Christmas Markets - Dutch shopping (and holidaying) delights
A lot of the magic of Christmas is lost if it is spent trawling around shopping centres hunting for a unique gift that, in all likelihood, can be found at another chain store less than a mince pie?s throw away. However, a visit to one of Europe?s top Christmas markets is the perfect antidote. Not only to you get an unforgettable festive experience, you can also load your car up with gifts and get a short holiday into the bargain.
The most sensible way to make the trip is by ferry, and this winter, Stena Line is opening up Holland and Germany?s finest Christmas markets to visitors from the UK. Passengers will be able to escape the rising airline luggage costs onboard one of the twice-daily crossings from Harwich to Holland, perfect for bringing home all sorts of presents for the whole family.
This video highlights two top Dutch Christmas markets, the first being the Fluweelengrot (Velvet Cave Christmas market) at Valkenburg, two hours 30 minutes? drive from the Hook of Holland. It takes place between 20 November and 22 December 2010 and is the most highly anticipated Christmas event in Holland. The atmosphere of the cave evokes ancient and forgotten legends and memories of the city of Valkenburg. A walking tour of the market leads visitors through a romantically lit Christmas cave with impressive mural carvings and sculptures.
The second is the ?Winterland Maastricht,? two hours 20 minutes? drive from the Hook of Holland. Now in it?s 13th year it will be running for six weeks between Friday 3 December - Sunday 2 January 2011, with the Vrijthof transformed into a winter square. Visitors to Maastricht will enjoy a 100m? ice-rink, big wheel, Christmas train, grand carousel and free-flowing Gl?hwein (warm red wine).
Also don?t forget the The Dordrecht Christmas market, 45 minutes? drive from the Hook of Holland, takes place between 17 and 19 December 2010 and is Holland?s biggest Christmas market with over 300 stalls. The entire historic city centre is decorated and the gardens of the Grote Kerk (Large Church) are transformed with Christmas trees and a manger. To get everyone in the festive spirit, there are musical acts to entertain the crowds as well a traditional nativity scene.
Stena Line (www.stenaline.co.uk; 08447 70 70 70) offers daytime and overnight crossings between Harwich and the Hook of Holland aboard two new Superferries, Stena Hollandica and Stena Britannica. Fares start from just ?49 one-way for a driver and car, plus ?12 per additional adult. Cabins for overnight crossings start from ?24 per person one-way, based on two sharing.