The best Christmas markets in Europe
Christmas is such a magical time of year and what better way to get into the Christmas spirit than visiting one of the best Christmas markets in Europe? It’s something I have loved to do since I lived in Vienna 25 years ago and we now love to take the children to help them feel the magic of Christmas.
Christmas markets (Christkindlmarkt) originated in Germany. Arguably, you’ll still find the best Christmas markets in Germany although they are now facing stiff competition from markets all around Europe.
What is a Christmas market?
A Christmas market is a collection of little wooden shacks adorned with twinkling lights and decorations. They sell Christmas themed goodies such as hand-made arts and crafts, Christmas decorations, Glühwein (a hot mulled wine), traditional gingerbread hearts and sweets galore.
The colder the weather, the more atmospheric the experience is. They are located in the most beautiful European cities. Think of medieval walled towns with old town squares and you’ll probably find a market there. We’ve heard that there are Christmas markets US-style and that Leavenworth Christmas market is a particularly good one.
Where are the best Christmas markets in Europe?
If you like the sound of a Christmas market but aren’t sure where to find them, we have covered the best Christmas markets in Europe. Our comprehensive guide to the best Christmas markets in Europe includes information on opening dates and what you can expect from each market. They are in no particular order.
16th November – 24th December (although most are open until 26th December)
The Viennese Christmas markets are my favourite because I have so many fond memories from living there. It feels like the whole town transforms into a Christmas wonderland because each main square has its own market.
The main one is in the Rathausplatz outside the Rathaus (city hall). Others are located in Maria Theresien Platz, Stephansplatz (by the impressive Stephansdom) and at Schönbrunn Palace (which is spectacular and well worth a visit, even though it is a little way outside of Vienna town centre).
You can expect ice skating and reindeer rides as well as all of the traditional fare of a Christmas market. We love the reusable mug system for the mulled wine. You pay a deposit and receive your glühwein in a mug painted with a Viennese scene. It’s a lovely keepsake and worth foregoing the €2.50/3.00 deposit.
Other Austrian Christmas markets worth visiting are Salzburg, Innsbruck, St. Gallen and Graz
Accommodation in Vienna
Luxury: Hotel Sacher – for a truly Viennese experience. Make sure to try their famous Sacher Torte
Boutique : Hotel Konig von Ungarn– Vienna’s oldest hotel, founded in 1746 and very centrally located close to Stephans Platz Christmas market
Budget / Mid-range : – KH Apartments Universitaet – modern, clean apartments located very close to the Rathaus Christmas market
Nothing takes your fancy? Click here for the best deals on all the hotels in Vienna
30th November – 6th January (incl. Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Years Day)
I can’t think of a more perfect location than Prague for a Christmas market. The medieval centre of Prague provides the ideal setting and the weather in late November – December is cold enough for some atmospheric snow. There are two main markets – Prague Old Town and Wenceslas Square. They’re only 5 minutes apart by foot so you can easily visit both.
You’ll find traditional wood-carved toys, hand-cut crystal items and lots of confectionery. Enjoy hearty (i.e. meaty) Czech food and roasted chestnuts washed down with a much-needed warming glass of mulled wine.
Accommodation in Prague
Luxury: The Alchymist Grand Hotel & Spa – located in a UNESCO protected building with ornate bedrooms and bathrooms. A short walk across Charles Bridge to the Old Town
Boutique: MOODs Charles Bridge – very centrally located and great for families with lovely breakfast
Budget / Mid Range: Old Prague House – centrally located with a fabulous breakfast
Nothing takes your fancy? Click here for the best all Prague hotels
29th November – 24th December
The Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt is one of Germany’s oldest Christmas markets and dates back to around 1530. It’s held in the Hauptplatz (main square) and it’s most famous for its gingerbread and Nuremberger Bratwurst (finger-sized sausage) which you’ll smell cooking as you wander around. All the wooden chalets have a distinctive red and white candy cane striped roof.
