Estimated reading time: 22 minutes
Discover the best Christmas markets in the world, where you can enjoy festive treats, traditional crafts, and magical atmospheres.
Christmas markets are a celebration of the joy and warmth of the holiday season, where even the likes of Scrooge would find it hard to resist! And while many people associate Christmas markets with Germany and its specialties like Lebkuchen (traditional gingerbread) and glühwein (mulled wine), there are many other countries that have their own versions of these festive fairs. So, grab your hot chocolate and blanket, and join us as we explore some of the best Christmas markets in the world.
Table of Contents
- A Brief History of Christmas Markets
- Czech Republic
- Navigating Through the Best Christmas Markets in the World with Ease
- FAQs About the best Christmas markets in the world
A Brief History of Christmas Markets
Before we take you on a tour of these magical places, let’s take a moment to appreciate the history of this tradition that dates back to medieval times. The origins of Christmas markets are not very clear, but some sources suggest that Vienna was the first city to have a December market, which was granted by Duke Albrecht I in 1296. However, this market may not have been exclusively related to Christmas, as it mainly included other goods. At the same time according to various historical sources, the first true Christmas markets, which focused on selling festive items and treats, emerged in Germany in the 15th and 16th centuries. For example, Dresden’s Striezelmarkt was first held in 1434 and Nuremberg’s Christkindlesmarkt dates back to 1530.
Christmas markets later spread to other parts of Europe, such as Italy, Switzerland, and France, where they adopted local customs and flavors. Today, Christmas markets are a global phenomenon, with events held in countries as far as China and the United States. Some of the traditional items sold at Christmas markets include wooden toys, nutcrackers, candles, ornaments, gingerbread, roasted nuts, and mulled wine.
Dates: November 29 to December 24, 2023
As mentioned, Nuremberg Christmas Market stands out as one of the oldest and finest in Europe, consistently drawing millions of visitors each year. Recognized as among the best Christmas markets in Germany, it holds a special place in the hearts of those seeking festive tradition.
Renowned for its commitment to sustainability, this market sets itself apart by embracing eco-friendly practices. All mulled wine vendors operate within the reusable cup system, not only saving energy but also significantly reducing the use of disposable containers. The market is powered by regenerative energy sourced from a regional hydroelectric plant and a photovoltaic power plant, adding an environmentally conscious touch to the holiday spirit.
The market takes place in the Hauptmarkt, the main square of Nuremberg, in the old town. It is inaugurated by the Nuremberg Christkind, a young woman dressed in a golden robe and a crown, who recites a traditional prologue from the balcony of the Frauenkirche church. She is the symbol of the market and represents the spirit of Christmas.
As you wander through the market, the air is filled with the scents of grilled sausages, crackling pork, and warm mulled wine, ensuring that food enthusiasts are in for a treat. The vibrant atmosphere is adorned with bright Christmas tree decorations, whimsical tinsel angels, intricately carved wooden nutcrackers, and colorful stars, creating a scene that evokes childlike excitement in every visitor.
To add a dash of nostalgia, explore the Children’s Christmas Market, a dedicated space where little ones can revel in the magic of the season with age-old traditions like carousel rides and visits with Santa Claus.
Dates: November 28, 2023, to January 1, 2024
Discover the lively and artsy side of Christmas in Berlin, where tradition gets a modern twist. With a whopping 100 Christmas markets scattered across the city, you can experience the magic of Christmas in every corner. From the big one in Spandau to a quirky market just for dogs (called Sirius), Berlin’s festive scene is as diverse as its population.
For a classic Berlin market vibe, head to Alexanderplatz, with vendors offering Bratwurst, gingerbread, and mulled wine to tempt your taste buds. The market boasts a giant Christmas pyramid that you can walk inside, adorned with over 5000 twinkling lights – the largest of its kind in Europe.
