The Ultimate Guide to Europe's Christmas Markets
Arts & Culture
Europe's Christmas markets are special in my heart because they evoke memories of joyful gatherings. My family and I have made it a tradition to visit these enchanting markets every year since 2007! The beautiful twinkling lights, the scent of chestnuts and the festive atmosphere filled with carolers and laughter created a feeling of warmth and togetherness that genuinely defined the Christmas season. As time has passed, these markets have come to symbolize connection and continuity for us. They serve as a reminder of the enduring significance of family, tradition and the enchantment surrounding the holiday season.
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Things to do in Europe
Are you seeking Christmas experiences in Europe? Look no further! Here's your ultimate guide to the best Christmas markets in Europe.
Strasbourg, France: the capital of Christmas
Why Visit: Immerse yourself in the enchantment of France's Christmas market adorned with millions of twinkling lights. Treat yourself to a stay at the lavish Le Bouclier d'Or hotel.
My favorite Strasbourg Christmas Market is spread across the city center, with the central hub around Strasbourg Cathedral (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg). This market is known for its stunning Christmas trees and beautiful lights. Dates: The market typically runs from late November to December 23rd each year.
Artisan's Market: Discover unique artisanal products and traditional crafts in this market.
What sets Strasbourg's Christmas Market apart is its rich history, Alsatian traditions, and the city's dedication to preserving the spirit of Christmas. The market is known for its beautifully decorated wooden stalls, mulled wine (vin chaud), traditional Alsatian food and a wide array of handcrafted ornaments and gifts.
Other Christmas markets include the Place Kléber Market and Petite France Market.
Vienna, Austria: imperial splendor
Why Visit: Immerse yourself in Vienna's grandeur as you explore its Christmas markets set against the backdrop of palaces. Discover gifts at boutiques and experience true luxury by staying at historical landmarks like Hotel Sacher.
My favorite Vienna Christmas Market that consistently receives high praise is Rathausplatz (Vienna City Hall).
Dates: Typically runs from mid-November to December 23rd.
Impressive Setting: The backdrop of Vienna City Hall, illuminated by a dazzling display, creates a fairytale ambiance.
Giant Christmas tree: A towering Christmas tree adorned with thousands of lights stands at the center of the market.
Arts and crafts: You'll find various handmade crafts, ornaments and unique gifts from local artisans.
Culinary Delights: Savor traditional Austrian treats like sausages, roasted chestnuts and sweet pastries. Don't forget to try the famous Viennese punch and Glühwein (mulled wine).
Ice skating: Enjoy ice skating on the large ice rink adjacent to the market.
Entertainment: Live music, choirs and other performances enhance the festive atmosphere.
What makes the Vienna Christmas Market at Rathausplatz particularly special is its picturesque location, the grandeur of the Vienna City Hall, and the overall festive spirit that fills the air. It's a popular destination for locals and tourists and captures the essence of the holiday season in Vienna.
While the Rathausplatz market is highly recommended, Vienna boasts several other delightful Christmas markets, including those at Schönbrunn Palace, Belvedere Palace and Spittelberg. Exploring these markets can provide a well-rounded and magical Christmas experience in Vienna.
Zurich, Switzerland: Swarovski Christmas Market
Why Visit: Delve into the world of Swarovski crystals at Zurich's Crystal-themed market, where you can find crystal decorations for your holiday celebrations. Enjoy breathtaking views of the city from the Dolder Grand Hotel.
My favorite Zurich Christmas Market is typically held in the heart of the city at Zurich Main Train Station (Zürich Hauptbahnhof).
Dates: Runs from late November to December 24th.
Highlights: Zurich's Christmas market is one of the largest in Switzerland and features beautifully decorated stalls, a towering Christmas tree, a delightful ice rink and an array of artisanal gifts and food offerings. The Swarovski Crystal-decorated Christmas tree is a particular attraction.
Although I highly recommend this market, Zurich also offers Christmas markets, such as the Christkindlimarkt at Sechseläutenplatz and the Vienna Christmas Market on Theaterplatz.
Prague, Czech Republic: Enchanting Fairy Tale
Why Visit: Immerse yourself in the atmosphere of Prague's Christmas market at the Old Town Square. Experience the charm of luxury hotels such as the Augustine, a Luxury Collection Hotel.
The Christmas market at Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí) in Prague is often considered one of the picturesque Christmas markets in the city.
