My first time visiting European Christmas markets was on a Viking Rhine River Cruise. These charming markets are a wonderful reason to visit Europe in winter. European Christmas Markets date back to the 11th century and offer a wonderful glimpse into each town. If possible, visit several markets during your European winter vacation.
Get ready for lots of Gluhwein (glüwein), sparkly lights, handmade foods, and crafts as we take a spin around some of the most magical European Christmas markets! You’ll find Christmas markets throughout most of Europe, but the highest concentration seems to be in Germany. Each city has a unique take on the market and you’ll find that souvenirs, ornaments, food, decorations, and mulled wine will differ in each location.
38 Must Visit Christmas Markets in Europe
Innsbruck, Austria is a magical place to visit for Christmas markets if you love snow-capped mountains combined with a medieval old town atmosphere. There are no less than 5 Christmas markets within walking distance from each other in the capital of the Austrian Tyrol.
For the most romantic setting, the Innsbruck old town Christmas market in the cobbled lanes in front and around the famous Golden Roof shouldn’t be missed. On some days, you’ll even be surprised by musicians playing traditional Christmas carols on the Golden Roof balcony. There are also characters from famous fairytales looking down on you while strolling along with your hands wrapped around a warm mug of Glühwein.
Just a short walk from the heart of Innsbruck’s old town is the Market Square. Here a giant Swarovski crystal Christmas tree is set against the background of colorful houses along the Inn River, with the Alps towering behind them. This is a fun Christmas market with a carousel and lots to eat and drink.
One of the world’s oldest Advent markets is in Salzburg, it dates back to the fifteenth century. During the run-up to Christmas, the charm of the holiday season takes over Salzburg’s old city with Christkindlmarkt. Being such a compact city it’s the perfect place to experience Advent Austrian style.
Aromas of Christmas cookies, toasted almonds, and roasted chestnuts will tempt you as you wander through the markets. The amount of food on offer is quite overwhelming. From delicious bowls of Kaiserschmarrn, a traditional Austrian dessert of shredded pancakes to ginormous pretzels covered in everything from Swiss cheese to chocolate.
Strolling around in the wintry air with steaming mugs of glühwein is the best feeling. The famous warm sweet mulled wine is a staple of the season. Boiled with cinnamon, cloves, oranges, and spices, it’s the perfect way to keep warm whilst browsing the Christmas markets.
Vienna (Rathausplatz Christmas Market)
The stalls around it sell high-quality decorations and other handcrafted items (which are a delight to see even if you’re not in shopping mode) and, of course, the most delicious food. From doughnuts and pretzels to stuffed potatoes and dumplings to chestnuts and hot apple cider, this market is the perfect place to devour all kinds of Christmas delicacies.
In the park surrounding the market, you’ll also find illuminated displays and decorations and a huge ice skating rink, so in just one place you get a full winter wonderland experience that you’ll never forget.
From Friday 22nd November 2019 to Wednesday 1st January 2020, medieval Bruges once again forms the wonderful wintry setting for the most magical Christmas celebrations. The city’s iconic gingerbread houses create a fairy-tale backdrop at Markt square, the location for the main Christmas market.
Head to the top of the Belfry of Bruges for a mesmerizing view over the Bruges Christmas village. Try the heart-warming treats topped with Belgian chocolate from one of the festive chalets or find that perfect handmade gift for your loved ones. Then follow the merrily twinkling lights to the second Christmas market in Bruges at the Simon Stevin square, lined with linden trees.
An intimate setting with rows of decorated stalls displaying the most unique Christmas ornaments. New this year is the third Christmas market in Bruges, featuring an artificial ice-skating pontoon at picturesque Minnewater, known as the city’s most romantic location. Whichever setting you choose, celebrating Christmas in Bruges will be an experience like no other.
Dubrovnik, Croatia is famous for two things: being the spot where Game of Thrones is filmed, and being one of Croatia’s most touristy cities. Luckily, Croatia very much has a “high season” — summer. So if you happen to visit around Christmas time, not only will you find a serious lack of visitors, you can also imagine you’re spending Christmas in King’s Landing, thanks to the modest market that lines the main drag in the walled city.
