EuropeTravel Inspiration

15 Best Christmas Markets in Europe in 2020

Although some Christmas markets in Europe are as old as Galileo Galilei, they have lost none of their shine. On the contrary, between mid-November and late-December, thousands of market stalls offering seasonal arts, crafts, food, and drink pop up in festive-decorated villages, cities and metropolises from Seville to Tallinn.

To help you navigate the most atmospheric places check out the definitive collection of the 15 best Christmas markets in Europe and secret insider tips.

1. Aachen Christmas Market, Germany

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Markt, 52062 Aachen, Germany

Price: Free Time spent: 1.5-2 hours

Hours: 11am-9pm daily, 6pm-9pm Sunday 22 Nov

Dates Open: 20 Nov-23 Dec 2020

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Sitting in the triangle between Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium, medieval fairytale town Aachen has gracefully transformed from the nation's coronation hub to a playground for savvy culture tourists.

Each year in the run up to Christmas, dozens of street vendors set up a shop village of gabled wooden huts grouped in three clusters between the city hall and world-famous Aachen Cathedral. Expect to be torn between hand-crafted Christmas baubles, colorful ceramics, fine liqueurs, mulled wine, and local delicacies. To add more local flavor, try your hand at the onsite German ice curling.

Tip: Sink your teeth into different types of soft Aachener Printen, the city's famous chocolate-coated gingerbread.

2. Berlin Christmas Market, Germany

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Gendarmenmarkt, 10117 Berlin, Germany

Price: Free Time spent: 2-2.5 hours

Hours: 11am-10pm daily, until 6pm 24 Dec, until 1am 31 Dec

Dates Open: 23 Nov-31 Dec 2020

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Despite or because of its tragic history, Germany's capital has evolved into one of Europe's prime cities for partying, contemporary art and shopping, and thriving startups.

Among the more than 80 local Christmas markets, the Berliner Weihnachtszauber am Gendarmenmarkt is the most popular. Framing hundreds of little white sellers' tents topped with Christmas stars, the French Cathedral, the German Cathedral and Berliner Konzerthaus create a dramatic stage setting. Amidst charming seasonal arts and crafts, a daily mix of acrobats, choirs, fire artists and angels on stilts entertain a bustling crowd on the Christmas market stage and in the square.

Tip: At the Blumenfisch tent, delve into beef roulades with red cabbage and mushrooms or braised goose shank with pointed cabbage and ginger.

3. Bolzano Christmas Market, Italy

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Piazza Walther, 39100 Bolzano BZ, Italy

Price: Free Time spent: 1-1.5 hours

Hours: 10am-7pm daily

Dates Open: 27 Nov 2020-6 Jan 2021

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At the foothill of the rugged Dolomites, the capital of Southern Tyrol mixes Austrian Alpine charms with an Italian laid-back atmosphere. Apart from the breathtaking mountain backdrop, Bolzano's medieval city center and its cuisine keep visitors coming back.

Ready to trade the big buzz for loads of seasonal atmosphere? Between Bolzano's Renaissance arcades, baroque townhouses and gothic churches, you'll lose yourself while roaming the 80+ charming stalls, nativity scenes, and traditional crafts workshops. Armed with crispy apple fritters and mulled wine, drop by the old puppet theatre or listen to an advent concert on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Strudel and Alpine cuisine await in the town's many taverns.

Special hours: 5pm-7pm Nov 26, 10am-2pm Dec 24, closed Dec 25, 10am-7pm Dec 26, 10am-6pm Dec 31, 12pm-6pm Jan 1

Tip: At Rathausplatz (city hall square), shop for traditional Alpine crafts, such as beautifully painted ceramics, wood carvings and slippers made of boiled wool.

4. Budapest Christmas Fair and Winter Festival, Hungary

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Budapest, Vörösmarty tér, 1051 Hungary

Price: Free Time spent: 1.5-2 hours

Hours: 10am-various (see below)

Dates Open: 6 Nov 2020-1 Jan 2021

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Proudly embracing its national heritage, Hungary's capital has long upgraded to a pulsating Western European hub with cozy cafés and exciting shops.

Though not Budapest's only Christmas market, the pop-up village at central Vörösmarty Square has earned international reputation thanks to its incredible scenery. Set against the backdrop of 19th century townhouses and grand Café Gerbeaud, the wooden market stalls embrace Hungarian tradition. Each year, a professional jury selects the local vendors with the best quality products allowed to offer their wares at the Christmas market. Between refueling with kürtős kalács (chimney cake) and halászlé (fish soup) go for Hungarian embroidery and homemade liqueurs as you listen to a mix of Christmas, blues, jazz and house tunes.

