Christmas Markets Outside Germany

Advent has arrived and with it Christmas preparations in earnest.  Germany isn’t the only European country with Christmas markets, of course, and each town’s market has a flavour and style of its own to explore, especially as you cross the border into different countries.  Here is a quick look at some of the best outside Deutschland.

Vestibuel in Vienna

The logical next step after Germany when it comes to Christmas markets is Austria, of course, where the language and culture are German or a near relative.  Vienna has ancient Christmas markets whose origins date back to the 13th century as well as modern ones.  There are twenty-one separate Christmas markets in Vienna  to explore, like the one in front of City Hall.  And in the Rathauspark nearby, the Christmas season is in full swing with decorated trees, pony rides, trips on the Christkindl Express and pretty fairy-tale scenes to delight old and young alike.  And if you want to keep the magical Viennese theme going into supper, book Vestibuel, a grand restaurant befitting royalty that’s just across the park. It serves Austrian cuisine with a modern touch and has a special Christmas offer: 4 courses for 61 euros.  It’s also convenient for the Altweiner Christmas Market set among the many palaces of the Freyung district in the Old Town.

Nemtoi restaurant

Had enough of cute?  The cutting edge Nemtoi restaurant in the cool Levant Parliament Hotel is one of the most striking spaces anywhere in Vienna and recalls the city’s history at the vanguard of contemporary design.  Modern Austrian with an international edge is the menu and the lovely courtyard garden space only gets more exciting as day becomes night.
The Christmas Village at the Maria-Theresien Platz is another classic Christmas market surrounded by impressive Viennese architecture and featuring Christmas craft stalls and culinary delights.  Not far away is Kristian’s Monastiri, a stunning restaurant set in a 19th century Biedermeier building that is now a beautiful modern restaurant featuring Mediterranean cuisine prepared before you in the show kitchen.
We Britons already love the Christmas Market — or Marche de Noel — because it’s so easy to reach on the Eurostar and once you arrive you find it in the Place Rihour in the centre of town.  There are stalls of arts and culinary delights of the French variety and entertainment for children.  On 18 December Father Christmas ‘falls’ from the belfry of the Chamber of Commerce and it’s quite thrilling.

l'Ecume des Mers

We have several restaurants nearby for you to duck into when your feet start to complain.  Le Fossile features northern French cuisine and an historic collection of armagnacs and the dining room has original beams and other antique details.  Open every single day of the year, l’Ecume des Mers offers the freshest of seafood in an elegant, mezzanined space with several private rooms for groups and parties.  N’Autre Monde is an intimate restaurant with pink walls, empire chairs and such a colonising sensibility that its French cuisine is touched by all the gastronomy of the world.  It’s a quirky spot with very good food and friendly service and our diners consider it a toptable hidden gem.

Le Tire-Bouchon

Because of its location in the Alsace, Strasbourg has passed back and forth between the French and the Germans for centuries.  As a result, their spoken French is heavily inflected with German intonation and they have the greatest Marche de Noel in all France.  There are a pair of huge markets, one in front of the enormously tall 15th century cathedral where there has been a market since 1570, and the other facing the lovely opera house.  If you’re shopping at the cathedral one, you’ll be glad to know about Le Tire-Bouchon, a traditional winestube with a generous heart that seats hundreds and has several choices of charming private spaces.  The menu is absolutely traditional Alsatian and the wines are too.

Brasserie Flo

There are eleven Christmas markets in all in Strasbourg, but if it’s the enormous traditional one by the Opera House where you find yourself, you’ll also want to save time for Brasserie Flo, a beautiful Belle Epoque stunner with formal waiters, a stained glass ceiling, white table linens and a great big dose of Parisian chic.
Brussels’ Winter Wonders is a fairly mind-blowing collection of markets and entertainments that add up to a hugely inventive and delightful Christmas market experience.  There is a fairground merry-go-round, a huge ferris wheel, 60-metre skating rink, illuminations, Saturday evening concerts and dance-alongs, toboggan run and 240 gift chalets.  toptable only has two restaurants in Brussels, but we really thought you should know about the market.  Blue Elephant is a gorgeous Thai restaurant like the gorgeous Blue Elephant in London, and La Porte des Indes is widely celebrated as the best Indian restaurant in Brussels.  Both are terrific.
Now Paris is getting a bit southern for German-style Christmas markets, but there are still several beautiful Marches de Noel sited in some of the loveliest spots in the capital.   The largest one stretches along the glamorous pavements of the Champs-Elysees from the Rond-Point to the Place de la Concorde.  Villa Spicy isn’t far away and with a special offer of three courses of Mediterranean cuisine and an aperitif for 29 euros, it won’t break the bourse.  The Restaurant du Rond-Point is a charming, idiosyncratic eaterie devoted to seasonal French cuisine with quite a lot of the world added to it.  There are quiet corners as well as a lively bar.

l'Entree des Artistes

South of the river, you’ll find Christmas markets at St Germain, St Sulpice and a sprawling one in the shadow of the Tour Montparnasse.  This one tends to specialise in French regional culinary delicacies and specialties, and as we know toptable diners are often toptable cooks and gourmets, we had a suspicion you’d like to know about this market.  Oddly, Casa Palenque restaurant is a bright, cheerful and not dear restaurant nearby that specialises in the food of Mexico, though you would have gleaned that bit of knowledge from its name.  l’Entree des Artistes restaurant is a theatre-obsessed spot with dramatic decor, a charming French menu with prices that are worth a standing O and friendly service.
Almost wherever you go in northern Europe, you’ll find a Christmas market that reflects the history and local customs of the place, each a story to explore with treasures to uncover.