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A Magical European Holiday: Visiting the Top Christmas Markets

November 16, 2023 8 min read No Comments

The holiday season in Europe is a time when the continent transforms into a winter wonderland, adorned with twinkling lights, festive decorations, and the enchanting aroma of seasonal treats. If you’re looking to experience the true essence of Christmas, there’s no better way than by visiting the top Christmas markets in Europe. From the charming markets of Strasbourg to the fairy-tale setting of Tallinn, this blog post will be your guide to some of the most magical Christmas markets on the continent. So let’s start talking about visiting the top Christmas markets!

1. Strasbourg, France – The Capital of Christmas

Strasbourg, known as the “Capital of Christmas,” hosts one of Europe’s most enchanting Christmas markets. Set against the backdrop of the city’s medieval architecture, the markets in Strasbourg evoke a storybook charm that captivates visitors. The cobblestone streets of the Grande Île come alive with the warm glow of festive lights, and over 300 stalls beckon with handcrafted ornaments, regional delicacies, and artisanal gifts.

The majestic Strasbourg Cathedral serves as a breathtaking centerpiece, its spire towering over the market square. The air is filled with the enticing scents of mulled wine, gingerbread, and roasted chestnuts, creating a sensory feast. From the iconic Christmas tree in Place Kléber to the lively atmosphere of the market, Strasbourg’s Christmas markets offer an immersive experience that celebrates the rich traditions and festive spirit of the holiday season.

While living in Europe, I visited Strasbourg twice! With several markets to visit and of course all the delicious foods to be eaten and the Vin chaud to be drank – you can easily spend 2-3 days here.

Visiting the Top Christmas Markets - Strasbourg Main Christmas Tree
The Strasbourg Main Christmas Tree

2. Vienna, Austria – The City of Music and Lights

Vienna is famous for its classical music heritage, but during the Christmas season, it transforms into a city of lights and holiday joy. The Christmas market in front of City Hall (Rathaus) is a must-visit. The ice-skating rink and breathtaking light displays will leave you in awe. When you are planning your trip to Vienna, I would recommend that you schedule at least two days to explore the Vienna Christmas scene!

Visiting the Top Christmas Markets - Vienna Austria Christmas Market
Vienna Austria Christmas Market

3. Cologne, Germany – Heavenue On Earth

Cologne is home to EIGHT of Germany’s beautiful Christmas markets and all within a short walk or Christmas Train ride away! It is truly a magical winter wonderland. I highly recommend scheduling at least three days for this city. Because there are so many markets and each quite sizable, to visit each of them, spend any time and enjoy yourself – two days isn’t enough time (trust me!) The Weihnachtsmarkt am Dom (Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market) is one of my favorite markets. It is lit with more than 50,000 lights and sits at the base of Cologne’s UNESCO Cathedral – it is truly magical!

Visiting the Top Christmas Markets - Weihnachtsmarkt am Dom
Weihnachtsmarkt am Dom
(Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market)

4. Copenhagen, Denmark – Tivoli Gardens Christmas Market

Copenhagen’s Christmas markets are a winter wonderland, and at the heart of this festive extravaganza lies the enchanting Tivoli Gardens. The historic amusement park transforms into a magical realm during the holiday season, with its Christmas market offering a captivating blend of tradition and modernity. The market’s stalls, adorned with twinkling lights, showcase a diverse array of Danish handicrafts, seasonal decorations, and delectable treats.

Tivoli Gardens itself becomes a sparkling spectacle, with its iconic rides and attractions illuminated against the winter night sky. Visitors can meander through the charming market lanes, sipping on mulled wine, sampling traditional Danish pastries, and immersing themselves in the lively atmosphere. The combination of Tivoli Gardens’ festive decor, exhilarating rides, and the warmth of the Christmas market creates a truly enchanting experience, making it a must-visit destination for those seeking the holiday magic in Copenhagen.

