The history of Christmas markets dates back to the late middle ages and originates from the German speaking part of Europe.

The Bautzen market, in Saxony, is thought to be one of the oldest recorded, dating back to 1384.

The Dresden Christmas market, first held in 1434, remains popular to this day, still attracting in the region of two million visitors a year and featuring more than 60 stalls.

In many German towns the Christian festival of Advent often coincides with the opening of the Christmas market or ‘Weihnachtsmarkt’.

In southern Germany such events are sometimes referred to as a ‘Christkindel markt’, literally meaning ‘Christ child market’. Often taking place in the town square, the markets offer an array of food and drink produce and seasonal items while featuring traditional singing and dancing.

Popular attractions at most German Christmas markets include a nativity scene, not to mention Glühwein, a warm mulled wine (sometimes administered with a shot of brandy), or Eierpunsch (an eggy warm alcoholic drink).

Both are excellent antidotes to the cold winter air which often falls below freezing.

In most markets the stallholders sell handmade items, toys, books, Christmas tree decorations and ornaments.

Christmas markets in the UK were very popular until Oliver Cromwell banned the celebration of Christmas in the fashion people had become accustomed. Town markets were a predominant feature in Britain during the Victorian era, where seasonal products and foodstuffs was on offer, but they were not known as Christmas markets per se.

Lincoln, in the east of England, was the first town to revive the Christmas market more than 26 years ago.

Today, features nearly 150 events across the country.

UK Christmas markets often have continental themes incorporating French, German or Italian traders while traditional German markets can be found in London, Bournemouth, Canterbury and Glasgow.

As Christmas markets have grown in popularity, events can be found in all sorts of venues ranging from town centres to stately homes with varying durations. Some take place over one weekend while others last for six weeks or more.

In France, Christmas markets otherwise known as marché de noel provide a great opportunity for winter weekend breaks. Exuding a fantastic atmosphere they offer great shopping, with a Gallic flavour, and the opportunity to replenish wine stocks for the festive season. Most towns and cities in France host a Christmas market between late November and the end of December.

French Christmas markets offer varied ambience depending on their location. For example, Christmas markets in the Alsace region have a Teutonic influence due to their proximity to Germany, particularly Strasbourg. offers a good cross-section of French markets including those in Paris and Lille, which are particularly popular locations due to the convenient high-speed Eurostar connection.

Christmas markets in Belgium are very popular too and with Brussels also served by Eurostar, they provide the perfect opportunity to combine a stress-free journey with a relaxing winter weekend break. Belgium markets offer a fantastic atmosphere with great shopping opportunities. Notable markets include the Brussels Winter Wonderland, the Bruges Christmas Market and a relatively new market in Ypres which is now in its third year.

Many other European countries have adopted the Christmas market tradition, including Krakow in Poland, Prague in the Czech Republic, Budapest in Hungary and of course the Swiss markets, notably Basle which is popular with German, French and UK visitors alike.

Comprehensive listings on these markets and many more can be found at The latest version of the site, released in August 2009, now offers visitors the opportunity to not only effortlessly locate their market of choice but also search for holiday deals, hotel accommodation and travel information.