Are you looking for Christmas markets in Europe? Here are twelve of the best!
There’s nothing like a European Christmas. With twinkling lights spanning the cobblestone streets of the country’s capitals and a sense of magic in the atmosphere, visiting Europe in November and December is a completely unique experience.
One of the best ways to experience the festive season is to experience the best Christmas markets in Europe.
Perfect for a city break, these markets are a holiday tradition. They involve crafts stalls featuring homemade goods, traditional food, bars serving mulled wine and baileys and hot chocolate and plenty of rides like bumper cars and ferris wheels.
Trust me, visiting these atmospheric markets in European cities at Christmas is a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
But which are the best Christmas markets in Europe? We’ve scouted them all out and found you ten of the best. From charming markets in beautiful squares to markets in villages dedicated to Christmas, here is our favourite!
Best Christmas Markets in Europe
Basel Christmas Market, Switzerland
Often thought of as the capital of Christmas culture in Switzerland, Basel leaps to life in the festive period.
The annual Christmas market has been voted one of the prettiest in Europe and it takes place in the middle of the historic old town, stretching over the fairytale square Münsterplatz and Barfüsserplatz and spans 130 wooden chalets.
The entire market is a sensory experience. The entire square is bathed in the soft glow of fairy lights, and the sound of Christmas music floats in the air.
As you feel the cold Swiss winter air on your face, the smell of waffles and mulled wine will greet you. Try various festive food, including Swiss raclette, a popular cheese dish.
St Martin’s Tower which is located in Basel Cathedral overlooks the stunning sea of lights, and is a must-visit for any tourists to the city.
Whether you’re shopping at Kulpa Weihnachtskugeln for hand-painted Christmas baubles or sampling tasty Swiss biscuits, you could easily spend all day wandering around this charming area of the city.
There are lots of other Christmassy activities in Basel too, including winter cruises on the Rhine and the popular advent calendar, which features a door opening to a stage presentation every day.
How to get there: EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg serves Basel (although it’s actually located in France, you can go out of the Swiss exit and you’re in Switzerland!). There are buses from here to Basel.
It’s easy to fly here from destinations across Europe. Alternatively, Basel is on train and bus routes from destinations in France, Germany, Italy and elsewhere in Switzerland. The city centre is quite petite, so it’s easy to walk to the market from the station.
Strasbourg is the oldest Christmas market in France, and one of the most historic in Europe.
Strasbourg’s position, close to the border of Germany means that it has adopted customs from these countries over time. In fact, Strasbourg was part of Germany until the end of World War One.
Fast forward to today, and you can see plenty of German traditions in Strasbourg, particularly in its gorgeous Christmas markets!
Lights illuminate not just Strasbourg’s 300 stalls, but the whole city throughout December. Try some French and German specialities and buy some last-minute handmade gifts for your family and friends.
Plus, gaze upwards at the enormous Christmas tree, which stands tall at 30 metres.
How to get there: Strasbourg has its own airport, but it doesn’t serve all that many destinations. Strasbourg is a 1 hour 20 minute drive from EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Frieburg and an two and a half hours from Luxembourg Airport. It’s also just a two hour train from Paris.
Vienna Christmas Markets, Austria
With long-standing prestige as one of the most beautiful European capital cities, it’s no surprise that Vienna shines over Christmas, as twinkling lights give evenings a warm glow and the smell of roasted chestnuts wafts in the air.
Plus, it’s one of the oldest Christmas markets on the continent, with a history spanning back to the Middle Ages – more specifically in 1296 when Albrecht I opened the “Krippenmarkt”.
Of course, the Christmas market of today is worlds away, but its centuries-old history makes it one of the most compelling places to visit for any Christmas lovers.
Spread across a few different venues, the Christmas Villages encompass Belvedere Place which is popular with people buying artisanal handicrafts, Maria Theresien Square which is home to market stalls boasting an impressive array of cuisines and the University of Vienna.
There are also festive markets at Schönbrunn Palace, with about 60 exhibitors and Spittelberg. Or, visit the Vienesse Dream Christmas Market which is set in front of the city hall and is home to crafts stands, food stalls, carol concerts and has a kids area where children can learn to make Christmas cookies.
How to get there: Vienna international airport is the main airport of Austria and serves a range of European destinations.
Romania does Christmas very well, and while the Christmas markets in Bucharest are perhaps the most popular, locals and tourists generally agree that the city of Craiova wins when it comes to most Christmassy.
Sitting west of Bucharest, not too far from the borders of Bulgaria and Serbia, Craiova has been voted the sixth-best Christmas market in all of Europe.
The Craiova Christmas Market opens at the end of November and runs to the start of January, and boasts not only the usual array of wooden stalls selling gifts and food but also an impressive array of festive decor.