Dates: Typically runs from early December until January, including New Year's Day.
The market is set against Prague's Gothic-style Old Town Hall and the Baroque Church of St. Nicholas, creating a magical atmosphere.
Christmas Tree: A decorated Christmas tree, often sourced from the Krkonoše Mountains, serves as the point of the market.
Artisanal Delights: Visitors can explore a range of handcrafted gifts, such as toys, glass ornaments and traditional Czech crafts.
Czech Gastronomy: Indulge in Czech street food offerings like Trdelník (a pastry), klobása (sausage) and hot mulled wine (svařák).
Live Entertainment: Delight in performances by carolers and folk bands that enhance the ambiance.
Nativity Scene: The market in Prague showcases a live nativity scene that beautifully captures the spirit of the holiday season. What sets apart the Old Town Square Christmas Market is its location, breathtaking architecture and the delightful festive ambiance that fills the square.
Although the Christmas Market in Old Town Square is worth a visit, Prague also offers charming Christmas markets. You can find them at Wenceslas Square, Prague Castle and in neighborhoods throughout the city.
Salzburg, Austria: home of Mozart
Why Visit: Celebrate Christmas in the birthplace of Mozart. Explore handcrafted gifts. Treat yourself to luxurious accommodations at Hotel Goldener Hirsch.
One of Salzburg's most iconic and highly regarded Christmas markets is the Salzburg Christmas Market at Cathedral Square (Salzburger Christkindlmarkt am Domplatz).
Dates: Typically runs from late November to December 24th.
Historic Setting: The market takes place in front of the magnificent Salzburg Cathedral (Salzburger Dom) and the Residenz Palace, creating a stunning backdrop.
Craftsmanship: Visitors can explore stalls offering high-quality artisanal gifts, such as wooden toys, glass ornaments and traditional Austrian crafts.
Culinary delights: Savor traditional Austrian and Salzburg cuisine, including sausages, roasted chestnuts and sweets like apple strudel.
Christmas music: Enjoy live performances of traditional Christmas music and carolers, creating a festive atmosphere.
Nativity scenes: The market often features beautifully crafted nativity scenes, a hallmark of Austrian Christmas traditions.
While this market stands out, Salzburg has other charming Christmas markets, including Mirabell Palace, Hellbrunn Palace and Hohensalzburg Castle.
Munich, Germany: majestic cathedral setting
Why Visit: The Christmas Market at Marienplatz in Munich is an attraction during the holiday season. Located in the heart of the city's center, the Gothic City Hall serves as a backdrop for the market. The magnificent New Town Hall's Gothic architecture and renowned Glockenspiel add to the charm. A stay at the Mandarin Oriental is a must.
Dates: It offers an experience from late November until December 24th.
A centerpiece of the market is an adorned Christmas tree donated each year by a different Bavarian town. It sets the stage for exploring numerous stalls filled with handcrafted gifts. There is something for everyone, from toys to delicate ornaments and intricate nativity scenes.
Savor sausages, pretzels, roasted nuts, and mouthwatering gingerbread cookies known as Lebkuchen. Mulled wine (Glühwein) or hot apple cider are choices to warm up in the evenings.
Entertainment is a part of this event. Visitors can enjoy music performances by Bavarian brass bands and carolers that enhance the joyful ambiance.
The market often features a nativity scene that portrays the timeless story of Christmas.
Although the Marienplatz market is highly recommended, Munich also boasts other Christmas markets, such as those at Nymphenburg Palace, Residenz Palace and the Medieval Market in Wittelsbacher Platz.
Brussels, Belgium: regal sophistication
Why Visit: Delight in chocolates, indulge in exquisite gourmet cuisine, and experience luxury accommodations at hotels like Hotel Amigo.
Take advantage of visiting the Grand Place Christmas market. The Christmas market held at the Grand Place in Brussels, also known as Grote Markt, is often considered one of the city's iconic markets during the holiday season.
Dates: Typically, it runs from November to the end of December.
Historic setting: This enchanting market takes place within the magnificent Grand Place, surrounded by exquisite historical buildings such as the Town Hall and King's House (Maison du Roi).
Illuminating displays: The square is adorned with lighting displays that create a festive ambiance.
Christmas tree: A majestic Christmas tree stands tall at the center of the Grand Place, serving as a point for visitors.
Culinary delights: Delight your taste buds with specialties like waffles, chocolates and crispy fries, and indulge in warm beverages such as mulled wine and hot chocolate.
