No place does Christmas markets quite like Europe. As the holidays approach and the Christmas markets welcome their first visitors, you can practically feel the excitement in the air. For many Europeans, Christmas markets are the highlight of the winter, if not the entire year. Their twinkling lights, tasty treats, warming beverages, and artisanal crafts create an atmosphere that is as enchanting as it is rooted in tradition. If you’re looking to have the quintessential holiday experience, then you need to experience the magic of European Christmas markets.
There’s just one small problem—there are just so many good Christmas markets to choose from. To help you we’ve put together a list (in no particular order) of the best European Christmas markets in 2023. We go into depth about what makes them great and we’ve also included an Insider Tip for each market to help make your trip extra special when you get there.
So what are you waiting for? Go pack your bags! An unforgettable journey awaits.
Located at: Roncalliplatz, 50667, Cologne, Germany
Dates: November 24–December 23
With the stunning Cologne Cathedral as its backdrop, this festive market is packed with cute little stands selling all sorts of festive goodies, so grab yourself a bag of toasted almonds and a mug of Glühwein (mulled wine) and peruse the unique Christmas wares. With its 82-foot-tall (25-meter-tall) natural Christmas tree and the thousands of twinkling Christmas lights draped everywhere, this might just be the quintessential German Christmas market. Whether you’re taking in the stunning views of the world-famous cathedral, sipping from a hot mug of mulled rosé wine, or doing a little Christmas shopping, you won’t be disappointed. And if you still haven’t had your fill of Christmas markets, head to Heinzels Wintermärchen in the Old Town (open Nov 24–Jan 7, closed Christmas and Christmas Eve). This market, the oldest and largest in Cologne, is known for its ice rink and its themed lanes, including a dedicated “Toy Lane” that makes children’s eyes light up, no matter what age they are. Add in a sprinkling of snow, and you have Christmas in Germany at its best.
Insider Tip: for a less-crowded but equally Christmasy experience check out the Advent Village at the Cathedral, which features live music and a giant illuminated Christmas Pyramid.
Berlin, Germany’s capital city, really knows how to do a German Christmas market right. And though the markets might not have all the snowy, alpine charm of other markets on this list, they make up for it in variety and uniqueness. Because of that, it’s impossible to boil our favorite down to just one market, so we’ve included a couple of our favorites below. With some of the best Christmas markets in Germany, Berlin has dozens of options to choose from, from a fabulously chintzy LGBTIQA market to a charmingly scrappy Medieval Christmas Market. And these gems didn’t even make our list!
Plus, if you plan on spending Christmas in Germany, Berlin is a great choice given its a wealth of things to do, including museums to visit, luxury shopping options, and world-class cultural institutions.
Below are a couple of our favorites, but feel free to explore other options to make the most of your German holidays in 2023.
Located at: Spandauer Damm 20 14059, Berlin, Germany
Dates: November 27–December 31, 2023. Closed on December 24
With the sumptuous Charlottenburg Palace as its backdrop, this magical Christmas village of alpine huts leaves a lasting impression. Alongside the WeihnachtsZauber Market at Gendarmenmarkt, this is one of the most popular Christmas markets in Berlin. With stunning views in every direction, and a wide selection of traditional German Christmas drinks and food to sample, it’s easy to understand why. The diversity of Germany’s population shines through here too, with a selection of stands that sell goods from all around the world.
Christmas Market in Berlin. Credit: Shutterstock
Dates: November 27–December 31, 2023 (closes at 6 pm on Christmas Eve)
Located At: Bebelplatz, Unter den Linden 10117, Berlin, Germany
Traditionally held in the jaw-droppingly beautiful Gendarmenmarkt Square, the market is being held this year at nearby Bebel Square, due to construction. The WeihnachtsZaubermarkt (which translates to “Christmas Magic Market”) is known in Berlin for being the most high-end of the Berlin markets. The gift stands here feature some truly special artisanal goods, making it a top Christmas market in Europe for Christmas shopping, or if you want to buy that special souvenir to take home. If you get cold wandering around, there are heated tents where you can sit down and order food. Order a stein of beer and a spread of cheese and cold-cuts and you will instantly think you are in a small German village in the alps.
