Ah yes, Christmas. The sweet smell of mulled wine, grilled sausages and gingerbread biscuits. Endless gifts to be bought and food to be eaten. A huge Christmas tree to marvel at. All and more to be enjoyed at the best Christmas markets in Europe 2021!
Spending your Christmas in Europe offers huge potential for a great time. No matter if you’re a couple, family or solo traveller – European Christmas markets offer something for everyone.
So come on, let’s discover the top Christmas markets worth seeing this year!
Also: Discover 25 Best European Cities to Visit in Winter
Where are the Best Christmas Markets in Europe?
The best way to see Christmas markets in Europe is to have a clear idea of which countries host great markets, when they take place and what they offer.
We did the research for you and collected a selection of the best Christmas markets in the world. They are:
EXTRA: Pepperkakebyen in Bergen
Dates of European Christmas Markets
To help you out further, we’ve included a section for Christmas markets NOT worth it.
Just for fun: We’ve added some weird and funny European Christmas traditions to look out for.
1. Aachen Christmas Market, Germany
When it comes to the best Christmas markets in Germany 2021, Aachen Christmas Market is a real contender.
Every year for four weeks on the lead up to Christmas, the lanes and squares around the town hall and Aachen Cathedral come alive with lights, yummy smells and festive sounds. The entire area is transformed into a Christmas village! It’s an ideal meeting place for both Aacheners and visitors alike during the festive period.
Must try: Every heard of Aachen Printen? It’s a unique type of gingerbread found in the Aachen area and a must try at the market. See if you can spot the 6m high Prinen gingerbread man mascot!
This market attracts a whopping 1.5 million visitors every year, over the 47+ years it has been running.
For the foodies, here’s a fun video highlighting all of the delicious foods you can enjoy at Aachen Christmas market:
2. Freiburg Christmas Market, Germany
The historic centre of Freiburg transforms into a large Christmas village with over 100 wooden chalets filled with crafts and commercial products. In fact, this market is well-known for its craft products. From puppets and plush toys, to scarves, candles and wooden objects – you’ll find something, no doubt!
Highlight: Visit the candle workshop and watch your made-to-order candle being made with beeswax.
3. Cologne, Germany
Ok so Cologne doesn’t have just one major Christmas market, it has several, in fact. It all depends on what you prefer!
Germany is where Christmas markets originated, famous for Bavarian drinking and German sausages. Cologne does a tremendous job of showing off and keeping the tradition alive.
The greatest and most famous markets in Cologne include:
3.1 Cathedral X-Mas Market
3.2 X-Mas Market in the Old Town
One of the best Christmas markets in Europe for families. Children will love the puppet shows, children’s roundabout and Santa Claus’ quarter with endless toy stands.
3.3 Angel’s Market in the City
Wander around and spot angels dressed in white sprinkling glitter powder around the market. Once a week, Santa Claus and an angel make a grand entry to the market on horseback. This is held in Neumarkt and is the oldest Christmas market in Cologne.
3.4 Harbour Market
3.5 Gay Christmas Market
This market enjoys support from Cologne AIDS Hilfe and KLuST e.V. (organizers of Cologne Pride), among others. There’s a stage where well-known artists and stars can be enjoyed, and 3 traditional Glühwein huts serving delicious mulled wine.
Read: Our perfect itinerary for Germany
4. Ghent Christmas Market, Belgium
Locally known as Gentse Winterfeesten, the heart of Ghent becomes a Scandinavian Christmas village, oozing the atmosphere of the Nordics. Get ready for the smell of pine, moose, wooden chalets, plenty of green and fancy trinkets.
There are over 150 wooden market stalls to keep you occupied, plus a big ice skating rink and a christmas-tree-merry-go-round. Fun!
5. Winter Wonders in Brussels, Belgium
For those looking to enjoy a large Christmas market that continues over the New Year period (continuing for almost a week in January, to be exact), head to Winter Wonders in Brussels. On average it receives around 2.5 million visitors each year.
