Christmas markets in Europe are probably one of my favorite things about the holiday season, when I’m lucky enough to be in Europe. Since we’re all staying home this Christmas for the most part, due to the pandemic, I thought it’d be nice to do a little dreaming about these markets. The Christmas markets are a big tradition in almost every European city. So when you’re planning your next winter vacation, keep these spots in mind so you can enjoy a glühwein and shop all of the handmade gifts under the twinkle of Christmas lights. I can’t possibly name them all, but this is a good start!
1. Vienna, Austria
There are few cities quite as magical as Vienna during Christmas time. Their intricate light displays are awe-inspiring, just like the Avant Garde architecture they are surrounded by. In Vienna, you have your choice of around 20 Christmas markets. That’s right…20!! Strolling through the city, popping into museums and stores, you’ll see them on every major corner. The most stunning ones are by the magnificent St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and on Marie-Theresien-Platz square, between the monumental Art History Museum and the Natural History Museum. But my absolute favorite is actually the little one tucked into Freyung, the Altweiner Christkindlmarkt.
2. Bolzano, Italy
Bolzano’s Christmas market has reached fame level status as far as Christmas markets in Europe go. It is known as one of the best! With its storybook setting in South Tyrol, the mountains in the distance and the Bolzano Cathedral, it’s hard not to fall in love with this market. Many people forget that this region in the north of Italy is very much German and Austrian influenced. Enjoy a strudel and stroll through the booths while a light snow falls. Sample all the local foods and browse the products this region is known for, like wooden and ceramic sculptures, and hand-carved nativity figurines.
3. Prague, Czech Republic
Just one visit to Prague and you will be enchanted by its architecture and winding streets, and curious to know more. The Christmas markets in Prague leave the same impression. The giant Christmas tree will draw you in, but you’ll want to stay for the amazing food offerings and their own sweet mulled wine (almost every Christmas market’s got one version or another).
4. Stockholm, Sweden
It is my dream to visit Sweden in the winter, and when I go I will most definitely visit their Christmas market. Located at the Skansen Open-Air Museum, on the island of Djurgarden in the center of Stockholm, this market features historic homes and farmsteads that are decorated for the season. The decor is period-appropriate, and I love this connection to Christmases past. You can try all the Swedish goodies of the season, like sugared almonds, and even make your own Christmas decorations.
5. Copenhagen, Denmark
I am so intrigued by this Christmas market because of it’s setting and of course the food (I hear the little pancake puffs are amazing). This market takes place at Tivoli Gardens, which is the real-life inspiration for Disneyland, so it already sounds magical. Add to that the fact that Tiffany’s head designer dictates nearly four miles of lights, hung in artful patterns with another 1,800 strands draped on lakeside willows. It sounds truly like a Disney movie, or my wildest Christmas fantasy. Don’t forget to try the gløgg, a steaming hot mulled red wine, and things might just become even more warm and magical.
6. Dresden, Germany
Dresden might sound familiar because of the horrible bombing that took place in this small German city during World War II. Nowadays, Dresden has become synonymous with Christmas market, one of the best markets Germany has to offer. Here it’s all about the four-ton fruitcake called stollen, which you can sample at the market. Like many of its counterparts on this list, the market is the oldest in Germany, with traditions dating back to 1434! Forget the Christmas tree (though it’s beautiful), there’s the 45-foot tall Christmas pyramid to ooh and ah at. If you’re in Germany during the holidays, definitely plan a visit here.
7. Salzburg, Austria
I’ve already mentioned Vienna, the capital of Austria. But if we’re talking about Christmas markets in Europe, then Salzburg definitely has to be on the list too. I think Austria is beautiful around Christmas time, no matter where you go. With its beautiful mountains and fairytale-like lakeside villages, it’s a haven for any holiday lovers. Salzburg happens to have a pretty great market, too. It’s one of Europe’s oldest Christmas markets, actually, and the setting is magical, in the center of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Old City.
8. Barcelona, Spain
For a break from the traditional Christmas markets in Europe, with their glühwein and other German influences, try for the Fira de Santa Llucia in Barcelona. If you prefer sun and Spain, then this is the market for you. It opened in 1786, selling clay and paper Nativity scenes and children’s dolls. Now it has grown to over 300 booths, spread out over the Avenida de la Catedral, in Plà de la Seu Square, in the city’s ancient center. Enjoy the Spanish flare as you get in the spirit of the season at this Christmas market!
9. Strasbourg, France
Strasbourg is a charming city in its own right, on the border of France and Germany, so it’s no wonder the Christmas market here is adored by many. It’s the oldest Christmas market in France, going on 445 years old, and it has everything you could wish for in a Christmas market. Carolers, an ice rink, Nativity plays, and mulled wine served in not just any mug, but boot-shaped mugs! Take one home as a souvenir, or buy a few ornaments or Nativity figurines that will remind you of the beauty of France. When you get hungry, try the flammekeuche, a “flamed cake” thin pizza of bacon, onions, and crème fraîche. Wow!
10. London, United Kingdom
I’d be remiss not to mention London when we’re talking about Christmas markets in Europe. If there’s anywhere I love to be during the holiday season, it’s London. The city practically glows from the sparkling Christmas light displays, and almost every storefront is decked to the nines with cheer. Visit the Christmas market on the banks of the Thames River, stroll past the London Eye and catch a glimpse of the Parliament building just across the river. It sounds a bit like a fairytale, but I assure you it’s very real.
Have you visited the Christmas markets in Europe? Send this to your friend who is always dreaming of their next European adventure!
Featured Image Source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/31384528642618711/
Maggie is the blogger behind The Artful Everyday, a travel and lifestyle blog dedicated to living intentionally and finding beauty in the ordinary. She loves the idea that we get to escape our normal lives when we travel, and that it allows us to be more open to the world and its cultures. Maggie lived in Florence while studying abroad, then was an au pair in Rome last fall. She is very passionate about traveling in Europe, especially Italy, and living abroad. Maggie studied Interior Design at the University of Minnesota, but is currently pursuing a career in writing.