All handicrafts are locally made and we love that they are doing their bit for the environment by providing reusable cups for the mulled wine (similar system to Vienna) and their electricity comes from a nearby hydro-electric plant.
The nearby Munich market is worth a visit too, particularly if you are flying into or out of Munich. Other German markets worth visiting are Hamburg, Leipzig, Dusseldorf, Berlin, Aachen and Bremen.
Accommodation in Nuremberg
Luxury: Adina Apartment Hotel – Luxury apartment hotel in the centre of Nuremberg. Great for families.
Boutique: Sorat Hotel Saxx Nurnberg – Close to the Christmas market
Budget / Mid Range: Centr Apartments Nurnberg – Basic accommodation in the heart of Nuremberg
Nothing take your fancy? Click here for the best deals on all Nuremberg hotels
23rd November – 1st January
The main Christmas market in Budapest can be found on St Stephen’s Square in front of the beautiful St Stephen’s Basilica. It is relatively new but sells traditional Hungarian crafts. Enjoy hearty Hungarian staple foods such as goulash, and finish with a slice of flódni, five sweet layers of cake with 4 different fillings or Chimney cake.
There’s a great community spirit where people can enjoy free concerts, light shows with 3D glasses and ice skating.
Accommodation in Budapest
Luxury: Aria Hotel Budapest – stunning hotel with a suite suitable for 4 close to the market
Boutique: Art Deco Basilica Residence – located right next to the Christmas market, suitable for families
Budget / Mid Range: Luxury Central Apartment – 2 bedroom apartment close to the market
Nothing takes your fancy? Click here for the best deals on all Budapest hotels
22nd November – 29th December
Colmar, Alsace is one of Europe’s fairy-tale towns. The narrow cobbled streets in the old town are lined with brightly coloured houses and it has a real-life Disney feel to it. Over Christmas in Colmar, the old town is taken over by 180 stalls. You will find the traditional Christmas market fare, but being France, you will also find gourmet food stalls.
We love it because of the fairy-tale feel of the town. The houses are like gingerbread houses, making them the perfect backdrop for the market. We also love the fact that the old town is so small and easy to navigate with mostly pedestrianised streets.
The nearby Strasbourg Christmas market is also worth visiting.
Accommodation in Colmar
Luxury: Hotel Le Colombier – very centrally located in the Old Town
Boutique: Hotel Quatorze – lovely hotel in the centre of Colmar with family suites
Budget / Mid Range: Pierre & Vacances Petit Venise – just 10 minutes walk from Little Venice and the Old Town. Good standard apartment hotel with a pool.
Nothing takes your fancy? Click here for all Colmar hotels
23rd November – 23rd December
As with most other cities, Stockholm has a few Christmas markets. The main (and best) one to visit after Skansen (for which there is quite a hefty admission fee) is the one in Gamla Stan. It’s the oldest and most traditional, dating back to 1837. You’ll find handicrafts, glögg (Swedish mulled wine) and other Swedish gastronomic delights.
Accommodation in Stockholm
Luxury: Nobis Hotel – in the heart of the shopping district and close to the Old Town
Boutique: Lady Hamilton Apartments – located by the Old town and very close to the Christmas market. Good for families with the option of a 2 bedroom apartment
Budget / Mid Range: Old Town Lodge – very centrally located near the Christmas market area of Gamla Stan. Quadruple rooms with shared bathroom for families available with breakfast included.
Nothing takes your fancy? Click here for all Stockholm hotels
15th November – 7th January
The Tallinn Christmas market has become increasingly popular and is, without a doubt, a beautiful place to visit a Christmas market. Tallinn is the oldest capital city in Northern Europe and has one of the best-preserved medieval town centres in the world. The Christmas market is held in the town square and in the middle of the market is a huge Christmas tree which was first erected in 1441.
You’ll find Christmas decorations and Christmas lights to help get you into the Christmas spirit. Local merchants will offer traditional Estonian food, from black pudding and sour cabbage to gingerbread and mulled wine, as well as various handicrafts. Children will be able to enjoy merry-go-round rides.
