Germany is the spiritual home of the Christmas market, with expertly produced bratwurst and the almost magical Gothic architecture. In truth, every major German city has a world-class Christmas market, but Hamburg is undoubtedly the best of the bunch. The northern port city boasts 15 different markets, each one with a feel of its own.
The waterside Fleetinsel market is one of Germany's quaintest and most charming, and is a welcome respite from the crowds at the huge city hall market. Hamburg’s Christmas markets definitely offer something for everyone — there’s even an adults-only market on the Reeperbahn.
The finishing touch to any Christmas market is a good sprinkling of snow. In Gothenburg, you're guaranteed plenty of it. Temperatures plummet in Sweden over the festive period, adding a feeling of authenticity to your trip.
Gothenburg's billed as 'Scandinavia's Christmas City' with good reason: the city's four big markets are breathtaking. Gothenburg really does go all out with the twinkle lights and the decoration is second-to-none. The glögg, which is similar to mulled wine but usually also includes a bit of liquor like bourbon, is sure to keep you warm, while reindeer meat is served up alongside the more traditional bratwurst.
Europe may be the birthplace of the Christmas market, but the old world doesn't have a monopoly on the tradition. Chicago’s Christkindlmarket was one of the first in the US, which means they've had plenty of time to get things right. The downtown Loop location may not be very traditional, but something about the market just works. Expect enormous decorations and larger-than-life celebrations.
4. Munich Airport
If Chicago's Christkindlmarket has proven anything, it's that you don't need to be surrounded by gothic architecture to create an inspiring Christmas market. The market inside Munich Airport takes that truth to another level. Now you can experience the joy of an authentic Christmas market, even if it’s just during a short airport layover.
The covered outdoor space is decorated with several hundred real Christmas trees, more than 50 stalls and even a good-sized ice rink. There's the added benefit of being within walking distance of some toasty and tranquil airport lounges.
If you thought it couldn't get any more interesting than enjoying a Christmas market during an airport layover, think again. In Australia, Christmas comes in the peak of summer but even so, most of the cities Down Under host an annual Christmas market.
Brisbane's is one of the most popular, attracting hundreds of local craftsmen and women. This has to be one of the world's most surreal festive experiences. Within a few hours, you can go from relaxing in one of Brisbane’s airport lounges to sipping on warm mulled wine in the middle of the market before traveling on to the beaches of the Gold Coast.
If these five cities can teach us anything, it's that there's no simple formula for creating a world-class Christmas market. Sun or snow, city center or even airport – the magic of Christmas can be anywhere if you get it right.