Europe at Christmas is a magical place to be. In towns and cities across the region, Christmas markets bring joy and festive delight. Almost every European country has its own version of a Christmas market, where you can find local products, authentic food, and fantastic gifts. Beautiful cities such as Prague, Paris, and Rome look even more wonderful under a blanket of soft snow, illuminated by twinkling lights. If you want to find the best places to experience this festive tradition, check out our guide to the best Christmas markets in Europe.
Christmas markets in France
Paris Christmas markets
France’s gorgeous capital is also known as The City of Lights, and at no time is this more apt than in the run-up to Christmas. Across the city, 15 to 20 beautiful markets pop up, with wooden huts, mulled wine, and carols setting the festive tone.
One of the most beautiful Christmas markets in Paris is the Magie de Noel. It’s the biggest Christmas market in the city, stretching from Rue des Pyramides to Place de la Concorde. It’s also the most popular, attracting around 13 million people each season. Half Christmas carnival, half Christmas market, attractions include an enormous Ferris wheel, carnival rides, and ice skating. There are also stalls selling local artisan goods and gifts and delectable French food. All that shopping is hungry work, and Magie de Noel has food stands to satisfy any festive fancy. Steaming vats of French onion soup, hot mulled wine, and roasted chestnuts are some of the most popular and authentic Paris Christmas market snacks.
Entry to the Magie de Noel is free, but make sure that you take plenty of cash with you. With so many beautiful souvenirs and gifts on offer, there’s no chance of you leaving the market empty-handed! It’s easy to reach on The Metro, simply get off at Concorde or Tuileries.
Strasbourg Christmas market
Known as the Capital of Christmas, Strasbourg is the place to be during the festive season. Strasbourg Christmas market is a hub of seasonal spirit, where beautiful light displays illuminate the city streets. Strasbourg has long been recognized as Ville et Métiers d’Art, or an Artistic and Trades City, and the Christmas market is a fantastic place to explore local artisan food and produce. If you’re looking for a unique and special gift or memento, the Strasbourg Christmas market is a good place to get it.
Strasbourg Christmas market runs for a month, from the 26th November to the 26th December (2021). It takes place in Grande Île, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known across France for its historic beauty. Strasbourg Christmas market is one of the oldest in Europe and has over 300 wooden chalet stalls to shop at. There is festive food and drink available through the market.
The best Christmas markets in Germany
Cologne Christmas market
German markets don’t come more iconic than the one in Cologne. The sprawling festive event takes over the entire Old Town. Most visitors start under the impressive Cologne Cathedral and explore the market clusters from there. Although Cologne Christmas Market is technically one event, there are smaller, unique markets within it, all with their own atmosphere and individual charms.
The House Elves’ Winter Fairytale Christmas Market (Heinzels Wintermärchen) is one of the most magical spots in Cologne. It is intricately decorated in a storybook theme, taking inspiration from Germany’s famous fairytale folklore. Another unique highlight is Heavenue. Cologne has long been the gay capital of Germany, and this fun and vibrant market celebrates that heritage. There are the usual stalls and stands selling gifts and goods, but this part of the market is one to save for late in the evening. After dark, there is music, food, drink and a lot of fun to take part in.
Frankfurt Christmas market
Frankfurt’s dreamy Christmas market winds through the city’s charming cobbled streets, surprising and delighting visitors at every turn. The market is open from 15th November to 22nd December (2021 dates) except for Sunday 21st November, when it’s closed for Totensonntag. As in Cologne, Frankfurt Christmas Market is one big event split into individual clusters, with distinct themes and atmospheres.
The Christmas Market at Römerberg is the center of festivities. Traditional stalls are surrounded by a square of historic timber-framed buildings and bedecked in twinkling fairy lights. One of the best things about festive celebrations in Germany is Christmas market food, and Frankfurt is the place to sample some. Wurst is the quintessential German market snack. Tucked into a pillow of bread and smothered in any sauce you can imagine (try currywurst for something truly authentic), a German sausage is the perfect warming pick-me-up while you’re exploring the stalls. Another must-try food in Frankfurt’s Christmas Market is traditional gingerbread or lebkuchen. These tasty treats are available from stalls across the market and can be had dipped in chocolate, plain, or with an iced message. They make fantastic gifts, and you can get them boxed up to take home.
Berlin Christmas markets
Germany’s capital is a buzzy cultural hotspot at any time of the year, but during the Festive Season, it becomes even more vibrant, with a large choice of eclectic and exciting Christmas markets across Berlin. Most of Berlin’s Christmas markets open for business on 22nd November (2021) and close at the end of December, or, in some cases, early January. The Christmas market on Alexanderplatz is one of the brightest and most extravagant festive events in Berlin. Equal part market, funfair, and party, this traditional market is one of the most popular, where festive fun and shopping combine for an epic night of entertainment. For something a little magical, head over to Britz Palace for the cozy and whimsical Nordic Fairytale Christmas Market. Along with stalls selling delicious food and local handicrafts, you can also take part in activities such as dog sledding, Viking boat exploration, and archery.
