Visiting Christmas markets is a great way to kick off the festive season, and I’ve got the best Christmas markets in Europe right here!
Pottering around wooden market stalls, listening to carol singing, and sipping mulled wine in crisp December air – can you think of a better way to get into the Christmas mood? We are so fortunate to have so many of the best Christmas markets in Europe easily accessible – all of the cities listed below can be reached by direct flights from Ireland.
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, and some are even later. There is not much point booking Prague for the 24th of November if the market doesn’t open until early December.
I have a separate post with special offers on Christmas market breaks – where you can find prices from €169 including flights and hotels, but for inspiration on which city to choose, read below.
1. Krakow, Poland
Home to Europe’s largest market square, Krakow is 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 Krakow Christmas Markets will open from 24th November – 26th of December, with some markets continuing to the 2nd of January to celebrate the Epiphany Festival.
2. Berlin, Germany
Berlin has a whopping 50 Christmas markets! Winter World at Potsdamer Platz has super activities including ice skating and tobogganing, and is a great fun destination. The traditional Christmas Markets at Alexanderplatz and Charlottenburg house wooden stalls and beer houses.
The market in Spandau has over 500 stalls at weekends. Traditionally, the Spandau Christmas Dream begins with the cutting of a giant Christmas stollen. The XXL stollen will be cut on 22 November at 11 am. Other highlights include the Ferris wheel and the family roller coaster “The Crazy Worm”. This market is open from the 27th of November until the 23rd of December but many of Berlin’s Christmas markets will open until the 31st December.
Berlin has a Christmas market to cover all tastes, as well as many other sights to see and great nightlife.
Read my city guide to Berlin here.
3. Cologne, Germany
Cologne is renowned as having one of Europe’s best Christmas markets. 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.
Most markets are open from the 23rd of November until the 23rd of December, however there is also a New Year Market open from the 26th of December until the 1st of January.
4. Budapest, Hungary
Like many of Europe’s best Christmas markets, Budapest has several to choose from – 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 of Budapest’s Christmas markets open from the 18th November to 31st December, but the Christmas Fair at Basilica will open until January 1st – this makes Budapest ideal for a post Christmas market break too.
5. Prague, Czech Republic
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.
Prague’s Christmas markets are open from the 2nd of December to 6th January 2024, including Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day!
6. Copenhagen, Denmark
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 and rollercoasters making it a great choice for a family Christmas market break.
Copenhagen’s Christmas markets are open from the 17th November 2022 to 31st December, making them an ideal choice for a pre or post Christmas market break.
7. Vienna, Austria
Christmas markets in Vienna have been a tradition since 1298, and there are over 20 different markets to choose from. There are international choir singers performing free of charge and I’m told the Christmas atmosphere is 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 mid November until 23rd December – see more here.
8. Rome, Italy
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. 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.
9. Munich, Germany
Germany’s Christmas markets are renowned all over the world, and Bavaria’s capital has some of the best. Christmas Markets in Munich are open from 27th November through to 24th December, and there are over 20 markets to choose from.
10. Zagreb, Croatia
Did you know that Croatia’s capital, Zagreb, is renowned for having one of Europe’s best Christmas markets? There are 25 different markets in the city and it was named “Best Christmas Market” by European Best Destinations three years in a row – the maximum number of times for any city.
Advent is a key celebration in Zagreb and the Christmas markets usually open on the Saturday before the first Sunday of Advent ( Sunday 3rd December ) and run through to the first week of January.
11. Malaga, Spain
While Malaga may not be considered to have one of Europe’s best Christmas markets, it certainly knows how to celebrate the festive season!
Visitors flock to Malaga city every December to take part in the festivities and to enjoy its stunning streets lit up with over two million lights. In addition to the lights, there are five Christmas trees, Christmas markets, colourful arches and light shows to complete the festive experience.
The Christmas lights will be illuminated from the 24th of November until the 6th of January – see more here.
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Many of the top things to do in Malaga are located close together so you can see most of the highlights in a Malaga city break. My Malaga travel guide has all you need to know about discovering this great city:
12. Salzburg, Austria
Mozart’s hometown celebrates one of the oldest Christmas markets in Europe, dating all the way back to the 15th century. You can enjoy free concerts in front of the cathedral every day and hear plenty of renditions of Silent Night, which was first performed in St. Nicholas’ Church in Oberndorf near Salzburg on Christmas Eve in 1818.
As well as being steeped in tradition, its unique setting in Salzburg’s old city is one to savour. However, you will still find lots of traditional market stalls selling local crafts, and plenty of gluhwein to keep you warm. Salzburg’s Christmas markets are open from November 23, 2023 – January 1, 2024. See more here.
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.