There’s so much to look forward to here, including:
This can feel more like a multicultural country fair than a Christmas market. But if you’re keen to enjoy it all, you’ll love Brussels in winter.
6. Prague Christmas Market, Czech Republic
Certainly one of the most beautiful in Europe, Prague Christmas market is in the heart of the city, in a traditional marketplace that’s covered with wooden stall, merchants and excellent food & drink.
There are endless products and gifts to buy such as hand-embroidered tablecloths, wooden toys and blown glass balls. Don’t forget to fill up on typical Czech skewered food!
This market is open on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
Spending longer in the city? Our one week in Prague guide is designed to help you achieve a stress-free & memorable stay.
Here is a cool video discovering the smaller Christmas markets in the city.
7. Vienna Magic of Advent, Austria
From mid November to Christmas Vienna is host to an array of wonderful Christmas markets. One of the most well-known and traditional of these is called Vienna Magic of Advent. This is when the City Hall Square turns into a shining fairy-tale land!
There’s something for everyone: workshops for kids, Christmas gifts, warm drinks, sweets, a sea of lights – you name it!
We’d easily vote this as the best Vienna Christmas market and the top choice if you only have time to experience one.
Want to know more about Vienna in regards to visiting? Check out our guide to one week in Vienna.
Read: Where to Stay in Vienna? An insider’s guide for first-time visits.
8. Christkindelsmärik in Strasbourg, France
Also known as Christkindelsmärik, Strasbourg Christmas Market is one of the oldest in Europe, dating back to 1570!
This is one of my absolute favorite Christmas markets Europe has to offer. It is absolutely underrated;both the Christmas market and the city!
It happens to be set in the heart of Grande Île, a UNESCO world heritage site.
The majestic “Great Christmas Tree” is certainly a highlight, with many beautiful illuminated streets and over 300 wooden chalets set up nearby. It’s loved by young and old every year.
Read: One week in Strasbourg – itinerary, where to stay, food + more!
Strasbourg is also one of the 35 most beautiful cities to visit in France.
9. Montbeliard Christmas Market, France
Easily the most beautiful Christmas market in France. It’s world famous for impressive illuminations, offering a traditional and authentic experience for everyone.
During Advent, the town revives the old tradition and sets up 170 stalls within the Christmas market. There’s even an outdoor ice rink!
Read: Our perfect itinerary for France to enjoy at its best
10. Metz Christmas Market, France
Like the sound of carol singing and folk dancing? This is just some of the street entertainment that happens at Metz Christmas market.
Metz is pretty good at lighting up the city at the best of times, but throughout December the Christmas lights are fantastic. There are almost 100 wooden cottages erected along the Esplanade and medieval arcades of Place St Louis. Get ready for waterfalls of lights, roasted chestnuts and festive music galore.
Next to the cathedral there is a wonderful “big wheel”, and shops are also open on the two Sundays before Christmas. If that’s not enough, there’s hand-crafted gifts and an open-air ice rink!
11. Gdańsk Christmas Market, Poland
Probably the most romantic Christmas market in Europe, Gdańsk Christmas fair has set up a special area where lovers can kiss under the mistletoe and make a wish.
It’s set in the historical centre of Gdańsk, offering a real fairy tale vibe that is loved by both visitors and locals alike. Even the streets are renamed for this time of year: cinnamon, chocolate and Christmas Eve street to name but a few.
Highlight: A two-level Gdańsk carousel and food court. There is plenty of polish cuisine to try!
12. Advent Feast at the Basilica in Budapest, Hungary
It’s no secret that the Advent Feast at the Basilica has been a favourite Christmas market in Hungary for a long time. It’s also officially the most beautiful Christmas market in Europe.
This is home to the largest 3D Christmas projections in Central Europe! Light shows are shown several times a day and cannot be missed.
Other highlights include:
Here’s everything you need to know about spending one week in Budapest, including where to stay, how to get around etc.
Here’s a useful video about the Budapest Christmas Fair (Budapest Karácsonyi Vásár) at Vörösmarty Square.