Another great place is Charlottenburg Palace Christmas Market. With over 250 festively decorated stalls, this market offers a wide range of crafts, treats, and holiday delights against the backdrop of Charlottenburg Palace.
If you’re up for some action, check out Winter World on Potsdamer Platz. It’s more about winter sports than shopping, with tobogganing, curling, and a cool ice-skating rink that even offers free lessons for kids.
But, among all the options, WeihnachtsZauber Gendarmenmarkt takes the cake as the most popular. It sits in Bebelplatz at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, surrounded by famous landmarks such as the State Opera (Staatsoper), St. Hedwig’s Cathedral, and the Altes Palais. Picture this: countless white tents covered in lights, all converging on a giant Christmas tree lighting up the whole place.
Last but not least don’t miss the Lucia Christmas Market at the Kulturbrauerei, offering a Scandinavian-inspired experience with Nordic crafts, traditional food, and a cozy atmosphere. The market features a unique Lucia procession, adding to the festive charm of Berlin during the holiday season.
Dates: November 23 to December 23, 2023
Cologne is a well-known festive destination that can make your Christmas unforgettable. The largest Christmas market in Cologne, nestled in the city center beneath the towering cathedral, is Markt der Engel. This is a place of wonder and magic, where you can meet celestial beings, such as angels and the winter queen, who has a snowy owl by her side and a fluffy unicorn as her companion. You can also marvel at the glowing creatures on stilts, who roam the streets like myths come to life. Above you, a dazzling canopy of lights brightens up the night.
For the little ones, Nikolausdorf (Saint Nicholas’s Village) is a must-visit. Located in a Christmas village next to Cologne’s impressive middle-age Hahnentorburg, you’ll learn about the tale of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children, with the Hahnen gate adding to the magical setting.
Dates: November 27 to December 21, 2023
Frankfurt’s Christmas market, which has a history that goes back to 1393, is one of the best Christmas markets in Germany. The sheer scale of the Weihnachtsmarkt Frankfurt Römerberg is awe-inspiring, welcoming approximately three million visitors annually.
This market captivates with its fairytale-like setting at Römerberg, the picturesque, cobbled town square. The setting features iconic elements such as St. Paul’s Church, a historic carousel, and a towering 30-meter-high Christmas tree. As the sun sets, the entire scene comes alive with a magical glow, as thousands of LED lights and decorations illuminate the night sky.
Dates: November 24 to December 24, 2023
Strasbourg is known as France’s “Capital of Christmas”, and for good reason. The heart of the city is splendidly adorned with 300 traditional market stalls, each offering a delightful array of hand-painted wooden Christmas decorations that add a touch of rustic charm.
At the center of this magical spectacle is the Christkindelsmärik, the oldest Christmas market in France, which attracts millions of visitors each year. The market’s beautiful wooden chalets create a picturesque scene, complemented by nightly concerts and performances. For those seeking a bit of adventure, the ice-skating rink adds a lively touch to the festivities.
As you explore this charming market, treat yourself to tasty foods like foie gras, a French specialty with a rich and buttery flavor, and warm white wine. Make sure to try bredele, special Alsatian Christmas cookies that are synonymous with Christmas.
And don’t forget to check out the big Christmas tree in the main square of Place Kléber, which stands as a noteworthy seasonal attraction.
Dates: November 14 to December 29, 2023
Only a short drive from Paris, Colmar is a beautiful town in the Alsace region of France, renowned for its colorful half-timbered houses and picturesque canals. During the Christmas season, the town becomes even more magical as it hosts six different Christmas markets. The market in Little Venice offers a stunning view of the illuminated boats on the river and the whimsical white Christmas trees. The Gourmet Market at Place de la Cathédrale invites you to try local delicacies such as Bouchée à la Reine, black truffle risotto, and Alsatian wine. The Koïfhus, the former customs house, showcases unique handicrafts and the history and culture of Alsace.
