7 European Cities With The Best Christmas Markets

7 European Cities With The Best Christmas Markets

Soak in the festive spirit and make merry in Europe’s most charming Christmas markets which set up shop each year.

Incredibly popular around Europe in the weeks before Christmas, Christmas markets attract people from far and wide, with many actually travelling from another country especially to enjoy the vibrant markets. Christmas markets can trace their roots back to medieval Germany, which accounts for the diverse names given to the wonderful street markets: Christkindlmarkt and Weihnachtsmarkt. A great way to get into the festive spirit, Christmas markets can now be found in many major cities and towns around Europe. Some may only last for a few days or operate just on weekends, while others are open for up to a full month before Christmas Day and lasting until early in the New Year.

Of course, shopping is a major feature of the markets, with people stocking up on gifts for family and friends, festive items for the home, including baubles and other beautiful ornaments for the tree, wreaths, and miniature nativity scenes, festive food and drinks, and items that are difficult to find at other times of the year. Vendors travel long distances to sell their wares at Christmas markets, and crafts, ethnic goods, artwork, and traditional food and drinks are especially popular.

europe christmas markets

Image credit: Traveltipy

Christmas markets aren’t only about the shopping though…

A large and beautifully decorated Christmas tree is almost always found in a Christmas market, as well as other common symbols of Christmas. Christmas carols often ring through the air, jovial Santa Claus / Father Christmas / St. Nicholas figures enthral younger visitors, and beautiful nativity scenes (scenes that depict the birth of Jesus Christ) are often displayed with pride. Some markets have ice rinks and fairground rides, many offer a warming selection of drinks, such as mulled wines, warm ciders, and steaming hot mugs of tea, coffee, and hot chocolate, and the aromas of food stalls is often enough to make people have a snack… or six!

Image credit: Mark Michaelis

Don’t think that once you’ve seen one Christmas market you’ve seen them all. Far from it! Each market offers something unique, whether it’s local and regional crafts and foodstuffs, depictions of local folklore, quirky Christmas customs found only in certain areas, or something different entirely, it’s well worth visiting several Christmas markets to really appreciate their wonder.

europe christmas markets

Image credit: Rene Schwietzke

The markets attract people from other faiths and those who have no religious beliefs in addition to Christians. The atmosphere, attractions, and stalls are tempting for everyone! As they are held during winter in Europe, remember to wrap up warm for a trip to a Christmas market!

Here are some of Europe’s most charming Christmas markets to really help you get into the joyous Christmas spirit:

1. Salzburg, Austria

europe christmas markets

Image credit: Christoph Sammer

Open from the end of November to the end of December, the Christmas market in Austria’s city of Salzburg is one of the oldest Christmas markets in Europe. Although it’s a fairly small market when compared with many others, this only serves to give it a more intimate and captivating vibe. There’s still plenty of shopping choices, though, with around 100 stalls selling diverse goods. Local crafts would make great gifts or a treat for yourself, and you can keep the chill away with a mug of mulled wine or some freshly baked gingerbread. Set among stunning baroque buildings and with a spectacular medieval castle perched on the cliff top above, this is certainly one mightily picturesque market.

2. Mount Pilatus‏, Switzerland

Image credit: skyseeker

Located at an altitude of around 7,000 feet, the Christmas market at Switzerland’s Mount Pilatus is the highest such market in Europe. A beautiful destination at any time of the year, the mountain is made all that more special by the atmospheric market. Or, perhaps the market’s charms come largely from the scenic setting? In any case, it’s a beautiful market in a beautiful location! Soak up the glorious vistas across the snow-covered Swiss Alps and down over Lake Lucerne and peruse a wide assortment of handicrafts. Traditional Christmas tunes fill the air and it’s nothing short of magical. Oh, and if there’s heavy snow you can even combine your trip with exhilarating snow sports too!

