One thing about I love about our beloved Europe in winter, is that most of the countries are organising fairytale Christmas Markets. If you love Christmas, then visiting Europe in winter is like stepping into a magical land, with fairy lights everywhere, traditions kept alive from hundreds of years ago, great food and, of course, plenty of mulled wine when the temperatures reaches below zero. The Christmas Markets in Europe have the power to light up the spirit of Christmas into everyone’s hearts.
Let’s find out which are the most beautiful Christmas Markets in Europe:
Vienna Christmas Markets
There is no better place to visit in Europe than Vienna during the festive season. The entire city dresses up in a dress made out of lights, with different Christmas Markets organised in the most popular parts of the city. It’s not just that though, as you will find a few stalls selling mulled wine and punch pretty much everywhere around the Austrian capital. There are actually more than 20 Christmas markets dotted around Vienna.
The Christmas Markets in Vienna are proper fairytales. The most famous Christmas Market in Vienna is organised in front of the city hall. Christkindlmarkt has everything to make your visit to Vienna magical: a massive Christmas tree with a spectacular backdrop of the Rathaus, an ice rink, plenty of stalls selling traditional Austrian food and sweets, mulled wine, punch, and the most gorgeous tree decorations.
Another great Christmas Market to visit in Vienna is at Schönbrunn Palace. This smaller market is held in the palace’s courtyard and has around 100 stalls that sell traditional crafts and Christmas decorations.
No matter which Christmas Market you decide to visit, you should know that you can take the mulled wine mug with you, as a souvenir. Each market has its own design, which changes every year. Each time you buy a mug of mulled wine, you will pay an extra deposit of 2 euros on top. If you don’t want the mug, you can return it and receive the 2 euros back.
Munich Christmas Markets
By Kathryn from Biker Girl Life
If you want to visit a Christmas market in Europe, Munich should definitely be high on your list. Not only does the city have fantastic German architecture and the world famous Glockenspiel (worth the trip just to see!), but there’s also a decent chance of snow, making the entire place utterly magical.
There are 7 different Christmas markets across the city and each have their own different attractions and atmosphere. The largest is the main market in Marienplatz, the central square, which is dominated by a huge tree and has many traditional stalls selling gifts, decorations, sweets and souvenirs, as well as several selling food and drink. The market is open from 10am until 9pm (8pm on Sundays).
Don’t miss the ‘olden’ market, which has stalls and gifts made just as they were many years ago; wooden toys, leather bags and carvings are widely sold here and it’s common to see people wandering around in traditional Munich dress.
For refreshments, you must try the gluhwein- a warm, spiced wine served in cute mugs. These mugs are highly collectible and the designs change each year, so you can collect a range of them as souvenirs. To accompany this, you can find chocolates, spiced nuts, pretzels and many other delicious goodies to tempt you.
But what I love most about this city at Christmas is the atmosphere. The beer halls are packed with both tourists and locals and everywhere you go there is music, laughter and good spirits. It’s a wonderful way to get ready for the festive season.
Bolzano Christmas Market
By Danila from Travelling Dany
Bolzano is one of the most well-known Christmas Markets in Italy. Located in the Northern Trentino Alto Adige region, it has everything you’ve ever dreamed of.
Snow. Great food. Handmade ornaments. Italian Christmas carols. The whole deal!
Trentino Alto Adige is famous because of its Christmas markets. They all have a Tyrolean atmosphere, usually associated with other European markets.The Bolzano Christmas market in particular looks a bit like the ones held in Germany or in Austria.The Christmas market held in Bolzano is the oldest one in Italy. It began in 1991 and as of today, it consists of over 80 wooden stalls.They are all located in Piazza Walther, the biggest square in town.
Quality over quantity has always been the main motto. So instead of adding more stalls, the Bolzano Municipality decided to invite only the best artisans. Those who craft high quality Italian products and cook the finest seasonal dishes.
The Bolzano Christmas Market smells like spices and cinnamon. You can grab a cup of mulled wine to get warm after spending the day exploring in a snowmobile. And then enjoy a slice of homemade “Zelten”. A special bread made with spices and dried fruit, which is a traditional Christmas dish in Trentino.
This lovely Christmas market is open from November 26, 2021, to January 6, 2022. You can visit all the stalls from 10am to 7pm.
The Christmas Markets in Alsace
By Elisa from France Bucket List
The Alsace Christmas markets are the most beautiful Christmas markets in France. They are located in the historic region of Alsace, Eastern France, and they will likely steal your heart.
