Christmas in Europe is incomplete without visiting at least one Christmas market. Christmas markets in Europe are one of the greatest draw cards for visitors, near and far. Selecting which European city you will spend your Christmas in, will require research and consideration, as the choices are so great!
Fortunately, Christmas in Europe extends well before December 25th. This gives you great opportunities to enjoy the European Christmas atmosphere in multiple cities and/or countries in one festive season. Whether you’re travelling on your own, with friends or seeking a magical family Christmas; be sure to check out some of the top Christmas markets in Europe!
WHERE ARE THE BEST CHRISTMAS MARKETS IN EUROPE?
Lille is a gorgeous little town at the northern tip of France, near the border of Belgium. A lovely place to visit at any time of the year, however, during the festive season, it is a remarkable Europe Christmas destination.
Streets are lined with stalls, all lit up by beautiful Christmas coloured lights which create a magical atmosphere. The stalls have fantastic gift ideas and sell nativity figurines; as well as, local art, also from Russia, Poland and Canada.
Rug up for outdoor activities, including the ferris wheel which overlooks the market area. Enjoy the warm food and local delicacies, sip on mulled wine and immerse yourself in the Christmas spirit. The crepes were a particular favourite of mine, I think I lost count of actually how many I ate in a day!
The French town excels at putting on a great celebration and brings people from everywhere, including the United Kingdom! Due to the easy accessibility on the Eurostar, it is a popular city for the British to go and experience one of the best Christmas markets in Europe. This is exactly what I did, board a train from London and went to Lille, especially for the Christmas market, for the day! It was a big day out, but it was certainly well worth the journey!
You will absolutely not be disappointed if you choose to visit Lille during the Christmas period. There are many great accommodation options available in and around Lille.
Visiting a Christmas market in Germany is a must during the festive season. The Munich Christmas market offers an array of unique events, food and festivities. Running from November 23rd to December 24th the Munich Christmas market is perfect for families, couples and solo travellers.
There are Christmas markets scattered all over Munich, but the most popular are situated outside the Munich Rathaus. You’ll also find others at the Munich Residenz and the English Garden. Many of the stalls will feature handmade Christmas ornaments, the perfect souvenir from your trip!
Christmas is the perfect time to indulge, and the markets in Munich do not disappoint. You’ll find a variety of German dishes on every corner you turn, including bratwurst, schnitzel, and sweet treats like strudel. Don’t forget to stock up traditional German treats such as Lebkuchen and Spekulatius cookies.
Let’s not forget the drinks on offer too. German beer and Mulled wine or Gluhwein as it’s known in Germany, are a firm favourite among locals. And if you want an even more German experience, head to one of the many beer halls. My personal favourites are German Helles and Hefeweizen.
During your trip to Munich there is plenty to see and do away from the markets. You can explore further afield and take a day trip the famous fairytale castle of Neuschwanstein or explore the many palaces in Munich such as Munich Residenz. If you’re looking for a unique experience in Munich, book your trip to coincide with the Krampus Run – an event thats exclusive to the Bavarian and Swiss areas of Europe.
The Courtyard by Marriot Munich City Center is the perfect hotel to base yourself for your trip to Munich. The rooms are incredibly spacious with very accommodating staff. It’s also within walking distance to the main city centre.
After spending a year living in Freiburg, Germany, I found its Christmas market to be my favourite across the whole of Germany and Europe. Freiburg is a small city located in Baden-Wurttemberg in south-west Germany. The traditional city holds its annual Christmas markets from November onwards, and the city comes alive at this time.
The Christmas markets flood the city centre from the cathedral square through the cobbled streets and into the town hall square. You’ll find European street food to die for! They sell traditional German foods including schnitzel, bratwurst and my personal favourite flammkuchen. This is a thin crispy ‘pizza’ with cream cheese and bacon on top. Don’t forget the German gingerbread and chocolate kisses – small marshmallow filled domes. So many options are available for presents from decorative baubles to small Christmas trees. The town hall square also has a small funfair for children and adults alike.
Winter is also the best time of year to visit Freiburg as there are so many things to do. Take the cable car up Schauinsland, Freiburg’s closest mountain. At the snowy top, there is a centre where you can hire a sledge. There is also a sledge lift to take you to the top. You can also head into the black forest where you can see frozen lakes and snow covered buildings. It’s also the perfect place to try the traditional black forest gateau!
