The Best European Christmas Markets to Visit 2023

Christmas markets originated in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland but have now spread across Europe as festive holiday traditions. These outdoor markets offer a magical atmosphere with twinkling lights, festive decorations, local handicrafts, holiday treats, and more. Bundling up and strolling from stall to stall is a perfect way to get into the holiday spirit.

Here is an overview of some of the best and most famous Christmas markets across Europe that are worth traveling to visit:

Nuremberg, Germany

One of the oldest and most famous Christmas markets is held in Nuremberg, Germany. Dating back to 1628, the Nuremberg Christmas market is held in the city’s main market square in the Old Town.

Over 180 wooden stalls are assembled, selling Christmas tree ornaments, nativity figures, gingerbread, baked goods, bratwurst, and more. A huge Christmas tree towers over the market, with traditional decorations and lights strung across the square.

Christmas carols play from loudspeakers, and the smell of roasted nuts and mulled wine wafts through the cold air. The Nuremberg Christmas market has a long-standing tradition and authentic charm.

Munich, Germany

Munich holds over 20 different Christmas markets throughout the city, including some of the largest in Germany. The Christkindlmarkt on Marienplatz is centrally located and great for shopping and people-watching.

The medieval market has traditional charm, with craftspeople in period costumes making toys and blown glass ornaments. You can try local treats like stollen (fruit cake), potato pancakes, roasted chestnuts, and glühwein (hot spiced wine). The markets in Munich have a lively atmosphere with live music and activities.

Prague, Czech Republic

The Christmas market in Prague is a magical spot, set in Old Town Square against a dramatic backdrop of arched buildings and the Church of Our Lady. Browse stalls selling wooden toys, jewelry, candles, crafts, and more while you sip on hot wine to warm up. Vendors serve up Czech holiday specialties like Trdelník rolled cake and hot mead. The market has a medieval feel but stays open late into the evening for a romantic atmosphere.

Vienna, Austria

Vienna has over 20 Christmas markets scattered throughout the city at prominent landmarks and squares. The most famous is the Vienna Christmas World on Rathausplatz in front of the grand Town Hall.

An advent calendar lights up the windows each day, counting down to Christmas. There is an ice skating rink, a carousel ride, a stage with live music performances, and over 150 glittering market stalls. 

Strasbourg, France

The Strasbourg Christmas market originated back in 1570, making it one of the oldest in Europe. Today, it sprawls around the Strasbourg Cathedral with over 300 stalls, a live manger scene, and one of the tallest Christmas trees in Europe at over 40 meters high.

There are also several themed markets like the Off Market for arts and crafts and the charity Village of Sharing. Grab a mug of hot vin chaud (mulled wine) and wander the stalls browsing French delicacies like baked tartiflette cheese, fresh bread, and croissants. Take advantage of the nightly light shows illuminating the cathedral in holiday colors.

Salzburg, Austria

The birthplace of Mozart, Salzburg celebrates the holidays in musical style with carolers and live concerts across its Christmas markets. The Old Town has several smaller traditional markets where you can shop for handmade Austrian crafts, tree ornaments, chocolates, and decorations. Savor a mug of warm eggnog and soak in the festive spirit. The authentic Christkindlmarkt on the Domplatz at the foot of the Salzburg Cathedral has an intimate feel with the backdrop of the church bells ringing.

Bruges, Belgium

The medieval town of Bruges becomes even more magical during the holidays, with cobblestone streets and glittering canals dressed up with strings of lights. An outdoor ice skating rink is set up right in the heart of the city center.

You can sample Belgian holiday foods like creamy waffles, gourmet chocolate, frites, crepes, and local beer as you shop. Take advantage of a horse-drawn carriage ride that adds to the fairy-tale vibe. The Christmas market in Bruges is relatively small but full of charm.

Tallinn, Estonia

For a more undiscovered Christmas market, head to Tallinn’s main town square in Estonia. What Tallinn’s market lacks in size, it makes up for in quaint ambiance. You can warm up inside candlelit huts serving piping hot gingerbread and spiced wine.

Listen to holiday choirs perform as you browse stalls selling woolens, handicrafts, and decorative wreaths. The medieval old town looks like a Christmas card. It’s an ideal spot to wander and enjoy old-fashioned holiday cheer.

Final Thoughts

Christmas markets across Europe offer a wide range of festive holiday spirit. From the gigantic, famous markets in Germany and Austria to smaller undiscovered towns, there are many spots to experience the twinkle of lights, the scent of seasonal treats, and Christmas music. 

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