The Christmas market in Dubrovnik is very much NOT a tourist thing — it’s small, and don’t expect to find throngs of people there. That lends it a charming, quiet atmosphere: perfect for sitting at a stall and warming yourself against the Adriatic chill with a cup or two of hot, mulled wine. Another don’t miss food: the huge sausages. We ate two a piece, and didn’t regret it one bit.
Contributed by Dan Kay from thisisyouth.org
Advent in Zagreb Christmas market is one we keep returning to. Zagreb is a beautiful city at any time of year, but in the winter it is magic. The event is growing, so we now download a map and choose our favorite venues before going. There is too much going on to see all. Our kids loved story from the hill with its Magical forest and kid’s activities.
In 2018 they introduced Street Sarma, 2019 was the year of peas with sausage in a tortilla, can’t wait what new street food they put together this year. Every other Croatian dish you can think of is surely available on one of the stalls.
The first thing you see, if you come to Zagreb by train, is the giant Skating rink, and you get a discount there with your train ticket. If traveling with kids, try to visit Zagreb Advent early in the day, since it becomes crazy crowded later on. Don’t forget to visit Father Frost in his cabin.
Contributed by Goblinette from Roaming Goblin Blog. For more on the Zagreb Christmas market: How to do Advent in Zagreb
Prague is like a fairy-tale city, so what better place is there to go to a Christmas market? The main market in Old Town Square can be overlooked from the Old Town Hall Tower above the astronomical clock, but the real magic can be found among the traditional wooden stalls and around the giant Christmas tree.
There are delicious sweet foods to sample like Trdelník, or chimney cake, as well as savory options, liked fried cheese, barbecued sausages, and large hams. Czech beer is on offer, or warm up with Svařák, the Czech take on mulled wine. For something different try Medovina, which is a sweet sort of honey wine. The Prague Christmas Market is a great place to get into the Christmas spirit and a great reason to visit this beautiful city in the winter season.
Contributed by Sonja Thomson & for more on visiting Europe in Winter: migratingmiss.com/10-favourite-city-breaks-winter-europe/
Copenhagen (Tivoli Christmas Market)
Copenhagen’s main Christmas market is a unique experience, as it’s set underneath the roller coasters and rides of the Tivoli theme park. You’ll find classic Christmas market attractions like stalls selling gifts, hot mulled wine and tasty treats, but the setting away from the busy city streets means that the Tivoli Christmas Market can really go to town with festive decorations, including a huge Christmas tree, illuminated sculptures that look like they’re made of ice and themed gardens.
The only downside to visiting the Tivoli Christmas Market is that you have to pay to enter, but the spectacle is well worth it. If you’re on a budget, there are smaller, more traditional Christmas markets throughout the city that are free to enter, but Tivoli is an altogether more special and festive experience.
The German Market in Birmingham, UK is the most awaited and visited Christmas market in England. It typically starts on the last week of November and runs until the Christmas period. The German Market kick starts the festive season in the city with its beautiful log cabins, over-flowing German beer, pretzels, bratwurst and much more!
Oh! Don’t forget to try the mulled wine and the hot chocolate. It is definitely a great day and night out with friends and family. The Christmas German Market also have log cabin stalls for all the Christmas trinkets and possible gift option for the festive gift-giving.
Contributed by Ryazan Tristram & for more on Birmingham: Points of Interest: Places to Visit in Birmingham (UK)
Exeter, a little city on the hill in the south-west of the UK hosts a wonderful Christmas market. The market is held around a beautiful, medieval cathedral in the heart of the city and this splendid location makes the market different from other markets in the country. Wooden chalets are set around the cathedral to give more traditional vibes to the market.
The focus of this market is on the local products so the local farmers and traders can get the actual benefit of the market and this can help them invest the next year. The market doesn’t only present food and gifts for the visitors but a number of musical events and performances are organized to keep the visitors entertained.
From October, a range of Christmas markets and Winter festivals start to appear all around London. Popular places to visit are the South Bank Winter Festival (don’t miss the cider lodge!), Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland (try and avoid the weekends), the alternative Winterville in Victoria Park and the ice skating rinks at the magical Natural History Museum or Somerset House. Don’t miss the carol singers, the famous decorated shop windows of department stores like Harrods and Selfridges and make your way to one of the many rooftops for a nice and warm mulled wine or cider.
