Sparkling lights, handmade gifts, ice skating, hot chocolates, and the sound of carols…visiting a Christmas market is a trusted way to get into the festive spirit.

Plus, many of the best Christmas markets are found in beautiful cities across Europe – offering a great opportunity to tick another destination off your travel bucket list.

With that said, here are 11 of the best Christmas markets to visit in Europe.

1. Salzburg, Austria

Salzburg, Austria

23rd November 2023 to 1st January 2024

Salzburg, the quaint hometown of Mozart and The Sound of Music, is transformed into a winter wonderland during the festive season.

First mentioned as far back as the 15th century, the Salzburg Christkindlmarkt has deep historical roots and is one of the world’s oldest Advent markets. Uniquely set in the heart of the World Heritage-listed Old City, the market sits at the foot of the magnificent Hohensalzburg fortress, surrounded by the grand Cathedral of Salzburg.

Every year, the market is officially opened on the Thursday before the first Sunday of Advent. Local folk customs and traditional decorations are used to adorn the Christmas tree and all kinds of Austrian specialities – including mulled wine, hot punch, and gorgeous gifts – can be found in the traditional huts. Intricate lighting is also set above the market like stars in the night sky.

For a maximum dose of Christmas cheer, why not join in one of the carol singalongs (every Tuesday 6-8pm)? There are also traditional wind music performances high above the square every Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

2. Prague, Czech Republic

2nd December 2023 to 6th January 2024

Prague is a wonderful place to visit at any time of year, but during the festive season, the city is particularly charming. It’s transformed by a sea of sparkling lights, holiday decor, and festive cheer – and the sweet scent of cinnamon wafts through the streets. It’s the ideal place to feel Christmas joy with loved ones or search for stocking fillers.

The festive markets are held in various locations across the city, including Prague’s famous Old Town Square, Peace Square, and Republic Square. Many visitors particularly enjoy the atmosphere in the Old Town Square market, which offers fantastic views of St. Vitus Cathedral and other historic buildings.

To make your experience as authentic as possible, why not sample some traditional Czech foods like gingerbread, roast pork, and Trdelnik (a sweet pastry cake) as you browse the various stalls?

3. Budapest, Hungary

budapest, hungary

18th November 2023 to 1st January 2024

Budapest is known for its remarkable architecture, flavourful cuisine, and unique thermal baths. And from mid-November, the charming streets and magnificent buildings of Hungary’s capital city are given new life by twinkling festive lights and captivating Christmas decorations.

While the decorations are a sight themselves, there are plenty of other things to enjoy in Budapest over the festive period – including ice skating rinks, concerts, and outdoor spas (it’s quite an experience to be submerged in 38C waters, surrounded by snow!). And of course, there’s the Christmas markets.

The Advent Basilica – three-time winner of the Best Christmas Market in Europe – is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful Christmas fairs around. True to its tradition, each Sunday in December, there’s a ceremony to light a new candle on the Advent wreath, which includes musical performances from choirs, orchestras, and solo singers.

Expect delicious food stalls, decorative shops, and free concerts – as well as Christmas lasers projected onto St. Stephen’s Basilica itself. Remember to try at least one of the traditional local delicacies such as roasted chestnuts, Sekler Cake, strudels, or plum juice with cinnamon!

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4. Berlin, Germany

berlin, germany

28th October 2023 to 1st January 2024

Germany is famous for its Christmas markets, and Berlin has long been one of the most popular destinations to get a healthy dose of festive spirit. Each year, the markets attract thousands of travellers in search of delicious food, extensive shopping choices, and festive cheer.

Over 100 Christmas markets are held across the city, but there are a few highlights. One of the most historical and magical is held at Charlottenburg Palace, where more than 250 vendors offer delicious treats and unique handicrafts.

For a more classic Christmas market, you might want to head to the town of Spandau, which is approximately 10 miles from the city centre. Or if you’re a history buff, one of the medieval Christmas markets at Britz Palace or the RAW Compound might take your fancy.

5. Strasbourg, France

strasbourg, france

24th November to 24th December 2023

Nicknamed the ‘Capital of Christmas’, Strasbourg Christmas markets are the oldest in France. They date back to 1570, and from late November to Christmas Eve, take over the entire city – streets, houses, windows, and balconies – with sparkling lights, festive decorations, and good cheer.

There are over 300 wooden chalets at Strasbourg Christmas market, spread across different squares in the city. Visitors can browse original gifts and unique tree ornaments, and enjoy traditional French treats, including little biscuits called bredle, and mulled wine.

During your trip, don’t miss the 30-metre-tall Christmas tree, which is brought to Place Kleber every year. It’s the largest decorated Christmas tree in Europe.

6. Bratislava, Slovakia

bratislava, slovakia

21st November to 21st December 2023

Slovakia’s charming capital Bratislava is a mosaic of history – from its medieval Gothic old town to the Renaissance castle and baroque palaces.

While Slovakian Christmas markets might not have the famous reputation of their German and Austrian counterparts, Bratislava in particular, has Christmas traditions that stretch back hundreds of years. The markets here may be small, but they’re the perfect place to cosy up, immerse yourself in festive events, and experience local Christmas customs.

