People travel from all over the world to marvel at the lights and experience the magic of the Christmas markets in Europe. This is the time of year when cities light up and an unmistakable feeling of holiday merriment fills the air.
There are hundreds of Christmas markets in Europe, all with their own individual events, unique traditional foods, and one-of-a-kind gifts for sale. People of all ages, religions, backgrounds, and cultures are welcome to join in on the festivities.
The dates for Christmas markets change from year to year. Most start mid-November and end near the end of December. Please check the official websites linked to double-check all dates so your holiday travels go off without a hitch.
Find below 10 of our favorite Christmas markets to visit and explore (in no particular order).
The feeling of hygge (an atmosphere of coziness and comfort, similar to a Feng Shui) warms up even the coldest Danish nights. From mid-November to the end of December, Christmas markets bring cheer to this walkable city. Taste the hints of cinnamon in the mulled wine and keep your hands warm with rich hot cocoa. The Nyhavn Christmas Market overlooks the calm waterfront which glitters from the lights strung along the sails of its wooden boats.
Stroll through central Copenhagen to another Christmas market inside Tivoli Gardens, one of the oldest amusement parks in the world. Operating since the 1800s, this charming park has wooden rollercoasters and curated gardens. After paying an entrance fee, guests can stroll through the snow-covered trees, twinkling lights, and wooden houses that embody an authentic Nordic Christmas.
Christmas Tivoli Gardens – https://www.visitcopenhagen.com/copenhagen/planning/christmas-tivoli-gardens-gdk1096403
Visit Copenhagen – https://www.visitcopenhagen.com/
copenhagen Christmas Market food RECIPE:
Æbleskiver (Aebleskiver or Ebelskiver) – https://thecultureties.com/aebleskiver/
One of my personal favorites and proudly calling itself the “Capital of Christmas”, Strasbourg, France shouldn’t be missed during the most magical time of year. Twinkling lights and Christmas cheer fill the air of France’s oldest Christmas market.
Stroll through hundreds of market stalls lining the heart of this storybook city and pick up some carefully-made decorations and gifts for loved ones. There’s never a dull moment with concerts and events offering entertainment throughout the day.
Over 300 festive market stalls can be found around the base of the Gothic-style Notre Dame Cathedral which was built around 1015 and completed in 1439. Stroll to other parts of the city and find more enchanting market stalls.
Strasbourg Christmas Market Food RECIPE:
- Bredele (Alsatian Cookie)- https://thecultureties.com/bredele
- Bretzel (Pretzel) – https://thecultureties.com/bretzels
- Flammekueche/Tarte Flambee (similar to a pizza) – https://thecultureties.com/flammekueche
The romantic city of Bruges feels like a fairytale come to life. Swans swim peacefully through its canals crossed by cobblestone bridges. The entire historic city center transforms into a Christmas market with its medieval Flemish row houses decorated festively. Sit inside one of its cozy tea shops and drop some of the velvety, world-famous Belgian chocolate into a cup of hot creamy milk. Skip straight to dessert with some traditional fluffy Belgian waffles topped with fresh whipped cream. (See more information below
Sinterklaas (Flemish for Santa Claus) arrives in style by boat during November to the delight of children onlookers. Head to Grote Markt to browse the beautiful wares displayed in the rustic wooden stands.
Strap on some skates and head out on the small ice rink surrounded by the twinkling lights of the iconic medieval Belfry of Bruges. Warm up with some world-famous Belgian beer and head home with some artisan crafts to gift your family and friends.
Bruges Christmas Market food:
- Brussels waffle – The Belgian waffle is more of an American thing. The Belgian waffle known in America is actually known as a Brussels waffle in Belgium. The Brussels waffle is shaped like a rectangle with deep indentations. They also have a Liege waffle, which looks more rustic, sweeter, and has uneven edges. Both are made from a type of yeast batter.
- Hot chocolate – I love this idea. Try making the following recipe with Bruges chocolate. It would make a great holiday gift – (https://www.beyondkimchee.com/hot-chocolate-on-a-stick/). Or skip the block and do chocolate wafers, which the Belgians serve, and add to warm milk. The difference with the Belgium hot chocolate seems to be that they mix dark and milk chocolate pieces and add a pinch of salt.
Traditional wooden stalls selling artisan jams, candy, and pretzels line the famous Wiener Christkindlmarkt in front of the illuminated Rathaus City Hall in Vienna, Austria. Taking place every year since the 18th century, this jubilant Christmas market attracts more than 4 million visitors every year. Don’t forget to spread the cheer with some boozy Christmas punch and take a ride on the ornate Ferris wheel.
