This post may contain affiliate links. Read the full disclosure
Christmas markets are a quintessential part of any European winter holiday. The best Christmas markets in Europe are spread across the continent with some magical experiences to be had throughout. We highlight some of the best European Christmas markets, as well as what makes them so special so you can enjoy the ultimate European Christmas market experience for yourself!
Whether you are preparing for your first white Christmas or simply planning to visit somewhere new this December, these beautiful Christmas markets in Europe will definitely get you into the festive spirit!
Christmas markets are one of the most wonderful reasons to visit Europe in the festive season and while there are some amazing Christmas markets around the world, nothing quite compares to the magic feeling of wandering through a European Christmas market.
From mulled wine and freshly baked festive treats, street food and handmade gifts, it’s an experience everyone should have at least once!
Here are some of the absolute best European Christmas markets you will find:
Best Christmas Markets In Germany
As one of the most popular Christmas destinations for European tourists every year, it’s no surprise that there are many incredible Christmas markets in Germany. These are amongst some of our personal favourites, having spent a lot of time in the German Bavaria region just before Christmas a few years back. There is no doubt that the holiday season in Germany is something special!
By Richard from RJ On Tour
Nuremberg, in the Bavaria region of Germany, is one of the most Christmassy places in Europe. Christkindlesmarkt is one of the oldest and most famous Christmas markets in the world.
The city centre has a great atmosphere and has Christmas decorations throughout. The old town area is a pretty backdrop to the festivities. This includes the beautiful Frauenkirche that frames the Christmas market perfectly.
Each year the market runs throughout December, with the opening ceremony taking place on the first Friday before advent. The festivities then run every day until Christmas eve.
The principal area of the market is in Hauptmarkt. However, there are countless stalls with gifts, decorations, traditional souvenirs, wooden toys, and fun things to see within the city walls.
The seasonal stalls sell many foods and drinks, including the local Nuremberg Sausages, a very special thing to try in Nuremberg. The delightful scent of gingerbread and mulled drinks is everywhere you go, and are popular items to enjoy.
The main stage at Christkindlesmarkt has live performances of traditional festive songs throughout the evening. There are also lots of other things to see in Nuremberg, thus making it a great destination to visit.
One of the best Christmas markets in Europe is in Stuttgart, Germany. It’s also one of the oldest markets in Europe, originating in the 17th century, and one of the largest markets in Germany.
With over 300 food, drink and craft stalls, daily music performances by 60 local choir and music groups, rides and special exhibits for kids, live animals, a huge decorated Christmas tree, and even an ice-skating rink, you won’t run out of fun things to do.
Even better? The Rathaus (town hall) turns into a giant Advent calendar!
The Esslingen Medieval Christmas market and the Ludwigsburg Baroque market are only a short S-Bahn ride from downtown Stuttgart. The Tübingen ChocolART Festival, Hohenzollern Castle market, and the Bad Wimpfen market are around an hour away and easily accessible by car or train ride.
No matter which market you visit, be sure to indulge in a German Christmas market favourite: a mug of steaming hot Glühwein (hot mulled wine). Then keep the mug as a souvenir!
Undeniably, Cologne Christmas Markets are some of the best in Europe and each year, and they attract over 2 million tourists because they are authentic.
There are seven magical markets distributed over the city, and the best are at the Cologne Cathedral, Neumarkt, Alter Markt, Heinzels, and the Rudolfplatz. Some are much calmer than others, but they all offer the traditional characteristics, such as mulled wine, food stalls selling roasted chestnuts and cinnamon biscuits.
The best time to see the magic is from the end of November to just before Christmas.
Each market offers an exceptional experience. For example, having the UNESCO World Heritage Cathedral as a backdrop is magical and a unique experience for a Christmas market.
At Heinzels in Cologne’s Old Town, you can experience an enchanting atmosphere – there are carousels, an ice rink and Ice Stock Curling – where the player aims to reach a puck at the end of the alley. Afterwards, you can cheer the champion at the historic barn with a traditional German beer.
When thinking of Christmas markets in German cities, Berlin isn’t typically the first city that comes to mind. However, the German capital is home to its fair share of Christmas markets.
One of the most famous markets to add to your Berlin itinerary is the market at Gendarmenmarkt.
From late November to early January, one of Berlin’s prettiest city squares turns into a Christmas wonderland. Do your Christmas shopping at the various stalls selling different handicrafts before grabbing a snack and a mug of glühwein. The market also has different entertainment throughout the day, from Christmas carolers to fire dancers.
