Living / 20 October, 2023 / Ellie Thompson
Deck the halls and grab your warmest scarf because it’s time to explore the ultimate Christmas markets in Europe. From the aroma of mulled wine to the twinkle of a thousand fairy lights, join us on a festive journey through the enchanting Christmas markets of Europe. It’s the most wonderful time to wander the cobbled streets and savour the holiday spirit. Get ready for your Yuletide adventure.
Millions of people from around the world flock to Cologne at Christmastime, where the magic of Christmas takes over the entire city. There are a variety of Christmas markets located all over the city centre, but the most impressive is the market that takes place underneath the glow of the city’s Cathedral.
The Christmas Market Express train is the perfect way to take a tour through the pretty streets of Cologne, stopping off at the different markets along the way.
If you’re looking for a fun place to go in the evening without the kids, do take a trip Papa Joe’s bar, a 1920’s style saloon bar situated in the Old Town. There’s a jukebox that plays Christmas carols performed by the bar’s resident musicians – two genius life-sized-puppet men with an accordion and a tuba!
Krakow is one of Poland’s prettiest cities and the huge central square Rynek Glowny in the middle of the Old Town historic district is host to Christmas market. Poland’s signature smoked cheese Oscypek can be found in abundance as well as their chocolate.
A must-try is the bright pink, lavender chocolate made out of chestnuts. Warm up the cockles with a delicious cup of gluhwein. Krakow are experts at mulled wine – their recipe is a closely guarded secret. You’ll spot the mulled wine stalls easily – by the huge barrels!
Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square are said to be two of the most magical Christmas markets in the entire Czech Republic, and both are based in the capital city of Prague.
The Old Town Square’s colourful baroque buildings and Gothic churches set the scene, while a huge Christmas tree decked head to toe in lights is transported to the Square each year from the forests of Central Bohemia to complete the fairytale.
Wenceslas Square is a popular spot for those looking to soak up the atmosphere of a truly magical Christmas market.
Strasbourg was home to the very first European Christmas market back in 1570, so they’ve had four centuries to perfect the occasion. Interestingly, Strasbourg was then part of the German Rhineland, which embraced long-standing Christmas traditions, much more so than in France.
Strasbourg retained these traditions once it became a French city, and to this day, the markets celebrate a mix of two cultures, making it a very unique place to visit.
Strasbourg is officially known as the ‘Capital of Christmas’, and each year becomes a wash of colour and light, with miles and miles of fairy lights adorning the city’s streets. The Christmas Tree at Place Kléber is always the star of the show and often the backdrop to millions of selfies.
Voted Best Christmas Market for the past three years running by European Best Destinations, Croatia’s capital Zagreb, has so much on offer during the Advent season, mixing old traditions with new – think choir concerts versus DJ sets!
Besides the magical Christmas markets that line the streets of Zagreb, there’s a huge ice rink, a Merry Christmas tram and a Lower Town tourist train, so you can fully explore what Christmas in Zagreb has to offer!
Immerse yourself in traditional Danish yuletide at Copenhagen’s best Christmas market, held in the famous Tivoli Gardens from mid-November until the end of December.
You’ll find hundreds of wooden chalets laden with handmade Christmas gifts, local delicacies and traditional fayre in true Nordic style. The market and surrounding area stand out for miles, decked top to bottom with thousands of twinkly lights.
Your little one can find Father Christmas in the gardens as well as enjoying the funfair.
Gendarmenmarkt is one of the most beautiful squares in Berlin and at Christmastime, it transforms into a winter wonderland. The Gendarmenmarkt is one of the most atmospheric Christmas markets in Berlin and is situated between the Französischer Dom and Deutscher Dom.
With street stalls, local food, and entertainment in the form of choirs, jazz bands, jugglers and fire eaters, there is much to see and do.
Winter Wonders takes place from 30th November until 6th January in the very centre of Brussels. The brightly lit markets span from the Grand Place in Brussels to around the Bourse, the Place de la Monnaie, the Place Sainte-Catherine and the Marché aux Poissons.