They use over a million LED bulbs to illuminate the marketplace, which makes the city one of the best Christmas lights destinations in the country too!
There’s an outdoor ice rink here, perfect if you want to skate off all of that delicious cuisine, and plenty of activities for children.
Also, be sure to factor in some time to visit the rest of Craiova. Featuring glorious Belle Epoque architecture, it’s like stepping back in time to the early 20th century and is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful city centres in Romania.
How to get there: Fly into Bucharest, which serves a few destinations in Europe and the Middle East, and then connect by train or bus (both just under five hours) or drive (just under three hours) to reach the city.
Winter Wonderland, London
Brits tend to venture to the continent for their Christmas market holidays, but London’s Winter Wonderland, which encompasses Hyde Park for two months a year, is well worth sticking around in England in winter.
The best food is arguably in its Bavarian village, which is a real taste of Germany in the UK.
You can even get vegetarian bratwurst here! There’s also a street food area, where you can purchase a range of other meals.
At Winter Wonderland there are plenty of bars, including a 360 spinning bar and an Apres Ski. It’s a great place to visit with a group of friends!
There are also lots of rides, including the adrenaline-fuelled blizzard, the Munich Looping which hails from Oktoberfest and the XXL which is one of Europe’s first high G-force pendulum rides.
If you’re visiting with kids, don’t miss the Santa Land Train, the Haunted House and the Helter Skelter.
Don’t miss the magical ice kingdom, where you can walk through a zoo of ice carvings, all made from 500 tonnes of sculptured snow.
There’s also an ice skating rink, which is one of the best places to skate in London!
Families with small kids, groups of friends, couples are all welcome at Winter Wonderland – there’s something for everyone here, and it’s the ideal place to be in London at Christmas.
It rarely snows in England, so you’re unlikely to have a white winter wonderland experience, but the atmosphere is always buzzing.
How to get there: You can fly to London’s airports from places all over the world, and there are usually cheap flights from other destinations in Europe. Alternatively, you can reach London from other destinations in Northern Europe by taking the Eurostar.
Nuremberg Christmas Market, Germany
Largely thought to be the best place in Germany to celebrate the festive month. Called the Christkindlesmarkt in German, Nuremberg Christmas Market is one of the oldest in the world and welcomes over two million visitors every single year.
Its origins are believed to date back to the 17th century, although it may have been around for longer – a wooden box was discovered that has “Kindles-Marck in 1628″ inscribed on the bottom.
It’s also one of the biggest Christmas markets in Europe (and the world!). If you visit just one, it should probably be Nuremberg.
Browse hundreds of stalls, each selling different produce, taste traditional German food or glug glühwein. This is mulled wine, a drink that hails from Germany – so make sure you have as much as you can while you’re here!
The glühwein is served in ceramic mugs, each with a different pattern every year – they make wonderful collectors’ pieces!
While it’s very family-friendly, with tonnes of attractions for kids (I actually remember visiting when I was 12 and my sister was 7), it also has a great evening atmosphere past 8pm. If you’re looking for a festive night out in Nuremberg, there’s nowhere quite as merry as its Christkindlesmarkt!
How to get there: Nuremberg has a fairly busy airport and flies to quite a few European destinations. Alternatively, it’s less than 2 hours driving and one hour by train to Munich, which has a large international airport.
Tivoli Christmas Market, Denmark
If you’re looking for Christmas markets in Scandanavia, look no further than Denmark’s Tivoli Christmas Market.
The home of hygge, a concept that is basically delight in cosiness, especially during winter, Copenhagen is a wonderful place to spend the cooler months.
While its Christmas market isn’t as big as some on this list, it’s hygge in festive form, offering a merry yet cosy and welcoming experience for any guests.
Set in the famous Tivoli Gardens, which house a funfair in the summertime, this Christmas market is adorned in over 70,000 Christmas baubles and over 1,000 trees bedecked in lights.
You’ll step into a winter wonderalnd as soon as you enter the gates, with wooden houses, pine trees and even a special visit from Santa Claus and his reindeer.
Browse over 60 stalls, where you can purchase some gifts or Christmas decorations, enjoy some local Nordic food, or simply relish in the atmosphere of Denmark and Christmas time. It’s a cosy holiday experience that you won’t forget!
How to get there: Flights to Copenhagen are very affordable (which almost makes up for how expensive Denmark is as a country!). You can fly from various destinations in Europe. Alternatively, bus and train routes are available from destinations in Germany and Sweden.
Tallinn Old Town Square, Estonia
It’s chilly up in the Baltics, but that only enhances the holiday magic of Tallinn, Estonia’s capital city.
