© 2019 by Ala Local. 

Christmas in Europe

Prachi Agarwal 

Updated on 2nd Nov, 2019

Europe is beautiful during the holiday season. The Christmas markets in Europe are perfect for anyone looking to get into the holiday spirit. With the backdrop of majestic palaces, gardens etc., each European city's Christmas market has something different to offer. Moreover, each city has multiple markets so there is quite a bit to explore and enjoy.  The smell of mulled wine, freshly baked cakes, salty fries, and beautiful crafts make the experience quite memorable. 

Best time to visit 

Mid Nov - Dec

Most Christmas markets start after mid-November and end before the new year. 

Approximate Cost

$$

The markets itself are affordable. Cost depends on the city you pick. 

Top Experiences

Festive, Romance, Culture

Each city offers something different but overall mood is festive .

Top things to do 

Depending on which markets you pick, you may enjoy different local specialties. In general, we recommend you at least try the following: 

  1. Try mulled wine (glühwein in German-speaking countries like Austria or Germany, svařák in Czech, vin chaud in French). Not up for wine? Some of these markets have a fantastic collection of beers! Tallinn has local flavored Rum in their markets.

  2. Buy beautiful handicrafts from local artisans.

  3. Savor Hot Chocolate. Some cities have different flavors of chocolate that can be very comforting on a cold winter night. 

  4. Eat local specialties such as Chips/Waffles/Sausages/Halloumi...Every city offers something unique. 

  5. Explore the rest of the city via a walking tour. A city like London has additional winter activities such an ice skating, Harry Potter winter tours, etc. which is a lot of fun!  Vienna has free concerts during new year’s eve which one can enjoy while having mulled wine or hot chocolate!

Recommended Cities 

1. Vienna, Austria 

Christmas Market at Rathausplatz (City Hall), Vienna

Vienna is the ultimate destination for experiencing the beauty of Christmas in Europe. Set against a backdrop of baroque palaces and buildings, the views are cinematic and magical. The Christmas Markets here are called Weihnachtsmarkt (in German). When you are tired from all the strolling, take a break in one of the famous Viennese cafes, traditional or modern and enjoy some of the best cakes in the world.

 

When to go?

Most markets start on Nov 15th and last until the end of December. 

Top Markets to visit: 

  • Christkindlmarkt at Rathausplatz - Even though this Market is touristy, the backdrop of the sparkling City Hall looks charming. There is an ice skating ring in the middle as well for the visitors to enjoy. 

  • Schönbrunn Palace - Set against the imperial palace of Schönbrunn Palace, the markets here are perfect for anyone to soak in Viennese culture. The yellow-colored palace is stunning and the activities outside are super energizing. There are live musical performances and decorations for kids. The handicrafts here are so beautiful we bought back a few ourselves. Feel free to bargain if you are buying multiple. If you are looking to buy handicrafts, our recommendation is to buy in Vienna.

  • Belvedere Palace - With the lake and white upper palace as a backdrop, this market has a magical setting. Combine your visit with a tour of the palace which is home to a fantastic Art collection. 

Combine with: Innsbruk and Salzburg. Both of them have amazing Christmas Markets as well. 

2. Prague, Czech Republic

Christmas Market at Old Town Square, Prague

Without a doubt, Prague is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. The architecture is incredible, the ambience is romantic and the beers are some of the best in Europe. Now imagine such a city with all the holiday decor and excitement. The markets are close to each other so one can easily walk from one place to the other. Also, the prices for arts and crafts are quite cheap here as compared to other big cities in Europe. Shop ceramics, Christmas souvenirs, and wooden toys at quite a reasonable price.  Attractions such as the old town square are even more alluring during the cold winter months. Our advice? Pack to stay warm before heading to this enchanting city. 

When to go?

Most markets start on Nov 20th and last until Jan 5th. 

Top Markets to visit: 

  • Old Town Square - The largest and the most gorgeous Christmas market in Prague. 

  • Wenceslas Square - Christmas market in the most vibrant part of the city filled with hotels and restaurants. 

