Whoever sang ‘Where are you Christmas’ should have looked to Europe because if you can’t find the holiday spirit at the Christmas markets in Europe then you, my friend, are a lost cause.
Christmas is my absolute favourite time of the year. I basically turn into the female version of Buddy the Elf (minus eating maple syrup and candy on my spaghetti) and go full-on holiday mode. Christmas music, decorations, lights and baking; bring it! I WANT IT ALL! Which is why I love European Christmas markets so much. Stall after stall of wreaths, snow globes, ornaments, Santas, and snowmen. Warm mugs filled with spicy gluhwein and bags of cookies or candied nuts. The Christmas markets in Europe are my personal heaven and just might be the happiest place on earth (that’s right, so move over Disney!).
Of course, deciding that you want to go to the Christmas markets in Europe is the easy part. Picking which Christmas markets to visit is where it gets tough. However, with the help of this epic list of the most magical Christmas markets in Europe, you can help narrow down your choices.
Ready to embrace your inner Santa Claus? Here are the best European Christmas Markets.
The Best Christmas Markets in Germany
When it comes to Christmas markets in Europe, most people tend to think of Germany. And for good reason. Germany has dozens of Christmas markets countrywide. From the big cities which have several markets spread around town, to smaller villages where the Christmas markets are smaller and more local but just as magical. It’s hard to go wrong with any of the Christmas markets in Germany but here are my top picks.
Nuremberg Christmas Markets
Nuremberg’s Christkindlesmarkt just might be my favourite German Christmas market. It dates back to 1628 and is one of the most beautiful and authentic Christmas markets in Europe. While the setting, in the heart of the medieval old town of Nuremberg, is beautiful, what makes this German Christmas market stand out is that mass-produced goods are strictly prohibited. No silly knickknacks or made in China junk. The stalls all offer good quality, beautiful, often hand-crafted goods. Look for the stall that sells prune people (a regional speciality) and be sure to try the Nuremberg sausages; I’m not a big sausage person and I still crave them!
Nuremberg’s Christkindlesmarkt located in the main square is the main Christmas market in Nuremberg but there are a couple others around town as well including a sister city Christmas market and a Christmas market especially for children.
Munich Christmas Markets
Munich is home to about twenty different Christmas markets that are all worth exploring. The main Christmas market in Munich is held at Marienplatz and is arguably the busiest and prettiest market in the city. However, Munich is also home to some unique and speciality Christmas markets as well including the Kripperlmarkt which specializes in nativity scenes; everything from tiny baby Jesus to zoo animals (though I’m not quite sure why some of these animals would be a part of your nativity scene). Another fun one is the “pink” (gay) Christmas market which is easily distinguished by the pink lights and sparkling products which include fabulous topless merman Christmas ornaments (I’m kind of sad I didn’t buy one for the memory).
Berlin Christmas Markets
Berlin’s Christmas markets are definitely the most modern German Christmas markets. Instead of old-timey wooden stalls with handmade trinkets and wooden fires, the Berlin Christmas Markets seem to have almost a carnival-esque flair to them. Along with vendors selling gluhwein and ornaments you can find Ferris wheels and other types of rides. The main Christmas market in Berlin is by the Gedachtniskirche (Memorial Church), however, there are more than sixty Christmas markets spread across Berlin so be sure to visit at least a few!
Regensburg Christmas Markets
The Regensburg Christmas Markets aren’t normally on any top lists of German Christmas markets, but it’s one of my personal favourites. More accurately, the Christmas market held at Thurn and Taxis Castle is one of my favourites. Just outside of old town this historical castle is transformed into a Christmas fairytale with twinkling lights, warm, glowing fires, and dozens of wooden stalls offering everything from jewellery to metal work, ornaments and food. It’s a true fairytale and an enchanting place to spend a few hours, especially in the evening when it’s all lit up.
Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber Christmas Markets
Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber is a fairytale city that is absolutely enchanting during the holiday season. Unlike the German Christmas markets listed above, Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber only has a small Christmas market with a few stalls selling ornaments and food products. However, what it lacks in size it makes up for in atmosphere and its picturesque beauty. It’s probably the most romantic German Christmas market and well worth a visit.
