WE MIGHT ONLY GET RAIN and not snow but once the twinkly lights go up on Orchard Road every November, the spirit of Christmas becomes hard to resist.
This year’s seasonal cheer is set to get a whole lot jollier with the introduction of two Christmas markets in Singapore’s prime shopping belt.
Taking place now until Dec 30 at Ngee Ann City’s Civic Plaza is Endless Wonder: Christmas On A Great Street. It’s the first time a European-inspired Christmas Market is being held here, and highlights include a duplex carousel, as well as a countdown concert with pyrotechnic display on Christmas eve.
Over at Grange Road, the organisers of Artbox Singapore, Invade Industry, will be transforming the 50,000 sq ft open-air car park there into a market by day and party space by night from Dec 9-30. Dubbed Flashbang, it will feature some 120 retailers and food and beverage operators, workshops, neon-light installations and live music.
Christmas markets originated in Germany and the first was held in the hill-top town of Bautzen in 1384. Traditionally held in town squares, its popularity gradually spread to the rest of Europe.
Revellers feast on everything from piping-hot gingerbread to stollen and eggnog to stave off the wintery temperatures; and there is always plenty of singing and dancing as entertainment.
Outside of Singapore, the Christmas markets in Germany continue to be major crowd-pullers until today. The ones in Nuremberg and Dresden draw about two million visitors annually; Frankfurt and Stuttgart attract more than three million; while Dortmund and Cologne pull in three and a half and four million respectively. In Berlin, there are over 70 Christmas markets to check out.
There are also a handful to explore in London. Hyde Park’s has a fairground atmosphere and features stalls in wooden huts selling handmade gifts, confectioneries, and more; Leicester Square’s includes a Spiegeltent with Christmas-themed revue; while Southbank Centre’s will have various pop-ups.
If you’re in Manchester, head to Albert Square for a European-styled market; St Ann’s Square for a German-themed one; and King Street if you’re in the mood for a French affair. The one at Cathedral Gardens has a family-friendly area so bring the kids. When you buy a hot drink from the bars at the markets, you will pay a £2.50 (S$4.50) deposit which you can return at the end of the night for a refund or take home as a souvenir.
Other European cities with popular festive markets include Innsbruck in Austria, where there are at least half-a-dozen fairs to be found; Strasbourg in France, where you can expect to find 300 stalls spread out over 12 locations in the city centre; and Trondheim in Norway, where you can sample dried reindeer meat.
If you can’t make up your mind, then head to Zagreb in Croatia, where the city has been voted as having the best Christmas market two years in a row (2016 and 2017) by European Best Destinations, a Brussels-based travel organisation.
The enchanting sound of Christmas bells in Zagreb’s main square of Ban Josip Jelacic and the nearby Zrinjevac Park will put you in a Yuletide mood – just follow the scent of gingerbread and mulled wine to find your way there.
Don’t worry about those extra calories; you can burn them off at King Tomislav Square, which gets transformed into a magical winter wonderland with a giant ice park. Now, that is a Christmas that will be difficult to forget.