Why not start your festive season off properly with a trip to one of Europe's Christmas markets? With just about every country offering at least one market, choosing where to go can be tricky. Let us help narrow down your selection with our list of 17 of the best destinations for Christmas markets. Some are large and lively affairs, others are smaller and more intimate. Some are bursting with historical significance while others are more about the adrenaline rush of a helter-skelter or the romance of ice-skating beneath a canopy of fairy lights. Whatever you're looking for – and whether you want to stay close to home or travel further afield – we have a Christmas market break that's sure to have you digging out your woolly hats and licking your lips in anticipation of a mulled wine.
A Viennese Christmas market is a treat. Tradition really matters here so expect wooden chalets selling tasteful gifts, often made from natural materials, and all the baked potatoes, strudel, roasted chestnuts and gluhwein you can consume. What's more, you can enjoy it all against the unforgettable backdrop of a Baroque palace. The market in front of Schönbrunn Palace is the place to go for a taste of the elegance and majestic splendour of old Austria. However, for sheer visual spectacle plus all the stalls and ice skating anyone could wish for, the large Christkindlmarkt, in front of the Rathaus, is hard to beat. Head to the steps of the nearby Burgtheater for the best photos.
With several Christmas markets, Cologne knows how to celebrate Christmas properly. The most famous market lies directly in the shadow of the famous twin-spired cathedral. It has Christmas lights aplenty and around 150 decorated wooden booths, selling a variety of handicrafts and edible treats. There's also a carousel and what's reputedly the biggest Christmas tree in North Rhine Westphalia. With its ice rink and old world-style storybook charm, Heinzel's Winter Fairytale in the Old Town is also not to be missed. And then there's the Nicholas Village Christmas Market: children will love its candy floss sellers and life-sized crib while adults will appreciate the half-timbered houses and the medieval Hahnen Gate that provides the market's backdrop. Check out our dedicated page for more Christmas markets in Germany.
With its ever-so-instagrammable backdrop of Edinburgh Castle, Princes Street Gardens is where you’ll find Edinburgh’s main Christmas market. Whether you want to browse the chalet-style stalls, take your children to visit the Grotto in Santa Land, whizz down the helter-skelter or try mulled Irn-Bru, this is the market for you. If you don't mind heights, there's also a giant wheel with spectacular views across the city. Not far away is George Street, with its outdoor ice rink and stall holders selling comforting hot toddies. Back at the castle, it's well worth booking tickets for the "Castle of Light" experience, which sees the ancient edifice illuminated with dazzling light projections.
Dating to 1434, Dresdner Striezelmarkt is one of Germany's oldest Christmas markets. At its centre is a 14-metre high pyramid of candles, and they're not just a fantastic photo opportunity, they also provide power to blades that then rotate ornaments on the pyramid. If you can tear yourself away from the pyramid, make sure you seek out the wooden 'Smoking Men' (the smoke is actually incense) and the carved wooden soldiers that could be straight out of a Tchaikovsky ballet. Other Christmas market options in the city include the Dresden alpine hut magic (its alpine hut bar is very popular with young people), the markets at the Frauenkirche, and Winterlights of Dresden on the Prager Straße with its child-sized merry-go-rounds and Santa Claus house.
Find Budapest's main Christmas market in Vörösmarty Square. It's perfect for enjoying mouth-watering Hungarian delicacies such as goulash while browsing some of the 100 or so chalet-style stalls. Another of the city's best-loved Christmas markets is held at St Stephen's Basilica. In 2019, a public vote awarded it the accolade of Europe's best Christmas market. No doubt it won thanks to its magical combination of the ice rink glowing beneath a canopy of lights, the bewitching selection of stalls selling all kinds of food and gifts and, perhaps above all, the nightly illuminations, set to music, on the facade of the ancient basilica. If you need some more inspiration, check out our suggestions on 23 things to do in Budapest.
Always a great place to wander, London's Southbank is also home to one of the city's best Christmas markets. Expect fairy lights, traditional wooden chalets selling a range of goods and plenty of tasty food. And, at only a five minute stroll from the lastminute.com London Eye, the Southbank Christmas market is easy to combine with a trip to one of the glass pods to enjoy fantastic views along the Thames and beyond. Another excellent option is Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland. It has its own giant observation wheel, fairground rides and the UK's largest temporary outdoor ice rink. Meanwhile, younger children will love its Santa Land, complete with Grotto and kid-friendly fairground rides. Staying for a short break? Here are more things to do in London in winter.
Manchester's Piccadilly Gardens is the focal point for the city's Christmas celebrations. It hosts the Winter Gardens, a Christmas market that offers entertainment for all the family. Expect craft stalls, locally-brewed ales and a stage with a changing roster of live acts and DJs. There's also plenty of undercover seating in a marquee in case of rain. Other attractions elsewhere in the city include the ice rink in Cathedral Gardens and a wide selection of food and drink stalls at the Exchange Square Christmas Market. Excellent public transport, including a hop-on-hop-off bus service, makes visiting as many of the markets as you want as easy as possible. Find out more information about this amazing city with our guides on what to do, where to drink and where to stay in Manchester.
As you'd expect from a city as vibrant as Berlin, it offers several different types of Christmas market. The lively Berliner Weihnachtszeit is the one to go for if you want to combine all the fun of the fair with a healthy dose of nostalgia. Its attractions include a medieval-style market, 100-year-old carousels and a fabulous ice rink centred around the Neptune fountain. Taking place on all four Advent weekends, the Domäne Dahlem offers a rural-style escape and is fantastic for children. Firmly back in the city, there are also markets at the Spandau Citadel and the Charlottenburg Palace. Alternatively, if your visit coincides with the start of Advent, why not embrace Berlin's diversity with a visit to the LGBTIQ* Winterdays and Christmas Avenue?
