Here at Winetraveler, Christmas in Europe means one thing: mulled wine! And the best place to drink it is at a bustling Christmas market, while you pair it with local fare and peruse holiday decorations. Since holiday markets can be found in almost every European country, we’ve scoured the continent to bring you the best of the best — so prepare yourself for hot drinks, sugary sweets, holiday wares and lots of Christmas fun.
November 17 – December 26, 2018
While Vienna has a few different Christmas markets, the Christkindlmarkt at Rathausplatz comes complete with an ice rink, a carousel, a reindeer train, live music and stall upon stall selling beautiful homemade holiday wares. The glittering city hall is a backdrop to the festivities, and the space hosts indoor cookie making classes and workshops for kids.
December 1, 2018 – January 6, 2019
Zagreb’s holiday market used to be under-the-radar, but now more and more visitors are traveling to Croatia to visit one of Europe’s most exciting Christmas markets. The stalls along the Ban Josip Jelačić Square are brightly illuminated with a towering tree and the main fountain is revamped into holiday lights display. Weekends are celebrated with live music, and you can warm up in the heated conservatory space with food and drinks on a brisk evening.
November 26 – December 23, 2018
Cologne is the mecca of Christmas markets — there’s even an LGBTQ Christmas market to visit. But the most popular is the Old Market in front of the Town Hall. Legend explains that the ‘house gnomes’ were the Santa Elves of the market, helping to organize and set up the different themes of the many market stalls. Kids will delight in the puppet theater and of course, in visiting Santa Claus.
November 24 – December 30, 2018
With Strasbourg’s Christmas markets dating back to 1570, they’re some of the oldest on record in Europe. The city has actually deemed itself the “Capital of Christmas.” Strasbourg’s city center is walkable, so it’s best to hit up all the holiday spots on foot, exploring over 300 market stands located around the city. With specific areas set up for children, holiday street art and a special sustainable market area (the OFF market), the whole city is alive with the holiday spirit.
Prague, Czech Republic
December 1, 2018 – January 6, 2019
One of the most famous holiday markets in the world, this event, which takes place at Old Town Square is filled with laughter, music and fun. With traditional Czech treats, hand-carved ornaments and a nativity scene with real live animals, it’s a party for the whole family.
November 9 – December 23, 2018
Head to Albert Square to chow down on bratwurst, sip mulled wine, shop at over 100 stalls and see some impressive musical acts at Manchester’s main Christmas market. Last year’s lineup featured Pixie Lott and Yes Lad, and while it’s still unclear who will be performing this year, it will likely be fantastic. Make sure to stop at the Ice Village, which will have a frozen toy factory, Santa’s grotto and an ice bar for adults just half-mile down the road at Cathedral Gardens.
Various November and December dates
The city of Copenhagen certainly knows how to celebrate Christmas. With not one, but ten different markets, you can sip beer and tour the Carlsberg Brewery all decked out for the holidays at the Carlsberg market, or the visit glittering Hans Christian Anderson market, where all stalls are named every fairy tales and covered in lights. If you’d prefer to soak in some renaissance vibes, hit up the market located at the Kronborg Castle.
November 30, 2018 – January 6, 2019
Ever had a warm Belgium waffle on a snowy evening? Winter Wonders in Brussels has it all — delicious food, an ice rink, lights shows, a giant tree, over 200 stands for shopping and snacks and a ferris wheel. Plan to wear comfortable shoes and warm clothes — this market is over a mile and a half long — and can even be experienced on bike.
Select days between November 16 – December 30, 2018 (check official calendar)
Sweden’s largest Christmas market can be found at the Liseberg Amusement Park. The winter wonderland may just be the biggest holiday market in all of Scandinavia. The park covers their 18th century buildings and many trees with over five million lights, and kids can ride on reindeer-drawn carriages while parents hit the ice bar. Don’t forget to check out the ice ballet too.
November 30 – December 24, 2018
One of Germany’s most revered Christmas markets, Nuremberg’s Christkindlsmarkt is known for its gingerbread, which you can eat there or buy and take home as a souvenir. Stagecoach tours offer rides around the entire market, and there’s also a special children’s area with a merry-go-round, Santa Claus house and more.