If you’re looking for whimsical and wonderful Christmas markets in Europe and help on which city to visit this Christmas season, you’re in the right place. We’ve assembled the best Christmas markets from across Europe to help you celebrate the festive season with different traditions to your home country.
Read on to view our top 11 Christmas Market city break destinations.
1. Budapest, Hungary
One of our favourite cities in Europe is no doubt Budapest. A great city to visit year-round, the winter gives Budapest a frosty but enchanting makeover. From the old bridges and buildings to the iconic castle, sightseeing in the winter is excellent – just wrap up warm!
Budapest has an excellent nightlife and foodie scene and it can be very cheap to eat out. Spend your day wandering the city streets and head to a cosy ruin bar on an evening for a lively atmosphere or casual beers. Visit Budapest towards the end of November and December for a collection of excellent Christmas markets and festive decoration. The top two Christmas markets to attend are Vorosmarty Square and Basilica, where you’ll find glowing lights, live music and bright gift stalls.
Our other highlights for a winter trip to Budapest include a dinner cruise down the River Danube, visit to the ballet or theatre and a daytime stop at the famous Szechenyi Thermal Baths.
Best Christmas market: Vorosmarty Square
Our recommended area to stay: District V – walking distance of all of the main bars, restaurants and bridges and plenty of accommodation options.
2. Bergen, Norway
Cheap, short-haul flights to Norway are very common, and the whimsical village of Bergen makes a brilliant Christmas market city break destination. This seaside town is located near the Norwegian Fjords, a collection of breath-taking land formations on the coastline of the country. You can visit them on a boat trip or rent a kayak and explore at your own leisure.
Life in Bergen is quiet but festive and cheery. You’ll find many themed gift shops and festive stalls, and the small-town atmosphere is very cosy. Wander the marina and take pictures of the pretty coloured houses or retire to a pub with some friendly locals to keep warm. Bergen is cold but well worth the visit at this time of the year.
Best Christmas market: Festplassen is Bergen’s only Christmas market. Gingerbread Village is also a must-see.
Our recommended area to stay: Stay by the marina for the best views. Bergen is small so you’re within a short walk of the key attractions.
3. Berlin, Germany
You’ll find Christmas markets and festive cheer throughout Germany in the winter months, however not many cities pack as many things to do as Berlin. The capital is a European hub for sightseeing, nightlife and history, and you’ll also find some fantastic Christmas markets. Both flights and accommodation in Berlin are cheap for a major city and a winter city-break here is sure to be action packed.
In addition to attractions such as the Berlin Wall, Reichstag Building and Brandenburg Gate, there’s an abundance of museums, beautiful parks and Theatres. There are numerous Christmas markets throughout this giant city, however the largest is Berlin-Mitte, attracting over 600,000 attendees each year and home to a sea of beautifully lit stalls. Check out Berlin Enjoy’s Christmas Market guide here to find out the best festive attractions. http://berlin-enjoy.com/five-best-christmas-markets-in-berlin/
Best Christmas market: Potsdamer Platz is the local favourite, transforming the area into a giant winter wonderland.
Our recommended area to stay: Mitte is the centre of many of Berlin’s top attractions and markets – perfect for a first-time visit.
4. Vienna, Austria
Christmas-time in Vienna is something extra special, particularly when it’s snowing. Visit during the months of November and December to find the main square of the City Hall alive with fairy lights and festival stalls, in one of the most popular Christmas markets of Europe. There are 6 Christmas markets spread throughout the city, with the largest being the Viennese Christmas Market, hosting over 145 stalls.
Expect Christmas stalls on a huge scale and plenty of gift shopping opportunities! You’ll also find live choirs, performances and festive cheer throughout. Being a small place, Vienna can get quite busy and expensive at this time of the year so book early for this winter wonderland.
Best Christmas market: Loved by locals, Freyung market has retained its tradition in a beautifully decorated square.
Our recommended area to stay: Stay in the inner city ‘First District’ to be within walking distance of the markets, shops and restaurants.
5. Zagreb, Croatia
Croatia’s capital is a less-known Christmas city break destination that is vastly rising the ranks for places to visit after being voted ‘Best Christmas Market’ in Europe by Best European Destinations, 3 year’s running! You’ll find Christmas decoration and events throughout the city and festive celebrations aren’t just focused in one area.
Top attractions include Ban Josip Jelačić Square, a main square in the city that hosts a giant Christmas tree, fountain light display and live music, and Zrinjevac Park; an artisan Christmas market with craft stalls, handmade gifts and plenty of food and drink options. Other activities include Ice Skating on King Tomislav Square and pop-up markets and food events throughout Zagreb.
When you’re not out and about at the markets, be sure to pay the theatre a visit one night; there’s plenty of shows to choose from. Zagreb is a great value city break option.
Best Christmas market: The streets surrounding Jelačić Square is where it’s all happening. Expect brightly lit buildings and stalls, a tram ride for kids and Santa Claus himself.
Our recommended area to stay: We recommend renting an apartment around the Jelačić Main Square or Zrinjevac areas for plenty of Christmas shops, restaurants and the main market.
6. Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is a city that comes alive in winter. The dark nights ascend over the archaic architecture of Charles Bridge and the river running beneath has a light layer of frost. Wrap up warm and explore this enchanting city on foot. You’ll find several castles, plenty of sights and museums and an old town square full of festive cheer. The Christmas market features both gift and food stalls spread over a large area and everything in the city centre is within walking distance.
