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Winter is a fantastic time of year to travel to Europe, and Europeans believe that winter is truly something to celebrate. During the holiday season they really go all out!

Buildings are lost underneath layers of fairy lights, and ice skating rinks are set up in public areas. Outdoor Christmas markets line main squares in all major cities across Europe, and provide unique shopping opportunities along with a celebratory atmosphere, festive treats and seasonal delicacies you’ll want to write home about!

If you’re planning to be in Europe over Christmas and wondering which markets are the best, you can’t go wrong with any of the following.

If you’re inspired and want to travel with this information offline, I’ve created a free travel guide on Pearlshare which you can download straight to your phone so you don’t forget where your favorite markets are! Click here.

The Best Christmas Markets in Europe

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Brussels

Christmas in Brussels is a magical affair. 240 wooden chalets/market stalls extend along the streets from Grand’Place to place Ste-Catherine each year in a Christmas market (Winter Wonders)  which covers almost 2 kilometers.

Quaint wooden-roofed huts sell handmade arts and crafts, souvenirs, and Belgian delicacies – visitors can pick up pots of moules (mussels), scrumptious Belgian fries, fluffy Belgian waffles, seasonal croustillons (sugar doughnuts), and Belgium’s “two most welcome additions to world cuisine: fine chocolates and powerful beer.”

Renowned for it’s festive atmosphere and sparkling lights, the Brussels Christmas market also features 35m toboggan slopes, a glittering ferris wheel with 18,000 lights and, of course, the 200 foot-long skating rink complete with jugglers and street musicians.

Belgium Waffles

Strasbourg

The oldest Christmas market in France, Strasbourg Christmas market dates back to 1577, and plays host to over 2 million tourists every year who flock to witness hundreds of miles worth of glittering Christmas lights, themed events, a giant ice rink, and the famous 100 foot ‘Great Christmas Tree’.

“Half-timbered houses sport giant red-and-white hearts; stars, angels and snowflakes garland the cobbled streets. No wonder Strasbourg won the title of “Best Christmas Market in Europe” last year.”

Visitors have the chance to sample some of the regions finest food, including bredle Christmas cookies and Strasbourg’s traditional spicy hot orange juice.

Dresden

The capital of Saxony, those who love Christmas will love the markets in Dresden! Germany’s oldest continuously running Christmas market comes alive each year in a blaze of lights, the scent of mulled wine and gingerbread, and Christmas music which spreads throughout the heart of this beautiful baroque city.

Dating back to 1434, the Striezelmarkt on Altmarkt Square is famous for it’s beautiful handicrafts, four-ton fruitcake and glittering stalls centered around a 48-foot high wooden “Christmas pyramid”.

Saxony’s best artisans sell stunning regional goods – everything from wooden crafts from the Ore Mountains, incense burners shaped like nutcrackers, delicate blown glass from Lauscha, and Dresden’s famous blue and white ceramics.

Berlin Christmas Markets

Cologne

Every year, millions of people from all over the world flock to the Christmas market at the Cologne Cathedral.

Set against the backdrop of a magnificent cathedral and the largest Christmas tree in all of Rhineland, Cologne is one of Germany’s most impressive Christmas settings.

“Christmas music, arts and crafts, toys, Christmas decorations and the scent of the Christmas bakeries create a wonderful atmosphere. It is not just children’s eyes that light up when pewter pourers, wreath binders and glassblowers demonstrate their art, and the aroma of mulled wine, hot chestnuts and gingerbread fills the air.”

Hamburg

Come December, Germany’s second largest city and maritime treasure turns into a real life fairytale, and visitors enjoy the diversity of 15 different Christmas markets catering to all tastes.

Traditional markets line the streets in front of the city hall, with rows of stalls offering handmade crafts, children’s toys and tasty treats. One of the most popular attractions within the Christmas markets is the Schrottwichteln, or rubbish secret Santa! Visitors exchange their least favorite Christmas gifts, with the profits going to the Winter Pride charity.