Detailed Hours:

  • Sunday-Thursday: 10am-8pm (handicraft shops), 10am-9pm (food stalls)
  • Friday & Saturday: 10am-9pm (handicraft shops), 10am-10pm (food stalls)
  • 24 De: 10am-2pm (handicraft shops), 10am-3pm (food stalls)
  • 25, 26 Dec: 12pm-6pm (handicraft shops), 10am-6pm (food stalls)
  • 27 Dec: 10am-8pm (handicraft shops), 10am-9pm (food stalls)
  • 28-29 Dec: 10am-7pm (handicraft shops), 10am-8pm (food stalls) (only Food Stalls open from Dec 29 onwards)
  • 30 Dec: 10am-10pm (food stalls only)
  • 31 Dec: 10am-4pm (food stalls only)
  • 1 Jan: 2pm-10pm (food stalls only)

Tip: On Sundays at 4pm, watch another advent candle lighting up the gigantic Christmas wreath on the square before listening to seasonal choirs. Buy traditional gifts in time as these stalls close on December 24th at 2pm.

5. Colmar Christmas Market, France

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Place de l'Ancienne Douane, 68000 Colmar, France

Price: Free Time spent: 2-2.5 hours

Hours: 10am-7pm Monday-Thursday, 10am-8pm Friday-Sunday, 10am-5pm 24 Dec, 2pm-7pm 25 Dec

Dates Open: 20 Nov-30 Dec 2020

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Spreading its medieval charms between Strasbourg and Basel, this picture book Alsatian town is more than a tiny spot on the map, thanks to its timbered houses and splendid gothic cathedral.

Since it is an impossible choice, let's roll up all 6 of Colmar's tightly grouped Christmas markets into one spectacular experience. In fact, you will be forgiven to confuse the Marché de Noël de Colmar with a giant theater stage. In what seems the winter episode of the movie Chocolat, local townspeople, vendors and the tourism office compete head-to-head for the most breathtaking decorations. If the elaborate illuminations and architecture between Places Des Dominicains, Place de la Cathedrale and Place de l'Ancienne Douane don't overwhelm you, the handmade glass creations, delicate knitted items, jewelry, mulled wine and gingerbread surely will.

6. Heinzel's Winter Tale, Cologne, Germany

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Heumarkt 55, 50667 Köln, Germany

Price: Free Time spent: 2.5-3 hours

Hours: 11am-10pm daily, 11am- 9pm 26 Dec

Dates Open: 23 Nov-23 Dec 2020

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With 2000 years of history under its belt, Germany's fourth largest city boasts a world-famous cathedral, historic architecture and countless cultural highlights. According to an 18th century fairytale poem, the city's busy house elves (Heinzelmännchen) with their red pointed hats used to get the work of its lazy craftspeople done overnight.

With a large and immaculately organized Christmas market such as the Winter Tale, fortunately the house elves help out. For 6 weeks every year, Cologne's largest Christmas market Heinzels Wintermärchen invokes the busy gnomes at 120 food and crafts stalls on two interconnected squares: Heumarkt and Alter Markt. This time, the clanging and hammering comes from the real craftspeople showing their traditional metal work, wood sculpting and confectionery making skills.

Ice Skating Rink / Heumarkt open: 5 Nov 2020 - 10 Jan 2021 (closed 24-25 Dec).

Tip: Rent a pair of ice skates and glide around the large ice rink at Heumarkt before warming up over Rhenisch marinated pot roast and Flammkuchen (tarte flambée) at one of the many rustic taverns at the market.

7. Edinburgh's Christmas, Scotland

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Princes St, Edinburgh EH2 2HG, United Kingdom

Price: Free Time spent: 1.5-2 hours

Hours: 10am-10pm daily

Dates Open: 16 Nov 2020-4 Jan 2021

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Famous for its steeliness and rough beauty, Scotland's capital Edinburgh has excelled at creating magic throughout history, from stunning palaces and art galleries to thriving cultural festivals.

During 6 weeks, Edinburgh's East Princes Street Gardens turn into a sea of magic lights and spinning attractions washed around by a warm breeze of melted cheese, grilled salmon and boozy hot chocolate. Surprisingly, this main Scottish winter event embraces loads of continental food, from Belgian waffles and French comte cheese to Swiss raclette.

Especially active kids will get their (parents') money's worth, thanks to a plethora of attractions, from reindeer rides and a Santa train to a carousel and balloon ride.

Tip: Try to visit in the early weeks as the market gets crowded around Christmas.

8. Krakow Christmas Market, Poland

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Rynek Główny, 31-422 Kraków, Poland

Price: Free Time spent: 1.5-2 hours

Hours: 10am-8pm daily

Dates Open: 29 Nov-26 Dec 2020

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Often praised as Poland's most beautiful city, Krakow in the southern province of Lesser Poland, was granted UNESCO World Heritage status for its prolific gothic, renaissance and baroque architecture.