Ice skating: Embrace the spirit by ice skating at the rink set up near Town Hall.
Although this market stands out, Brussels also boasts Christmas markets, such as the Winter Wonders market at Place Sainte Catherine and the Christmas market at Place Flagey.
Budapest, Hungary: Thermal Baths and Markets
Why visit: Budapest has it all if you're looking to unwind in a setting while soaking up the vibes at Christmas markets. Treat yourself to a session at the thermal baths and indulge in the luxurious atmosphere of the Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace.
One of the beloved Christmas markets in Budapest is the one at Vörösmarty Square. This enchanting market is located in the heart of the city.
Dates: Typically take place from mid-November to the 31st of December.
Experience the enchantment of the Christmas market, where dazzling lights transform the historic square into a magical winter wonderland.
Christmas Tree: Admire a magnificent Christmas tree gracing the square with its majestic presence.
Crafts and Gifts: Discover a multitude of stalls offering unique gifts, decorations, jewelry and traditional and international crafts.
Culinary Delights: Indulge in a steaming bowl of goulash and take in the delights of roasting chestnuts and deep-fried flatbreads!
While this market is worth a visit, Budapest also offers other Christmas markets such as the Christmas market at St. Stephen's Basilica and the Advent Obudan, right across the River Danube.
London, United Kingdom: regal celebrations
Why visit: For a regal Christmas experience, head to London's Christmas markets and revel in their grandeur. Pamper yourself by staying at hotels like The Ritz and immerse yourself in the Winter Wonderland extravaganza held in Hyde Park.
Dates: Typically running from mid-November to the 1st of January.
Enchanting Ambiance: Winter Wonderland creates an atmosphere with dazzling lights, exquisite ice sculptures and festive decorations across Hyde Park.
Market Stalls: Explore a selection of market stalls offering gifts, handcrafted items, delightful Christmas decorations and a wide range of international cuisine.
Entertainment: Enjoy mesmerizing circus shows, engaging theater performances, and breathtaking ice skating spectacles.
Thrilling Rides: Experience a rush with thrilling fairground rides such as a towering Ferris wheel and an exciting roller coaster.
Culinary Delights: Indulge in an array of mouthwatering treats and drinks, including mulled wine, delicious German sausages, delectable churros, and much more.
Experience the magic of Santa's Grotto, where kids can meet Father Christmas and share their Christmas wishlists.
While Winter Wonderland is highly recommended, London boasts Christmas markets like the ones in Southbank Centre, Leicester Square, and Covent Garden.
10. Barcelona, Spain: Mediterranean Elegance
In search of a Mediterranean-style Christmas? Barcelona is your go-to destination. Explore designer shops along Passeig de Gràcia, discover gifts, and unwind in luxury beachfront accommodations like [Hotel Arts Barcelona](hotel link here).
One of the cherished Christmas markets in Barcelona is called Fira de Santa Llúcia. The market is in front of the Barcelona Cathedral (Catedral de Barcelona) in the Gothic Quarter (Barri Gòtic).
Dates: Usually held from late November until December 23rd.
Historical Surroundings: This market takes place in a picturesque area of Barcelona, with the magnificent Gothic Cathedral serving as its backdrop.
Traditional Crafts: Explore an array of stalls offering crafts from Catalonia and Spain, including figurines for nativity scenes, handcrafted decorations, and textiles.
Cultural Performances: Enjoy performances of Catalan music, dance shows, and engaging activities.
Food and Drink: Delight in Catalan holiday delicacies such as turron (and churros) while sipping beverages like hot chocolate or mulled wine.
Nativity Scene: The market often showcases nativity scenes that hold significance in Catalan Christmas traditions.
What sets the Fira de Santa Llúcia is its setting, the range of traditional Catalan and Spanish Christmas items, and the lively atmosphere that captures the true essence of Catalan holiday traditions.
While I highly recommend visiting the Fira de Santa Llúcia, Barcelona boasts Christmas markets such as the Sagrada Família Christmas Market and the Mercat Gòtic (Gothic Market).
The whole of Europe comes alive during the holiday season! Each market has its vibe and strolling through them is genuinely enchanting during Christmas time. Happy Holidays!
Need to Know
Looking for more Christmas Market travel inspo? Check out Fora Travel Advisor Jeff Willy's guide, From Austria to Italy: 12 Days of Christmas Markets.
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