There’s something about the Europe at Christmas that sets the mood for the holiday season. They offer shopping, entertainment, delicious food and drink, and an excuse to celebrate with friends and family. From small towns to large cities, people come from around the globe to soak up the magic of the Europe Christmas markets. We reached out to some of our favorite travel writers for their opinions on the best Christmas markets in Europe and here is what they had to say:
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European Christmas Markets Not to Miss
Before planning a trip to the Christmas markets in Europe, it is important to know that during the winter in Europe, it can be quite chilly. Be sure to check the weather before your trip and bring lots of layers. We had hand warmers, gloves, thermal underwear, warm socks, and hats. It’s the best way to ensure an enjoyable visit to the best Christmas destinations in Europe.
As a resident, Christmas in Amsterdam is one of my favourite times of year. There aren’t as many tourists, the canals look beautiful with all the trees’ leaves gone, and there are so many festive ways to keep warm on a crisp winter’s day… like exploring the Christmas markets.
Amsterdam Christmas markets aren’t super famous but there are numerous ones held across the city. They sell a variety of things from locally crafted goods and gifts through to street food and mulled wine.
This page is the best one to look at for what you can expect each year at the Amsterdam Christmas market. In the past my favourite Christmas markets in Amsterdam have been the Ice Village market around the skating rink at Museumplein and the Funky Xmas Market in Westergasfabriek. It’s also fair to say that the usual daily and weekend markets in Amsterdam like Albert Cuyp and Noordermarkt will have a more festive feel to them too. (Frankie of As The Bird Flies)
Belgium Christmas markets might not be as well known as others in Europe, but Antwerp holds the most beautiful and lively Christmas Market in Belgium. It is my favorite of the Belgium Christmas markets, mainly because of its spectacular location. Antwerp Christmas market is spread over several squares in the old town centre and the nicely lit historic buildings form a fairytale-like setting.
Check out hundreds of market stalls selling arts, crafts, and all kinds of local specialties, go ice skating, or take your kids to one of the many winter-themed rides and attractions by the river. Or just relax by a cozy fire with a glass of Glühwein and some Belgian waffles for a typical Belgium Christmas market experience. (Jurga of Full Suitcase)
A few years ago, during our December sailing around the Mediterranean Sea with Viking Cruises, we stopped at several Christmas markets, but none were as memorable as in Barcelona Spain. Like other European Christmas markets, the crowds in Barcelona are lively and large, the food and drink are plentiful, and the crafts are local and fun.
One thing you can’t miss in the Barcelona Christmas market is the Catalan tradition of the Tió de Nadal or Caga Tió (Christmas log or poop log). During the 14+ days leading up to Christmas, children keep the log warm by placing a blanket over it. Parents feed the log with small presents and sweet treats. On Christmas Eve, children hit the log with sticks and the log “poops” out the gifts. I know you just added “buying a poop log” to your travel wish list and a Barcelona Christmas market is the place to fulfill that dream! (Charles of McCool Travel)
Berlin offers a huge variety of smaller and bigger, more commercial Christmas markets. By far my favorite, and in my eyes, most magical Christmas market takes place in the most beautiful square Berlin has to offer, the Berlin Gendarmenmarkt.
Set in the magnificent ensemble of historical buildings like the Konzerthaus (concert hall), the French and German Church, you’ll find various festive tents lit by hundreds and hundreds of fairy lights.
The mix of arts, crafts, the sound of Christmas carols, the smell of delicious food, together with artists like jugglers and fire eaters, who seem to pop out of nowhere, creates an enchanting atmosphere that will put everyone in the Christmas spirit.
One of our highlights was the artisan tent where we watched belt makers, dressmakers, and other craftspeople showcasing their long-established crafts. Your kids will love this hands-on, unique experience of seeing traditional craftsmanship close up.
Besides indulging in traditional Christmas market foods like roasted chestnuts, candied almonds, and sipping on a piping-hot Gluehwein, we did love the display of handmade wooden Christmas decorations from the Erzgebirge region like figurines, pyramids, candle carousels, and nutcrackers.