Highlights of this market include the live entertainment, the beautiful hand-painted tree ornaments on sale, and, a foodie favorite: Neuburger Rahmbrot—a chewy, delicious mix between a sourdough pizza and a flammkuchen, topped with bacon, sour cream, and green onions. Yum.
Insider Tip: If you want something festive but don’t want to battle your way through throngs of Christmas revelers, try the Christmas Garden at the Berlin Botanical Gardens. Sip on mulled wine as you stroll along the outdoor paths, “oohing” and “ahhing” at the dozens of winter-themed sculptures covered in twinkling Christmas lights.
Dates: November 17–December 23 (closed on Nov 26)
Located at: Kennedyplatz 6, 45127, Essen, Germany
The decorations here put other German Christmas markets to shame, particularly the dazzling canopy of Christmas lights draped over the entire market. The market stands out for other reasons too: the Essen Christmas market at Kennedyplatz prides itself as being an international Christmas market, and features stands whose products come from 20 other countries as well as several regions throughout Germany. This market also goes out of its way to be environmentally sustainable: not only has the market fully switched over to LED lighting, it has also put a ban on plastic bags in the market, and the food vendors have stopped giving out single-use plastic utensils and dishes. The organizers also go out of their way to attract stalls that offer fair trade, organic, or regional products. It is a lesser-known market, but those who have been often rank it as one of the best markets in Germany if not in all of Europe.
Dates: December 1–24 (Closes at 2 p.m. on Christmas Eve)
Located At: Hauptmarkt, 90403 Nürnberg, Germany
Nuremberg's Christkindlesmarkt is a highlight of Christmas in Germany, and is likely Germany’s most popular Christmas market. Open from December 1-24, this traditional German Christmas market delights visitors with its lanes of wooden stalls with thousands of shimmering Christmas lights criss-crossing above. The stalls are filled with traditional crafts and the cool winter air is filled with the irresistible aroma of grilled sausages, gingerbread, and mulled wine. Every year, on the first day of advent, the iconic Christkind inaugurates the market by inviting adults to rediscover their sense of childhood wonder—not hard to do amid the twinkling lights and festive decorations. This market, a jewel among European Christmas markets, perfectly captures the spirit of German holidays, offering a unique and enchanting experience that rivals even the famous Vienna Christmas market.
Insider Tip: For a great view of the Christmas Market you can pay a small fee to climb up to the balcony of the Frauenkirche facing the market.
Nuremberg Christmas Market. Credit: Shutterstock
Dates: November 29–December 24, 2023 (closes at 2 p.m. on Christmas Eve)
Located At: Altmarkt, 01067 Dresden, Germany
Dresden's Striezelmarkt is a beloved German Christmas market with lots of extra-traditional touches. The alpine-style stands almost look like they are made of gingerbread and each one is festooned in pine boughs and wreaths, giving things an extra festive touch. Browse the artisanal crafts and hand-made wooden toys on sale, or take a picture next to the towering Christmas Pyramid, a centerpiece of the market. Dating all the way back to 1434, this market is arguably the oldest in Germany, and is considered the inspiration for many Christmas markets in Europe. And don’t stop there: explore Dresden’s other Christmas markets like the Neumarkt and Augustusmarkt for the full holiday experience.
Insider Tip: Try the Stollen, a traditional German holiday cake. One of the market’s main events is the Stollen Festival (This year: Dec 9, 2023) This lively, quirky festival consists of parading a giant 4-ton Stollen through the streets of Dresden. When the massive cake arrives at its final destination, a master baker cuts and distributes it among the crowd to be enjoyed by all.
Dates: November 10–December 26 2023 (closes early on Christmas eve)
Located At: Town Hall Square, Friedrich-Schmidt-Platz 1, 1010 Vienna, Austria
As the holidays approach Vienna rolls out the Christmas lights and the whole city seems to fill with festive charm. Add to that an eye-popping backdrop of Hapsburgian architecture and cozy traditional coffee shops, and you have a classy, unforgettable Christmas holiday on your hands.
Vienna has several world-class Christmas markets, but the main event is the market at City Hall. Nicknamed the “Viennese Dream” this market is considered by many to be the biggest and most beautiful Christmas Market in Europe. Set against the impressive (and beautifully illuminated) City Hall building, this market has it all: reindeer rides, an old-timey carousel, a gigantic advent calendar with daily reveals, and an ice-rink for skating and curling. Plus on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays you can grab yourself a hot mug of mulled wine and listen to choirs from all around the world sing carols, free of charge.
