My first associations on Christmas are plenty of tasty food, tons of gifts and drunken relatives. But nothing describes the good-spirited nature of holidays as the Christmas Markets. There is no better place to soak up the Christmas atmosphere than among the colourful stalls and lively lit town squares.
Here is our choice of the best Christmas markets in several countries around Europe. Some of them are maybe not the biggest, but we chose them for their special spirit or liveliness.
Paris – The City of Light, shines even brighter during the Christmas season. There are several different Christmas markets in Paris. The La Défense Christmas (at the Grande Arche) has more than 350 stalls. At Trocadero, right in the centre, you will find 120 entrepreneurs from all over the world. You can do your skating at Montparnasse, and at Place de la Concorde is the Ferris wheel that gives you a beautiful view of Paris and the Seine.
On the Place Saint-Germain des Pres, is an actual Christmas village with 25 chalets, on the Place Saint-Sulpice, you can find little pieces of art and craft gifts. But the biggest and most beautiful is the one on the Champs-Elysees. If you plan a Christmas visit to Paris, this one you should definitely not miss! You’ll be dazzled by many lights as you walk across the world’s most famous street along the many, many Christmas stalls.
Most Christmas markets in Paris are already open from November 5th and will close again on January 6th. There are a few exceptions, such as the Trocadero, which is only open from December 13th.
Germany is the land that has a great tradition of the Christmas markets. You can find beautiful Christmas markets in many big cities, and it is difficult to choose a favourite. We chose the old Hanseatic city of Münster. In magnificent Münster, in the beautiful old town with old merchant houses and many churches, you will find 280 stalls selling decorations and traditional culinary delights. The scents of roasted chestnuts and spicy mulled wine spread throughout the city. Every year as many as 1 million visitors visit the markets in Munster!
Santa is coming from Greenland (part of Denmark), so it is quite natural that Copenhagen is an ideal city to soak up the true Christmas spirit! Despite the cold, there is a warm blanket on this cool city at this time. There are several Christmas markets and the market at Tivoli park is highly recommended. The park is completely transformed to a festive spirit with a market, music, elves, mulled wine and even some real reindeer.
London is the shopping mecca throughout the year. During the Christmas season, it will sure make you broke. Boxing Day is the start of the big sale. For the traditional Christmas markets, you can find them in several locations around the city. The Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park has illuminated stalls, an ice rink and Ferris wheel (not to be confused with the London Eye), a Magical Ice Kingdom and several circuses. Unfortunately, the attractions are rather expensive, 10 to 15 euros for an adult.
In addition to Winter Wonderland, there are dozens of other Christmas events. Winterville Victoria Park Christmas Fair at the Chelsea Physic Garden and the Southbank Centre’s Winter Festival. We recommend the Christmas Chocolate festival, but be sure to try some typical British meat pie, before you dive into all that chocolate. Most Christmas markets in London are open from November 1 to January 3.
A city like Brussels never misses a chance to throw a party somewhere. At the end of November, the streets are decorated and the city prepares for Christmas. The historical centre of the town with the old facades and cobblestone streets becomes a feast for the eyes at this time of year. A lit trail ensures that you miss nothing during your walk through the old town.
And there, you will find the largest Christmas market in Belgium, with as many as 240 stalls. Many stalls are selling mulled wine, bratwurst and gifts. Attractions are roundabouts, an ice rink and a Ferris wheel. Each year the Market will be decorated with a huge Christmas tree. The square is lit with 1,600 spots reflecting on the Town Hall and the Bread House.
You can also check one of the exhibitions in the markets. Last year, you could see Giants of the Earth, an exhibition of the world’s largest animals. Or visit the Contemporary Art Tent or Mister Emma Art Loft. Art lovers will surely not be bored.
The Brussels Christmas market opens on November 28 and closes on 4 January. It is open from 12 am to 21 pm and on weekends until 22 pm.
