Can you believe Christmas is just a week away !? I’m sure you can already feel it in the air, as everyone around you seems to go into that cheerful, holiday mood, with lovely Christmas decorations, gifts, sparkling lights and the sound of traditional carols wherever you go.
If you still haven’t decided what to do for this year’s holidays, don’t worry, there’s still time, and a short Christmas market break with your family or close friends probably sounds like the best thing in the world right now.
From the fairy-tale Christmas markets in Germany to the winter wonderland in Finland and other charming cities around Europe, Christmas gets a new meaning when you’re enjoying it in one of these magical places. That’s exactly why today we’ve decided to make a list with the 25 most beautiful Christmas markets in the world. Time for a festive mini break!
One of Italy’s best kept secrets is the mesmerizing town of Bolzano, nestled in the South Tyrol province up north, right next to the Italian Alps. Here you can find the biggest Christmas market in Italy, taking place every single year in Piazza Walther, a picturesque setting with medieval vibes that just seems to complement this dreamy Christmas market.
For a little over a month, festive aromas fill the center and streets of South Tyrol’s regional capital, with romantic lamps and flickering candles turning this city into a magical realm. Bolzano’s Christmas market has a different theme every single year and various events related to that theme are being held right in the town’s center.
If you’re planning to enjoy some Swedish delights this Christmas, the Old Stockholm is definitely the place you should visit this season. The first Christmas market in Sweden was actually held right there, in the Stortorget Square, around 500 years ago and the modern event seems to take you back in time as well.
Located right in front of the Nobel Museum and close to the Royal Palace, the Christmas Market in Stockholm will impress you with cheerful stands that sell anything from sweets and smoked sausages to mulled wine, decorative arts and reindeer and elkmeat. Yep, you’ve read that correctly, elkmeat and it’s all happening in Stockholm.
If you don’t have the opportunity to travel to Europe these days, you could always visit the largest and for me the most beautiful Christmas market in the United States. Chicago’s Christmas Market was actually inspired by the one from Nuremberg (that’s also on this list), with lots of traditional German goods up for sale and the same festive atmosphere.
At the lovely stalls from Chicago you can try out Currywurst, Thuringer or Frankfurter sausages, among many other traditional delicacies from Germany that just seem to go hand in hand with a hot drink. The Christmas Market in Chicago also offers all kinds of gifts from the Black Forest region, like wood carvings, glass ornaments or cuckoo clocks.
But if you really want to get the best out of a German tradition, you totally have to visit one of the most mesmerizing small towns in Germany, Rothenburg ob der Tauber. The town’s Christmas Market (Reiterlesmarkt) dates back to the 15th century and every year since then this gorgeous medieval city is transformed into a dreamy winter’s fairytale.
The smell of mulled wine and roasted almonds will make you go gaga and the traditional music, extraordinary buildings and cool Christmas lights will make you wanna buy a place here and never move out.
The only reason I’ve liked the movie In Bruges was actually because I’ve seen a lot of awesome scenes with this beautiful city from Belgium in that film. But a couple of weeks before Christmas, the whole picture gets even better as charming stalls start to pop up on the Grote Markt square, overlooked by the majestic 13th-century Belfort.
The Christmas market in Bruges will be just the focal point of your trip here, as the entire medieval city is beautifully lit for the holidays. When the sun sets the entire city comes to life and the Christmas Market here will get you going with moulded Belgian chocolates, honey waffle biscuits and maybe a pint of local beer. Sounds great, right?
A visit to the snow-covered Tallinn in Estonia would be like a charming step back in time for many of us. Tallinn actually has the best preserved medieval city center in this side of Europe and locals have apparently raised a Christmas Tree in its Town Hall Square ever since 1441.
Christmas time is a lot more special in this walled own town, with the lovely small huts you see here selling local foods and handicrafts that you can’t find anywhere else. The Tallinn Christmas Market also has snow sculpture exhibitions and even a small mini zoo, with reindeer, lambs or goats, and the centrepiece of it all is definitely the gorgeous Christmas tree.
If this is the first time you’ve heard about the small town of Bath in the UK, don’t worry, you’re probably not alone. Located in the rolling countryside of England, this beautiful city is known for its natural hot springs and the historic Roman Baths and Bath Abbey, the place where every year the Christmas Market is held.
Over 150 wooden chalets packed with Christmas gifts and traditional foods pop up on the streets of this amazing town every December, right in the shadow of the Bath Abbey, which seems to complement the festive event. The Christmas Market in Bath is one of the most popular in the entire United Kingdom and that says a lot.
The magic of Christmas gets a new meaning in the charming small town of Colmar, in France, where the old town is beautifully illuminated and decorated every single year, looking exactly like the fairytale town you’ve been dreaming about.
This incredible atmosphere attracts thousands of tourists every year in the beautiful Alsace region of France and the mix of lovely architecture, light shows and Christmas events brings this city to life when December comes. The Christmas Market is actually held on a labyrinth of small cobblestone streets, lined with half-timbered medieval houses and small shops. Dreamy, isn’t it?
