I love the Christmas Season and especially the Christmas markets. My fellow travel bloggers and I want to share our favorite Christmas markets around Europe with you.
This will give you plenty of inspiration to book a last minute trip so you can visit one of these beautiful Christmas markets.
Grimbergen – Belgium
It was hard to pick a favorite Christmas market but I ended up choosing Grimbergen in Belgium. During one weekend in December, you can enjoy this small Christmas market around the Basilica of Grimbergen. This is my favorite because it is tradition to go there every year with a bunch of friends. We just say: we will meet at the place where they sell onion soup and we just know where that is. Every year, there are the same eating stands at the exact same place.
We go there to eat and have fun with friends. Onion soup, waffles, mulled wine, jenever, chestnuts, … , everything you would want to eat at a Christmas market is there. Except for just plain burgers, you will have a hard time finding them. On Sunday, the Christmas market ends with fireworks.
Bruges – Belgium
Bruges, a smaller city in northwest Belgium, is a tourist mecca due to its medieval center and beautiful canals that run throughout the old town. The best time to go is in winter, during the Christmas market season. The entire center evokes a strong sense of Christmas as you see the lights twinkle around the old town hall with a skating rink right in front. Christmas music plays, children laugh, and the market is full of traditional handmade wares such as ornate lace and intricate wooden carvings.
The best part of all, though, is the food. From Belgian chocolates and Speculoos (the original cookie butter) to hearty sausages and potatoes all washed down with hot spiced wine, it will keep you warm and happy.
Jim and Corinne from ReflectionsEnRoute
Rovaniemi – The North Pole
Berlin – Germany
Berlin is the Christmas capital that breaks all the rules. In style.
Unlike almost every other town I’ve come across that’s famed for its Christmas markets, it’s the huge number and diversity of markets that makes Berlin shine bright and bold. Scattered across the four corners of this vibrant city, they’re an invitation to explore German culture and Berlin’s many neighbourhoods.
No one market is quite like another, in much the same no district in this wonderful city is quite like it’s neighbour. Each is an adventure in itself – Alexanderplatz is a chance to indulge in every hearty, German delight you can think of (Bratkartoffeln, I’m looking at you), Opernpalais is an invite to bask in the beauty of some of Berlin’s most opulent architecture, Spandau is a window into Christmas traditions in a village-like suburb.
The twinkling lights, the biting chill of winter in the air, the soft scent of pine branches and of spices from Gluhwein gently warming, the crunch of frost underfoot. Berlin is a treat for all the senses.
We started out with a map of Christmas markets to begin our weekend – and didn’t expect to be taken on a whirlwind tour of the capital. Yes, we left full of currywurst, heisse chocolade and Christmas cheer, but we also left feeling like we knew the people, history and varied landscape of the city a little more than we thought possible. If you’re worried a big city might not be so charming and cosy at this time of year, give Berlin a go – and let it prove you wrong.
Alice from Girl with a saddle bag
Nuremburg – Germany
When it comes to Christmas in Europe, there are a lot of cities that go all out. But Nuremberg may be the Christmas capital of Europe, and there’s good reason for it. Because when it Christmas markets, there’s Nuremberg, Germany and then there’s everywhere else.
Nuremberg’s Christmas Market attracts over two million visitors every year in the four weeks it is open for business. The Nuremberg Christmas Market dates back to the early 1600s, making it one of the longest continually running markets in Europe. The market occupies the Main Square under the imposing façade of the Church of our Lady (Frauenkirche). Stalls with candy-striped awnings occupy neat little rows. Unlike other Christmas markets, Nuremberg specializes in traditional gifts, including “smoker” men (carved figures that hold smoking incense inside) and carved wooden toys. A horse-drawn stagecoach takes visitors on a ride over the cobblestone streets of the medieval old city.
On weekends, the Nuremberg Christmas market is a throbbing mass of people huddling together to stay warm. During the week, you can explore the market in tranquility, eating the local Nuremberger sausages (eaten three in a hard roll) and drinking hot mulled wine (gluhwein).
