Christmas is to many, the most wonderful time of the year. Streets get wrapped up in a shimmering blanket of holiday cheer. What better way to embrace the Christmas spirit than the markets in Europe? 🎄🎁
1. Cologne, Germany - Where sausages meet glühwein
Opening Dates: November 23 to December 23, 2023
Cologne is a city that knows how to celebrate Christmas in style and is divided into smaller markets that spread throughout the city. The fragrance of sizzling sausages and mulled wine fills the air, drawing you into a winter wonderland. The iconic Cologne Cathedral forms the backdrop for this market, making it Instagram-worthy from every angle. Grab a bratwurst, sip some Glühwein, and let the festive spirit take over!
2. Prague, Czech Republic - A fairytale in the making
Opening Dates: December 3, 2023 to January 6, 2024
Prague's Christmas markets are your chance if you've ever dreamed of stepping into a real-life fairy tale. With its charming cobblestone streets and stunning architecture, Prague is like a storybook brought to life. The Old Town Square transforms into a magical wonderland, complete with twinkling lights and handmade crafts. You can find christmas magic everywhere from the city’s Astronomical Clock to the Tyn Church. Don't miss out on trying trdelník, a delicious cinnamon pastry, swap your mug of mulled wine for a glass of grog — rum, water, lemon and sugar.
3. Vienna, Austria - The epitome of elegance
Opening Dates: November 11, 2023 to January 4, 2024; majority close by December 26
Vienna, oh Vienna! This Austrian gem takes Christmas markets to a whole new level of elegance. Prime among them is the Magic of Advent Market at Rathausplatz, in front of the city hall (aka Viennese Dream market). The city's imperial palaces and historic squares become the backdrop for some of the most stunning Christmas markets in Europe. Be sure to try a slice of Sachertorte, get surrounded by the aroma of roasted chestnuts and freshly baked pretzels, and indulge in the finest Viennese chocolates while enjoying live classical music.
4. Budapest, Hungary - Baths by day, markets by night
Opening Dates: November 18, 2023 to January 1, 2024
Budapest is known for its relaxing thermal baths, but during the holiday season, it transforms into a vibrant and lively Christmas destination. Visit the Vörösmarty Square Christmas Market, located in one of the most bustling squares on the Pest side of the Danube River to sample traditional Hungarian dishes like chimney cake and goulash soup. After sightseeing, soak in one of the city's famous thermal baths to unwind.
It is also worth mentioning the Basilica market, which was elected the Best Christmas Market in Europe for the third time. This market stands out by having Christmas laser projections on the Basilica itself and an ice-skating rink that circles around a grand Christmas tree, not forgetting the usual stuff you see in traditional Christmas markets.
5. Strasbourg, France - The capital of Christmas!
Opening Dates: November 24 to December 24, 2023
Strasbourg proudly holds the title of "Capital of Christmas," and it doesn't disappoint. In fact, Strasbourg’s oldest market dates back to 1570. The city's half-timbered houses and narrow alleyways are adorned with thousands of twinkling lights. The Strasbourg Christmas Market boasts an array of beautifully crafted ornaments and mouthwatering Alsatian treats. It's a place where every corner feels like a Christmas card come to life.
Another factor that this market differentiated from other markets is the fact it is less of a focus on tourism and more on sustainability and local produce.
6. Edinburgh, Scotland - A yuletide adventure in the Highlands!
Opening Dates: November 17, 2023 to January 6, 2024
Head north to Scotland for a different take on Christmas markets. Edinburgh's Christmas Market, set against the backdrop of the stunning Edinburgh Castle, is a blend of traditional and modern delights.
Within this magical atmosphere, you'll discover Santa's Grotto, a graceful oval ice rink, thrilling fairground rides like the towering 60-meter-high Star Flyer, and a whimsical elves' workshop tucked away inside the Christmas Tree Maze
Glide around the ice rink, hop on a festive carousel, and sample some haggis or Scotch whisky to warm your spirits.
7. Brussels, Belgium - The grand capital of festive delights
Opening Dates: November 24 to December 31, 2023
Brussels is a grand city year-round, but during Christmas, it becomes truly spectacular. The Grand Place transforms into a magical Christmas village with a giant Christmas tree at its center. Sample world-famous Belgian chocolates and waffles as you explore the charming market stalls.
8. Copenhagen, Denmark - Hygge meets holiday cheer!
Opening Dates: November 17 to December 31, 2023
Copenhagen's Tivoli Gardens is a dreamy destination any time of year, but it's especially enchanting during the holiday season. Considering the soul of danish Christmas, the park is adorned with millions of lights, alongside market stalls selling wooden toys, ceramics, decorations and chunky knitwear creating a cozy and hygge atmosphere. Don't miss the chance to savor Danish pastries and mulled wine. (locally known as glogg).
