 388 Byres Road, pick up a plum pudding candle from Shearer Candles, established in 1897. Pretty Ashton Lane, famous for its pubs, looks lovely with Christmas lights, and has little gift stalls over the festive weekends, as does Merchant Square in town.

The giftshops of the city’s galleries and museums are a great source of presents. Try the Gallery of Modern Art (Royal Exchange Square) for mugs, bags and socks adorned with art masterpieces; Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum (Argyle Street) for arts and crafts prints and jewellery; or find everything from all the museums together at the Glasgow Museums Store in the St Enoch Centre. In Finnieston, The Shop of Interest (1058 Argyle Street) has some charming paper build-your-own Scottish tenement kits, quirky wrapping paper, and bangles made from skateboards.

Pitstop
Fairy lights add a twinkly Christmas touch at the Stravaigin (28 Gibson Street), whose festive December lunch menu (book ahead) includes Lebanese mutton broth and clementine and almond trifle. Post-shop, hit the whisky bar of sultry Òran Mór (Byres Road) for a warming malt, or the Ben Nevis (1147 Argyle Street), which has live folk acts (Weds, Thurs and Sun) and a roaring turf fire.

Where to stay
Z Hotel (December weekend doubles from £105 room only) has exposed brick downstairs and wood-panelled bedrooms.

Vienna

Why go?

Christmas Market Vienna, traditional market at Vienna Town Hall in December



Vienna Town Hall in December. Photograph: Getty Images

The most sophisticated Christmas lights in Europe – swaths of chandeliers and crystals rather than flashing reindeer – illuminate avenues of palaces and cathedrals around the Austrian capital, and the grand buildings of the tree-lined Ringstrasse around the old centre. There are festive concerts and choir recitals all over the city – opulent Peterskirche is the most atmospheric. There are numerous Christmas markets, too, which the authorities are attempting to keep tasteful and tat-free, and an alternative Winter at the MQ event in the museum quarter to counteract them, with modern pop-up bars and music.

Best buys
Cakes, sweets and naughty treats! At the Manner shop (Stephansplatz 7) buy nougat waffles with a picture of St Stephen’s Cathedral; savour Lipizzaner balls from the eponymous store (Stephansplatz 6), sweets made of nougat, marzipan and chocolate; or sugared rose petals, chocolates and fine sachertorte from the grand Demel (Kohlmarkt 14).

Viennastore (Herrengasse 5) has fun souvenirs, such as special triple breading plate for making wiener schnitzel, Gustav Klimt pencil cases, and Mozart-shaped cookie cutters.

Head to the seventh district for unusual clothing stores. A group could make use of Lucie (€35pp for a group of 6-8) who runs themed three-hour shopping tours such as “young designers in hip areas”.

Pitstop

Naber Kaffee, Vienna, Austria



Naber Kaffee Photograph: Yannik Steer

A hot bag of roast chestnuts from a stand will only sustain you for so long. The city is famous for its coffee houses and pastry shops. Hop into a roastery for a pick-me-up – Naber (Wipplingerstrasse 25) has four types of espresso; Wiener Rösthaus (Tigergasse 33) is olde worlde; and Cafe Schwarzenberg (Karntner Ring 17), the oldest “concert cafe” on the Ringstrasse, is a song of marble, brass and glass. Listen to live piano while sipping a coffee topped with whipped cream, and load up on cheese strudels, dumplings and goulash.

Where to stay

25 Hours Hotel, Vienna



25 Hours Hotel, Vienna

At MuseumsQuartier, in the 25 Hours Hotel (two-night minimum stay end of November and December, from around €170).

Getting there
Easyjet flies from Gatwick, Bristol, Edinburgh, Manchester and Luton to Vienna from around £200 return over November and December weekends.

Naples

Via San Gregorio Armeno, home to the Neapolitan presepi.



Via San Gregorio Armeno, home to the Neapolitan
presepi. Photograph: Alamy

Why go?
Of all Italian cities, Naples does Christmas with the most gusto – the historic centre sparkles with festive lights, street musicians flock here for the season … and this is the home of the presepe, or Christmas crib. Year round, craftsmen work on their nativity handicraft – which is proudly displayed in squares and churches. See historic examples at the museum of San MartinoPresepe Cuciniello has more than 450 figures. Neapolitans take craftsmanship seriously, in everything from footwear to food, so visitors will find great-quality gifts, and eat well here, too.