Colmar’s Christmas markets are not only a feast for the eyes and the palate, but also for the ears. You can enjoy the carols sung by children on boats, the music played by street performers, and the stories told by the night-watchman. You can also join the treasure hunt, the festival of lights, and the guided tours that reveal the secrets of the town!
Dates: November 17, 2023, to January 6, 2024
Edinburgh is a city that knows how to celebrate Christmas and New Year in style. From November to January, the Scottish capital hosts a series of festive events that reveal its beauty, culture, and spirit.
The European Christmas Market in East Princes Street Gardens offers a variety of traditional gifts, crafts, and food from different countries. For a thrilling experience, you can try the Big Wheel, a giant Ferris wheel, the star flyer (a high-speed spinning ride), or the ice rink and admire the stunning views of Edinburgh Castle.
The city also hosts a range of events, such as the Castle of Light, a dazzling display of lights and projections on the walls of Edinburgh Castle, the Torchlight Procession, a parade of torchbearers that raises money for charity, and the Night Afore Disco Party, a groovy night of music and dancing under the castle. You can also visit the Royal Botanic Garden to see its Christmas illuminations, or the Scottish National Gallery to enjoy its winter scenes.
And of course, no visit to Edinburgh would be complete without experiencing Hogmanay, the Scottish name for New Year’s Eve. Edinburgh’s Hogmanay is one of the biggest New Year’s parties in the world, attracting thousands of visitors every year. You can experience the lively Street Party with music, street performers, and fireworks. Or dance to traditional Scottish tunes at the Ceilidh in the Gardens. Everyone joins in for Auld Lang Syne, a song celebrating friendship and good memories.
Dates: December 7, 2023, to January 6, 2024
If you want to experience the magic of Christmas in Italy, you should not miss the Milan Christmas Market in Piazza Duomo. The market has more than 60 stalls that offer traditional Christmas products, such as decorations, nativity scenes, stockings and more.
But this market is not the only attraction in Milan during the festive season. The city has many other events and traditions that make it a wonderful destination for Christmas lovers. For example, on December 7th, the city celebrates the feast of St. Ambrose, the patron saint of Milan. This is also the opening day of the opera season at the renowned La Scala Theatre, which attracts celebrities and VIPs from all over the world.
Of course, you cannot leave Milan without tasting its famous panettone, a sweet bread with candied fruits and raisins that is traditionally eaten during Christmas. The origin of this delicacy dates back to the 15th century, when a young baker named Toni created it for his beloved princess!
If you are looking for more fun and entertainment, you can visit the Villaggio delle Meraviglie (Village of Wonders), which is located in the Indro Montanelli Gardens. The village features an ice-skating rink, a snow park, a Santa Claus house, a carousel, and many stalls selling food and crafts. The village is open from November to January, and it is a great place for families and children.
Dates: November 25 to December 31, 2023
Nestled in the historic Plaza Mayor, Madrid Christmas Market has roots dating back to the 19th century when it began as a lively fruit market during the festive season. With 104 stalls brimming with diverse gifts, an expansive nativity scene, and a towering white light Christmas tree that bathes the area in a warm glow, this market is a feast for the senses.
While the stalls have evolved over the years, the market’s traditions remain a vital part of Spain’s Christmas celebrations. You can watch live shows of fairy tales, puppetry, and music, or join the locals in singing carols and eating roasted chestnuts.
The market is a paradise for collectors, who can find rare and valuable items from vintage pieces spanning the 1960s to the 1980s to archaeological finds, paintings, and a delightful assortment of miscellanea; every corner holds a unique discovery.
Dates: December 1, 2023, to January 1, 2024
If you’re looking for a warmer destination to celebrate the festive season, why not visit the Christmas market in Madeira? This Portuguese island is known for its natural beauty, and its capital, Funchal, hosts a traditional Christmas market every year. The market is located in the central walkways of Avenida Arriaga, where you can enjoy the sight of exotic flowers and trees. This place has a charming atmosphere, as it preserves the old-fashioned style of Christmas celebrations. The wooden shacks are decorated with colorful flowers, lights, and ornaments, creating a cozy mood.
