A Guide to the Best Christmas Markets Around the World
The preparations for Christmas start well before December 25th. After Halloween, you'll notice the first shops offering Christmas deals and selling gifts. However, the real sign that Christmas is on its way is when the markets begin to appear.
Christmas markets, whether they follow a traditional or modern theme, often define the spirit of December in many cities. From Strasbourg to Chicago, the weekends leading up to Christmas are all about exploring markets and winter villages. You'll find yourself in snug drinking spots after strolling around log cabins and chalet-style stalls, picking up last-minute presents. And what better way to stay warm than indulging in hearty German cuisine or sipping on gluhwein?
Whether you're on the hunt for gifts, enjoying a day out with family, or simply wanting to embrace the festive atmosphere, markets offer a carefree and enjoyable experience. With a wide variety across Europe and the world, a trip to a market abroad can be the perfect pre-Christmas getaway. Keep reading for a selection of the best.
November 24 - December 24
Located in Alsace, Strasbourg, the Capital of Christmas, shows its enchanting charm each year with the celebrated Christkindelsmärik. Full of tradition and the backdrop of medieval architecture
The cobblestone streets of Strasbourg's Old Town come alive with the spirit of the season as the Christkindelsmärik opens its gates. Against the stunning backdrop of centuries-old buildings, the market's wooden stalls exude a warm glow, inviting locals and tourists alike to explore the rich tapestry of Alsatian Christmas traditions.
The aroma of spiced wine, roasted chestnuts, and Alsatian specialties fills the air, creating an irresistible symphony of scents. Visitors can indulge in delectable treats like bredele (Alsatian Christmas cookies), flammekueche (thin-crust pizza), and choucroute garnie (sauerkraut with sausages and other delights).
Wandering through the Christkindelsmärik, You can discover a lot of handcrafted treasures. Local artisans showcase their skills with intricately designed ornaments, wooden toys, and festive decorations. It's the perfect place to find unique gifts and souvenirs that capture the spirit of the season.
The Majestic Christmas Tree
At the heart of the market stands a majestic Christmas tree, adorned with thousands of twinkling lights. The tree, a symbol of unity and festivity, serves as a focal point for gatherings and festive performances, including carol singers and live nativity scenes.
December 1 - December 24
In the heart of Bavaria, Germany, where medieval charm meets festive cheer, the Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt stands as a beacon of holiday enchantment. Renowned as one of Germany's oldest and most iconic Christmas markets, this annual celebration in Nuremberg is a testament to the enduring magic of the season.
The Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg is not an ordinary market; it's a living tableau of tradition. Opening amidst a grand ceremony featuring the ethereal Christkind (Christmas Angel), the market transports visitors to a bygone era. The cobblestone streets and half-timbered houses provide a picturesque setting, creating a unique and unforgettable atmosphere. With the scent of mulled wine and roasted almonds wafts through the air and traditional wooden stalls, adorned with red and white cloth.
Nuremberg is famous for its culinary offerings, and the Christkindlesmarkt is no exception. Visitors are treated to Nuremberg sausages, gingerbread hearts (Lebkuchen), and fruitcakes. The world's largest punch bowl adds a unique touch, inviting visitors to savor the warmth of the season with a cup of festive cheer.
The Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt is not just for adults; it's a paradise for children. A nostalgic carousel, an old-fashioned Ferris wheel, and the Kinderweihnacht (Children's Christmas Market) offer young visitors an enchanting world of festive rides and activities.
Viennese Christmas Market
November 11 - December 26
In the imperial city of Vienna, where classical grandeur meets the magic of the holidays, the Viennese Christmas Market, or Christkindlmarkt, unfolds as a spectacular showcase of festive elegance. Nestled in front of the majestic City Hall (Rathaus), this market is a harmonious blend of tradition, artistry, and the timeless spirit of the season.
The Viennese Christmas Market is not just a market; it's a visual masterpiece set against the breathtaking backdrop of the neo-Gothic City Hall. Illuminated by thousands of twinkling lights, the Rathausplatz transforms into a fairy-tale setting, enchanting visitors from near and far.
Strolling through the market's alleys reveals a treasure trove of artisanal delights. Local craftsmen showcase their talents with handmade ornaments, intricate nativity scenes, and unique gifts. The market's commitment to quality and craftsmanship ensures that each item tells a story of Vienna's rich cultural heritage.