The main Christmas markets in Alsace (and also the biggest) are in Strasbourg and Colmar. Actually, the Strasbourg Christmas Market is the oldest in France! However, for a more intimate, fairytale atmosphere, it is worth going beyond these two cities to visit the Christmas markets in Riquewihr, Kaysersberg, Ribeauvillé, and more.
The opening times in the Alsace Christmas markets are different. In general, the chalets open as early as 9 am and remain open until 9-10 pm, from late November to Christmas day.
The Christmas markets in Alsace are a good place to buy unique gifts of all kinds. In most of the markets, the vendors go through a strict selection process to ensure they offer quality handmade products, all made in France.
Also, they all offer seasonal comfort food like sausages, tarte flambée, tartiflette, or crêpes and regional sweets like bredeles or mannele (brioche gingerbread men). For drink, Alsace is well known for its craft beers, and you will also find vin-chaud (mulled wine).
The Alsace Christmas Markets are easy to visit on a day trip from Paris, Lyon, or Frankfurt. If possible, try to spend at least one night on site in Strasbourg or Colmar and book everything well in advance!
Bratislava Main Square Christmas Market
By Martina from PlacesofJuma
If you are looking for a really magical and romantic Christmas Market in Europe, then a visit to Bratislava in winter is probably one of the best choices! During a trip, you can experience a whole series of winter markets, but don`t miss the beautiful Christmas market on the Main Square – (Hlavnom námestí). Here you can expect the most beautiful fairy tale scenery and the atmosphere is incredibly amazing!
The Christmas market is located right in the center of Bratislava and takes place directly on the Main Square (Hlavnom námestí). Nearby is the town hall, from where you can enjoy a beautiful view of the Christmas market from above.
This market is famous for its numerous regional specialties, but also for handicrafts and souvenirs. Of course, you must try the mulled wine, which comes from the wine-growing regions of the area. For children, there is sweet tea or a non-alcoholic children’s punch. Very tasty is also Loksa, a kind of strudel filled either savory with potatoes or sweet with apples, cinnamon and raisins.
Really nice is a visit in the evening! Almost every day local singers and dancers perform and make this market a social attraction. Locals and tourists meet to celebrate Christmas time together!
Between the end of November and December 23rd, the Bratislava Christmas Markets are open from daily from 10 am – 10 pm.
Copenhagen Christmas Markets
By Nadine from Le Long Weekend
Experiencing Christmas in Copenhagen is truly magical. As the birthplace of Hygge, there’s no place quite like it to savour the festive season, and the spectacle that is the city’s Christmas markets. Ranging from the quirky and cool, to sparkling displays of extravagance, to more traditional affairs, there’s a Christmas market in Copenhagen to suit every taste. Head along to the famed Tivoli Gardens to view the glistening Swarovski Xmas tree – which is adorned with over 3000 crystals – have fun on the rides, take in a show and visit the market stalls for upmarket gifts and souvenirs.
Copenhagen’s famous Nyhavn canal is also transformed come December, with decorated wooden huts facing the cosy cafe terraces. For something a little different, head along to Flids Christmas market for original finds made by local artisans. Or, to experience a more traditional offering, hop over to Kongens Nytorv in King’s Square. Wander the stalls and stock up on high quality woollen clothing (the Danes know how to keep warm!), handmade wooden kitchenware, and candles in every shape, scent, and size!
The markets typically run from mid-November to around the 22-24th December (and sometimes pick up again after Christmas). But if you can, try to time your visit to be in Copenhagen on the 13th of December to witness the annual Santa Lucia parade – a colourful kayak Christmas parade in the canals!
Prague Christmas Markets
By Samantha from The Wandering Wanderluster
Prague is one of the most visited cities in Europe and one that can be visited throughout the year. While many tourists visit during the summer months, in recent years Prague’s Christmas Markets have become extremely popular. There are numerous Christmas markets dotted around the city, with the largest Christmas Market located in the Old Town Square. There you will find the square filled with festive wooden huts, a spectacular Christmas Tree at its centre and a decorated footbridge where you can stand and take in the whole market.
The Christmas Markets typically begin on the last weekend of November and end the first week of January and are open daily even on Christmas Day itself! While there is nothing typically “Czech” about the markets, you will find a host of wonderful hand-made crafts and gifts available to buy including hand painted baubles with scenes of Prague, delicious and beautifully decorated gingerbread biscuits, sheep’s wool mittens and booties, and hand-made wooden toys.