A Magical European Holiday: Visiting the Top Christmas Markets - Tivoli Gardens
Tivoli Gardens Christmas Market

5. Prague, Czech Republic – A Bohemian Christmas

The Christmas markets in Prague are a fairy-tale come to life, enchanting locals and visitors alike with their festive charm. Set against the backdrop of the city’s historic Old Town Square, the markets boast a picturesque scene of brightly decorated wooden stalls, twinkling lights, and a towering Christmas tree adorned with ornaments. The air is filled with the tempting aroma of Czech pastries, roasted chestnuts, and sizzling sausages, creating an irresistible culinary haven.

Artisans showcase traditional handcrafted goods, from delicate ornaments to intricate wooden toys, making it an ideal destination for unique holiday gifts. Carolers and musicians add to the festive spirit, while the glow of the markets reflects off the historic architecture, creating a truly magical atmosphere. The Christmas markets in Prague embody the spirit of the season, inviting everyone to share in the joy and wonder of the holidays amidst the breathtaking setting of this Central European gem.

6. Brussels, Belgium – Grand-Place Extravaganza

The Christmas markets in Brussels are a magical spectacle that transforms the heart of the city into a winter wonderland during the holiday season. Nestled in the historic Grand Place and surrounding areas, these markets offer a festive atmosphere with twinkling lights, charming wooden stalls, and the irresistible aroma of seasonal treats wafting through the air.

Visitors can explore an array of artisanal crafts, unique gifts, and local delicacies, making it a perfect destination for holiday shopping. The centerpiece is often a towering Christmas tree adorned with lights, creating a captivating focal point. Mulled wine and Belgian chocolates are among the indulgent delights that beckon attendees to savor the spirit of the season. The markets also feature live performances, carol singers, and an overall ambiance that captures the joy and warmth of Christmas in Brussels. It’s a delightful experience that brings locals and tourists together to celebrate the festive spirit in one of Europe’s most enchanting cities.

Brussels Christmas Market

7. Budapest, Hungary – A Taste of Hungarian Christmas

Budapest’s Christmas markets cast a spell of festive enchantment over the city, inviting locals and visitors into a winter wonderland of holiday cheer. The main market, situated in Vörösmarty Square, showcases a picturesque scene of wooden stalls adorned with twinkling lights and festive decorations. Here, visitors can explore a delightful array of Hungarian handicrafts, seasonal gifts, and mouthwatering treats.

The aroma of cinnamon and roasted chestnuts fills the air as traditional folk music and carolers contribute to the festive ambiance. A highlight is the towering Christmas tree, adorned with lights and ornaments, creating a captivating focal point. Beyond Vörösmarty Square, the city’s thermal baths, historic sites, and the Danube River provide a stunning backdrop to the holiday celebrations. The Budapest Christmas markets offer a perfect blend of tradition, culture, and warmth, making it a truly magical destination during the holiday season.

8. Tallinn, Estonia – A Medieval Christmas

Tallinn’s Old Town, with its cobbled streets and medieval architecture, provides a picturesque setting for one of Europe’s most captivating Christmas markets. Against the backdrop of medieval architecture, Raekoja Plats (Town Hall Square) comes alive with the festive spirit. Traditional wooden stalls adorned with twinkling lights offer an array of Estonian handicrafts, festive decorations, and delectable seasonal treats.

The scent of gingerbread and mulled wine permeates the air as visitors explore the market’s delights. A centerpiece Christmas tree, often considered one of the most beautiful in Europe, adds to the enchantment. The market exudes a cozy, communal atmosphere with live performances, carolers, and the joyful buzz of locals and tourists alike, making Tallinn’s Christmas market a magical and unforgettable experience in the heart of the Baltic region.

9. Stockholm, Sweden – A Swedish Winter Wonderland

Stockholm’s Christmas markets add a touch of festive magic to the Swedish capital, transforming its historic squares into enchanting winter wonderlands. The main market in Gamla Stan, the Old Town, is a picture-perfect scene with its medieval backdrop and cobblestone streets. Here, stalls adorned with red and white decorations offer a delightful array of traditional Swedish crafts, ornaments, and seasonal treats. The air is filled with the fragrance of mulled wine, roasted almonds, and gingerbread cookies.