We’ve visited dozens of Christmas markets across Europe, but Nuremberg is the best. So while many markets focus on tourists, Nuremberg still maintains its local flavor.
Lance and Laura Longwell from Travel Addicts
Nuremburg – Germany
Not too long ago I rented a car in Germany with the intent to visit as many Christmas Markets as possible. We started in Munich and headed up the Romantic Road stopping in towns and villages along the way. Of all the markets we visited, the Nuremberg Christmas Market was my absolute favorite. Stall after stall was overflowing with unique Christmas fare – intricate tree ornaments, handmade snow villages, and glittering holiday decorations could be seen around every corner. Most of the markets we encountered were either traditional or modern. I loved the fact that the market in Nuremberg had the perfect mix of both. There really was something for everyone.
Bundled up against the cold, a steaming hot drink warming my hands while we wandered down each row of the market is my idea of happiness. Mulled wine and hot fruit punch are served in decorative mugs that you either return for a small rebate on the original price or keep as a souvenir. Of course, I choose to keep mine! When we got hungry the food stalls were there, enticing us with their endless array of hot buns, gingerbreads, currywurst and bratwurst sausages, handmade chocolates, and traditional sweets.
The sound of bells heralds the arrival of another charming feature of this place – the horse-drawn stagecoach that makes its way around the market at regular intervals. For a few Euros you can board the coach, snuggle under thick blankets and enjoy the ride. Alternatively, and my personal favorite, you can just watch the stout Rhineland Heavy Draft horses as they make their way along the cobblestone streets.
The endless variety of Christmas goods, the hot drinks and sticky sweets, and the festive atmosphere all make the Nuremberg Christmas Market unique and my favorite market in Germany.
Mary from Lifelong Adventures
Hanover – Germany
Easily my favorite Christmas market in Europe is in Germany (shocking! right?!). Hanover (or Hannover in German) is so festive and popular without being overly crowded for being a Christmas market. It has everything you are looking for in a Christmas market…meat on a stick, glühwein, pretzels, etc. Where Hanover goes above and beyond is in the variety of markets. Right outside the central station, there is a huge traditional market, but you’ll be handsomely rewarded with some super cool and unique experiences if you keep going into town.
In the old town area, where you are surrounded by half-timbered buildings and great little shops, there is a fairytale manmade forest built on the town square. It was the best thing ever! When looking for a cozy place to chill, this is it. You actually feel like you have trekked into the woods. It’s crazy.
By the water, you’ll find an old-timey Christmas festival with axe-throwing and mead (a honey-based wine). This market was so cool! You even realize you were missing a Christmas market from a couple hundred years ago until you visit the men and women in period clothing and see them interact with the children. It’s all so heart-warming… and belly-warming if you want it to be.
Finally, something you don’t tend to find in German Christmas markets–a Finnish Christmas market! Didn’t see that coming, did you? You’ll see fish being hung on wooden planks surrounding a fire pit being smoked…and yes, you can eat it too! This was such a fun addition to the other traditional markets.
Have a mead or a glühwein for me if you go and enjoy the Hanover Christmas market!
Jessica from A Wanderlust for Life
Dortmund – Germany
The German Christmas markets are famous all over the world with their glamorous festive decorations, fun activities, and delectable foods and drinks.
The Christmas market in Dortmund in the province of North-Rhine Westphalia is one of the biggest and most stunning Christmas markets in Germany. It features the tallest German Christmas tree. Although technically it’s not one single tree but rather a pyramid made of pine trees, the sight of the beautifully decorated with 48,000 lights, 45 m high Christmas tree is mesmerizing.
Apart from this highlight, you can see a ton of other stunning decorations at the Dortmund Christmas market. For example, the Christmas pyramid, which is believed to be the predecessor of the Christmas tree. It is a rotating carousel with Christmas scenes depicted on the sides and richly decorated with lights. The ground level even hosts a bar.
