13 Christmas Markets in Europe for a Magical City Break
When the days get shorter and colder and those familiar jingles start to play, there’s nothing more fun planning some Christmas city breaks. There are so many cozy and beautiful Christmas markets in Europe, why not hop over to one for the weekend?
While enjoying a glass of warm mulled wine, stroll along the stalls, admire all the gadgets and gizmos. You may want to stock up on some fun, kitschy decorations or score a unique gift. However, everyone can agree that the main reason they go to these markets is one thing: that cozy Christmas feeling.
Although the German markets are the most well know, there are plenty of special Christmas markets in Europe. You really can spend all of December planning fun Christmas city breaks in various nearby countries!
13 Unique Christmas City Breaks in Europe
In Innsbruck, the capital of Tyrol in Austria, you will find the complete Christmas experience. Think of countless stalls, lighting spread throughout the city, a giant Christmas tree in the center. With a bit of luck, you’ll get to experience all of this with a nice dusting of snow.
There are several Christmas markets in Innsbruck that, on average, start at the end of November and finish at the end of December / beginning of January. For example, you have the Christmas market in Altstadt and Marktplatz, which is open daily until late in the evening. You can also find a cozy Christmas market on Maria-Theresien-Straße daily.
When you are in Innsbruck, take a look at the Stadtturm in the center of the city. This tower is not only beautiful to see, but also a vantage point. When you are on top on a sunny, winter day, you have a wonderful view over the Christmas-like streets of Innsbruck. Get your entrance ticket here
If you are looking for one of the best Christmas city breaks in Europe then Zagreb in Croatia should be on your list. The Christmas market in Zagreb has been voted the best in Europe up to 3 times.
This title is mainly related to the spectacle that the city organizes around the Christmas market. You can go there in the month leading up to Christmas and check out tons of musical events, performances, tours, and of course for delicious food. In the meantime, stock up on Christmas shopping at the stalls of the market or walk into one of Zagreb’s shopping streets.
As befits a fairytale Christmas market, you will also find a cozy skating rink in Zagreb where you put your skills into practice. Prefer to watch? Along the track you will find all kinds of stalls with local dishes and other Christmas snacks and drinks. No time to get bored!
In Budapest you are at the right place if you love good food. The market on Vörösmarty Square has all kinds of stalls where you can score Hungarian delicacies. Moreover, you will find the city’s shopping streets around this square, making it easy to spend a whole day there.
In a city as big as Budapest there are of course several Christmas markets, like at St. Stephen’s Basilica. During the official opening of the market, there’s a nice light show as well. It’s usually around December 1st, but check the dates before you plan!
Vienna can actually be called a romantic destination all year round. The classical architecture, the fairytale Schloss Schönbrunn, the composers who created beautiful pieces of music here, and the various art museums are enough reason to visit this city with your loved one. Winter, and with some luck, a bit of snow can make it even more romantic.
The Christmas markets in Vienna are scattered throughout the city. If you stay there for longer than a day, be sure to also walk around to discover the uniqueness of each one.
It is no surprise that the Christmas market around Schönbrunn Castle is one of the most popular. Because to be honest, it is not much more magical than any fairytale like castle with a Christmas market.
Another striking market can be found in front of the town hall: the Wiener Christkindelmarkt. You will also find the ice rink, the Wiener Eistraum, on this square. Skate on one of the most beautiful ice rinks in Europe and afterwards enjoy a delicious (almost always) unhealthy snack. Enjoy that merry feeling!
Try one of these activities to get in Vienna:
- Christmas Markets Tour
- Christmas Polaroid Photography Tour
- NYE & Christmas Concert at St. Peter’s Church
The historic center of Prague is on the World Heritage List of UNESCO and that naturally creates immediate expectations. Don’t worry, it also fully meets those expectations with its special architecture, various vantage points, cozy restaurants, friendly people, and old town square. The latter is also directly where you need to be when you visit Prague around Christmas.
The old town square is a popular location all year round due to all the sights that border it. The picture is complete during the Christmas market. Walk along the stalls while you see the Old Town Council House and the Astronomical Tower behind it. At the stalls you will find good food and drinks, special gifts for the home front and you can hear the live music that is regularly made in the background. You can visit the many Christmas markets in Prague with a local guide here.
Make your visit extra special with a Christmas concert, like this Mozart one!
Near the German border you will find the city of Strasbourg in France. The historic center of the city is annually transformed into an atmospheric Christmas market where you immediately get into the Christmas spirit.
Around 300 stalls are spread over the various squares of the city. Make sure you walk through the city to get the full Christmas experience. In the meantime, eat one of the French delicacies or dive into one of the cozy restaurants to warm up during the colder evenings. Then continue your way and admire the large (average 30 meter high!) Christmas tree after which you do a round on the ice rink to finish it off.
