Best Christmas Markets in Europe

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Christmas is celebrated across Europe with pomp and grand festivities. Trees, streets, and buildings are covered in thousands of decorative lights and elaborate Christmas decorations, creating a picturesque winter wonderland against the snowy backdrop. A key highlight of European Christmas is its Christmas markets.
Originating in Germany, Christmas markets have become a tradition in almost every city and town in Europe over the centuries. In some cities, these festive markets have been set up in the same way for as far back as the middle ages. They typically consist of small wooden stalls draped in Christmas decorations and lighting.
Nothing gets you in holiday spirits as quickly as a visit to these markets. You’ll enjoy varieties of traditional Christmas dishes, hot mulled wine, and hot chocolate. And almost every market features stalls of local artisans making and selling handmade Christmas presents and souvenirs.
Visiting Europe’s Christmas markets is a travel decision you’ll forever be glad you made, that is, if you don’t visit every year. We’ve selected some of the best European Christmas markets you don’t want to miss.

What Is the Best Time to Visit the Christmas Markets in Europe?

The best time to visit a European market is during Christmas. Christmas market opening and closing dates vary across European countries and cities, but most open mid to late November and run through New Year's Day. Some open as early as 17th November, while others do not open until the last week of November.
In some cities, like Cologne, Germany, Christmas markets close as early as 23rd December, while most others close on New Year’s Day. The markets are most crowded during the Christmas and New Year celebrations. So, if you want to skip the crowd, you should plan your trip for early to mid-December.

Where Are the Best Christmas Markets in Europe?

Almost every European city has beautiful Christmas markets, and it will take years to explore them all. We’ve compiled a selection of the 15 best Christmas markets in Europe to start you on your Christmas markets adventure.

1. Budapest, Hungary

Located within walking distance of each other are two large Christmas markets tucked within the historic city of Budapest. Vorosmarty Square and St. Stephen’s Basilica are among the most beautiful European Christmas markets. The markets open on 19th November and run through 1st January.
The Vorosmarty Square is Hungary’s oldest Christmas market located in the city center. The market features Christmas concerts amidst decorated wooden stalls. You’ll find artisans and vendors displaying traditional Hungarian wares and treats.
Although newer and smaller, the Basilica market is fast becoming very popular. It features a manger, a massive Christmas tree, light shows, music performances, hundreds of stalls, folk dances, an ice skate rink, and laser projections on the Basilica. There are also smaller markets scattered across the Hungarian capital.
If you plan to explore Budapest, get to know the visa requirements for Hungary first.

2. Basel, Switzerland

Basel is popularly known as Switzerland’s Christmas capital because it is home to the largest and most beautiful Swiss Christmas market. The market is located at the center of Old Town and has two sections - Bafusserplatz and Munsterplatz. The market officially opens on November 24 with the lighting of the giant Christmas tree decorated with Johann Wanner ornaments at Munsterplatz.
The market at Bafusserplatz hosts beautiful nativity scenes, hundreds of brightly lit stalls offering handcrafted wooden toys, jewelry, and a variety of traditional food and drinks, including fondue, Basel Lackerli (a local gingerbread recipe), and hot punch.
Munsterplatz houses a beautiful fairytale forest (pine trees decorated with Christmas lights) with lots of fun activities to keep kids entertained all day, including decorating their own gingerbread house. The market closes for the year just before Christmas on 23rd December.
Travelers to Basel should check out how to gain entry to Switzerland before they go any further with their plans.

3. Vienna, Austria

Vienna’s Christmas markets are some of the best winter markets in Europe. From mid -November, the city is aglow with festive lights and decorations draped across trees and buildings. It is home to over 20 official Christmas markets scattered across the old town.
The largest and most impressive Christmas market is the Vienna Christmas Dream, located in front of Rathausplatz (Vienna City Hall), which transforms the City Hall into a fairytale wonder. It has over 150 brightly decorated market stalls, a huge Ferris Wheel, and an ice skating rink. You’ll eat your fill of roasted chestnuts and pretzels with hot gluhwein and shop for handmade soaps, wooden toys, and other Christmas souvenirs.
Right in front of Schonbrunn Palace is another gorgeous Christmas market. Although quieter than Rathausplatz, it offers several concerts and children's programs. You can even learn how to make strudels. The market is converted to a New Year’s market after Christmas.
Check out our guide on Austria visa and entry requirements before you start making further plans for your Christmas vacation.