The Jungfernstieg market offers posh food and luxury gifts, and the smaller Fleetinsel market is perfect for those looking to avoid the Christmas crowds, with fairy lights glittering on two antique sailing vessels.

Christmas markets

Budapest

There are many Christmas events in Budapest, and a number of different Christmas markets.

Budapest has smaller and bigger Christmas Markets, which usually open around mid November and close at the end of December each year. The two city central markets have been attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors, and are the most spectacular.

Keep in mind that many of the ticketed events sell out before December. So if you want to see a show, concert, enjoy a tour, or a treatment in the thermal baths, try to book in advance to get a good seat. Since it’s a busy time of year, booking a taxi in advance is a good idea too.

Paris

With the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower sparkling in the background, the Champs-Elysées hosts one of the most impressive Christmas markets Europe has to offer.

Stretching from the Champs-Elysées roundabout all the way to the Place de la Concord, rows of wooden chalets line the world’s most famous shopping street in one of the largest Christmas markets in France. It’s also one of the longest running Christmas markets in all of Europe.

Soak up the Christmas decorations, festive objects, regional produce and arts & crafts, and for an extra bit of Christmas magic, head over to ice-skate inside the Eiffel Tower.

Where to stay in Paris

Photo by TJ Drysdale Photography and Follow Me Away.

Prague

Prague’s Christmas markets are world renowned, and take place in Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square. Czech carols echo throughout the market and the beautiful medieval surrounds.

“The idyllic setting is completed by brightly decorated wooden huts surrounding a giant glittering Christmas tree with an authentic manger scene and small nativity-themed zoo, where littles ones get to see and touch real-life animals.”

Adults can choose from regional handicrafts including intricate glassware and jewellery, bohemian crystal, embroidered lace, wooden toys, and Czech marionettes. And there’s plenty to satisfy your sweet tooth; honeyed gingerbread, vánocvka (a braided pastry with raisins), and vosí hnízda (cookies laden with nuts and rum) are all readily available, best washed down with a sweet mulled wine.

Christmas milk

Vienna

From mid-November to Christmas, Vienna’s prettiest squares transform into magical Christmas markets, an age-old tradition which dates back over seven hundred years.

Vienna is home to many different Christmas markets, though Christkindlmarkt in Rathausplatz square (in front of city hall) is one of the most renowned.

Over 150 stalls sell everything from Christmas decorations, beeswax candles and wooden toys, to Austrian handicrafts and glass ornaments, and the aroma of bakery items and hot punch creates a magical market atmosphere.

Berlin

Berlin has over fifty Christmas markets across the city every year, though the market at Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche is the biggest and most popular.

Over 2 million visitors descend upon the Berlin markets every year for sales on jewellery, decorations and artwork, as well as to indulge in seasonal pleasures such as roasted almonds, hot chocolate, homemade eggnog  and mulled wine.

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Megan is an Australian Journalist who has been travelling and blogging since 2007, with the main aim of inspiring others to embark on their own worldwide adventure. Her husband Mike is an American travel photographer, and together they have made the world their home.

Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.

Follow their journey on Facebook, TwitterYouTube, Pinterest and Instagram.

    54 Comments

  1. Ah, gotta love Christmas markets! I missed the markets in Berlin last year as they were building them when I visited and they were starting the next week or something. So sad! Got to visit a really nice one in Wroclaw though! I think most of the countries around Germany has a nice tradition of Christmas market under its influence. Would really love to go to the one in Dresden. I had no idea hat it is the oldest!

    • Aren’t they the best! Thanks for the tip on Wroclaw Sia, sorry to hear you were a week out from the markets in Berlin. Just means you have an excuse to plan a trip back right!! Maybe you can make a detour via Dresden too and take them both in :)

  2. I guess this is the best list I can ever get for the Christmas market in Europe. I was in Stuttgart last year and enjoyed the Christmas market a lot. Thanks for sharing this list :)

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Sumti – if you’re back in Europe for Christmas this year, be sure to download the Pearlshare app & you can access the above information about each market offline via your phone :)

  3. What happened to Brugge? :( :( No Christmas market is complete with Belgium Beers. he he. But seriously, totally agree with the other markets, they are truly amazing :)

    • Thanks for the heads up! Will have to make a couple of updates to the list!

