Ah yes, Christmas. The sweet smell of mulled wine, grilled sausages and gingerbread biscuits. Endless gifts to be bought and food to be eaten. A huge Christmas tree to marvel at. All and more to be enjoyed at the best Christmas markets in Europe 2021!
Spending your Christmas in Europe offers huge potential for a great time. No matter if you’re a couple, family or solo traveller – European Christmas markets offer something for everyone.
So come on, let’s discover the top Christmas markets worth seeing this year!
When it comes to the best Christmas markets in Germany 2021, Aachen Christmas Market is a real contender.
Every year for four weeks on the lead up to Christmas, the lanes and squares around the town hall and Aachen Cathedral come alive with lights, yummy smells and festive sounds. The entire area is transformed into a Christmas village! It’s an ideal meeting place for both Aacheners and visitors alike during the festive period.
Must try: Every heard of Aachen Printen? It’s a unique type of gingerbread found in the Aachen area and a must try at the market. See if you can spot the 6m high Prinen gingerbread man mascot!
This market attracts a whopping 1.5 million visitors every year, over the 47+ years it has been running.
For the foodies, here’s a fun video highlighting all of the delicious foods you can enjoy at Aachen Christmas market:
2. Freiburg Christmas Market, Germany
The historic centre of Freiburg transforms into a large Christmas village with over 100 wooden chalets filled with crafts and commercial products. In fact, this market is well-known for its craft products. From puppets and plush toys, to scarves, candles and wooden objects – you’ll find something, no doubt!
Highlight: Visit the candle workshop and watch your made-to-order candle being made with beeswax.
3. Cologne, Germany
Ok so Cologne doesn’t have just one major Christmas market, it has several, in fact. It all depends on what you prefer!
Germany is where Christmas markets originated, famous for Bavarian drinking and German sausages. Cologne does a tremendous job of showing off and keeping the tradition alive.
The greatest and most famous markets in Cologne include:
3.1 Cathedral X-Mas Market
Varied stage program of +100 music & entertainment performances
“The Nordmann fir” towering 25m high, lit up with 25,000 LED lights
Largest Christmas tree in Rhineland
3.2 X-Mas Market in the Old Town
One of the best Christmas markets in Europe for families. Children will love the puppet shows, children’s roundabout and Santa Claus’ quarter with endless toy stands.
3.3 Angel’s Market in the City
Wander around and spot angels dressed in white sprinkling glitter powder around the market. Once a week, Santa Claus and an angel make a grand entry to the market on horseback. This is held in Neumarkt and is the oldest Christmas market in Cologne.
3.4 Harbour Market
Over 70 exciting stands
Impressive three-mast 15m boat serving mulled wine out of its hull
Seafaring themes with sailor yarns, pirate juggling & fish specialties
3.5 Gay Christmas Market
This market enjoys support from Cologne AIDS Hilfe and KLuST e.V. (organizers of Cologne Pride), among others. There’s a stage where well-known artists and stars can be enjoyed, and 3 traditional Glühwein huts serving delicious mulled wine.
Locally known as Gentse Winterfeesten, the heart of Ghent becomes a Scandinavian Christmas village, oozing the atmosphere of the Nordics. Get ready for the smell of pine, moose, wooden chalets, plenty of green and fancy trinkets.
There are over 150 wooden market stalls to keep you occupied, plus a big ice skating rink and a christmas-tree-merry-go-round. Fun!
5. Winter Wonders in Brussels, Belgium
For those looking to enjoy a large Christmas market that continues over the New Year period (continuing for almost a week in January, to be exact), head to Winter Wonders in Brussels. On average it receives around 2.5 million visitors each year.
There’s so much to look forward to here, including:
A sound & light show on the Grand Place – a real highlight!
This can feel more like a multicultural country fair than a Christmas market. But if you’re keen to enjoy it all, you’ll love Brussels in winter.
6. Prague Christmas Market, Czech Republic
Certainly one of the most beautiful in Europe, Prague Christmas market is in the heart of the city, in a traditional marketplace that’s covered with wooden stall, merchants and excellent food & drink.
There are endless products and gifts to buy such as hand-embroidered tablecloths, wooden toys and blown glass balls. Don’t forget to fill up on typical Czech skewered food!
This market is open on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
Spending longer in the city? Our one week in Prague guide is designed to help you achieve a stress-free & memorable stay.
Here is a cool video discovering the smaller Christmas markets in the city.
7. Vienna Magic of Advent, Austria
From mid November to Christmas Vienna is host to an array of wonderful Christmas markets. One of the most well-known and traditional of these is called Vienna Magic of Advent. This is when the City Hall Square turns into a shining fairy-tale land!