During the Christmas season, Budapest becomes an actual wonderland. As of November 16, there are several Christmas markets in the beautiful ancient capital of Hungary; with a little bit of luck, there will be a lot of snow in December. The best market you can find is on Vörösmarty Tér in the heart of Pest. This market attracts many tourists every year and is one of the most beautiful markets in Europe. The many stalls selling a special selection of Hungarian products, carvings and pottery to beautiful silk scarves and hats. Oh, don´t worry, stalls also sell traditional Hungarian dishes and beverages.
The Christmas market of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, gives the city a fairytale atmosphere. The market is held on Raekoja square, in front of the imposing city hall and consists of hundreds of lit up stalls selling traditional Estonian food and drinks, homemade souvenirs and cute ice sculptures. There are many performances of dance groups and choirs. The Christmas market is held between November 22 and January 8. The romantic atmosphere of the Tallinn Christmas Market makes the city a perfect getaway for two. The fairytale Old Town of Tallinn is anyway a right place for a winter city break.
This bustling location with its beautiful facades creates a unique setting during the holidays. The city is dressed up with twinkling lights and charming decorations so everything looks like a fairy tale. The Christmas market in Lille is perhaps less significant than the Christmas market in Paris, but no less fun! Seldom you see a Christmas market done with so much love and care. Hear, see, smell and taste the ultimate Christmas feeling. Here you can do all your Christmas shopping. Original handmade Christmas decorations and other Christmas items. You can feast on numerous culinary delicacies and delicious, hot mulled wine.
From the end of November and all through Advent, Dresden becomes Germany’s Christmas capital. The best known Dresden Christmas market is the Striezelmarkt. It is the oldest Christmas market in Germany. Since 1434 it is held every year on the Altmarkt and is a constant in the touristic offer of the city. More than 200 traders have built up their stalls, and more than 300 buses drive visitors daily to Dresden’s most traditional Christmas market. Around 2.5 million visitors come every Christmas season and their number is increasing every year.
In the meantime, the Striezelmarkt has however gotten serious competition from many smaller markets, which are really nice and are no longer only known among the Dresdeners. From Old Town to Neustadt, to Sachsen Landeshauptstadt – a big one in Adventszeit.
The capital of Austria, Vienna, is anyway a fairytale city. But every year from mid-November, Vienna transforms into enchanting Christmas Town. Throughout the city, you will find stalls, performances and activities. Wiener Christkindlmarkt at the beautiful Town Hall is the most famous and oldest market. It´s been around for 700 years and still retains its charm. It is a good idea to take your kids to Viennese Christmas market, they can play various games in many places, make presents, or take pony rides.
What could be more beautiful in the Christmas season than strolling around a Christmas market, eating speculum and baked almonds and drinking mulled wine? How nice is that there are more than 60 Christmas markets in Berlin! From the large, traditional Christmas market in Spandau’s old town to the many small, historic Christmas markets of Berlin and the Christmas market at Gendarmenmarkt, the Christmas markets in Berlin are as diverse as Berlin itself.
Every year the Christmas market in Antwerp will be opened in a special way. Then the party starts at Suikerrui, the Stone Square and the Market Square. For several weeks there´ll be a wintry village with the ice rink. The Grote Markt is mostly filled with goodies and mulled wine, delicious appetisers and sweet treats. You can rent a carriage on the Market, and take a ride in style around the city. On December 31, the celebrations are appropriately completed with the year-end spectacular fireworks.
Two times a year the Belgian city of Liege gets decorated with lights. The first time during the annual Festival of Lights and the other time is during the Christmas market in Liege. The city that is nicknamed ‘Fiery City “, has to prove that it deserves such a nickname. And again and again, it is breathtaking to behold. Anyway, it appears that the fairy tales come to life during the famous Christmas market in Liege. The town is spiced with two hundred stalls with a variety of merchandise. The Christmas village, as the centre is called during the month of December, has its own board of directors, the mayor and others to ensure that everything is taken care of perfectly. The ten-meter toboggan runs at the Place Saint-Lambert, and the Ferris wheel will fill each child´s heart with happiness.