The highlight for many is the lighting of the Christmas tree that begins around 4.30pm and rings every hour after. Accompanied by seasonal music, the tree lights up and sparkles adding to the festive atmosphere. Those who are looking to visit Prague’s Christmas Markets would be wise to visit on the first opening weekend when crowds are fewer and hotel prices are at their lowest during the advent season.
The Christmas Markets in Cologne
By Catherine from World Wide Honeymoon
When it comes to fairytale Christmas markets in Europe, Germany reigns supreme. Cologne is certainly no exception!
There are at least 7 main Christmas markets around the city of Cologne, each with its own flair and charm. You could certainly hit up the Cologne Christmas market highlights in one day, making it a great stop on your journey around Europe!
First and foremost, you’ll want to visit the Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market, right next to the towering Cologne Cathedral. This market boasts over 150 stalls selling food, trinkets, and more! There is also a gigantic tree in the centre and a stage for performances.
This is Cologne’s busiest and most popular market, so visiting earlier in the day and mid-week will ensure fewer crowds. Be sure to get some potato pancakes with applesauce, churros with chocolate sauce, and, of course, a cup of gluhwein (mulled wine).
Another market that you must visit is the Alter Market. This market is massive and only 200 meters from the cathedral. Easily the most elaborately decorated, this is also known as the “gnome market” for its cheeky gnomes located on signs, stalls, and even on the mulled wine mugs!
You could easily spend all day at this market eating sausages grilled over an open fire, playing ice stock curling, going ice skating, or taking the kiddos here for fun on the carnival rides!
While there are plenty of other markets to see, be sure to visit the Village of Saint Nicholas after dark. The castle gate of Hahnentorburg is lit up with a light show that dances around to the music! It is a sight to see. This market has a cosy chalet theme too, making it ideal for an evening visit.
The 2021 Christmas market dates for Cologne are November 22-December 23. Cologne is an ideal place to spend the holiday season!
Belfast Christmas Market
By Allan from Bangor NI
As a destination, the capital city of Northern Ireland is relatively small compared to the major cities of Europe, but this also works in its favour as the festive season in Belfast centres around the sole Christmas Market at Belfast City Hall.
As a location it is about as central as it gets in Belfast, and not only does it make for the fairytale backdrop of a Christmas Market but it is an attraction in itself with its prestige and history shared through buildings and monuments of the grounds. It also possible to tour the museums and exhibitions of the building for free through the festivities which begin in early November before closing again of Christmas Eve.
The market itself is otherwise cantered around 2 heated beer tents where visitors can escape the cold to eat their foods and snacks along with continental beers and a bit of Northern Irish craic (local banter). Some of the more popular stalls in the market would include the traditional hog roast, the many German sausage vendors, and ‘Meats of the World’ with some unlikely burgers to choose from including ostrich and kangaroo.
Belfast itself is also easy to explore on foot, and the Belfast Christmas Market is located just 5-minutes between the 2 central transit hubs (Lanyon Place and Great Victoria Street). Surrounding are then all sorts of Christmassy goings-on with the central shopping streets just next door and warm welcomes in Belfast’s traditional Irish bars.
Eguisheim Christmas Market
By Jackie from Jou Jou Travels
Eguisheim is a beautiful fairytale town located in France and boasts one of the best Christmas Markets in the Alsace region. The town is truly magical especially during Christmas time. In fact, the village was inspired by the Disney movie, Beauty and the Beast where the movie designed the film set straight from Eguisheim! This particular village was named one of the prettiest villages in France and you can clearly see why as soon as you arrive.
The Christmas Market takes place each year between November 26th and December 23rd. It is open daily from 9 AM. to 7 PM. and from 9 AM to 8 PM on Saturdays. It is a much smaller and more intimate market making it even more magical. The town is full of half timbered gingerbread style houses and is full of so much Christmas spirit. The craftmanship and goods sold are so unique and specialized. You can find amazing treats to indulge in like gingerbread cookies, snacks like sausage, and mulled wine to keep you warm and cosy. For sale, you will find ornaments, socks, and other fun Christmas souvenirs.
To get to Eguisheim, the closest airport is Basel or Strasbourg and from there you can take the train or drive if you have a car. There are also many other unique towns all around including Colmar and Riquewihr for example.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber Christmas Market
By Raluca from Travel with a Spin
Rothenburg ob der Tauber looks like a huge Disney Christmas village in December. It would be impossible to walk its cobblestone alleys full of sparkling decorations and not feel the holiday spirit.