Home to France’s oldest Christmas market, Strasbourg is a festive paradise. The whole city gets involved and it certainly lives up to its nickname of “the capital of Christmas”. You’ll find several markets spread across the Grande Île but the oldest and most popular are in the Place Broglie and Place de la Cathédrale in the city centre. If you’re keen on Christmas snacks, these are definitely the markets to visit, with everything from crêpes to spaetzle, and, of course, plenty of mulled wine. If smaller, specialist producers appeal, try the Alsace market on Place des Meuniers. It’s a great place to stock up on delicacies such as Bredele cookies and truffles.
Big isn't always best, and Lille's Christmas market encapsulates this. Though small by European standards, it's easy to get to (only 1.5 hours on the Eurostar!) and perfect for a family getaway. Make sure you admire the garlands that adorn many of the 90 or so stalls and surrounding shops; they're a Lille tradition. If the mulled wine, praline and gingerbread at the market aren't quite enough to fortify you for your shopping, the market is close to plenty of excellent restaurants, bars and cafes. Many of them offer views across the Grand Place with its huge Christmas tree and cheerful festive music. Children will appreciate the pony rides while art and history lovers are sure to admire the Flemish architecture.
You never need a reason to visit Paris but, if you did, Christmas would be it. The ‘City of Light’ has at least 15 Christmas markets. Finding your own favourite is part of the fun but do visit La Magie de Noël at the Tuileries Gardens. Half Christmas market and half carnival, it's the largest of the city's Christmas markets and easily the most popular. Its fairground rides include a huge Ferris wheel and dodgems. There's also an ice rink and even a champagne bar. If picturesque and quintessentially French is what you're after, you need the Marché de Noël Notre-Dame in Square Viviani. Montmartre's market at Place des Abbesses is smaller but still very beautiful and known for its roasted chestnuts.
Winter Wonders Brussels draws in around 2.5 million visitors. Luckily, the event is a large one, spread out over the city. It includes around 250 market stalls at several locations. Marché aux Poissons is the biggest market, and its snow-dusted chalet stalls and Ferris wheel ensure its popularity matches its size. If you like your Christmas mixed with a little culture, the markets at La Tour Noire and Place Sainte-Catherine offer crafts, gifts and food from across Belgium, Germany, France and Hungary. For winter sports, try Bois de la Cambre and Place De Brouckère, where ice curling is a surprising and fun accompaniment to their ice rinks.
Christmas celebrations in beautiful Bruges are every bit as appealing as the medieval city and its canals. Known as 'Winter Glow', they encompass the Christmas markets, an ice rink and an illuminated trail. Following the trail on foot through the squares and cobbled streets is fun, but you could also opt for a seasonal ride in a horse-drawn sleigh. The main market is held in Grote Markt, where you'll also find the ice rink beneath the belfry. There's also a smaller market close to Simon Stevinplein. Between the two lie many of Bruges' famous chocolatiers. Of course, the markets themselves offer the ideal spot to indulge in hot chocolate or, for something stronger, a nip of jenever, Bruges' own gin. And, while you're there, why not check out our guides on what to do and where to eat in Bruges?
Basel at Christmas has a fairytale appeal. Twinkling fairy lights light up the tall pines along many of its streets but never quite outshine the Christmas tree in front of the red sandstone Münster. Here, on the Münsterplatz, is where you'll find the main Christmas market. Many of its stalls are institutions in their own right, with some stallholders returning every year for more than 40 years. Indulge in raclette and deep-fried apple doughnuts while shopping for handicrafts, tree ornaments and children's toys. If you have kids with you, they'll love the market's fairytale forest, with its cornucopia of activities – everything from cookie decorating to candle making – guaranteed to keep them busy.
It's hard to imagine a more impressive location for a Christmas market than at the foot of Salzburg's Hohensalzburg fortress and around its magnificent cathedral. The proximity of the cathedral also guarantees plenty of choral music, part of a seasonal programme of events that also includes a Nativity in Residenz Square. 20 minutes by bus from Salzburg city centre is the Christmas market at Schloss Hellbrunn. In an event known as Hellbrunn Advent Magic, 10,000 red baubles adorn 700 conifers, the palace windows become a massive Advent calendar, and an 8 metre-tall Christmas angel overlooks the palace grounds. Meanwhile, children can enjoy a reindeer-drawn sleigh ride and the chance to grill their own sausages over an open fire.
Visit the historic home of the Duke of Bohemia who ultimately gave the world the carol, 'Good King Wenceslas'. It's Wenceslas Square where you'll find one of Prague's biggest Christmas markets. As well as quaint wooden stalls selling all manner of handicrafts and souvenirs, there's plenty of opportunity to try local food. Spit-roasted hams, barbecued sausage and rybí polévka, the Czech Republic's traditional Christmas fish soup, are just some of the treats to look out for. And, if you have a particularly sweet tooth, or are accompanied by children, you'll want to try trdelník, a baked sweet pastry that aficionados describe as 'dangerously addictive'. The market spills over into the nearby Old Town Square, which is where you'll find a gorgeous 22 metre-tall Christmas tree, decorated in red and gold.
For festive fun and hygge in equal measure, you can't beat Copenhagen. An essential part of any visit to the city, the Tivoli Gardens are especially wonderful at Christmas. Expect tens of thousands of Christmas lights, 1000 Christmas trees, and around 60 stalls selling everything from food and drink to Christmas ornaments and presents for even the hardest-to-buy-for people. It's also well worth fitting in a trip to Bakken, the oldest operating amusement park in the world. As well as the usual rides, Pjerrot, Santa and some singing reindeer take to the stage in an entertainment-fest for all the family. With its cafes and restaurants, Bakken is also an excellent place to enjoy a traditional Danish meal.