The 10 Best European Christmas Markets

The Christmas season is always a special time of festive celebration, but in Europe visitors get an additional treat: Christmas Markets. Each year around the end of November cities around Europe bring out the colorful lights and decorations and erect stalls in a central location around a Christmas tree. Each city has its own variety of Christmas character, but food, music and warm drinks are a part of every Christmas Market, along with the opportunity to see your favorite cities in a truly special season. Here are our picks for the ten best Christmas Markets in Europe. This Christmas, consider making family travel memories in one of these amazing European cities during their Christmas market! If you see something you like, give us a call!

  • Bruges


    Bruges, with its cobblestone streets and canals makes for a perfect Christmas Market setting with its gingerbread buildings and medieval visage. Grote Markt is the center of the Christmas Market there and the shopping is both quaint and spectacular. The famous bell-tower lords over the scene as visitors watch ice skaters and shopkeepers hard at work in more than 350 shops. There is plenty of beer and chocolate as always, as well as spiced cider and hot coffee to ward off the cold. Public transport is free and from the last weekend in November through January 2, the city is alive with the spirit of the season.

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  • Brussels


    Over 200 shopping chalets go up around the Grand-Place each year at the end of November and remain until January 3 for the “Winter Wonders.” A spectacular sound and light show illuminates the square and the crowds come out in droves to shop and eat, enjoy the sites and then do a bit more shopping and eating. The chalets are all lit up with their own fairy lights, and the grand buildings are flooded with colored lights. An ice-skating rink decorates the Place de la Monnaie and the beer and other adult libations flow freely, making Brussels and excellent destination for the gourmet visitor.

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  • Budapest


    All along Vorosmarty and St. Stephen’s Square more than 100 wooden pavilions line the streets for this city’s annual Christmas Market. Though right next to each other, the two locations claim to be separate Christmas Markets, and who is going to argue? Pastries (try the cinnamon Chimney cakes) are everywhere to be found along with mulled wine, pizza and, of course, chocolates. The Budapest Christmas Fair and Winter Festival is in the heart of the city and traditional Hungarian handicrafts are the prized purchases of most visitors. Choir concerts, story telling and special children’s events are held daily as well as a turning of the Gerbeaud advent calendar each day at 5:00 pm.

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  • Cologne


    Cologne boasts not one but seven Christmas Markets! Each year more than 2 million visitors turn up in this city to enjoy the food, music and shopping. The magnificent Cologne Cathedral oversees the largest Christmas tree in the city and music, crafts and food (mulled wine and gingerbread anyone?) are everywhere. Many insist the Alter market in front of the Old Town Hall takes first place among the city’s markets, but each has its own character and magic charm. Artisans demonstrate their craft and the city decorates with a festive distinctively German flair. Live music performances are held daily and the atmosphere is warm and family friendly.

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  • Copenhagen


    Even outside of the Christmas season, Copenhagen is a city with both a historical grace and a modern style. A city of colorful houses, Copenhagen is remarkably compact with an excellent public transportation system. During December, it becomes a true Christmas city, with the Tivoli Gardens’ Christmas market and others as well. The entire area is decorated and lit by lights both large and small. Three separate light shows are performed several times each evening along with some 60 stalls selling foods, drink, leather goods and knitted products.

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  • Hamburg


    Every Christmas season, Hamburg turns into a Christmas fairytale with thousands of lights and decorations. The visitor to Hamburg has a choice of fifteen Christmas markets in the region, each with its own distinctive character, some appealing to children, some to upscale shoppers and some to a somewhat more liberal taste in the adult-only Santa Pauli Market on Reeperbahn. With more than 2,000 bridges over canals and rivers, the lights from the Christmas Markets are reflected back in the water for a dazzling display. There are weekly Christmas parades, a real favorite with adults and children alike.

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  • Prague


    Always a delightful and intriguing city, Prague is especially wonderful at Christmas. There are several Christmas markets, the largest being at Staromestské námestí, Old Town Square. There visitors will see the enormous Christmas tree brought in each year and the brightly lit stalls of the merchants selling decorations, dolls, drink and food. There are also markets at Wenceslas Square and at the Prague Castle overlooking the city. At each traditional handicrafts, toys and hand-crafted knitted items can be found, as well as foods like Klobasa (sausages) and pastries. As you might expect, local beers are offered everywhere along with hot mulled wine. There are animal stables acting as petting zoos for children and providing live characters for the nativity scenes.

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  • Stockholm


    Stockholm is a water city, comprised of 14 islands as well as mainland. Each district of the city has its own personality, and strolling the streets from one to the next is always one of the true delights of being there. During the Christmas season, at least four Christmas Markets take advantage of the distinctiveness of the city’s districts. Everywhere the smell of mulled wine wafts through the air along with the gingerbread pastries and candied almonds served on the streets. You might start at the Royal Mews where a traditional Christmas Market can be found or the Farmer’s Christmas Market in the island of Södermalm. There is a Christmas Market at Skansen and another at Drottnighholm, the site of the Royal Family’s official residence. The largest indoor market at Steninge Castle is also a traditional Christmas Market and a fascinating venue in any season.

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  • Strasbourg


    Not to be outdone by it’s northern neighbors, France has its own unique and magical Christmas Markets, and the one in Strasbourg is consistently rated as one of Europe’s finest. The Christmas Market here dates back to 1570. The city decorates lavishly with 11 different themed areas referred to as “villages.” The Christmas Market brings almost 2 million visitors each year during the 38 day venue, with hotels booking almost a year in advance, so plan early! Referred to as Christkindelsmärik locally, Strasbourg’s market takes place from November 29 to December 31.

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  • Vienna


    A city as beautiful as Vienna would naturally host some of the most beautiful Christmas Markets. The history of Vienna’s Christmas celebrations date back to the Middle Ages with over 20 official markets each year. The square in front of City Hall from the 12th of November to December 24th, hosts the Viennese Christmas Market where international choirs perform, children can learn to make candles and festively decorated stalls sell traditional handcrafted goods and foods.

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