Aromas of roasted chestnuts, mulled wine, and traditional Austrian pastries permeate the air, tempting taste buds and creating a sensory symphony. From classic Vienna sausages to delectable pastries like Sachertorte, the market offers a culinary journey through Austria's festive gastronomy.
Ice Dream at Rathausplatz
Adjacent to the Christmas Market, the Ice Dream at Rathausplatz adds an extra layer of winter magic. An expansive ice rink invites visitors to glide gracefully beneath the towering spires of City Hall, creating a scene straight from a Viennese waltz.
Live choirs, classical music performances, and festive plays contribute to the market's lively ambiance. Visitors can enjoy the sounds of the season echoing through the Rathausplatz, creating a magical atmosphere that captures the essence of Vienna's musical legacy.
The Swarovski Crystal Tree
At the heart of the Viennese Christmas Market stands a dazzling Christmas tree adorned with Swarovski crystals. This sparkling centerpiece adds a touch of luxury to the festivities, reflecting the opulence and elegance for which Vienna is renowned.
Tivoli Gardens Christmas Market
November 17 - December 31
This market is in Copenhagen, where the spirit of hygge embraces all, the Tivoli Gardens Christmas Market has as a magical Nordic spectacle. Nestled within the historic Tivoli Gardens amusement park, this market is a unique blend of traditional Danish charm and modern holiday enchantment.
Amusement Park Allure
What sets the Tivoli Gardens Christmas Market apart is its integration within the iconic Tivoli Gardens. Visitors find themselves immersed in a winter wonderland where classic rides, illuminated in a kaleidoscope of colors, provide a backdrop to the festive stalls and activities.
As daylight wanes, Tivoli Gardens transforms into a luminous masterpiece. Millions of twinkling lights adorn trees, buildings, and rides, casting a warm glow over the entire park. The spectacle creates an enchanting atmosphere, drawing visitors into a world of holiday magic.
The market caters to food enthusiasts with a delectable array of Nordic treats. From Æbleskiver (round, fluffy pastries) to hearty portions of traditional Danish dishes, the culinary offerings at Tivoli Gardens add a gastronomic layer to the festive experience.
Cozy corners with fire pits and snug seating areas invite visitors to embrace the Danish concept of hygge. It's a perfect spot to unwind, enjoy a cup of hot cocoa, and soak in the festive atmosphere while surrounded by the comforting warmth of the fires.
Unique Nordic Crafts
Strolling through the market reveals a curated selection of Nordic crafts. Local artisans showcase their talents with handmade ornaments, woolen goods, and traditional Danish Christmas decorations, offering visitors the chance to bring home a piece of authentic Nordic holiday spirit.
Tivoli Gardens doesn't just offer traditional market stalls; it hosts a variety of festive performances. From carol singers to theatrical productions, the market ensures that visitors are entertained at every turn, adding a lively and dynamic element to the holiday festivities.
Prague Christmas Markets
December 2 - January 6
Nestled within the historical parts of Prague's Old Town Square, the Prague Christmas Markets unveil a winter wonderland that captures the essence of Czech holiday traditions. Against the backdrop of Gothic and Baroque architecture, this market transforms the heart of Prague into a magical setting where centuries-old charm and festive merriment converge.
Old Town Elegance
The Prague Christmas Markets are a visual symphony set against the timeless elegance of Old Town Square. The medieval architecture, including the iconic Astronomical Clock and the Church of Our Lady before Týn, serves as a stunning backdrop, creating an atmosphere that transports visitors to a bygone era.
Local artisans showcase their skills with intricately designed Bohemian glass ornaments, wooden toys, and delicate lacework. The market's commitment to traditional craftsmanship ensures that each item tells a story of Czech heritage.
From trdelník (sweet rolled pastries) to klobása (sausages) and svařák (mulled wine), the market provides a delectable journey through the flavors of Czech holiday gastronomy.
Live Cultural Performances
The festive spirit extends beyond the market stalls with live performances showcasing Czech cultural traditions. From folk dances to carol singers and musicians, the market square becomes a stage for celebrating the rich heritage of Czech music and dance.
A dedicated children's corner, adorned with colorful decorations, offers young visitors a magical space to explore. From carousel rides to meeting Santa Claus, the Prague Christmas Markets ensure that the youngest revelers have their share of enchanting experiences.
Stockholm's Old Town Christmas Market
November 24 - December 17
In the cobbled streets and medieval charm of Gamla Stan, Stockholm's Old Town Christmas Market is a Scandinavian winter paradise. This annual market captures the essence of Swedish holiday traditions, combining historical ambiance with a festive spirit that warms the heart even in the coldest Nordic winter.
The Old Town Christmas Market is a journey through time, set against the backdrop of Gamla Stan's historic buildings. The market square, surrounded by centuries-old facades and the Royal Palace, creates an enchanting atmosphere, where the past and present seamlessly merge.
As visitors meander through the market's red stalls, they encounter a showcase of Swedish handicrafts. Local artisans display their talents with handmade wooden decorations, traditional textiles, and intricate items reflecting Sweden's rich cultural heritage. It's a perfect opportunity to find unique gifts and souvenirs.
From pepparkakor (gingerbread cookies) and lussekatter (saffron buns) to warm glögg (mulled wine) and savory Swedish meatballs, the market offers a delectable journey through the flavors of Swedish holiday fare.
Live performances add a dynamic element to the Old Town Christmas Market. Carol singers, traditional folk dancers, and musicians create a lively atmosphere, infusing the market with the sounds of Swedish holiday traditions. The entertainment transforms the market square into a festive stage.
The Old Town Christmas Market embraces the Swedish concept of "mysigt" or coziness. Visitors can take refuge from the winter chill in heated tents, savoring their treats by open fires. The market's intimate setting encourages a sense of togetherness and warmth.
Santa Lucia Procession
A highlight of the market is the traditional Santa Lucia procession. With children dressed in white, carrying candles and singing songs, this enchanting event adds a touch of magic to the holiday festivities, embodying the spirit of light in the darkness of winter.
Brussels Winter Wonders
November 24 - December 31
In the center of the European capital, Brussels, the Winter Wonders Christmas Market transforms the city into a festive wonderland, showcasing the best of Belgian charm and holiday spirit. Against the backdrop of the Grand Place, this annual event unfolds as a celebration of lights, flavors, and the rich cultural tapestry that defines Christmas in Belgium.
What sets the Winter Wonders Christmas Market apart is its setting in the UNESCO-listed Grand Place. The historic square, adorned with opulent guildhalls and the Town Hall, becomes a breathtaking canvas for a spectacular light show, creating a magical atmosphere that captivates visitors from the very heart of Brussels.
Charming Wooden Chalets
The Winter Wonders market has over 200 wooden chalets, each offering a curated selection of Belgian and international crafts. From handmade chocolates and lace to unique ornaments and artisanal gifts, the market ensures a delightful shopping experience for visitors seeking one-of-a-kind treasures.
Belgium's reputation for culinary excellence takes center stage at Winter Wonders. Visitors are treated to a gastronomic journey featuring Belgian waffles, indulgent chocolates, crispy frites, and the famed Brussels sprouts. The market's diverse array of food stalls provides a feast for the senses.
Ice Rink and Ferris Wheel
Adjacent to the market, a festive ice rink invites visitors to glide beneath the shadow of the Town Hall, while a towering Ferris wheel offers panoramic views of the illuminated city. These attractions add an extra layer of excitement and create memorable moments for families and friends.
Carrousel des Mondes Fantastique
A highlight for families is the Carrousel des Mondes Fantastiques, a beautifully adorned carousel that takes children on a magical ride through imaginative worlds. The carousel adds an element of whimsy and joy to the market's offerings.
Winter Wonders brings the Grand Place alive with live performances, including carol singers, street performers, and festive concerts. The square becomes a stage for cultural expression, uniting locals and visitors in the joyous celebration of the season.
Valkenburg Christmas Market
November 17 - December 30
In the picturesque town of Valkenburg, the Netherlands, the Christmas Market is as a unique and enchanting experience. It offers visitors a journey into the heart of the Limburg region's rich cultural heritage. What sets this market apart is its extraordinary setting—held within the subterranean depths of Valkenburg's caves, creating an atmosphere of mystery and magic.
The Valkenburg Christmas Market takes place in the marlstone caves beneath the town, offering an otherworldly setting that sets it apart from traditional markets. The labyrinthine passageways and caverns transform into a subterranean wonderland, creating a one-of-a-kind holiday experience.
Local artisans showcase their talents in this unique environment, presenting a selection of crafts and gifts that highlight the traditional skills of the region. Hand-carved ornaments, locally produced goods, and Limburgish specialties add a distinctive touch to the market, creating a sense of authenticity and local pride.
As visitors descend into the caves, the soft glow of candlelight illuminates the market stalls. The ambient lighting creates an intimate and cozy atmosphere, enhancing the feeling of warmth and camaraderie in the underground chambers.
Valkenburg's Christmas Market features a variety of local and international treats. From Dutch pancakes and stroopwafels to mulled wine and regional cheeses, the market offers a flavorful journey through the tastes of Limburg.
A dedicated area within the caves is transformed into Santa's Village, where children can meet Santa Claus and his helpers in a magical underground grotto. The experience adds an extra layer of wonder for families and young visitors.
Unique Grotto Settings
Each cave in Valkenburg presents a different theme and ambiance, providing a diverse and captivating experience for market-goers. From stalactite-filled caverns to more open spaces adorned with festive decorations, each grotto contributes to the market's overall enchantment.
Entertainment and Performances
Live performances, including carol singers and local musicians, add a festive soundtrack to the underground market. The acoustics of the caves enhance the musical experience, creating an immersive and magical atmosphere.
The United States has also a variety of charming Christmas markets, each with its unique festive atmosphere. Some of the best and prettiest Christmas markets in the U.S. include:
Christkindlmarket - Chicago, Illinois:
Modeled after the traditional German Christmas markets, Christkindlmarket in Chicago features charming wooden stalls, festive decorations, and a festive atmosphere. It's held in Daley Plaza and offers a variety of traditional German crafts, ornaments, and food.
Union Square Holiday Market - New York City, New York:
Located in the heart of Manhattan, the Union Square Holiday Market is known for its diverse selection of handmade crafts, unique gifts, and delicious food. The market's festive ambiance, surrounded by the city lights, makes it a favorite during the holiday season.
German Christmas Market - Bethlehem, Pennsylvania:
Bethlehem, often referred to as the "Christmas City," hosts a German-style Christmas market with wooden huts, twinkling lights, and a focus on German traditions. Visitors can enjoy live performances, horse-drawn carriage rides, and a visit from St. Nicholas.
Denver Christkindl Market - Denver, Colorado:
Inspired by German and European Christmas traditions, the Denver Christkindl Market offers a festive setting with holiday lights, vendors selling European crafts and gifts, and a beer garden. The market is held in the heart of downtown Denver.
Winterfest & Christkindlmarkt - Frankenmuth, Michigan:
Known for its Bavarian charm, Frankenmuth hosts a Winterfest with a Christkindlmarkt featuring traditional German Christmas goods, handcrafted items, and festive decorations. The town's Old World architecture adds to the holiday ambiance.
Downtown Holiday Market - Washington, D.C.:
Set against the backdrop of the U.S. Capitol, the Downtown Holiday Market in Washington, D.C., features over 150 exhibitors offering unique gifts, crafts, and delicious treats. Live entertainment and festive decorations create a lively atmosphere.
Christmas Village in Philadelphia - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania:
Modeled after a traditional German Christmas market, the Christmas Village in Philadelphia features over 80 vendors selling international and local holiday gifts, decorations, and crafts. The village is set up in Love Park, creating a festive atmosphere in the city.
Lights at the Brickyard - Indianapolis, Indiana:
While not a traditional market, the Lights at the Brickyard at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a spectacular holiday display featuring millions of lights, holiday scenes, and a festive drive-through experience.
Christmas markets around the world are super special and each one has its own cool vibe. From the old-timey feel of Strasbourg's Christkindelsmärik to the underground wonderland in Valkenburg, these markets are full of traditions, yummy food, and fun stuff to do. Whether you're in Vienna or Stockholm, these places are perfect for getting into the holiday mood, making awesome memories, and finding neat gifts. If you happen to be in one of these cities during Christmas, definitely check out the market – you won't want to miss the chance to soak up the festive spirit and enjoy the holiday fun!