Experience the best of Europe's traditional Christmas markets this November and December. Explore the world-famous holiday markets in popular European cities such as Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Lille, Bruges and many more.
A tradition that dates back hundreds of years, Europe’s famous markets are filled with character, charm and Christmas cheer. Whether you fancy trying the picture-perfect markets in Krakow, Bruges or Budapest, or the festive extravaganzas of Edinburgh, Prague and Vienna, you’ll be sure to find plenty of handmade crafts, unique one of a kind gifts, delicious treats, sprawling gingerbread metropolises, and plenty of glühwein, wherever you go.
For a Christmas shopping solution that’s more enchanting than braving the December crowds on the high street, and more exciting than waiting in all day for an online delivery, Europe’s Christmas markets breaks can’t be beat.
The Christmas Fair and Winter Festival in Vorosmarty Square has over 120 attractively decorated stalls. There's a wooden playhouse where children are taught to make their own Christmas ornaments. A show kitchen in the Hutte Bistro plays host to a roster of guest chefs demonstrating different Hungarian seasonal recipes, including wild boar and venison, advent fish dishes and other tasty Yuletide fare. On top of which, there are lots of food stalls serving hearty traditional fisherman's soup and roast goose.
Vienna Christmas World in Rathausplatz (City Hall Square) boasts 150 booths. City Hall Park is decorated with a Yuletide theme, and there's also ice skating and a Children's World area with a roundabout, reindeer ride and Christmas story tableaux. The Christmas Village on Maria Theresien Platz is a good place to hear choirs and live bands as well as pick up a few stocking fillers. Old Viennese Christmas Market on Freyung is one of the oldest Yuletide fairs, dating back to the 18th century. For an imperial backdrop, there are more fairs in the grounds of the Schonbrunn and Belvedere palaces, perfect for lovers of history and architecture. Meanwhile, the pleasure market at the Opera House is a good choice for food lovers, offering cheese, smoked meats, gingerbread, wine and beer.
The Christmas Market at East Princes Street Gardens has a Santa Land fairground, with stalls, a big wheel, carousel and High Flyer, and remember to take some extra cash for the children's toy market. Other attractions include an Elves' Workshop, Christmas Tree Maze and Santa's Grotto. There's also a Scottish Market on George Street, a European Market on the Mound and St Andrew Square plays host to an ice rink.
The Winter Wonders and Christmas Market is so large it sprawls over almost a square mile of central Brussels. At the Grand Place you'll find a light show, live music and the town's main Christmas tree. There's a covered ice skating rink at the Place de la Monnaie, and merry-go-rounds and other fairground attractions at the Place Sainte Catherine. Wherever you go, you'll see quaint chalet-style stalls selling waffles and creamy hot chocolate.
Berlin has over 70 Christmas markets, one of the oldest of which is the Gendarmenmarkt in the Spandau district. Consisting of tented stalls decorated with fairy lights, it's a good place to shop for traditional crafts and tasty snacks. St George's Church in Berlin Westend puts on a Charles Dickens-themed Christmas celebration, and there's an environmentally friendly Eco Market on Kollwitzplatz. Meanwhile, families with young children should head to the Adventiamo Children's Christmas Market at FEZ-Berlin. Find more about German Christmas markets here.
During the Advent period, hundreds of wooden pavilions spring up in front of Cologne cathedral, as well as a mammoth Christmas tree standing 75 feet high and dripping with 50,000 lights. The Old Market Christmas fair by the Town Hall has a section for children with toy sellers, roundabouts and puppet shows. Foodies should head for the “Futtergasse” (Feeding Alley), while if you're in need of a jacket or sweater, try the fashion stalls in the Glitzergasse (Feeding Alley).
The Handwerker-Markt on Marktplatz is a recreation of a traditional village with craftsmen demonstrating their skills. Adults can snack on pretzels and cheese washed down with rum punch. The Sternchen-Markt at Stadtbrückchen is a magical Santa's Grotto on an impressive scale, and home to some eye-catching jewellery stalls. The Märchen-Markt on Schadowplatz presents a traditional Hans Christian Andersen-style Christmas in painstaking detail. Meanwhile, the Kö-Bogen-Markt at Jan-Wellem-Platz has many attractions for younger visitors.