Best European Christmas Markets
Europe’s festive Christmas markets deliver timeless tradition against a backdrop of dramatic skylines, accented with a whiff of pine and a taste of local sweetness. It’s little wonder that, every November through early January, these markets welcome throngs of locals and tourists looking to indulge in mulled wine, history and plenty of good cheer.
Here, we’re sharing the best of Europe’s Christmas markets, where enchanting trees, lights and — of course — Santa himself are waiting to take us back in time.
22. Chester Christmas Market — England
Explore the magic of a traditional English Christmas at the Chester Christmas Market. Here, a sparkling tree stands in the city center surrounded by upwards of 70 shopping chalets in the shadow of the historic Chester Cathedral (it dates back to 1092!).
Emphasizing local craftsmanship, old-fashioned wooden toys, and traditional tastes such as mince pies — set to the festive sound of wandering carolers — this market is big on old-fashioned Christmas charm. Which as we all know, is the best kind of Christmas charm.
21. Fira de Santa Llúcia — Barcelona, Spain
For 232 years, attending this market has been a beloved local tradition. Some 250 beautifully decorated stalls sell gifts, crafts and toys beside nativity scenes and Christmas trees.
The market also features the unique Catalonian tradition of El Tio de Nadal — a log that, after being regularly fed, is hit with a stick to produce presents and sweets. A lively Catalonian parade further celebrates the region’s vibrant culture.
20. Weihnachtsmarkt Santa Croce — Florence, Italy
This German-flavored market in Florence’s Piazza di Santa Croce makes the most of its location beside Florence’s stunning Basilica, a Franciscan church that opened in 1442.
Going strong for no less than five centuries, the market’s friendly vendors sell their wares from German-style huts. Today’s shoppers will find an international assortment of eclectic gifts, from Polish ceramics to German cookies to Italian leather.
19. Basel Christmas Market — Switzerland
Switzerland's prettiest market takes over Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz squares in Old Town Basel.
Marvel at the fabulous Munsterplazt Christmas tree, known for its designer ornaments, as you shop over 160 tiny Swiss chalets where artisans and merchants offer tempting Christmas treats and gifts.
Warm up after shopping with a delicious and traditional Swiss fondue dinner.
18. Winterlights Festival — Luxembourg City
The medieval squares of Luxemburg City set the scene at this aptly named festival that showcases thousands of Christmas lights garlanding trees and shopping stalls.
Vendors in holiday huts peddle a wide selection of seasonal goods, including not only decorations, gifts, candy and local foods but, crucially, plenty of traditional mulled wine.
17. Colmar La Magie de Noel — France
The Alsatian city of Colmar in Northern France is famous for the lights of its annual Christmas market. Set against a backdrop of architecture spanning from the Middle Ages to the 19th century, Colmar transforms into a festive fairyland for the Christmas season.
Wander the light path through town past decorated houses, enjoy sublime French cuisine, hear children sing and take a turn on the ice rink. And, of course, make sure you leave time to shop for one-of-a-kind holiday gifts and stocking stuffers.
16. Bruges Christmas and Winter Market — Belgium
Bruges is a fairy-tale city any time of year. But when its Market Square transforms into a charming Christmas village, it becomes more magical than ever.
Decorated shops sell holiday gifts, but the real selling point here is the food. Traditional snacks on hand include Belgian chocolate, fries, cheese and waffles, as well as mulled wine.
Indulge in all of the above as you take in Old Town’s twinkling lights and historic charm.
15. Leiden Floating Christmas Market — The Netherlands
Head to Leiden, one of The Netherland’s most charming cities, for a unique Christmas market on the water, where 86 winter chalets for shopping and snacking sit perched upon pontoons on the Nieuwe Rijn river.
With beautiful lights, traditional Dutch treats, live performances and appearances by Santa Claus, Leiden’s Floating Market offers a traditional experience in a canal setting only The Netherlands can offer.
Boat tours of the area depart from the market and include a warming hot chocolate or mulled wine.
14. Helsinki Christmas Market — Finland
You’ll find a sauna at the Helsinki Christmas Market as Finland celebrates the holidays with its own particular flair. Decorated with 200 Christmas trees, 138 shopping stalls and a kid-friendly carousel, this market also boasts an enviable location not far from the North Pole.
Better yet, this market is an epicurean delight with two excellent food courts. One showcases modern riffs on Christmas classics, while the other sticks to traditional Finnish holiday fare.
Make sure to order the glögi, Finland’s hot drink, to beat the arctic chill!
13. Oslo Christmas Markets — Norway
Oslo celebrates Christmas at several traditional markets, all of which revolve around the country’s signature wintertime treat: the peperkaker (gingerbread cookie).
Families will especially enjoy the Jul i Vinterland Market, where they can meet Santa, ride a Ferris wheel and go ice skating.
For traditional holiday decorations, head to the Youngstorget Christmas Market, where you can soak up the Christmas spirit in the warmth of heated tents. Norwegian food is available to take home or to enjoy at spirited communal tables.
12. Copenhagen Christmas Markets — Denmark
An astounding 80,000 magical lights illuminate Copenhagen’s city center at the Højbro Plads Christmas Market, where you can have your picture taken with Santa in his Christmas village. (The market is, not surprisingly a favorite among families.)
At the nearby Tivoli Gardens Market, the capital’s massive park is transformed into a charming Christmas landscape, complete with thousands of lights, carousel rides, handicrafts, shopping and traditional Danish Christmas food like spiced pickled herring. Christmas themes from around Europe are accentuated throughout the market, lending this Danish experience international flair.
