From life sized gingerbread houses to floating ice rinks, travel experts have named the top ten Christmas markets for tourists to visit around the world – and two of them are in the UK. Experts at luxury cruise company, Panache Cruises have researched the ten most unusual Christmas markets around the world which visitors can explore.
From candy cane Christmas trees to real-life gingerbread houses, there are some incredible attractions on offer at festive markets across the globe for travel lovers to explore. Some of the most unusual include floating market stalls in The Netherlands, and the opportunity to experience a walk back in time to a Victorian Christmas in California.
James Cole, founder and managing director of Panache Cruises said: “Christmas markets are a fantastic way to enjoy the festive season and there are some incredible ones for travellers who are prepared to explore that little bit further. “Some cities around the world really take their Christmas markets to the max – in Toronto they have a life-size gingerbread house you can actually walk around and in The Netherlands there is a massive market in caves underneath the city’s castle ruins. “There are also some unusual markets in the UK too: York offers a haunted tour of the ghosts of Christmas past, and Edinburugh has a massive Street of Light which illuminates across the whole city.
“You can really get into the festive spirit by exploring some of the most unusual Christmas markets different countries around the world have to offer.”
- Leiden, The Netherlands – The Markets on Water
Leiden’s famous floating Christmas market is rated one of the best year on year. On top of the city’s oldest canal is where visitors will find boats filled with almost 100 stalls selling food, drinks and handmade gifts. There is even a floating ice rink and regular stage performances. Just 30 minutes away from Amsterdam, Leiden’s market on water is one of the most unique Christmas activities to visit.
- Gardens by the Bay, Singapore – Candy Cane Christmas Tree
Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay attracts millions of visitors each year to visit the Christmassy displays. Magnificent light sculptures cover the park and an ice cave home to impressive floral ice sculptures. But one of the most popular attractions at the gardens during the festive period is the so-called candy cane Christmas tree. Decorated in red and white poinsettia flowers the tree stands at eight metres tall and six metres wide, bringing Christmas to Singapore in a spectacular way.
- Toronto, Canada – Life-size Gingerbread House
Those in Toronto know Christmas is coming when the city’s lifesize gingerbread house is put up at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel. Consisting of almost 9000 gingerbread bricks, visitors can actually walk through the two-storey gingerbread display and fight the temptation to have a nibble on the walls. There are also market stalls selling crafts, foods and drinks to check out too to fill visitors with Christmas joy and delicious treats.
- NYC, USA – Winter Village Igloos
The Bank of America Winter Village is one of the most jam-packed Christmas markets in the world. With a 17,000-square-foot ice skating rink is completely free to use, over 170 glasshouse market stalls to explore, the opportunity to try out iceless curling and best of all, cosy igloo for private hire to truly feel like a winter wonderland experience served with gourmet food and drinks
- Valkenburg, The Netherlands – Underground Cave Markets
Valkenburg is home to Europe’s largest underground Christmas market. The caves are underneath the city’s castle ruins and are filled with festive market stalls, spectacular decorations, life-size nativity sculptures and Christmas trees. The caves are turned into an extraordinary underground winter wonderland over the festive season.
- California, USA – A Victorian Christmas
Although more of a common sight in Britain, a Victorian Christmas has made its way to the west coast of America, with a Charles Dickens theme to it. The Dickens Fair offers visitors a step back in time with theatres, pubs, shops, stalls and music halls. With regular entertainment shows acting out Dickens’ stories, the Fair is a wonderful place to explore a Victorian-themed Christmas.
- Bariloche, Argentina – The ‘Little Switzerland’ in South America
The city of Bariloche is tucked away in the Andes and has been called the ‘Little Switzerland’ of Argentina. Wooden huts, ski resorts, bar cabins and chocolate shops adorn the streets to make this South American city feel like a snowy European destination. Picturesque landscapes make visitors feel as though they really are experiencing Christmas in the Swiss Alps.
- Bondi Beach, Australia – Christmas in the Sun
A Christmas in summertime is not what a usual festive image is, but for Australians, Christmas in the sun is the norm. Visiting the Bondi Beach Christmas markets is a completely different festive experience for many of us. With shorts instead of coats and flip flops instead of gloves, the market stalls line the seafront selling food, drinks and handcrafted gifts.
- Edinburgh, Scotland – The Street of Light
With the backdrop of the historic 900 year old castle, Edinburgh knows how to put on a fantastic Christmas market. With rides, food, crafts, drinks and activities for visitors, the city also hosts a virtual Christmas market for those who can’t travel to Scotland. One of the interesting parts of the market is the 60,000 lights installation along the ‘Street of Light’ – a colourful kaleidoscope of festive lights and lasers is one of the best light shows in the world.
- York, England – The Ghosts of Christmas Past Tour
York is often named the most haunted city in the world – and for Christmas visitors to the city, a festive ghost tour is a must-do. Certainly one of the most unusual Christmas activities, the walking ghost tour takes two hours and tells many haunted December stories along the way about the ghosts of Christmas past. And no trip to York at Christmas time is complete without a visit to the markets to offer a wonderful wintery experience before the haunted nighttime falls.