If you’re looking for something different, I can recommend visiting the illuminated Kew Gardens, walking the ‘Enchanted Woodland’ trail through the gardens of Syon House, or stepping back in time to celebrate an Elizabethan Christmas at Hampton Court Palace. But whatever you do, make sure to enjoy the typical British Winter foods such as roasted chestnuts, Christmas puddings and mince pies!
Contributed by Nienke Krook & for more on London: thelondontester.com/nieuw-in-londen/
Check out the London Christmas Walking Tour
One of the best cities to visit at Christmas time is the Northern English city of York. A historical city and once the Roman capital of England, the York Christmas market is one of the top ranking in the UK. The Christmas markets are found on and around Parliament street and are walkable from the train station in around 15 minutes.
The wooden huts pop up towards the end of November every year selling handcrafts, gifts and jewellery. As well as picking up Christmas presents for your loved ones, you will be able to try festive food and drink including mulled wine and cider. There are beautiful hand made decorations for sale to decorate your tree.
My top tip for visiting York Christmas market is to wrap up warm with hat and gloves as Northern England can get cold in the winter time. Take around £50 with you to spend if you can because you will see things that you might want to buy and eat! Also book your hotel in advance because York can be very busy at this time of year.
Check out the York Castle Howard House and Grounds Christmas Admission
Although the winter days are short in Tallinn, the Estonian capital city comes alive in the historic Town Hall Square during the holiday season with its popular Christmas market. Tallinn’s sparkly Christmas market is filled with dozens of vendors selling local crafts and tasty treats in the cobblestoned square, making the market a great spot to shop for holiday gifts while munching on gingerbread and sipping traditional mulled wine.
The market also features a colorful merry-go-round, live entertainment, visits with Santa Claus and a massive Christmas tree. Since Tallinn is reputed to have displayed the first ever Christmas tree in Europe (and perhaps the world!) back in the 15th century, this is a European Christmas market and Christmas tree not to miss.
Contributed by Daryl & Mindi Hirsch & for more on Tallinn: 2foodtrippers.com/tallinn-food-guide/
Paris (La Magie de Noël)
There’s no better way to get into the festive spirit than a visit to one of the Christmas markets scattered across the city. My favorite among them is La Magie de Noël, a hidden gem in Paris. This market, located at the Tuileries Garden, features over 100 Swiss-style wooden chalets, a dozen carnival rides, and an ice rink.
At the La Magie de Noël you will find food products, wine, souvenirs, and gifts by artisans from across France. This market is also a good choice if you’re looking for local arts and crafts, handcrafted jewelry, and other gifts all while munching on roasted chestnuts and sipping on hot mulled wine well into the night.
Strasbourg’s Christmas market celebrates its 450th year in 2019, making it one of the oldest in the world. For almost 30 years, the city has been known as the Capital of Christmas – and it’s easy to see why with just how seriously the city takes the Christmas season.
With the tallest decorated Christmas tree in Europe and multiple Christmas markets scattered throughout the city, you can easily spend days wandering around. Be sure to try the vin chaud (mulled wine), pain d’épices (spiced bread), or männele (brioche shaped into human figures).
Stalls also feature local goods and beautiful handmade Christmas decorations, which make for perfect souvenirs. Strasbourg’s magic at Christmastime doesn’t stop with the markets, however: the entire city is decorated with intricate light installations that really make it feel like you’re in a Christmas wonderland.
Germany has the most Christmas Markets in Europe and below are a few of the most beautiful.
If you’re looking to escape the overcrowded, insanely huge Christmas markets you’ll find in some of Europe’s larger cities, head to Berchtesgaden, Germany.
Berchtesgaden Advent (the town’s annual Christmas Market) takes place in the fairytale historic town center of Berchtesgaden, not far from the border of Austria. Countless food stalls will keep your belly full as you browse the booths shopping for traditional holiday trinkets and hand-crafted gifts. Chow down on waffeln (waffles smothered in chocolate, jam, or other sweets), kartoffeln (potatoes), raclette (cheese melted over bread), and bosna (Austrian hotdog).
Stay warm with some delicious glühwein (mulled wine) and schnapps! The Berchtesgaden Christmas Market starts at the end of November and runs through the end of December. The picturesque setting of the market in Berchtesgaden’s old town center is reason enough to visit!
We took our kids to Berlin for their first Christmas market experience and had a great time! There are numerous markets throughout the city, each a little different. Our favorite was Alexanderplatz Neptunbrunnen. It’s smaller but has a really great ice skating rink that goes around a fountain.
The Cologne Cathedral (Kolner Dom in German) is a must-visit on any European itinerary and is actually the most visited tourist attraction in all of Germany. Built in 1248 but only completed in 1880, the cathedral is one of the most beautiful gothic churches in the world and a magnet for tourists, particularly in December.
That’s when it becomes the home of one of the most impressive Christmas markets in Germany, the Cologne Christmas Market (Köln Weihnachtsmarkt). This sprawling market is situated next to the cathedral and offers all the traditional German treats you would expect: delicious local beer (kölsch), fragrant mulled wine, lebekuchen (German gingerbread treats) and gorgeous handicrafts – you could spend hours winding your way round it.
The market usually opens in the first week of December.
The smell of roasted chestnuts, bratwurst and gingerbread cookies teased our senses at the Frankfurt Christmas markets, Germany’s oldest markets, dating back to 1393. They were set in the old square, called Römerberg, the historic city hall square, filled with festive lights, decorations and holiday cheer. Walking in the heart of the square with a huge Christmas tree and whimsical carousel with more adults then children riding on it was simply amazing.
And who wouldn’t fall in love with the authentic German Christmas pyramid, Weihnachtspyramide, watching in awe as they gently turn, honoring the folklore and customs of the region.
People young and old are drawn to the Christmas markets to experience the festive atmosphere. With a chill in the air, the glow of lights twinkling through the foggy air and the sound of Christmas carols its like walking into the scene from a Christmas card and such a contrast from Christmas here in Australia.
There are locally made gifts and beautifully decorated glass baubles, but the essence of the Christmas market is letting your nose lead you around, satisfying your appetite sampling traditional delicacies.
Strolling through the iconic Römerberg square markets is simply breathtaking, but it’s also cold so the best remedy is to get some spicy, warm Gluhwein to warm you. Many European cities sparkle at Christmas time, but Frankfurt’s Christmas markets are one of the best.
In Germany during the wintertime, in almost every city a Christmas market is built up – one more beautiful than the next. A Christmas market, which unfortunately is often overlooked, is the Christmas market in Goslar. Goslar is a cute small town in the middle of Germany, which lies next to the Harz Mountains.
Surrounded by old, magnificent buildings and half-timbered houses, this beautiful little Christmas market always has a medieval atmosphere. In addition to the traditional Christmas market pastries and snacks, there is also food that follows the medieval theme, such as hot bread, baked to a medieval recipe in a wood oven or large wooden skewers with meat.
In the square, which is located next to the Christmas market, every year, a Christmas forest of real pines is built up and decorated with fairy lights. There you can enjoy a hot mulled wine in a Christmas atmosphere.
The official name of the Christmas market in Konstanz, Germany is “Weihnachsmarkt am See”, or “Christmas Market on the Lake”.
The name is pretty spot on, because the market does take place all along the shores of Lake Constance, and it even spills out onto a “Christmas ship” that’s moored in the harbor for the duration of the market.
Most food stalls sell traditional Germany specialties such as käsespätzle, but there are also some more international flavors on offer, including Moroccan and Indian stalls. These can be great options for vegans and vegetarians.
I recommend seeking out the Bombay Hut, which serves up some authentic Indian street food, such as samosa chaat, which is a bowl of veggie samosas smothered in chutney and chickpea curry.
If you’re looking for one of the best European cities to visit in winter, Munich is definitely one to consider. The city has several different Christmas markets – each with their own attractions and atmosphere.
The main market in the square has a huge selection of stalls selling gifts, decorations, sweets, and souvenirs, as well as several stalls selling food and drink.
My personal favorite is the traditional market, where the stalls and gifts are made as they were many years ago- wooden toys, leather bags, and carvings are widely sold here and they’re all beautiful. You’ll also see people wandering around in the traditional Munich dress.
If you need a rest or some refreshment, all of the market areas sell food and drink. I highly recommend the gluhwein, a warm, spiced wine served in cute mugs. The designs on these mugs change every year, making them highly collectible.
But what I love most about this city at Christmas is the festive and happy atmosphere. The beer halls are packed with tourists and locals alike. Everyone arrives after work to share a drink, a gossip and some laughter. The perfect Christmas destination.
With its soaring gothic spires, glowing holiday lights and snow-clad half-timbered houses within the Old City’s fortified walls, Nuremberg Germany is a Christmas-card worthy holiday destination. Similar to many of Germany’s original Christmas Markets which were clustered around their city’s main church to attract churchgoers, Nuremburg’s Christkindlesmarkt dates back to the era of Martin Luther (1483-1546) and its festive season kicks off when the flaxen-haired Christmas Angel (Christkind ) appearing on the Church of Our Lady on the eastern side of the market.
A highlight of the holiday season is the opening of the market stalls filled with gift items such as glassblown decorations, brightly-painted wooden toys and woolen goods. Nuremberg is also famous for its Christmas cuisine. Nurnberger bratwurst–a minced pork sausage smoked over beechwood charcoal,is traditionally served on a bed of sauerkraut. Also popular at Christkindlesmarkt are the giant gingerbread, mulled wine and roasted almonds.
Contributed by Michele Peterson; founder of A Taste for Travel
Oldenburg isn’t the biggest Christmas market in Germany. For that, you’d have to go to Munich or Berlin or any other big city. As far as I’m concerned, though, with my tendency to get anxious and overwhelmed in large crowds, Oldenburg is perfect. Spread over several city plazas, the Oldenburg Christmas market has something for everyone. Children can go on child-sized rides, speak to the German version of Santa Claus, ride a pony, or listen to a storyteller. Adults can shop for handcrafted gifts from the prettily-decorated stalls or just eat and drink their way through the market.
Speaking of drinking, make sure to try the classic German Christmas market drink: a heated, sweet, spiced wine called glüwein. And while the glüwein helps keep your hands – and your insides – warm, you can also duck into the old St. Lamberti church for the special Christmas musical performances they offer.
Contributed by Rachel Heller & for more on Oldenburg Christmas markets: rachelsruminations.com/christmas-markets-germany/
The Christmas Market in Potsdam is magical because it is surrounded by historic royal splendor on all sides. What makes this place special is there is a traditional market in the Old Town and then a Bohemian one in the Bohemian Weaver’s quarter where vendors and people dress in medieval clothes.
Definitely a sight to take in while sipping gluwein (mulled wine) and having treats galore. Also before or after visiting the Christmas Market, you are within walking distance to the palaces such as Sanssouci Palace. Another special thing about the Potsdam Christmas Market are the blue lights that are strung up everywhere decorating the historic city center in blue light.
Contributed by Sarah Fay with www.travelsofsarahfay.com
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Contributed by Dean Williamson & for more on Rothenburg Christmas markets: lavidaglobal.com/european-road-trip
Stuttgart is located in southern Germany, slightly northwest of Munich and north of Zurich, Switzerland. I had the pleasure of finding myself in this wonderful area during their holiday season and was able to enjoy their Christmas Markets!
The nice thing about their market area is it’s smaller than larger cities, like Munich, so it’s easier to feel more cozy and less overwhelmed. They truly beautifully decorate their kiosks too! A wonderful holiday spirit surrounds it all. You can buy ornaments and trinkets, and classic German holiday cookies that are more for display than eating. A glass of warm Gluhwein (hot mulled wine) is never far away and the bratwurst sandwiches are plentiful and delicious!
We’ve visited a handful of Christmas markets in Europe, we went on a Christmas market cruise down the Danube River visiting some of the best Christmas markets in Europe. Our favorite markets were in Budapest. The city has several markets throughout it, if you are visiting some Budapest attractions you’ll more than likely run into a few markets.
My favorite market is Vorosmarty Square. I highly suggest trying a chimney or whatever called, it’s an amazing sugary sweet dessert. If you get cold, warm up with a cup of mulled wine. The Budapest Christmas markets are also the cheapest when it comes to buying souvenirs, we purchased a bunch of gifts for friends and family back at home. We later say similar items in German markets for two times the price.
As the capital of Christianity, it’s normal to expect a special atmosphere in Rome for Christmas. With colorful lights, Christmas trees, Nativity scenes, the eternal city exudes Yuletide spirit from all corners and can give you an all-encompassing experience. If you happen in Rome during Christmas celebrations, make sure you enjoy its colorful open markets that can be found all around the city. Every year there are new openings, but the ones that never fail to amaze locals and tourists alike are the one in Piazza Risorgimento and the one in Piazza Mazzini.
The first, right outside the Vatican Walls, is a scenic collection of objects and decorations, from fine bath linens to handicraft jewelry to quirky kitchen tools, everything meant to become a perfect Christmas gift. The other market you won’t want to miss is the exclusive collection of stalls set around the fountain of Piazza Mazzini in Prati neighborhood. Populating the gardens of the square are Christmas objects such as ceramics and presepi, or gift ideas from the Italian tradition and also more international such as herbal products and artisan clothes. Alongside the handicraft work, the market of Piazza Mazzini is a great place to find culinary delicacies from other Italian regions, with local producers gathering there for the special occasion.
Note: Rome has many Christmas markets, but every year they change. Above are the two that usually takes place every year.
Visiting the Christmas Market in Verona, Italy is pretty magical, it is a Christmas tradition Veronese style. The city is transformed and dressed in lights, colors, and tastes of Christmas for a beautiful Christmas market.
The entrance to the city will be illuminated by hundreds of lights, starting from the Roman Arena going through all the streets of the historic center, and arriving in the beautiful Piazza Bra. There will be a beautifully decorated Christmas tree on the square.
The Christmas market in Verona is usually held at Piazza dei Signori, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At the Christmas Market, there will be mouth-watering displays of local food and drinks – our favorite was the truffle laced pizza bites and mulled wine.
Amsterdam is getting that cozy Christmas atmosphere during December. This is the time when it’s Light Festival is taking place, during which you can find many light installations all over the city center.
Many smaller Christmas markets are organized all over the town, and there is something special happening each weekend. The most beautiful is ‘Museum Christmas Market’, held on December 1st. It’s an annual event during which Dutch artists and designers are displaying their work in front of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. There are some quite specific Christmas markets organized in Amsterdam during that time like ‘Winter Pure Markt’, ‘Scandinavian Christmas Bazaar’ etc.
However, the biggest of all these events is ‘Christmas Village on Ice’, located in a beautiful setting of the Museumplein. Events are taking place from mid-December until the end of the year. There is a big ice-skating rink there, after which you could warm up yourself a bit with a hot chocolate or mulled wine.
The Krakow Christmas Market, located right in the heart of the city’s old town, couldn’t have a more scenic setting. Surrounded by buildings dating back hundreds of years in a market center used for trade since long before that, the twinkling Christmas lights, aroma of food on the grill, and taste of hot wine and beer are perfection.
The stalls sell wooden carvings, candy, Polish souvenirs, jewelry, warm fuzzy mittens (my favorite!), and more. You’ll also find plenty of live entertainment and Christmas carols to add to the festive atmosphere. The Krakow Christmas Market typically runs from late November until just after Christmas. Booths can be expected to run from 10am-8pm, but there were still a handful of vendors selling gifts and food well past 8 when we were there.
The Christmas market in Brasov, Romania is not huge, but it’s perfectly European and beautiful. Set in the Old Centre, the market comprises dozens of wooden booths set strategically around the large open square. With shops, a cathedral, and the town hall overlooking the proceedings, the sight is postcard-perfect.
In the center of it all stands a tall, bedazzled Christmas tree. You can walk through the market and check out the many crafts and other wares to buy, but don’t leave without a cup of hot mulled wine, known in Romania as Vin Fiert. It’s delicious, and at around 5 LEI or ($1.25USD), you can afford several cups to keep you warm!
Contributed by Amy Harte & for more on Brasov: twodrifters.us/blog/things-to-do-in-brasov.html
Cagliari isn’t exactly the kind of place one would think of at Christmas. Located in Sardinia, famous for its amazing beaches, it is a lovely place to visit in any season, and that literally shines at Christmas, with gorgeous decorations and lights across its most beautiful squares. If the area of Villanova is the most charming one in terms of lights, the prettiest market is the one that goes from Piazza Yenne (overlooking the port) through Corso Vittorio Emanuele. A number of small wooden boots open and they sell anything from hand made Christmas decorations to local food and toys for children. It is lovely to walk around and enjoy the atmosphere there.
Barcelona: Santa Lucía Christmas
The Santa Lucía Market in Barcelona is one of the oldest Christmas markets in Spain and is definitely amongst the sights you must see in Barcelona, if you visit during the winter. It’s organized every year in the square in front of the Cathedral.
What makes this Christmas market special is that apart from the usual Christmas things (pine trees, Christmas cribs, etc.), you will find everywhere Caga Tió and Caganer, the main characters of the quite peculiar Catalan Christmas traditions.
Caga Tió is a wooden log with a smiling face painted on it. Before Christmas parents fill these logs with sweets, and at Christmas, Eve kids have to beet the log with a stick telling the log to “poo” the sweets out of it.
Caganers are small porcelain figures that show a person taking a dump. Although at first, this seems something disrespectful, these figures (Catalan pheasants originally) are fertilizing the land to ensure a good harvest in the following year. Nowadays these Caganers can be any kind of celebrities from local politicians to international pop stars.
Contributed by Gábor Kovács & for more on Barcelona: surfingtheplanet.com/en/what-to-see-in-barcelona-in-3-days/
The Madrid Christmas market is an unexpected highlight when you visit between late November to early January. In the evening the city center bursts into life as family and friends gathered to see the giant Christmas tree on Gran Via or admire the magical Christmas tree and lights at Puerta del Sol.
But it’s Plaza Mayor with its numerous Christmas stalls you’ll want to return to each evening. You will love the Christmas ambiance, the lighting of the buildings surrounding the stallholders, and the brightly lit carousel to entertain children.
You’ll be captivated by the stallholders selling the nativity scenes known as Belen. Here you can select from a range of figurines for your own nativity scene.
Besides the Christmas decorations and trinkets, the popular stallholders were selling Christmas fun accessories popular with adults and children. Our favorite stall was Turron (Nougat topped with nuts) which we enjoyed and also purchased for gifts.
There are only two Christmas Markets in Basel, Switzerland, and they are called Basler Weinnacht. They are located at Barfusserplatz and Munsterplatz and are easily within walking distance to each other. What I loved about these markets was that they are less crowded and easy to get around. Yet they had all the elements of the wonderful massive markets without all the crowds.There is definitely something to be said about that! While there, I saw Christmas “cabins” that had candle making, glass firing, jagertee (tea), glühwein (mulled wine) and jus chaud (hot juice in orange or pomegranate), as well as chestnuts roasting! I can recommend these two smaller markets.
Contributed by Dr. Cacinda Maloney & for more on Basel Christmas markets: pointsandtravel.com/basel-switzerland-christmas-markets/
You may not know this but Zurich, Switzerland has 5 Christmas Markets! Having visited 4 out of the 5, I was quite taken with Christkindlimarkt located inside the main train station. This is Europe’s largest indoor market with a whopping 150 stalls offering everything from sweet treats and handmade gifts to apparel and beauty items.
To be honest, the one thing people come to see is the 50-foot Christmas tree decorated with over 7,000 Swarovski crystals! You need to see it in person to appreciate the sparkle and shine. Too bad there’s a glass wall around the tree keeping people away from those pricey crystals!
After you check out the tree, take your time and enjoy the atmosphere while sipping a cup of Glühwein (mulled wine) at Glühwein-Hütte. If you’re not into mulled wine, grab a hot cocoa made with real Swiss chocolate. This year, Christkindlimarkt is open from 23 November to 24 December.
Contributed by Mia Herman & for more on Zurich Christmas markets read Mia’s post: travelwithmia.com/christmas-markets-zurich-switzerland/
There are so many magical Christmas markets in Europe and this list just scratches the surface. For example, here is a guide to Austria’s best Christmas markets.
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Alexa Meisler is the editorial director of 52 Perfect Days. Born in Paris, France she has since lived in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon. She currently resides in San Diego with her husband and son where they enjoy exploring California and Mexico.
Travel has always been a part of her life; traveling to such places as Morocco, Tangiers and Spain as a young child as well as taking many road trips to Mexico with her grandparents as a young girl. Since then, she has traveled abroad to locations such as Russia, Taiwan and throughout Europe.
Prior to working at 52 Perfect Days she was a freelance travel writer; focusing on family and women’s adventure experiences.