Reiterlesmarkt is among the oldest Christmas markets in Germany, with an over 500 years tradition. Its central point is the town market. That’s also the place where Santa meets children and sings joyfully songs, sometimes accompanied by trumpeters. In order to get a better overview of the market, one can climb the tower of the town hall. On one side of the town market stands Kathe Wohlfahrt Village, a paradise of handmade Christmas decorations open all year round with a Christmas museum on the second floor.
The Christmas market spreads on several streets, however the community feeling is very strong there, compared to other Christmas markets in Germany. Every year, a new model of mug dedicated to the season is launched, but one can also see the ones from the past years. In other German cities, one has to return the mug to the same stand, but in Rothenburg ob der Tauber there are special stands where one can return any mug. Quite handy (if you don’t want to keep it as a souvenir)!
At the Christmas market, besides white Franconian mulled Gluhwein or Eierpunsch, one has to taste at least one Schneeball, a local pastry with different tasty fillings. The market opens four weeks before Christmas, which is a great event, and unfortunately closes pretty early, at around 8:30pm.
York Christmas Market
By Sinead from York with Kids
The City of York in northern England hosts a six weeklong Christmas festival, the St. Nicholas Fair, and the Christmas market is at the heart of this fair. Over 100 wooden chalets line York’s pedestrianised city streets selling a range of locally made handicrafts including silver jewellery, paintings, photography and woollen goods.
The market is popular with locals who flock here to buy locally produced food and drink for their Christmas tables such as flavoured Yorkshire gin, wine and chocolate. These goods – which are not widely available elsewhere – make great souvenirs for visiting tourists. The market opens from 10am and continues late into the evening when Christmas lights, buskers, choirs and brass bands add to the festive atmosphere. There are fairground rides to entertain children and weary shoppers can rest and recharge in Thor’s Tipi, an enormous canvas tipi erected for the duration of the market. The tipi sells non-alcoholic hot drinks as well as the traditional English Christmas drink mulled wine, a hot drink made from red wine and spices. Shoppers sit on communal, sheepskin covered benches around an open fire creating a convivial atmosphere.
If you are visiting York specifically for the market, allocate extra time to your trip to explore the other attractions that York has to offer at Christmas. Attend a candle lit service at York Minster, the largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe, walk the city’s medieval walls, the longest city walls in England which are illuminated at Christmas or enjoy a traditional British pantomime at the theatre. Christmas in York is a magical time and the city was justly voted Most Festive UK City in 2017.
Goslar Christmas Market
By Vicki from Vicki Viaja
Germany is famous all over the world for its beautiful and authentic Christmas markets. Outside of Germany, however, only a few people know about this one Christmas market, which is voted one of the ten most beautiful Christmas markets in Germany almost every year: Goslar’s Christmas market. It is located in the marketplace in the heart of Goslar, one of the most beautiful places in the Harz Mountains, in the northern centre of Germany, and can be visited during the Christmas season between 10 am and 08 pm.
This magical Christmas market is lovely with its medieval charm and small-town atmosphere. The scenic Christmas market is surrounded by old buildings and picturesque half-timbered houses, which contributes to its extraordinary atmosphere. In addition, the imposing market fountain is located in the center of the market, which is set with a golden eagle, the emblem of the city.
In keeping with the medieval vibe of the market, some stalls also sell medieval delicacies. So you definitely shouldn’t miss the medieval overbaked flatbreads from the stone oven.
Despite the medieval atmosphere, you don’t have to miss out on the German Christmas market classics. Of course, you can also enjoy an authentic hot mulled wine at the Goslar Christmas market. For this, it is worth heading to the second part of the Christmas market on the opposite square. Here, an authentic illuminated Christmas Forest made of real fir trees is set up every year, where you can enjoy your hot drink or a tasty snack.
The Christmas Markets in Budapest
By Antoine and Marielle from Offbeat Escapades
Voted as one of Europe’s most beautiful Christmas Markets, Budapest is a great city to venture into during the months of November to January. The Hungarian Capital is teeming with hundreds of market stalls, Christmas lights, and a festive mood, all while surrounded by the majestic architecture of the city.
There are actually over 6 Christmas Markets in Budapest itself. However, the main markets can be found in the city center (Pest side), specifically in Vörösmarty Square and St. Stephen’s Basilica, just a few blocks away from the Danube River. Not only will you find stalls selling different homemade products — there is also a skating rink, a huge Christmas tree, creative animations, and various events held in the market. Perhaps, the best part though is the experience of strolling through the market with a cup of mulled wine and a portion of their sweet chimney cakes and Hungarian honey cookies.