If the German Christmas markets didn’t fill your stomach enough, I recommend visiting Martins Brau for a traditional schnitzel dinner and some German beer. Afterwards, visit Fierling to carry on your evening.
There are several accommodation choices in Freiburg and surrounds; be sure to read reviews for personal recommendations.
As one of the oldest Christmas markets not only in Germany but in Europe, Stuttgart’s Christmas market is spread out over dozens of acres and has nearly 300 stalls. With the festival lasting nearly a month over 3.5 million people visit Stuttgart’s Christmas market every year, and for good reason.
There are at least three different areas where the Christmas market stretches into downtown Stuttgart. In the area in front of the Old Palace, visitors can experience a kinderland, where small carousel rides and other carnival rides are available for children.
One of the most popular rides is the steam train ride, which takes parents and their children on a small locomotive that drives through a display of a miniature version of Stuttgart with decorated homes, festivities and people. Nearby there is an ice skating rink where small ride on penguins and dolphins are available for children who are not able to skate.
Stuttgart’s Christmas market also has a traditional Finnish market at the beginning of the festival season, where visitors can purchase Finnish food and memorabilia. One very interesting aspect of the market is a building near the Rathaus (town hall) which mirrors an advent calendar as the windows of the building are transformed into numbers to represent each day of Advent. The stalls of the vendors also get into the spirit of the holidays and have beautifully decorated rooftops, many twinkling in lights.
Among the hundreds of vendors, be sure to stop by the vendors selling traditional German gluhwein, which is a warm mulled wine, or flammkuchen a thin, crusty bread with a variety of toppings. Finally, be sure to walk among the displays presented in front of the Old Palace. Each year, the festival’s theme changes and the city has beautiful lighted displays that light up, several of which play themed music.
There are many great accommodation options available in and around Stuttgart.
After enjoying a few Christmas markets in the UK, I was delighted to visit two real German markets in Germany, two days in a row; Frankfurt first, then the Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg. The second being the highlight out of the two and according to my research, it is the most famous Christmas market in Germany.
Nuremberg is known as one of the most Christmassy places in the world and it delivered. I had two days to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the city as a whole, while on an epic InterRail adventure. The entire city was geared towards celebrating Christmas and was immaculately decorated with Christmas lights on all the thoroughfares.
The core area was located in the square near to Frauenkirche or Church of Our Lady, a fantastic building looking remarkable throughout the day or in the evening. The atmosphere extended into most streets inside the old city walls, with stalls selling all sorts of wares and tasty treats.
The festivities were focused down the hill from the magnificent Imperial Castle of Nuremberg, that overlooks the old town. As you head closer, the lights get more vibrant and the fragrances of Christmas stimulate your senses. Entering the main square was special – a stage, where traditional music was being played, from various countries including traditional songs and dance.
The aroma of food tickled the taste buds. For me, the gingerbread stalls were a massive draw and I kept on munching; as well as storing a few for a midnight snack!
When in Rome you should do as Romans do, so when in Nuremberg, Nuremberger sausages should be eaten in the traditional manner. They were served grilled with unique sausages in a roll – three specialities included, horseradish, sauerkraut or potato salad. To confess I didn’t have 3, I ended up having 9 throughout the day. I also obliged with local tradition, by hydrating with the locally brewed dark beers and festive warm drinks.
The best Christmassy experiences I enjoyed from many on my recent InterRail adventure with the puppy in tow.
By Richard from R.J. On Tour UK
Several Christmas markets are located in Sweden’s second city, but the largest Gothenburg Christmas market, is found in Liseberg Amusement Park. It regularly pulls in half a million visitors due to the huge selection of Christmas stalls, amusement rides and Swedish winter treats.
Based in Gothenburg, the worlds most sustainable city means the five million Christmas lights that decorate Liseberg throughout the festive period, are all run off wind power created by the theme park’s very own wind turbine. On top of that there isn’t any single use plastic in sight! Liseberg is open daily from noon until 11pm.
For shoppers, there are two Christmas markets with a total of 80 stalls and shops, selling bespoke gifts and handicrafts as well as Swedish delicacies like cinnamon buns. With so much going on, including an ice skating ballet show, a traditional Christmas buffet, thirty roller coaster rides and attractions and of course Santa’s workshop, it’s easy to see why the Liseberg Christmas market is a favourite in Sweden.