Helsinki also turns into a festive winter wonderland during the holidays, especially if it’s snowing a bit out there. Held in the Finnish capital’s Senate Square, the Christmas Market will impress you with over 100 booths selling Finnish delicacies, sweets and hand made crafts that would be perfect fits for your close ones.
The crisp white snow and the sparkling Christmas lights would be the best setting for a picture perfect Christmas photo and in case you want to see more, there are also many other smaller Christmas markets held in Helsinki, a Santa’s grotto that you totally have to visit and many cookie-decorative workshops that you should check out.
One of the most popular Christmas markets in France is the one from Lille, a city that sparkles and glows with joie de vivre every year in December. Picturesque wooden stalls, with regional specialties, fine arts and crafts, plus many other interesting things, take over the city’s Place Rihour, where people from all over the world gather together to celebrate Christmas.
You can feel the festive atmosphere in the entire city during this period and if you’re planning to have a lot of fun this Christmas, Lille is definitely one of the best places to visit.
Located right in the heart of Transylvania, Sibiu is a charming town where you can find one of the most beautiful Christmas markets in entire Eastern Europe. It’s a special place to spend Christmas, a city where the old architecture, crowded stalls and warm people form a wonderful atmosphere that will make you fall in love with this town instantly.
The entire main square is backlit to provide at awesome backdrop for this Christmas market, where you can find all kids of irresistible goodies, from mulled wine to local delicacies and hand-made souvenirs.
The City of Lights sparkles even more during this magical period of the year, that’s why enjoying Christmas in Paris is always a brilliant idea. There are many Christmas markets to choose from here, spread throughout the town, but the largest one stretches right along the Champs-Elysees, with the twinkling Eiffel Tower as a backdrop.
You’ll find here traditional holiday treats like mulled wine, gingerbread or sausages but you’ll also be able to try out some local French specialties and exquisite wines from various regions of France. You could also enjoy the famed Galette des Rois in Paris, a delicious cake that would make you feel like a king, at least for a couple of minutes.
Every December, Germany’s second largest city turns into a real life fairy tale, with 15 different markets ready to meet all your tastes. Of course, the most important of them all takes place right in the center of this mesmerizing historic port, in front of the imposing Hamburg Rathaus, where the rows of stalls will offer you anything from treats to crafts.
But if you move a couple of steps away from the city hall and main town square, you’ll find the Jungfernstieg market, focusing on bespoke gifts and German delights. There’s also a lovely Christmas market just by the water, called Fleetinsel, and if you’re over 18 you will surely love the Santa Pauli Market. The Hanseatic city has a ton of things to offer and I’m sure you’ll need more than just a short break to discover them all.
The city of Manchester also has more than just one Christmas market, actually featuring a massive Christmas market trail that’s spread across ten city sites in a festive show that seems to grow bigger and better with every year that goes by. Of course, the most important Christmas market in Manchester is the one held in Albert Square.
This market is not only the first, but also the biggest and most popular Christmas market in the entire United Kingdom, so that should give you a hint or two about how many visitors it attracts every year. You’ll find everything you want here, from traditional Christmas foods and decorations, to mulled wine and that perfect gift for your significant other.
Located in the town’s Cathedral Square, right in front of an imposing medieval church, Salzburg’s dreamy Christmas Market is centered around a two-story high avant-garde fountain that will remind you what year we’re in. If you look up you’ll see the incredible hilltop castle, that’s floodlit to provide the perfect backdrop for your Christmas here.
The small wooden huts are beautifully accompanied by choirs from all over the country who come here to perform traditional Christmas songs and carols and if you want to spend some money here, there are plenty of things to buy, from delicious chocolates and Christmas souvenirs to fine jewellery pieces. And if you don’t find what you’re looking for, don’t worry, Salzburg has a second Christmas Market, waiting for you in the Residence Square.
Believe it or not, Berlin has 80, yes you’re read that correctly, there are eighty different Christmas markets throughout Berlin and most of them are a must see. That’s why we can easily say Berlin is the capital of Christmas markets and the most important of them all is held beneath the spectacular Gedächtniskirche or Memorial Church.
Called the Weihnachtszauber Gendarmenmarkt, the main Christmas Market in Berlin feels like a live entertainment show, with jugglers, choirs, glassblowers, acrobats, fire artists and dance and music groups, making the atmosphere extremely electric here. In the lovely heated tens you see before, the country’s top chefs will delight your taste buds with haute cuisine accompanied by some hot drinks to keep you warm.
The oldest Christmas Market in Germany is actually the one held in Dresden, where the famous Striezelmarkt Christmas market has been around for almost 600 years, dating back to 1434. The name of the town’s Christmas market actually comes from a sweet delicacy called Hefestriezel, which is also known as the Dresden Christmas cake right now.
Apart from this frutty delight, there are more than 250 stalls offering probably anything you could ever imagine. With a beautiful backdrop of the River Elbe and thousands of twinkling lights, Dresden’s Christmas Market will feel like a winter wonderland the minute you get there.
