From Austria to Italy: 12 Days of Christmas Markets

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Advisor - Jeff Willy
Curated By

Jeff Willy

  • Austria

  • France

  • Germany

  • Italy

  • Switzerland

  • Lucerne

  • International Travel

  • Bucket List-Worthy

  • Shopping

  • Winter

A woman selling ornaments at a Christmas market in Europe.
Curator’s statement

While many people think of Europe as a summer vacation spot, the holidays can be a magical time to visit Europe. From seasonal treats to train rides with views of snowcapped mountains, experiencing yuletide in Europe is an absolute must do. In this guide, I’ve pulled together an itinerary to include six of the most famous Christmas Markets across five countries.

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Day 1-3: Salzburg, Austria

Market with Christmas decorations in Salzburg, Austria.

You start your Christmas Market experience in Salzburg, one of the oldest Christmas Markets in Europe. The origins of the Salzburg Christmas Market (or Saint Nicholas Market) date back to the late 15th century. Most years it opens mid-November (just before the US Thanksgiving Holiday) and closes around January 1st.

In addition to exploring the Christmas Market, Salzburg has a lot to offer. For the music lovers, visit Mozart's birthplace, take in an opera or perhaps take a private tour to where the Sound of Music was filmed. For the foodies, take a private food tour to taste a variety of local foods such as warm-from-the-oven sourdough loaves, visit a beer garden or even take a private cooking class. And for those interested in history, there are a variety of museums and some amazing architecture to see on a guided tour of the city.

Days 4-5: Nuremberg & Stuttgart Germany

Man selling Christmas sweets at a market at Nuremburg.

After departing Salzburg, you will make your way into Germany via train with two stops: Nuremberg and Stuttgart.

The Nuremberg Christmas Market is one of the most magnificent, and oldest, Christmas Markets in Germany believed to have started around 1628. You won't want to miss the culinary delights such as finger-sized grilled sausages, Franconian wine and delicious gingerbread. For those interested in history, a private WWII tour can be arranged.

After Nuremberg, you will take a short train ride to Stuttgart to visit another highly-rated Christmas Market in Germany. For those interested in a quick side trip to one of Germany's most beautiful castles, Hohenzollern Castle is just outside of Stuttgart.

Day 6-8: Strasbourg, France

Canal lined with traditional building on a warmly lit day in Strasbourg, France.

You will then take a short train ride to Strasbourg as a home base to visit the Eastern side of France, on the Rhine River, known as Alsace. This region comprised of enchanting villages such as Strasbourg and Colmar, is especially magical during the Holiday season, as this region feels like something directly out of a fairy tale (some even believe it was an inspiration for Disney's Beauty and the Beast.)

While in this region, you will visit several small towns and really get a chance to take in the culture, architecture and atmosphere of the French-Swiss-influenced Christmas Markets. Additionally, there are several Michelin-starred restaurants we will recommend during your stay in addition to some excellent private experiences with locals.

Day 9: Lucerne, Switzerland

The waterfront in the winter in Lucerne, Switzerland.

You will depart Strasbourg with a train ride to Lucerne, a charming lake town with an amazing view and welcoming atmosphere. While in Lucerne, take a guided tour of the Christmas Market and enjoy a hot beverage and gingerbread snack.


If you wish, we can extend this portion of the trip to explore more of Switzerland prior to going onward to Lake Como.

Days 10-12: Lake Como, Italy

Colorful buildings next to water in Lake Como in Italy.

After departing Lucerne, you will take a train ride through the Swiss Alps and end your trip at the spectacular Lake Como. Although the northern part of the lake closes this time of the year, the charming town of Como stays open for holiday festivities. Enjoy a boat ride around the lake to see the holiday decorations. If you choose, you can take the train or a private transfer into Milan to explore the festive decorations, partake in fine dining or do some must needed shopping.

Advisor - Jeff Willy

Travel Advisor

Jeff Willy

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This itinerary is part of our ongoing series on travel to Europe. For more travel inspiration, check out my guide, Kenya and Tanzania: The Great Migration Safari.