There are also different options to keep you from the cold and to satisfy your hunger. Half-meter long sausages (Bratwurst), steaks, or mushrooms will make sure you don’t roam the alleys of the Christmas market on an empty stomach. Jelly sweets and caramelized nuts are a perfect dessert after the hearty meal.
Wash the food with steaming hot mulled wine (Glühwein). It will not only keep you warm but also make sure you feel the Christmas spirit flowing.
Listen to a concert at one of the stages or go search for the perfect Christmas present from one of the hundreds of vendors. Christmas decorations, sweets, leather or knitted goods will make your loved ones extremely happy on Christmas day.
Note, that Christmas markets in Germany usually finish before Christmas so make sure you don’t wait until the last moment to visit one.
Naddya from NTripping | Trips & Stuff
Cologne – Germany
If you are looking for a truly traditional European Christmas market experience, Cologne in Germany ticks all the boxes. Not only is Cologne a beautiful city to visit but at Christmas it really is a magical place to be. There’s not just one but six different Christmas markets dotted throughout this city on the Rhine. All the markets have beautiful Christmas lights and traditional decorations and quaint wooden huts and stalls but each market has its own unique character and atmosphere.
There is a plenty of things to see, do and buy at the markets. You can don a pair of ice-skates and have some fun on the ice under the twinkling lights. Children will love the old carousels and Ferris wheels and they may even see Santa arrive on a horse at the market. You can pick up loads of unique handmade gifts and toys too.
For me though, the best thing about the Cologne Christmas markets is the delicious food and drink. Everywhere you turn there are stalls trying to tempt you with soft, salty pretzels, barbecue bratwurst, crepes, waffles and spiced Christmas cookies. Everywhere you look people are eating and drinking plenty of German beer and warm glühwein.
The main market takes place underneath the towering gothic Cologne Cathedral. At the heart of this market is a 25-metre tall Nordmann fir Christmas tree which dazzles with 50,000 LED lights.
The Cologne Christmas markets really are worth a visit.
Melanie from Travel Eat Write Repeat
Wiesbaden – Germany
Wiesbaden is a well to do city in the heart of the Rheinland, known for its wine, its hilltop Russian church, and its pristine streets. It’s no surprise then that it holds one of the best Christmas markets within easy reach of Frankfurt. Jump on the regular tram and you’ll find yourself in Wiesbaden within 40 minutes. It’s also close by to an American military base, which makes it open and friendly to travelers.
The “Sternschnuppenmarkt”, or twinkling star market, is named for its countless fairy lights hung in a thousand strands over the central square. It’s just magical. To get the full impression, climb up to the purpose-built platform in the Market Church. The market centers around Castle Square and holds up to 130 stalls, all with the typical crafts, decorations and mouth-watering food that are custom at German Christmas markets. But with twinkling lights come something a little extra; there’s also a Ferris wheel, a winter tavern and there’s even an ice rink for the ice-skaters amongst you.
I mentioned the local wine-making; as with all markets, look for the queue. But this Concierge also recommends grabbing a mug of mulled wine at Weingut Kessler. Share a table and make some friends!
Sophie from The Nomad’s Concierge
Dresden – Germany
Leipzig – Germany
The German winter wonderland Leipzig, where all dreams about mulled wine and cute little Christmas stalls come true. The city is located in Saxony and can easily be reached within 2,5 hours from the German capital Berlin. Especially in winter Leipzig is a true gem. Then, the whole city transforms itself into a massive Christmas market, which connects all different courtyards and major squares. Enjoy wandering along the cobblestoned alleys and soak in all the beauty that surrounds the buildings, which are true architectural highlights.
Apart from the winter magic, Leipzig is full of history. Not only can you find beautiful historic churches, but also Auerbachs Keller, which is a restaurant located in a cellar. Originally opened in 1525, it got its fame through Johann Wolfgang Goethe and his Faust. You feel like a little nature? Go on a short day trip to Zwenkauer See. If you are lucky, you can even go ice-skating here. If not, don’t worry, there will always be some mulled wine around to warm you up.
