I’m not sure what it is I love about Christmas markets. I don’t even really celebrate Christmas.

But there’s something about the lights, the smell of food and the chocolatiest of hot chocolates that makes me that little less emo. Unless I’m listening to Chris Farren’s Like a Gift From God or Whatever.

With ten days of holiday at work left to take before the end of the year, I decided to travel to four countries around Europe visiting Christmas markets.

Here are my photos from a trip I’ll never forget.

Cologne Christmas Market

First on the list was Cologne (as there was a super cheap plane fare from London).

German Christmas markets are bigger and better than your average Christmas market. The first ever Christmas market was Dresden’s Striezelmarkt was first held in 1434.

10 Days, 4 European Christmas Markets: Cologne, Bruges, Budapest and Vienna 1

Cologne had five giant Christmas markets – Cathedral, the Old Town, Angel’s Market in the City (Neumarkt), the Harbour and Gay Christmas Market. I think the Cathedral market was my favourite. It provided a stunning backdrop.

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>>> Advantages and disadvantages of traveling alone <<<

Bruges Christmas Market

After a 3/4 hour train journey, I arrived in Bruges. I was most excited about visiting Bruges out of the four destinations as I loved the movie In Bruges.

It’s very picturesque with its cobbled roads and historic architecture, particularly Grote Markt.

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10 Days, 4 European Christmas Markets: Cologne, Bruges, Budapest and Vienna 12
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I loved the ice rink taking centre stage with the markets around it. And it’s no surprise the Belgians make a mean hot chocolate!

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I arrived late at the historic bell tower which overlooks the square. I could only stay around and take photos at the top for minutes as the wind chill was too much to bear! But it was worth it for the views.

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I also went to Brussels for a few hours as I had to catch a plane from there to Budapest, but their Christmas market was a bit anti-climatic compared to Cologne and Bruges’.

The grand square lived up to its name however.

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10 Days, 4 European Christmas Markets: Cologne, Bruges, Budapest and Vienna 26

Budapest Christmas Market

Budapest may have had the least grand Christmas markets of the four, but I unexpectedly fell in love with the city.

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I went to Budapest knowing very little about the history, culture or food.

I loved walking along the hills of Buda which seemed to get better and better as I went along.

Starting at Citadella, you can capture terrific views of the river Danube and the city skyline.

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I even tried archery at the old Olympic stadium (which I was awful at).

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And walked all the way along to the fairytale Fisherman’s Bastion.

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Across the water, there’s the impressive government building.

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10 Days, 4 European Christmas Markets: Cologne, Bruges, Budapest and Vienna 36

And the food is maybe my favourite thing about Budapest. Delicious meat, desserts and stews galore, just what you need when it’s -10°C! My absolute heaven.

Actually, the pinball museum runs Hungarian food for a close first place. I must have spent 2-3 hours playing all the pinball machines.

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10 Days, 4 European Christmas Markets: Cologne, Bruges, Budapest and Vienna 38

Vienna Christmas Market

Vienna also took me by surprise.

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Grand buildings everywhere you turn, which includes the grand palace, Schonbrunn.

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The Christmas market isn’t bad either. It’s huge, even against the dominant Rathaus building.

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I didn’t have a lot of time in the city, so I’ll definitely come back for the art museums and galleries.

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