🇬🇧 5 reasons to visit the Christmas Markets in BirminghamWhen: 17th November - 29th December 2016
Where: Victoria Square, New Street & Centenary Square
⭐ The largest German Christmas Market outside of Germany & Austria
And that's a fact! Birmingham Christmas Markets breathe a unique atmosphere of an authentic Frankfurt Christmas market (for Birmingham's a twin city of Frankfurt) without the need to actually leave the city. You can explore over 180 different stalls selling everything from crafts and furry hats to sausages and coffee beans. The markets make the city centre smell like an apple strudel doused in sugar and watching an old fashioned German merry go round with colourful vintage horses and carriages gives you the cosiest of Christmas feelings. You can wander around from one end to another admiring Birmingham's fascinating sites from the modernist Library of Birmingham to the Greek-temple-esque Town Hall and the silver discs of Selfridges. The city gets such a special glow when the markets open every year!
⭐ Winter Social
Newly this year we've also seen the Independent Christmas Market endearingly called Winter Social open on The Balcony of Selfridges. Local traders from Birmingham & the Black Country are bringing you the best of local cuisine & music. You can taste everything from traditional English ales to a BBQ Chicken Tikka in a baked flat bread paired with Christmas music provided by local DJs. This alternative little market is perfect for those strolling down from the Bullring with arms on the floor dragging bags overflowing with Christmas presents and in desperate need of a Christmas spruce up!
⭐ All the German foods & drinks you could dream of
Being from the Czech Republic, German foods & drinks are as close to home as I can get. And growing up on the border between the Czech Republic, Germany and Austria, our table was always full of German-inspired treats. I can't resist a good hearty slice of a warm poppy seed or quark strudel, a mug full of steaming mulled wine and a good old pretzel. And I eat hot dogs drenched in German mustard because that's what Czech people do (& because it's bloody delicious!). And if mulled wine is not your kind of thing then you can't say no to a cool crisp pint of a German draught beer.
⭐ From the top of the world (or Birmingham)
If a pop up London Eye isn't unique enough for you then what is! The absolutely giant ferris wheel that pops up above Birmingham every winter has become a Christmas staple for the city. You can see the whole city from it - the little German Market stalls dotted all around you with the city lights shining bright far into the distance.
⭐ An ice-skating lesson
When I was a kid we used to go ice-skating on a pond. In fact I used to play ice hockey with the local kids every winter! Now these little childhood joys are hard to come by in a country where ponds only very rarely freeze over. That's why the ice-skating rink at the foot of the giant ferris wheel has quickly become my favourite stop in wintery Birmingham. Chances are you'll look like a fool (that is if you're anything like me and every attempt to look like a professional figure skater ends up in you tumbling over a penguin) but you'll have the time of your life!
🇨🇿 5 reasons to visit the Christmas Markets in PragueWhen: 26th November 2016 - 6th January 2017
Where: Old Town Square, Wenceslas Square, Republic Square, Prague Castle, Kampa Island, Havel Market and many more locations throughout the city
⭐ The world's best Christmas markets
And that's not just a vain big-headed claim by your favourite Czech - that's a fact, confirmed by CNN right here. Prague itself is such a fairy tale city that Christmas markets always look like they truly belong to the city's landscape. The medieval architecture of surrounding buildings lends itself seamlessly to the cosy wooden huts decorated with red velvet ribbons and fir garlands, steaming pots of soups and warm mead and choirs singing traditional carols on every corner (even from the tops of the city's spires). The city quickly becomes full of hustle & bustle around this time of the year, but the hurry is pushed aside by the warm glow of Christmas lights, mistletoe twigs hanging above every door way and the sweet scent of purpura (a Czech potpourri you burn on the stove at Christmas and it makes your house smell like a sweet shop).
⭐ The Bohemian spirit
Whereas the Birmingham Christmas Markets are German, the ones in Prague are based solely around Czech traditions and everything Bohemian. You can explore hundreds of stall with traditional crafts from your old fashioned blacksmith making real horse shoes to a lady dressed in a folk Bohemian garb slicing homemade cheese and roasting a piglet on a spit. Stuff your belly with halusky (potato dough dumplings baked in lard and topped with bacon and sauerkraut) or langos (a doughey pancake covered in a ton of tomato sauce and cheese). You can learn how to make gorgeous Christmas decorations from hay and straw or buy a bunch of intricate baubles made out of hand blown glass.
⭐ So. Many. Markets.
As you can tell, Czech people are ever so fond of their traditions and welcome every opportunity to showcase them. Apart from visiting the main Christmas Markets at the Old Town Square and the Wenceslas Square I urge you to visit the other smaller ones dotted around the city too! There's a Christmas version of their regular farmer's market, a little quaint Christmas market at the square of the Prague Castle or the Havel Market surrounded by loads of little snug cafes taking you back to the era of the First Republic with its genuine vintage charm. And there's so many more!
⭐ Building a snowman
Although snow can never be guaranteed you're pretty likely to get some snow in Prague when visiting in between December and February. And when it snows in Prague, it snows. One of the most magical views you'll ever see is Prague at night with the very first few snow flakes of the year slowly fluttering down. I remember the very first time I saw this and it was such a humbling moment to see all the historical buildings that's been there for centuries and centuries getting their snowy caps on, and the red roofs lighten up under the veil of white. And you can build a bloody snowman, hurray!
⭐ The fairy tale views
You already know that I have a thing for heart-stopping views of cities (see Prague's best views here) but seeing smoking chimneys on the backdrop of a sea of red roofs and the crisp winter sun is absolutely brain-melting. You just stand there looking around breathless thinking life couldn't get much better right now. And then you hear a choir singing Christmas carols and smell the warm mead mixed with hot chestnuts and your heart actually melts.
I cannot wait to book another flight to Prague (actually searching for one as I type), hopefully for January so we can see the snow! This way I'd like to say a massive thank you to Birmingham Airport & Czech Airlines for re-introducting the route between Birmingham & Prague. Now it takes less time (and it's much more comfortable!) to get from mine to Prague than it is to get to London, yes! And whilst waiting for your plane you can raid (figuratively, you do have to pay for it right) the World Duty Free shop like I did back here or just chill at the many restaurants & eateries in the departure hall. And have I mentioned how utterly lovely the cabin crews of Czech Airlines are? I've flown so many times with so many different airlines by now and they are honestly at the top with their professional attitude and friendliness.
If you'd like to book yourself a wintry trip to Prague to see the Christmas Markets or you know, just to stand at the top of the Petrin Hill above Prague and have your heart melt away with all the beauty before your eyes click away here. It is also a million dollar destination for New Year's Eve. And by that I mean you'd save a million dollars because a pint in Prague costs a quid and a day saver on public transport is still just £3.
Have you been to Prague for the Christmas Markets before?
Which Christmas markets have you visited this year so far? Birmingham? London? Frankfurt?