Dates: November 23, 2023–January 1, 2024 (closes early at 3 p.m. on Dec 24 and at 6 p.m. on Dec 25-26)
Located At: Altmarkt, 01067 Dresden, Germany
The Christmas season transforms the historic city of Salzburg into a picturesque winter wonderland, and the famed Salzburg Christkindlmarkt is its crown jewel. The market dates back to the 15th century and you can feel how deep the tradition runs in the quality of the handmade goods and the delicious food and drink on offer. And it’s not just Glühwein and exquisite hand-knit gloves that make this market special. As the birthplace of Mozart and the setting of the Sound of Music, this market goes out of its way to offer musical and cultural events, including daily choir concerts, with over 90 choirs on the bill. If you find yourself in Salzburg during the week, there are Christmas carol sing-alongs at the market every Tuesday evening, as well as readings of Christmas stories (in German) for children, and outdoor brass band performances every Thursday evening. When it comes to holiday spirit and memorable moments this market gives the Vienna Christmas Market a run for its money, and is certainly one of the best Christmas markets in Europe.
Insider Tip: Enjoy one of the original Mozart Balls here, and while you savor it you can ponder the fact that the song Silent Night was written not far from here, over 200 hundred years ago.
Dates: November 24–December 24 2023
Located At: Place de l'Hôtel de Ville, 67000 Strasbourg, France
There’s something about the old medieval homes, the narrow winding streets, and the hundreds of quaint little Christmas stalls that makes Christmas in Strasbourg feel extra…Christmas-y. So grab yourself a cup of vin chaud (mulled wine) and explore one of the most unique Christmas markets in Europe. Part of what makes it so unique is the mixture of French and German influences, thanks to its location right on the border between France and Germany. Historically the city has passed back and forth between French- and German-speaking territories and you can see this in the architecture, the food, and above all, the Christmas markets. Strasbourg offers everything we love about German Christmas markets—hearty snacks, fresh-baked pretzels, cute hand-made goods—but you’re also never a stone’s throw from a world-class baguette or pain au chocolat. So if you want to feel like you’re spending Christmas in Germany but you also want to enjoy a glass of French wine and sample everything la cuisine française has to offer, this is the European holiday for you.
Insider Tip: Make sure to sample the local Kougelhopf, a cross between a bundt cake and a panettone. This delicious Alsatian treat is a favorite among locals during the Christmas holidays.
Dates: November 18, 2023–January 7, 2024 (Closed on Christmas, Closes at 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve)
Located At: Piazza di Fiera, 38122, Trento, Italy
Imagine a traditional European Christmas, but with a warm, Italian twist. With Medieval city walls in the background, you’ll find yourself strolling past stalls filled with local goods and handmade handicrafts: here you’ll find links of hearty Alpine sausage hanging from hooks, rounds of creamy Italian cheese piled into neat little pyramids, and local delicacies that catch the eye with their quaint, lovely labels. Looking for stocking stuffers? Grab a jar of locally made preserves or a pair of handmade wool slippers. The city of Trento is only a 30-minute train ride from glitzy Bolzano, where you can catch a peek of the break-taking Dolomites. Trento is also home to the impressive Buonconsiglio castle, the largest and most important castle in the region. Castles aren’t your thing? Visit the popular MUSE museum, instead. Its ultra-modern architecture and high-tech natural history exhibits delight adults and children alike.
Insider Tip: There’s a free winter ski shuttle from Trento to the local ski resort, Monte Bondone. As you sip an après-ski grappa and look out over the Italian Alps, you might wonder why you don’t spend every Christmas in Europe.
Dates: Dec 1, 2023–January 8, 2024
Located At: Avenida Arriaga Walkway, Funchal, Madeira
Sometimes all you want for Christmas is a little sunshine. If this is the case, grab a light sweater and head to the island of Madeira for the holidays. The Christmas market here, located in Funchal, the capital of this Portuguese island off the coast of West Africa, offers one of the most festive—and definitely the most colorful—Christmas markets in Europe. Friendly Christmas Helpers wearing pointy elf hats and colorful plaid skirts greet you as you enter, setting the tone for a truly unique Christmas market experience. Stroll past exotic trees whose wide, lush canopies twinkle with brightly colored christmas lights. You’ll find dazzling sights like this everywhere you go as you shop for tropical fruit or local specialties from the charming little wooden stalls.
