The holiday season in Europe is a true winter wonderland. Christmas lights illuminate the long nights and the smell of gingerbread and spiced wine waft through the air. There are many ways to catch the infectious and magical spirit of Christmas, but visiting Christmas markets is definitely one of the best.
For hundreds of years, Europeans have been celebrating the holiday season by filling the main squares of cities and villages to wander among snow-covered, masterfully decorated Christmas stalls. The magical and romantic markets help people get into holiday mode, and a chance to meet Santa Claus himself certainly helps!
Here you will find a collection of the best Christmas Markets Europe has to offer.
1. Prague, Czech Republic
If you want to experience some Christmas Magic, spend your winter days wandering around all of Prague’s festive markets. The well-known Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square never fail to impress with their selection of Christmas wares and gingerbread men, the beautifully-decorated Christmas trees, and the petting zoo, a favorite for the whole family.
2. Brussels, Belgium
Visiting Brussels between the end of November and January 1st, you will not only find yourself in the middle of a shiny Christmas market along the Place Sainte Catherine but also have the chance to experience an elegant sound-and-light show on the Grand Place. Christmas wares and beautiful handmade souvenirs can be found all over the market’s 240 wooden chalets – but be sure not miss out on the traditional Belgian waffle, as well.
3. Berlin, Germany
As the capital of Germany, Berlin has much to offer its visitors – not only when it comes to sightseeing but also around Christmas time. Walking around the city’s more than 60 different Christmas markets will give you the right giggles and jiggles the season requires. All of them are unique and charming in their own way and have their own bit of Christmas magic. Charlottenburg Castle and Gendarmenmarkt are two favorites in Berlin that will give you a taste of the classic winter wonderland.
4. Paris, France
Festive lights, Christmas decorations and gingerbread men everywhere – these are just a few ways the city of romance gets you in the right mood around Christmas. There are several places to visit throughout the city if you are looking for some Christmas fun. Stop by Champs-Élysées to spend time in the Christmas Village or in the Latin Quarter to see Santa’s Village. For a real winter wonderland don’t miss out Trocadero Gardens.
5. Vienna, Austria
With more than 150 stalls just in the heart of the city, in Rathausplatz, Vienna’s Christmas Market is a huge one, decorated with amazing Christmas lights. When you are visiting the market of the Austrian capital, don’t forget to look for gingerbread hearts with sweet messages, and of course, beeswax candles should be on every shopping list. If you get thirsty – or just want to warm up while walking around in the snow – give Weihnachtspunsch a try!
6. Bologna, Italy
Christmas markets are not exclusive to northern Europe, as some of the most festive can be found in the Mediterranean region. Bologna’s two Christmas Markets are the oldest in the whole country. Walk among the stalls either at the Fiera di Natale or the Antica Fiera di Santa Lucia, and you will surely find some Christmas decorations to treasure. Stuff your tummy with tasty Christmas delights such as specially shaped marzipan and nuts.
7. Stockholm, Sweden
When Christmas time comes around, Sweden gets its locals ready with some glögg and pepparkakor. Sipping mulled wine while chewing on thin ginger biscuits is a typical Swedish way of celebrating the most wonderful time of the year. Don’t miss out on the amazing Christmas Market in the capital – step into the winter wonderland that is Stockholm. Visit the beautifully decorated stalls right in front of the Nobel Museum, where your children can happily play on the tombola for just a few cents.
8. Trondheim, Norway
At the heart of Trondheim, you will not only find stalls but also traditional tepee-style tents where you have the chance to buy your very own woolen jumper – a great way to experience the real Christmas-feeling that spreads around Norway. While munching on some berry-flavoured cheese, hop on a sleigh and let the horses take you for an amazing ride in the beautiful snowy surroundings.
9. St Gallen, Switzerland
Just a short drive away from the Swiss capital, you will find a Christmas market that will set your heart abuzz. St Gallen has the tallest Christmas tree in the country, which is decorated with countless lights. To top off the experience, you can hear the songs of carollers around the clock. During your stay in St Gallen, try out the local specialities, such as biberli and feuerzangenbowle, just the treats to get you in the right mood.