  4. Ooohh! I love the idea of Christmas markets..everything so festive and cheerful. Your list is delectable. Sadly, we travel in October and can never make it to one of those. Dreams, dreams!

    • Hopefully one day for you! Glad you enjoyed the list Punita :)

  5. You gotta add Rothenburg ob der Tauber in Germany. The city is a walled city that is known for its medieval setting. It is also the setting for the German Christmas Museum and Christmas items can be bought year round. Christmas time is really special in the city. I visited there many years ago when I lived in Germany and it is a great place to spend the day.

    • Thanks for the tip on Rothenburg ob der Tauber Bob … sounds incredible, will definitely look into it, and start working on some updates for the list :)

  6. Magical is the right word! Christmas markets by themselves and experiencing a holiday abroad is a ton of fun! Thanks for sharing!

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Mary! Early Merry Christmas!

  7. You know, I haven’t explored so much of the market industry in Australia, but I’ve always been curious of European markets.

    • I haven’t either actually – the market industry in Australia that is, though I’ve always loved European Christmas markets. I think I’ve always been fascinated by white christmas’ that it cements the fairy tale for me!

  8. Nice post! Paris is one of my favorite cities in the world, but oddly enough I really didn’t like the Christmas market there! It was way too big and perhaps I felt it to be too commercial after experiencing markets in the smaller towns :) I have to go to Germany!

    • Thanks Francesca! I’m so sorry you didn’t enjoy the Paris markets – I agree there were a little too commercial when we went as well; this was one of the first trips Mike and I took as a couple though lol so I think we were in a bit of a romantic daze and anything probably would have been amazing :D

      Will have to get back one year to see if it lives up to what I remember it to be! I hope you manage to get to Germany – the markets there are so amazing!

  9. Great post, I love Christmas markets. I thought Vienna was stunning at Christmas but I’d also love to see Brussels. There are some lovely ones in England too, Lincoln was fantastic and I hear Bath is also one of the best. This year I went to York which was nice but small. Skipton was also lovely.

    Have a great Christmas!

    • Oooh I LOVED Bath when we visited during summer a few years back, so I can only imagine how magical it would be come Christmas time – I’ll have to try and get back to take in the markets there. Thanks for the tip Sara!

      Wishing you a very Merry Christmas as well :)

  10. And when Christmas is over, do they have good Boxing Day sales? Market day (Saturday) in Perth, Australia was always a highlight of my week.

    • Not the way we do in Australia I don’t believe – though don’t quote me on that; I’ve only ever gone to the markets themselves and not the department stores; though many markets stay open past Christmas and then there are sales at those stalls :)

  11. Love Christmas Market! Specially the foods they sell. This is a really helpful tip. Though holiday season is almost over but, there is still next year! I would like to see more Christmas Markets from other European Countries. Your descriptions makes them really tempting!

    • Very true – I hope you manage to plan visits to a few different markets in 2017!

  12. Nuremberg. Nuremberg is the best Christmas market in all of Europe. :)

    • Oooh I havent yet made it to Nuremberg, though I have heard of it mentioned in relation to it’s Christmas market. Will have to plan a visit in 2017! Thanks Lance!

  13. I can count the number of Christmas markets I’ve attended on one hand (Now that i think of it, maybe… I’ve visited six or seven). That said, the one in Brussels is quite splendid. The two times I’ve visited the Belgian capital have been in December so I’ve been fortunate enough to explore the market. The waffles there are so delicious!

    • Brussels is one of my favorite cities! Amen on the waffles lol I don’t think I have ever tasted anything so heavenly anywhere else in the world!

      So glad you’ve had the opportunity to experience the markets twice now – they really are a treat!

  14. On my top list are: Cologne and Paris.

    If you are in Belgium definitely Antwerp instead of Brussels.
    More on my blog: http://myguidetotheworld.com/

    Have enjoyed Germany this year!

