Christmas is just around the corner and places everywhere are decorated celebrate the season. There’s no doubt that some European cities have the best combination of weather, decoration, cuisine and atmosphere, making the Old Continent the perfect place to spend Christmas and New Year’s Eve. The atmosphere is partly created by the so-called Christmas Markets, where you can buy gifts, handicraft, decoration objects and sip a warming Glühwein (mulled wine).
As a huge fan of these markets, I asked some international travel bloggers to tell us some of the best Christmas Markets in Europe. So, let’s find out?
Best Christmas Markets in Europe
VIENNA, AUSTRIA – by Mapping Megan
From mid-November to Christmas, Vienna’s prettiest squares transform into magical Christmas markets, an age-old tradition which dates back over seven hundred years.
Vienna is home to many different Christmas markets, though Christkindlmarkt in Rathausplatz square (in front of city hall) is one of the most renowned.
Over 150 stalls sell everything from Christmas decorations, beeswax candles and wooden toys, to Austrian handicrafts and glass ornaments, and the aroma of bakery items and hot punch creates a magical market atmosphere.
This year’s markets opened on 18th November and close on 23rd December 2016. So be sure to make it before Christmas, and don’t leave your shopping until Christmas Eve!
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM – by Wonderful Wanderings
Brussels’ reputation has suffered somewhat recently, but this is a city that gets back on its feet. Year after year, people come together to eat, drink, ride the Ferris wheel and watch the light show at the Christmas Market. That wasn’t any different last year and that certainly still hasn’t changed.
With several squares taken over by all sorts of stands, you can easily spend an entire evening here. Craft stands sell fun Christmas presents and home decoration, but as always in Belgium, its food and drinks that are present in abundance. So make sure to either come by train or get a hotel room so you don’t have to count the Glühweins!
PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC – by Getting Stamped
Some of the best Christmas markets in Europe can be found in Prague. Prague is a magical city, one of my favourite things to do in Prague is just wandering around the city stumbling across Christmas market after Christmas market.
The markets in Prague are so much more affordable when compared to other European Christmas markets, so it’s a great place to do your Christmas shopping. Make sure to save room for some tasty Christmas market treats like the traditional sweet dessert Trdelník, I like mine smeared with Nutella inside. If it happens to be cold December day warm up with some mulled warm.
NANTES, FRANCE – by Le Long Weekend
The picturesque City of Nantes in Western France is best known for its impressive châteaux and Le Grand Éléphant. But from late November until Christmas Eve, the city transforms into a festive haven for the region’s largest Christmas market.
Framed by classical architecture and the towering Basilica, the Place Royale sets the stage for a charming, quintessentially French Christmas market. The red and white chalets are adorned with baubles and tinsel, each one competing for attention. Inside the chalets, 120 exhibitors offer handmade crafts, unique giftware, and local delicacies ranging from Loire wine to multi-flavoured nougat. Kids love the grand carousel, and can visit le Père Noël in his Christmas grotto.
Wander down the decorated streets to the Place du Commerce where you’ll be tempted by more colourful wares. Or pop over to the simply named “The Other Market” for sustainable, fair-trade and eco-friendly gifts.
STRASBOURG, FRANCE – by Nomadic Chica
The first time I visited a Christmas Market was in Strasbourg and due to that this city holds a special place in my travel heart.
Being one of the most beautiful cities in the Alsace, this city in France hosts one of the oldest and biggest Christmas Market in Europe, Marché de Noël in French. It is definitely worth the visit at this time of the year when the city turns into one fully decorated.
There are more than 300 chalets spread through the city centre where you will find many handcraft objects, Christmas decorations, and of course: Food.
My favourite point is the one located right outside the Gothic Cathedral and all the area around Little France. They close the area for cars so it is very pleasant for a pedestrian to walk and perfect to try a crunchy and delicious baguette with a ‘Vin Chaud’.
