Christmas markets in Europe come in all shapes and sizes, but there are a few things that ties them all together.
Old world charm and classic nostalgic traditions are found in every single one of them, so much so that they have become part of the Christmas season for travelers around the world.
Whether you are going for the atmosphere provided by the Christmas markets in Europe or if you have added one of these sites on your bucket list to find unique gifts for your loved ones, the fact is that European Christmas markets are one of the best ways to celebrate the holiday season, no matter where you call home.
Read through this list of the top ten Christmas markets in Europe to decide which ones you want to add to your own holiday travel bucket list!
You too will soon be craving a handful of roasted chestnuts and a warm mulled wine as you reminisce on holiday traditions and begin to plan your holiday shopping list. No one does Christmas quite like the Europeans and you will be sure to find a wealth of inspiration after reading about each and every one of these magical experiences.
Perhaps one or more will find their way onto your list of things to do this holiday season!
Christmas Markets in Europe you must visit!
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Routinely heralded as one of the best of the best Christmas markets in Europe, Tallinn in the country of Estonia is the perfect mix of everything that makes a Christmas market truly magical.
Surrounded on all sides by some of the most well preserved Medieval architecture in northern Europe, the Old Town of Tallinn is home to the annual Christmas market. Scores of people visit from all over Europe as well as the world to take advantage of the sights and sounds of this Estonian market during the Tallinn winter season.
From bright Christmas lights to large Christmas trees as well as dozens of stalls selling unique and one of a kind handicrafts, the experience at this market will be sure to get you in the holiday spirit. Classic holiday treats like gingerbread and mulled wine will keep the chill at bay as you stroll through the magical square dressed in all of it’s holiday finery.
An added bonus for the Tallinn Christmas market is that snowfall is a regular occurrence in the region, so the picturesque qualities of the area will be magnified by the snowfall that covers everything in a blanket of white.
From quaint canals to pastel-hued timber houses that date back to the Medieval era, Colmar in the Alsace region of France is another area that hosts one of the best Christmas markets in Europe.
Stalls line the picture-perfect streets and Christmas trees and Nativity scenes fill the nooks and crannies to create a magical winter wonderland of traditional holiday amusement. Santa himself will make an appearance along the narrow canals in a quintessentially Colmar display of holiday spirit.
Gondolas ferrying a chorus of children singing carols is also a popular event not to miss at this festive holiday bazaar!
Whether you visit for the traditional cuisine or the historic sites dressed in holiday lights, Colmar will be sure to fill you with the Christmas spirit throughout the entire month of December.
The markets spread out over the streets and squares, selling homemade treats and items that will find a place on your holiday gift giving list. Even if you aren’t there for the shopping, meandering through the streets and alleys lit by dazzling light displays will be sure to make Christmas memories that last a lifetime.
Standing amid the stunning architecture of the city squares of Riga, Latvia is another one of the most popular Christmas markets in Europe.
Cobbled streets lead to quaint candy-cane colored market stalls hawking wares from knit goods to carved kitchen utensils with a little bit of everything in between! Be sure to stock up on these one of a kind, artisanal wares to bring home as Christmas gifts!
Written evidence claims that the first ever official Christmas tree was erected here in the early 1500s, and the tradition has stuck with the city ever since!
The glittering lights decorating the city among the many festively decorated trees lining streets and squares alike will have you feeling the warmth of the Christmas spirit in no time! Hand-made ornaments by artisan crafters are found throughout, making for the perfect souvenir to bring home from your holiday adventures abroad.
Filled with Medieval architecture and charming half-timber buildings, this popular Christmas market in Germany exemplifies everything that appeals to the masses around the holiday season!
Twinkling lights, festive trees, visits from Santa Claus and a market that dates back over 5 centuries, the Christmas market in Rothenburg, Germany includes many of the familiar sights, smells and sounds from bygone eras of holiday celebration.
Stroll through the stalls amid the scents of mulled wine and roasted chestnuts, bask in the glory of the brightly lit Christmas tree and select a few gifts from among the dozens of stalls lining the squares and streets and you too will feel like you have been transported back in time to the nostalgic days of yore.
The lavish and nostalgic German holiday traditions are known world-wide and experiencing it first hand at the Rothenburg Christmas market will surely create memories that will last a lifetime.
Boasting well over a hundred wooden chalets serving as the shopping stalls for this holiday spectacle, the markets of Lyon, France are often ranked among the top places to visit when looking for the best Christmas markets in Europe.
Each of the chalets is decorated in twinkling lights, standing alongside similarly well-trimmed Christmas trees and historic architecture.
You will find plenty of things to do to keep you busy when you aren’t browsing the wares at the multitude of holiday gift stalls. From visits with Santa to a ride on the ferris wheel, children and the young at heart will find plenty of delightful events to inspire the holiday spirit! Don’t miss out on any of the classic French delicacies of the Christmas season found throughout the market space. You will probably want to buy two so you have some to take home after undoubtedly eating the first one on the spot!
