Mulled wine, decadent hot chocolate topped with whipped cream and snow-capped wooden huts adorned with sparkling lights… There’s a lot to love about the Christmas markets in Europe. Their history dates way back to the Middle Ages in and around Bavaria where villagers would host markets so people could purchase supplies for winter, then slowly families began to set up their own stalls selling toys and gifts for Christmas. Now, every major European city seems to have its own version of a Christmas market.
Visiting a Christmas market in Europe is a fantastic way to enjoy the festive time of year as well as exploring a new city.
Though the German Christmas markets are often seen as the traditional Christmas markets or most authentic, and they are fantastic, but there are so many other great choices. Whether you love ice skating, you’re travelling with children who want to meet Santa Claus and lots of other variables will depend on which European Christmas market is the ideal one for you. Here are the best Christmas markets in Europe 2022.
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Best Christmas Markets in Europe
Dates: November 21nd – December 23rd
Key Locations: Place de la Cathédrale and Place du Château
You get the best of French and German Christmas markets in Strasbourg because though the UNESCO World Heritage city is in France, it’s a border town with strong German influences. Its main Christmas market is ‘Christkindesmäkir’ and it’s the oldest Christmas market in France, though there are several smaller markets throughout the charming city in which every street is lit up during the festive period.
It seems like no expense is spared as Strasbourg is well known for its magical and epic Christmas tree, music concerts, hundreds and hundreds of wooden stalls in never-ending rows and all the delicious French and German treats like crepes and bratwurst you could possibly consume. There is no wonder why so many visitors’ flock to Strasbourg to check out the markets and seasonal events every year.
Dates: November 26th – January 7th
Key Locations: Ban Josip Jelačić Square and European Square
You might be surprised that Croatia’s capital city is home to some of the best and consistently loved Christmas markets on the continent and you wouldn’t be alone. Croatia is known for its long coastline of beautiful beaches and mild, Adriatic temperatures. But the Zagreb Christmas markets were voted the best Christmas markets in Europe, by visitors, in the European Best Destinations awards in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
The festive markets take over the entire city, but the key locations to visit in Zagreb are Ban Josip Jelačić Square and European Square. Zagreb provides every festive activity possible: you can see Santa in his grotto, one of the biggest Christmas trees lavishly decorated from head to toe, live music, ice skating and lots of Christmassy treats including a Croatian favourite, baked štrukle which is a pastry filled with warm, soft cheese. Where to Stay in Zagreb during Christmas.
Dates: November 24th – January 7th
Key Locations: Town Hall Square
Tallinn Christmas market might be the market to visit in 2019 according to European Best Destinations which awarded the city the title of Best Christmas Market of 2019. It’s easy to see why! Estonia’s capital city might not have the biggest market but it’s a worthy winner.
Tallinn has displayed a Christmas tree in front of its town hall since 1441 which means it’s the first-ever Christmas tree to be put on display in Europe. Children can meet Santa Claus in his own house (or see him pull up in his reindeer-led sleigh!) while adults can tuck into traditional Estonian cuisine like black pudding and sour cabbage while admiring the local artisanal Christmas gifts on sale in the markets.
Dates: November 25th – January 1st
Key Locations: Grand-Place and Plaisirs D’hiver Winterpet
Brussels’ city centre resembles a theme park during the month of December thanks to the extravagant Christmas market that turns Belgium’s capital city into a childlike Christmas paradise.
Over 200 white-topped wooden huts are lined up in Brussels’ Plaisirs D’hiver selling every type of festive delicious-ness under the sun including Brussels’ own well-loved foodie favourites: fries, waffles and lots of Belgian chocolate. At one end stands a huge, lit-up Ferris wheel which offers amazing views over the staggeringly long trail of markets and the other is an indoor ice rink so you can go skating in all weathers and keep out the chill. Where to stay in Brussels for Christmas.
Dates: November 19th – January 3rd
Key Locations: Princes Street Gardens
Though many cities all over the UK host their own Christmas markets, Edinburgh is by far the best and one of the few that continue into the new year. The entire stretch of Princes Street Gardens is overtaken by Christmas stalls selling local Scottish treats which often include Scotch whisky and fudge as well as traditional German market food.
Edinburgh caters well to young children with a Christmas tree maze and a mini train ride that travels around the park. The ‘Edinburgh Eye’ Ferris wheel is the main attraction with amazing views across the entire market and the Scottish capital is already a Dickensian dream with cobbled, covered streets and old, crooked buildings.
Top tip: Visit Edinburgh over New Year’s (‘Hogmanay’ to Scottish people), nowhere does New Year quite like Scotland and it’s a really important holiday to the Scots. Where to stay in Edinburgh for Christmas.
