Picture yourself on a short break to a beautiful, historic town. Add to that some brightly decorated wooden stalls. Finally, imagine the aroma of freshly baked goods wafting through the crisp December air. What could be more Christmassy? The traditional European Christmas market has undoubtedly grown in popularity over the last few years. Whether it’s quirky handmade gifts or authentic local food and drink you’re after, there are plenty of places on the continent worth visiting. Every country’s market has a distinctively unique feel to it, so why not take a look at some of our highlights below and see what you are in the mood for?
Czech Republic – Prague
3rd December – 4th January
The fantastic, fairytale city of Prague is the perfect place to visit for that Christmas atmosphere. The markets take place in the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square where you will find wooden huts selling gifts such as toys, embroidered lace and decorations. When you feel hungry you won’t be far from the many stalls selling a variety of Czech food and drinks. Be sure to try the tasty sweet bread. In the afternoon listen to carols being sung in the Old Town Square under the giant Christmas tree. Don’t forget to visit the stunning Charles Bridge as you make your way up to the castle.
Sweden – Stockholm
19th November – 23rd December
This market started in 1837 and has been an ongoing tradition to the present day. In the Old Town Christmas Market, at Stortorget Square (close to the Royal Palace), you will find a range of traditional Swedish Christmas crafts, art, knitted caps, ornaments, hand dipped candles and much more. There is also a variety of Swedish foods to try out such as sausage, eel, salmon, pepparkakor (gingersnaps), glögg (mulled wine) and the famous saffron buns.
Sweden – Gothenburg
20th November – 30th December
Nicknamed ‘The Christmas City’, Gothenburg holds Sweden’s largest Christmas market. Liseberg Amusement Park has it all. With over 5 million lights, 700 Christmas trees, stalls selling traditional handicraft and decorations, tasty traditional food and even reindeer rides, Liseberg is definitely magical, traditional and authentic. When you have finished looking at the stalls, get your skates on and hit the ice rink at Tornet. There are other smaller markets at Haga, the Röda Sten Art Centre and at Gustaf Adolf’s Torg too.
Germany – Cologne
21st November – 23rd December
Cologne offers 7 markets for you to explore, the 4 biggest being located on the Rudolfplatz, on the Alter Markt, on the Neumarkt and at Cologne Cathedral. Beneath the cathedral you can find the biggest Christmas tree in Rhineland, 160 stalls selling arts and crafts and enjoy mulled wine out of your own festively decorated mug! You will be immersed in the aroma of baked apples, gingerbread and cinnamon as you stroll the streets. Stop and watch glass blowers and wreath makers at work on their stalls or visit the ice skating rink to work off those tasty treats! If you have children with you, there are plenty of toy stalls, a Santa’s grotto, a children’s carousel and puppet theatres to visit.
Germany – Rothenburg ob der Tauber
25th November – 23rd December
Rothenburg ob der Tauber, the town where Christmas can be experienced all year round, is home to one of the most charming and romantic Christmas Markets in Germany. Set in the stunning Medieval walls, this town has been left untouched for years giving it a truly magical feel, as if you have stepped back in time. This town even has its own Christmas museum which is well worth a visit. A local delicacy that you have to try is the ‘Schneeball’ (snow ball), made from strips of fried sweet dough and covered with powdered sugar or chocolate. The stalls sell lovingly crafted decorations and other treasures you will want to bring back for your friends and family.
France – Strasbourg
25th November – 31st December
The oldest Christmas market in Europe. First held in 1570 this Alsatian tradition has been going strong ever since. Advent celebrations are important and well established in Strasbourg, with a living Nativity and Advent concerts. There are 300 stalls decorated in lights, toys and angels, spread across the city selling a range of crafts, gifts and food. Don’t forget to go to ‘La Peitite France’, with its Christmas Shops and picturesque buildings. Make sure you stop at the gingerbread bakery as you wander through.
Austria – Innsbruck
15th November – 6th January
Innsbruck is home to 6 Christmas Markets, 200 stalls and a 14-metre-high Christmas tree. This beautiful, snow clad mountain city perfectly captures the essence of Christmas. The cobbled streets surrounding the famous Golden Roof in the old town are packed full of stalls selling gifts and food. You can watch fairytale performances from the travelling theatre wagon, say “hello” to old Saint Nick who will be visiting the different markets, view craft demonstrations in Hungerburg market and if you are there on the 20th December, a ‘must-see’ event is the Innsbruck Christkind Parade (Maria-Theresien-Street).
Denmark – Copenhagen
19th November – 31st December
Copenhagen’s Christmas market is known for being wonderfully authentic rather than commercial and tacky. You will be able to find chic decorations, knitted goods, leather craft and much more. The Tivioli Gardens turn into a beautiful Christmas grotto with Nisser (Christmas pixies) wondering around. The children (and young at heart), can enjoy watching Father Christmas in the 19th Century pantomime theatre, skate on the ice rink or try out one of the 27 rides in the amusement park.
Hungry – Budapest
Mid November – End of December
Preserving the time-honoured folk art, traditions and crafts is at the heart of the Budapest Christmas market. Not only can you buy beautiful hand made gifts, you can also stop off and watch puppet shows, sample some traditional street food, take in a Christmas concert, listen to a book reading, join a workshop or watch folk dancing on one of the stages in the markets. The most famous and popular Christmas market in Budapest is located at Vörösmarty Tér (Vörösmarty square).
For more inspiration www.christmasmarkets.com is a fantastic resource to help you find markets all over Europe. If you are visiting Europe this December or visiting a market closer to home, let us know in the comments. And if there’s a Christmas Market you would recommend, we’d love to hear about that too.