LONDON – With the lifting of restrictions, Christmas 2022 will perhaps be the first festive season to mark a steady return to ‘normality’ for many people.
For many folks it is traditionally a time to visit Christmas markets, and Manchester Airport has just listed the top European market destinations accessible with direct flights.
The clocks have changed, the nights are drawing in and Christmas is around the corner, says Manchester Airport. In their words: “In cities across the continent, the stalls are being prepared, the mulled wine will soon start flowing, and if you want a slice of the action, Manchester Airport has you covered, with low fares starting from just £44.98 return per person.”
So, here we profile some of the best destinations for a yuletide getaway served directly from the UK’s global gateway in the North – with tips on what to see and what to try.
- Christmas markets open from Monday 21 November
- Flights from £93.04pp return (10 – 12 Dec) return with Ryanair. easyJet also serves Berlin.
Berlin offers an abundance of Christmas markets. The beautiful Gendarmenmarkt boasts a dizzying selection of exclusive Christmas crafts and decorations along with great food and drink, whilst the market outside the City Hall is more family-oriented and offers activities such as ice skating and fairground rides.
Besides its Christmas markets, Germany’s capital also offers world-famous sites such as the Brandenburg Gate and Berlin Wall.
- Christmas markets open from Friday 25 November.
- Flights from £101.58pp return with Brussels Airlines.
The ‘Winter Wonders’ Brussels Christmas Market will be open between 25th November and 1st January.
More than 200 wooden chalets with food, drinks and Christmas decorations give you the chance to delve into Belgian Christmas traditions and sample some of the world’s finest beers and chocolates.
- Christmas markets open from Friday 18 November.
- Flights from £89.23pp return (26 Nov – 1 Dec) return with Ryanair. Jet2.com also serves this route.
Budapest’s Vörösmarty Square Christmas Market is held in front of the St. Stephen Basilica, brimming with food, drink and handicrafts.
Hungarian honey cookies are a Christmas staple, and the city’s waterfront bars make for a great retreat once you’re done with shopping for the day.
- Christmas markets open from Monday 21 November.
- Flights from £92pp return (28 Nov – 2 Dec) with Jet2.com. Ryanair also serves Cologne.
Cologne’s most iconic landmark, the tallest twin-spired cathedral in the world, towers over its largest Christmas market.
There are several other smaller markets that are well worth a look, however – including the Stadtgarten Christmas market, set in a city park with an emphasis on handmade souvenirs and decorations.
- Christmas markets open from Monday 21 November.
- Flights from £182pp return with Lufthansa.
Tracing its origins to the 14th Century, the Frankfurt Christmas Market is one of the oldest in the world. A traditional market decorated with thousands of lights that offer a variety of Christmas specialities and decorations.
Christmas cups are the special thing about the Frankfurt market, with a special cup design being unveiled each year so make sure you do not miss on this year’s design.
- Christmas markets open from Saturday 19 November, but not daily (further details here).
- Flights from £44.98pp return (02 – 05 Dec) with Ryanair.
If you’re travelling as a family, the Gothenburg Christmas Market is a stand-out pick. Located in one of Sweden’s most popular tourist attractions, the Liseberg amusement park, it offers all of the standard Christmas market fare, including Swedish specialities such as cinnamon buns.
It also brings a more interactive twist with ice skating, carol concerts and a mini-Lapland. Liseberg’s rides and rollercoasters are open, too, at an additional price.
- Christmas markets open from Thursday 17 November.
- Flights from £185pp return (17 – 20 Dec) with Jet2.com. Geneva is also served by Ethiopian Airlines, easyJet and TUI.
The Geneva Christmas Market is ideal for foodies and ski lovers. Besides the traditional stalls, with a new offering every week, and cultural events in the Jardin Anglais, these markets’ USP is a dedicated street food section where world flavours meet local specialities including the famous raclette and fondue.
Mont Blanc, the heart of the Alps, is under 100km away and it is more than possible to combine a trip to Geneva’s Christmas Markets with a visit to one of Europe’s finest ski resorts.
- Christmas markets open from Saturday 26 November.
- Flights from £83.73pp return (28 Nov – 03 Dec) with Ryanair. easyJet and Jet2.com also serve Prague.
Prague celebrates Christmas with a number of smaller, more intimate markets spread across the city, serving mulled wine and traditional sweet pastries, in addition to souvenirs and handicrafts.
The historic Old Town is a tourist draw year-round but takes on a unique ambience at Christmas, with a lively nightlife scene.
- Christmas markets open from Saturday 19 November.
- Flights from £68.23pp return (14 – 19 Dec) with Ryanair. Austrian Airlines and Jet2.com also serve this route.
The Austrian capital’s Christmas markets lay claim to being the world’s biggest and are among its oldest, too. Centred on the Rathaus (City Hall) and marketed as the ‘Viennese Dream’, Vienna’s Christmas Market offers an incredible variety of gifts, food and drink, traditions and activities for visitors of all ages.
The city’s renowned galleries, museums and opera houses also take on a festive atmosphere and offer respite from the winter cold.