The Skansen open-air museum hosts another iconic market, where visitors can experience a blend of historical charm and holiday cheer. With ice-skating rinks, Santa’s workshop, and the city’s iconic landmarks aglow, Stockholm’s Christmas markets provide a festive escape that beautifully captures the spirit of the season in the heart of Scandinavia. It’s an experience like no other.

10. Edinburgh, Scotland – A Scottish Yuletide

Edinburgh’s Christmas markets transform the city into a festive spectacle, offering a delightful blend of Scottish charm and holiday cheer. The historic East Princes Street Gardens host the main market, boasting a stunning backdrop of Edinburgh Castle. Wooden stalls adorned with twinkling lights line the pathways, showcasing a diverse array of artisanal crafts, seasonal gifts, and tempting treats. The aroma of mulled wine and traditional Scottish fare fills the air, creating a sensory experience that captures the essence of the season.

Edinburgh Princes Street Gardens Christmas Market

Visitors can revel in the festive atmosphere, enjoy live performances, and take a spin on the Christmas carousel. The iconic Star Flyer ride provides panoramic views of the city lit up for the holidays. Edinburgh’s Christmas markets are a magical celebration, inviting locals and tourists alike to immerse themselves in the warmth and joy of the Scottish Yuletide spirit.

11. Amsterdam, Netherlands – Light Festival and Christmas Markets

Amsterdam’s Christmas markets infuse the Dutch capital with a cozy and festive ambiance during the holiday season. The city’s main square, Dam Square, transforms into a winter wonderland with twinkling lights, charming wooden stalls, and a festive atmosphere. Visitors can explore an array of unique gifts, seasonal decorations, and Dutch specialties.

The scent of warm stroopwafels and mulled wine wafts through the air, enticing passersby. Beyond Dam Square, the iconic canals are adorned with lights, creating a picturesque backdrop for holiday strolls. Amsterdam’s Christmas markets blend the city’s historic charm with a contemporary festive spirit, offering a delightful experience for both locals and tourists seeking to celebrate the holidays in the heart of the Netherlands.

12. Zagreb, Croatia – Europe’s Best Advent Market

Zagreb, Croatia, boasts one of Europe’s most charming and award-winning Christmas markets, transforming the city into a magical holiday destination. The main festivities take place in Ban Jelačić Square, where wooden stalls adorned with festive decorations offer an array of handcrafted gifts, local delicacies, and traditional treats. What sets Zagreb’s Christmas market apart is its enchanting atmosphere, featuring live music, cultural performances, and a joyful buzz that permeates the air.

The city’s historic Upper Town is adorned with twinkling lights, creating a fairy-tale setting for holiday celebrations. From ice-skating in King Tomislav Square to the scenic Christmas tram rides, Zagreb’s Christmas markets provide a perfect blend of tradition, warmth, and festive merriment, making it a must-visit destination for those seeking a magical holiday experience in the heart of Croatia.

Visiting the top Christmas markets in Europe is not just a trip; it’s an enchanting journey into the heart of holiday traditions. These markets offer a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the magic of the season, surrounded by dazzling lights, the aroma of mulled wine, and the joyous laughter of fellow visitors. So, this holiday season, pack your warmest coat, grab your loved ones, and embark on an unforgettable adventure through Europe’s most enchanting Christmas markets.

For more blogs about enjoying Christmas in Europe click HERE


The things I love the most...Wine, traveling, and photography! Join me on my adventures as I travel the world and share my experiences as I travel with my daughter, top places to visit and how to travel on a budget!

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The Backpacker Mom

Hey there! I'm Phylicia, but you probably know me as "The Backpacker Mom." As a passionate wine educator and travel blogger, my daughter and I embark on exciting adventures around the world, sipping wine and creating unforgettable memories together. Join us on our wonderful adventures around the globe! Read More Here

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