4. Prague, Czech Republic

Known for its Medieval architecture, Gothic Church spires, and towers, Prague offers some of Europe's most scenic Christmas markets. Old Town and Castle District are home to several festive markets, but the ones at Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square are the best in the city. The markets are open from November 6 through January 6.
The Old Town Square market is nestled between the Old Town Square Tower, The Gothic Tyn Church, and the Baroque St Nicholas Church creating a picturesque backdrop. It is lined with red-roofed wooden stalls offering traditional Christmas market wares and lots of food and drinks. Enjoy your fill of grilled sausages, roasted chestnuts, chimney cakes, garlic-and-cheese flatbread, and svarak (citrussy mulled wine) or grog (a rum, lemon, sugar, and water mix).
Make sure to familiarize yourself with the travel requirements for the Czech Republic before you set out to explore to this magnificent city and its Christmas market.

5. Cologne, Germany

Some of the best Christmas markets in Germany and Europe are in Cologne. The city has seven official Christmas markets that transform the already beautiful city into a fairytale wonderland during Christmas. The markets start in mid-November and end on 23rd December.
The largest and most elaborate market is beneath the iconic Cologne Cathedral, decorated with thousands of lights. It is the oldest Christmas market in Cologne, and the view from the top of the Cathedral is breathtaking. Alongside handmade souvenirs, you’ll find a Christmas carousel, plenty of classic German dishes, and a steady stream of hot gluhwein in the market. St Nicholas’ Village (Nikolasdaurf) market is also a charming place you must visit.
If you plan to travel to Cologne, get to know the visa requirements for Germany and other relevant information beforehand.

6. Helsinki, Finland

This finish city takes on a magical glow during the holiday season. Its Christmas markets light up the entire surrounding and create a lovely scene, especially at night. Helsinki’s best and largest Christmas market is located at Senate Square. The market comprises over 100 elaborately decorated wooden stalls and attracts over 300,000 visitors annually despite the icy winter temperatures.
A magnificent Christmas tree stands right at the center of the market. Delightful baked treats and Scandinavian mulled wine flow freely in the food stalls. You’ll find unique handcrafted presents in the artisans’ booths.
When planning your trip to Helsinki, check out our guide on Finland visa and entry requirements too.

7. Berlin, Germany

With over 80 Christmas markets strewn across the city, Berlin has the highest number of Christmas markets in Europe. The markets are open in late November and run through New Year's Day. Each market is unique, and some are for specific purposes like sports. You can spend the entire holiday hopping from market to market without getting bored.
While Spandau is Berlin’s largest Christmas market, Weihnachtszauber is the most stunning in the beautiful Gendarmenmarkt Square. The market features brightly decorated festive tents nestled between historic buildings. It offers the most abundant array of arts and crafts.
You can watch artisans at their craft in the artisan tent, learn a thing or two and shop for pieces of Christmas decorations like figurines, nutcrackers, and candle carousels. There’s also plenty of traditional german Christmas food and drink. Admission costs a small fee, but it’s free for children under 12 years.

8. Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen’s squares and parks are beautiful all year round, but they become magical at Christmas. Its top Christmas markets are at Tivoli Gardens, Nyhavn, and Konstens Nytorv, but Tivoli Gardens market is the most delightful of them. Thousands of hanging lights and decorated stalls turn the back to a stunning winter spectacle.
The air is saturated with aromas of caramelized almonds and honey cake served with mugs of glogg. There’s a giant Ferris Wheel, an ice skating rink, and a host of traditional music bands playing delightful tunes. The market runs from 18th November through New Year’s Day, and assorted decorations, wooden toys, knitwear, and ceramics are displayed in the stalls.
If Copenhagen is your dream destination this Christmas, make sure to familiarize yourself with travel authorization for Denmark.

9. Salzburg, Austria

The city of Mozart and the Sound of Music is a great tourist location all year round, but no season is as magical as the Christmas season here. Its magical Christmas markets have been set up in the same traditional way since the 15th century. Its markets run from 17th November through New year's day.
Asides from the gorgeous decorations and lighting, Christmas carols are a key feature of the holiday celebrations in Salzburg. There is a free daily sing-along concert in front of the Cathedral at 5pm and plenty of traditional music performances. You’ll eat your fill of apple strudels with mulled wine available everywhere in the market. Salzburg is also a great place to shop for knitwear.

10. Gothenburg, Sweden

Gothenburg is known as Sweden’s Christmas City. It hosts the country's largest and most famous Christmas market at Liseberg amusement park. The themed park is decorated with nearly five million fairy lights powered by a wind turbine. It attracts over 500,000 tourists annually.
There’s no shortage of what to do here. You can shop for bespoke gift items, visit Santa’s workshop, ride a bumper car, watch the ice show, participate in a Christmas buffet dinner, or snack on cinnamon buns, roasted reindeer, and glogg. The market runs from 19th November through 30th December and charges an admission fee.
There are two other amazing Christmas markets in Gothenburg at Kronhuset and Haga. Kronhuset is the oldest building in the city, and its festive market boasts the most traditional meals, while Haga market is the bane of cinnamons.
If you’re wondering whether you need visa to visit Gothenburg, read more about visa requirements for Sweden.