There’s something for everyone: workshops for kids, Christmas gifts, warm drinks, sweets, a sea of lights – you name it!
We’d easily vote this as the best Vienna Christmas market and the top choice if you only have time to experience one.
Like the sound of carol singing and folk dancing? This is just some of the street entertainment that happens at Metz Christmas market.
Metz is pretty good at lighting up the city at the best of times, but throughout December the Christmas lights are fantastic. There are almost 100 wooden cottages erected along the Esplanade and medieval arcades of Place St Louis. Get ready for waterfalls of lights, roasted chestnuts and festive music galore.
Next to the cathedral there is a wonderful “big wheel”, and shops are also open on the two Sundays before Christmas. If that’s not enough, there’s hand-crafted gifts and an open-air ice rink!
11. Gdańsk Christmas Market, Poland
Probably the most romantic Christmas market in Europe, Gdańsk Christmas fair has set up a special area where lovers can kiss under the mistletoe and make a wish.
It’s set in the historical centre of Gdańsk, offering a real fairy tale vibe that is loved by both visitors and locals alike. Even the streets are renamed for this time of year: cinnamon, chocolate and Christmas Eve street to name but a few.
Highlight: A two-level Gdańsk carousel and food court. There is plenty of polish cuisine to try!
12. Advent Feast at the Basilica in Budapest, Hungary
It’s no secret that the Advent Feast at the Basilica has been a favourite Christmas market in Hungary for a long time. It’s also officially the most beautiful Christmas market in Europe.
This is home to the largest 3D Christmas projections in Central Europe! Light shows are shown several times a day and cannot be missed.
Other highlights include:
Free attractions for all ages (inc. ice skating)
Hungarian contemporary hand-craft products
Eco-friendly food vendors
Here’s everything you need to know about spending one week in Budapest, including where to stay, how to get around etc.
Here’s a useful video about the Budapest Christmas Fair (Budapest Karácsonyi Vásár) at Vörösmarty Square.
13. Basel Christmas Market, Switzerland
Basel Christmas market has a deep-rooted tradition as Switzerland’s biggest and most beautiful market. It is located on Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz – one of the most impressive squares in the Old Town.
You can’t miss the 100 or so pine trees lining the streets, brightly lit and showing you the way.
With over 160 traders selling everything from culinary delights to that must-try Basel Läckerli – a local kind of gingerbread – you’re sure to enjoy an Europe Christmas in Basel.
14. Cluj-Napoca Christmas Market, Romania
Why not consider Romania for your X-Mas festivities? Cluj-Napoca has been ranked 8th is a list of European Best Destinations (EBD) and their Christmas market is the best in Romania.
This is a celebration for the whole family, made up of children, parents, grandparents, pets, friends, uncles, cousins… you get the idea.
Get ready for the majestic church of Saint Michael, little white houses, music concerts and a skating rink. It’s a really friendly time and place for all, much like a fairytale Christmas you’d expect.
15. Winchester Cathedral’s Christmas Market, UK
Winchester is quintessentially British and its Christmas market is well-worth experiencing.
Looming nearby is the stunning Winchester Cathedral. Inspired by German Christmas markets, this one attracts a whopping 350,000 visitors each year.
There are 112 chalets filled with high quality exhibitors, a specular covered ice rink and a bustling atmosphere around the clock. Classes British cuisine is on offer, plus British crafts and that good old classic nativity scene where a fun photograph can be taken.
16. Valkenburg Christmas Markets, The Netherlands
How about discovering Christmas markets in underground caves?! Yes, you read that right!
Valkenburg transforms the extraordinary caves under the city into awesome Christmas markets, with plenty of merchandise for sale and lights to enjoy.
There are three to visit
Fluweelengrot (Velvet Cave)
Wilhelminagrot (Wilhelmina Cave)
Gemeentegrot (Municipal Cave).
Wilhelmina Cave is particularly impressive, showcasing sculptures by artists from all over the world.
Top tip: make sure you get back above ground in time for the fascinating Christmas Parade with costumed dancers and illuminated floats. There’s also a Santa’s village perfect for the children.
17. Salzburg Christmas Market, Austria
This is a top choice if you’re keen for some Christmas carols and ancient traditions.
Salzburg is the pretty hometown of The Sound of Music and Mozart, not to mention where Silent Night was written and first performed. The market stalls look much like they did back in the 15th century when they were first set up.
There are free daily concerts in front of the cathedral, and sing-alongs every evening if you fancy belting out some carols. Oh and hand-knitted socks and other local crafts replace novelty gifts at this Christmas market.