Another popular Christmas market in Berlin is the one at Alexanderplatz, one of Berlin’s busiest public squares.
This market is more like a funfair, with rides, an ice rink, and a unique Christmas Pyramid with a viewing platform. The market is even home to a Ferris Wheel, from which you can admire the bright lights of the market below. You can also find traditional stalls selling gifts and food.
Most of Berlin’s Christmas Markets open toward the end of November and close during the first few days of January. To make sure that you don’t miss out on any markets, plan your visit for December.
Dresden’s most famous Christmas market, called the Striezelmarkt, dates back to 1434 and is considered the oldest Christmas market in the world.
Aside from being the oldest, this Christmas market also has the world’s largestErzgebirge pyramid, which is a tall wooden structure that looks like a tower. The one at the Striezelmarkt stands at 14.62 meters (almost 48 feet) tall, so you can’t miss it.
The Striezelmarkt has a great atmosphere that oozes tradition. It’s big but well organized, and you can easily wander up and down the rows to check out the different stalls while sipping a hot mug of mulled wine.
While the Christmas market is great any time of day, it’s a truly wonderful experience once the sun goes down.
While in Dresden for the Christmas markets, be sure to try some traditional Stollen. This is a type of bread similar to a fruitcake that is found throughout Germany. But Stollen originally comes from Dresden, so this is the place to try it.
The city has several other Christmas markets, and you could spend a day in Dresden wandering from one Christmas market to another. A few worth seeing include the Christmas market near Frauenkirche, one at the Stallhof, and one near the Dresden Castle.
There are some really great Christmas markets in France. From the traditional Strasbourg market to smaller, more quaint locales such as Lyon and Reims there is a big range of options. These French Christmas markets have all been around for many years with some of them dating back centuries!
By Bec from Wyld Family Travel
The Alsace region is world-famous for its cuisine, fairytale houses, cobblestone streets, delicious wines and epic Christmas Markets. You will not find a more stunning and Christmasy place on the planet, so if you are looking for the very best Christmas markets in Europe the Alsace is for you.
Most are set up in the town main square and you will find some spread out from there. Shops in the area decorate their windows and even the outside of the store to get right into the spirit of the season, adding to the charm.
Weaving your way through the streets you can get a cup of Vin Chaud (mulled wine) to keep you warm while sampling some of the finest Christmas Market food with other tourists and locals around a fire or a table and chairs provided by the stall you bought from. You may opt to eat at a local restaurant instead and watch the world go by.
You can find the carolers that wander or the stage where you might find some people singing. You may not know the words but if you know the true sing along too!
Don’t forget to pick up some Alsace wine or the gingerbread from Fortwenger to take home with you as a souvenir.
It doesn’t really matter what you do, you are bound to enjoy yourself at an Alsace Christmas Market.
Paris at Christmastime is a great place to experience the festive atmosphere. From mid-November to the first week of January, the city is populated by Christmas Markets, and they are fun places to visit with family and friends.
There are many Christmas markets in Paris, with at least one in each district. However, the Tuileries Market has always been one of the most magical Christmas markets for its central location, size, and variety of chalets.
Set in the Tuileries Garden, not far from the Louvre Museum or the Seine River in Paris 1, the Tuileries Christmas Market has more than 100 wooden chalets selling Christmas decorations, unique gifts, and comfort food. There is also a restoration area for eating and drinking, a funfair for kids, and even an ice skating rink!
The Tuileries Christmas Market is free to visit and car-free. If possible, visit during the week, when the Parisians are working, and there are smaller crowds.
The UK is a great place to visit in December and there are some pretty incredible Christmas markets here. With many UK family attractions, you will easily find plenty of incredible experiences to fill your days, before spending your evenings strolling the markets together.
There is nothing more magical than visiting London at Christmastime. The city is filled with festive lights and holiday cheer.
A variety of Christmas markets can be found throughout the city. Markets at Southbank Centre, Leicester Square, and Greenwich are filled with traditional chalets selling food and crafts. Enjoy a hot glass of mulled wine or cider while you shop for Christmas gifts.
Each market offers something different and is sure to put you in the holiday spirit, but the biggest and most notable of them all is Winter Wonderland.
Winter Wonderland is located in Hyde Park and offers a variety of shopping and dining options. Don’t miss the Bavarian Hall, which offers live music, beer steins, and traditional German cuisine.
Winter Wonderland offers fun activities for all ages, including ice skating, a midway with fun games, and a chance to visit Santa. There is truly something for everyone here!