Where medieval merchants likely opened up the world's first shopping mall, 21st century visitors now walk between wooden crafts and food stalls in the lead up to Christmas every year. Krakow's most popular seasonal market on the main square merges its lights, flavors and colors with a 14th century town hall and basilica alongside the arcaded Cloth Hall and Polish writer Adam Mickiewicz' monument.

Among the best things to scoop up there is original folk-ware, such as handmade glass baubles, village pottery, embroidered table cloths, knitwear, and wooden toys.

Tip: Try the Polish version of mulled wine (grzaniec), which comes close to German Glühwein, depending on the proportions of ingredients used.

9. Nuremberg Christmas Market, Germany

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90403 Nuremberg, Germany

Price: Free Time spent: 1.5-2 hours

Hours: 10am-9pm daily

Dates Open: 27 Nov-24 Dec 2020

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Another medieval German fairytale city, Nuremberg has recovered from a stained reputation under the Nazi regime, to focus on its 1000-year history and global renown as 'marzipan and gingerbread city'.

For almost 500 years, the Franconian culture capital has staged a Christmas market with uninterrupted success. Extending across the main square, the Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt draws visitors with spicy mulled wine and soft gingerbread as well as with beautifully crafted wooden toys, knitted accessories and fragrant natural cosmetics.

At City Hall Square, get a flavor of Nuremberg's national and international sister cities, from Antalya to Glasgow and Skopje, at 24 special booths offering regional products and food.

Tip: Fuel up with Nuremberg's notorious Feuerzangenbowle at the world's largest Feuerzangenbowle in the world. The Bowle is a red wine and rum punch lit up by a burning rum-soaked sugar cone held over the punch bowl. Just head for Feuerzangenbowle Village below Fleischbrücke next to the Christmas market.

10. Strasbourg Christmas Market, France

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67000 Strasbourg, France

Price: Free Time spent: 2-2.5 hours

Hours: 11am-8pm weekdays, 11am-9/10pm Saturday/Sunday, 11am-6pm 24 Dec, closed 25 Dec

Dates Open: 27 Nov-30 Dec 2020

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Mixing ancient architecture at UNESCO World Heritage level with the flair of a European diplomatic hub, the Alsatian town of Strasbourg quietly lures visitors with culture and diverse shopping.

Strasbourg's oldest and most popular Christmas market - the Christkindelsmärik - gathers more than 100 festively illuminated stalls at central Place Broglie. Amidst the half-timbered houses and gothic buildings stroll around the many seasonal craft stalls packed with Alsatian socks, beeswax candles and hand-blown glass baubles. To fight the chills, cling to a mug of mulled wine while biting into an aromatic bredle biscuit or a brioche männele.

At the grand Place Kléber, a gigantic Christmas fir - le grand sapin - dominates the scene, with gently twinkling colored lights.

Tip: Each year Strasbourg invite another guest city to showcase their traditions at Place Gutenberg.

11. Christmas Market At Old Town Square, Prague, Czechia

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Staroměstské nám., 110 00 Josefov, Czechia

Price: Free Time spent: 1.5-2 hours

Hours: 11am-8pm weekdays, 11am-9/10pm Saturday/Sunday, 11am-6pm 24 Dec, closed 25 Dec

Dates Open: 28 Nov 2020-6 Jan 2021

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Along with Budapest and Vienna, Prague forms Central Europe's 'Golden Triangle'. From the Kings of Bohemia and Hussites to the Habsburgs and Communists, Prague has amassed a rich heritage which it proudly displays alongside slick contemporary art and hospitality.

As 15th century religious reformer Jan Hus watches in stone over Prague's splendid Christmas market at Old Town Square, thousands of delighted visitors admire shiny baubles while sipping mulled wine and nibbling on roasted chestnuts. Standing out from the collective pile of traditional Christmas decorations are cute marionette puppets and dolls dressed in authentic Czech costumes trimmed with delicately embroidered lace.

Tip: Climb up the observation bridge at the center of the Old Town Square for gorgeous views of the bustling market.

12. Skansen Christmas Market in Stockholm, Sweden

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Djurgårdsslätten 49-51, 115 21 Stockholm, Sweden

Price: kr.160 (Skansen open air museum entrance, free on Christmas Eve) (USD$18.09) Time spent: 2.5-3 hours

Hours: 10am-4pm Saturday & Sunday

Dates Open: 23 Nov-26 Dec 2020

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Sweden's majestic capital has used its Viking history, neat 19th century townhouses, laid-back cafés, marvelous seafood and Skandi shops to create an enviable quality of life.