Dates: November 21th – December 23rd
Key Locations: Cologne Cathedral and Neumarkt
Cologne is one of the biggest and best Christmas markets in Germany with markets in no less than seven different locations, each with their own theme. The markets outside Cologne Cathedral have trademark red huts selling all kinds of German treats like glühwein (mulled wine) and bratwurst.
The Old Market near Cologne’s Town Hall is where you’ll find an old-timey, traditional Christmas feel with nativities and wooden stalls selling handmade toys and ornaments. But where Cologne really shines is Heavenue known as the ‘gay’ Christmas market which is always styled with colourful decorations and a stage where acts perform most evenings. In fact, Cologne is the best Christmas market in Europe to visit for its huge programme of music performances. Where to stay in Cologne for Christmas.
Dates: November 26th – January 6th
Key Locations: Wenceslas Square and Old Town Square
Prague is the capital city of Czechia (or the Czech Republic) and it’s the best place to spend Christmas in the country. You can enjoy all the usual festivities of Christmas with a Czech twist. The two main markets, Wenceslas Square and Old Town Square, are only a 5-minute walk apart. They both have Christmas tree-lighting ceremonies every hour in the evening accompanied by a song from the Czech fairy-tale ‘Krkonoše’ and there’s even a small petting zoo with donkeys and goats.
Czech treats sold at the Christmas markets include honey wine and the famous Czech Pilsner beer as well as trdelník pastries and perníčky gingerbread. The 2019 Christmas markets theme is ‘Angels at Christmas’ and Prague is a gorgeous, medieval-esque capital city to visit at Christmastime. Where to stay in Prague for Christmas.
Dates: November 25th – December 23rd
Key Locations: Grüner Markt
The huge, sprawling markets in larger German cities are amazing and there are lots of activities and things to do, but if you’d prefer a smaller and quainter German market then Rothenburg is a fantastic choice.
Grüner Markt Square is the main hub of Rothenburg’s Christmas market and not much about it has changed over the last few decades. Local treats include white mulled wine and roasted nuts as well as the usual German cuisine like sausages, sauerkraut and steins of beer. Where to stay in Rothenburg for Christmas.
Dates: November 11th – January 8th
Key Locations: Schönbrunn Palace and City Hall Square
Vienna Christmas markets derive from some of the very first Christmas markets in Europe, which used to be called ‘December markets.’ Every year, Vienna’s City Hall Square is decorated with the most elaborate and extravagant light displays, rows and rows of market stalls, fairground rides like traditional carousels and Ferris wheels, reindeer rides and craft-making workshops for children.
Schönbrunn Palace is a more grown-up affair with an absolutely gorgeous setting in front of the 18th-century estate with concerts and with any luck, the whole city will be covered in a blanket of snow. But Vienna is such a beautiful city to visit during the festive season whatever the weather. Don’t forget to taste some traditional Viennese treats like coffee or delicate cakes. Where to stay in Vienna for Christmas.
Dates: November 2th – December 31st
Key Locations: St Stephen’s Basilica and Vorosmarty Square
Budapest really goes all out at Christmas. The market in Vorosmarty Square is open for two months and hundreds of thousands of people visit this market every year, not to mention the other smaller markets around the city. There’s an ice rink, weekend folk dance concerts and the market outside St Stephen’s Basilica has the most spectacular Christmas tree.
Budapest stands out from other European Christmas markets by offering guided tours, so you don’t need to be overwhelmed with the sheer amount of choice. The tours will show you where to find the best food, drink and hand-made gifts. Plus, Budapest’s famous thermal baths offer some respite from the cold. Where to stay in Budapest for Christmas.
Dates: November 24th – December 23rd
Key Locations: Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz
There isn’t a county more synonymous with winter and snowy mountains that Switzerland, so it only makes sense that Basel, one of Switzerland’s biggest cities, has some of the best Christmas markets in Europe. The Christmas markets envelop Basel’s entire Old Town and lights and pine trees are just everywhere: along sidewalks, on every building and in every tree.
The stalls are all high-quality with small business owners selling the only the very best handmade Christmas decorations and ornaments, jewellery and wooden toys. And of course, don’t forget to enjoy some local Swiss goodies like cheese and chocolate. Where to stay in Basel for Christmas.
Dates: November 19th – December 30th
Key Locations: Liseberg Amusement Park and Kronhuset
Sweden’s second city, Gothenburg has many smaller markets throughout the port city, but the main attraction is its own version of Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens amusement park. Liseberg is a fairground full of rides for all ages, street stalls and markets and it’s just as spectacular at Christmastime as it is throughout the rest of the year.
Some of Gothenburg’s markets continue right through the new year, allowing you to stay in the Christmas spirit as long as possible. And while Liseberg is the market to head to for families and child-friendly festive activities, the Kronhuset Christmas markets in the Haga district are much more refined and contemporary than most other European markets selling artisanal homeware and soft furnishings.
