Christmas is already around the corner. You may be in denial because snow has yet to arrive, but fall is behind us, and it’s high time to start planning your holiday travels. Between the mulled wine, carols, and delicious sweet treats, organizing a trip to a Christkindelsmärik in Europe is the most festive way to head straight into the holiday season. Christmas in Europe must be celebrated with a cinnamon coated chimny cakle in one hand and cheese-filled bratwurst in the other. So, this year, plan for a perfectly wintry holiday experience at one of the seven best Christmas markets in Europe.
- What is the best Christmas market to visit in Europe?
- Which is the biggest Christmas market in Europe?
- What are the dates of Christmas markets in Europe?
- What are the Christmas markets in Europe called?
1. Leipzig, Germany
Dating back to 1458, Leipzig’s Christmas market is one of the oldest in Germany, as well as one of the largest with more than 250 stalls — including a medieval market, one of the main attractions — are spread across six locations in the historical city center.
The magic of a Leipzig Christmas is found in the simple pleasures, like nibbling on local pulsnitz gingerbread as traditional trombonists perform their nightly routine on the balcony of the Old Town Hall. Don’t leave without finding a feuerzangenbowle stand; the traditional German alcoholic drink involves setting a rum-soaked sugarloaf on fire and allowing it to drip into mulled wine. Leipzig’s market takes place from November 23 until December 23, 2021.
2. Kaysersberg, France
The Kaysersberg Christmas market festivities take place along the town’s historic ramparts — including a watchtower that was once part of the Château de Kaysersberg. Craftsmen’s wooden chalets at the market include wooden toys, pottery, and Christmas decorations produced from blown glass, wood, fabrics, and other artisan specialties. Save room for must-try Christmas treats like bredeles (a traditional biscuit from the area made with almonds, nuts, anise, chocolate or vanilla), kougelhopfs, hot chocolate, and mulled wine. The Alastian town of Kaysersberg, fully decked out in lights, wreaths, and pine garlands hosts the Christmas market every weekend (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) from 26 November to 19 December 2021.
3. Vienna, Austria
Shop for handcrafted goods between visits to hot punch and chestnut stands at the Viennese Christmas markets — and make sure to indulge in freshly baked vanillekipferl, a nutty, buttery, crescent-shaped traditional biscuit dusted with vanilla sugar. Vienna’s Christmas market tradition dates back to 1298 when Albrecht I granted citizens the right to hold a Krippenmarkt, or December market. Today, over 20 official Christmas villages are held all across Vienna. On Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, you can also listen to international choirs caroling at City Hall. This year, all Viennese Christmas markets are expected to open on December 13, 2021.
4. Montreux, Switzerland
Switzerland’s Montreux Noël takes place along the shores of Lake Geneva, with live music, light shows, and 150 illuminated chalet stalls creating a warm ambiance for visitors as they stroll and enjoy the ritzy resort town in the wintertime. Look out for Santa Claus on his flying sleigh between Hunter’s Place and Place du Marché every day at 5 PM, 6 PM, and 7 PM (Saturdays at 4 PM), and don’t miss the chance to try a cup of logger’s tea from The Logger’s Cabin located in front of the train station or fondue-based specialties from Chalet Heidi. Montreux Noël will take place from November 19 to December 24, 2021.
5. Strasbourg, France
For a true holiday extravaganza, head to the oldest Christmas market in France (and one of the oldest in all of Europe), sometimes referred to as “the capital of Christmas.” The Strasbourg Christmas market dates all the way back to 1570, and this year’s market is scheduled for November 26 through December 26. Located in the Grande-Île, a UNESCO World Heritage site, Strasbourg’s Christmas market is made up of 300 stalls spread throughout the historic city center. Much of it takes place near the Cathédral Notre-Dame de Strasbourg, an intricate 15th-century, gothic-style cathedral. The fragrance of mulled wine and fresh spiced pastries like kougelhopf brioches and pain d’épice drift through the cold streets, enticing visitors to indulge.
6. Vilnius, Lithuania
Complete with one of the most dazzling Christmas trees in the world, Vilnius doesn’t hold back for the holidays. The famous 88-foot tree, bedazzled in over 1.2 mile of lighting, 3,000 artificial branches, and 46 mirrors is a truly dazzling Yuletide experience set in Cathedral Square, in Old Town Vilnius. Surrounding the tree is the Christmas Village and its medley of Christmas market stalls, making it a one-stop shop for the holidays. Other attractions for visitors include the Vilnius Christmas Train, coming from Kaunas and Klaipėda, and the 3D projection of a Christmas fairytale on the Cathedral. The Vilnius Christmas market is open from November 27, 2021 to January 9, 2022.
7. Colmar, France
Each of the six mini villages making up La Magie de Noël à Colmar, which takes place from November 26 to December 23, has distinct charms. Colmar’s Christmas market is comprised of 180 stalls spread throughout Old Colmar, providing a fairytale setting for all your sugarplum dreams. This French town shares a border with Germany and Switzerland, and the Alsace influence is most evident in the market’s gourmet goodies: Expect to find local producers selling everything from foie gras (duck or goose liver) to cheese, meats, honey, gingerbread, cakes, and more.