9. Tallinn, Estonia - The Christmas tree pioneer
Opening Dates: December 1, 2023 to January 7, 2024
It was at Tallinn Advent market in 1441 that the first-ever Christmas tree was displayed in Europe, Town Hall Square. You can encounter the true Christmas essence through the display of 60 wooden stalls where rooftops and cobblestones are dusted with snow, selling handmade wreaths, local arts and crafts, sweets, honey, and sheepskin rugs. Adults and children can also look forward to meeting Santa, who often pays a visit in his reindeer-pulled sleigh.
10. Kraków, Poland - Create your Crib
Opening Dates: November 24 to December 26, 2023
Kraków's Old Town, with its iconic Cloth Hall, magnificent St. Mary's Basilica, and storied medieval streets, serves as the ideal setting for a vibrant Christmas market. Local vendors offer a diverse range of hand-crafted goods, from Bolesławiec pottery to sweet-boiled candies and fresh pine wreaths. However, a major highlight of the market is the revered Kraków Christmas Crib Contest, featuring creatively decorated nativity cribs and Baroque churches parading around the square for judging, with the winning entries showcased in the Historical Museum of Kraków. In addition to these festivities, Krakow also boasts live camels, a snowy square for ice skating, mulled wine, gingerbread, and serene galleries and candlelit churches to explore. The misty Rynek Glowny, Europe's largest medieval town square, exudes the scents of sizzling kielbasa from Christmas stalls, while the Renaissance Sukiennice presides over the scene with its ornate light fixtures and wooden Christmas decorations.
11. Zagreb, Croatia - Food for the soul
Opening Dates: December 2, 2023, to January 7, 2024
Zagreb's Advent celebration stands out as one of Croatia's most festive Christmas markets, boasting numerous locations scattered throughout the city. Predominantly centered on food and drink, this Croatian extravaganza offers a delightful blend of culinary delights and craft stalls, along with a sprawling outdoor skating rink. Begin your journey in the markets nestled within the trio of parks in the lower town before immersing yourself in the festivities at Zagreb's main Ban Jelacic Square. As you make your way towards the medieval upper town, you'll encounter more stalls and relish in delectable treats like spicy sausages, sarma (stuffed cabbage rolls), chocolate-covered festive fritters known as fritule, and indulgent plum brandy and local wines.
12. Basel, Switzerland - Christmas fairytale and forest
Opening Dates: November 23 to December 23, 2023
The charming town of Basel comes to life during the holiday season, illuminated by thousands of twinkling lights adorning rustic wooden chalets in Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz. The market spans two distinct sections at Barfuserplatz and Munsterplatz. Barfuserplatz features handmade wooden toys, nativity scenes, and jewelry, while Munsterplatz's fairytale forest hosts delightful festive activities for children, including bauble-making workshops and gingerbread decorating. Make sure to try their authentic Basel Lackerli (a local twist on gingerbread), hot punch, festive fondue, and rib-sticking raclette to warm up your belly.
13. Gothenburg, Sweden - The most magical entertainment
Opening Dates: Various dates from November 19 to December 30, 2023
Sweden's renowned Liseberg amusement park transforms into an elegant Christmas open-air market, illuminated with over a million lights adorning a market stall shedding any trace of creaky ferris wheels, plastic Christmas trees, or rowdy elves. While there's an entry fee, visitors can linger until late (typically open from 3 pm to 10 pm), indulging in treats like smoked reindeer and Scandinavian rich hot chocolate or mulled wine, known as glogg. The park offers exceptional free children's entertainment, including a visit to Santa in his wooden workshop, bumper car rides, and a dazzling half-hour ice show.
14. Bratislava, Slovakia - Christmas market for the whole family
Opening Dates: November 23 to December 23, 2023
Adorned with thousands of twinkling fairy lights and featuring numerous chalets offering wooden toys, along with a glistening ice rink at the town's core, the Slovakian capital transforms into a perfect winter wonderland for a family Christmas excursion. The festive season kicks off with the ceremonial illumination of a splendid tree at Main Square, marking the commencement of the bustling markets. As an added convenience, Bratislava also operates an official Christmas tram, simplifying travel between the various squares and enhancing the holiday experience.
15. Sibiu, Romania - Christmas vibes in historic Transylvanian
Opening Dates: 17th November 2023 to 2nd January 2024.
It's unlikely you'll encounter a town brimming with as much festive Christmas cheer as the historic Transylvanian city of Sibiu. This vibrant market unfolds in the heart of the city at Piata Mare, conveniently encircled by breathtaking Baroque architecture. Within the market, you'll discover an enticing array of offerings, from exquisite jewelry and artisanal ornaments to delightful treats. Don't forget to keep a lookout for the stalls featuring unique leather goods. And as an added bonus, there's even an ice rink for you to enjoy.
Remember, the best part of travel is creating unforgettable memories. So, whether you're sipping hot chocolate under the twinkling lights or hunting for unique souvenirs, these European Christmas markets have something for every traveler.
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So, what are you waiting for? Book your tickets, pack your bags, and get ready to unwrap the magic of European Christmas markets. It's a journey filled with laughter, joy, and maybe even a few snowflakes.
Happy holidays and happy travels, dear adventurers! May your days be merry and bright, wherever you choose to wander. 🎅