Is there anything that gets you in the Christmas mood more than a walk around a traditional market, with a mug of mulled wine in hand? While unmistakably German in tradition, you can find these markets all over Europe. Here are a few of our favourites.
1. Prague Christmas Markets
There is never a bad time to visit Prague and if you visit during December, you’ll be treated to a Winter wonderland as the Christmas spirit takes over the city. Prague’s Christmas markets are some of Europe’s most traditional and beautiful and run all the way through the festive season until the first of January – they’re even open on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day! Colourful stalls, local produce, mulled wine and live, outdoor performances can all be found in Prague throughout the month. This is all very handy if you’re planning on catching flights to Prague for the Christmas period!
A trip to possibly the most iconic Christmas market in the city, the Old Town Square’s Christmas market is made up of traditional wooden stalls selling traditional food products like cheese, pastry – such as the local specialty, ‘Trdelník’ - and, of course, mulled wine! The market even has a small zoo with goats, horses and sheep, which each year becomes the main point of attraction for families with young children. Don’t miss the market in Wenceslas Square too, just five minutes walk away.
2. Brussels Christmas Markets
Each year in December, the Grand Place in Brussels turns into a Christmas paradise with traditional stalls and delicious food aplenty. Extending into Place Sainte-Catherine, you can find activities for adults and children; a now iconic ice rink (which will feature a separate area for little ones this year!) and a light show on the Grand-Place.
Concerts and activities such as an ice sculpture exhibition, as well as a ferris wheel from which to enjoy stunning views over the city, join the 240 stalls which can be found at Brussels’ Christmas markets. Our tip? Try the wide range of chocolates which are sold in the markets. After all, what is Belgium famous for if not its expert chocolatiers?!
3. Berlin Christmas Markets
Berlin features so many Christmas markets, it’s almost impossible to pick just one! Around 60 markets fill the city with a magical Christmas atmosphere. No matter how big or small, there’s not a neighbourhood to be found which doesn’t feature a Christmas market. In addition, many of the city’s museums open their doors until late at night to entertain tourists and locals visiting the markets.
Of all the markets to be found in Berlin over Christmas, the most picturesque is the one in front of the Charlottenburg Palace. Head to Potsdamer Platz to enjoy a Christmas market occupying around 4,000 square metres. The market is covered so no matter the weather, this is a great choice! Take a ride down the ‘rodelbahn’ – a large snow covered mountain –, go iceskating, and soak up the festive atmosphere. Open throughout the Christmas season, from November 4th all the way through to January 1st, this is a great option if you want to get into the spirit of things before December begins!
4. Vienna Christmas Markets
One of the most classic and popular Christmas markets in Europe, millions of visitors flock to Vienna’s Christkindlmarkt every year to enjoy a good mulled wine and some local Christmas cake. Found in front of the City Hall, small wooden stalls selling traditional produce share space with carol singers and delicious aromas of local festive food. Head inside the City Hall itself for children’s activities such as candle and cookie making workshops.
The first ‘December Market’ in Vienna took place in 1298; today, over 20 Christmas markets can be found across the city. From the Viennese Christmas Market at City Hall and the beautiful Christmas Village at Belvedere Palace, to the charming Christmas Market at Spittelberg, there’s plenty to explore.
5. Copenhagen Christmas Markets
If you’re heading to Denmark during the holiday season, there’s one place you have to go: Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen. The city’s amusement park first opened in 1843 and has hosted its own Christmas market for the last 23 years. Featuring light shows and plenty of festive food and drink, the Tivoli Gardens Christmas market is open until December 31st.
Almost half a million lights illuminate the Christmas market, which is make up of around 100 stalls selling traditional Danish products and taste the delicious local festive food. Throughout December, the park’s lake becomes and ice skating rink (skates are available to rent), whilst the amusement park itself makes this a great option for families! You’ll also find plenty of excellent restaurants as well as various live music, dance and theatre performances.
6. Cologne Christmas Markets
A trip to any of Cologne’s Christmas markets is sure to get you in the festive mood, with lights, traditional stalls and beautiful decorations aplenty. To visit the city’s most iconic Christmas market, head to the Cathedral Christmas Market located on the square of the Cologne Cathedral. Around 150 stalls surround an impressive Christmas tree in the centre of the market, with the Gothic cathedral itself as a backdrop. The perfect place to spend a few days before Christmas!
Cologne’s relatively small size makes it easy to visit multiple Christmas markets during your visit. Check out the Harbour Christmas Market overlooking the Rhine; the Alter Markt in front of the city’s town hall; or the oldest Christmas market in the city, the Angel’s Christmas Market held on the Neumarkt in the city centre.
7. Lille Christmas Markets
Lille may be a small city, but every year almost one million visitors from across Europe flock to its Christmas market to enjoy the hundreds of stalls which make up a beautiful, snow covered village. Found on Place Rihour, the market also features an ice rink and an 18 metre tall Christmas tree!
Explore the stalls selling traditional gifts and delicious local food, whilst the smell of roasted chestnuts fills the air. Don’t leave without enjoying some gingerbread with a glass of mulled wine! The market also features a ferris wheel which runs from noon until late at night, offering breath taking views over the city.
8. Tallinn Christmas Markets
Founded in 1991, Tallinn’s Christmas market is one of the newest in Europe – but this hasn’t stopped it gaining in popularity year on year! Today it’s one of the most popular on the continent thanks to its romantic appeal and great atmosphere. Situated in the cobblestone covered Town Hall Square, snow is almost guaranteed thanks to Tallinn’s high latitude, making this a truly magical location for a pre-Christmas adventure.
Santa will be there with his reindeer, as will snow sculptures and a mini-zoo – making this a great option for a family holiday. Live music and dance performances can also be found in this fairytale market. Taste traditional Estonian fare and fill up on homemade donuts accompanied by plenty of mulled wine.
9. Krakow Christmas Markets
Another city where a white Christmas could be on the cards is the Polish city of Krakow, where snow usually falls every December. The city’s Christmas market can be found every year in the Old Town’s main square of Rynek Glowny. A craft market already features throughout the year: over the Christmas period, this is joined by 100 wooden stalls selling everything from traditional Christmas decorations to village pottery and seasonal sweets.
From late November, visitors can enjoy music from Carol singers and performances from local children; eat traditional Polish cuisine alfresco; and check out traditional nativity scenes. Famous for its amber, head inside the year round Market Hall in the square to browse pieces made by local jewelers.
10. Barcelona Christmas Markets
Barcelona may not be the first place which comes to mind when you think of traditional Christmas markets but the Spanish city is well worth a visit around the festive period! Head to Barcelona Cathedral to check out “La Fira de Santa Llúcia” – the oldest and largest Christmas market in the city. This year, the market enters its 230th year and you’ll find almost 300 stalls selling decorations, gifts, food and drink.
Across the city you can find festive decorations and events: don’t miss the giant Nativity scene at Plaça Sant Jaume! Look out for the Caga Tio: a small log with a face, which is filled with sweets and nuts which it gives out as gifts to children on Christmas eve.
Are you visiting a Christmas market this year?