There are three other Christmas markets in Gothenburg, the most traditional is found at Kronhuset, in one of the oldest preserved buildings in the city.
The most charming Christmas market is found in Haga, which is also home to the largest cinnamon rolls in Sweden, and the most modern Christmas market only runs for one weekend at the iconic Roda Sten Konsthall. The diversity of the Gothenburg Christmas markets make it a must for anyone visiting Sweden in December.
There are several accommodation choices in Gothenburg and surrounds; be sure to read reviews for personal recommendations.
MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM.
If you are looking for not only one Christmas market, but ten at once, Manchester is where you want to be! Each year in November, the Christmas spirit grips the entire city. Filling the streets with bratwurst and mulled wine, that’s the promise of Manchester Christmas markets.
They are all located in the city centre, within 5 minutes of each other. Manchester Christmas markets are open for over 6 weeks which gives you plenty of time to go check them out!
The main market, on Albert Square, is where you will find the most stands and bars but more importantly, big Santa! The other markets are located on: Piccadilly Gardens, Market Street, Albert Square, Exchange Square, New Cathedral Street, King Street, St Ann’s Square and Cathedral Gardens.
You will find all sorts of foods, drinks and quirky Christmas gifts. I’d highly recommend you withdraw cash beforehand as most stands don’t take cards and the ATMs around the markets get very crowded.
Mancunians love their Christmas Markets and they generally get quite busy. But they are also the best place to experience a true Northern English experience. People are happy and friendly so just get yourself a delicious mulled wine and socialise!
If you want to have a bit more fun, head to the ice village on Cathedral Gardens. You will find a covered ice rink (perfect to skate under any weather condition), a cavern full of ice cultures and an ice tikki bar!
Manchester Christmas markets have it all and if you love all things Christmas, you will be in paradise. They just never get old!
There are many great accommodation options available in and around Manchester.
If you are looking for an authentic Christmas Market in Europe, you definitely should check out Bratislava’s Christmas Market at the Main Square (Hviezdoslavovo Square). Visitors are amazed by the picturesque location and the unique atmosphere in Bratislava.
During Christmas time, this Market is full of local specialities, delicious food and charming goodies. People come together for having some punch or mulled wine and enjoy the true atmosphere of a winter in Bratislava. Really delicious is here the Loksa, a salty pancake or the traditional Strudl, a crisp cake filled with apple and raisins. Also the mulled vine is here in Bratislava tasty – probably because it comes from local vineries nearby the city.
In addition to amazing food you will find plenty of home-made products and traditional souvenirs – perfect to bring home some souvenirs for your beloved.
Another highlight and for many a must-do is winter skating. Especially at the Main Square you will find a very well-prepared open-air ice rink. Not only kids, also adults love to turn some rounds in this incredibly beautiful atmosphere. Skates are available to hire, so you don’t have to bring your own ones.
In the evening, local artists – singers and dancers perform directly at this Christmas Market and make each visit to an extraordinary experience. Christmas Markets have had a long tradition in Bratislava and therefore a visit to Bratislava for Christmas is absolutely recommended.
There are several accommodation choices in Bratislava and surrounds; be sure to read reviews for personal recommendations.
Hands down, the most famous Christmas markets in Austria are definitely located in the three main tourist cities Vienna, Salzburg and Innsbruck. However, let’s not forget the more southern part of the country. In the second biggest city named Graz, you can find the magical Christmas spirit as well. There you can find not only one, but many small and gorgeous Christmas markets located all over the city.
One of the biggest and most famous ones is the one at the main square (“Hauptplatz”). Right in front of the city hall, this Christmas market features a huge Christmas tree, a lovely carousel and many different stalls offering sweets, mulled wine, teddy bears and hand-made decoration.
Another cool Christmas market is the “Aufsteirern” market which is located somewhere unusual. On the famous Schlossberg and far away from the city center there’s a former castle moat called “Kasematten”. During summer, this place is used as an open-air stage but in winter it transforms into a festively decorated Christmas market with countless stalls offering mulled wine, delicious food and also different types of crafts.