Brussels’ Christmas Market is actually called Winter Wonders and guess what? There are plenty of wonders here that will make you love this place instantly, especially if you’re a big fan of rides and parades. There’s a massive Ferris wheel and an ice rink at Marché aux Poissons and you’ll find several merry-go-rounds on Place Sainte-Catherine, so you’ll have plenty of fun if you decide to spend Christmas in Brussels.
Of course, there are also dozens of stalls where you could find the perfect gifts or the right Christmas treats for you, set within a 2km trail. But Brussels is really famous for its cuisine and if you want to enjoy some Belgian chocolates, waffles and other delicacies, you should try out one of the many cosy restaurants nearby the center.
The Nuremberg Christmas market is also one of the oldest and one of the most famous markets in the entire world, held every single year in the town’s center since the 16th century. Called Christkindlesmarkt, the Christmas market here has kept many of its original traditions intact, like the opening of the market by the “Christkind”, who recites a festive prologue before the festive market is opened.
You will find many interesting things in Nuremberg’s Christmas market, like the fresh gingerbread called Nürnberger Lebkuchen, a local specialty that everyone seems to enjoy, or the Zwetschgenmännle, a small doll filled with nuts, raisins, figs and dried plums, that would be the perfect souvenir from Germany for your friends.
Tivoli Gardens is actually the world’s second oldest amusement park and also the place where the Copenhagen Christmas market is being held annually. Besides the wonderful winter wonderland stalls, the Tivoli Gardens are decked out with thousands of fairy lights and dozens of Christmas trees that all form a magical setting for this festive event.
The frozen lake turned ice skating rink is a wonderful attraction of this Christmas Market and the local food and drinks are a must try, especially the hot and spicy red wine drink called Glogg or Aebleskiver, accompanied by hot apple dumplings or a pan-friend cake. So if you want to get a real taste of Danish flavor, this is definitely the place to go.
Frankfurt’s sparkling Christmas market is also one of the oldest and largest markets in Germany, but its extraordinary location makes it stand out of the pack. Just look at the photos above and you’ll realize the unique scenery and atmopshere make Frankfurt’s Weihnachtsmärkte especially enchanting.
The scenic surroundings on the Römerberg and St Paul’s Square, plus the huge Christmas tree, make this Christmas market one of the world’s most beautiful. And apparently the mix of church bells and Christmas carols, with the smell of mulled wine, Feuerzangenbowle and roasted almonds will make you want to stay here forever.
Prague’s Old Town Square is a spectacular sight year round, but every December, the striking dark gothic skyline works like the perfect backdrop for Prague’s Christmas Market. Nestled in the heart of the Old town, the Christmas market comes with a massive tree and rows of beautifully decorated huts that sell anything from candles and crystals to medovina, a honey wine that will make you feel weak at the knees.
There’s also another dreamy Christmas market in the nearby Wenceslas Square, and the entire city seems to come to life with daily performances from choirs and folk bands. But if you want to listen to something truly special, you should totally check out a concert in one of Prague’s famed churches, like St. George’s Basilica or St. Clement’s Cathedral.
Year round, Strasbourg is a mesmerizing city to visit, with its extraordinary half timbered homes, cobbled streets and amazing landmarks and museums. But a couple of weeks before Christmas, the capital of Alsace, France, gets even more magical as the town’s renowned Christmas Market comes to life.
The Christkindelsmärik, as Strasbourg’s Christmas market is called, is also one of Europe’s oldest festive markets, being held for the 446th time in 2015, and dating back to 1570. It is also one of the largest in the world, with more than 300 wonderful chalet stalls located around the majestic Strasbourg Cathedral and in the old city center.
Dating back to 1294, the Old Viennese Christmas Market is held every year against the incredible backdrop of Vienna’s City Hall, which is beautifully adorned with festive lights. The market is actually called “Vienna Magic of Advent” because all these twinkling lights, on the City Hall, on the stalls and on the trees from the Rathauspark turn the entire area into a magical place.
Over the centuries, the Viennese Christmas Market has evolved with the town itself and now you can find everything you could possibly imagine here, from the finest gifts and decorations, to Viennese delicacies, mulled wine and crystallised fruit. The city’s magical Christmas market atmosphere is completed by the sound of international choirs singing carols that will make you want to stay here forever.
Last but not least, the beautiful city of Cologne offers not one, but seven dreamy Christmas Markets in total, four of them being really big and located in front of the Cologne Cathedral, on the Alter Markt, on the Neumarkt and on the Rudolfplatz.
Of course, we’re going to focus on the best of all, the Christmas market at the Cologne Cathedral, which is arguably the most extraordinary due to the huge backdrop of the majestic gothic cathedral that actually took 632 years to be completed.
This Cologne Christmas market also has the largest Christmas tree in the entire Rhineland, and every year the beautiful wooden stalls are set in a way that would look amazing even when seen from high above the Cathedral.