These Christmas markets are famous for a reason, and they’ve got us booking flights for the holidays. Shop handicrafts, pretty glass baubles for your tree at home, colourful fabrics, traditional toys, gorgeous pottery for all-year-round use, and lots of local food and drinks! And bring your cameras, because Christmas lights! ’Tis the season, people. Here are some of our favourites in Europe, in no particular order.
#1 Zagreb, Croatia
European Best Destinations named the Zagreb Christmas Market the Best Christmas Market for the third year running, as voted by the public. There’s plenty to shop, eat and drink, but you also shouldn’t miss ice-skating on King Tomislav Square and the highly anticipated Christmas Tale performance at the Central City Square.
When: 1 December 2018 – 6 January 2019
#2 Manchester, United Kingdom
Feast on fries and sip on mulled gin as you explore Manchester’s many Christmas markets, which are located all over the city centre. We recommend visiting them all according to the trail map, like your very own Christmas tour.
When: 9 November – 22 December 2018, 10am to night (various closing times)
#3 Birmingham, United Kingdom
The Frankfurt Christmas Market in Victoria Square is known as the largest authentic German Christmas market outside Germany and Austria. While you shop and eat, you can also enjoy live music performances that will be held in the square. While you’re there, also make a point to visit the brand new Christmas market near Birmingham Cathedral.
When: 15 November – 23 December 2018, 10am to 9pm
#4 Nuremberg, Germany
The Christkindlesmarkt on Hauptmarkt square, the largest Christmas market in Germany, is probably one of the most famous in the world. Over 180 stalls selling food and traditional handicraft will line the streets while brass ensembles and children’s choirs will entertain the crowd. The markets kick off on 30 November with an opening ceremony at 5.30pm. If you have little ones with you, prepared to be begged to let them have a go on the merry-go-round or mini steam train.
When: 30 November – 24 December 2018, 10am to 9pm (ends at 2pm on 24 Dec)
#5 Cologne, Germany
The market in front of Cologne Cathedral boasts over 160 stalls and what is claimed to be largest public Christmas tree in West Germany. It’s also a short drive away from Cologne’s oldest Christmas market: Angel’s Christmas Market in Neumarkt. The rows of stalls are decorated with lights, angels and stars hanging from above, so it looks like a magical village. PS. Santa Claus makes a weekly grand entrance on horseback!
When: 26 November – 23 December 2018, 11am to 9pm
#6 Brussels, Belgium
A ferris wheel is at the centre of Brussels’ Winter Wonders fair, which is worth spending hours at. There are over 200 stalls giving you a million reasons to stick around to peruse (one might also say pillage) festive goods in your warmest winter clothing. Complete the experience with a mug of mulled wine and maybe a stop at the Grand-Palace after sunset to watch the sound and lights show.
When: 30 November 2018 – 6 January 2019
#7 Tallinn, Estonia
Where else can you see 40,000 Christmas lights in one place? Tallinn’s medieval Town Hall Square will be extravagantly decorated by a huge tree, reindeer, and enough lights to make sure Santa doesn’t miss his stop!
When: 24 November 2018 – 6 January 2019, 10am to 7pm
#8 Colmar, France
There’s not one, not two, but six Christmas markets for you to explore this year in Colmar. Each are set in their own little ‘villages’ and thanks to the town’s quaint French wooden chalets, the festive vibe is turned up real high. One of the children’s choirs will sing in boats on the canal in the Little Venice district, if you can believe how magical it gets! Colmar placed second on the aforementioned 2018 Best Christmas Markets list.
When: 23 November – 30 December 2018, 10am to 7pm (Mon-Thurs), 10am to 8pm (Fri-Sun). Exceptions apply.
#9 Basel, Switzerland
It’s Switzerland’s Christmas capital! As per many European traditions, Basel will light up with a warm festive glow, with rustic wooden stalls, delicious Swiss food, and a whole line-up of pre-Christmas events ready to keep you busy. Remember these names: Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz. You shouldn’t miss the markets at these neighbouring squares.
When: 22 November – 23 December 2018, 11am to 8.30pm (exceptions apply)
#10 Prague, Czech Republic
There are a few markets scattered all over Prague, but two of the biggest are at Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square, which are a walking distance from each other. The national Christmas tree at Old Town Square is switched on at 4.30pm every evening. If you’re shopping, look out for beautiful hand-blown glass ornaments.
When: 1 December 2018 – 6 January 2019, 10am to 10pm
#11 Innsbruck, Austria
The medieval architecture of Innsbruck’s Old Town serves as the backdrop for this market. There’s a viewing platform from which to enjoy the sights of the stalls and busy Christmas shoppers in between your own sprees. Don’t miss the Christmas parade this 16 December at 5pm; it ends in front of the Tyrolean State Theatre, where a choir of 500 children will sing the classic Austrian carol, Silent Night. How epic is that?
When: 15 November – 23 December 2018, 11am to 9pm
#12 Vienna, Austria
Vienna itself is already very beautiful. Add Christmas cheer, and you get Christkindlmärkt’s 152 stands selling gifts and treats, with Christmas workshops, a carousel and ice-skating on the itinerary in front of the gothic City Hall building. While you’re there, it’s also worth checking out Christmas Village at the nearby Belvedere Palace, which is a short drive away from City Hall.
When: 16 November – 26 December 2018, 10am to 9.30pm (exceptions times apply)
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