BERLIN, GERMANY – by A Brit and a Southerner
If you are planning a trip to Europe to experience the infamous Christmas markets, we strongly encourage you to add Berlin to your itinerary. Germany is blessed to have a number of cities that host amazing Christmas markets, none more so than the capital city. Whether you are inspired to visit Germany to sample your favourite German brew or perhaps just experience the variety of Christmas markets, Berlin is undoubtedly the place to be.
For those wishing to stay away from the heart of Berlin’s city centre, the Alexanderplatz district is certainly a spot worth considering. We stayed here and were walking distance from the markets in front of the iconic Fernsehturm tower and just a short distance from the Berliner Weihnachtszeit, a location well worth experiencing if you want to try your luck on the skating rink or perhaps just sample some festive Glühwein.
Berlin is the epitome of a city that gets into the festive spirit with a myriad of Christmas markets scattered throughout the city. Regardless of where you stay in Berlin, you will likely only be a short distance from a market where you can celebrate the Christmas season with both visitors and locals alike.
HAMBURG, GERMANY – by Beautifully Travelled
I have visited many Christmas Markets in Germany, but one of my all-time favourites is the Rathaus Christmas Market in Hamburg. And I am not alone in this opinion; it is actually one of the most popular in the whole Germany.
Why you ask? Let’s start with the backdrop, the famous 19th century Townhall. It is also one of the most traditional markets I have ever visited, with intricate wooden stalls and even a little model train on a track suspended in the air above them.
The stalls are arranged in special alleys, according to the products they’re selling. You can find craftsmen in one street (Handwerksgasse), sweets, crepes and candies in another (Naschgasse) and there is also a special alley for children (Spielzeuggasse).
The Rathaus Christmas Market in Hamburg usually opens during the third or fourth week of November and runs until New Year’s Eve.
NUREMBERG, GERMANY – by Travel Addicts
The Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg, Germany is often regarded as Europe’s best Christmas market. It is clearly one of the most visited since it boasts over two million visitors in the four short weeks it is open every year.
The Nuremberg market is actually five markets through the old town, connected by corridors of lights. The stalls, with their candy-striped awnings, occupy neat little rows in the market squares and sell different kinds of traditional handcrafts, including little “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. Visitors can explore the market, eating the local Nuremberger sausages (eaten three in a roll) and drinking Glühwein (hot mulled wine). We’ve visited many of Europe’s markets, but Nuremberg is the best.
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY – by Jet-Settera
Christmas is the biggest holiday in Hungary and the whole Budapest is lit up in lights in December. There are two big Christmas markets, the traditional one is on the Vorosmarty Square and a newer, more interesting one by the Bazilika. They both have similar stands selling traditional Hungarian food that people enjoy eating around Christmas time, such as the Chimney cake, mulled wine, traditional stuffed cabbage, roasted pig.
Around the Bazilika there are beautiful lights, a giant Christmas tree and there is also an ice-skating ring. Next to the ring, there is a hut installed by the famous Hungarian liquor brand Unikum. It is a good place to warm up and taste this famous traditional digestive.
VALLETTA, MALTA – by A World To Travel
If there is a way to visit Mediterranean islands I love, that would be avoiding high season. Good weather (although it might get a bit rainy sometimes), really cheap prices and accessible locals do the trick. In December 2012, I headed to Malta for 3 days. I would lie if I did not tell you about the stormy weather and crazy winds I particularly enjoyed half of my time there. Semi-crowded main avenue at la Valletta (dressed up for Christmas and NYE Celebrations) became highly picture-worthy when light reflections multiplied colours after some showers.
OSLO, NORWAY – by Wild Junket
Every winter from November through to December, Oslo gets decked out in a festive mood to prepare for Christmas. Right in the centre of Oslo, there are several Christmas markets for both adults and children alike – with festive food and drinks, Christmas delicacies, Christmas decorations and arts and crafts on offer.
