With Christmas fast approaching check out some of Europe’s best destinations for festive shopping.
All across Europe Christmas markets are getting into full swing, duly decked out in millions of baubles, twinkling lights and the requisite mulled wine and sweet treats. From Scandinavia to Eastern Europe city centres across the continent will be staging their own take on the traditional market, each reflecting distinct foods, tastes and cultures.
Try Munich for a market steeped in history – it is one of Europe’s oldest and dates back to the early 14th century. Among the many markets the main and original takes place at Marienplatz under the backdrop of the stunning Gothic Revival New Town Hall (Neues Rathaus). Stalls open at 10am each morning, and there are baked apples, gingerbread, stollen and fruitcake to tempt plus numerous stalls selling Bavarian handicrafts, including hand-painted decorations.
If you prefer something a little more intimate Slovenia’s capital Ljubljana offers a more manageable festive fair through December, and the city’s size means you can get about on foot and see all the old town has to offer. As well as local foods to try there are numerous stalls selling one-of-a-kind creations from young Slovene designers, as well as the ubiquitous decorations to take home.
If your shopping list needs to stretch beyond handicrafts, Paris takes on a particular charm as Christmas approaches, with its world-famous monuments spectacularly lit and the boulevards and ancient buildings creating a twinkling festive scene that only Paris can quite do. As well as browsing world-famous fashion labels that you might find in many of Europe’s smart neighbourhoods, stroll the pretty streets of the Marais to explore its smaller boutiques for something unique, or the streets around Rue Étienne Marcel. For everything you could want under one roof, a visit to Galeries Lafayette on Boulevard Haussmann in the 9th will see any shopping list fulfilled, and even if you’ve been before the building’s stunning glass-domed ceiling will never fail to impress. If a traditional Christmas market is still firmly on your list head to Place Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Place de la Nation or Place du Trocadéro and you will not be disappointed.
And finally to Antwerp, home of cutting-edge fashion. As well as big names like Dries Van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester – who in the early 80s formed part of the Antwerp Six, a collection of graduates from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts who put the city well on the fashion map – there are numerous newer names to check out. Head to one of its most stylish streets Nationalestraat and spend a leisurely afternoon at Stay, the boutique where the Coucke sisters curate fashion for both men and women, and have a bite in the living room at the back of the shop. For men make your way to Morrison, also on Nationalestraat just down the road for a selection of some fantastic knits.
Whether it is full on Christmas cheer you’re after, traditional handicrafts or the latest fashions, Europe will be abuzz as Christmas approaches with everything from stocking fillers to some very special purchases out there to make all those on your Christmas gift list very happy this year.
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