From mid-November to early January, Winter Wonderland is open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. But the best time to visit is at night when all the lights are on!
Manchester is one of the best places to go for Christmas Markets in Europe, for the city’s variety and vibrancy. Classic Christmas Markets are spread through the city centre from early November through until the weekend before Christmas, with bright wooden stalls selling traditional gifts, sweets and snacks.
The main market is the Manchester Christmas Market, which is traditionally held outside the town hall square on Albert Square, but there are other stalls on St Ann’s Square and on the main shopping street Market Street.
The area around the cathedral and near Exchange Square also has an ice rink and other festive activities. There are bars selling mulled wine and hot chocolate, and you can get a special souvenir Manchester Christmas Markets mug to remind you of your visit.
For something a little different, Manchester has alternative Christmas markets too. Hatch on Oxford Road is transformed into a winter wonderland, while the beautiful Edwardian Victoria Baths hosts a Festive Christmas Fair. There’s also a vegan Christmas Market.
In Austria, there are some unique opportunities to enjoy the Christmas markets. This beautiful country transforms into a Christmas wonderland during December, making it a truly spectacular time to visit Austria.
By Paula from Paula Pins The Planet
Salzburg has some of the best Christmas Markets in Europe is a perfect place to visit all year long, but it is during Christmas time that the magic happens.
From charming streets and cozy cafes to visiting the iconic highlights including castles, and baroque buildings while surrounded by the Alps covered in snow immerses you in a fairy tale land.
Christmas time in Salzburg begins with the opening of Christmas markets at late November, and besides the most popular Christmas Markets in Salzburg located at the Damplatz, you can also find other options to visit smaller Markets, such as the Advent Magic Heilbrunn and the Market on Mirabell Square.
Experience the Salzburg delicacies, local handcraft, and try the traditional Glühwein, known as hot, spiced wine.
One of the most traditional things to do in Salzburg during Christmas time is going to the “Salzburger Adventsingen”, a traditional nativity scene play performed by local boys in different Salzburg dialects.
It was founded by the local folk-culture expert Tobias Reiser in 1946 and draws an audience of thousands of people every year, especially Austrians.
The Austrian capital turns into a real-life fairytale at Christmastime with dazzling displays at every turn. Seemingly every square, palace, and street are decorated with festive flair, and market stalls pop up all over the city.
There are more than 20 Christmas Markets in Vienna, ranging from the boho and boutique to fun family favourites, and more sophisticated settings.
At the centre of the action, you’ll find the Viennese Christmas Dream at Rathausplatz – one of the largest markets and a full Xmas destination with an ice skating rink, workshops and rides.
Nearby, Maria-Theresien-Platz benefits from a stunning setting, and a bit more space to shop, while the Spittelberg market is the place to mingle with the locals. Karlsplatz market has a distinct artisan flair, while both Belvedere and Schonbrunn Palace put on a spectacle to remember.
Keep cosy by sipping warm mugs of punch as you wander through the Vienna Christmas markets, or eating salty potato spirals and sweet krapfen straight out of the oven. Shop for original Viennese snow globes, handknitted mittens, and fragrant garlands for your tree.
If you are looking for a traditional European Christmas market experience, then Poland is the place to go! From Krakow in the south all the way north, these Polish Christmas markets offer incredible opportunities to enjoy their culture.
With its rich history, perfectly preserved Old Town and cheap food and drink, Kraków is a great city to visit any time of year. However, visit Kraków at Christmas for something quite special.
Horse-drawn carriages clip-clop around its squares, sparking lights illuminating the cobblestones, and Rynek Glowny, the city’s beating heart, is occupied by the city’s Christmas market.
Kraków’s Christmas market, which is amongst the best in Europe, typically starts at the end of November and continues until at least December 26th. To make the most of this festive wonderland, visit after nightfall.
Pick up festive gifts for those back home, including traditional, hand-painted glass baubles and exquisitely decorated heart-shaped gingerbread.
Rynek Glowny is also home to creative nativity scenes. and admire the colourful and, if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to join carol singers as they process around this majestic square.
And the very best Christmas markets have mouthwatering local Polish food. So keep the hunger pangs at bay with a plate of famous pierogi (Polish dumplings), washed down with a warming mug of mulled wine.
Explore Krakow: Visit the incredible underground tunnels of the Wieliczka Salt Mine or take a day tour to learn about the haunting history of Auschwitz.
One of our fondest Christmas memories was a white Christmas in Zakopane, enjoying the magic of this beautiful small town that is less than an hour from Krakow.