Munich Christmas market
Munich is one of Germany’s oldest and most traditional cities, so it makes sense that it’s home to a wonderfully authentic Bavarian Christmas market. The Munich Christmas market at Marienplatz dates all the way back to the 14th century, and the stunning backdrop of the neo-Gothic town hall makes it feel as though you’ve stepped into a history book when you visit. Not only is the Munich Christmas market at Marienplatz home to charming traditional Bavarian stalls and stands selling all manner of goods and crafts, but it’s also the place to see the largest Kripperlmarkt in Germany. Translated as a ‘Manger Market’, this is the place to find all types of Nativity figures and decorations.
Vienna Christmas market
Vienna is one of the most romantic cities in the world, and it becomes even more magical during the winter months. Starting in November, Vienna Christmas markets fill the streets with merriment and festive joy. Christkindlmarkt on the Rathausplatz is the biggest Christmas market in Austria and is the best place to experience the magical feel of the Austrian Holiday season. Steaming cups of gluhwein and plates piled high with strudel are on hand to warm you up as you peruse stalls filled with gifts and souvenirs. The market is made even more amazing by the backdrop of the illuminated City Hall, bedecked in twinkling Christmas lights. Being Vienna’s most popular Christmas market, expect crowds at Christkindlmarkt, the excited hum of festive shoppers only adds to the wonderful atmosphere.
Prague Christmas markets
There are few places more charming than Prague. The beautiful Bohemian city is pretty atmospheric at any time of year, but during the festive season, it has an incredible feeling which cannot be replicated. In 2021, the markets are open every day from 27th November to 6th January 2022. The epicenter of the markets is in Wenceslas Square and the historic Old Town Square, and the best Christmas markets in Prague can be found around these areas. There are also beautiful, smaller markets across the city, on both sides of the Vltava River. Prague Christmas markets are all very traditional, with pretty wooden huts decorated with lights and holly. Hand-made gifts, local food, and Bohemian glassware are some of the things for sale.
Christmas markets in Belgium.
It might be a small country, but when it comes to festive celebrations, don’t underestimate Belgium! Christmas markets spring up across the country from November, each with a unique atmosphere and joyful Christmas feeling. For a magical, fairytale-like experience, head to Bruges Christmas market. As soon as the temperature starts to fall, Bruges rolls out the Christmas cheer. This beautiful little city is resplendent over the Festive Season, with twinkling lights decorating the charming buildings, and wooden huts selling delicious Belgian food and drink, as well as trinkets and decorations that would love just lovely on your Christmas tree.
Christmas markets in Italy
Italy is a wonderful vacation destination, where there are diverse regions and cities with unique histories and cultures. This is reflected in Italy’s Christmas markets, which can be found throughout the country. Markets aren’t confined to the major cities such as Rome and Florence. In fact, some of the best Christmas markets in Italy are the smaller, authentic ones found in smaller towns. For a traditional Tuscan experience, the Siena Christmas market is a beautiful event, held in the central Piazza del Campo. The market has a distinctly Medieval feeling, aided by the enigmatic backdrop of Siena’s central square. The ‘Mercato del Campo’ takes place on 7th and 8th December. It’s a great market for history buffs. The theme is a reenactment of markets as they would have been in the Middle Ages.
There are also Roman Christmas markets in Italy’s capital city. Markets in Rome take place in and around the city’s most famous attractions. You’re guaranteed some stunning views while you do your festive shopping. One of the most famous is the Christmas market at the Piazza Navona, near Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers. Traditional gifts, toys, and food are all on offer here, from the 8th of December until the 6th of January.
Switzerland Christmas markets
Switzerland is one of the most Christmassy countries you could ever visit. Some of the most stunning cities on the continent of Europe take on an even more magical air during the festive season. In December in Switzerland, charming Christmas markets pop up left, right, and center.
One of the best Switzerland Christmas markets is also the oldest in the country. The beautiful Swiss city of Basel has a market with over 180 stalls. It is great for hand-crafted gifts, particularly traditional wooden items. It opens on 27th November and runs until 23rd December.
For another beautiful city in Switzerland, the Christmas market in Lausanne is open from 18th November until 31st December. Lausanne does Christmas markets a little differently, where, instead of traditional wooden huts and chalets, they offer something more contemporary. The city is famous for the dazzling light shows that are part of its festive celebrations. There’s a section of the market dedicated to local produce. It’s worth visiting to get an authentic taste of the region.
One of Switzerland’s most famous cities is Zurich, and it puts on a great show at Christmastime. The main Christmas market in Zurich is in the heart of the city, near the central station (on Bahnhofstrasse). Wooden huts adorned with Christmas lights line the streets, and vendors selling local goods, gifts, and traditional gluhwein clamor to part you from your Francs. The market is the most popular in Zurich and gets very busy at night, so for serious shopping, try to arrive early in the day.
Book your European vacation home
Take in the beautiful festive feel of Europe at Christmas on a festive vacation. Booking your rental home with Top Villas means that you will experience Europe’s Christmas markets in luxury. There are also a whole host of fabulous Travel Extras on offer. It’s never been easier to bring a bit of festive cheer into your vacation. We have beautiful vacation homes to rent across Europe (and worldwide), in fantastic destinations including France, Spain, and Italy. Book online today, or contact our awesome team for more information.