Inspired by many other big European cities, the Bratislava Christmas markets take place in the city centre. Expect to find dozens of stalls selling handmade jewellery, scented candles, wooden toys, and beautiful Christmas decorations.

While you’re here, be sure to try some of the local specialities, including loksa, a dense, salty potato pancake; ‘Slovak hamburgers’, known locally as ciganska; and mead – a sweet, hot, honey wine considered to be one of the oldest alcoholic drinks of the old slaves.

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7. Vienna, Austria

vienna, austria

Christmas markets in Vienna are an age-old tradition. Some of the most popular present-day events date back to the Middle Ages, when, in 1296, King Albrecht I granted Vienna’s citizens the privilege of hosting a December Market or Krippenmarkt.

Since then, the character and scale of these markets has evolved considerably, but their unique charm remains. Vienna is well known for its characterful cafes, and during Christmas time, the aroma of festive treats and hot punch creates a special atmosphere.

One of the most visited Christmas markets here is the traditional ‘Vienna Magic of Advent’, which transforms the City Hall Square into a shining winter paradise. Another popular option is the Christmas market held in front of Schonbrunn Palace, which offers traditional handicrafts and Christmas concerts.

8. Tallinn, Estonia

tallinn, estoina

1st December 2023 to 7th January 2024

Tallinn Christmas Market in Estonia is like something out of a fairytale. With snowflakes floating down over the city’s rooftops and cobblestone streets, it’s a dream for those who’d like to experience a white, snowy winter.

Voted the best Christmas market in Europe in 2019 and still considered one of Europe’s best Christmas markets to visit in 2023, this enchanting city is transformed into a winter wonderland with a sea of trees, lights, and festive decorations.

The market’s magnificent, world-famous Christmas tree is an obvious highlight – and one of the main reasons why so many people choose to travel here. It’s been set up every year in Town Hall Square since 1441 and was the first ever Christmas tree to be put on display in Europe.

Visitors can spend the day strolling around the market’s various stalls and shopping for charming handicrafts like woollen mittens and wooden ornaments, before warming up with a cup of glögi (the Scandinavian version of mulled wine) and a gingerbread cookie.

9. Brussels, Belgium

brussels, belgium

24th November to 31st December 2023

For five fun festive weeks, the cobblestone streets and charming squares of Brussels are brought to life by a 2km stretch of snow-capped market stalls, delicious street food, and the sound of carols.

The markets have been running for over 20 years, and almost 2.5 million people flock to the heart of Brussels each year to enjoy the magic and charm of a Belgian Christmas.

The Brussels Christmas market takes place around Grand-Place, Place Sainte-Catherine, Bourse, and Marche aux Poissons. And, here, you can browse over 200 market stalls for last-minute stocking fillers, marvel at the illuminated Christmas tree and light show, or hop on the Ferris wheel for panoramic views of the city.

There are also parades at Grand Palace, and it’s here that you’ll find the market’s most prominent Christmas tree and largest nativity scene. Over 10 times each night, crowds gather in the square to watch the spectacular light show. The buildings hereare a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and there’s nothing quite like seeing them lit up in such a way.

10. Cologne, Germany

23rd November to 23rd December 2023

Widely known for being a festive destination, Cologne has several Christmas markets, each of which has its own distinct character.

The largest market, overlooked by Cologne’s magnificent cathedral, is by far the most historic. It’s a wonderful chance to browse various red-roofed stalls – topped by a sea of twinkling lights suspended overhead like stars – while marvelling at the beauty of the city’s most famous cathedral.

The House Elves’ Winter Fairytale Christmas Market is pretty magical too. Spread over the Alter Markt and Heumarkt squares, it features an alluring variety of festive stalls selling gifts, and tasty food and drink – as well as a large ice-skating rink.

Then there’s the Nicholas’ Village Christmas Market, which tells the story of the real Saint Nick and is great for children. Or, the Stadtgarten Christmas market is popular with locals and a good option for those wanting to avoid tourist hotspots.

11. Edinburgh, Scotland

17th November 2023 to 6th January 2024

Edinburgh is a city known for its beauty. And while it’s a brilliant place to visit at any time of year, it’s particularly magical around Christmas, and remains one of the UK’s most popular winter destinations.

The city becomes a hub of festive fun, featuring traditional Christmas markets, as well as various events including ice skating, family funfairs, and extraordinary after-dark light displays on Edinburgh Castle’s walls.

Last year, Edinburgh Christmas markets welcomed over 2.5 million visitors and, this year, it’s expected to be just as popular. East Princes Street Gardens Christmas market will host around 70 stalls, run by some of the best local and international producers. There’s everything from tasty treats and handmade gifts to bespoke products.

And, if you’d like to meet Santa, you’ll want to head to St Andrew Square Winter Garden…

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Final thoughts…

With giant Christmas trees, special handicrafts, light displays, and the scent of mulled wine, taking a trip to a Christmas market is a fantastic way to feel festive. And the good news is that, from Brussels to Cologne and Tallinn to Prague, there’s always a new one to try in Europe.

For further reading, head over to the travel section of our website. Here, you’ll find everything from popular days out in the UK to history-themed trips.

You can also check out our list of top travel deals by using the button below.

Which Christmas markets are you going to this year? Have any of the ideas on our list sparked your interest? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.