Prague, Czech Republic
Boasting the bragging rights of both the largest and the oldest of Christmas markets in all of Germany, this holiday mainstay event will be sure to fill your itinerary with plenty of holiday-inspired things to do.
With well over 250 different stalls, each selling a myriad of wares from homegoods to handicrafts, as well as a healthy dose of sweet treats, you won’t want to miss this festive and sprawling event!
Dating back to the late 1400s, this market seems to fit right in alongside the history architecture of this German city.
Among this old world charm, you’ll also find plenty of opportunities to embrace the classic Bavarian Christmas traditions.
A large ferris wheel looks out over the tidy rows of market stalls, each one dripping in holiday decor that will be sure to inspire the Christmas spirit in anyone who visits!
The tree-lined streets and squares of this European city perfectly lend themselves to the lavish Christmas markets that begin popping up in early December.
The boughs of the trees overhead as well as those lining the outskirts of the square are all hung with bright, twinkling lights.
Add to that the charm of the historic architecture found around every turn and you will soon understand why Basel Switzerland is home to one of the most popular Christmas markets in Europe!
The cold and occasionally snowy conditions combine with the festive atmosphere to create a perfectly suited holiday experience.
A giant Christmas pyramid as well as dozens of lavishly decorated market stalls all dripping with lights and decor compliment the equally festive trimmings on the trees and buildings surrounding the old city center.
Warm up beside a fire with some mulled wine and delicious Swiss chocolates and you will feel like you have been transported to a winter wonderland!
Easily ranking at the top of most lists of the best Christmas markets in Europe, the markets in Budapest are a feast for the eyes year after year.
Filling the square in front of the grand Cathedral, this market is flooded with artisan wares, gift ideas, souvenirs and enough food to feed an army or two.
Chimney cakes and roast chestnuts, hot cocoa and mulled cider as well as sweet treats galore are a feast for the senses and will keep you fueled up as you explore the dozens of markets.
Overlooking the courtyard is the grand Cathedral, illuminated with projections of holiday lights and imagery.
Standing prominently in the center is a massive Christmas tree covered in lights and from the top of it, a web of light strands stretch out to illuminate the entire square from above. Dress warm so you can take advantage of the ice skating rink that encircles the entire base of this tree!
Boasting a massive ice skating rink amid dozens of market stalls, all of which are surrounded by the magnificent facades of the remarkable historic buildings of this city’s old city center, the Strasbourg Christmas market is one of the most well-known of the markets in Europe.
Much like any other market in Europe, you’ll find the mulled wine flowing and the chestnuts roasting to keep you warm throughout your exploration of the city and browsing of the goods for sale.
Strasbourg is home to one of the oldest Christmas markets in France and with the heavy influence of German traditions in the region, has some of the most recognizable images and customs synonymous with Christmas the world over.
From the timber-frame facades of the tall buildings to the Christmas trees peppering the market square, twinkling lights will be found throughout the area, making for a bright and festive holiday experience at one of the best Christmas markets in Europe.
The boulevards and squares of Vienna Austria are already considered some of the most beautiful in all of Europe, so when the holiday season comes along and the decorations begin to trim each and every building and tree, the beauty is magnified tenfold.
Baked goods and candies fill the numerous stalls, where you can stroll with mulled wine or hot chocolate to take in all the high-quality handcrafted wares available for your Christmas shopping needs.
Among the shopping there is also plenty of activities to keep the whole family entertained. Ice skating is an incredibly popular pastime and you’ll be able to spend additional time enjoying the large number of workshops and experiences geared toward children of all ages.
But merely taking in the sights and sounds of this breathtaking city at Christmas time is enough of a joy all on its own. Every inch seems to be decorated, from the charming wooden stalls to the grand churches and palaces throughout. Of course you will hear Christmas carols in plenty. Vienna is after all, the City of Music!
Europe is the classic inspiration for Christmas traditions throughout the world and the wealth of Christmas markets in Europe is a testament to that long-standing influence on the holiday season.
Each one is different and unique, not only in location but also in what is available inside. Filled with artisan works, handmade goods, regional cuisine and unique decor, each market is a cross section of the people who live and work in each of these historic and breathtaking cities. Still, the traditions of days gone by tie them together with the special traditions that make these markets so memorable.
If you are looking for a unique and lasting experience to celebrate the holiday season, be sure to add one of these top ten Christmas markets in Europe to your holiday bucket list so you too can see why these experiences are so widespread throughout the continent!
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*Dislaimer: this post is written in collaboration with Allianz Travel Insurance. As always, opinions are entirely my own.
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Every market looks beyond awesome. Such charm in these places.