The festive season is in full swing, and it’s also one of the best times to visit Europe. Think rows of colorful twinkling lights, mulled wine, charming snowy villages, and local festivities like Christmas markets. When it comes to Christmas markets in Europe, magic abounds from late November to late December or early January. Nibble on local treats as you wander the stalls along cobblestone streets, from Germany to Italy – here are the best Christmas markets in Europe, and our guide to making the most of them!
What You Should Know About Christmas Markets in Europe
A Brief History of Christmas Markets in Europe
Known across Europe as “Christkindlmarkt”, Christmas markets first started in Germany and have roots that date back to the Middle Ages. In fact, one of the oldest is found in Dresden, and dates back to 1434. Perhaps then it comes as no surprise that Germany has the most Christmas markets, but of course today, they can be found all over Europe. If you are looking to immerse yourself in the magic of a winter wonderland and plan to sip enough gluhwein to keep you warm all winter, then you need to start planning your Christmas market holiday!
Where to Find Christmas Markets in Europe
Many towns across Europe put on Christmas markets during the festive season. Some of the most famous – and largest – Christmas markets in Europe can be found in Germany and Austria. While larger cities like Munich and Copenhagen offer numerous markets spread across the city, those looking for a quainter setting will also find that smaller towns – like Strasbourg and Passau, are filled with charming stalls filled with festive treats and treasures.
It really is up to you. Find a city in Europe and do some research on what their Christmas market scene looks like so you can plan around it.
The Best Time to Visit Christmas Markets in Europe
Christmas markets usually open in mid-to-late November. This gives visitors plenty of time to do their holiday shopping. If you’re traveling over the Christmas period, you should visit the markets before Christmas Day because many markets are closed on December 25 or 26.
What to Expect at the Best Christmas Markets in Europe
It’s hard to pin down the typical Christmas market experience since the size and scope of each market varies. But no matter which market you stumble upon, you’re sure to find something magical.
You can expect local food stalls (most likely centered around the local culture and seasonal traditions), and stalls selling other goods – all decorated with wreaths, greenery, fairy lights, and other merry trimmings.
Christmas trees, nativity scenes, delightful scents, and live musical entertainment are also classic features found at Christmas markets in Europe. Larger markets, like ones in Brussels and Vienna, may even have fairgrounds, with rides and attractions, designed to delight younger visitors.
Top tip: Make sure you arrive at the Christmas market hungry – since there will be plenty of sweet and savory food to munch on as you take in the festivities. Sausages, waffles, roasted nuts, and other regional specialties are something for your taste buds to look forward to. Of course, there will also be plenty of places to grab a local beer on tap, as well as mugs filled with mulled wine. Also referred to as “Gluhwein”, this warm, spiced wine is a staple of Christmas market fare – particularly in Germany – and collecting the wine mugs is a popular souvenir for many visitors.
And while you’re snacking, you can shop for other items to add to your collection. Expect everything from holiday decorations to handmade candles, jewelry, wooden toys, pottery, and more. Part of the charm of Christkindlmarkt is that they boast a wide array of unique trinkets and adornments that can’t be found in traditional stores.
So now that you know what to expect, here are some of the best Christmas markets in Europe.
15 Best Christmas Markets in Europe
1. Zagreb – Croatia (26 November – 6 January)
Best For: Foodies
Taking the top spot in best Christmas markets in Europe 3 times, the Christmas Advent market in Zagreb encompasses the essence of what makes a Christkindlmarkt so special.
Whether you’re planning on going ice-skating on King Tomislav’s square or grabbing amazing Croatian cuisine (we recommend you try out the spicy sausages), Zagreb’s Advent is not a Christmas market to miss.
2. Gdánsk – Poland (23 November – 1 January)
Best For: Fairytale Atmosphere
The Gdánsk Christmas Fair is widely considered to be the most beautiful of its kind in all of Poland.
From the 23rd of November, the Targ Węglowy (Coal Market) comes to life in a mixture of sounds, sights, and smells.
With 120 stalls filled with handmade gifts and foods, there’s no shortage of things to eat and buy. And, with elf parades, a talking moose, and a spot with mistletoe for lovers to kiss under, there’s definitely no shortage of things to do.
3. Prague – Czech Republic (26 November – 6 January)
Best For: Open-Air Concerts
The Christmas markets in Prague’s Old Town Square are the largest of their kind in the entirety of the Czech Republic.
It’s also one of the only places where you can get a hearty glass of grog (that’s rum, water, lemon, and sugar). This market is renowned for its open-air concerts, as well as its scenic location – set prettily between 14th and 15th century architecture.
4. Basel – Switzerland (24 November – 23 December)
Best For: Light Lovers
Being the biggest and most popular Christkindlmarkt in Switzerland is no easy task – but the Basel Christmas Market takes on the task with ease. The old town glows with fairy lights, and a forest of 100-year-old pine trees are wrapped in tinsel and Christmas lights to add to the atmosphere.
Apart from the lights, the food is also definitely not something to miss. From authentic Basel Lackerli (the traditional twist on gingerbread) to hot punch, this is definitely one of the Christmas markets in Europe that stimulates all of the senses!