The market offers a variety of local products, such as honey cake, roasted chestnuts, and Madeira wine. You can also watch the vendors prepare their delicacies in front of you, and sample some of their specialties. The market is also a great place to enjoy some live music, as local singers and musicians perform every day.
Dates: November 23, 2023, to January 1, 2024
Salzburg is a beautiful city that celebrates Christmas with music and tradition. The birthplace of Mozart, Salzburg hosts a charming Christkindlmarkt in the Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage site. If you love music, you are in for a treat. The beloved carol, Silent Night, first performed nearby, fills the air with its soothing melody. You will also appreciate the choral and wind performances that take place regularly.
In addition, the market stalls, which have been selling crafts and gifts since the 15th century, offer a variety of items to choose from. You can find anything from candles and ornaments to toys and books. The food at the market is also delicious, and you can sample roast pork sandwiches, roasted almonds, and mulled wine to keep warm. And for an added dose of festive fun, consider joining a workshop to learn the art of making gingerbread and other treats.
Dates: November 24, 2023, to January 7, 2024
Bruges welcomes you to the Winter Glow Festival, a spectacular event that is all about light and joy. The highlight of the festival is the Light Experience Trail, which features ten stunning installations that cover the city’s squares and monuments with colors and projections. The trail invites you to discover Bruges from a different perspective and to enjoy the magical atmosphere created by the lights.
In addition to the festival, you can also enjoy the two Christmas markets in the city center, each with its own character.
The main Christmas market is in the Grote Markt, the historic square surrounded by the majestic Belfry, the Provincial Palace, and the iconic guild houses. Here, you can browse the wooden chalets selling traditional Christmas items and local delicacies, such as Belgian chocolate (obviously), waffles, and deep-fried delights known as kroketten. You can also enjoy the glittering ice rink and skate under the stars or watch the action from the cozy winter bar.
The other Christmas market is in Simon Stevinplein, a tree-lined square that offers colorful jewelry, pottery, and candles. You can also sample some of the best Belgian beers and cheeses here or enjoy the warmth of a cup of hot chocolate.
Dates: November 24 to December 31, 2023
The Winter Wonders in Brussels covers several locations, including Grand-Place, Bourse Place, Place Sainte-Catherine and Marché aux Poissons (fish market). This entertaining event turns the city center into a fairy place, with various attractions and activities for all ages.
Treat yourself to the famous Belgian waffles, chocolates that redefine sweetness, and beers that will make your taste buds dance. You can also discover the cultural diversity of Brussels, as the event hosts a guest of honor every year, showcasing the music, food, and art of a different country.
Dates: November 23, 2023, to January 1, 2024
Gdańsk’s Yuletide fair is a cozy Christmas market where the festive spirit and the rich history of Gdańsk meet. It offers a unique and intimate experience that is different from the larger markets in Krakow and Wroclaw.
The market features several attractions, including a parade of elves on stilts, a snow queen who sings with her choir and a moose that tells jokes! A vintage carousel adds a touch of nostalgia to the festivities. Under the mistletoe, couples can share a kiss that is believed to bring joy, luck and health to their relationship.
Besides the ambiance, the market is a great place for those seeking festive gifts. You can choose from handmade jewelry and ceramics or upcycled clothing and knitwear that have festive vibes.
As you explore the Gdańsk Christmas market, treat your taste buds to a variety of dishes. You can find traditional Polish cuisine like pierogi, as well as international flavors like Alsatian pancakes, Greek bougatsa, and crunchy outside soft inside Spanish churros. And when you need to warm up, sip on the signature mulled wine or the comforting hot chocolate.
Dates: November 18, 2023, to January 1, 2024
Budapest offers two locations to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of Christmas: Vorosmarty Square and Basilica.
