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.

Europe's best Christmas markets

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.

Vienna

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

Christmas market in Vienna

Christmas market in Vienna in front of the Rathaus

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

Prague

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

Prague Christmas market

Prague Christmas market – Photo Credit Prague Visitor

Nuremberg

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

Nuremberg Christmas market

Nuremberg Christmas market – photo credit Christkindelsmarkt.de

Budapest, Hungary

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


Colmar, France

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.

If you

Christmas market in Colmar

Christmas market in Colmar : Photo Credit Marche de Noel de Colmar

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


Stockholm, Sweden

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

Tallinn, Estonia

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.

Christmas market in Tallinn

Christmas market in Tallinn : Photo Credit Visit Estonia

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

Brussels, Belgium

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

Manchester, UK

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

Cologne, Germany

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.

In all of the Christmas markets, there will be Christmas music, arts and crafts, toys, Christmas decorations and the scent of mulled wine, hot chestnuts and gingerbread.
Cologne Christmas Market

Cologne Christmas Market : Photo Credit Alpaca Travel

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.

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland : Photo Credit Campaign

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.

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase using them, we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

 

If you found this post helpful, why not bookmark it, share it with friends or pin it for later?

The 10 best Christmas markets in Europe

8 replies
  1. Terry
    Terry says:

    Wherever you visit for Christmas markets there will always be beautiful old churches or a cathedral nearby. Most of them have a Christmas display which will add to your Christmas Market experience. Whether you are religious or not you will be welcome in any Church in any country. We are not religious but we love the peaceful atmosphere inside a church and always light a candle and pause to think of loved ones no longer with us at such a joyful time of the year.

    Reply
    • wpx_nosweats
      wpx_nosweats says:

      That’s so true and a lovely thing to do. We’re not religious either but do enjoy the beauty of the cathedrals and churches in places like these.

      Reply
  2. Jenny
    Jenny says:

    Wow. Mesmerizing. The only place I have been is London, Hyde Park during Spring Break. We loved it and spend the entire day exploring. I cannot imagine the beauty of this area at Christmas. And all of the others. I’m inspired to get over there one day during Christmastime.

    Reply
    • Jacs
      Jacs says:

      London really is magical at Christmas. There’s so much going on. I’m just writing a post on London with kids at Christmas and realising there’s a lot more than I ever knew!

      Reply
  3. Johannes
    Johannes says:

    Very nice list! We’ve been to all but one of these – because Tallinn was a bit too far away haha – and I can confirm they are all breathtaking. One Christmas market in Europe you absolutely should not miss is the one in Glorenza in North Italy. It’s one of Europe’s smallest cities at about 900 or so residents, but legally a city because of its intact medieval city walls and architecture. Truly a sight to behold, even more so when covered in snow and filled with candlelight and merry songs. Every year during our winter holidays in Naturno (an equally beautiful town a few kilometers away) we make sure to visit and have some mulled wine and cookies!

    Reply
    • Jacs
      Jacs says:

      Hi Johannes
      Thanks for your comment. We love to hear about smaller Christmas markets. Glorenza sounds magical. We much prefer a market in an old walled city with snow!

      Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Almost every list of European Christmas destinations starts with Vienna. And as much as I try to avoid the crowds and go for the less touristic cities, Vienna is a must stop. And of course, Prague, Budapest, Paris, Tallin and many other famous capitals look charming over the holiday season. However, Vienna is the city, which had impressed me the most with one of the best Christmas markets in Europe. […]

Have an opinion? Please let us know!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *