Christmas markets may still feel a bit like an imported tradition in the UK, but that was once true of Christmas trees. The festive stalls on Manchester’s Albert Square (one of several locations around the city centre) have the Gothic Revival spires of Manchester Town Hall as a backdrop, in a good visual double of Vienna’s famous fair. Stay at A Bode, a former textile factory.
The burghers of Salzburg have enjoyed browsing for seasonal food and trinkets in front of the city’s cathedral since the 15th century. It’s neither Austria’s oldest nor biggest Yuletide market, but the timeless streets of Mozart’s hometown set the scene incomparably for ambles fuelled by bratwurst, gingerbread and warming punch. Sleep in a 700-year-old building at Hotel Elefant.
Zelten is a South Tyrolean Christmas cake flavoured with dry fruit and spices, and a typical taste of the market in Bolzano – an Italian Alpine city with an Austrian past. Outside town, a dinky train shuttles between two seasonal village markets in Oberbozen and Klobenstein. Hotel Greif has generously sized rooms on the main square.
This seriously gastronomic city in the Spanish Basque Country holds a huge country market on St Thomas’s Day (21 December) stocked with local produce – notably the chorizo-like txistorra sausage. That’s in addition to the city’s longer-running craft fair. Enjoy sea views at Hotel de Londresy de Inglaterra.
Sweden’s second city (Goteborg to locals) has many a ’julmarknad’ dotted around, some traditional in style, others less so – like the market at the Roda Sten contemporary art gallery. The biggest of all is inside the much-loved 93-year-old Liseberg amusement park. Hotel Royal is Gothenburg’s grand dame, from 1852.