The holiday season is my favorite time of year. I love winter walks, the smell of hot chocolate, reading in front of the fireplace, ice-skating, family dinners, the beautiful decorations, reflecting on a year nearly gone by and … visiting the many beautiful and unique Christmas markets. Last year I only managed to visit some Christmas markets in my home country, like the Antwerp Christmas market, the Brussels Christmas Market and the beautiful Ice Sculpture Festival and Christmas market in Bruges. This year however I plan to visit as many as possible, I already started some preparation and looked into the 10 best Christmas Market in Europe and also asked fellow travel bloggers for their Christmas market recommendations …
1. Most Famous: Nuremberg – Germany
Germany is well known for its many beautiful Christmas markets. There are lots of Christmas markets in Germany from the large and popular one in Cologne to the small and picturesque one in Monschau. The most famous one however is without any doubt the Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt. The Christkind opens the Christmas market every year the Friday before Advent with an impressive openings ceremony. This market is one with a long tradition, here you’ll find the original thing; hand-made gifts, bavarian bratwurst, glühwein …
What Travel Bloggers say about Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt:
Lance & Laura of Travel Addicts: Nuremberg’s Christmas market is arguable the best market in Germany. It is clearly one of the best visited – boasting over two million visitors in the four short weeks the market is open every year. Dating from the early 1600s, Nuremberg’s Christmas market occupies the Main Square under the towering Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady). The stalls, with their candy-striped awnings, occupy near little rows. The stalls sell all manner of traditional handcrafts, including little “smoker” men (carved figures that hold smoking incense inside) and carved wooden toys. A horse-drawn stagecoach takes visitors on a ride over the cobblestone streets of the medieval old city. On weekends, The Nuremberg Christmas market is a throbbing mass of people huddling together to stay warm. During the week, you can explore the market in tranquility, eating the local Nuremberger sausages (eaten three in a roll) and drinking glühwein (hot mulled wine). We’ve visited many of Europe’s markets, but Nuremberg is the best.
Other German Christmas markets recommended by Travel Bloggers:
Adam of Travels of Adam: The most charitable Christmas market in Berlin is the Rixdorf Christmas market. This market is only open for a single weekend each December and the stalls are almost exclusively run by non-profits. NGOs and charity/church groups. There’s a single central stage with performances and a blacksmith shop that puts on demonstrations of iron-work in addition to all the shops and charities selling crafts and food. Here’s a hint: if you are looking for somewhere warm, best to go inside the blacksmith shop 🙂
Eva of Passports & Pamplemousse: There are so many great Christmas markets in Germany, it is nearly impossible to pick just one favorite. My favorites would be the ones in Munich, Augsburg, Ettal, Nuremberg, Cologne, Aachen, Goslar, Dresden and Meissen.
Andrea of Rear View Mirror: Christmas Markets are often about enjoying a mug of mulled wine while munching on grilled sausage and catching up with family and friends. It gives people a chance to slow down and take the time to meet up with people they might not have had the chance to see throughout the year. But Christmas markets are also about pride and there is much competition amongst cities as to who has the oldest, biggest or best Christmas market. The biggest and best are up for debate but the award for oldest Christmas market in Germany goes to the gorgeous city of Dresden. Not only has the Dresden Striezelmarkt been around the longest but it’s also one of the cheapest in Germany and it has an incredible range of international food stalls selling delicious langos from Hungary, poffertjes from the Netherlands and Dresden’s own rahmklecks (hot bread stuffed with cheese). Along with the famous Striezelmarkt, there are many smaller Christmas markets in Dresden but not to be missed is the small medieval style market in front of the stunning Frauenkirche.
Monique of Mo’ Travels: Aachen is one of my favorite Christmas markets due to its small but cozy atmosphere. Set around the Town Hall and Aachen Cathedral, the Aachen Christmas market is known for its local speciality “Printen”, a type of sweet bread. At the market, you will also find plenty of Nutcrackers, Smokersand Christmas Pyramids that are staples at the German Christmas markets. I also enjoyed being able to sneak a little culture in with my shopping and visiting the Aachen Cathedral. Built by Charlemagne, the Imperial Cathedral as it is sometimes called, is the oldest Cathedral in northern Europe. The Cathedral also served as the church of coronation for German kings and queens from 936 till 1531 and is also the final resting place of Charlemagne.
2. Most romantic: Bruges – Belgium
Winter Wonders Brussels Christmas market with its spectacular light show and ice rank is a well known and popular Christmas market. However Belgium offers lots of great Christmas markets, the most romantic one is without any doubt the one in the medieval city of Bruges. The Christmas market in Bruges is not a huge one but the atmosphere is unforgettable; wooden Christmas stalls and an ice rink in the centre of the medieval city form the heart of the festivities and the festivities continue in the illuminated cobbled streets. To complete this magical atmosphere, there is a yearly Snow & Ice Sculpture Festival at the Station Square.