Unlike other European Christmas markets, Stockholm's Skansen market uses the eponymous vast open-air museum as its playground. It's the oldest of its kind in the world and located on the island of Djurgarden. Rows of food and craft stalls, and even bonfires, draw in Swedes from homes and farms across the country.

To taste Swedish Christmas, why not tuck into a hearty tunnbröd flatbread, smoked turkey, sugared almonds and sweet marzipan, best washed down with the famous glögg mulled wine.

Tip: Join locals and visitors dancing around the Christmas tree at Bollnäs Square. Nature lovers can rub noses with Rudolf and other Nordic animals in the compound's small zoo.

13. Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen, Denmark

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Vesterbrogade 3, 1630 København V, Denmark

Price: kr.110 (standard entry) (USD$17.31) Time spent: 1.5-2 hours

Hours: 11am-11pm Sunday-Thursday, 11am-midnight Friday-Saturday

Dates Open: 16 Nov 2020-5 Jan 2021

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Hype or hygge? Setting up shop in an already bustling playground, Copenhagen's Christmas market at Tivoli delights the young and young-at-heart. Expect atmospheric decorations, beautiful lighting, and… Santa Claus himself with his reindeer. Kids will love the many theme park rides and merry-go rounds.

On 25, 26 & 31 December, prepare for dazzling firework displays.

As for local specialties, Denmark's beloved crispy roast pork arrives in a sandwich with red cabbage, relish and cucumber pickle. And skip the conventional Danish pastry in favor of æbleskiver, those irresistible fluffy little pancakes filled with apple.

Tip: Watch the amazing Tivoli Youth Guard's parade. And make sure you've got some money to spend even after paying the entrance fee.

14. Valkenburg Christmas Market, Netherlands

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6301 BT Valkenburg, Netherlands

Price: Adult: €7,50 (USD$8.78), Child (5-11 yrs): €5 ($5.85) Time spent: 2.5-3 hours

Hours: 10am-7pm daily, 10.30am-6pm Saturday & Sunday, closed 25 Dec & 1 Jan

Dates Open: 13 Nov 2020-3 Jan 2021

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You will be forgiven if you have never heard of Dutch Valkenburg. At 30km Northwest of German Aachen, the 16,000-strong town in the Southern Netherlands is a historic jewel off the beaten path.

Even so, its annual Christmas market has catapulted Valkenburg into the upper ranks of the best Christmas markets in Europe. From mid-November the whole town brands itself as Kerststad Valkenburg (Christmas Town Valkenburg). Explore the uniquely festive decorated marlstone corridors and stalls at Europe's only underground Christmas markets in Valkenburg's Municipal and Velvet Caves.

As for food and drink, try freshly carved roast ham sandwiches and oliebollen (deep-friend Dutch doughnuts).

Every Wednesday and Saturday evening (7pm-7.30pm) visitors line up at Pelerinstraat, Dr. Erensplein and Walramplein (Wednesdays only) to witness a festive parade of musicians, dancers and actors in enchanting costumes. A little cheesy to some, just marvelous to others.

Tip: Visit the dazzling sand sculptures of Wilhelminagroeve quarry, crafted by international artists, to transport onlookers back to an Arabic world of 1001 Nights.

15. Vienna Christmas Market at City Hall Square, Austria

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Friedrich-Schmidt-Platz 1, 1010 Wien, Austria

Price: Free Time spent: 1-1.5 hours

Hours: 11am-8pm daily, 11am-9/10pm Saturday/Sunday, 11am-6pm 24 Dec, closed 25 Dec

Dates Open: mid Nov-26 Dec 2020

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Continuously ranked as the city with the best quality of life, Vienna never ceases to remind locals and visitors of this. From an amazing Imperial Habsburg heritage to art treasures, classical music events and clean public transport that runs like clockwork.

During the 6 weeks before Christmas, half of Vienna's inner city transforms into a seamless Christmas market, with patches of 'normality' in between. Its most famous Christkindlmarkt, now upgraded to Wiener Weihnachtstraum (Vienna Ice Dream) resides in front of neogothic Vienna City Hall along Ringstrasse Boulevard.

While the market has been suffering from plasticware in the 80s, traditional wooden toys, handmade ceramics, beeswax candles and quality knitwear have since returned. And because the Christkind plays a big role in Austrian Christmas, it runs its own post office with special stamps on-site.

In the evenings, listen to regional brass bands playing festive songs from the tower of City Hall. Because of the cold temperatures make sure one of your hands clings to hot punch while the other holds hot roast chestnuts or Erdäpfelpuffer (hash browns).

Tip: Refresh your ice-skating skills with a few rounds at the Little Ice Dream among the trees of Rathauspark. Alternatively, try ice curling. For inspiration on nearby markets check the Vienna Christmas Market guide.

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