My favourite Christmas market in town is at Studenterlunden Park, right outside the National Theater. Rows upon rows of stalls surround the ice skating rink in the centre of the square, with a funfair nearby to add to the atmosphere. There’s also another one at Oslo’s central square, Youngstorget, where you’ll easily spend hours browsing through its stands and tents, getting into the Christmas spirit!
The best Christmas market in Oslo has to be the one at the Norwegian Folk Museum, where you get to experience Christmas as how it’s been celebrated in Norway for centuries. With 100 old-fashioned wooden stalls with homemade crafts and foods, as well as horse-drawn sledges and Santa’s workshop, this is the place you’d want to go if you want to busk in the Christmas atmosphere.
ZAKOPANE, POLAND – by Lemonicks
Almost entire Europe is famous for its Christmas markets. From Iceland to Italy, they have their versions and vibrancy of these markets. Full of Christmas gifts and presents, these markets are about the liveliness and joie de vivre to drive away the cold dull days ahead and that is what makes them more attractive. And that is the reason I always try to escape every year to a country where these markets happen.This year the town I want to be in, is Zakopane, Poland. Nestled in
This year the town I want to be in, is Zakopane, Poland. Nestled in the southern part of Poland, Zakopane is a quiet town and in winters it is covered with a white blanket. The market along the Krupowki Street buzzes with activity and has all kinds of traditional and varieties of Christmas gifts such as crib figurines, bee wax candles, handmade toys, woollens, lace work, jackets, leather garments, wooden artefacts and much more.
The aromas of chestnuts, hot mulled wine, homemade cheese that fights off the freezing cold winter and enhances the ambience of Christmas Market. Not to mention about the traditional music, singing and dancing.
BRASOV, ROMANIA – by Two Drifters
Brasov, Romania has a wonderfully festive Christmas market. It’s not very big, but it is situated in the fairy tale-like old town centre of Brasov. The surrounding buildings, typically with a dusting of snow, are the ideal backdrop for the market.
Just beyond them are the mountains, hovering protectively over the city. The Christmas market is filled with crafts, fur hats, Christmas ornaments, and most of all food! Mulled wine and mulled Tuica (hot plum brandy) are in abundance, and you’ll also find a number of delicious sweet fried items to keep you in the festive spirit.
BUCHAREST, ROMANIA – by Are You Happy?
Bucharest Christmas Market gathers all the magic of a Romanian Christmas. There are plenty of small wooden houses with traditional Romanian food to remind you of that delicious flavors in your grandparents house since you were kid, spiced hot wine with or without fruits to warm any heart, home made chocolates and cookies, traditional Romanian handicrafts, Santa’s house for the kids and not only, skating area for the more courageous one, concert stage with live music for all tastes and to top it all a background view of the magnificent Parliament House gently lighted up in the night.
And if to all of this you add some good company, laughter, open hearts and just a little pinch of joy than you got the perfect recipe for bringing on that Christmas mood we all search for before Christmas. Merry Christmas!
BARCELONA, SPAIN – by Surfing the Planet
The Santa Lucía Market in Barcelona is one of the oldest Christmas markets in Spain. It is situated in one of the most important squares of the city, right in front of the Cathedral. In Barcelona, the weather is much milder around Christmas than in most of Europe and accordingly, it almost never snows. Therefore, this market might lack the same charming Christmas atmosphere we can find in Eastern Europe, but it’s still worth visiting it.
The peculiarity of this market is that apart from classical Christmas stuff like pine trees or Christmas cribs, in most of the stalls they sell Caga Tió and Caganer, the main characters of the quite weird Catalan Christmas traditions. Caga Tió is a wooden log with a smiling face painted on it, which parents fill with sweets for the kids and at Christmas Eve kids start beating this Caga Tió with a stick while singing a song asking the log to “poo”. Caganers are hand-painted small porcelain figures taking a dump.
Although this might seem disrespectful at first, these figures originally represented Catalan peasants who fertilise the land, hoping to secure good harvest in the following year. Nowadays these Caganers are painted to all types of famous characters from local politicians to international celebrities.