Vorosmarty Square is the oldest and most traditional Christmas market in Budapest. Located in the heart of the city, it transforms into a beautiful village with wooden huts selling handmade crafts, delicious treats and hot drinks.
Basilica is the more modern Christmas market and features a dazzling light show on the facade of the Basilica, which is the largest church in Hungary. You can also skate around a giant Christmas tree on the ice rink, or warm up with some lencseleves, a traditional lentil soup that symbolizes wealth and prosperity for the new year. Like Vorosmarty fair, Basilica also offers a variety of food stalls, handicraft shops and free concerts.
Dates: December 1, 2023, to January 7, 2024
The Christmas Market in Tallinn is set at the center of the old town, in the Town Hall Square, which dates back to the 13th century and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The square is transformed into a winter wonderland, with snow-covered roofs, sparkling lights, and a towering Christmas tree that has been erected every year since 1441, making it one of the oldest in Europe.
You can explore the wooden stalls, and find a variety of gifts, such as handmade wreaths made of natural materials, local arts and crafts that highlight the Estonian culture, sweets such as marzipan and gingerbread, honey from local beekeepers, and sheepskin rugs that will keep your home cozy. You can also enjoy the festive atmosphere, with live music from brass bands, bell ringers, choirs, street performers such as jugglers, fire eaters, and dancers, and fireworks that light up the sky. Don’t miss the chance to meet Santa, who arrives on a real reindeer sleigh, and to take a photo with him and his elves!
Dates: December 2, 2023, to January 6, 2024
Prague is a year-round fairy-tale city, and when the festive season arrives, it transforms into pure magic. Picture the streets with twinkling lights, festive ornaments, and Christmas markets. Walking through the famous Old Town Square, you’ll be fascinated by the Gothic charm of the Church of Our Lady before Týn and the medieval marvel of the astronomical clock.
The square comes alive with lights and sounds. Explore the stalls for unique gifts like hand-blown glass ornaments and classic wooden toys. Treat your taste buds to local delights such as juicy sausages, fluffy pancakes, and cheesy flatbread. And, of course, don’t miss out on svarak, a warm and spicy drink made with wine and citrus. It’s the perfect way to stay cozy and festive, and you can see why it is regarded as one of the best Christmas markets in the world. If you have little ones in tow, they’ll be thrilled to meet the farm animals at the nativity scene—petting sheep, goats, and even a donkey.
Dates: November 11, 2023, to January 8, 2024
The market is spread across four locations in the city center, each with its own theme and are linked together by beautiful illuminations that use over a million led bulbs. What makes Craiova stand out are its charming Christmas cottages, painted and carved by Romanian artists, depicting characters from fairy tales.
You can find handmade crafts, local delicacies, and souvenirs at the market stalls, or enjoy a ride on the Christmas trucks that take you around the city. You can also watch live performances by local artists, or enjoy the opera and ballet that show the culture of Craiova.
Dates: November 17, 2023, to January 1, 2024
London’s Christmas markets are hubs of fun and joy, offering a delightful escape into the spirit of the season. And one of the crown jewels is Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, with over 100 charming wooden cabins lining the streets, offering everything from delectable food and drinks to winter accessories and cute toys.
At the heart of this magical place lies the U.K.’s largest outdoor ice rink, inviting everyone to glide under the sparkling lights. Also, for those seeking a panoramic thrill, the giant observation wheel offers a breathtaking view over the entire event. Talking about thrills, daredevils can delight in various rides scattered around the market, and don’t miss the authentic carousel—a timeless attraction that doubles as the perfect scene for a family photo.
However, the capital offers more than one option for a festive market experience. Explore the Covent Garden Christmas Market, where hundreds of glittering lights illuminate the surroundings, and you can peruse upscale crafts and gourmet food. Alternatively, visit the Leicester Square Christmas Market for cabaret performances and comedy shows in a Belgian Spiegeltent (a mirrored and glassy old-style tent). Take a stroll along the Thames at the Southbank Winter Market, and enjoy international cuisine and live entertainment.
