If you’re anything like me, Christmas holds a special place in your heart. The mere thought of December, snow, and hot chocolate fills you with excitement. And as December arrives, it brings with it one of most enchanting traditions – the European Christmas markets.
In this guide, you’ll discover 10 of the best Christmas markets in Europe for 2023. Is there anything more joyful and heartwarming than the spirit of the holiday season?
Most Magical European Christmas Markets in 2023
1. Vienna, Austria
When: Nov 11th, 2023 – Dec 26th, 2023
Where: Vienna Rathausplatz, Belvedere Palace, Schönbrunn Palace
Experience the enchantment of one of the best Christmas markets in Europe in the heart of Vienna. It’s a winter wonderland that comes to life every holiday season.
Vienna spreads the festive cheer with multiple Christmas markets, each with its unique charm. The most famous and central one is the Vienna Christmas Market in front of the City Hall (Rathausplatz), which boasts a giant Christmas tree and a backdrop of the magnificent neo-Gothic city hall.
The Vienna Christmas market is renowned for its top-quality, handcrafted goods, featuring traditional Austrian crafts, ornaments, and decorations.
2. Prague, Czech Republic
When: Dec 2nd, 2023 – Jan 6th, 2024
Where: Old Town Square, Wenceslas Square
The Prague Christmas Market, known as “Pražský vánoční trh” in Czech, has a rich history dating back to the early 20th century, but its roots go even deeper into medieval times when traders from across Europe converged in Prague for festive Advent markets. Today, this market beautifully blends Czech traditions with international influences, keeping those age-old customs alive.
If you are a food enthusiast, the market is nothing short of paradise, offering a tempting array of Czech holiday treats. Try traditional delights like trdelník (chimney cake), klobása (sausages), and smažený sýr (fried cheese). And for a cozy warm-up, grab a cup of svařák (mulled wine) or medovina (honey wine).
3. Nuremberg, Germany
When: Dec 1st, 2023 – Dec 24th, 2023
Where: Hauptmarkt, Hans-Sachs-Platz (Children’s Market), Sister Cities Market
The Nuremberg Christmas Market, or “Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt”, ranks among the best Christmas markets in Europe and among the most esteemed and historical Christmas markets in Germany.
Dating back to the early 16th century, this market holds a special place in the hearts of both locals and international visitors. The main attraction is the grand opening ceremony, where the Christkind recites a solemn prologue to officially kick off the festivities.
But that’s not all! This German Christmas market is renowned for its strict standards when it comes to the quality and origin of its products. Here, you’ll discover authentic, handcrafted treasures and traditional Nuremberg delights like grilled sausages and gingerbread cookies (Lebkuchen), often adorned with sweet messages or festive designs.
And let’s not forget the one-of-a-kind zwetschgenmannle, or prune people, unique to Nuremberg. Crafted from prunes (dried plums) and nuts, these figurines have been a beloved tradition for centuries. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, portraying a wide array of characters and professions, from musicians and chimney sweeps to hikers, ministers, and even the mischievous devil.
4. Cologne, Germany
When: Nov 23 – Dec 23, 2023
Where: Cologne Cathedral, Altstadt (Henzels Winter Fairytale), Neumarkt square
Imagine a Christmas market set against the breathtaking backdrop of the Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom), one of Europe’s most magnificent Gothic cathedrals.
The pièce de résistance? A Christmas tree that ranks among Germany’s tallest and most impressive. This majestic tree takes center stage in front of the cathedral, its luminous display enchanting all who gaze upon it.
But there’s more to savor than just the view at Cologne Christmas market. You can indulge in Kölsch beer, a local brew typically served in petite glasses known as Stangen. Sipping Kölsch as you wander through the market is not just a way to ward off the chill; it’s a tradition that immerses you in the festive spirit of this European Christmas Market.
5. Budapest, Hungary
When: Nov 18th, 2023 – Dec 31st, 2023
Where: Vörösmarty Square
Expect to see the square beautifully decorated with festive lights, ornaments, and a large Christmas tree as the centerpiece.
Budapest Christmas market is famous for its grand Advent calendar display on the facade of the Gerbeaud building. Each day leading up to Christmas, a new window is unveiled, and the calendar comes to life with festive animations and music.
An Advent calendar is a special calendar used to count down the days from December 1st to Christmas Eve. The Advent calendar tradition is believed to have originated in Germany in the 19th century. These days, Advent calendars come in all sorts of cool forms – some are made of paper, cardboard, fabric, or even digital stuff. The most common ones are like cardboard or paper calendars with 24 little doors or windows, each numbered. You open one each day in December, and there’s a little surprise or treat hidden behind each one! It’s like a mini-Christmas every day until the real deal!
And when it comes to flavours on the Budapest Christmas market, don’t miss out on tasting the delicious Hungarian foods and treats, such as chimney cake (kürtőskalács), stuffed flatbreads (lángos), sausages, and roasted chestnuts. Traditional Hungarian mulled wine, called “forralt bor” is also a favorite.