There are more than 200 chalets stocking every Christmas gift imaginable. There’s a fairground, an ice rink and a huge Christmas tree with a sound and light show – plenty to occupy the kids!
The opening of the Christmas markets signals the beginning of the Advent period in Stockholm.
The first market opened in Skansen in 1903, and it’s a tradition that’s been going from strength to strength at four different markets in Stockholm each and every year since. Join in with their entire month’s worth of celebrations in the city’s Old Town, Skansen, Kungstradgàrden and Djurgàrden.
What makes the Christmas markets in Budapest particularly unique is their desire to preserve authentic Hungarian folk art and traditions, with their wooden chalets packed with quality handmade items.
There are two must-visit Christmas markets in Budapest: the market on Vorosmarty Square in the heart of the city and the Basilica Christmas Fair located on St Stephen’s Square.
Soak up the fairytale setting of Colmar this year and visit the five Christmas markets located around the city. From 23rd November to 30th December, Colmar will once again transform its historic setting into a magical wonderland. The town centre in Colmar is pedestrianised, making it a safe place to take little ones.
Besides the festivities, you’ll marvel at the imposing buildings dating back from the Middle Ages to the 19th Century. It’s a tricky destination to get to from the UK, but if you have older kids and can make it work, it’ll be worth every minute.
The Christmas markets in Vienna are an age-old tradition. In fact, they claim their markets date back to 1298 – even earlier than those of Strasbourg. There are around twenty Christmas markets located all over the city.
The streets are packed with romance, nostalgia, tradition and Christmas cheer – there is so there is much to do and see. Among the log cabins packed with Christmas gifts, you’ll find delicious food and mulled wine, live music and entertainment everywhere you go.
Salzburg’s Christmas market has been a tradition since the 15th century. The market is held in a traditional Austrian setting at the foot of the Hohensalzburg fortress and around the cathedral of Salzburg.
Wooden chalets decorated with fairy lights offer the usual gifts and Christmas delicacies. The mulled wine, hot and spicy specialties and other seasonal gourmet delights will be too hard to resist.
Reported to be the prettiest market in Switzerland, the Basel Christmas market can be found on Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz in the heart of the city centre. Numerous illuminated Christmas trees adorn the streets of Basal in a picture-perfect setting.
There’s a Christmas fairy-tale forest where children can make, pour and decorate candles, bake cookies, decorate gingerbread, eat bread and drink hot chocolate. If that’s not enough, they can take a ride on the Christmas train, visit the star workshop, make Christmas floral decorations, have a go on the wheel of fortune, and so much more.
Montbeliard in Eastern France plays host to over 570,00 visitors each Christmas, with their truly enchanting market nestled within illuminated streets.
You can wander around their 160 wooden chalets packed with authentic and high-quality items made by hand-picked craftsmen and indulge in the delicious local gastronomic products. Even Scourge would find it hard not to indulge in the Christmas cheer!
The streets, lanes and squares around Aachen Cathedral transform themselves each year with a Christmas market that attracts 1.5 million visitors. Christmas music rings out around the Cathedral, and the air smells of Christmas with its tempting seasonal treats stocked on every corner.
Mulled wine and gingerbread are made in abundance. There are regular guided tours around Aachen, so you can fully explore the markets and the beautiful city itself.
The Metz Christmas market is now the second largest Christmas market in France, with up to 3 million visitors each year. In 2015, the Metz hosted Christmas markets across five sites: Place de la République, Place Saint Louis, Place de la Gare, Place Saint-Jacques, Place de Chambre and Place d’Armes.
Head down to the Place de la Comédie where you’ll be best placed to take in views of the illuminated Cathedral, the opera theatre, and the Temple Neuf.
The Christmas markets at Tallinn in Estonia look utterly picturesque. The markets are held by the Town Hall Square of Tallinn, and towering over the wooden chalets full to the brim with handicrafts and Estonian Christmas cuisine is the beautiful Christmas tree.
The tree is the star of the market and Europe’s first public Christmas tree, dating back to 1441. There’s lots for little ones to do – besides meeting Father Christmas and his reindeer, there’s a packed itinerary of events and attractions.