Last but not least, the oldest Christmas market can be found at a square called “Franziskanerplatz”. It’s mainly focused on rural tradition and that’s why you can mostly find many arts and crafts, so-called “Thüringer Christmas tree decorations” and products from areas called “Styrian GenussRegionen”. Don’t worry, of course many stalls offer something to eat and mulled wine as well! Also, if you’re craving something sweet, there’s a stall selling mouthwatering chimney cakes. Be prepared to wait for a while tho, the queue is usually very long.
There are many great accommodation options available in and around Graz, be sure to read reviews of personal experiences.
Galway City located on the west coast of Ireland, is arguably not only the coolest bigger city in Ireland, it also hosts the best Christmas market. When the days are getting shorter, the nights darker and the spirit of Christmas becomes visible, then the Galway Christmas market is the place to be.
The market on Eyre Square, right in the heart of the city, includes the incredibly fun 32 metres high Ferris wheel (here you have the best views of the city!), the very popular Après Ski Bar, Santa’s Grotto for kids of all ages and more than 50 international and Irish stalls with arts and crafts.
Besides these, there is lots of great entertainment with many different music acts (Galway is anyways the best city for street buskers in Ireland!) and delicious food (e.g. Czech chimney cakes, German Bratwurst and Glühwein, French crêpes, yummy Irish fudge and much more). One of the best things about Galway’s Christmas market is the possibility to saunter through the beautifully decorated cobbled streets with lively pubs and cozy restaurants.
If you want to get away from the Christmas hustle and bustle in Galway, then you are just a few minutes away from the seashore with its romantic boardwalk of Salthill. This beautiful walk stretches for more than a mile and offers fabulous views of Galway Bay. If you are lucky you will even catch a glimpse of the traditional boats of the city, the Galway Hookers. Definitely give Galway at Christmas time a try, it is really worth it!
There are several accommodation choices in Galway and surrounds; be sure to read reviews for personal recommendations.
FIRA DE SANTA LLUCIA, BARCELONA, SPAIN.
Barcelona may not be your best bet when it comes to seeing a white Christmas, but its Christmas market beats out many others in Europe, especially when it comes to unusual traditions.
The Fira de Santa Llucia is a 200+ year old Christmas market located in the plaza outside a Gothic Cathedral, making it extremely atmospheric. Visitors are always amazed to see two of the more unusual Catalan Christmas traditions: the caganer and the caga tio.
A caganer is a small figurine of a defecating man (or nowadays, woman) placed in the Christmas nativity scene. There are various explanations as to why, but the most common is that it’s seen to “bring it down to earth.” Nowadays, they make caganers of celebrities and politicians, too, and there are hundreds for sale at the Christmas market.
The other unusual tradition you’ll encounter at the market is the “caga tio,” a log with a face drawn on (and usually wearing a Santa hat) that is at the center of kids’ Christmas festivities here. Rather than Santa, this log brings kids presents on Christmas Day. He’s usually covered in a blanket and the family gathers around, hitting him with sticks while singing a song asking him to defecate presents (yes, there’s a bit of a theme to these two traditions). Then the blanket is lifted and the gifts are revealed.
By Caitlin – The Vegan World
There are several accommodation choices in Barcelona and surrounds; be sure to read reviews for personal recommendations.
PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC.
Christmas in Prague is one of the busiest times of the year. There are thousands of people that are traveling to see local Christmas markets and not just from the Czech Republic. You can find here people from the whole world. Even though it might sound very crowded, there is a lot of good reasons for visiting Prague during Christmas time.
Prague has a lot of gorgeous historical buildings and seeing them decorated by snow and Christmas lights is something spectacular.
You can get classical Czech crafted gifts for your loved ones. You can find anything from little wooden dolls to homemade aromatic candles or even specially made glass decoration. On some of the stands that you will walk by, you will see how craftsmen work on their products right in front of your eyes, which kind of give a special medieval atmosphere.
At the same time, Prague Christmas markets have a great program. On a lot of stages, you would see people singing chorals and trying to entertain both adults and kids. For entertaining adults, there is a very yummy honey liqueur or mulled wine. While kids can actually see here some domestic animals like donkeys and sheep (sort of like it was in Bethelem, nothing wild).
So as you can see, Prague might be busy during the Christmas time, but for a very good reason. Local Christmas markets are filled with great potential gifts and magic for anyone big and small.
By Albi from Ginger Around The Globe
There are several accommodation choices in and around Prague. Be sure to read reviews to find the best choice to suit your trip.