Other, smaller Christmas markets are scattered throughout this bustling city. If you have time, check out the Am Hof Market near the Opera House where vendors sell artwork from independent artists. At the nearby Freyung Market, vendors specialize in selling local cheese and other agricultural goods from rural Austria.
Vienna Christmas Market food RECIPE:
Tyrolean Gröstl – https://thecultureties.com/tyrolean-grostl
Prague, Czech Republic
This dreamy, romantic city transforms into a winter wonderland every holiday season. This unforgettable Christmas experience takes place in the heart of the city, at Wenceslas Square and Old Town Square. Hot drinks, like mulled wines, grog (a warmed-up drink featuring honey and rum), and hot chocolates keep your hands toasty.
Shop for unique Christmas gifts at the wooden huts. Traditional winter recipes are meant to warm you up, like slow-roasted ham, barbecued sausages, and dumplings which can be both savory or sweet. The star of the show is Trdelník, a traditional rolled pastry, which is roasted over a fire and finished off with sugar and sometimes chocolate sauce.
Prague Christmas Market food RECIPE:
- Trdelník – From our friends at Cook Like Czechs, please visit – https://www.cooklikeczechs.com/trdelnik/
Christmas in Scotland is something special. The festive feeling and general revelry of the Christmas markets in Edinburgh, Scotland is something to experience at least once in your life. This medieval town looks like it came straight out of a storybook and the glittering Christmas decorations are best seen from the heights of its Ferris Wheel.
East Princes Street Gardens is transformed into Santa Land with mini train rides, concerts, shows, and plenty of hot drinks for everyone. Stalls sell handmade goods and prints from local artists. Harry Potter-themed gifts and food will delight fans.
Edinburgh Christmas Market food RECIPE:
- Mince Pies – https://thecultureties.com/mince-pies/
Tallinn’s gorgeous medieval center lights up for the holidays. Make your way through the rustic wooden stalls to see the homemade wares at this must-see Christmas destination. Every year since 1441, Estonia displays a towering Christmas tree in front of its town hall, surrounded by stands selling gingerbread and traditional winter cuisine.
Kiosks display local, artisan Christmas decorations and warm, traditional clothing. Kids will love the antique carousels and mini train rides while adults appreciate keeping toasty with warm wine. You’re guaranteed to fall under Tallinn’s romantic winter spell.
Tallinn Christmas Market food RECIPE:
- Piparkoogid – https://thecultureties.com/piparkoogid
Germany is home to some of the most famous Christmas markets and the cathedral-filled city of Cologne is home to one of the best ones. The stunning decor in Cologne is carefully planned out, with meticulous care to detail and a new theme picked out every year. The extravagant decorations easily make it one of the prettiest in Europe.
The Cologne Christmas market is spread out over the entire city, with different areas of the city hosting their own special market. The Christmas Market Express (a vintage mini train) will whisk you around the city. Stages fill with holiday performances and as the night goes on, dancing begins.
Cologne Christmas Market food RECIPE:
- Reibekuchen – https://thecultureties.com/reibekuchen
Vörösmarty Square in Budapest, Hungary transforms every holiday season into one of the most beloved Christmas markets in the world. Revel in the Christmas merriment under the sparkling lights. Shop for artisan wares and traditional food like chimney cakes and warm goulash at the 100+ wooden stalls.
Keep on ambling in the crisp, wintery air to the nearby Christmas Market by Basilica, another wonderful area of the city where you can catch the holiday spirit. Keep your eyes peeled for the stunning laser show projected on St Stephen’s Basilica.
Budapest Christmas Market food RECIPE:
- Hungarian Goulash – https://thecultureties.com/hungarian-goulash
This festive snowy town comes alive during the holiday season. The Christmas magic infuses the air of this dreamy city on the banks of the Rhine River. Multiple live events including ballet and plays will keep the whole family entertained.
In the squares of old town Basel, in Münsterplatz and Barfüsserplatz, Christmas revelers will find vendors in chalets selling herbed hot wine, artisan ornaments, original artwork, authentic Läckerli (Basel gingerbread), and popular grilled sausages.
Basel Christmas Market food RECIPE:
- Swiss Cheese Tartlets – https://thecultureties.com/swiss-cheese-tartlets
With each market offering a bit more Christmas magic than the last, travelers will be hard-pressed to not have a good time in Europe during the holidays.
Have you visited any of the European Christmas markets? If so, we would love to hear your tips on exploring, or your favorite ones to visit! Happy holidays!
Jennifer Hoellen says
Makes me want to see them all.