Insider tip: Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber is also home to Kathe Wohlfahrt Christmas shops (2 of them) so be sure to stop in for some beautiful German Christmas decorations.
Cologne Christmas Markets
With a stunning backdrop of the gothic Cologne Cathedral and a famously tall Christmas tree, the main Christmas market in Cologne is one of the most iconic Christmas markets in Germany. While this market, known as the Am Dom Market, is the main attraction, the city has plenty of smaller Christmas markets as well including a “pink” Christmas market, a children’s Christmas Market, and fairy-tale inspired Christmas markets. Ready my guide to Cologne Christmas Markets here.
Dresden Christmas Markets
Dresden is known for having the oldest Christmas market in Germany. Known as Strizelmarkt, this winter wonderland is decorated with thousands of sparkling lights and is home to the world’s tallest nutcracker as well as the world’s tallest Christmas pyramid. This German Christmas market is a great spot to pick up some traditional German Christmas crafts including smokers. If you happen to be around on the second Saturday of Advent, be sure to come for the Stollen Festival. A large stollen cake makes its way through the streets with pieces cut off and handed out to the crowd in exchange for a small fee that will go to local charity.
Stuttgart Christmas Markets
Stuttgart is often listed as having one of the most beautiful Christmas markets in Europe The main Christmas market here is held underneath the Old Palace where you will also find a towering Christmas tree and nightly choirs and an outdoor skating rink. With more than 300 wooden stalls, it’s one of the largest Christmas markets in Europe.
The Best Christmas Markets in Austria
If Germany is known as the most popular destination for Christmas markets in Europe then Austria is a close second. Not only are these markets beautiful and filled with some great finds, but some in the Alpine region are also tied in with local folklore that make them extra special.
You can find Christmas Markets across the country but these Austrian Christmas markets are the best.
Vienna Christmas Markets
When it comes to Christmas Markets in Europe, the multiple Christmas markets in Vienna are always a favourite. This beautiful Austrian city transforms into a winter wonderland over the Christmas holidays with several Christmas markets spread throughout the city. The most iconic is the Vienna Christmas World Market in front of city hall. It’s best visited at night when all the lights and decorations really shine. Another one of my favourites is the Christmas market in front of Schonbrunn Palace, which is a great spot to pick up ornaments. For a historic Austrian Christmas Market, head to the Old Viennese Christmas market on Freyung where you will find plenty of artistic products for sale. Without a doubt, Vienna has some of the best Christmas markets in Europe and is a favourite place to visit during the festive season. You can read more about Vienna at Christmas here.
Salzburg Christmas Markets
Salzburg’s Christmas Markets definitely have a spot on my list of favourite Christmas markets in Europe thanks to the Krampus and the Krampus Run. I’ve been in town twice now for this kind of crazy but amazing event which involves local men dressing up as Krampus; a big, horned, hairy Christmas demon with a whip who will then chase people around. It’s kind of terrifying but ends up with a lot of laughs and is a fun cultural tradition to be a part of.
If you don’t happen to be in town for the Krampus Run, Salzburg still has stunning markets with some great finds. The two main markets are the Salzburg Christkindlemarkt beneath the Salzburg Cathedral and the Mirabel Square Market.
Innsbruck Christmas Markets
If you are looking for picturesque Austrian Christmas markets in the mountains, then head to Innsbruck. Colourful lights and decorations against a backdrop of snowy mountains really help you get into the Christmas spirit. The Old Town Christmas market is the biggest and most popular Christmas market in Innsbruck. Located in front of the famous Golden Roof, this Christmas market is a great spot to browse through local handicrafts and get some great food and drink. During the month of December, the street is also turned into a fairytale lane where you can find your favourite storybook characters in the windows and on the buildings. Innsbruck also has a couple of smaller Christmas markets including the family-oriented Advent at the market square and the panoramic Christmas market at Hungerburg.