For a small admission fee, you can visit this delightful Christmas market from the End of November until the End of December. Children under 12 years can enter for free. Be sure not to miss these other things to do in Berlin with kids. (Anke – FunTravelingWithKids)
Brussels Belgium is just magical during the holidays. The Brussels Christmas market includes the city’s annual Winter Wonders event, which makes for one of the best Christmas markets in Belgium. It is wonderful to see how the city transforms into a winter wonderland with different themes spread throughout the city. You will find over 200 chalets selling some of the most unique Christmas items, and of course food. I recommend trying the roasted salmon and the hot Vin Chaud.
There are also fun carnival attractions at the Brussels Winter Wonders event, with a larger than life Ferris Wheel, and some of the most unique carousel rides. The kids will love the ice skating rink at Place St. Catherine as well, and all the fun events going on in the city. Don’t miss the light show at The Grand Place which lights up to music! It’s quite spectacular. (Skylar Arias Adventures)
After living in Europe for a few years, we certainly checked off quite a few Christmas markets from our list. From the markets in Germany to France and Austria.
One of the markets that really stands out to us is the Budapest Christmas Markets in Hungary. Budapest is a beautiful city with historic buildings, family-friendly attractions, thermal baths, and huge market halls. Then pair that with two large and multiple smaller Christmas markets selling local and handmade items, it’s truly a delight.
The two major Christmas markets in Budapest are located at Vorosmarty Square and surrounding the Basilica. Enjoy wandering the markets with a spiced wine in one hand and a chimney cake in the other. Don’t miss the handmade dried fruit wreaths and garland! (Chelsea of Pack More Into Life)
Tiny Colmar in France is one of the most popular small-town destinations in Europe. It’s a popular stop on a Rhine River Christmas market cruise and also the starting point for most visits to the Alsace wine region. The town is packed with half-timbered buildings and just oozes charm around every corner.
Colmar is also home to one of the best Christmas markets in Europe. For five weeks every winter, Colmar becomes the Christmas City. Unlike most cities which confine their Christmas market to a single main square or area, Colmar’s market winds its way through all of the old town.
You’ll find gifts, souvenirs, and ornaments for purchase. But, being France, there’s a concentrated focus on food. And some of the best food you can possibly imagine. Local chefs from Michelin-star restaurants give cooking demonstrations and you can sample local ingredients directly from the farmers and producers.
And everywhere, you’ll find that classic Colmar charm. It’s easy to see why this is one of the best markets in Europe! (Lance and Laura Longwell of Travel Addicts)
Nothing is more magical than spending time at the Christmas markets in Cologne. Twinkling lights, Christmas trees, and intricately carved wooden booths featuring the famous Heinzelmännchen of Köln (Elves of Cologne) adorn the vendor booths found in the seven Christmas markets scattered throughout the city.
The largest market, with festive children’s carousel, stands in the shadow of Cologne Cathedral; other markets are accessible by tram. Vendor booths showcase handcrafted toys, ornaments, candles, snow globes and other Christmas gifts. Tantalizing scents of cooked bratwurst, spaetzle, roasted chestnuts, and reibekuchen (potato pancakes) are hard to resist, so come hungry. (Julie of A Cork, Fork, & Passport)
My favourite destination to visit in Europe in winter is Copenhagen, Denmark. It is a city with a cold temperature, but a love of everything Christmas. After visiting this beautiful city last Christmas to explore the festive markets and Tivoli Gardens, I fell head over heels for the city, with its love for the festive season and relaxed atmosphere across the city.
The best thing to do in Copenhagen this festive season is to soak up the atmosphere at one of the Copenhagen Christmas markets. Copenhagen at Christmas is very ‘hygge’. Top things to do whilst here are visit the Christmas markets. There are many here including Tivoli Gardens, Freetown Christiania, Nyhavn harbour, Castle Kronborg, and Kongens Nytorv. (Sophie of Sophie’s Suitcase)
With its impressive abbey standing as the backdrop, the town of Einsiedeln is a lovely place to visit any time of year. But for 10 days in December the smell of glühwein fills the air and fairy lights twinkle above as you stroll down the main street through the annual Christmas Market.