Did you know that Leipzig’s Christmas market is one of the biggest in Germany? It is home to around 300 different stalls offering everything from food over drinks to winter items such as gloves and it welcomes about 2 million visitors every year. Started in the 15th century this Christmas market is definitely worth a visit – and a couple of mulled wines. Make sure to come here around 6pm, when traditional music is played live from the old house of the mayor (Altes Rathaus). Every day, this is the official opening of the Christmas market when the entire city starts sparkling.
Anne Steinbach and Clemens Sehi from Travellers Archive
Salzburg – Austria
I visited Salzburg on the 26th of December last year because the Christmas Market is one of the only ones around that doesn’t end on the 24th.
It is one of the oldest Christmas Markets in Europe with a history of about 500 years, and you can really see and feel that in the whole atmosphere of the market.
There are a lot of food stalls with typical Christmas Market foods and of course hot wine and other hot alcoholic beverages to warm up. You can also walk around and buy wool socks, bags, and other useful items for use in winter or as Christmas gifts.
Lena from The Social Travel Experiment
Vienna – Austria
For my very first “White Christmas” away from Australia, I choose to spend the festive season in Vienna, the capital of Austria. With its palaces and classical concerts, coffee houses and galleries, it was the perfect way to spend Christmas, especially when complemented with the cornucopia of different Christmas markets to choose from. As Vienna is quite a large city, there is a multitude of different markets, some every night of the week and others just on selected evenings.
One of the biggest and well-known markets takes place in the square outside of the Rathaus (or town hall), adjacent to the Ringstrasse. With its merry-go-round and pony rides, plus stalls bursting with tempting toys and trinkets, it’s a must-visit for anyone with children or the young-at-heart. The pretty lights sprung up everywhere also make it one of the beautiful markets.
Alternatively, while visiting Schönbrunn Palace, stop off at the market held in the courtyard outside the main palace building. The focus here is on handicrafts and original gifts, plus there are plenty of delicious Christmas treats to snack upon. Or if it’s just special foods for the Christmas season that you’re looking to buy, don’t miss one of the many small markets scattered around the squares of the old town.
However, my favorite market of all was in the Spittelberg district, close to my hotel. At the market taking over the trendy district’s narrow streets, possible purchases ranged from jewelry to local jams and mustards. But for many revelers it was just a welcome opportunity to enjoy a mug of gluhwein or punch, ignoring the bitter cold air hinting at the coming snow.
Shandos from Travelnuity
Prague – Czech Republic
Did you know that the Christmas market at the Old Town Square in Prague was awarded the title best Christmas destination in the world by USA Today internet survey in 2015? It’s a true winter fairytale for visitors from all around the world that want to experience Prague while enjoying Christmas carols, eating hearty food and trying out the best local drinks.
Its open every day and free for everybody from December until January including on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
You can see people that are selling a variety of handicrafts in their nicely decorated wooden huts and they make the perfect souvenirs to take home, decorate your house with or use as Christmas gifts.
But that is not all, the best part of it is all the local food and drinks you can choose from and fill your belly with. Try their barbequed sausages called ‘klobasas’ or their traditional hot sugar coated pasty called ‘Trdelnik’, you won’t regret it! And with good food, nothing goes better than good drinks, try one of the notorious Cezch beers such as Pilsner Urquell, Staropramen or Budvar there is a reason why they call the Czech Republic the land of beer. If cold drinks are not for you then try a cup of mulled wine, it will keep you warm while you explore the streets of Prague.
On the Old Town Square, you can also find an animal stable, where children can play and enjoy the company of sheep, goats and a donkey. The Christmas tree is ornamented with beautiful lights and can be admired from all around the square. School choirs dressed in traditional costumes perform in the late afternoon to give you the true Christmas experience. Prague’s Christmas markets are really a thing you should not miss out on!