Graz Christmas Markets
Graz has 14 different Christmas markets all varying in size but all close enough that you can walk between them. The Hauptplatz is a favourite and where you can find a special drink called Feuerzangenbowle; a wine and rum punch that is then lit on fire. Another must-see Christmas market is the one at Glockenspielplatz which has different themed days to change things up through the season. As you wander through the markets keep your eye out for the life-size nativity scene at the giant advent calendar projected on city hall.
The Best Christmas Markets in the UK & Ireland
The Christmas markets in the UK and Ireland don’t have the same traditional charm as those in Germany and Austria, but thanks to beautiful décor and a great atmosphere, they still offer plenty of charm and are a great way to get into the holiday spirit. You can find markets in most of the cities and towns spread across the UK and Ireland, but these European Christmas markets are the real stand-outs for this region.
London Christmas Markets
London may not be snowy, but what it lacks in snowflakes it makes up for in lights and décor. London during the holiday season is absolutely magical and like some of the bigger cities in Austria and Germany, there are multiple Christmas markets to be found around town. The Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park is a favourite, as is the Christmas market at Southbank Centre. Be sure to check out the Greenwich Market for some festive eats and crafty-type finds as well as scenic Christmas by the River Market down along the shore of the Thames with a beautiful backdrop of Tower Bridge. The Christmas markets of London will have you feeling cheery and festive in no time. You can read more about London at Christmas here.
Bath Christmas Markets
The Christmas Market in Bath is a real gem when it comes to Christmas markets in Europe thanks to the fact that the majority of the goods for sale here are quality, locally made items. You’ll find hand knitted items alongside baked goods using locally sourced ingredients, carved toys and more. Set alongside the famous Roman baths and the Abbey, it’s also a very picturesque place to do your Christmas shopping.
Winchester Christmas Markets
Winchester is home to what is probably the largest Christmas market in southern England. About 100 festive stalls can be found in the Cathedral Close, alongside a skating rink open to everyone. Many of the items for sale here are locally made and the food stalls all offer German-inspired food and drink.
Birmingham Christmas Markets
Birmingham is a great pick for a Christmas market in the UK because it holds the largest German Christmas market in Europe outside of Germany and Austria. It’s called the Frankfurt Christmas Market and takes place in Victoria Square. Here, the crowds can enjoy typical German food and drink include gluhwein, beer, sausages, and pastries. Then head next door to the Christmas Craft Fair to do some shopping.
Edinburgh Christmas Markets
Scotland’s capital gets even dreamier during the holiday season thanks to two main Christmas markets that add some festive cheer in the city. The Christmas market in East Princes Steet Gardens has a lot of vendors along with some carnival-type rides and there is another on George Street which is where you can find Santa’s Grotto. Edinburgh is a lot of fun at Christmas time.
Belfast Christmas Markets
The City Hall in Belfast is where you will find the biggest Christmas market in Northern Ireland. There’s a number of decorated stalls on the grounds offering mainly food type items but also a few arts and crafts and decorations. What makes this European Christmas market interesting is that the vendors aren’t all from Northern Ireland, but rather from across Europe and therefore offering a different variety of food, drink, and items for purchase.
Dublin Christmas Markets
Dublin doesn’t have any huge Christmas markets, but it has a number of small ones that all have something fun and unique to offer. Some of the markets here run through Advent while others are one day only events, so it’s best to check with the tourism board and see what’s on when. For example, The Spirit of Dublin Christmas Fair runs for one night only and takes place in the Teeling Distillery District. It’s a great place to catch some music and have a tipple. You can also try the Christmas Fair in Newmarket Square which has a global feel to it thanks to a number of international products.
The Best Christmas Markets in France
As with the Christmas markets in the UK and Ireland, the Christmas markets in France don’t have the same historic and traditional feel as those in Germany and Austria, but they will still put a smile and your face and add to the charm of France’s beautiful cities and towns. These are the best Christmas markets in France to add to your European Christmas market list.
