Brits are likely to travel far and wide for their mulled wine this year, as getaways to European Christmas markets become increasingly popular. 35 per cent of Brits are expected to jet off this December to experience the fare of traditional Christmas markets.1

Visitors to the 157 European Christmas markets collectively spent £4.45 billion in 20142 alone, the mother of all Christmas markets, dominates in terms of popularity, with over 270 million visitors each year – but city breakers now appear to be branching out. There has been a significant increase in the number of travellers heading to alternative European countries for their festive fix.

The number of UK travellers heading to Austria to evoke the Yuletide spirit has risen by 75 per cent over the last two years, and tourism in Belgium has also experienced a 71 per cent boost in footfall, with 12 million total visitors during the Christmas market season last year. 3

Escape Travel Card has also identified a 30 per cent increase in UK travellers spending across European cities in December, especially those with Christmas markets, as people pick up gifts for loved ones and decorations to take home.

Joanne Briggs from Escape Travel Card, said: “We’ve seen an increase in Escape cardholders taking weekend breaks to Europe in December. Spend was up 30 per cent in December 2015 compared to previous years, with Berlin, Prague, and Dubrovnik being the top three destinations. We are expecting this to continue to rise in 2016.”

“ The Christmas markets are definitively a tourist attraction encouraging more people to opt for city breaks over December. Combining a city break with seeing some of the most beautiful Christmas markets in the world is a great chance to learn about Christmas traditions in other cultures. We’ve been able to identify hub spots in Europe using our data and have created a list to help guide travellers’ plans.”

To help those planning a Christmas getaway, Escape Travel Card has put together a list of the top Christmas markets in Europe for 2016.

Escape’s Top Christmas Market Destinations:

  1. Berlin, Germany

From the 23 rd November to 31 st December, explore the capital of the Christmas markets, offering a choice of 60 different markets to choose from. Whether you prefer a cosy, magical market or more lively, urban one, there’s something for you in Berlin. Why not visit the Charlottenburg Castle Christmas market? The castle will be immersed in romantic lighting for 35 days, with a range of festive stalls offering art, crafts, and delicious German delicacies like Lebkuchen and Stollen cake.

 

  1. Prague, Czech Republic

Open from the 3 rd December to 4 th January, Christmas markets in Prague offer brightly decorated wooden huts for shoppers to explore. The beautifully handcrafted wooden toys, ornaments, puppets and dolls make the perfect Christmas gifts for family. Visitors can also enjoy all that the local cuisine has to offer, including large hams roasted on spits, and Klobása – barbequed sausages. Delicious cakes and pastries are prepared in front of you, including Trdelnik, the hot sugar coated pastry.

  1. Dubrovnik, Croatia

The Dubrovnik Winter festival runs from 1 st December to 10 th January, a time where the whole city is filled with joyous sound of traditional Dubrovnik carols and the glow of Christmas decorations. The markets offer beautiful glassworks and handcrafted embroidery, as well as traditional Dubrovnik sweets like Kontonjata, the sweet jelly candy. Ideal for couples and families, visitors can skate around the ice ring in the Old City and even watch a concert by the Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra.

  1. Brussels, Belgium

From the 25 th November to 1 st January explore the wonderful winter celebrations in some of the Brussels most beautiful locations. Festive activities include the magical son & lumière illuminations on the Grand-Place, merry go-rounds on the Place Sainte-Catherine, the large wheel and ice rink at Marche aux Poissons, and of course the Christmas Markets in the city centre. There are 240 wooden Christmas chalets for shoppers to explore and purchase handcrafted gifts, decorations, and of course delicious food dishes such as sausages and sauerkraut.

 

  1. Vienna, Austria

For a romantic Christmas experience between 13 th November and 26 th December, Vienna is a popular choice for couples. There are multiple markets to chose from, including the Weihnachtsdorf market – the most popular Christmas village set against the glorious baroque backdrop. Visitors can indulge in Viennese specialities like the chocolate sachertorte, while drinking mulled wine, and wandering around the market stalls.

 

The Escape Travel Card is ideal for Brits heading to Christmas markets abroad. Accepted everywhere MasterCard is, users load the card with sterling and conversion is done at the point of use with no transaction charges on purchases. If your bill comes to €10, you pay €10. For travellers planning on exploring cities and sight seeing, the card’s features make it the perfect option for keeping spends safe.

Escape’s unique eccount, a secure online account, allows you to transfer money on your card back into the account in the event of loss or theft of the card. It also offers a free SMS service, which can be used to temporarily lock and unlock the card, providing peace of mind to those wandering around city centres. Helping travellers to manage budgets effectively, the eccount enables you to view your balance and statements, top up your account by debit or credit card, and request additional cards to share joint budgets with family or friends.

 

If you’re heading to Europe this winter to see the Christmas markets, visit http://www.escapetravelcard.com and sign up for an Escape Travel card.

Summary of features and benefits of the Escape Travel Card

  • Escape costs just £10 to purchase. This fee is refunded if the card is loaded with £100 within 30 days of application

  • Free to make purchases abroad

  • Add a companion card for £2.50

  • Withdraw cash at over 2.1 million ATMs overseas for FREE* if you withdraw over £100 or equivalent.

  • Maximum load £2000

  • The card can be topped up via bank transfer, at the Post Office, PayPoint locations, or at selected travel agents.

  • Order online at www.escapetravelcard.com (Allow 7-10 working days for cards to arrive.)

  • Instant issue cards are available from various outlets across the UK, giving consumers instant access to their cards. Please visit http://www.escapetravelcard.com/find-local-branch/ to find a retailer near you.

For further editorial information or to request hi-res images and samples, please contact Rebecca Ore or Kim Butigan at JAMpr Ltd:

Tel: 0161 850 0565 E: Rebecca@jampr.co.uk / Kim@jampr.co.uk

The Escape Travel Money Prepaid MasterCard® Card is issued by IDT Financial Services Limited pursuant to a license from MasterCard International Incorporated. MasterCard and the MasterCard Brand Mark are registered trademarks of Mastercard International Incorporated. IDT Financial Services Limited is a regulated bank, licensed by the Financial Services Commission, Gibraltar. Registered Office: 57-63 Line Wall Road, Gibraltar. Registered No. 95716. All communications should be sent to Escape Travel, PO Box 3753, Chester, CH1 9UH.

1  https://abta.com/about-us/press/over-12-million-people-to-take-a-winter-holiday-according-to-abta

2  http://www.retailresearch.org/christmasmarkets.php

3  http://www.statista.com/statistics/421422/christmas-markets-europe-visitor-numbers-by-country-timeline/