European Christmas markets

Spice up the season with a short break abroad

If you really can't wait until Christmas, why not book a trip to one of Europe's festive markets? There are plenty within easy driving distance of the UK and they provide a great opportunity to get into the Christmas spirit before the real festivities begin.

Christmas markets are ideal places to find special gifts, stocking fillers and festive treats. Many also offer live music and other attractions such as skating rinks and children's entertainment.

To make sure your trip is an enjoyable one, take out AA European Breakdown Cover to help keep you on the road in Europe. You can save up to 30% when you buy online*.

AA members also enjoy discounts on ferry crossings.

Make savings across Europe, simply by showing your AA membership card, through the ARC Europe scheme.

Antwerp, Belgium

Antwerp Christmas Market

Fashionable Antwerp offers a wonderful festive experience, with a Christmas market stretching across several squares in the city centre. Stock up on Christmas decorations and stocking fillers from the traditional wooden chalets while enjoying some tasty mulled wine.

Once you've exhausted the festive stalls of the Christmas market, Antwerp offers an excellent shopping experience for lovers of fashion and diamonds.

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Bruges, Belgium

In the run-up to Christmas there's more to the Belgian city of Bruges than lager and lace. The main square is transformed into a winter wonderland of festive market stalls surrounding an ice rink. Browse the Christmas market for hand-made decorations and edible gifts before trying a local beer or two.

There are plenty of cobbled streets, shopping squares and boutique galleries to explore during daylight hours. And if it's traditional tourist trinkets you're after, look no further than Wollestraat.

Ghent, Belgium

Ghent Christmas Market

St Baafsplein, in Ghent, hosts a Christmas spectacular in December. Enjoy the sound of a choir singing carols while you browse the chalets at the Christmas market and tuck into some festive food.

Away from the Christmas market, head to Vlaanderenstraat for the best boutiques, the Veldstraat area for department stores, or check out more unusual shops on Koestraat and Kalandestraat.

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Lille, France

Lille is the first Christmas market to open in France each year and its chalets offer original gifts, traditional toys, European specialities and more. There's also a fairground and children's entertainment to enjoy.

The city itself is a great shopping destination, with old cobbled streets, chic boutiques, the 100-unit Euralille shopping centre and the discount shops of the Rue Gambetta area. Rue du Faubourg des Postes has become a focal point for the fashion conscious, and is home to young up-and-coming designers selling their own creations.

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Paris, France

Arc de Triomphe at night, Paris

Traditional Christmas markets appear in several parts of Paris during the festive season, including the Avenue des Champs-Elysées, La Defénse and Place de la Trocadero.

Sample some vin chaud and enjoy a festive river cruise as darkness descends, to see Notre Dame illuminated from the Seine.

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Save up to 30% on European breakdown cover*

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* The discount is made up of 20% online discount plus a further 10% discount for AA members and any eligible AA customers. The discounts are only available online at

Updated May 2014