It is a long standing tradition in our family to visit the Einsiedeln Christmas Market each year and although it is nice to go during the day, as evening sets in is when you should make the easy 50 minute journey from Zurich.
Wooden stalls line the street where you can pick up wooden toys or ornaments, winter hats and warm spices and everything in between. Kids can even make their own candles. But we go for the treats! We fill our tummies with Glühwein (for the adults) and Orange Punsch (for the kids). Try Fackelspiess (pork grilled on a long stick) and for dessert Apfelküchli (Apple in batter and then fried) with a dusting of power sugar.
An extra special treat is a visit to the Wolke 7 Stand for some Eierkirsch (Eggnog) and the kids will love a freshly made Grittibanz Berliner (Jam filled donut in the shape of man). (Kristin of Simply Family Travel)
In the years I lived in Germany, I visited and revisited many Christmas markets. They all have their charm, they really do, but Erfurt’s is extra special. Part of the reason I love it so much, I’m sure, is because Erfurt is a fairytale destination throughout the year. This Thuringia town is known as, among other things, the home of Europe’s oldest continuously inhabited bridge. It’s been around for over 500 years.
With the town as the backdrop, the second main reason I love this market is it’s not as busy as others. It’s a little more hidden, not as convenient to get to, and not close to popular cities. Smaller crowds mean time to wander, stroll, and soak in everything that makes German Christmas market special.
Two markets to highlight in Erfurt are the medieval market and the main market at the Domplatz. Erfurt’s Medieval Market runs without electricity giving it an air of authenticity. The Domplatz Market is the main market in front of two hilltop churches. Enjoy the double decker carousel, eat the best racklette, and collect the cutest Glühwein mugs.
Travel tip: Also, the Erfurt Christmas market has a great hotel option for views. Stay at the Radisson Blu in Erfurt’s Center. From your room you’ll have views of the city and all of the markets you can experience throughout your stay. (Ann of Kids Travel Books)
Of the seven German Christmas Markets I visited during my Rhine River cruise, Frankfurt is my favorite. It’s one of the largest in the country and definitely one of the most picturesque with the Römer buildings, St Paul’s Square and enormous Christmas tree as a backdrop.
I found it easy to walk through and shop, but the food tended to be a bit more at the forefront than at other markets. The choice was almost overwhelming from multiple flavors of glühwein to enormous grills filled with sausages (and surrounded by eager diners). And, let’s not forget about the traditional gingerbread hearts, marzipan, herb candies, pretzels and more. (Katie of La Jolla Mom)
There’s something truly magical about Christmastime in Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city, located on its west coast. From Christmas markets and festivals to themed dinners and performances, there are dozens of ways to fill each day with something Christmasy. Gothenburg literally shines at night from the over 1 million fairy lights that adorn Liseberg, the theme park in the middle of the city.
Always decorated to the nines, a stay at Clarion Hotel Post will start your visit off on the right holiday note. Located right across from the main train station, this is a great spot to stay and then wander around the city throughout your visit. Alternatively, Gothia Towers puts you right across the street from Liseburg and boosts incredible skyline views of the city.
As for Christmas markets, just pick the neighborhood you want to explore and you’ll find one. While these markets aren’t as large as other European markets, they have all the ornaments, sweet treats, hot drinks and carolers that make a Christmas market special. Two favorites are Haga Market and Kronhus Market, located in one of Gothenburg’s oldest buildings.
Don’t miss the December 13th celebration of St. Lucia in Gothenburg’s Cathedral or one of the nightly performances of the Living Christmas Tree, right across from the tourist office, singing Christmas tunes during the rush hour commute.
Finally, you can’t miss one of Gothenburg’s traditional Christmas dinners. SK Mat & Manniskor is a Michelin Starred restaurant serves up a 4-course Christmas dinner in the city centre. Fiskekrogen, hosts a one of a kind Christmas dinner with their famous cod fish balls. (Jade of Vagabond3)
Heidelberg Christmas market in Germany is a sprawling spectacular of lights, sights and foodie treats that is an absolute must for anyone who loves the festive season. The market is spread over five historic squares: Kornmarkt, Marktplatz, Universitätsplatz, Anatomiegarten and Bismarckplatz. The whole market comprises of around 150 stalls, selling everything from soaps, scarves and sausages to Christmas decorations, crafts and candles. You’re sure to find a few things to fill your stockings as well as your stomachs which will leave you feeling full of Christmas spirit.