One of Dutch’s largest Christmas markets can be found in Dordrecht. Dordrecht is situated in the province of South Holland and is known as the oldest city in the Netherlands. The centre of Dordt, as it is affectionately called by its inhabitants, is fully decked out in mood during the Christmas market. Especially the Groenmarkt, Front Street, the Fish Market and the Town Hall are lavishly decorated and dressed to receive the Christmas in good spirits. Walking along the two hundred stalls you can enjoy all kinds of performances, historical sites and a real winter in the Great Church. Unlike other cities, the Christmas market in Dordrecht takes place for only a few days.
Europe´s eye-candy, Belgian town of Bruges is even more spectacular in December when they decorate the age-old facades, plazas, bridges and canals. A wonderful ambience. Especially on the Grote Markt, the station and the Simon Stevin Plein is often buzzing with people who admire the goods on many stalls, enjoy the Christmas delights or are just taking in the atmosphere itself. Sports enthusiasts can show their skills on the rink and others can perform their musicianship during the performances in the centre.
Maastricht is known as a city with excellent festivals, famous shops and great restaurants. All this is intensified during the Christmas as the city is transformed into Winterland Maastricht. You can go skating, take a ride on a Ferris wheel, or explore the area with the Christmas train or just enjoy a delicious hot chocolate. And there are beautiful wooden chalets that are filled with all sorts of interesting merchandise.
Nowhere in the Netherlands, you´ll find such a special Christmas market such as that in Valkenburg. The city is known for its Velvet cave, passageways beneath the castle ruins, is using it as a setting for the Christmas market. The usually dark passages are attractively illuminated during the Christmas, and you feel like you walked into a fairytale. More than fifty different entrepreneurs try their best to sell you their merchandise. Enjoy the Christmas spirit, the old wall paintings and eighteenth-century chapel. Above ground there a route D’amuse to follow, past five leading restaurants and you can visit Santa’s Village at Theodoor Dorrenplein. Valkenburg is certainly a town in high spirits during the month of December.
The Christmas market in the Velvet Cave is open every day between November 14 and December 23 up to about 19 hours.
Prague has several Christmas markets with small wooden stands where you can buy delicacies as well as the best trinkets for a good price. The major markets can be found in the vicinity of Wenceslas Square and the Old Town Square. If you like smaller, cosier markets, then go to the less established markets around Namesti Republiky, Havelska Triste and Namesti Miru. Enjoy a delicious dark Czech beer and eat fresh chips or bramborak (potato pancake). Some stalls are also selling Czech famous souvenirs such as glassware and ceramics.
These Christmas markets are open from November 29th to January 1st. Working hours are from 9 am to 19 pm.
Düsseldorf is one of the centers of Christmas fun in Germany. Half month-long a city is turned upside-down and showered with decorations and lights, no corner is forgotten. The chestnut trees that are characteristic for Dusseldorf are decorated with thousands of little lamps. The historical centre is also the ideal location for a Christmas market, which is spread over six squares that are in communication with each other. Free skating is on the Gustal Grund Gens Platz, the puppet theatre at the Schadowplatz, and the Ferris wheel on the Central square.
You will find the cliché Christmas trinkets including Christmas hats and socks, but also craftsmen such as blacksmiths, glass blowers and candle makers. There are dozens of stalls with hot dogs, hamburgers, waffles and pancakes.
The Christmas market is held from 20 November to 23 December and is open every day until 20 pm.
The Christmas market in Cologne is one of the most famous in Europe and one of the largest. Every year, hundreds of thousands of visitors come to the city to soak up the Christmas atmosphere.
During the Christmas period, Cologne is transformed into a fairytale city with no less than seven Christmas markets (which are fortunately all fairly close together). So if there is one you do not like, you can always go to the next. They are divided in a way that each one of the markets offers something different.