These are the best Christmas markets across Europe

  • jeune femme au marche de Noel
Published on 2022-11-30 at 11:55 by Estelle
When we talk about the holiday season, we certainly think of the sumptuous European Christmas markets where the magic happens. Although their origin is not precisely known, they are often associated with Northern European countries as it is estimated that the first ones appeared around the 14th century in Germany and Alsace. Here is our selection of the most popular and anticipated Christmas markets in Europe, some of which start much earlier than you think!

The most popular and awaited Christmas markets in Europe

Before starting this article, we asked a few people the following question: "When you think of Christmas markets, which country or city comes to your mind? The answers were unanimous: Strasbourg (in French Alsace) and Vienna. In fact, these are among the most awaited markets each year. Did you know that the festivities and the atmosphere of Christmas often start in November? Indeed, although December is officially the month, most of these cities start getting into the mood and setting up stands, markets and themed illuminations in November.

Moreover, there is not only one Christmas market happening in the cities listed below. Many different markets are held in the most famous districts, streets and squares.

Christmas markets are a major event in Austria

When thinking about Christmas markets, you certainly can't miss Austria, and more precisely, the one held in Vienna (although it is not the only one). Indeed, it is one of the most famous and most visited every year, and it is easy to understand why: the whole old town is decorated for 2 months from mid-November, with Christmas chalets and illuminations. Everything is there for a magical experience: events, shows, traditional music, markets and stalls with drinks and traditional food of this festive period. The warm and spicy smells that emanate from the Viennese streets are all yours to explore!

As mentioned above, Austria is not only Vienna when it comes to Christmas markets. Salzburg is also renowned in this regard. With the old town being classified as a world heritage site, it's no surprise that this market has a place of choice among amateurs of Christmas markets! Here again, the magic of Christmas takes place from mid-November and ends by the beginning of January.

France and Alsace also top the rankings

Strasbourg's Christmas market appears to be one of the earliest created, as records of the event date back to 1570. It remains one of the largest in Europe, if not the most popular amongst visitors and Christmas market enthusiasts. The festivities start around November 25 and last until Christmas each year (the exact days always vary from year to year for all the events we will mention in this article). This is the opportunity for visitors to discover, for a whole month, more than 300 chalets illuminated for the occasion in different areas of the city, between historical squares and shopping streets.  

Germany and its 3000 Christmas markets

Germany is one of the countries with the largest number of Christmas markets every year. So which ones to choose among all that this country has to offer? Here are the main ones to visit at least once. Berlin does everything possible every year to make its Christmas market unforgettable. Scattered throughout the city in small markets and individual villages (including Gendarmenmarkt, Charlottenburg and Spandau), it remains a favorite for many visitors. The calendar of events starts around November 15 and runs until the beginning of the year. So you can enjoy the magic of Christmas and start looking for original gift ideas earlier than anyone else! 

Besides Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt, Nuremberg and Cologne markets are also among the most awaited Christmas events. All of them are expected to from November 20 (the day may vary from year to year, as indicated above) until the beginning of January. Between traditional nativity scenes, parades, hot drinks and local crafts, these Christmas markets will captivate the hearts of visitors.

Hungary and the Czech Republic have nothing to envy to the rest of Europe

Have you ever been to Prague or Budapest? Did you know that these two capital cities are home to sumptuous Christmas markets that are well worth a visit? That's right, these cities with rich cultures and history also organize their year-end events every year.

Let's start with Prague. The festivities start there, too, around November 20. The old town lights up awaiting Christmas and offers breathtaking scenery for more than a month, with the scent of cinnamon and cloves, hot delicacies and traditional Czech pastries. 

Regarding Budapest, the city is at the top of the annual Christmas market rankings. And it's easy to see why. From November 20 (as you may have guessed, most major Christmas markets start on that date), the city lights up, especially the squares and shopping streets. So you will always find something to satisfy your taste buds, your eyes and your loved ones with the beautiful gifts you will find on the spot.

The Christmas markets trend in Europe

Although the real Christmas markets are the oldest and most visited, there is a kind of trend that European cities that do not have this tradition in their history want to follow. Every year, we see Christmas markets blooming in beautiful European cities, and not necessarily in the north of the continent. Cities like Paris, Milan, Rome, Madrid and Porto have taken the plunge for a few decades and offer small markets and festive events until December 25. Not to mention the small villages that mix their own end-of-year traditions with those of the North European Christmas markets. 

So as the festive season is around the corner, wherever you are, don't hesitate to ask your town and the ones around where and when the festivities will take place.