Pottering around wooden market stalls, listening to carol singing and sipping mulled wine in crisp December air – visiting Christmas markets is a great way to kick off the festive season. But which one should you choose?
My top tip if you are visiting any of Europe’s Christmas markets is – watch your dates! Although some markets are open earlier, the majority do not not open until the last weekend of November. There is not much point booking Prague for the 22nd of November if the market doesn’t open until the 30th… All of these favourites are chosen with accessibility in mind, so there are direct flights from Ireland to all of the cities below. Check out my list of Europe’s top 10 Christmas markets and get planning…
Home to Europe’s largest market square, Krakow is an an excellent choice for a Christmas market break. The massive square in the centre of the old town comes alive with hundreds of market stalls. Visit Wawel castle, the fascinating Jewish quarter, and if you are feeling up to it you can take a day trip to nearby Auschwitz. The Christmas Market is open from 27th of November to the 26th of December.
Believe it or not, Berlin has over 50 different Christmas markets to choose from. The Winter World at Potsdamer Platz has super activities including ice skating and tobogganing, and is great fun destination. The traditional Christmas Markets at Alexanderplatz and Charlottenburg house wooden stalls and beer houses. All three are open from the 23rd November to the 29th December. And last but not least, the market in Spandau has over 500 stalls at weekends, with rock concerts every Friday – this closes on the 22nd of December. See more here.
Suffice to say Berlin has a market to cover all tastes! Of course with so many other sights to see and some great nightlife, Berlin is a great city to visit at anytime.
Read my city guide to Berlin here.
Cologne has been one of the most popular destinations for Christmas markets for many years now. Many choose to visit the large market near the Cathedral which offers live music and an ice skating rink.
However, there are several other Christmas markets in Cologne including a specific LGBT Christmas Avenue market, which has a great party atmosphere and lots of stage events. All are open from 23rd November to 23rd December.
Like many other cities Budapest offers several Christmas markets – the most popular is in Vörösmarty Square. Gerbeaud House is transformed into a giant Advent Calendar and each day a new window opens at 5pm. There are many street performances and Santa Claus programs, and lots of places to chill out and watch them.
At night time visit the market at St Stephen’s Basilica, the whole area is lit up like something from a Disney movie. Most Christmas markets do not open until 22nd November, but they many remain open until 1st January – this makes Budapest ideal for a post Christmas market break too. See more here.
Prague is the picture postcard of Christmas markets. With the old town square, Charles bridge and its famous castle all magically lit up, it is a stunning sight to see. Both the old town square and Wenceslas Square are transformed with market stalls offering local decorations, traditional hearty food and of course plenty of mulled wine.
You can enjoy the school choirs performing in traditional costumes or better still go to a classical concert. Housed in ancient churches and grand concert halls around the city, it will round off your weekend break in style. Markets are open from 30th November to 6th January, see more here.
Copenhagen’s most popular market is at Tivoli Gardens, and it attracts over 1 million people each year. This winter wonderland comes with reindeer rides, rollercoasters and of course the traditional market stalls. The Nyhavn Christmas market is open from 8th November to 23rd December, while Tivoli Gardens opens from the 16th November to 5th January.
Copenhagen is also popular for a post Christmas break, where you can enjoy some fantastic entertainment and firework displays. See more here.
Christmas markets in Vienna have been a tradition since 1298. Would you believe there are over 20 different markets here? There are international choir singers performing free of charge and the Christmas atmosphere is truly magical.
The Viennese Christmas Market in front of the City Hall is the most popular and even offers a specific children’s area, where they can learn how to make Christmas cookies and decorations. Vienna’s Christmas markets start at various times, but most run from 15th November until 26th December – see more here.
Rome may not offer markets on the same scale as some of it’s European counterparts, but that does not make it any less attractive. The Piazza Navona houses the annual Christmas market with traditional stalls and souvenirs. It is open from 8th December to 6th January, making it a good choice for a post Christmas break too. Santa makes regular appearances and there is a carousel to complete the festival atmosphere.
However, it is the magical crib displays and nativity scenes in numerous churches, that make Rome very special at Christmas time. What better time to visit the Vatican and the beauty of Rome.
Another market that dates back many years is Barcelona’s Fira de Santa Llucia market. Dating from 1786 this once traditional market now has over 300 stalls selling everything from Christmas trees to Spanish tapas.
From the 26th November to 23rd December you can buy handcrafted Christmas decorations and enjoy plenty of festive cheer. There are elaborate crib displays and plenty of live entertainment for the whole family. Barcelona is also a great city for high street shopping too, you could easily do all your Christmas shopping in one weekend.
Brussels is becoming increasingly popular with visitors at Christmas time. The city is transformed into a winter wonderland with over 240 market stalls. It also offers tobogganing, ice skating and a massive Ferris wheel, covered in lights. The Christmas market is open from 27th November to 3rd January, so Brussels is also a great option for post Christmas break.
Please note that all dates are correct at time of issue, but may change. Some of the links in this post contain affiliate links, where I receive a small commission if a booking is makde, but at no additional charge to you.