It's the most wonderful time of the year! The holidays are upon us and that means it's time to start planning your trip to one of Europe's best Christmas markets. Whether you're looking for traditional German markets or something a little more off the beaten path, we've got you covered. Read on for our list of the best Christmas markets in Europe where the aromas of cinnamon, gingerbread and mulled wine fill the crisp winter air.
“You men and women who were once children too, be children again,” says the Christkind, as it greets its guests on Nuremberg’s Main Market Square to open the Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt. That you will!
The Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt is one of the oldest and most famous Christmas Markets in the world - the pre-Christmas fair can be traced back to the middle of the 16th century! Soak up the festive Bavarian atmosphere, stroll the romantic illuminated lanes and be sure to try the delicious Nuremberger gingerbread and Spekulatius almond cookies!
Every year at Christmas time, the Römerberg, Frankfurt’s famous old town centre, is transformed into a magical winter wonderland. The elaborate stands, the huge sparkling Christmas tree and the traditional advent carol singing create a unique Christmas ambiance.
The market's history has been traced back to 1393 when it was traditionally accompanied by the performance of ecclesiastical mystery plays, which were also held on the Römerberg. Be part of the long history, grab a cup of hot apple wine and enjoy Frankfurt's festivities!
If you're looking for a festive atmosphere and beautiful surroundings, look no further than Vienna. The city's main market is spread out in front of the magnificent City Hall, but there are also numerous other smaller markets scattered throughout Vienna.
The Christmas markets in Vienna are an age-old tradition, where glistening lights, seasonal treats and the scent of roasted chestnuts will certainly get you into the spirit of the season!
Prague, Czech Republic
Postcard pretty Prague is perfect for the festive season. If you’re looking for an intimate Christmas market experience, head to Prague’s Old Town Square. This small but mighty market is located in front of the iconic Astronomical Clock and features beautifully decorated wooden huts selling handmade gifts and traditional Czech dishes like trdelnik (a spiraled pastry dusted with sugar and cinnamon).
Scotland's capital city is truly magical during the festive season. Nestled in the heart of the city, the traditional Christmas Market in Princes Street Gardens showcases the best in local artisanal festive products. Street food vendors offer a selection of Scottish drinks and delicacies (mulled Irn-Bru anyone?) alongside traditional Bavarian produce - everything you could want to get in the festive spirit!
After dark, head to the Royal Botanic Garden to be captivated by awe-inspiring light installations.
Strasbourg holds the title of “Capital of Christmas” for good reason. For the four weeks of the Christmas Market Strasbourg is imbued with an enchanting festive atmosphere. The city's streets are beautifully decorated with twinkling lights and festive garlands, the shop windows sparkle and the smells of Christmas waft through the air.
The Christmas markets in Strasbourg spread out across the centre of the town, focused around Cathedral square and Place Broglie, providing a magical backdrop. At thirty metres high the beautifully decorated Christmas tree on Place Kléber Square makes for an enchanting centrepiece.
The Dresden Striezelmarkt is one of the oldest Christmas markets in Germany and certainly pulls out all the festive stops. A unique Christmas atmosphere awaits in the heart of the city's historic old town with thousands of dazzling lights, more than 200 gorgeously decorated chalet stands selling everything from wooden decorations to traditional stollen and the world’s largest Christmas pyramid!
Beautiful Salzburg comes into its own at Christmas. The Salzburg Christkindlmarkt at the Dom and Residenzplatz is one of the world’s oldest Advent markets. Around 100 stalls make up this market where you can expect all kinds of delectable treats in the form of Austrian specialties, mulled wine and hot punch!
For optimum Christmas cheer, join the sing along choral concerts in front of the cathedral, guided Christmas tours and readings of Christmas stories for children.
If you’ve never considered heading to Croatia for Christmas, you’re missing a trick. As the night falls, Zagreb lights up with Christmas magic and a festive feast awaits! The food stalls offer a wide variety of delicious international favourites and local delicacies, such as kobasice (homemade pork sausages), sarma (cabbage leaves stuffed with minced meat, rice, and spices) and fritule (small fried balls of dough dusted with powdered sugar). For the perfect stocking filler be on the look out for licitars - colourful and elaborately decorated biscuits. In 2010, UNESCO added the Gingerbread craft from Northern Croatia to the "Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage" for Croatian culture.
In addition to the tasty treats and charming stalls offering artisan products and handicrafts, there is a packed programme of concerts, activities and the ice skating rink at King Tomislav Square.
These are just a few of the best Christmas markets in Europe where the sights, sounds, and smells of the holidays come alive!
When the new year rolls around, the festivities and markets may be coming to an end but the festive cheer doesn't have to - get planning your next European trip! If you're looking for some travel inspiration be sure to check out our curated travel itineraries in our Discover library.