13. Basel Christmas Market, Switzerland
Basel Christmas market has a deep-rooted tradition as Switzerland’s biggest and most beautiful market. It is located on Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz – one of the most impressive squares in the Old Town.
You can’t miss the 100 or so pine trees lining the streets, brightly lit and showing you the way.
With over 160 traders selling everything from culinary delights to that must-try Basel Läckerli – a local kind of gingerbread – you’re sure to enjoy an Europe Christmas in Basel.
14. Cluj-Napoca Christmas Market, Romania
Why not consider Romania for your X-Mas festivities? Cluj-Napoca has been ranked 8th is a list of European Best Destinations (EBD) and their Christmas market is the best in Romania.
This is a celebration for the whole family, made up of children, parents, grandparents, pets, friends, uncles, cousins… you get the idea.
Get ready for the majestic church of Saint Michael, little white houses, music concerts and a skating rink. It’s a really friendly time and place for all, much like a fairytale Christmas you’d expect.
15. Winchester Cathedral’s Christmas Market, UK
Winchester is quintessentially British and its Christmas market is well-worth experiencing.
Looming nearby is the stunning Winchester Cathedral. Inspired by German Christmas markets, this one attracts a whopping 350,000 visitors each year.
There are 112 chalets filled with high quality exhibitors, a specular covered ice rink and a bustling atmosphere around the clock. Classes British cuisine is on offer, plus British crafts and that good old classic nativity scene where a fun photograph can be taken.
16. Valkenburg Christmas Markets, The Netherlands
How about discovering Christmas markets in underground caves?! Yes, you read that right!
Valkenburg transforms the extraordinary caves under the city into awesome Christmas markets, with plenty of merchandise for sale and lights to enjoy.
There are three to visit
Wilhelmina Cave is particularly impressive, showcasing sculptures by artists from all over the world.
Top tip: make sure you get back above ground in time for the fascinating Christmas Parade with costumed dancers and illuminated floats. There’s also a Santa’s village perfect for the children.
17. Salzburg Christmas Market, Austria
This is a top choice if you’re keen for some Christmas carols and ancient traditions.
Salzburg is the pretty hometown of The Sound of Music and Mozart, not to mention where Silent Night was written and first performed. The market stalls look much like they did back in the 15th century when they were first set up.
There are free daily concerts in front of the cathedral, and sing-alongs every evening if you fancy belting out some carols. Oh and hand-knitted socks and other local crafts replace novelty gifts at this Christmas market.
18. Tallinn Christmas Market, Estonia
The kids are going to love this Christmas Market! Santa Claus arrives at his winter grotto on an authentic reindeer sleigh, welcoming all the children to the winter festivities.
Tallinn is home to Estonia’s largest Christmas tree which has been set up outside the Town Hall every year since 1441.
Must try: Tallinn’s own version of mulled wine is called Vana Tallinn; a hot cup of rum-based liqueur with extracts of cinnamon and citrus.
The streets are covered with over 60 wooden huts and endless dance troupes, brass bands and bell ringers. Enjoy!
EXTRA: Pepperkakebyen in Bergen, Norway
Only in the city of Bergen can you discover the world’s largest gingerbread town! So whilst this isn’t technically a Christmas market, we just couldn’t resist including it.
Gingerbread cookies are known as “pepperkaker” in Norwegian, literally translated as pepper cookies. At the pepperkekbyen (the pepper cookie city) you’ll find them in all shapes and sizes, including tiny homes, landmarks, trains, cars, castles etc. It’s awesome!
The kind you can eat usually come in the form of women, men, angels, reindeer and bells.
Just so you know: Pepperkakebyen is part of Bergen’s larger Christmas market which includes a Ferris wheel and a variety of products to buy.
Christmas Markets in Europe Dates
Okay so let’s talk about the typical dates that the best Christmas markets in Europe run in 2021 and beyond. Please always check the exact dates with the cities official tourism board. This is usually the best site to find exact dates and event special events like a Santa Clause for kids, choir and other live music.
