Expats in Holland may be surprised how affordable a day or weekend excursion to a Christmas market in Belgium, Germany, France or England can be when traveling by international rail…
Here are some Christmas markets and fairs to consider visiting this year, along with train fares and sample hotel rates currently on offer.
BERLIN CHRISTMAS SEASON 26 Nov – 30 Dec 2018
Germany is where the earliest Christmas markets were established back in the 13th and 14th centuries. So what better place to experience the holiday season than by visiting a German Christmas market?
The ‘Berlin Christmas Season‘ market takes place in the historic city center, at the Red Town Hall and St Mary. The stalls are covered with images of houses which stood there at the end of the 19th century. Sculptors, artists, bakers, craftsmen and others sell their holiday and winter products while street organ musicians live actors in period costumes add to the festive spirit, as does the 50-meter high Ferris wheel and 600 m² ice skating rink.
MAGIE DE NOEL (24 Nov – 06 Jan)
There’s never a bad time of the year for visiting Paris, but the holiday season certainly makes for an extra special excursion.
The Magic of Christmas holiday market takes place at Tuileries Gardens which runs along the Seine river near the Louvre Museum. Over 120 chalets will be offering food, gufts and seasonal products, most of which are produced in France. Cuisine and culinary treats from France’s 20 different regions will be on offer. Lots of activities for children and adults alike including performances, puppet shows, a 1,400 m² ice skating rink and 50-meter high Ferris wheel with incredible views of the ‘city of lights’.
Train fare Amsterdam to Paris: from €35 one way, 2nd class on Thalys
Travel time: 3 hours 18 minutes
Hotel rates Paris: from €350 for 2 nights, double occupancy at a 3-star hotel in the Paris city center.
WINTER WONDERLAND HYDE PARK 22 Nov – 06 Jan
London is breathtaking at the holidays, so why not head there and pay a visit to the Winter Wonderland Hyde Park holiday fair?
The event is a virtual smorgasbord of seasonal delight for all ages with the Teletubbies Christmas Show, Peter Pan on Ice, Magical Ice Kingdom presents The Secret Forest, Cirque Beserk, The Snowman immersive cinema, ice bar, ice skating, ice sculpting workshops, Winter Wonderland Comedy Club and lots of food in the Bavarian Village, Bar Hutte, The Fire Pit and Thor’s Tipi. And there’s also Santa Land featuring the man in red in a scenic grotto plus 45-meter long ice slide and an ice trike trail.
Train fare Amsterdam to London: from €59 one way, 2nd class on Eurostar
Travel time: 4 hours 30 minutes
Hotel rates London: from €380 for 2 nights, double occupancy at a 3-star hotel in the London city center
Our neighbor to the south, Belgium, offers several large Christmas markets and with a travel time between 1-2.5 hours from Amsterdam, this could easily be a ‘day out’ excursion.
ANTWERP CHRISTMAS MARKET 08 Dec – 06 Jan
The Antwerp Christmas Market runs through the old town center, stretching from Groenplaats to Steenplein with nearly 100 stalls selling Belgian chocolates, artisan crafts and seasonal food and drink like mulled wine and ‘smoutebollen’ (donut fritters). Find lots of Christmas gift options including handmade jewelry. The stalls are open daily until 22:00 and midnight on Friday and Saturday.
In addition to shopping, there are lots of activity and entertainment options including ice skating (a 1,200 m² ice rink), tubing (at Koningin Astridplein), kissing under the mistletoe (a 200 m² mistletoe canopy at Grote Markt) or riding the 55-meter high Ferris wheel (at Steenplein) for a panoramic view of Antwerp.
Train fare Amsterdam to Antwerp: from €20 one way, 2nd class on Intercity Brussels, from €29 one way, 2nd class on Thalys
Travel time: 1 hour 53 minutes on Intercity Brussels, 1 hour 11 minutes on Thalys
Hotel rates Antwerp: from €119 for 1 night, double occupancy at a 3-star hotel in Antwerp city center
WINTER WONDERS 30 Nov – 06 Jan
The Winter Wonders fair is situated in the heart of Brussels, at the Grand-Place and around the Bourse. In addition to the 200 market chalet stalls, festive activities and attractions include ice skating (Place de la Monnaie), a holiday light-and-sound show (Grand Place), light parades, choirs and carolers and a giant Ferris wheel.
Train fare Amsterdam to Brussels: from €25 one way, 2nd class on Intercity Brussels
Travel time: 2 hours 53 minutes
Hotel rates Brussels: from €111 for 1 night, double occupancy at a 4-star hotel in the European district