Other Belgian Christmas markets recommended by Travel Bloggers:
Sofie of Wonderful Wanderings: The Antwerp Christmas market isn’t the smallest, nor the biggest Christmas market I’ve ever been to. But it is the most divers. Let’s be honest: have you ever seen a flamenco show on a Christmas market? I hadn’t … until last year in Antwerp. That wasn’t the only surprise though. Two weird creatures walked between the stalls at the Grand Place, it were stilt-walkers dressed up magnificently as ostriches. They always scare me a bit, those stilt-walkers. But the absolute highlight for me was the gospel choir from the Netherlands. They sang with such power and high spirits that it was impossible not to sing and dance along. My feet got warm thanks to them, and yes, so did my heart. Besides the special treats the Antwerp Christmas Market also has everything a Christmas market should have: food and drink stands (we got beignets), a huge Christmas tree, people selling things like candles, hat and scarves and … an ice rink.
Andrea of Passports and Pushchairs: Brussels is not the city most think of when they think traditional European Christmas market, but it holds the charm of more well known markets and the traditions of the big German ones. Located close to the Grand Place at Place Sainte Catherine it is centrally located, just a few blocks from the main train station and surrounded by many hotels and restaurants for out of town visitors. The wooden booths that make up the market are filled with everything from traditional Christmas goodies to food to handmade items that will fill almost any stocking. The highlight of the Brussels Christmas market comes at dark, with a light show that lights up the guild houses and the Town Hall. This mirage of colors will entertain guests of all ages.
3. Most Magical: London – England
London features yearly several Christmas markets and ice rinks. The biggest one is without any doubt Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. This huge Christmas market includes an ice rink, several attractions, a circus, shows, a magical ice Kingdom, visit to Santa in his grotto … and much more. All this Christmas magic is very popular both by Londoners and visitors from all over the world.
What Travel Bloggers say about London Christmas market:
Nienke of The Travel Tester: After having spend 2 years celebrating Christmas on the beach in Sydney, I was happy to find a cold and cosy and – for me – more “Christmas-y” feeling on a Christmas market in London this year. As soon as I could, I visited the endless row of wooden chalets on the Southbank Christmas market and it didn’t disappoint. having everything a Christmas market should have; from roasted chestnuts and handmade crafts to lots of hot food and of course mulled wine, I had a great afternoon and am excited about the holiday season coming up!
Other English Christmas markets recommended by Travel Bloggers:
Dale of AngloItalian Follow Us: In Birmingham – the “Second City” of the UK – Frankfurt Christmas market has been running for 12 years and this market made a great setting for a friend of mine’s bachelor party as we sipped on German lager and hot mulled wine amongst the crowds filing past the stalls, selling fresh pretzels, hand made gifts and delicious hot chocolate right into the twilight hours making for a very memorable day. No matter what time or day of the week, you can easily join the crowds of other festive people as folk music and laughter fills the air.
4. Most traditional: Vienna – Austria
Germany has a long tradition of Christmas markets with Christmas markets being around for centuries like the ones in Dresden, Frankfurt, Bautzen and Munich. However Vienna is the forerunner of the Christmas markets with their yearly traditional “December market” which dates back to 1294. Nowadays Vienna features yearly about 20 Christmas markets whereof the Christkindlmarkt in front of the City Hall is the best known. Besides the traditional wooden Christmas cabins, this market features traditional Christmas stories, a special post office, an International Advent Caroling, …
Other Austrian Christmas markets recommended by Travel Bloggers:
Monika of TravelWorldOnline Traveller: Salzburg in Austria offers several Christmas markets in a very romantic setting. The most beautiful of all, however, is the Hohensalzburg Fortress Christmas market high up on the mountain. It’s right in the middle of the old castle that dominates the city and has a cozy feel to it since it is set up in the castle’s courtyard. Imagine walking past wooden huts that ooze good smells of Glühwein and freshly baked goodies. The best of all is the wonderful view it offers from the castle walls of the city of Salzburg below.
5. Most illuminated: Copenhagen – Denmark
The Tivoli Gardens Christmas market features more than 120.000 sparkling lights illuminating the lake and the flower gardens. This a very special Christmas market set-up in an amusement park, I’m sure your kids will love it. This year lots of Scandinavian touches have been added to the Russian theme. Traditional wooden stalls with gifts, Danish crafts and foods, a firework festival, theme park rides, an ice rink, a roller-coaster, Danish Christmas pixies, Santa Claus … they really know how to celebrate Christmas in Copenhagen.
What Travel Bloggers say about Copenhagen Christmas market:
Celia of Nomadic Danes: My favorite Christmas market is without any doubt the one in Copenhagen’s huge amusement park, Tivoli. Tivoli is located right in the center of Copenhagen and the whole park is covered in Christmas lights by now. Besides that, there is a theme based market inside the park each year and the details are just incredible. At the market you can also indulge in local traditional Christmas food and see amazing exhibitions with elves and other creatures. The whole atmosphere in the park is amazing, it’s an absolute must-see if you’re ever in Copenhagen from the 15th of November through December.
*Image of Christmas decoration via Shutterstock