Paris Christmas Markets
Paris is always a good a good idea, but at Christmas? Well then, Paris is a GREAT idea. Paris gets decked out with twinkle lights and shimmering decorations during the holiday season, especially around the parts of the city with the Christmas markets. The biggest and best known Christmas market in Paris is on Champs D’Elysees which has a sort of chic feel to it. Do take the time to wander through the different arrondissements as well though, because you will stumble across some smaller and more local Paris Christmas markets as well. Read more about Paris at Christmas here.
Colmar Christmas Markets
Cobblestone streets and storybook houses make for the perfect backdrop for Colmar’s five Christmas markets. It’s a great place to get handcrafted ornaments, gifts, and baubles. The market at Place des Domincains is home to the largest market but if you have young children don’t forget to take a look at Petite Venise market which is where you will find wooden toys and goodies perfect for stockings. The Christmas markets in Colmar may be small, but they are good. Read all about Colmar Christmas markets here.
Strasbourg Christmas Markets
Thanks to its proximity to Germany, Strasbourg may be the most ‘traditional’ Christmas market in France. The Christmas markets here date back to the 1500s and today it’s home to one of the largest Christmas markets in France with over 300 stalls. Food, wine, and crafts can be found at the Christmas markets in Strasbourg. Read all aboutStrasbourg Christmas markets here.
Rouen Christmas Markets
Rouen is home to a small but scenic market in front of the cathedral. There are stalls selling sweets and good for purchase as well as entertainment and activities. This Christmas market also has two ice rinks that add to the charm and the winter wonderland atmosphere.
Reims Christmas Markets
Located in the Champagne region of France, Reims holds and enchanting Christmas market during the holiday season. There are more than 130 vendor chalets located around the city with the main market being held in place d’Erlon. Foodies should definitely consider a stop here as there is also a special gourmet food festival for two weekends in December. It’s beautiful and delicious!
Best Christmas Markets in Switzerland
Switzerland probably isn’t the first place you think of when you hear the term Christmas markets, but thanks to its close proximity to Germany, the tradition has rubbed off and you can find some of the best Christmas markets in Europe in the small country. From glamorous to the cozy, here are the must-see Christmas markets in Switzerland.
Basel Christmas Markets
Basel is known for its art and culture scene, so it makes sense that this unique city would be a great place for Christmas markets. The Basel Christmas markets are considered to be some of the best in Switzerland with lots of locally made and uniquely crafted goods for sale by the vendors. There are two main Christmas markets in Basel: one in Münsterplatz and the second in Barfüsserplatz.
Zurich Christmas Markets
Plenty of lights, a Swarovski crystal Christmas tree, and one of the largest indoor Christmas markets in Europe, Zurich is an elegant place to celebrate the holiday season. The Christkindlmarkt is found in the main train station, but there are several smaller but equally beautiful markets along the streets and squares of Zurich as well.
Lake Geneva Christmas Markets
OK, I’m cheating a bit here by linking three together but they are all close enough that they can be included in one area. Lake Gevena is home to Geneva, Montreux, and Lausanne which all have spectacular Christmas markets. With a snowy mountain backdrop, festive music, and plenty of things to eat and shop for, you’ll definitely want to base yourself in this region for a few days to experience the holiday magic.
Other Notable Christmas Markets in Europe
European Christmas markets are gaining popularity across the continent, and while they may not be found in every city of every country, there are a few more countries who have epic Christmas markets that deserve a spot on the list. Here are some more drool-worthy European Christmas markets to add to your list.
Christmas Markets in Budapest, Hungary
Budapest is an amazing city to visit, and the holiday season adds a bit of extra charm to this already stunning town. Head to Vörösmarty Square for a beautiful market with plenty of stalls for shopping, eating, and mingling with the locals. The best time to come is in the evening when everything is lit up and the live music sessions start.
Christmas Markets in Prague, Czech Republic
Prague’s Christmas markets aren’t very big, but they are authentic, picturesque, and close enough together that you can walk between them. Plus, Prague is such a picture-perfect city to begin with that Christmas can only make it more magical. You’ll find the best Prague Christmas Markets in Old Town Square, Wenceslas Square, and Prague Castle.