Heidelberg Old Town makes the perfect backdrop for the quaint wooden huts of the Christmas market and the lights and festive illuminations only heighten the whole experience. There’s also a Christmas market at Heidelberg Castle which sits majestically overlooking the town. Not only does the Heidelberg Christmas market feature a whole host of fantastic shops and food stalls to explore, but it also boasts a picturesque ice rink, located in Karlsplatz, which will bring festive cheer to all the family. (Chrysoula of Historic European Castles)
The best way to experience Helsinki’s magic is during the holiday season. Spirits are jolly due to twinkling lights that sparkle throughout the city, not to mention the baked goods that spread delightful aromas in the air.
For both locals and visitors, the best places to experience the holiday spirit are the Helsinki Christmas markets. The city has several Christmas markets, but the best and biggest is the Helsinki Christmas Market at Senate Square. Dozens of vendors convene at this market to sell a variety of artisan gift items and tasty treats including glogi, a festive mulled wine that’s perfect on a cold winter day. (Daryl and Mindi of 2foodtrippers)
The Christmas market, held daily throughout December in the city center Ljubljana, is well known for its cheerful atmosphere and vibrancy. The stalls, beautifully designed and decorated with colorful lights, sell various products that are interesting for gifts. The markets are accompanied by an outdoor free-of-charge program of festive events and concerts. Locals like to stroll and meet some friends in the area because it’s a wide choice of good traditional Slovenian food and music.
At the Christmas market, you can find numerous food and drink stalls offering mulled wine, tea, hot chocolate, liquors, various grilled dishes, desserts and other foods. They offer also products by Slovenian designers, crafts and art items, festive souvenirs and local delicacies, such as honey, schnapps and confections. (Leo of Safari Nomad)
Christmas in London is pure magic. The London Christmas markets dot the city, but our favorite is the Borough Market. It’s one of the oldest markets in London and known as the best foodie market! With treasures and treats of every kind for block after block, it’s the perfect place to get your Christmas shopping done in London and try some real English Christmas specialties! London is certainly one of the best Christmas destinations in Europe. (Vanessa of Wanderlust Crew)
Though Nuremberg is the most famous Christmas market in Germany, Munich’s Christmas Market is a gem in its own right. The Christmas Tree towering over the center of Marienplatz, standing 30m high, is the centerpiece of the biggest Christmas Market in Munich.
Wander the seemingly endless booths of vendors, some selling handcrafted items like intricate candles and cute Christmas ornaments, and others making various food items. Definitely don’t miss the warm spiced nuts. For me, the highlight of the markets was the Glühwein. Mulled wine is the perfect drink to get into the holiday spirit, especially when you’re fully immersed in a world full of Christmas cheer.
Marienplatz is filled with the sound of live Advent music played from the balcony of the Rathaus every evening at 5:30,. Grab a steaming cup of Glühwein and enjoy the music. You won’t want to miss it. (Matt of Wheatless Wanderlust)
The Nuremberg Christmas market is one of the most popular in Germany, with its origins dating to the 17th century. Wooden stalls line the Old Town square in front of the majestic Church of Our Lady, and fan out into the surrounding streets. Smells of lebkuchen (gingerbread), sausage, and glühwein fill the air as friends, families, and strangers alike huddle together to joy in the holiday festivities.
Adjacent to the main market is the Children’s Christkindlmarkt. Children can make their own gingerbread creations, candles, and glass ornaments. There’s a merry-go-round and a play room to keep warm. Keep an eye out for the Nuremberg Christmas Angel (Christkind), with her long white gown, golden curls and crown, who represents the Christmas markets and is truly a sight to behold. (Kids Are A Trip)
Paris has not one, not two, but three well-known Christmas markets each holiday season, with additional smaller markets popping up seemingly randomly across the city.
The main Paris Christmas markets are located near the Concorde, under the Eiffel Tower, and in the Montmartre neighborhood, and each features favorite food items such as mulled wine, baguettes with melted cheese, and pastries. Stop by a Paris Christmas market and you’re sure to see outdoor ice skating rinks and merry-go-rounds, set up just for the season. (Amy of Pit Stops for Kids)
*And don’t miss our favorite places to stay in Paris with a large family!
Prague, Czech Republic
With a skyline dominated by numerous towers, churches and castles, Prague, The City of 100 Spires, has a magical, fairytale-like feel. When decorated for the holidays, with twinkling lights and a massive Christmas tree in its main square, Prague is even more magical.
There are several Christmas markets around the city, including the main ones at Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square (yes, he of the Christmas carol), Republic Square and in front of Prague Castle. While the items sold under the red-roofed huts are not especially unique, the festive scene set against the incomparable medieval backdrop of Prague makes it my favorite of the many Christmas markets I’ve been to thus far, and I highly recommend the Prague Christmas Market. (Monique of An Unstoppable Journey)
The delightful town of Rapperswil is just a stone’s throw from Zurich, especially enjoyable during its Christmas market. With over 230 stalls, it’s one of the biggest in Switzerland, easily reached by train and very family friendly. Vendors offer beautiful handmade crafts, such as “candle carousels,” custom ironwork, ornaments and other handicrafts as well as delicious treats of all kinds. I recommend just taking it all in on your short stroll up to the 14th century castle, which has a quirky mini-zoo and a gorgeous view of the Alps across Lake Zurich.
On your way back down, admire the medieval clock tower, architecture and painted facades before stopping for photos of the life-sized wooden Nativity scene (you can buy your own if you are so inclined!). The kids can indulge in the local tradition of making their own candles.
If you need to work off any of the fondue you’ve indulged in (so worth it!), there’s a lovely boardwalk out into the lake among the swans. Reward yourself for finding gifts for everyone on your list with mulled wine and hot chocolate by the lake. After dark, the twinkling lights and festive live music cap off a perfect day. (Julia of Inspire World Travel)
The oldest city on the Danube River, Regensburg is one of Germany’s best-preserved medieval cities, creating a perfect setting for its four Christmas markets.
The market at Neupfarrplatz is in the center of town and famous for offering 40 varieties of glühwein, the popular spiced mulled wine. For a less crowded option, try Lucrezia Markt, which focuses on artisan crafts and has a cultural program with live music, theater and magic.
Cross the 12th-century Stone Bridge over the Danube to Stadtamhof to visit the Advent market in the Spitalgarten. Take the kids to see the lambs at the back.
There’s a small admission charge for the Romantic Christmas Market, which glows under the lit torches and candlelight in the courtyard of the Thurn and Taxis Palace. Visit this market after the sun has set if possible. (Jan at The Travel 100)
Rome is one of my favourite destinations during the holiday season. At Christmas time, this already beautiful city dresses up with lights and Christmas decorations. The combination of ancient monuments and joyous lighting gives the place a magical touch.
In December, don’t miss Rome’s holiday events: several churches display impressive nativity scenes, piazzas fill with stalls and small Christmas fairs and iconic spaces such as St Peter’s square and Piazza Venezia see the arrival of huge Christmas trees! The space in front of the Auditorium becomes an open air ice skating rink, making the city enjoyable for adults and children alike. (Marta of Learning Escapes)
There are many Christmas markets in Stockholm. The oldest and centrally located market is in Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old town. It is in Stortorget square, near the Royal Palace. Gamla Stan usually has up to 200,000 visitors per year. Market-goers can purchase crafts, decorations, Swedish sweets, and reindeer and elk meat sausages. A popular market treat is glögg (mulled wine) which is warm spiced red wine.
Another popular market is Skansen, but it is only open on the weekends from 10 am to 4 pm. The dates may vary slightly each year. For details on dates for the current year click here for Skansen and here for Gamla Stan.