6. Dresden, Germany
When: Nov 29 – Dec 24, 2023
Where: Altmarkt and several other locations
Step into a winter wonderland at the Dresden Christmas Market, known as the “Dresdner Striezelmarkt”. This market is one of oldest Christmas markets in Germany, with roots dating back to 1434.
The market hosts a “living advent calendar” with daily events, surprises, and performances leading up to Christmas in Europe. The market is also famous for its enormous Christmas stollen, a traditional German fruitcake made with candied fruits and nuts.
The Stollen Festival is a highlight where a giant stollen is ceremoniously cut and distributed to visitors.
Last but not least, a prominent feature of this European Christmas market is the captivating Christmas pyramid (Weihnachtspyramide) adorned with intricate wooden figurines and rotating tiers. Each tier tells a unique story, often depicting scenes from German folklore, Christmas traditions, or nativity scenes.
7. Tallinn, Estonia
When: Dec 1, 2023 – Mon, Jan 7, 2024
Where: Tallinn’s Old Town Square
Tallinn is one of my favorite destinations, especially in December when it’s drenched in that cozy Christmas feeling. If you’re lucky, the city is blanketed in a pristine layer of snow, adding an extra sprinkle of magic.
The Tallinn Christmas market is one of the oldest and best Christmas markets in Europe, with a history dating back to 1441. Nestled within the medieval charm of Tallinn’s Old Town, this market is like stepping into a fairytale. Tallinn’s Old Town Square, often considered one of Europe’s best-preserved medieval wonders, serves as the backdrop.
Picture this: as the crisp winter air nips at your cheek, a towering Christmas tree, adorned with thousands of twinkling lights, takes center stage in the Town Hall Square, stealing the show. Snowflakes gently drift from the night sky. The wooden stalls, their roofs blanketed in a dusting of snow, offer an array of Estonian handicrafts, from warm woolen clothing to pottery and unique gifts.
And here’s something unique – the Tallinn Christmas Market hosts the annual “Christmas King” or “Jõuluvana” election, an honor bestowed upon a local individual who’s made remarkable contributions to the community.
8. Copenhagen, Denmark
When: Nov 3 – Dec 21, 2023
Where: Julemarked Kongens Nytorv, Julemarked Højbro Plads, Tivoli Gardens
When it comes to the best Christmas markets in Europe, Copenhagen’s cannot be overlooked. The Copenhagen Christmas market is renowned for its “hygge” ambiance, a Danish concept that embodies coziness, warmth, and togetherness.
The enchantment begins at the Tivoli Gardens, one of the world’s oldest amusement parks, which transforms into a winter wonderland during the Christmas season. The park becomes a tapestry of thousands of twinkling lights and offers exhilarating rides, ice skating, and festive entertainment.
As you wander through, your taste buds are in for a treat with traditional Danish holiday delights like æbleskiver (round pancakes), gløgg (mulled wine), and various forms of marzipan confections.
9. Colmar, France
When: Nov 23, 2023 – Fri, Dec 29, 2023
Where: Place des Dominicains, Place Jeanne d’Arc, Petite Venise, Koïfhus, Place de l’Ancienne Douane, Place de la Cathédrale
The Colmar Christmas Market, or “Marché de Noël de Colmar” in French, is a fairytale-like holiday destination nestled in the picturesque town of Colmar in the Alsace region of France. With its well-preserved medieval architecture and picturesque canals, Colmar sets the stage for one of the best Christmas markets in Europe.
This market is a true celebration, not just for its breathtaking decorations and festive vibes, but also for its unwavering dedication to preserving Alsatian traditions. If you visit, prepare to treat your taste buds to regional delights like spiced bread (pain d’épices), choucroute (sauerkraut), bretzels (pretzels), tarte flambée (a unique pizza), and a variety of regional cheeses and wines.
10. Kraków, Poland
When: Nov 24 – Dec 26, 2023
Where: Rynek Glowny, the main old town square
The main Krakow Christmas market is held in the Rynek Glowny, the stunning main square in the heart of city’s Old Town. This square is a living testament to history, framed by iconic landmarks like the Cloth Hall and St. Mary’s Basilica.
Krakow’s Christmas market earns its reputation as one of the best Christmas markets in Europe thanks to its festive decorations, lively atmosphere, and regional offerings. On December 6th, the city goes all out with special celebrations for St. Nicholas Day; children can meet St. Nicholas himself and receive small gifts and treats. Besides, Krakow hosts an annual Szopka competition where local craftsmen and artists showcase their unique nativity scenes.
Christmas Markets in Europe Can’t be Missed!
European Christmas markets offer an unparalleled experience. It’s challenging to put into words, but imagine the pure Christmas joy you felt as a child – that’s what it’s like. Everyone radiates happiness and festive spirit. Delicious drinks and foods fill the air, and people come together in the true spirit of the season. After all, don’t they say that Christmas isn’t just a time of year; it’s a feeling of love and togetherness?!
So, if I were you, I wouldn’t miss this for anything in the world! ♥