Christmas Markets in Tallinn, Estonia
Tallinn’s Christmas Market isn’t very big, but the whole scene will make you feel like you have stepped back in time to a Christmas in the old days. Beautifully decorated Old town Tallinn truly is a fairytale city. The giant Christmas tree decked in twinkling lights and glitter ornaments is the main highlight; Tallinn had one of the first Christmas trees ever displayed in Europe, a tradition that dates back to the 1400s in the Baltic city. Plus, compared to other European Christmas market destinations on this list, Tallinn is one of the most affordable and least visited cities.
Christmas Markets in Copenhagen, Denmark
Copenhagen is ranked as one of the happiest places in the world, so it makes sense that this Danish city should have awesome Christmas markets. The main Christmas market in Copenhagen is in the Tivoli Gardens where you can enjoy plenty of rides and entertainment while you shop.
Christmas Markets in Gothenburg, Sweden
Gothenburg, Sweden is known to be Sweden’s ‘Christmas City’ and truly turns into a beautiful winter wonderland in the dark months of December. Glittering strings of lights line the stalls at the Christmas Market found at Liseberg Amusement Park. Here you can shop, eat, and play. It’s a family-friendly Christmas market where you can ride on carousels, take part in a treasure hunt, and watch an ice ballet.
Christmas Markets in Brussels, Belgium
One of the best things about the Brussels Christmas market is that it’s super pedestrian friendly. Since much of downtown Brussels is a pedestrian-only zone, you’ll find Christmas market stalls sprawling from the Grand Palace down to St. Catherin and in some of the streets and areas along the way as well. There is also an ice skating rink, light show, and of course, a massive Christmas tree.
Final Tips for Visiting Christmas Markets in Europe
European Christmas markets truly are magical, but there are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind to help ensure that your European Christmas market experience is as enchanting as it should be.
The first thing to keep in mind is that the Christmas markets of Europe are world-famous and the holiday season is one of the busiest times to visit some of these cities. With that in mind, you will want to book your hotels and make travel arrangements well in advance to avoid disappointment.
Another important tip for visiting Christmas markets in Europe is to remember to dress properly. Some of these Christmas markets may not be as cold and snowy in December as they are later in the winter months, but it can still get really chilly and sometimes rainy. Bring lots of layers including a hat, mitts or gloves, and a scarf. European Christmas markets are held outdoors so you want to make sure you are warm and comfortable while exploring them!
Finally, as enticing as all these markets may look, your best bet is to pick a few in the same area to save on travel time. For example, you can stick to one country or combine a few markets from bordering countries, ie: Germany and Austria. But it’s probably not the best use of your time to try to go to London then Nuremberg and then Budapest. Pick places that are close to one another and easy to travel by train. Or, if looking for a unique way to visit some of the best Christmas markets in Europe, you can consider taking a Christmas Market River Cruise. I did one in 2017 with Viking River Cruises and it was fantastic.
Fun and Completely Unnecessary Things to Pack
Ok so obviously you know to pack warm clothes and comfortable shoes. But let’s add a bit of fun to your European Christmas market packing list. After all, it IS Christmas. (I’m not actually crazy in suggesting this, people do wear festive clothing. I had Christmas leggings last time).
- Santa Hat: What is more festive than a Santa hat? Plus, if you get a plush Santa hat it will keep your ears warm.
- Reindeer Antlers: If you’re not quite feeling the Santa hat, strap on a pair of reindeer antlers!
- An Ugly Christmas Sweater: A classic. An ugly Christmas sweater is an easy way to keep cozy and you can get some really good ones for both men and women.
The Christmas season is one of the best times of the year. So, if you too are a Christmas enthusiast then definitely add some of these magical European Christmas markets to your bucket list. As a fellow Christmas aficionado, I promise you won’t be disappointed; you’ll just keep wanting to return year after year for more.
Have you been to any Christmas markets in Europe? Let me know which ones are your favourite in the comments below!