Autumn is upon us Northern Hemisphere-ers and many of you have probably begun planning your winter holidays off somewhere warm, sunny, and sandy. But for those that want an extra boost to get in the holiday spirit, a wintery wonderland is what it takes. I had the pleasure of Christmas market hopping throughout some major European cities a few years ago to see what all the hype was about. Needless to say, I was not disappointed. There was certainly no lack of mulled wine, hot sausages, and my personal favorite: goulash soup in a bread bowl. I’ve compiled a list of my favorite cities’ Christmas markets (and some notorious ones that I haven’t yet made it to) in hopes that all you snow-bunnies can plan your European winter holiday trip accordingly!
Christmas markets are street markets generally held during the 4 weeks of Advent; though in the latest years, some cities have extended their dates and welcomed other holidays. Most markets open around November 20th and are open every day until roughly December 23rd, so you don’t have to plan for just weekdays or weekends. They all sell fairly similar Holiday and Christmas candy, toys, clothing, and decorations, but keep your eyes peeled for items unique to the country or with something written in the native language to bring home as a present. Speaking of presents, make sure to bring an extra suitcase if you plan to do your Holiday gift shopping while abroad!
A Christmas market can also be known as Christkindlmarkt, Marché de Noël, Christkindlesmarkt, Christkindlmarket, and Weihnachtsmarkt.
1. Vienna, Austria
Vienna hosts over 20 ‘Advent Markets’ around the city, but my favorite (and the most famous) is the Rathausplatz market. Not only is it centrally located and has one of the most beautiful backdrops, but it also has thee best goulash in a bread bowl I’ve ever tried – and I’ve bought it at every market I’ve been to so far.
Full List of Markets Here
Where to stay on a budget : Wombats at Naschmarkt Starting at $35/night
Where to stay & splurge : Grand Hotel Wien Starting at $300/night
2. Budapest, Hungary
This city is already so unique and fun, adding a holiday market in the center is the icing on the Lebkuchenherzen… though that’s German. A really fun traditional treat to watch being made AND eat is a Chimney cake, or Kürtőskalács. Though the name has a Transylvanian origin, the International Kürtőskalács Trade Corporation has taken measures to have Kürtőskalács registered as Hungarian product by the EU. That’s dedication!
Where to stay on a budget : Womabat’s City Hostel Starting at $25/night
Where to stay & splurge : Sofitel Budapest Chain Bridge Starting at $145/night
3. Prague, Czech Republic
The biggest market can be found in the Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí), with the Church of Our Lady before Týn as the backdrop for little stalls, a nativity, and a huge Christmas tree. Another popular market is in the lower part of Wenceslas Square (Václavské náměstí) on the Republic Square (Náměstí Republiky). One particularly traditional Czech souvenir is Bohemian crystal.
Where to stay on a budget : Hostel Downtown Starting at $35/night
Where to stay & splurge : Mandarin Oriental Prague Starting at $370/night
4. Stockholm, Sweden
Stockholm has been my temporary home twice now, one of those times in the dead of winter. Before November, it’s dark, cold, and the streets are sparse; but once the holiday markets spring up, it’s a completely different city! There are 3 major markets in the city: ‘Julen på Skansen’, the most famous at Stortorget in Gamla Stan, and one [my favorite] in Kungsträdgården.
Best place to stay on a budget : City Backpackers Hostel Starting at $28
Best place to stay & splurge : Hotel Diplomat Starting at $270/night
5. Salzburg, Austria
Where to stay on a budget : Die Stadtalm Starting at $25/night
Where to stay & splurge : Hotel Schloss Mönchstein
6. Copenhagen – Tivoli, Denmark
Tivoli Garden amusement park is a great place to visit in the summer, when locals and tourists alike try to make the most of the long hours of daylight. In Autumn it’s decorated for Halloween, closes, and springs to life again just in time for the winter holidays! It’s decorated for Christmas until January and all the rides and restaurants are open. Some Danish specialities you should try include ‘klejners’ (giant traditional Christmas cookies) and honey cakes.
Note: Since Tivoli is an amusement park normally, it does have an entrance fee between 100DKK & 120DKK, depending on day. More Danish markets and info here!
Where to stay on a budget : Copenhagen Downtown Hostel Starting at $75/night
Where to stay & splurge : Scandic Palace Hotel Starting at $120/night
7. Alsace Region, France
Get out of Paris and visit the smaller French fairytale cities for some beautiful Christmas markets. Strasbourg, Colmar, and Riquewihr are some to name a few.
Where to stay in Strasbourg : Novotel Strasbourg Centre Halles
Where to stay in Colmar : Hostellerie Le Marechal
8. Zurich, Switzerland
One of the main Holiday markets in Zurich is held in the main train station – Rail City – so you have some extra protection from the cold and can shop all night! Fun fact: the Christmas tree is decorated with beautiful white Swarovski crystal ornaments.
Where to stay on a “budget” : Hotel Otter Zurich Starting at $120/night
9. Amsterdam, Netherlands
Where to stay on a budget : Flying Pig Hostel Downtown Starting at $35/night
Where to stay & splurge : W Amsterdam Starting at $290/night
A Boutique stay : Max Brown Hotel Canal District Starting at $140/night
10. Krakow, Poland
Far under appreciated, Krakow is fun city in itself. If you’re making your way through Poland during the Holidays, this is where you want to be. The Holiday spirit here cuts right through the grey and cold and is a great start to some fun nights out.
Where to stay on a budget : Greg & Tom Beerhouse Hostel (party hostel!) Starting at $15/night
Where to stay & splurge : Radisson Blu Hotel Krakow Starting at $120/night
Bonus! Germany may be the king – or Santa – of all Christmas Markets. Every major city goes above and beyond for the holidays but still manages to keep their market unique. Nuremberg, Frankfurt, Cologne, Munich, Dresden, & Berlin (There are 60 markets in Berlin alone… SIXTY! Full list here) are some highlights to start. Make sure to visit their tourist board homepages for more details before your trip!
And there you have it – the best Christmas Markets in Europe!
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Sources: Kürtőskalács Photo ; Prague Photo ; Stockholm Photo #2 ; Salzburg Photos 1 & 2 ; Copenhagen Photo ; Colmar Photo ; Strasbourg Photo ; Zurich Photo ; Amsterdam Photo ; Krakow Photo ; Germany Photos 1 & 2