  • Prague Castle - Prague castle has a smaller Christmas Market. However, combine your Palace tour with the market and you will have lots of fun. Take a break from sightseeing and grab some mulled wine (svarak) and trdelnik (sweet pastry). You will find a charming Starbucks on this palace as well! 

Combine with: Medieval city of Cesky Krumlov (in Czech) or Vienna. 

3. London, UK

Winter Wonderland, London

One can argue that London is an ideal place to travel at any time of the year. We would generally agree if we hadn't spent two Christmases here. With its lavish lights decor all over Oxford and Carnaby, larger than life Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park offering thrilling rides etc. etc; it really doesn't get bigger than this. If you are traveling with kids, London should be first on your list. 

When to go?

Most markets start on Nov 8th and last until Jan 5th. 

Top Markets to visit: 

  • Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park - This is the biggest holiday attraction in London. Be it skating on the biggest outdoor ice rink in UK while listening to live music or walking through a journey showcasing the Christmas Carol in the form of ice sculptures; the Winter Wonderland has got it all. More details here. 

  • Leicester Square It's hard to miss this market in the middle of one of the most iconic locations in London. Kids can meet Santa in a Grotto by purchasing a ticket. It's an experience for sure! Also, this year multi-award-winning "La Clique" cabaret show returns to Leicester. More details here

  • Southbank Center - This winter market is located beside the River Thames near the London Eye. The wooden chalets offer handmade gifts, food from various countries and sweet treats. The Bar Under the Bridge and Circus Bar pop-ups offer festive drinks in a comfortable setting. More details here.

Combine with: Manchester and Bath. Manchester is said to have the best Christmas market in UK!

4. Berlin, Germany

Gendarmenmarkt, Berlin

German Christmas markets are the best in the world. After all, Germany is where it all started back in the middle ages. It's really hard to pick the best markt (Market) in this country as there are sooooo many good ones! After a lot of thought, we have picked Berlin as we want our travelers to combine the Christmas markets with travel. And what better place than Berlin in Germany?! 

When to go?

Most markets start on Nov 25th and last until Dec 31st.

Top Markets to visit: 

  • Weihnachtszauber Gendarmenmarkt - Gendarmenmarkt is one of the most popular squares in Berlin, nestled between three important buildings. With the addition of the Christmas market Weihnashtszauber (Christmas magic), the Gendarmenmarkt square becomes even more beautiful. Famous restaurants are housed in heated tents which makes this market quite popular amongst the food lovers. And the handicrafts include origami, glassware, combs, belts, dresses etc. More details here. 

  • Charlottenburg Palace - The best thing about this market is the location. Although it's a slight detour, the backdrop of the stunning palace makes the trip worth it. Combine your market tour with a tour of the palace. When you are tired, treat yourself to spritz biscuits, gingerbread, and marzipan loaves. More details here

  • Winterwelt am Potsdamer Platz (Winter world)  -  This Austrian style market offers Christmas gifts, delicious food, and a large open-air ice rink with live music More details here.

Combine with: Dresden where the 1st Christmas Market in Germany was held. 

5. Strasbourg, France

Entrance Gate, Strasbourg

Strasbourg Christmas markets are not only the best in France but probably one of the best in the world. It's first Christmas market dates back to 1570 and hence it's one of the oldest in Europe. It also offers an epic walking tour where one can go behind the scenes at artisans' workshops, make ornaments, food tasting, and Christmas market tours. More info here

When to go?

Most markets start on Nov 23rd and last until Dec 30th 

Combine with: Lille or Paris. 

6. Tallin, Estonia

Town Hall, Tallinn

The Christmas tree in Tallinn's Townhall is being put up every year since 1441. Thus it is the first Christmas tree to ever be put up in Europe!  With its medieval buildings, Tallinn's markets have a beautiful backdrop. Children are entertained by Santa and his reindeer. Even though the market is small with only 30 chalets, the vibe is lovely and cheerful. More info here. 

When to go?

Most markets start on Nov 16th and last until Jan 7th. 

Combine with: Helsinki. 

Also recommended: 

  • Amsterdam, Netherlands

  • Copenhagen, Denmark