Viktor from Traveling Lifestyle
Valkenburg – The Netherlands
Mulled wine, Christmas decorations, colorful lights, gingerbread and many others are just a few of the things you expect to see and smell in December. Worldwide, every year, all cities are trying to prove which one has organized the best Christmas market. Obviously, you can talk about the most well-known, like Strasbourg, Paris, Munchen or Wien, but how many of you have heard about the little town near Maastricht, called Valkenburg? If you visit Netherlands for Christmas, this is the place to be.
I do not know if Santa Claus’s elves, reindeers, or any other aids have their toy factory in Lapland, in the sky or on Earth, but one thing is for sure, in the Netherlands, more precisely in the town of Valkenburg, Santa Claus organizes the Christmas Fair … underground, in a cave.
Here is the oldest and largest underground market in Europe.
Different from all the other Christmas markets, in this charming town, the entire market is underground, in Velvet cave, beneath the city. The market is open from 18th November until 23rd of December every year.
I have visited the little town called Valkenburg in 2016 and let me tell you, it’s impressive, it looks exactly how a kid will imagine Santa’s village. Every street is decorated with lights and red and white decorations, to make you want to stay there forever. Did you buy the tickets to go to Valkenburg Christmas market and to see this truly unique place?
Gabriela from I Am Foodie Traveler
Stockholm – Sweden
Belfast – Northern Ireland
Belfast may not be the first place you think of for a Christmas break, but it has a busy shopping district and a splendid Christmas market, which is held outside Belfast City Hall from mid-November until Christmas.
The market has a wide array of foods to try, both local Irish produce and continental European fare. The smell of German sausages and French crepes will follow you around, adding to the atmosphere! As you would expect in Ireland, there are plenty of convivial drink stands too, including a traditional Irish bar and stalls selling mulled wine. When you’ve had enough of eating and drinking, you can visit the many handicraft stalls that fill the City Hall gardens, and enjoy the traditional Irish and European music.
Kids are not forgotten, as Santa has set up his grotto on site! Special tours are also available on the quieter days of the week for customers with accessibility issues, as well as educational visits for children to visit the different stallholders and learn about their products and countries.
While you are visiting the market, why not pop inside City Hall itself (entry is free) to check out the splendid building, and especially the stained glass windows dedicated to the recent history of Northern Ireland. You might also want to visit St George’s Market on weekends, which has even more handicraft and food stalls, or pay a visit to a concert at Belfast Symphony Hall for a cosy evening of entertainment.
Belfast Christmas Market is in the heart of the city, a short taxi ride from Belfast City Airport. While you are in Northern Ireland, why not also check out the fabulous coast including the Giant’s Causeway. But wrap up warm for the December weather!
Jill from Reading the Book Travel
London – United Kingdom
Located in London’s Hyde Park, Winter Wonderland is a free-entry Christmas fair opens daily from 17 November 2017 to 1 January 2018 and is guaranteed to get you into the Christmas spirit. Winter Wonderland hosts activities such as ice skating rink, Christmas shows for kids, giant observation wheel and even a Bavarian tent. Whether you’re coming with your family and kids, a young couple or even a group of friends- Winter Wonderland would be suitable and fun for you.
The market is highly impressing considering its size and wide variety of activities. Visitors can enjoy their time at two of the Christmas markets: The German Christmas Market with a wide variety of Christmas food and drinks and Angels Christmas Market where you could buy unique Christmas decorations and items.
Activities for children include Christmas shows, carousel, rollercoaster and funhouses at the tradition fairground. Whereas, for adults there is the Bavarian Village where you could grab a beer or mulled wine (Yes, very Christmas appropriate) and dance along with the music.
Without a doubt, Winter Wonderland is the most “Christmasy” activity in London and is the perfect place to spend the holiday season, whether you wanna mingle after work or if you’re a tourist visiting London. The entrance to the area is free of charge, however, it is required to purchase tickets for all the activities and for some, such as the Bar Ice and Ice skating, it is even recommended to purchase in advance.
Hadas from The Fashion Matters
Did you visit one of these? What is your favorite Christmas market in Europe?