Quite obviously, they will be happening around Christmas. D’uh. However, some extend for longer periods than expected, say from early November right through until the first week of January.
We haven’t listed any dates in this guide for a reason: dates typically change every year!
Even if it is just a day or two difference, we would not want to give you incorrect or outdated information for any market you’re wishing to visit.
SO! Please make sure you do your research and check out the market’s official website or social media platforms for this years dates.
To give you an idea. Common trends we’ve seen regarding dates include:
Usually the larger & more famous the market is, the longer it runs for.
Opening times also vary hugely, though most markets are open during the day and well into the evening.
Christmas Markets NOT worth a visit
Of course, there are endless opportunities when it comes to finding the best Christmas market in Europe to suit you. European winter markets practically cover the continent!
So, to help you prevent wasting time, here is a short list of Christmas markets in Europe we recommend you avoid.
Please remember, this is only our opinion based on our very own experience.
Why avoid these Christmas markets?
Well, these destinations do not offer much in the way of a Christmassy, winter feel. They have warmer climates compared to other parts of Europe, for one thing. Who wants powdered snow when you can have the real thing?! That’s why we’ve focused on the best Christmas markets in Europe with snow opportunities (or at least chilly temperatures ideal for hot chocolate) at the beginning of this article.
Also, at Barcelona Christmas markets for example, you can buy stuff that is available all year long. This doesn’t make it terribly exciting or unique! I remember the first time I went to the Christmas market in Barcelona in front of Sagrada Familia. It was a big disappointment, unfortunately.
Read: How to spend the perfect week in Barcelona
Weird & Funny Christmas Traditions
Who doesn’t love to laugh and discover weird traditions where possible? Hence, we decided to include some unusual Christmas traditions that we heard take place across Europe.
Drum roll, please…
1. “Pooping logs” in Barcelona
It’s tradition in this part of Spain to dress up a piece of wood and keep it in your house. It gets better… feed it daily and it will poop out presents on Christmas Day!
2. A Christmas tree for the birds
Many towns in Austria will have a smaller Christmas tree in the main square, decorated with treats for the birds to eat.
3. Christmas a day early
In Norway Christmas and present opening is actually celebrated on the 24th, whereas the 25th is set aside for gathering wider family members together for food.
4. Forget Santa Claus
Ded Moroz takes the place of Father Christmas in Russia and Eastern Slavic countries, swapping reindeers for white three dashing white horses.
5. Shoe lobbing
In Slovakia, young women lob shoes over their shoulder to predict if they will marry in the New Year. If the toe points to the door, wedding bells are on the way!
6. Chichilaki, not Christmas Tree
Georgia displays Chichilaki’s (a Christmas tree variant) in homes and towns. They decorate them with sweets and fruit.
7. Almond equals good luck
A common snack on Christmas Eve in Iceland is rice porridge. Whoever finds the hidden almond wins a gift.
8. Let the dead eat
In Estonia, leftover food remains on the table overnight to allow spirits of loved ones to make a visit and enjoy some food, too.
9. Waking the neighbours
Only after midnight in the early hours of Christmas Eve does Koleduvane commence in Bulgaria. This is when young men go banging on neighbours doors to wish them health, wealth and happiness.
10. Octopus on Christmas Eve
For most of Portugal, dried codfish boiled with vegetables is a favourite Christmas Eve supper. However, in some northern regions, they cook up octopus instead!
11. Money and hay at the dinner table
At a Christmas Eve meal in Poland, you can expect to find money under the tablecloth for each guest, and hay under the table to represent the manger.
Summary of the Best Christmas Markets in Europe
So by now you should have a better picture of the best European Christmas markets that are on offer.
Now the next step is to sort out accommodation in Europe. Hotel or hostel, budget or luxury? Check out these 43 alternatives to Airbnb.
The Christmas markets of Europe are certainly impressive. Which are you most excited to experience? Do you have a favourite?
We’d love to hear from you, as always. Oh and please let us know if we’ve forgotten an epic Christmas market everyone should know about.
Traveling around Italy? Then check:
– – –
pin it for later