8. Budapest, Hungary
In the Budapest, the Christmas fair is held at Vorosmarty Square. A second Christmas market is located at St. Stephen’s Square, near St. Stephen’s Basilica. There is a concert stage, wooden stalls presenting delicate crafts, like ornaments, and then the smell of sausages and potato dumplings wafts in every direction. At St. Stephen’s Square, visitors can watch an elaborate Christmas-themed light show projected onto the Basilica’s facade. Troupes of folk dancers also perform, and families can enjoy the excitement of the ice rink.
9. Gdansk, Poland
The dates of the Gdansk Christmas market in Poland double as a giant advent calendar, each day revealing a new surprise behind each window. This Christmas market is dotted with adorable, festive attractions like this one — including a specific spot for couples to kiss under the mistletoe and a windmill where visitors can grab a cup of hot mulled wine. There is plenty to keep children entertained here too, from the daily parade of elves that makes its way through the market, to the sleigh simulator and ornate carousel.
10. Madrid, Spain
Located in the Plaza Mayor, the signature red stalls in the Madrid Christmas market sell hand made crafts. This market is best known for selling nativity scene figurines, called belén. If you’re looking to try some festive sweets and pastries, head to the Feria Dulces de Navidad in Plaza Isabel. Madrid Christmas markets also sell one item you might not find at other markets in Europe: what in America we would call “gag gifts,” funny joke toys that are given out on Day of the Holy Innocents, the Spanish equivalent of April Fool’s Day. During Christmas market season in Madrid, the streets are all decorated with multi-colored, intricate Christmas light displays.
11. Tallinn, Estonia
The Christmas market in Tallinn, Estonia boasts one remarkable feature: Every year since 1441, a Christmas tree has been erected in the city center, making it the very first city in Europe to display a Christmas tree. Food stalls sell Estonian favorites like black pudding, sauerkraut, and duck legs. Kids can drop letters to Santa at town hall. There are several tempting flavors of glögg (a type of mulled wine), including blood orange and chili, and blueberry-blackcurrant. The market specializes in sheep’s wool gifts, from baby blankets, to slippers and mittens.
12. Dresden, Germany
Not only is the Striezelmarkt in Dresden one of the biggest Christmas markets in Germany, it’s also almost certainly the oldest Christmas market in Europe. Located in Altmarkt Square, this Christmas market is decorated with multiple Christmas trees and nativity scenes. Visitors will be drawn to the Christmas pyramid, a tiered tower decorated with figurines and topped with a fan. There’s also a ferris wheel which offers a panoramic view of the entire market from the top.
13. Salzburg, Austria
The Christmas market in Salzburg focuses on Austrian folk traditions, so expect parades through market featuring characters like Christmas Krampus. Located outside the Hohensalzburg fortress, choral singing and traditional wind instruments called Turmblasen, add to the serene, festive atmosphere.
14. Manchester, UK
The Christmas markets in Manchester set up shop in Piccadilly Gardens. This Christmas market is decked out with festive treats: There’s a beer garden, and food stalls selling bratwurst, churros, and frites. There’s a fire pit for the over 18 crowd. A puppet show roams around the market, as do giant penguins and a mobile band. Rumor has it, Santa Claus is watching over the whole affair from his position in St Peter’s Square.
15. Prague, Czech Republic
At the Christmas market in the Old Town Square in Prague, witness the magnificent spires of Our Lady Before Tyn cathedral decorated with Christmas lights. Cauldrons of traditional Czech fish stew bubble in food stalls through out the food market, which also serve garlic topped flatbread and barbecue. Whole hams roast on spits, tempting visitors with their delicious aromas. Trdelník is a traditional Czech pastry that is baked over an open fire and filled with ice cream that visitors to the market will not want to miss. Neither is the towering Christmas tree erected in the Old Town Square, or the petting zoo for kids.
What is the best Christmas market to visit in Europe?
The best Christmas market in Europe is a subject of debate. Some contend that grand city of Prague holds the most festive market, where visitors can experience elaborate nativity scenes and outdoor concerts. Others bestow the honor to the Christmas market in Cologne, Germany, which hosts multiple Christmas markets throughout the holiday season.
Which is the biggest Christmas market in Europe?
The biggest Christmas market in Europe happens in Vienna, Austria, near the city’s historic city hall, called the Rathausplatz. The Vienna Christmas market receives around 3 million visitors every year. There also many Christmas markets spread all over Cologne, Germany, adding up to one huge festive celebration.
What are the dates of Christmas markets in Europe?
The dates of Christmas markets in Europe generally run from mid to late November to early January, although some of them close on Christmas Eve. Typically, if you’re visiting Europe during the holiday season, you should have at least a month and half to explore the Christmas markets.
What are the Christmas markets in Europe called?
The Christmas markets in Europe have many different names. In Germany and Austria, Christmas markets are called Weihnachtsmarkt or sometimes Striezelmarkt. In other parts of Europe, Christmas markets are known an Advent Hall.