Move over Munich: we’ve discovered the most unusual Christmas markets and festivals around the world. From Hong Kong’s decorated skyscrapers to Gothenburg’s arty pop-up markets, book now for an amazingly different Christmas break
Where: Amsterdam, Holland
Why: For a cool way to celebrate the holidays, Amsterdam’s annual ice festival is the one. This year’s theme of music means artists will create more than 100 sculptures of ice and snow inspired by everything from classic Dutch hits to Justin Bieber. Alongside the exhibition, there’s a whole square dedicated to food, serving apfelstrudel, Dutch sausages and mulled wine – all in a warehouse chilled to -10°C. Hats, mittens, scarves and thermals at the ready!
When: 10 December 2016 – 5 February 2017
Where: Tanglin, Singapore
Why: You might have seen neighbours on UK streets battling it out for the best-dressed house at Christmas. Well, this Singapore Christmas light-off takes that to whole new levels. The glamorous road, lined with designer malls and hotels, completely transforms for Christmas as they each compete for the Best Dressed Building Award, with everything from giant bows to fairytale castles. Street performers create a carnival atmosphere while you buy presents and there’s even a ‘snow’ flurry at Tanglin Mall for children to play in.
When: 12 November 2016 – 2 January 2017
Where: Gothenburg, Sweden
Why: Now known as Sweden’s coolest city, Gothenburg is home to the country’s largest Christmas market at Liseberg Amusement Park, with an ice skating rink, Santa’s World grotto and nearly five million Christmas lights. Plus, there are plenty of arty pop-up markets throughout the city, including the one at the atmospheric Röda Sten museum, which is host to live bands and DJs and a singing choral Christmas tree in the central square.
When: 11 November 2016 – 2 January 2017
Where: Cornwall, UK
Why: Home to Rick Stein’s much-loved seafood empire, Padstow is a food lover’s haven all year round. But for this special festive weekend, hundreds of food and drink producers gather to share their delicious Christmas-inspired fare. Look out for chef demonstrations, including Angela Hartnett, Antony Worrall Thompson and Rick Stein himself, the winter lantern parade and a firework display on Friday evening. You can also sample everything from fresh seafood and Cornish cheese to mulled Cornish cider and locally distilled gin.
When: 1-4 December 2016
Book it: padstowchristmasfestival.co.uk
Where: Tallinn, Estonia
Why: This lesser-known Christmas market in Estonia’s capital city has plenty of fairytale charm – the quaint stalls are set around a towering Christmas spruce in the historic medieval square. What makes it different are the beautiful snow sculptures crafted by local artists and the mini festive zoo, complete with lambs, ponies, geese and, of course, reindeer.
When: 18 November 2016 – 7 January 2017
Where: Pennsylvania, USA
Why: More than one million people flock to Pennsylvania’s Christmas City, Bethlehem, every year, and 2016 sees the German-inspired Christkindlemarkt double in size. With 150 vendors each weekend and themed tents, you can experience everything from a traditional Bavarian Christmas village to glass decoration-making and wreath-making workshops. It’s brilliantly over the top!
When: 18 November – 18 December 2016
Book it: Visit christmascity.org
Where: St Helier, Jersey
Why: This picturesque market town plays host to hundreds of artisan gift stalls selling genuine Jersey and Norman French wares. The highlight is the Christmas Battle of Flowers Parade, where the streets are lit up by a colourful procession of floats, dancers and marching bands celebrating the festive season. Don’t miss the ice rink at Jersey’s Arctic Village if ice skating is your thing.
When: 24 November 2016 – 15 January 2017
Where: Copenhagen, Denmark
Why: A real-life winter wonderland, Tivoli’s festival illuminations are magically reflected in Tivoli lake and the entire park is covered in twinkling lights and decorations. It’s all about the Danish concept of ‘hygge’ which loosely means ‘to cosy’, with plenty of festive spots to gorge on glögg (mulled wine) and æbleskiver (traditional pancakes). For thrill-seekers, there are dance shows and more than 20 rides to experience – from high-speed rollercoasters to a classic carousel.
When: 19 November – 31 December 2016
Where: Hong Kong
Why: With a festive 3D light show, decorated skyscrapers and amazing rides, this modern Christmas fest is just one of the many reasons to take the 11-hour flight to Hong Kong. Shopping lovers should head to North Statue Square for modern market stalls and special shopping offers, while Hong Kong Disneyland (half an hour drive away) is transformed with fake snow and glittering Christmas trees.
When: 29 November 2016 – 1 January 2017
Looking to explore closer to home? Read our round up of the seven most stunning walking routes in the UK.