3. Nuremberg, Germany

Image credit: Andy L

As the birthplace of Christmas markets, Germany is known for having heaps of amazing options. Berlin, Cologne, Dresden, Munich, Stuttgart, Freiburg… these are just a few delightful seasonal markets around Germany. Nuremburg is a real gem, however, in the country’s gleaming Christmas market crown. With a history that dates back to the 1620s, it’s a place to experience fine traditions and tasteful seasonal cheer. The market is officially opened on the Friday before advent, with the appearance of the Christmas Angel, in all its golden glory, high up in the main square’s medieval church. You won’t find any mass-produced goods on sale here; instead, you can browse a wide selection of high-quality handmade crafts and unique items on more than 180 stalls. The Nuremburg Plum People adorn many stalls, exquisite small puppets made from figs, prunes, and walnuts. Sample spicy sausages, Glühwein, and local gingerbread.

4. Stockholm, Sweden

Image credit: Michael Caven

If you’re dreaming of a white Christmas (market), Stockholm is a terrific place to visit—December snow is all but guaranteed. While there are several markets around the city, the one in the heart of the Old Town—Gamla Stan—is among the most delightful. Sellers are arranged in small red huts, surrounded by glorious architecture and offering a tempting assortment of goodies. Add a true Scandinavian flavour to Christmas and look for Swedish meatballs, glögg, reindeer meat, pear cider, and national sweets. There are plentiful Swedish handicrafts available to buy, as well as a selection of traditional Christmas memorabilia.

5. Krakow, Poland

Image credit: Mattia Panciroli

Poland’s medieval darling of Krakow is another destination that is almost certain to see at least a fine dusting of snow in the winter months. Myriad goods are spread over numerous stalls, with a combination of antiques and more modern wares, along with winter clothing, crafts, ornaments, candles, sweets, embroidery, and electronics. Artisans showcase their items, with painted glass, metal wares, and wooden carvings among the skillfully made products. Local beauties to look for are carefully painted colourful glass baubles for the Christmas tree. Spiced nuts, mulled wines, and hearty bigos (a type of Polish stew) will satisfy any hunger pangs. Choral groups from nearby areas often enchant shoppers with Christmas carols and a brightly lit Christmas tree stands proudly amid the medieval architecture.

6. Copenhagen, Denmark

Image credit: Susanne Nilsson

Enter a winter wonderland at Tivoli Gardens in the Danish capital of Copenhagen. Young and old alike cannot help but feel a sense of wonder when they feast their eyes on the towering Christmas tree festooned with colourful lights, the miles of twinkling string lights, the exciting rides, and the many stalls. Keep an eye open for the mischievous elf-like nisser with their red caps and shirts and traditional wooden clogs. Add some thrills to your shopping experience on the fairground rides and join in with festive games. Vendors sell items like knitwear, leather goods, artwork, and Christmas decorations. There are also local delicacies to tempt you on the spot and to take home, including the blackcurrant jam doughnuts, known locally as oebleskiver, open sandwiches, and glogg.

7. Prague, Czech Republic

Image credit: Roderick Eime

There are several charming and quaint Christmas markets around the medieval streets of Prague, with two of the best located at Wenceslas Square and Old Town Square. Each has a tall and impressive Christmas tree decked out in jolly colours. Vibrant wooden huts sell a vast array of items, including jewellery, toys, candles, puppets, pottery, and glassware. Sample various Czech beers and fight the cold with a cup of mulled wine. BBQ sausage, spit-roasted ham, and pastries are just a few treats for your stomach. Old Town Square’s Christmas market is especially great for kids, with a small petting zoo and a detailed nativity scene.

And, these are just seven of the amazing Christmas markets that set up shop every winter around Europe! Most of Europe really is a land of enchantment and child-like awe around the festive period.

About Author

Sarah W
Sarah W

Sarah W is a travelling cat-lover who enjoys exploring places that are a little bit quirky or away from headline attractions. Favourite things include delicious falafel, snuggling under a thick duvet, (badly) belting out karaoke at the top of her lungs, and, of course, her family, friends, and furry pets.


Related Posts