They have managed to capture the ultimate Christmas feeling in Strasbourg for years. It is one of the oldest Christmas markets in Europe. Christkindelsmärik has been organized around the cathedral of Strasbourg since 1570. An impressive idea that people have been enjoying the Christmas spirit for so many centuries as you walk through the streets of Strasbourg.
Germany should of course not be missing from the list of the best Christmas city breaks in Europe. Although the country has a lot of nice Christmas markets, a choice had to be made.
I finally decided on Münster, where about 5 different Christmas markets come to the city every year. You can visit the food, drink and presents stalls all day long. You also have time to absorb the Christmas spirit from early in the morning until late in the evening. Are you staying in Münster for several days? Dive in between the historic center and the atmospheric streets.
The historic center, including beautiful architecture, of Münster immediately ensures that the Christmas feeling is right there. You will also find the city’s shopping streets around the Münster markets. Combine a visit to the Christmas markets directly with doing your shopping and you are ready for the holidays.
They know how to celebrate Christmas in northern Europe. In the Danish city of Copenhagen there is one place that you should not miss: Tivoli. The famous amusement park is a pro in keeping with the seasons. Halloween, Easter, summer, winter and of course Christmas all get their own decorations in Tivoli. During Christmas it is beautifully lit, and you will find all kinds of stalls with the tastiest Danish dishes.
And, of course, all of the markets! One of these is the Hans Christian Andersen Christmas Market where, not surprisingly, Hans Christian Andersen plays the leading role. And of course the atmospheric Christmas lights, musical performances, and delicious food are not lacking here either.
One of the lesser-known places on the list is Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. The Christmas market is one that is definitely worth it. Plan to spend a few days here so you can see all the other charming things to do in Tallinn.
When you visit during the Christmas, you’ll immediately experience that winter in Estonia is really winter. It is cold there (good excuse to pull the ultra Christmas hat out of the closet again) and the chance of snow is quite high. Fortunately, that is all good news for a Christmas market.
Warm up with a cup of chocolate milk or mulled wine, get warm during a round of ice skating on the ice rink or simply enjoy all the atmospheric stalls and then dive into one of the cozy restaurants. Make it extra special with a Christmas dinner cruise.
The chance that you thought of the Italian Trento as one the best Christmas markets in Europe is probably not that big. Yet the people who visited the annual Christmas market are enthusiastic. Despite its Italian location, the city has many Austrian influences.
The atmospheric streets are also a particularly beautiful sight in the winter months. Think of the colorful streets where there is also Christmas lights, a cozy atmosphere, and all kinds of stalls with delicious smelling food fill the streets.
Put Piazza Fiera on your list, because you will find most of the Christmas market there. You also have a view of the beautiful landscape that surrounds Trento. A Christmas market with the impressive snow-covered peaks of the Dolomites in the background? How romantic!
Together with Germany, Austria is one of the more popular Christmas market countries. Previously you were introduced to Münster in Germany and this time it is Austria’s Salzburg.
The Christmas Market here has a long history dating back to the mid 15th century. Romantic Salzburg is still a place that attracts many Christmas enthusiasts every year.
You will find all kinds of activities at the Salzburg Christmas Market. Listen to the choir that sings in front of the Salzburg Cathedral, buy funny gifts for under the Christmas tree, score the tastiest snacks and pretend to be a professional skater on the Salzburg ice rink.
Check out some of these fun holiday experiences:
- Christmas Walking Tour with Mulled Wine
- Advent & Christmas Concert at Mirabell Palace
- Best of Mozart Fortress Concert & Dinner
In the Netherlands there are also a lot of cozy Christmas markets around Christmas. One of the nicest can be found in the south of the country in Valkenburg. This city is known for the various caves and the hilly landscape in which it lies.
The almost un-Dutch feeling makes this Christmas market extra special. You can get into the Christmas mood by visiting the Christmas market in the Municipal Cave and the Velvet Cave. There is also a Christmas atmosphere outside. For more than a month, the Christmas Fairytale Parade walks through the streets twice a week.
In addition to incredibly extensive shopping, you can also go loose on the Christmas market in front of the shopping center in Oberhausen during the Christmas period. Discover the German dishes that are freshly prepared at all kinds of stalls, admire the handmade products that are sold, and look for original gifts. With around 150 stalls, the range is substantial.
Still not successful at the stalls? A huge, covered shopping mall is waiting for you where you can score the rest of the gifts. You will also find a cozy Christmas atmosphere in the mall itself. Beautifully decorated shop windows and lights everywhere also unwise contribute to the Christmas atmosphere.
What is your Christmas city breaks in Europe?
General Travel Tips
- For accommodation, I always check Airbnb or Booking.com for the best prices.
- If your insurance at home doesn’t cover travel, you may want to look into SafetyWing for an affordable option.
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