Dates: November 10 to December 21, 2023
Step into Manchester’s Christmas magic at Piccadilly Gardens, where more than 300 stalls bring a world of delights—from tasty treats to festive finds. When it gets dark, the place sparkles with thousands of lights, creating a magical feeling. And don’t miss the giant Santa stealing the show, giving you that perfect Christmas moment.
Additionally, Manchester spreads the festive cheer across different markets, like the lively King Street or the peaceful Cathedral Gardens. Each spot has its own character, making the whole city a festive playground. You can also enjoy a variety of food and drinks from around the world, such as German bratwursts, Hungarian goulash, Spanish paella, French crepes, Dutch pancakes, Belgian waffles, and of course, mulled wine. And if you are looking for some family-friendly fun, you can skate on the ice rink in Cathedral Gardens, watch the Christmas Parade on Sunday 3 December, or take selfies with the light-up sculptures around the city center.
New York City
Dates: October 27, 2023, to March 3, 2024
New York City is a magical place to be during the holiday season, with dazzling lights, festive decorations, and cozy markets that offer something for everyone. Among the many Christmas markets in the city, one of the most popular and beloved ones is the Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park. Some even claim that this is the best Christmas market in the world, and it is not hard to see why. This market is inspired by the traditional European Christmas markets, and features more than 180 stalls selling unique gifts, crafts, and food from local and international vendors. Whether you are looking for a handmade scarf, a personalized ornament, or a delicious treat, you will find it at the Winter Village.
One of the main attractions of the market is the 17,000-square-foot ice skating rink, which is free to use if you bring your own skates, or you can rent them at the skating pavilion. The rink offers a stunning view of the park and the city skyline. If you prefer to stay warm and cozy, you can visit The Lodge, a covered outdoor area where you can sip a hot chocolate or a cocktail, watch the skaters, or admire the tree. The Lodge also has a variety of food options, from burgers and fries to crepes and waffles. The market is located in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, between 40th and 42nd Streets and Fifth and Sixth Avenues. Don’t miss this opportunity to celebrate the season with your friends and family at the Winter Village at Bryant Park.
Navigating Through the Best Christmas Markets in the World with Ease
We’ve compiled a list of some of the best Christmas markets in the world, beams of light in the dark, cold nights. However, it’s essential to keep in mind that, as joyful as they are, traffic can become incredibly congested in certain locations, making it challenging to reach your destination on time and in a relaxed state.
For a truly stress-free festive journey, count on Blacklane. By booking your chauffeured ride with Blacklane, you’re choosing the most convenient way to reach your destination, saving you time and hassle.
With our top-tier sedans as well as larger SUVs or Vans for larger families, there’s an option for everyone, and you can feel good about your footprint since all our rides are carbon offset. Just choose the best time for you and leave the driving to the professionals. Plus, if your plans change you can easily change your booking or cancel for free up until 1 hour before your ride.
FAQs About the best Christmas markets in the world
What are the best Christmas markets in the world?
Some of the best Christmas markets in the world are Christkindelsmarik in Strasbourg, Weihnachtsmarkt in Frankfurt, Milan Christmas Market in Piazza Duomo and Craiova Christmas Market in Craiova, Romania.
What are the best Christmas markets in the US?
Some of the best Christmas markets in the US are Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park in New York City, Atlanta Christkindl Market in Atlanta, Cambria Christmas Market in Cambria, Georgetown Christmas Market in Georgetown, and Leavenworth’s Christkindlmarkt in Leavenworth.
What are the best Christmas markets in Germany?
Some of the best Christmas markets in Germany are Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg, Dresden Striezelmarkt in Dresden, Berlin WeihnachtsZauber in Berlin, and Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market in Cologne.
When did Christmas markets start?
Christmas markets started in the late Middle Ages in the German-speaking part of Europe, and later spread to other countries and regions.