Home to the first Christmas tree in Europe (it was put up in 1441), this is a city that takes Christmas very seriously.
And with frequent snowfall in December, it’s no surprise that this Christmas market is considered a real-life winter wonderland!
It boasts a huge selection of festive food, including various types of sausages, roast pork and lentil and chickpea soup. Plus, hot drinks are served readily – some with alcohol and some without – most of which are made with fresh fruit from Estonia.
Also, don’t miss the fresh waffles – you can choose a sweet waffle or a savoury option with cheese.
Don’t miss the many stalls selling gifts, most of which are made by Estonian designers. It’s the perfect opportunity to grab something unique for your home or a present for a loved one!
How to get there: Tallinn Airport is the only international airport in Estonia, and it flies to most major cities across Europe. The city also has good rail links with the other Baltic states and Poland.
Prague Old Town Square, Czech Republic
Prague is a romantic city any time of year, but its light shines especially bright during the wintertime.
From Prague Old Town Square to Prague Castle to Wenceslas Square, you’ll see so many scenes of this iconic city decked out in festive decorations as the markets enter full swing in November.
Old Town Square is one of the oldest in the city, and has origins going back centuries of years, when people used to frequent markets in the middle of a city during the week before Christmas, to purchase items that they’d need for the festive period.
Even then, the markets had a festive atmosphere, with seasonal food and Christmas music.
At Prague’s many Christmas markets, you’ll find local puppets and dolls wearing traditional Czech costumes, candles made with local flowers, ceramics and jewellery by local artisans.
Then there’s the food. Seasonal Czech food includes roast ham, barbecued sausage, dumplings, potato pancakes and saeurkraut, a kind of pickled sour cabbage.
Plus, there are tonnes of sweet foods too!
How to get there: Prague Airport flies to most major cities in Europe. It also has excellent rail links to most cities in Central Europe.
Brussels Christmas Market, Belgium
Brussels’ Winter Wonders is one of the most famous Christmas markets in Europe.
It sees 2.5 million visitors annually and merges beautiful twinkling lights, cultural activities and plenty of wooden stalls selling beautiful gifts.
Like winter wonderland in London, Winter Wonders isn’t just a Christmas market. There’s also a festive fun fair with rides like a carousel and ferris wheel and plenty of Christmassy shows, including a sound and light show and winter pop.
If you want something a little more strenuous, pull on your ice skates and take to the rink at Winter Wonders!
How to get there: Brussels airport flies to most major European cities. There are also numerous rail and bus links to nearby countries, including the Eurostar to London.
The only one of these Christmas markets in southern Europe, Cabeça isn’t a well-known destination – and its position in the central Portuguese mountains is a world away from most of the urban locations of the rest of these festive fanfares.
But Cabeça may be the most festive place on this list. Although Portugal is often associated with being a winter sun destination, the tiny village of Cabeça (population 170) has become the “Christmas village” every December for the last eight years.
While there’s no huge market per se, pop-up stalls line the streets of this petite village, adorned in homemade decorations and serving local delicacies, including the popular bolo rei (king cake).
There’s even a “Christmas workshop” where you can purchase items made right here, in the village.
When the settlement celebrates over a two-week period each year, with carol concerts and craft workshops, it’s possibly the most Christmassy place in Europe this side of Scandanavia.
How to get there: You can reach Cabeça from Lisbon or Porto, both of which have regular flights around Europe. Take a bus from either city to Seia, and then transfer to a taxi for the last 20 minutes to Cabeça.
Another Baltic winter wonderland, Vilnius comes alive during the winter.
While it’s rather dark and cold, the city is anything but miserable, with lights twinkling in the streets and plenty of stalls serving copious amounts of glühwein.
There are two Christmas markets in Vilnius, both of which are free to enter. One is at Vilnius Town Hall and the other is by Vilnius Cathedral Square.
As well as the usual wooden stalls with beautiful artwork, enjoy the unique Christmas tree which is always a different colour or style.
Plus, the stalls are groaning with sweet treats, including pancakes, cakes and more!
How to get there: Vilnius Airport serves quite a few major European cities, and Lithuania is well-connected to other Baltic states by road and rail.
Christmas market FAQs
What is a Christmas market?
A Christmas market is a festive event, composed of market stalls selling handmade products and delicious seasonal food and drink.
Traditional Christmas markets take place all over Europe, although you’ll find them in lots of other countries nowadays!
Where is the biggest Christmas market in Europe?
It’s hard to say for definite, but Nuremberg is largely considered to be Europe’s biggest Christmas market. It’s certainly one of them!
Are there any Christmas markets in Europe this year?
Yes! Christmas markets are set to go ahead this year. They should start to open in the latter half of November and stay open until early January.