Zakopane is one of the most popular winter holiday destinations in Poland, with so many fun things to do and with the backdrop of the breathtaking Tatra Mountains and the traditional wooden homes that line the streets.
The Gubalowka market is the heart of Zakopane Christmas. There are markets all year round in Zakopane, however, at Christmas time, they become the perfect place to shop for special gifts and enjoy festive treats.
You’ll find a plethora of gifts for every person on your list including more traditional Polish items like beeswax candles, handmade wooden toys and ornaments and babushka dolls, to modern luxuries such as jackets made from leathers, along with plenty in between!
The aromas of chestnuts, hot mulled wine, homemade cheese enhance the ambience of Zakopane’s Christmas Market. Enjoy smoked Oscypek cheese with cranberry sauce and all the other delicious traditional Polish foods.to spice up your taste buds.
If you are looking for unique Christmas markets, then you should definitely visit Bratislava in Slovakia! Visitors are thrilled by the many picturesque Christmas markets and the unique atmosphere when they visit Bratislava in winter!
You’ll find probably the most beautiful market at Hlavné and Hviezdoslavovo námestie square. During a walk, you can expect local specialities, delicious food and charming treats. Both tourists and locals gather here to drink punch or mulled wine and enjoy the real atmosphere of a traditional Christmas market.
Good food is also provided! You should try Loksa, a savoury pancake, or if you like sweet things, the traditional Strudl, a crispy cake with apple and sultana filling.
In addition to the culinary delights, you will also find traditional souvenirs and handicrafts made of wood at the Christmas market – ideal for bringing home a few souvenirs for your loved ones.
Christmas in The Netherlands is a very traditional affair, and it’s no surprise that their Christmas markets are some of the best in Europe. From market stalls, with handmade gifts, to delicious Dutch treats, such as pepernoten en speculaas, there is plenty on offer here!
By Frans from Ask The Dutch Guy
Christmas is a truly magical time all over the world. Just when you thought it can’t get any better, the Maastricht Christmas Market takes the celebration up a notch.
The Maastricht Christmas Market is an annual event that takes place from the end of November to the New Year at Vrijthof Square.
Maastricht is a historic Dutch city with medieval churches and monuments that the Netherlands is known for. Around Christmas, Maastricht transforms into a spellbinding merry wonderland as the city goes into full Christmas mode.
Earning the moniker “Magical Maastricht”, the city market lights up with stalls and entertainment, as people come to go skating on the ice rink on Vrijthof Square and see the sea of Christmas lights from the top of the Ferris wheel.
People glide on the lovely ice rink to Christmas-themed music, while others watch on the side while sipping a warm beverage at a nearby café.
Maastricht is definitely the Netherlands’ top Christmas holiday destination and the Maastricht Christmas Market is one of the top Christmas markets in the country.
Valkenburg is a city in the south of the Netherlands, near Maastricht and the border with Belgium. Valkenburg has a very unique Christmas market, in a cave.
There are several marl caves in Valkenburg, which are open to the public. Each year in November and December a Christmas market is hosted in these caves. It gives an extra magical and cozy touch to the Christmas market that it’s being held in a cave.
There are 4 different Christmas markets in Valkenburg. Namely the Fluweelengrot (Velvet cave), the Gemeente grot, Mergelrijk and Winter Wonderland. Each has its own special theme.
The Fluweelengrot is the largest indoor Christmas event in the Netherlands, the Gemeente grot is the oldest underground Christmas market in Europe, Mergelrijk has a 25 metre long Christmas story on display and Winter Wonderland has the largest illuminated Christmas tree in the province of Limburg.
During weekdays is the best time to visit. On Saturday and Sunday, it will be the busiest.
Buy a nativity scene or candle made from marl if you are looking for the best souvenir to get at the caves. And make sure you take the Route D’Amuse, a culinary walking route through Valkenburg.
Growing in popularity over the years, the Czech Republic has some really great Christmas markets to enjoy. From Prague to smaller towns such as Cesky Krumlov, there is plenty of choice for visitors in the region.
By Samantha from The Wandering Wanderluster
Germany has always been THE DESTINATION for Christmas Markets, but in recent years just over the border, the Prague Christmas Markets have become increasingly more popular, giving Germany a good run for its money!
Typically running from the last weekend of November through to New Year, Prague’s Christmas Markets are simply magical, especially if it happens to snow!
The main Christmas market can be found in the Old Town Square, while smaller ones are dotted around the city.