    • Thanks for the tip on Antwerp instead of Brussels – will check out your blog :)

  15. Thank you to talk about Strasbourg and like alsatian country. Best regards !

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Alsace :) Merry Christmas!

  16. I have never been to any of these places but I feel like Paris could be the best of the lot with the Ice Skating inside Eiffel Tower. Thanks for the info. I hope I make it to atleast one of them.

    • Paris was definitely one of our most memorable holidays just for the ice skating on the Eiffel Tower. Something I can highly recommend for this Christmas!

  17. All these markets looks fantastic! But I think you missed a good one.. Manchester in UK has a wonderful market which could easily compete with its mainland European brothers and sisters :)

    I think getting to any of the markets on the list would mean that it was a good xmas!

    • Thanks for the heads up on Manchester Vicki! I agree – a trip to any would make for a memorable holiday season :)

  18. Is Christmas almost here already? Gosh, where has the year gone? There’s certainly something special about visiting Christmas markets in Europe. I think it’s the combination of winter (especially if you’re from the Southern Hemisphere) and Christmas traditions that makes it all the more memorable.

    • Almost – a little over a month to go! We usually try to publish these posts in November since people plan their travel a little earlier :)

      Totally agree that the snow is a big part of getting in the festive spirit – we from the Southern Hemisphere dream of experiencing a white fairytale Christmas at some stage!

  19. I love the one in Tallinn. It is only small but combined with the magical city, it packs a punch.

    • Thanks for the tip on Tallin Anne! Hopefully we’ll have the chance to visit Estonia next year :)

  20. I have been to Vienna and Cologne and loved the Christmas markets there. Since I’m now living in Belgium, I guess I should check the Bruxelles one :). I hear Brugge has quite a nice Christmas market too…

    • Enjoy the holidays in Belgium this year Cristina! Definitely recommend making a stop at the markets – thanks for the tip on Brugge!

  21. There is nothing better than Europe at Christmas time. There’s something about that chill and a glass of mulled wine, gorgeous architecture and decorations to get you in the spirit. I have to say, I have always wanted to do the Paris Christmas markets, but you’ve made me want to join the crowds in Strasborg! I mean 2 million people can’t be wrong, right? So special.

    • Totally agree Skye! Paris is spectacular, yes, but if you have the choice, definitely start with Strasbourg :) Happy travels!

  22. I love Christmas Markets. Visited my first one (outside of my country) back in 2011 and went for more ever since :) I love the ones in Budapest but Vienna is a lot more touristy in this regard.

    • I haven’t managed to make it to Budapest yet, so I’ll have to add that to the list for our next Europe trip. Thanks for the tip Cris!

  23. Looks like I was in Brussels about two months too soon. Someday I’ll get myself to a Christmas market.

    • Perfect excuse to plan a return trip :D!

  24. We are going to Vienna in December for the markets. Can’t wait! Wish we had time to explore the rest of these. Great list!

    • Have a wonderful time in Vienna Meagan!

  25. I clicked this cause christmas is coming! So interesting to hear what its like in different places and so hard to choose! but now I have a place to plan and go to for december, thanks!

    • Yes it is! I figured I would publish in early November since people will be starting to put their travel plans together. Happy holidays Mar! Hope you have the chance to take in a Christmas market or two :)

  26. I have always wanted to do the Christmas markets, and didn’t know where to start. This is a great guide! I’ve been wanting to get to Brussels anyway (beer, TinTin), but didn’t know they had such a great Christmas market as well.

    • Glad we could set you up with a starting point and some ideas for a potential trip Heather :) You’ll love Brussels, and it’s such a magical destination over the holidays :) Happy travels!

  27. If you could only go to two markets between Brussels, Hamburg, Dresden, Strasborough and Berlin, which markets will you go to? I’m trying to make that decision but not sure wich is nicer. Thanks!

    • Touch call! I would go Strasbourg and Brussels though if you’re looking for a lively atmosphere, and to experience a Christmas market which goes all out … these two cities really pull out all the stops!

      Happy holidays :)

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