11. Florence, Italy

If you’ve never visited Florence in December, you’ve been missing a magical experience. The festival of lights illuminates the entire city, and its Christmas markets are overflowing with delightful treats. Although there are several festive markets in the city, the markets at Piazza Santa Croce and Giardino della Fortezza are the most popular.
Piazza Santa Croce has hosted the traditional German-style Christmas market for over 500 years. Its stalls offer traditionally crafted gifts and mouth-watering edibles, especially chocolate and cinnamon-covered chimney cake. Giardino della Fortezza is home to the longest ice skating rink in Europe.
When it comes to gaining access to Florence, some visitors will need to get visa for Italy, while others may not be required to do that step.

12. Edinburgh, Scotland

Although Christmas was not a public holiday until 1958, the country quickly compensated for the lost time. The Christmas celebrations and Hogmanay make the holiday season a period of unending festivities. All the streets and iconic buildings are covered in fairy lights that give the city a magical glow at night. Edinburgh’s famous Christmas market is on East Princes Street’s garden and runs from late November through early January.
In the Christmas market, you’ll find a hidden elves workshop in the Christmas tree maze, Santa’s grotto, wooden toys, talent shows, performances, fairground rides, and an ice rink. You can take a walk down the Royal Botanical Gardens' illuminated trail or watch live music shows on George street.

13. Brussels, Belgium

Brussels’ famous Christmas market, “Winter Wonders,” opens on 25th November and runs through New Year’s day. It is spread across the Grand Place (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), Place Sainte-Catherine, Bourse, and March aux Poissons, interconnected by an illuminated trail. But its main point of attraction is the Grand Place.
You’ll find a towering tree, a giant Ferris Wheel, a life-sized manger, Carousels, and over 200 wooden chalets displaying unique Christmas items. Head to Place Sainte-Catherine with your skating gear for the time of your life on the skating rink. Remember to grab a chocolate waffle treat when you’re done.
Prepare for your Christmas trip to Brussels properly, and check out the visa requirements for Belgium.

14. Strasbourg, France

Strasbourg doubles as the capital of the Alsace region and France’s Christmas capital. While the city is worth visiting all year round, it looks like a scene from a fairytale storybook at Christmas. The colorful decorations and thousands of twinkling lights against a backdrop of traditional half-timbered houses create a stunning nativity scene.
Strasbourg Christmas market lies in the shadow of the towering Strasbourg Cathedral and has attracted millions of visitors since 1570. There are over 300 chalets lined around a huge Christmas tree offering handpainted wooden crafts, hand-blown glass ornaments, sausages, gingerbread cookies, and varieties of Alsatian wine. Every year, the market is decorated with a different theme and runs from late November through Boxing day.
If you plan to travel to Strasbourg this winter, learn key information about visa requirements for France beforehand.

15. Tallinn, Estonia

The stunning scenery of twinkling lights and colors against a backdrop of snow-dusted cobblestones and rooftops makes Tallinn’s Christmas market one of the most beautiful in Europe. It’s one of the oldest Christmas markets and the first place a Christmas tree was set up in Europe. The tree has been set up in the same way at the Town Hall Square since 1414.
The market starts in late November and runs through the first week of January. The tantalizing aroma of baking gingerbread teases your nostrils as you walk around its over 60 stalls shopping for local arts and crafts, sweets, cookies, and honey. Local dance troupes and brass bands provide entertaining performances. And to top it off, you’ll find Santa Claus on his reindeer sleigh offering presents to children.
Travelers to Tallinn can check out our guide on how to gain entry to Estonia.

Travel Requirements for Europe

The Electronic Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) is designed to control movement in and out of Europe’s borders. It authorizes you to travel to any European country for a maximum of 90 days per time and is valid for three years. By 2023, citizens of countries that currently do not require visas to visit countries in the Schengen Zone will need an ETIAS to travel to Europe.
Citizens of countries not part of the Schengen Zone’s no-visa scheme will require a Schengen visa to visit any of the 26 member countries of the Schengen Zone. Application for ETIAS can be completed online entirely and it only requires you to provide basic details. It generally takes less than 15 minutes to complete, and you can expect a response in 24 hours.
Written by: Fikayomi Abisola
Abisola is an ETIAS Travel and Immigration writer with several years of writing experience in the industry. Abisola has a unique enthusiasm for travels, tours, and tourism and loves to educate travellers about the criteria involved in international travelling.

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