The spirit of Christmas is brought to life with a number of brightly coloured wooden huts selling souvenirs, Christmas baubles, handmade gifts, and traditional Christmas treats.
Arguably the most impressive sight of all is the tall and mighty great Christmas tree that is purposely chosen from a region in the Czech Republic to stand as a symbol of Christmas in Prague. Decorated in baubles, strings of fairy lights, and a star, the tree is switched on daily at 4.30 pm often accompanied by a seasonal tune.
The best place to take in the Christmas market is from the Observational Bridge which is free to walk across. From there you can scope out your route, take pictures of the tree and nativity, or a festive Christmas selfie.
Those looking to beat the crowds and save some money should book ahead and visit on its opening weekend!
There are some great and unique Christmas markets to be found in Belgium, which offer a little something different from the norm. With more than 400 years of history behind them, these Belgian Christmas markets are truly memorable for visitors during December.
By Sarah from CosmopoliClan
Celebrate Christmas in the heart of Europe, where the cobbled streets are lined with festively decorated chocolate shops.
There’s the Fish Market with its back-to-back rows of Christmas stalls and its giant Ferris wheel, the intimate Place Sainte-Cathérine with its mouth-watering food stalls and its colourfully illuminated church, the spacious De Brouckère with its ice-skating rink, La Bourse with its Christmas stalls and the elegantly decorated covered passages that make up the Royal Galleries.
But the most enchanting sight can be found at the Grand Place. Not only is this UNESCO World Heritage Site home to the City Hall, the giant Christmas tree and the nativity scene.
It’s also where to admire the amazing sound and light show that illuminates the stately guild houses that frame this stunning square.
The icing on the cake (or, in this case, the icing sugar on the waffle) is the heart-warming culinary offer. From speculoos biscuits to bûches de Noël and from mulled wine to finger-licking chocolate, the Brussels Christmas truly is a feast for all senses.
In Estonia, there are some really great opportunities to enjoy Christmas markets. With Tallinn as a fantastic starting point for exploring the area, it’s easy to spend time at these wonderful Estonian Christmas markets and then explore the country with things like snowshoeing!
The market takes place annually from the last week of November and through early January. It is open daily between the hours of 12 to 7 p.m. If you have the chance to be there for Christmas Eve there are some amazing performances to watch.
The market itself is full of unique gifts you can buy such as ornaments, Christmas decor, hand-knitted mittens and socks, and much much more. There is also great food you can indulge in like sausage or black pudding which is a traditional Estonia specialty.
For dessert, you can have a gingerbread cookie and to keep warm while you walk around you have to get a mulled wine!
The town itself is adorable to explore as there are many historical streets and cobblestone alleyways. One of the major attractions is Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, a large Russian Orthodox Cathedral which looks beautiful from the outside to the inside. Tallinn can be reached shortly from the local Tallinn Airport.
The best time to visit has to be during Christmas to visit the lovely Christmas Markets as described here.
Russia is one of the best places to explore in December and with some really incredible Christmas markets, you will not want to miss these experiences. From Moscow to St Petersburg, visitors can enjoy their time here amongst the beautiful Russian culture.
By Lindsey from Have Clothes, Will Travel
Moscow’s best Christmas market is in the heart of the city in Red Square. This market looks as though it were plucked straight from a fairytale.
It features the iconic onion domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral as its backdrop, as well as The Kremlin and the beautiful GUM Mall, which dons strings of twinkling lights during Christmas.
When entering the market, you’ll be greeted by a large ice skating rink and dozens of decorated vendor stalls selling traditional Russian treats and gifts. Be sure to try the many kinds of grilled meats, blini (which are Russian pancakes), cookies and more. A glass of mulled wine is also the perfect way to keep warm!
You can also find a great variety of gifts and souvenirs at the Red Square Christmas Market. There will be Matryoshka dolls (nesting dolls), Ushankas (Russian fur hats), Podstakanniks (Russian Tea Glass Holders) and more available at the market.
However, please note, Izmailovsky Market in Moscow has better prices for gifts and souvenirs.
Visiting the market during the weekdays will be less crowded, however, the weekends usually have special events, such as bands and singers set up on stages around the market, and there are generally more vendors selling gifts.
If you’re looking for a memorable Christmas market experience this year, we recommend visiting one of these festive destinations to experience the best Christmas markets in Europe. Whether you want to enjoy the winter wonderland atmosphere of Prague or Vienna’s towering Christmas tree in front of the city hall and visit Santa Claus himself, there are plenty of options for those who want their Christmas holidays celebration abroad. Where would you like to go?