Cost-Conscious Christmas Markets
There are few better ways to herald the start of the festive season than planning a visit to a Christmas market. It’s an excuse to dive right into the wintery weather, treat ourselves a little, and discover a brand new destination in all its festive glory.
And the good news is that a weekend away to the Christmas markets needn’t break the bank. It helps that the world’s best Christmas markets are right on our doorstep in Europe, and that some cities are truly bargainous compared to the UK. Whether it’s because of currency conversion, fierce competition or low costs, here are our favourite Christmas market destinations that offer the best value for money, and the best winter wonderlands.
Prague, Czech Republic
It’s hard to think of a place in Europe more fairytale-like than Prague. Steeped in centuries of history, this magical capital comes into its own in the winter season, when the wonderful architecture lights up with the night skies, and the snowy scenes are a wonder to behold. It makes the main Christmas market at Wenceslas Square even more of a draw. The market runs from 2 December 2023 to 6 January 2024, and it’s open every day including Christmas Day, so it’s an ideal break for over the holidays itself.
Prague is also a bargain break that’s less expensive than many places in Western Europe. While the market itself isn’t the cheapest (expect to fork out £3.50 for a mulled wine), flights, accommodation and other costs are extremely competitive. And if you factor in the beauty of the city, it provides an impressive bang for your buck.
Nowhere in the world does Christmas markets quite like Germany. And while capital cities tend to be more expensive, Berlin bucks the trend by being extremely well-priced for what you’re getting in a break. Flight costs can be next to nothing if you don’t mind early or late flights, and if you’re happy to stay in well-connected suburbs of the city, you can save yourself a fortune in accommodation costs too. You’ll also have over 100 Christmas markets to choose from – like the major markets at Potsdamer Platz and Alexanderplatz, the queer-friendly Christmas Avenue at Nollendorfplatz, and the 19-century recreation at the Alt-Rixdorf Christmas market in the Neukölln district.
As far as on-the-ground costs go, you won’t find a better seasonal destination than Krakow – it’s low on prices and high on Christmas entertainment. The Polish city is a long-standing favourite for bargain breaks because of the exchange rate – you can easily grab a lip-smacking meal for two with drinks for £50. Add to this the joy of the festive markets (where you can enjoy toasty mulled wine for £3), and it’s a tempting break indeed. Between 4 November and 26 December 2023, the Rynek Glowny turns into a winter wonderland with fairground rides, timber huts selling homemade wares, sweet treats, hot drinks and comfort food. Keep an ear out for the hourly bugle call from the towers of St Mary’s Basilica, a custom that dates back to 1392.
Arguably, Budapest is up there with Prague as one of Europe’s most reasonably priced and prettiest destinations. Dissected by the River Danube and with awesome architecture like the Parliament building, it’s a dreamy destination at any time of the year. In November and December, it’s also full of Christmas fun. The biggest market is the Budapest Christmas Fair at Vorosmarty Square – this is where you’ll find more than 100 stalls selling local crafts, gifts, sausages, goulash and other Hungarian specialities. A 10-minute walk away at St Stephen’s Basilica, there are more stalls to peruse, along with an ice rink for the ice-skating proficient among us. Keep an eye on its events schedule, as this is where brass bands and gospel choirs set up to entertain the large crowds. The markets run until the end of the year, so there’s still time to head over and enjoy the city’s festive cheer.
Between 3 December 2023 to 8 January 2024, make a beeline for the main Christmas market at Doma laukums (Dome Square). This medieval square is where you’ll find the bustle of Christmas shoppers, with dozens of stalls selling great value gifts, plus warming meals and tasty drinks to indulge in after a hard day’s shopping. You can even find a number of animals to entertain kids, making this market stand out from the others. Better still, Riga is a budget-friendly destination compared to many in Western Europe – and it’s small enough to be walkable, so you won’t have to spend money on transport (even a bus ticket to the city from the airport is around £1.50). In fact a weekend holiday costs on average £285 in all, making it one of the best value breaks in Europe.
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