Either way, make sure you partake in a classic Gothenburg-style cinnamon pastry or two, the bigger the better! Where to stay in Gothenburg for Christmas.
Dates: December 15th – January 1st
Key Locations: Museumplein and Westergas
The Netherlands’ capital city is a great place to visit during the festive season and there are plenty of things to do and markets to visit in Amsterdam. The most well-loved Christmas market in Amsterdam is the Ice Village in Museumplein where there is an ice rink outside the Rijksmuseum; a favourite amongst locals and visitors. Plus, there are Christmas markets around the outside of the rink serving mulled wine and Dutch pancakes and stroopwafels.
The main market is in Westergas where you can enjoy the huge programme of kids’ activities and purchase a wide selection of Christmas gifts. You can even have them gift wrapped at the market too! Don’t miss strolling down Amsterdam’s canals as the Amsterdam Light Festival commissions installations from artists around the world and it’s something you can’t miss if you’re heading to Amsterdam in December. Where to stay in Amsterdam for Christmas.
Dates: November 17th – January 1st
Key Locations: Salzburg Cathedral and Residenz Square
Though Vienna may have one of the oldest Christmas markets, the Austrian city of Salzburg still has markets dating back to the 1500s. It’s such a postcard-perfect snowy city situated near the Austrian Alps and has the best Christmas markets if you want a traditional Christmassy vibe.
The city has market stalls, beautiful lights and Christmas trees just as you would expect of any market, but in Salzburg, the hills really are alive with the sound of music. The jam-packed entertainment programme consists of daily sing-a-longs in the evening, Choral singing in front of Salzburg Cathedra and a wind-instrument orchestra playing in Residenz Square regularly too. Where to stay in Salzburg for Christmas.
Dates: December 6th – December 22nd
Key Locations: Senate Square
Helsinki’s Christmas market may be small compared to some and only lasts around two weeks, but it’s one of the most picturesque winter wonderlands in Europe. The Tuomaan Markkinat (the Finnish capital city’s only market) sits below Helsinki’s clean white cathedral, with ice-blue market stalls and an old-fashioned merry-go-round at the centre which is free to enjoy.
Helsinki is one of the most modern and unique European markets with a quintessentially Finnish sauna right in Senate Square and 100% of the energy used to power the market is from sustainable energy sources and most food stalls sell vegan alternatives. Be sure to wrap up warm as Helsinki can be bitterly cold in December! Where to stay in Helsinki for Christmas.
Dates: December 2nd – January 6th
Key Locations: Piazza Navona and Mercato Monti
The eternal city might be synonymous with a mild climate, but the Christmas advent period is very important to Italians and they celebrate the festive time like every other European country – with markets! Piazza Navona is transformed into a winter wonderland with stunning decorations, a carousel and other fairground rides, stalls selling all kinds of sweets and artwork.
The Mercato Monti market is popular year-round with young fashion fiends who love a quality vintage item. And during Christmas, the indoor market doubles in size with over 50 small businesses selling accessories, jewellery, vintage clothes and antique furnishings. It’s the place to pick up a really special and unique gift for a loved one or an early Christmas present for yourself. Where to stay in Rome for Christmas.
Dates: November 16th – December 31st
Key Locations: Charlottenburg Palace and Gendarmenmarkt
There are plenty of charming and traditional German Christmas markets around the country but because Berlin is Germany’s capital and such a huge metropolis, it has some of the biggest and most extravagant Christmas markets on the continent. The huge Christmas trees and big white tents serving steins and mulled wine by the cask don’t look so big next to the full-sized fairground rides that will entertain children of all ages in the gigantic square next to Charlottenburg Palace.
If you enjoy music and watching performances, head to Gendarmenmarkt to enjoy live music and performances from up-and-coming musicians and professional theatre troops. Where to stay in Berlin for Christmas.
Dates: November 18th – December 31st
Key Locations: Nyhavn and Tivoli Gardens
Tivoli Gardens amusement park is usually closed in the winter but over Christmas and New Year’s, it is transformed into a kid’s (or kid at heart) paradise. Tivoli is home to many traditional fairground rides and at Christmas, the lake freezes over into an ice-skating rink and mini villages of markets pop up selling pastries, bitesize pancakes and Danish honey bread. Copenhagen is the capital city of Denmark after all, it’s hygge-central there!
If you don’t like the idea of a Christmas market surrounded by sugar-hyper children, head to Nyhavn market on the harbour where the beautiful rainbow buildings line the dock. Here, you can expect live bands playing traditional Danish Christmas songs and lots of little huts selling handmade gifts. Where to stay in Copenhagen for Christmas.