Best buys

Christmas cribs in San Gregorio Armeno.



Christmas cribs on via San Gregorio Armeno. Photograph: Alamy

Don’t go home without some nativity figurines – via San Gregorio Armeno is “crib street”, lined with stalls and shops selling all manner of manger scene essentials and other decorations (spot anything from pizza makers to politicians and footballers among the baby Jesus’s entourage). Via Toledo is the main shopping street, with the lovely art deco Galleria Umberto I arcade. All the high-end designer shops are here (and markets selling fakes), but head to family-run Scriptura on via San Sebastiano for soft, handmade leather bags, purses and jackets at reasonable prices; or to Finamore for elegant, handmade shirts and accessories for men.

Scriptura Napoli



Scriptura Napoli

Naples is one of the most foodie cities in Italy: stock up on top local wines, limoncello, cheese (squidgy buffalo mozzarella) and salami at delis such as Charcuterie Esposito, or chocolate at Gay Odin – it has been in business since the 19th century and has eight shops around town.

Pitstop
Like most of Italy, Naples is fuelled by coffee – down an espresso at historic Gran Caffe Gambrinus or the less famous (and cheaper) Caffe’ Mexico on Piazza Dante. In a city that’s synonymous with pizza, the choice is endless – Sorbillo in the old centre or Pizzeria Cafasso on via G Cesare are popular with locals – and street food snacks such as arancini (fried rice balls) or deep-fried courgettes are everywhere. Look out for festive foods at bakeries around town, such as strufoli (dough balls drenched in honey) and roccocó (a hard, doughnut-shaped biscuit).

Where to stay

Attico Partenopeo Napoli



Roof terrace at Attico Partenopeo, Napoli. Photograph: Gaetano Del Mauro

Casa del Monacone (doubles from £46) is a lovely B&B in a former convent in the central Sanità area. It has limited weekend availability in November and December, but plenty midweek, and is great value. Attico Partenopeo (doubles from £110 at weekends) is a B&B in a 15th-century building, with a great roof terrace and eight comfortable rooms

Getting there
Options include easyJet from Bristol, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Gatwick, Luton and Stansted, from around £75 return over weekends in the run-up to Christmas.

Amsterdam

Amsterdam Christmas Tree



Photograph: Alamy

Why go?
The fairytale atmosphere of Amsterdam comes to life in winter. The canals – with warm lights lining the bridges – look particularly magical on a frosty evening, while the dark wood interiors of the city’s brown cafes are seldom so inviting. It’s the perfect setting to get into the festive spirit – and inspire some Christmas shopping.

Best buys

Festive chocolates on sale at HEMA.



Festive chocolates on sale at HEMA. Photograph: Bloomberg via Getty Images

For a mix of boutiques, vintage and specialist shops – with stopoffs in galleries, bars and cafes – head to De Negen Straatjes, a pocket of nine streets in the canal district between Herengracht and Keizersgracht. For the best of Dutch design, beautiful gifts and expensive furniture to ogle, drop by Droog. 290sqm is another concept store selling unique and limited-edition products, from clothing and accessories to bikes and books. Stocking fillers can come in the form of stroopwafels (caramel waffles), artisan gouda (head to De Kasskamer), and tasteful stationery from affordable homeware store HEMA.

Droog design shop Staalstraat central Amsterdam.



Droog design shop Staalstraat central Amsterdam. Photograph: Alamy

Pitstop
In De Negen Straatjes, stop by chic and minimal Cafe Libertine for a glass of wine and a pizzetta. In the evening, explore beyond the traditional city and cross the Ij to Amsterdam Noord for a meal in Hotel de Goudfazant, in a former car garage. Afterwards, head to De Ceuvel, a cafe, bar, event venue and “urban oasis” in a former shipyard.

Where to stay

The Hoxton, Amsterdam



The Hoxton, Amsterdam

The Hoxton is a cool but inviting hotel that draws together the history of Dutch canal house architecture with the country’s design heritage (doubles from €119 including breakfast bag). Just east of the city is Volkshotel, a youthful hotel with a rooftop restaurant and club (from around €238 for a two-night weekend room only in December).

Getting there
EasyJet has flights over December weekends for around £90-£150 return from Bristol, Belfast, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool and London airports including Southend. Flybe operates from East Midlands, Exeter, Doncaster, London City, Manchester and Southampton from about £125 return. Return trains with Eurostar via Brussels from £185.



Source link

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *