With Christmas fast approaching, what better way to get into the festive spirit than a trip to an authentic European Christmas market? Dark winter evenings, cozy hats and scarves, warm mugs of mulled wine… The smell of cinnamon and ginger in the air… What are you waiting for?! With that in mind, here is our list of the top 10 Christmas markets in Europe. Which, by the way, simply MUST be added to your festive bucket list ASAP.
The absolute best 10 Christmas markets in Europe
#1 Budapest, Hungary
With its beautiful architecture and delicious, warming goulash, Budapest is a city I recommend visiting at any time of year. At Christmas, however, with the Advent Feast at the Basilica, and the Christmas Fair in Vörösmarty Square, it becomes even more enchanting. With the events of the previous two years in mind, the theme this year is “in love, and safety”. Wander the streets and peruse the stalls and keep your eyes peeled. Because, if you’re lucky, you might just spot Father Christmas himself hunting for a gift for Mrs Claus! Be sure to try a slice of the famous Beigli (Hungarian Christmas cake), while you are at one of the best Christmas markets in Europe.
The details: The Budapest Christmas markets are first set to open on the 19th November 2021, and the closest airport is Budapest.
FYI – Budapest also features on our ranking of the best yet cheapest holiday destinations in Europe – check them out!
#2 Vienna, Austria
Vienna is at the top of many people’s lists of the best Christmas markets in Europe, and for good reason! From mid-November, the city’s squares are transformed with lights, decorations and stalls. The end effect is the one of the prettiest festive destinations worldwide – one which welcomes thousands of people every year.
The “Vienna Magic Event” is not to be missed. It sees the City Hall Square transformed into a shimmering fairyland, along with a giant Ferris wheel at Wintermarkt. The city itself is also home to a host of other attractions. Among them is the Hofburg Palace and St Stephen’s Cathedral, both of which remain open during this festive period.
The details: The markets open from the 17th of November 2021 and the closest airport is Vienna.
#3 Manchester, United Kingdom
Christmas in the UK is a wonderful experience, and Manchester Christmas Market is definitely my favorite! First started in 1999, the market has grown each year and now attracts visitors from all over the world. One of the main attractions is the huge light up Santa statue at St Peter’s Square. That said, there are plenty of delicious foods to try and mulled wine to drink, so head over to Piccadilly Gardens and get yourself in the festive spirit!
The details: Opens earlier than most on the 12th November 2021 and the nearest airport is Manchester.
#4 Basel, Switzerland
With its medieval town center, Basel is well known as Switzerland’s biggest and most popular Christmas destination. Visit here to see the dazzling Christmas lights that illuminate the streets and storefronts throughout the old town. While you are there, you can purchase a traditional Adventskrankz (Christmas wreath), with beautiful candles to give your Christmas a warm, welcoming glow. You’re one to get peckish while wandering the lit up streets? I can definitely recommend a couple of Zimsterne (cinnamon Christmas star cookies) for a sweet-scented sugar hit!
The details: Markets open from the 25th November and the nearest airport is Basel.
#5 Poznan, Poland
Poznan tops many people’s lists of the best Christmas markets in Europe, period. Why? Probably due to its magical atmosphere and comparatively cheap prices. With twinkling lights, snowflakes and music, the city really comes alive with festive spirit at this time of year. The best attractions are to be found at the old Market Square and Freedom Square. They host a large selection of stalls selling trinkets, gifts and seasonal delicacies. If you plan on heading to Poland this Christmas, be sure to check out the International Ice Sculpture Festival… Here, you can watch as sculptors create shimmering works of art right in front of your eyes!
The details: Opening a little later than most, these markets start on the 29th November. The closest airport is Poznan.
#6 Brussels, Belgium
As the de facto capital of Europe, you might expect Brussels to have one of the best Christmas markets in the world. And you would be right! With ice skating, a parade, and fantastic light shows, Brussels Christmas market is truly one not to be missed. Put on hold last year due to the pandemic, the festivities are set to return for 2021. And I’m expecting it to come back in style!
As is tradition in Belgium, grab a slice of mouthwatering Yule Log (sponge cake with chocolate buttercream frosting) and head on down to the stalls to pick up some intricately handcrafted decorations or unique gifts for loved ones.
The details: Opening on the 26th November, the closest airport is Brussels.
#7 Trier, Germany
On the West coast of Germany, close to the Luxembourg border, lies Trier. This beautiful city, considered to be the oldest in Germany, hosts a magical, romantic celebration that definitely earns it a place on our list of the best Christmas markets in Europe. Almost 100 festive stalls line up in the old Medieval market, with Trier Cathedral lit up close by. If you decide to visit, try to find some Moselle mulled wine… It’s an unusual but delicious white wine version of the traditional red that is common throughout Europe.
The details: The Trier markets are open from the 19th November and the closest airports are either Luxembourg (30min drive) or Cologne (2h drive).
#8 Prague, Czech Republic
The capital of the Czech Republic, the city of Prague, is like something straight from a fairy tale. And when the festive season descends, it becomes a true winter wonderland. Old Town Square is the center of the celebrations that make for one of the best Christmas markets to visit. Indulge in some mulled wine, Christmas biscuits, and buy some traditional Czech blown glass ornaments for your own Christmas trees at home.
The details: Open from the 27th of November 2021, book a flight to Prague airport and enjoy this magical city market in all its festive glory.
#9 Madeira, Portugal
If you fancy a milder weathered yuletide trip, why not consider Madeira in Portugal? I recommend it as the best Christmas market in Europe for people who want to get into the festive spirit in a less traditional way. Fear not, it still boasts wooden stalls and carol singing, but the milder temperatures mean you won’t necessarily need your arctic overalls for this trip! Be sure to grab some yummy Biscoitos de Natal (Christmas cookies) while you are there and thank us later.
The details: Open from the 1st of December, the nearest airport is Funchal (45min drive).
#10 Milan, Italy
If you fancy a bit of Christmas shopping while visiting one of the best Christmas markets in Europe, what better place than fashion capital – Milan, Italy? The main market is located right opposite the Duomo (cathedral) and next to the oldest shopping arcade in the world, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Inside the arcade each year, a dazzling Christmas tree is erected by Swarovski, a sparkling sight not to be missed. Grab some Italian Befana Christmas Stockings and take a break to eat some Panettone (Christmas cake) with your Italian coffee.
The details: Starting on 26th November, the closest airport is Milan Linate.
By the way if you are looking to shop until you drop on your ho-ho-holiday, the best destinations for Christmas shopping worldwide might interest you!
Agree with our picks for the best Christmas markets in Europe?
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