Being this far north, expect very cold weather and make sure to dress accordingly.
Accommodation in Tallinn
Luxury: Schlössel Hotel – a beautiful luxury hotel in the Old Town
Boutique: Savoy Boutique Hotel – best boutique hotel in Estonia three years in a row. Effortlessly stylish.
Budget / Mid Range: Cozy Apartment – very centrally located 2 bedroom apartment
Nothing take your fancy? Click here for all Tallinn hotels
30th November – 7th January
The main Christmas market in Brussels takes place in the Grand Place in the centre of town. There’s a huge Christmas tree, magical lights and a skating rink, all overlooked by the majestic town hall. You’ll find all the usual Christmas gifts and decorations in the wooden chalets, and being Belgium, you have the added bonus of sampling one of the many Belgian beers in the surrounding bars.
Accommodation in Brussels
Luxury: Rocco Forte Hotel Amigo – located on the corner of the Grand Place with great views of the market.
Boutique: The Dominican – centrally located
Budget / Mid Range: Appartement Grand Place – lovely 2 bedroom apartment centrally located
Nothing takes your fancy? Click here for all Brussels hotels
9th November – 22nd December
Manchester was the first city in the UK to hold a Christmas market. It was set up in 1999 and has been growing ever since. There are 10 locations throughout the city with over 300 stalls and a mind-blowing 9 million visitors each year. It is the biggest and the best Christmas market in the UK.
You’ll find traditional Christmas gifts, street performers and a whole range of international foods, including Bratwurst and Goulash and mulled wine. You’ll almost think you’re in Germany!
Accommodation in Manchester
Luxury: The Midland – most centrally located luxury hotel. Suites with 2 double beds
Boutique: Native Manchester – beautifully converted warehouse in a central location with 2 bedroom apartments
Budget / Mid Range: Dreamhouse Apartments – 2 bedroom apartments in the heart of Manchester
Nothing takes your fancy? Click here for all Manchester hotels
25th November – 23rd December
We had to put another German market in here seeing as they originated in Germany. The Cologne Christmas markets offer something for everyone and they are found all over town. The more traditional Alter Markt by the town hall is great for children. Here you’ll find a traditional children’s roundabout, puppet theatre, Santa Claus grotto and many toy stands.
Accommodation in Cologne
Luxury: Excelsior Hotel Ernst am Dom – directly opposite the Cologne cathedral
Boutique: Stern am Rathaus – located centrally by the town hall and with family suites
Budget / Mid Range: Hotel und Restaurant Lowenbrau Koln – centrally located, family room with bathroom
Nothing takes your fancy? Click here for all Cologne hotels
Winter Wonderland, UK
21st November – 5th January
There is so much to do at the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. The Christmas market (with over 200 stalls) is just a small part of it. There is ice skating, fairground rides, Santa Land and shows. We go there mainly for the Christmas market, mulled wine and Bavarian food. It is so big, you can spend a whole day there.
Entrance is free but most of the rides are payable and it is advisable to book some things in advance.
Accommodation in London
There is no shortage of accommodation in London to suit every budget, but we’ve picked the closest to Hyde Park in each category.
Luxury: The Berkeley – Luxury hotel in Knightsbridge only a few minutes walk from Hyde Park. It has interconnecting rooms if you are travelling with a family
Boutique: The Capital – located very close to Hyde Park with 2 bedroom apartments
Budget / Mid Range: YHA London St Pancras – There’s really not a lot of budget accommodation around the Hyde Park / Knightsbridge area so why not stay somewhere with easy access to the Piccadilly line. Kings Cross is only 15 minutes on the tube to Hyde Park Corner.
Nothing takes your fancy? Click here for all London hotels
We hope this has put you in the mood for Christmas and that you’ll enjoy the markets as much as we do. It’s great fun for all the family.
If you have a favourite that we haven’t mentioned, we’d love to hear about it.
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