11. Gothenburg Christmas Markets — Sweden
Have you ever tried glogg? This traditional Swedish mulled wine spiced with cinnamon, cloves and cardamon — and served with almonds and raisins at the bottom of the glass — is one of many drinks you can enjoy in the markets of Gothenburg.
Sweden’s largest market can be found at Liseberg Amusement Park, where carousels and an ice ballet cater to all ages. The smaller, cozier Haga district features a market focused on traditional shopping. If you hear singing, you might have stumbled upon the local tradition of the singing Christmas tree, featuring an angelic-voiced choir crooning around a tree.
10. Krakow Christmas Market — Poland
Rynek Glowny, Krakow’s largest central square, hosts festive shopping far into the season at the Krakow Christmas Market.
From the end of November to December 26, and sometimes through the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6, revelers can find wooden stalls offering a wide selection of Christmas-themed crafts. Textiles, pottery and metalwork crafted by onsite smiths are sold beside Polish glass baubles, brick-a-brack and sweetly scented Christmas trees. If you time it right, you may hear local children singing carols.
9. Tallinn Christmas Market — Estonia
The Tallinn Christmas Market boasts Europe’s oldest Christmas tree display, dating back to 1441. This selection of gorgeously decorated trees and bright lights set the scene as revelers shop and eat; items for sale include wooden decorations, knitted goods and local bites like gingerbread with (of course!) mulled wine.
Kids can find Santa in his house, while parents can bask in the warmth of historical traditions among beautiful medieval buildings.
8. Prague Christmas Markets — Czech Republic
Prague becomes a winter wonderland each Christmas as several markets light up the city center.
Throughout the advent season here, you can shop for hand-made gifts and traditional fare (don’t miss the city’s famous smoked boneless ham!) at festively decorated stalls, while listening to the sounds of wandering carolers.
Prague’s primary markets can be found at the Old Town Square and adjoining Wenceslas Square. Old Town Square Market is especially famous for its towering Christmas tree, which stands brightly lit before an atmospheric Gothic skyline.
7. Budapest Christmas Markets — Hungary
Travel through time in the Christmas markets of Budapest, where a homemade Hungarian holiday atmosphere meets charming and traditional artisanal shopping.
Vorosmarty Square hosts Budapest’s main market in the city center, celebrating the holiday with romantic, muted lights and craftsman market stalls. Hungry shoppers can taste traditional local treats, including sausages and potato dumplings, while enjoying free evening concerts.
Set against a backdrop of striking 19th-century buildings, this is a Budapest must-see.
6. Hellbrunner Adventzauber Christmas Market — Austria
The Hellbrunner Adventzauber Christmas Market, located south of Salzburg, has been held at castle Hellbrunn for the last 20 years.
This is one of Austria’s most beautiful and whimsical markets, with some 700 trees and a showstopping centerpiece: the castle transformed into an advent calendar, with numbers decorating its 24 windows.
With arts, crafts, traditional foods, a petting zoo and a 26-foot-tall Christmas angel, Hellbrunner Adventzauber is a Christmas experience like no other in Europe.
5. Salzburg Christmas Market — Austria
The city of Salzburg, familiar from the movie “The Sound of Music,” is especially lovely during the holiday season. The Salzburg Christmas Market dates back to the 16th century and sits below the even older Hohensalzburg fortress and cathedral.
The city of Mozart celebrates the days of advent with not only traditional Austrian food and crafts, but stunning musical performances by various local choirs. Listen for “Silent Night,” which was written and first performed in Salzburg in 1818!
4. Vienna Christmas Markets — Austria
As this list makes clear, Austria is a must-visit for Christmas market aficionados. In the capital city of Vienna, a market tradition dating back to 1298 lives on today in the form of romantic lights, snowflakes and the whiff of roasting chestnuts.
Explore glittering lights, ride a Ferris wheel and go ice skating while choirs sing at the Viennese Dream Christmas Market.
A baroque adventure awaits at one of Vienna’s iconic architectural treasures, Christmas Village Belvedere Palace, with over 40 shopping stalls and timeless local treats.
And the Christmas Village Altes AKH delivers an authentic feel with its traditional shopping and abundant glühwein, Austria’s traditional mulled wine, typically spiced with oranges and cinnamon.
2. Christkindlesmarkt — Nuremberg, Germany
Nuremberg's Christkindlesmarkt is opened annually by the Christkind (Christ Child) from a church balcony in the city’s Old Town.
From the time of Martin Luther, the Christkind has brought German children presents on Christmas Eve, and this pine-decked festive market is the perfect place to shop for gifts. Lantern processions, choirs, coach rides and the adjoining Children's Market make Nuremberg, with its traditional gingerbread and sausages, the go-to place for German-style Christmas magic.
The country is home to yet another standout market too, though...
1. Dresdner Striezelmarkt — Dresden, Germany
Twinkling lights, music and the scent of seasonal treats meet at Germany's oldest Christmas market.
This is the enchanted home of the world’s largest nutcracker and a Christmas pyramid measuring 46 feet in height. Dresden celebrates the holiday from November 29 through Christmas Eve with a packed advent calendar showcasing storytelling, puppets, baked goods, choirs and appearances by Father Christmas.
The Striezelmarkt is actually comprised of several markets so you can hop between traditional, medieval and romantic settings without ever leaving town.