Head to one of these markets in the run-up to Christmas and experience all the delights the season has to offer
Many of us love a good Christmas market with rows of charming chalets selling a myriad of handcrafted items and artisanal food products. The atmosphere gets you into the Christmas spirit right away. And if you are looking for a Christmas market to visit this December, check out markets in these 10 European cities.
1. Dresden, Germany
The pinnacle of Germany’s already impressive Christmas celebrations, Dresden’s Striezelmarkt has been going since 1434 and it remains one of the most popular in the world, with over 2.5 million visitors enjoying the festivities every year. Hundreds of elaborately decorated stalls sell artisan goods, mulled wine and German specialties such as stollen (a fruit bread that was once known as stroczel, and is the source of the market’s name), pretzels and bratwurst.
Opening dates: 27 November – 24 December.
2. Budapest, Hungary
Set in Vörösmarty Square in the heart of the city, Budapest’s Christmas market has over 100 quaint wooden stalls offering quality handcrafted goods. There are also numerous food and drink stalls offering traditional fare such as goulash, gingerbread and chimney cakes (tall, tube-shaped cakes covered in caramelised sugar), as well as some delicious alternatives to mulled wine (look for blackcurrant rum punch). If the lights don’t give away the location, then just follow the smell of warm cinnamon and honey cakes.
Before you go, use our Budapest travel guide to help you plan your trip.
Opening dates: 8 November – 1 January.
3. Copenhagen, Denmark
Head to the Tivoli Gardens amusement park in Copenhagen for a Nordic Christmas, where goods include Christmas decorations, artisan products and deli fare. The programs are truly heroic – expect Santa in this grotto in the Pantomime Theatre, sing along with the Tivoli Lucia Parade (featuring a choir made up of 100 girls), watch Youth Guard’s Christmas Parade, enjoy a daily light shows taking place in the centre of the vast lake, to name but a few.
Before you go, check out our useful Copenhagen travel guide.
Opening dates: 16 November – 31 December.
4. Bath, UK
Join hundreds of thousands of visitors at Bath Abbey in Bath’s city centre, where over 150 stalls in the shape of wooden chalets sell mainly locally produced goods. Most of the vendors are from the surrounding area and the emphasis is on traditional British products. Items available include crafts and toys as well as cheeses, pickles and wine – there is even a vegan food chalet. Carol singers and thousands of twinkling lights give a decidedly festive feel, and if that doesn’t do it for you then the stunning Georgian architecture will.
Opening dates: 28 November – 15 December.
5. Seville, Spain
The Christmas season lasts longer in Spain than anywhere else, as Spanish children must wait until Three King’s Day on 6 January to receive their presents. Like other European cities, Seville has a few markets for you to shop around, but arguably the most important one is Mercado Navideño de Artesanía de Sevilla on Plaza Nueva. This market showcases handcrafted goods by local artisans. Another one worth checking out is Feria del Belén on La Avenida de la Constitución, this is the place to buy figurines and background materials for the nativity scenes that are so ubiquitous around the country.
The temperatures in Seville are rather pleasant in December with an average high of 16°C (61°F), but it can also get quite wet so bring a raincoat with you. To find out more about Seville, check out our Seville travel guide.
- Mercado Navideño de Artesanía de Sevilla: 17 December – 5 January.
- Feria del Belén: 12 November – 23 December.
6. Helsinki, Finland
As you might expect, Father Christmas’ home country celebrates the season with great enthusiasm, and there is a very high chance it will be done under a layer of snow. Over 120 wooden huts on Senate Square, in the centre of the town, sell handcrafted goods at surprisingly reasonable prices. Fortify yourself with the Finnish version of mulled wine, Glögi, which often comes with a sprinkle of almonds and raisins, plus a dash of vodka. Apart from the Christmas market, the Christmas illuminations along Aleksanterinkatu – the official Christmas street – are so Instagram-worthy that your pictures will certainly receive many likes.
Before you go, check out our Helsinki travel guide.
Opening dates: 6 December – 22 December.
7. Vienna, Austria
The history of Christmas markets here can be traced back to 1298 when King Albert I of Germany granted the locals permission to hold a December market. The event progressed over time and today, there are around 20 Christmas markets in Vienna alone. While you could try visiting them all, you definitely cannot miss out the centrepiece – the Viennese Dream Christmas Market on Rathausplatz against the magnificent backdrop of the City Hall. As well as offering a myriad of gift items and Christmas decorations, it also allows you to indulge in roasted chestnuts and traditional Christmas punch (Weihnachtspunsch), which is made with tea, spices, sugar and spirits (mainly rum and brandy).
If you are looking for other activities to do in Vienna, this post “Vienna in December” may make a good read.
Opening dates: 15 November – 26 December.
8. Maastricht, Netherlands
Events in this charming Dutch city centre are held around Vrijthof Square and include ice-skating and a Ferris wheel, as well as stalls selling gifts and Christmas decorations. If you are looking for an off-beat Christmas market, head 14km (9 miles) east to the town of Valkenburg and visit its splendid underground Christmas market in the Town Cave (Gemeentegrot).
- Maastricht: 29 November – 31 December.
- Valkenburg: 15 November – 5 January.
9. Tallinn, Estonia
Legend has it that the Town Hall Square was the site of the first-ever Christmas tree in 1441, and though it remains a debated subject, it has not stopped the Estonians carrying on the tradition with gusto. The market itself has stalls in little wooden houses selling typically Estonian products and cuisine (black pudding, gingerbread, sour cabbage and hot Christmas drinks). There is also a merry-go-round and a stage where folk performances take place.
Before you go, check out our Tallinn travel guide.
Opening dates: 15 November – 7 January.
10. Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is renowned for its Christmas Markets, with the main ones held on Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square, each only a five-minute walk away from the other. Both have large, brightly illuminated Christmas trees and stalls selling glassware, toys, candles and dolls dressed in traditional costume. Highlights include carol singing, dance performances and workshops for kids.
Before you go, check out our Prague travel guide.
Opening dates: 30 November – 6 January.
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