5. Salzburg – Austria (17 November – 1 January)
Best For: Christmas Carols
Hometown of Mozart (and The Sound of Music), Salzburg is no stranger to beautiful music. Featuring renditions of Silent Night (which was first performed there), to market stalls that look exactly the same as when they were first set up in the 15th century, the Salzburger Christkindlmarkt offers visitors a glimpse into the ghosts of Christmas past. You can also find plenty of hand-made goods, which emphasize the view of quality over quantity.
And, if you’re looking to get in on the action, you can join the free daily concerts held at 5pm in front of the chapel, or join the carolers at the Tuesday singalongs (6pm – 8pm)
6. Budapest – Hungary (18 November – 1 January)
Best For: Ice Skating
If you’re looking to get blades on the ground, then the Advent Bazilika is the Christmas market for you. Voted the Best Christmas Market in Europe in 2020 and 2022, the Budapest Christmas fair is the oldest in Budapest. But don’t let the traditions fool you. This one fully encompasses why we call this the most wonderful time of the year.
The Advent Bazilika also features Christmas laser projections on the Basilica itself, as well as a world-famous ice skating rink around a grand Christmas tree.
7. Strasbourg – France (25 November – 26 December)
Best For: Storybook Scenery
Known as the “Capital of Christmas” in France, the Christkindelsmärik in Strasbourg offers 300 stalls in the city’s central squares. It’s decorated in traditional Alsatian Christmas decorations – the same kind they’ve been using since 1570 – and looks like a real-life nativity scene.
On top of that, if you’re lucky enough to find the Market of the Invincible Small Producers of Alsace, you’ll be able to sink your teeth into sausages and almondy, fruity, brioche-like kugelhopf.
8. Dresden – Germany (23 November – 24 December)
Best For: History
The oldest market on the list, Dresden’s Striezelmarkt started in 1434, and is the first true Christkindlmarkt. On top of being the oldest Christmas market in Europe, it also holds the record for the world’s tallest candle pyramid, standing at 14 metres (that’s almost 46 feet). The Striezelmarkt really showcases the true spirit of what a Christkindlmarkt has to offer.
From traditional dishes to hearty German glühwein, there’s a reason people flock to Dresden at the end of every year.
9. Edinburgh – Scotland (19 November – 3 January)
Best For: Culture
On top of being one of the prettiest cities in the world, Edinburgh also hosts Edinburgh’s Christmas, a market that blends in with Scotland’s Hogmanay celebrations. Edinburgh’s Christmas offers an elves’ workshop hidden within a Christmas tree maze, Santa’s Grotto, and stalls selling wooden projects.
Combine those with Hogmanay’s Torchlight Procession plus the fireworks display, and you’re in for an amazing experience.
10. Merano – Italy (25 November – 26 December)
Best For: Magical Mountains
Running along the Passirio river, Merano’s Christmas market offers all of the wonderful offerings of other Christkindlmarkts, as well as the stunning backdrop of the Italian Alps. Grab yourself some apple strudel, Sudtirol cakes, and mulled wine, and enjoy a stroll through the stalls with snow-capped peaks in the background.
11. Madrid – Spain (25 November – 31 December)
Best For: Immersive Experiences
As far as traditional nativity gifts go, there’s no better place than the Plaza Mayor Christmas Market in Madrid.
Here, you can pick up hand-carved figures of Jesus, Mary, and animals spotted in nativity scenes, as well as intricate ornaments you can use to decorate your home – and bring a bit of the Christmas feeling with you, wherever you put it.
12. Amsterdam – Netherlands (14 December – 26 December)
Best For: Shopping
For five years, the Ice*Village has been showing the world that Amsterdam offers a world of experiences year-round.
With 45 hand-picked exhibitors offering classic dishes like baked kibbeling (smoked fish), poffertjes (small pancakes), and the unforgettable glühwein. The Ice*Village Christmas Market takes the best of both traditional and modern Christmas gifts and blends them into one winter wonderland experience.
13. Bruges – Belgium (25 November – 8 January)
Best For: Romance
While Bruges is beautiful all year round, it really takes beauty a step further on the 25th of November – when it features two incredible Christmas markets in the heart of the city center. Bruges is a great location for families, and lone travelers, but is also perfect for couples looking to take a stroll beneath enchanting fairy lights as the sun goes down.
14. Tallinn – Estonia (25 November – 8 January)
Best For: Musical Groups And Dance Troupes
Known as one of the best Christmas markets in Europe, Tallinn’s Christmas Market sees the biggest Christmas tree in Estonia set up in the town hall (a tradition that’s been going since 1441)! It’s also packed full of stalls, musical groups, and dance troupes adorned with jingling bells. And, if that weren’t enough, Santa arrives on a reindeer-led sleigh, and hands out gifts to all the boys and girls.
15. Copenhagen – Denmark (4 November – 21 December)
Best For: Christmas Coziness
Is there anything better than a cozy Christmas to beat the cold? Copenhagen’s Christmas markets blend seamlessly into one another, offering a continuous Christmas feeling while stalls change.
With caramelized almonds, cinnamon-infused mulled wine (known as glogg), and the fairy lights on leafless trees, Copenhagen pulls out all the stops when it comes to experiencing Christmas markets in Europe.