The Stockholm Christmas markets are consistently ranked among the best in Europe. Whichever market you choose, you won’t be disappointed. (Kim of Work Hard Travel Well)
The lovely and quaint town of Strasbourg, France located in the Alsace region of France is a place you’d expect to see in a fairytale. A little river runs through the center of the town, lined with ancient half-timber houses with pitched roofs. Not only is Strasbourg beautiful site all through the year, but at Christmas time it transforms into La Capitale de Noel or The Capital of Christmas, and once you’ve been to Strasbourg at Christmas, there is no denying its claim to the name.
Be sure to wander over to Petit France to see the adorable half-timber houses decorated for the season. As if the stunning decorations weren’t enough, the backdrop for the Christmas market is the huge and ornate Strasbourg Cathedral. Every year Strasbourg hosts an international market where a specific country hosts several stalls. Last year was Iceland complete with Icelandic hot dogs! Strasbourg is a European Christmas Market you cannot miss! (Vanessa of Wanderlust Crew)
The Weihnachtsmarkt as known in Stuttgart, is one of the oldest and most renowned of the German Christmas markets. Providing hundreds of years of history, the market is spread out over several squares within Stuttgart’s main center. The market has hundreds of booths with spectacular food vendors, unique toys and German gifts and an array of other items.
There is a large children’s fairyland area with a Ferris wheel, an ice rink, small carnival rides and even a steam train that takes you through tiny village remakes. At the end of November, special Finnish booths are open to celebrate Finnish winters as well where smoked salmon, reindeer and other Finnish treats are available. Weihnachtsmarkt lasts from the end of November to a few days before Christmas. (Diana of The Elusive Family)
If you’re a German Christmas market fan and a chocolate lover don’t miss the ChocolART Festival in Tübingen, Germany. Imagine chocolate from every continent all on display and ready for you to taste. This is a place that honors the cocoa bean in all its forms.
ChocolART runs the second week of Advent every year. Then the entire quaint university town of Tübingen transforms into a Christmas wonderland. The Christmas market has over 450 vendor stalls on display throughout the historic half-timber houses in the town. Many of the stalls are specially decorated for ChocolART so you’ll be in for a treat.
Just a 30-minute drive from the Stuttgart Airport Tübingen also offers many wonderful restaurants, pubs and shops to explore and enjoy. (Sue and Diana of Food Travelist)
Visiting Christmas markets in Vienna is a lot of fun because there are so many choices scattered throughout the city. In fact, there are at least 25 official Christmas markets in Vienna and a whole lot of unofficial neighbourhood markets. My kids really enjoyed the Christkindlmarkt located in front of the Town Hall because there was a little train and a park nearby that was decorated for Christmas.
If you would like to visit t the Schönbrunn Palace and the famous Vienna Zoo located in its grounds, you will also find a Christmas market. In fact, you can walk between tourist sites and nip into a Christmas market for some warming Glühwein (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions available) to ward off the cold. The Vienna Christmas market is one that should be at the top of your list. (Shobha of Just Go Places)
The historic city of York in the north of England has a six week, pop-up, Scandanavian style Christmas market which was voted the ‘Best Christmas Market in the UK’ in 2018. Its principal pedestrianized street in the compact city centre is taken over by 100 cute, wooden chalets selling unique local and global crafts as well as locally made food and drink. Brass bands and carol singing choirs add to the festive atmosphere.
There are further market stalls, festive window displays and enormous Christmas trees at the nearby locations of Coppergate or St Sampsons Square.
After a busy day shopping for presents at the York Christmas market, warm up with mulled wine and a mince pie in front of a roaring log fire at Thor’s Tipi, an enormous, canvas tipi specially erected in the city centre for the Christmas period. (Sinead of Map Made Memories)
Croatia’s capital city fills with lights, music, vendors, and festive atmosphere during Advent in Zagreb. The market was voted “Best Christmas Market” in both 2016 and 2017 for a reason. From ice skating in King Tomislav Square, to drinking mulled wine at one of the many “Christmas Fairs” around the city, to wandering through 3-D installations accompanied by music and a light show in a WWII tunnel/bunker, to shopping for a iconic “Zagreb heart,” the market allows you to explore the city in an unconventional way. (Melynda of TravelingMel)