10 Best Christmas Markets in Europe

By , December 20th, 2013

Christmas Markets are a popular tradition in Europe with some of the oldest markets originating in Germany back during the Middle Ages.  The markets represent everything magical and festive about the holiday season from elaborate Christmas trees to handmade crafts to hot mulled wine and delicious treats.  We’ve has compiled a list our 10 favorite, or truly the best Christmas markets in Europe to get help you get into the holiday spirit.

Vienna, Austria

Christmas Market Europe

A Viennese tradition. Photo by The Monkey CC BY

The Viennese Christmas market dates as far back to the 13th century and is named  the “Vienna Magic of Advent” due to the festive lights adorning the stalls, city hall, and the trees of the adjoining Rathauspark.  Visitors can enjoy the cheery sound of carolers and the smells of candied fruit and mulled wine while wandering through the 150 wooden stalls throughout the heart of Vienna.  Have little ones with you?  Take them on a pony ride through the park.

Strasbourg, France

Strasbourg Christmas Market

A tradition since the 16th century. Photo by francois schnell CC BY

The Christkindelsmärik in Strasbourg is France’s oldest Christmas market and has been around since 1570.  It spans several streets and squares of the city, including the famous Broglieplatz and Münsterplatz. Check out the beautiful arts and crafts, Christmas decorations, bredle (Alsatian Christmas cakes), and the beloved chocolate yule log. Make sure to visit Kleber Place to see the magnificent Christmas fir tree rising high above the street.   

Nuremberg, Germany

Oldest Christmas Market

One of the oldest Christmas markets in the world! Photo by Andy L CC BY

Dating back to the 16th century, the Nuremberg Christmas Market is one of the oldest and most popular markets in Germany.  Come hungry to sample the tasty grilled sausage, mulled wine, and fresh gingerbread.  A popular souvenir to bring home from the Nuremberg markets are the small dolls – Zwetschgenmännle – made from dried plums, nuts, raisins, and figs

Gothenburg, Sweden

Gothenburg Christmas Market

Christmas decoration stall. Photo by Luke Hayfield CC BY

Held at the Liseberg amusement park in Gothenburg, Sweden’s largest Christmas market boasts an impressive 5 million Christmas lights making it a real Winter Wonderland. Guests can walk through the themed areas, which include a medieval camp and a recreated Lapland, complete with real reindeer, Santa, and the northern lights. In addition to the 80 traditional Christmas shops and stalls, there is a designtornet (arts and crafts market)—making it easy to find the perfect gift. Make sure to try the Swedish candy cane (polkagrisar), smoked fish, and baked goods.  If you are really hungry, you may want to book a table at the Christmas buffet.

Salzburg, Austria

Salzburg Christmas Markets

Historic Salzburg comes alive with the holidays. Photo by Andrey Pshenichny CC BY

The Salzburg Christmas Market is centrally located in Residence Square in front of the picturesque Salzburg Cathedral.  The centerpiece is the 90-foot tall Christmas tree almost reaching the roofs of neighboring buildings. The market prides itself in the diversity of its items, from tree ornaments to traditional handicrafts and fine baked goods. Mulled wine is popular here, alongside punch, Salzburg pastries, and roasted chestnuts. Guests can enjoy performances by Salzburg choirs and children’s school groups throughout the festive period.

Leuven, Belgium

Leuven Christmas Market

Bright lights welcome visitors. Photo by Anton Raath CC BY

Leuven Christmas Market is located in the Herbert Hooverplein and adjacent Monseigneur Ladeuzeplein in the old city center.  The glittering white lights, a life-size nativity scene, musical performances, and fun fair rides entertain visitors of all ages.  If you have little ones, make sure to visit Father Christmas in the nearby forest.  If you’re a beer lover, the nearby Stella Artois brewery offers special tours throughout the Christmas season.

Wroclaw, Poland

Best Christmas Markets

Pastel buildings and Christmas cheer. Photo by Mandy CC BY

Wroclaw’s Christmas Market (or Jarmark Bozonarodzeniowy in Polish), begins on Swidnicka Street and runs through the market place to the old city.  Shop for handmade soaps, leather and wool goods, traditional Christmas sweets, tree decorations, and  kitschy souvenirs.  Make sure to visit on an empty stomach so that you can try regional specialties such as the oscypek hard cheese and international specialties such as Hungarian kolaches and Lithuanian sausages. There is also an outdoor rink for those who enjoy ice skating.

Maastricht, Netherlands

European christmas markets

Delicate Christmas decorations. Photo by Daxis CC BY

“Magical Maastricht” can be found in centrally located Vrijthof square, which is surrounded by churches, restaurants, and bars. Check out the ice rink in the center of the pavilion and the 200-foot-tall Ferris wheel with panoramic views of the city. The market specializes in locally sourced products—in particular, the traditional Dutch pancakes (poffertjes), to be enjoyed with butter and icing.

Hamburg, Germany

Best Christmas Markets

A cheery scene in Hamburg. Photo by Mark Michaelis CC BY

Germany is famous for its Christmas markets and the northern port city of Hamburg is no exception. The largest and most popular is located in the square outside Hamburg’s impressive town hall, boasting the motto “art instead of commerce.” It is operated by Roncalli’s Circus, with the traditional mulled wine (glühwein) served by clowns and circus artists. The market boasts a range of products from all over Germany, included gingerbread from Nuremberg and pottery from the Lausitz region. On each of the Saturdays leading up to Christmas, the Christmas parade attracts locals and visitors alike with decorated floats and festive music.  Search hotel deals here.

Merano, Italy

best Christmas markets

Tiny Christmas figurines. Photo by Matteo Paciotti CC BY

Italy’s Merano Christmas Market opens its doors for the 27th time this year. This market is renowned for its festive atmosphere and picturesque location alongside the Passer River promenade, with an Alpine mountain backdrop. Guests can browse the 80 stalls for their Christmas shopping and pick up trademark items such as sheep wool products, wooden toys, and felt slippers. Children will love the range of activities—including craft and cooking workshops, pony rides and Advent stories.  Search hotel deals here.

More European inspiration on trivago magazine:

The Weekend Jaunt Guide To Piedmont, Italy

The Hunt: Where To Wine And Dine In Istria

What To Expect At La Tomatina In Spain

*Cover image by Daxis CC BY