Prague is also very cheap. You can stay in a central location for less than £50 per night and food and drink is very affordable too! Be sure to taste the local beer and sausages.
Best Christmas market: The Old Town Square and Wencelas Square have equally as impressive Christmas markets with an abundance of stalls.
Our recommended area to stay: Book a central apartment near the Old Town square. It’s cheap and convenient for soaking in the atmosphere.
7. Manchester, UK
Manchester’s Christmas markets have been growing every year and it’s now one of the top UK Christmas break destinations. Explore all the markets spread throughout the city and indulge in Christmas shopping at the huge Trafford or Arndale Shopping Centre’s. Albert Square in the heart of the city centre is the place to go. There’s a large beer tent and frequent festive entertainment every night of the week.
You’ll also find Christmas Markets with foreign influence, including French, German and World Markets, spread throughout the Deansgate area. Other top activities include ice skating, enjoying a romantic Christmas meal or checking out one of the many theatre shows or pantomimes. Manchester can get very busy during the festive period so be sure to book your hotel and transport well in advance!
Best Christmas market: We personally love the variety of food and drink on offer from across the globe at the World Christmas Market, located on Brazennose Street.
Our recommended area to stay: The Deansgate area has several hotels in the heart of the Christmas action. A cheaper option is to stay in Salford Quays and catch the tram to the city centre.
8. Nuremburg, Germany
Nuremburg has one of the most authentic and long-standing Christmas markets in Germany. The main market is at the steps of the Church of Our Lady, where you’ll find a colourful collection of stalls selling the city’s famous Bratwurst sausages, gingerbread and other festive treats. Alongside the market, you can catch a ride on a horse and carriage to the sound of Christmas music and explore the neatly decorated streets. There’s also a children’s Christmas market, perfect for families!
When you’re not wandering the Christmas Market, Nuremburg has plenty of historical sites to visit and archaic buildings and streets. It was the main rally point of the Nazi’s during WWII, so you’ll find a several museums and interesting monuments. It is also one of the original Christmas market destinations and a traditional, magical aurora can be felt throughout the city streets.
Best Christmas market: The main market outside the Church of Our Lady is the famous festive location everyone flocks to see.
Our recommended area to stay: Stay in the Sebald district to the north of the river to be within walking distance of the market.
9. Seville, Spain
Unlike the ice-cold winter environment of the other Christmas city breaks on our list, Seville offers a warmer climate to enjoy the festive cheer. The city is a paradise for foodies and is rich in both culture and sightseeing opportunities. You’ll find four Christmas Markets in Seville, offering traditional Spanish toys, gifts and treats. Feria de Artesanía Creativa is the must-see market, located on a street full of light decorations.
For high-street gift shopping, Gran Mercado de Navidad Nervión is the recommended shopping mall and the best place for retail therapy, hosting both local brands and international high street chains. When you’re not Christmas shopping, you must go on a food tour of the city to try all the local dishes, some with a festive twist.
Best Christmas market: Located outside of Plaza Nueva City Hall, Feria de Artesanía Creativa is a quirky market full of handcrafted gifts and decorations.
Our recommended area to stay: Stay in the neighbourhood of Barrio Santa Cruz to be within walking distance of the main sites and decorated streets.
10. Copenhagen, Denmark
Copenhagen is a city that knows how to celebrate Christmas to the fullest and new events and attractions are popping up every year. The unique setting of Tivoli Gardens is a magical place to visit over the festive period. The entire space is transformed into a white, winter wonderland, featuring a steam train, Christmas Market stalls and frequent performances in the Tivoli Concert Hall. Fancy seeing a local rendition of The Nutcracker?
Elsewhere in Copenhagen you’ll find intricately decorated streets, coloured houses and multiple ice rinks. It’s truly a city for anyone to visit at Christmas – families and couples alike. Be sure to feast on some of the traditional Danish Christmas foods, including bakes, sweets and salmon Christmas dinners with all the trimmings.
Best Christmas market: Tivoli Gardens is the favourite. As well as over 60 market stalls, the finely decorated wonderland has fairground rides, entertainment and a steam train.
Our recommended area to stay: Copenhagen is compact so aim to stay anywhere in the city centre.
11. Krakow, Poland
Another low-cost city-break is Krakow. This destination is popular throughout the year due to the low-cost of living and variety of historical sites, however Christmas is where it’s particularly special. Central Square is the host for all the festivities, where you’ll find handmade decorations, Christmas gifts, tasty bakes and everything else you’d expect to find at a Christmas market; with a Polish twist. Although very cold, Krakow has an icy edge during December and it’s very therapeutic to wander the streets and buildings. Be sure to check out the castle!
Must-see points of interest include the heart-breaking but eye-opening concentration camp of Auschwitz and the nearby Salt Mines tour. Visit Krakow this Christmas for traditional celebrations on a low-budget. You’ll find some excellent accommodation for less than £40 per night.
Best Christmas market: Central Square is the main market area. You can walk here from any city centre location.
Our recommended area to stay: Krakow has a very compact city centre. Stay in a central apartment or a hotel just outside of the main centre to save money. The area near the train station/Wypianski Hotel is well-located.
We hope we’ve inspired you to pick the perfect destination for your Christmas break. Flying at this time of the year can be a little expensive, particularly at weekends. Try to travel on a weekday if you can, for the best prices.
Where’s your favourite Christmas market destination this year? Let us know if the comments below.