Who can resist the scent of freshly-baked gingerbread, wooden stalls decked out in fairy lights and fir branches, laughter and Christmas carols? Not us, which is why we’ve collected five of the best, family-friendly Christmas markets.
Visit Santa’s grotto in Bucharest, Romania
The mesmerising fairy-lights at Bucharest Christmas market
Snow-capped trees and stalls full of handicrafts, gingerbread and grzaniec (hot mulled beer) – at Christmas, Romania’s capital city transforms into a winter wonderland. A gigantic Christmas tree twinkles above the free ice-skating rink and young visitors get the chance to visit Santa Claus' House. Santa's helpers provide Christmas ornament-making workshops for kids, while parents can admire local artisans producing slightly more sophisticated versions. Every evening the market hosts a Christmas carol concert which is a magical experience. If you want to bring toddlers but don't want to mess with their bedtimes, luckily there are plenty of family hotels only a few minutes walk from the Old Town.
Go treasure hunting in Wroclaw, Poland
See if you can spot one of the bronze gnomes hidden all over Wroclaw
Wroclaw is a classic Christmas market with a dedicated carnival space, complete with mini merry-go-rounds and rollercoasters. While children get their adrenalin fix, parents can explore the traditional stalls and have a steaming cup of mulled wine (or, for those wishing to keep a clear head, non-alcoholic hot spiced cider). There are also over 160 mini bronze gnomes hidden all over Wroclaw, turning a day at the market into a fun treasure hunt as the whole family competes to see who will spot the next gnome. At the end of a successful expedition, rest up at the friendly Joyinn Aparthotel.
Enjoy ice skating in Brussels, Belgium
Take a whirl on the ferris wheel for a bird’s-eye-view of the market
If your toddler is looking to perfect their triple axel, then head to Winter Wonderland Brussels where the huge ice rink has a dedicated zone for tiny skaters. If you're travelling with older children, watch their faces transform when they realise that the best rinkside spectator seat is high up on the glittering ferris wheel. There are over 200 chalets at this market, selling everything from personalised Christmas cookies to reindeer dung, and there’s a kids’ indoor play zone at the Hotel Novotel Brussels Off Grand Place.
Have a snowy swim in Stuttgart, Germany
Hand-decorated gingerbread at Stuttgart Christmas market
Stuttgart Christmas market is festive fun for any age. Children will be all smiles thanks to puppet shows, an ice rink, a ferris wheel and a toddler-sized train while parents can fuel up on roasted chestnuts, gingerbread and mugs of mulled wine. Stuttgart is also known for its mineral baths and Das Leuze has a kids’ area with slides, fountains and floats. Kids will love swimming in the hot outdoor pool as snow falls all around and getting there is easy from Motel One Stuttgart-Hauptbahnhof, which is opposite the train station.
Meet Rudolph in Gothenburg, Sweden
The ice rink at Liseberg Christmas market in Gothenburg
Five million fairy lights, The Nutcracker on Ice and Scandinavia’s biggest amusement park – the Liseberg Christmas market is perfect for the young and the young-at-heart. Kids can meet Santa and a real reindeer sled ride while adults check out the stalls. Follow it up with a stroll along the Lane of Lights, a magical 3km stretch of illuminations and you'll quickly work up an appetite for a slice of homemade Christmas cake at Gothenburg’s oldest hotel, Hotel Royal.