Pottering around wooden market stalls, picking up Christmas decorations while listening to carol singing, a Christmas market break is a great way to kick off the festive season. But which one to choose?
Watch your dates! Although some markets are open from mid November, 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 29th! All of my personal favourites are chosen with accessibility in mind so all offer direct flights from Ireland. 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 and great value too. 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 the 27th of November to the 23rd of December.
Berlin is such a big city and would you believe has over 50 different markets to choose from. The Winter World at Potsdamer Plats starts in early November with ice skating and tobogganing and is great fun destination. The traditional Christmas Markets at Alexanderplatz and Charlottenburg houses wooden stalls and beer houses and is open from the 21st of November to the 26th of December. And last but not least the market in Spandau has over 500 stalls at weekends with rock concerts every Friday! 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 Berlin post for all the highlights by clicking here.
Cologne has been one of the most popular Christmas market destinations for many years. Many choose to visit the large market near the Cathedral which offers live music and an ice skating rink. There are however, several other markets here including a specific LGBT Christmas Avenue market which has a great party atmosphere and lots of stage events. All are open from the 23rd of November to the 23rd of December.
Like many other cities Budapest offers several markets. The most popular one 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. Both are very close to each other and are open from the 27th of November to the 2nd of January.
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 26th of November to the 1st January.
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. Open from the 19th of November to the 31st of December, it is also popular for a post Christmas break where you can enjoy some fantastic firework displays.
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 markets start a little earlier than most and run from the 19th of November to the 1st of January.
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. Markets are open from 26th of November to the 6th of January.
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 28th of November to the 23rd of 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.
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. Market is open from the 25th November to the 1st of January.
Please note that all dates are correct at time of issue but may change.