This year the Christmas Market is set to open from November 8th until January 1st, from 17:00 to 20:00 on weekdays and 10:00 to 12:30 / 16:00 to 20:00 on the weekends. There is no entrance fee to the market which makes it one of the best things to do in Budapest on a budget.
Krakow Christmas Market
By Karolina from Polish Foodies
Christmas Market in Krakow (Krakowski Jarmark Bożonarodzeniowy) is one of the best in the world. Why? Let’s start with the location. It’s taking place in the heart of the city, on the famous Old Market square (Rynek). It’s the most frequently visited tourist attraction in Poland.
Not only you will be surrounded by lovely and colorful tenement houses but also you will have a chance to buy some great souvenirs!
If you like handicrafts, you will find lots of them on Krakow’s Christmas market. From colourful handmade hats, gloves, scarves, and toys to unique paintings made by local artists.
If you are a foodie, the Christmas Market in Krakow won’t disappoint you! Warm yourself up with a glass of Grzaniec Galicyjski, Polish mulled wine. Be sure to try traditional Polish food, such as pierogi (the famous Polish dumplings), bigos (Polish sauerkraut stew), kiełbasa (sausage), grochówka (Polish split pea soup), and gołąbki (Polish stuffed cabbage rolls). Even if it’s cold outside, these Polish specialties will keep you warm for a long time!
The Christmas market in Krakow starts at the end of November and lasts for a month. If you are visiting krakow during Christmas time, you will have a chance to see the famous Krakow Szopka! This competition for the most beautiful Nativity Scene has been even listed by UNESCO.
Zagreb Christmas Market
By Olivia from Inspired by Croatia
During the months of December and January, Croatia’s capital transforms into a glittering winter wonderland.
Voted “Best Christmas Market in Europe” three years in a row by “European Best Destinations”, Zagreb has set the bar high when it comes to holiday festivities.
This spectacular city-wide experience is spread throughout Zagreb’s main squares and gathering places, each with its own unique theme. Every location offers a different experience from picturesque ice skating rinks and family-friendly activities to fusion cuisine and DJs that play late into the night.
At the Zagreb Christmas Market, visitors will find charming stalls offering a variety of merchandise including handcrafted ornaments and goods tied to local traditions and culture. One popular souvenir from this particular region of Croatia is a heart-shaped gingerbread cookie known as the Licitar. While formerly an edible sweet, the Licitar heart is now mainly used for decorative purposes and makes a lovely addition to any Christmas tree.
In addition to souvenirs, jewellery, ceramics, and other trinkets, food stalls are plentiful at the Zagreb Christmas Market. A few delicacies worth seeking are kobasice (homemade pork sausages), fritule (fried dough resembling donut holes), and kuhano vino (mulled wine).
Above all else, Christmas markets are a place for gathering and spending quality time with your loved ones. To make the experience extra memorable, Zagreb’s Christmas Market boasts a program of cultural performances, concerts, art installations, and even a festive tram that drives throughout the city and is operated by Santa himself!
For more things to do in Zagreb, be sure to check out this 2-day Zagreb itinerary
Ljubljana Christmas Market
By Tjaša from The Travel Momento
Get into the festive spirit, experience the white snowy scenery, indulge in delicious food, and be amazed by the dazzling decorations offered by the Christmas market in Ljubljana, Slovenia, also known as the Ljubljana Festive Fair. One of the most beautiful Christmas markets is held in several locations throughout the historical old town: Prešern Square, along the Ljubljanica river embankment and Congress Square, Mestni Trg Square. The wooden stalls are decorated with Christmas ornaments selling handmade crafts from local businesses and upcoming designers. Here you can get memorable and unique gifts such as hats, gloves, bags and more. You can also enjoy the sparkly view from the Ljubljana Castle, which offers splendid views of fairytale lightened streets.
Ljubljana Festive Fair usually opens on the last day in November and runs every day until the Three Kings on January 6th. The stalls are open until 10 pm during weekdays and until 11 pm during weekends. As you wander through the Christmas market, you will have an opportunity to try Slovenian specialities like potica (sweet hazelnut cake), roasted chestnuts, honey, schnapps, local hot mulled wine (kuhano vino in Slovenian language) sweetened with orange and cinnamon and many other sweet pastries. In addition, the magical atmosphere of gorgeous Christmas lights and decorations lighting up the medieval streets is something unforgettable. You can also enjoy the numerous free music concerts and festive events for all generations throughout December.
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