Insider Tip: Once you’ve done all your Christmas shopping, go take a selfie inside the “Christmas tree”—a giant cone strung with hundreds of feet of colorful Christmas lights, a favorite spot for both locals and tourists. Also stick around for the New Years Eve fireworks display, a highlight of the year.
Dates: November 24–December 23, 2023
Located At: Plaça Nova, 08002, Barcelona, Spain
If the thought of a White Christmas makes you shiver with dread, then head to Barcelona for the holidays. There you’ll get all of the old European charm and none of the frozen appendages. With Gaudí’s Sagrada Família Basilica as its crown jewel, it’s no secret that Barcelona is a world-class destination, but it’s the lovely quirky Catalonian touches that make the Christmas Market here so special. Take for example the “caganer” Nativity figurine—a young man who is seen squatting as he…um…relieves himself in the background of the nativity. Injecting a cheeky playfulness and irreverent humor into the pomp and solemnity of Christmas, this beloved cult object is on sale everywhere in Barcelona, including at the main Christmas market, the Fira de Santa Llúcia. This market has been around since 1786 and features over 200 stalls selling a dizzying variety of nativity scenes, Christmas decorations, and handmade crafts and jewelry. There’s even a dedicated music section where you can buy traditional Christmas instruments.
Insider Tip: Don’t leave Barcelona without asking a local about the tradition of Caga Tió. These wooden logs with jaunty red caps and cute, brightly painted faces are everywhere you go. If you thought the Caganer was funny, then you're really in for a treat!
Dates: December 2, 2023–January 6, 2024
Located At: Old Town Square, Old Town, Prague 1, Czechia
There are so many reasons the Christmas market in Prague is one of the best in Europe, but much of it is Prague itself. The city largely escaped bombing in World Wars I and II, so it is one of those rare cities with architecture from every major period, including Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, and even Modernist architecture. Take this jaw-droppingly beautiful backdrop and add delicious holiday treats, oodles of Christmas cheer, and very possibly snow and you have yourself a Christmas market that’s hard to forget. Grab yourself a cup of hot mead or grog and peruse the crafts and local goods on sale. Or, if you’re hungry, look out for huge cauldrons of rybí polévka, a hearty fish soup made of brandy, cream, and carp, that’s traditionally served at Christmas time. You’ll need it to stay warm: with the fairy tale views of the square, the Christmas lights, and the delicious smells, you’ll never want to leave.
Insider Tip: Don’t leave the Christmas market until you’ve tried Trdelník, a true Czech Christmas delicacy. These sweet treats are Made of thin strips of dough coiled around a wooden rod and cooked over hot coals. While they are still hot they are rolled in cinnamon sugar and chopped roasted nuts. Truly irresistible.
Dates: December 1, 2023–January 7, 2024
Located At: Raekoja plats 8-9, 10146 Tallinn, Estonia
The capital of Estonia has long been one of the great hidden secrets of Europe, and if you don’t mind the cold, winter is a perfect time to visit, with fewer tourists and an Old Town packed with cozy shops and cafes. Once an important trade hub in the Middle Ages, this period of affluence is on full display in the city’s remarkably well-preserved medieval buildings, whose handsome facades look like they were taken out of a storybook. With this as its backdrop it's no doubt that Tallinn is regularly voted the Best Christmas Market in Europe in various online polls. The world-famous market is set up in the shape of a starburst, with rows of adorable wooden stalls radiating out from an enormous natural Christmas tree in the center. And because it snows here every three days on average, the probability of snow adding that final dollop of fairy tale charm is actually quite high.
Insider Tip: If you need to warm up from the cold, head to the Olde Hansa for a hot beverage and a snack. This Medieval-themed restaurant, just a couple minutes from the market, goes all out to make you feel like you’re back in the Hansa period, with authentic Medieval food, waitstaff in period costumes, and sometimes even live music.
There are so many more markets that belong on this list, but sadly we did not have the room to include them all. Below are 17 more cities with magical Christmas markets to discover. Book your train journey via the links below and explore the all Christmas cheer these cities have to offer.
Christmas Market in Berlin. Credit: Shutterstock