10. Budapest, Hungary
Vörösmarty Square is the place to go if you are visiting Hungarian capital between the 1st of December and 1st of January. Stop by and experience why this is one of the most popular Christmas markets in Europe. Be sure to walk among the shutters, but don’t stop there – take a look at the huge advent calendar on the Gerbeaud building and look for live entertainment along the way.
11. Vilnius, Lithuania
Vilnius has a different take on Christmas trees – they decorate the 550-ft high Vilnius Television tower for the holiday season and hang a bunch of Christmas lights all around it. While strolling among the beautiful sites of Vilnius, sip some karstasvynas (mulled wine) and buy a pair of woolen gloves to keep warm. Find the perfect handmade gift from among the many Christmas decorations and candle holders. And be sure to do all this while munching on some raguolis (a traditional Lithuanian pastry).
12. London, England
Spending a winter break in London is an excellent choice. The Christmas lights in the city light up ceremoniously already in November, so if you are around, don’t miss out on the parade either. For the holiday season, Hyde Park turns into a real winter wonderland, offering not only the traditional stalls but also the largest outdoor skating rink of the city. Strap on your skates and head out onto the ice. Wander around the different Christmas markets of London, stop by a Christmas concert or experience the carol sing-along at the Royal Albert Hall.
13. Helsinki, Finland
Senate Square is the place where you have to go if you are looking for a huge Christmas Market in Finland. The capital of the country will not leave you hanging – visit the market’s more than 100 beautifully decorated Christmas stalls for real Finnish crafts, hand-made Christmas decorations and much more. If you feel like it is getting chilly, buy a pair of woolen gloves or warm up with some glögi (traditional Finnish spicy mulled wine) at the Food Yard.
14. Riga, Latvia
During the holiday season, Riga is a magical place to visit if you are seeking to spark the festive spirit within you. Latvia’s capital and largest city celebrates Christmas in the Old Town with a huge Christmas Fair offering not only the creative Latvian handcrafted decorations but also several concerts and different workshops to please visitors, both the old and young. And if you haven’t met him yet, you will now have the chance to see the one and only Santa Claus!
15. Gdansk, Poland
The Christmas Market in Gdansk is not only a traditional market but an attraction as well. Besides meeting Santa Claus, riding a carousel horse and skating around the ice rink, visitors can explore the traditionally decorated Christmas trees from all over Europe that are exhibited at the fair. Don’t worry about your tummy either – cakes, chocolate covered fruit and different roasted nuts are just a few of all the culinary delights waiting for you in Gdansk.
16. Bucharest, Romania
In the middle of the city, right on University Square, you will find around 65 wooden Christmas stalls gathered from the end of November till the end of December. While you are strolling around looking for a but of Christmas treasure – such as beautiful handicrafts, ceramics, and Christmas decorations – make sure to stop by Santa Clause’s house. The festive season wouldn’t be real if you couldn’t go on a Christmas carousel ride – so visit Bucharest and have a blast!
17. Tallinn, Estonia
What could be better than celebrating the holiday season with Santa and his reindeer? When visiting Tallinn at Christmas time, you will have the chance to put a huge smile on your and your children’s faces while wandering around the Christmas Market in the Town Hall Square. Meeting Santa, shopping in the little huts, and petting animals in the tiny zoo are just a few of the activities to choose from. Get warm by sipping a cup of hot chocolate and listening to some Christmas music.
18. Zagreb, Croatia
During the weeks of Advent, Zagreb celebrates the holiday season with a huge Christmas market that takes place in different streets around the Jelačić Square. Look around and find yourself among hundreds of gingerbread hearts with the sweetest figures and pick a beautifully-decorated and locally-produced seasonal souvenir. You will not only be shopping around but also entertained by local choirs, dancers and live music.