The article’s main image is of the Tallinn Christmas market.
Dresden’s Christmas market is traditionally called Striezelmarkt. It’s Germany’s oldest Christmas market, dating back to 1434. Located in the historical centre of Altmarkt Square, the Striezelmarkt is surrounded by several themed Christmas markets.
You’ll find everything from the traditional market to the merry medieval and the après-ski charm of the Hüttenzauber. Home to the world’s biggest nutcracker and jam-packed with Christmas-themed events and activities, there really is something for everyone.
Throughout December, the city of Nuremberg is well and truly taken over by the spirit of the festive season. Famous for its bratwurst sausages and gingerbread men, you’ll find both on offer in abundance, along with many other yuletide treats.
Take a trip around the city by stage coach to take in Christkindlesmarkt, Germany’s most famous Christmas market. Soak up the festive atmosphere of the city and enjoy the Christmas carols played by the coachman on his trumpet as you pass through streets illuminated with Christmas trees and fairy lights.
Each year at Christmastime, the medieval town of Rothenburg is transformed into a magical Christmas fairytale. Christmas markets have been a tradition here since the 15th Century, and many of those 500-year traditions are still kept today.
The highlight of the Rothenberg Christmas market is the appearance of the figure of the “Rothenburger Reiterle” at the festive opening ceremony. Legend has it the “Reiterle” was a figure believed to be an envoy from another world that floated through the ether with the souls of the deceased at wintertime. Many years ago, town folk would shudder at the sight of this wild creature, but now, both adults and children alike look forward to seeing him. The otherworldly character has long since been transformed into a friendly carrier of good news.
The medieval lanes of the city are transformed into a magical winter wonderland during December, welcoming thousands of visitors to their various Christmas markets situated in and outside of the city. The Christmas market situated in the centre of Cathedral Square / Münsterplatz is renowned for its cosy atmosphere in a beautiful setting.
A few minutes walk from Münsterplatz on Waisenhausplatz is Bern’s second market, decorated with delicious-smelling Christmas ferns. There are two other markets outside of Bern that are accessible by train, the Kambly Christmas Market in Trubschaschen and Huttwil. The latter is known to be one of the most picturesque markets in Switzerland.
Leipzig’s Christmas market is the second oldest Christmas market in Germany, with roots dating back to 1458. Known locally as Weihnachts Markt, the market is thought to be one of the most beautiful in all of Germany.
The city is transformed into a fairytale setting embracing all things Advent from the end of November. The historic Marktplatz is situated in front of the old town hall and is the main hub for the Christmas market, but you’ll find many more stalls and festivities branching out into the pretty nearby streets and lanes.
Here’s one on our doorstep! The Frankfurt Christmas Market in Birmingham is reported to be the largest and most authentic Christmas market outside of Germany and Austria. The Frankfurt Christmas Market opens on 15th November, transforming the centre of Birmingham into a traditional German town.
You’ll find an abundance of chalets offering mouth-watering pretzels, schnitzels, bratwursts, and roasted almonds. The streets are lined with mulled wine stalls selling gluhwein and hot chocolate for the kids. The 6-week long market includes a full itinerary of events complete with a bandstand with live music to entertain. If you’re unable to fly further afield this Christmas, take a trip to Birmingham to soak up the authentic winter wonderland atmosphere.
A Christmas market featuring speciality artisan producers will be hosted in the fairy-tale setting of the Castle Courtyard of historic Ripley Castle on December 10 (10am-3pm).
The festive market in the enchanting grounds of one of Yorkshire’s leading attractions will see a visit from Father Christmas from 10-11.15am. The market will also feature festive carols, children’s craft activities and festive fodder. On offer in the picturesque setting are high-quality gifts, handmade crafts, and delectable treats.
Visitors can make a day of it and enjoy a walk in the beautiful setting, with free access to Ripley Castle’s grounds and gardens. Dogs on leads are welcome.
The event will showcase 40 independent and artisan traders. Admission is free.