There’s something about the Christmas markets in Europe 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 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:
Click on the name of the city in bold to read more about each city’s Christmas market. Thanks to all of these writers for sharing their favorites!
Antwerp holds the most beautiful and lively Christmas Market in Belgium. It is my favourite in the area, 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. (Jurga of Full Suitcase)
There is no place more magical during the holidays than 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 a 10€ 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 winter destination 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 Copenhagen’s Christmas markets. Don’t shoot me but 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)
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)
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)
Christmas in London is pure magic. There are Christmas markets dotting the city, but our favorite is the borough market, 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! (Vanessa of Wanderlust Crew)
Nuremberg’s 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 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. Many feature outdoor ice skating rinks and merry-go-rounds, set up just for the season. (Amy of Pit Stops for Kids)
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 it. (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)
Rome is one of my favourite destinations during the holiday season. At this time, this already beautiful city dresses up with lights and decorations and the combination of ancient monuments and joyous lighting gives the place a magical touch.
In December, the city is full of 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)
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. (Shobha of Just Go Places)
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)