Dates: November 23rd – December 24th
Key Locations: Altmarkt Square and Hauptstrasse
Perhaps the most quintessential German Christmas market, Dresden is the oldest in the country and one of the quirkiest. The ‘Striezelmarkt’ in Altmarkt Square is the main Christmas market in Dresden (named after the seasonal ‘stollen’ fruit cake which you should definitely taste at the market!) and this particular market dedicates each weekend in December to a different local tradition. For instance, woodwork, pottery and ceramics and mining.
The more modern market in Dresen is ‘Augustusmarkt’ on Hauptstrasse which is comprised of huge white tents rather than the usual wooden huts. Augustusmarkt is where to go if you fancy a few Christmas tipples and a mulled wine snuggled in complimentary blankets next to outdoor heaters away from the blustery Dresden weather. Where to stay in Dresden for Christmas.
Dates: November 15th – January 3rd
Key Locations: Piata Mare
Relatively new to the festive market scene is Sibiu, a compact city in the mountainous Transylvanian region of Romania. Basing its markets on the elegant flair of Vienna’s markets, Sibiu is a worthy alternative to the more touristed and hectic Christmas markets in Europe.
Piata Mare is the main city square and here you will find just enough stalls selling roasted almonds and artisanal gifts so you can see the entire market and not be too overwhelmed. Sibiu is already a very picturesque city which is only heightened by the fairy lights and Christmas wreaths in every shop window and wooden chalet.
Dates: November 12th – January 1st
Key Locations: Spikersuppa and DOGA
If markets filled with 300 stalls spread across a big city with lots of noisy rides and screaming children does not sound like your idea of a Winter Wonderland, then the perfect Christmas market winter break for you is the much more reserved, but still very fun, Christmas markets in Oslo.
The traditional Germany-style market in Spikersuppa square is still family-friendly and sells mulled wine and sweet treats like you would expect from any yuletide market. But the Designer’s market in DOGA (the Norwegian Centre for Architecture and Design) is where Norway’s capital really shines. Nearly 150 designers exhibit their work during December as part of the festive celebrations and you’ll be able to meet the designers, find gifts and crafted Christmas decorations that won’t be available anywhere else. Where to stay in Oslo for Christmas.
Dates: December 10th – January 11th
Key Locations: Santa Claus Village
One for the bucket list and the only Christmas destination that you can visit year-round. As of 2010, Rovaniemi in the Arctic Circle is the official home of Santa Claus and you cannot possibly imagine the amount there is to see and do in Rovaniemi. Not only can you meet Father Christmas himself, you can visit Santa’s post office where he gets his letters, meet his reindeers and during the festive period there is a special Christmas market selling every kind of traditional Christmas-themed food and gift imaginable.
Book well in advance if you want to visit Rovaniemi at Christmastime and to keep costs down you might consider visiting at another time. Santa Claus is available to meet 365 days of the year! Where to stay in Rovaniemi for Christmas.
Dates: November 24th – December 21st
Key Locations: Hviedoslav Square and Main Square
If you’ve already visited some of the more popular and well-known German Christmas markets and you want a more unusual festive city break, why not head to Bratislava and check out the Christmas markets there?
Slovakia’s capital has tonnes of markets all over the city, largely in Hviedoslav Square but also next to the picturesque Bratislava Castle. If you love trying the local cuisine when you travel then the Christmas markets here offer plenty of local delicacies including Loksa which is a savoury pancake, goose meat and mead which is the oldest alcoholic beverage still consumed in Slovakia. Where to stay in Bratislava for Christmas.
Dates: November 19th – January 8th
Key Locations: Piazza Fiera and Piazza Cesare Battisti
Nestled in theAlpine Dolomites region of Italy, Trento has more in common with its neighbours in Austria and Switzerland than it does with Southern Italy making it the perfect wintery blend of snowy mountains and delicious seasonal Italian food.
Over 90 markets are spread across two of the city’s main squares selling Italian handmade gifts and local food. Mulled wine may be the most quintessential Christmas beverage but in Trento make sure you try the delicious ‘spumante’, a local sparkling wine similar to prosecco. A truly classy way to bring in the festive period!
Dates: November 24th – December 29th
Key Locations: Place des Dominicains and Place de l’Ancienne Douane
For a small city, Colmar takes the ‘go big or go home’ approach when it comes to Christmas celebrations. There are six different markets in Colmar’s Old Town including an indoor market and one specialising in gourmet cuisine. There’s even a market called Petite Venise AKA Little Venice by the canal and you’d need to spend all day hopping between markets to see them all. There’s even an ice rink if you want to try ice skating before relaxing with a hot chocolate or mulled wine. There is plenty of things to do in Colmar to keep you busy during your visit.
Not to mention, Colmar is a truly fairy-tale town and you can just imagine Belle from Beauty and the Beast skipping past the colourful wooden-clad buildings with crooked roofs swinging a basket of books.
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