Best Christmas Markets in Europe: A Magical Festive Tour

When winter blankets Europe, it does more than just bring snowflakes. It heralds the onset of the Christmas markets in Europe season, a time when towns and cities across the continent transform into enchanting wonderlands adorned with twinkling lights, joyful carousels, and festive stalls. If you’re yearning for a fairy-tale-like European escape this Christmas, here’s VayCay Couple‘s expanded guide to some of the continent’s most mesmerising Christmas markets.

Strasbourg, France: Christkindelsmärik

Dating back to 1570, the Christkindelsmärik in Strasbourg holds the honour of being Europe’s oldest Christmas market.

  • Highlights:
    • Touted as the oldest Christmas Markets in Europe with origins dating back to 1570.
    • A labyrinth of over 300 stalls offering everything from Alsatian specialities, artisanal handcrafted goods, to festive baubles and decorations.
    • The majestic Great Christmas Tree, rivalling some of the tallest in Europe, and the daily advent concerts.
  • Location: Predominantly in Place Broglie and Place de la Cathédrale.
  • Directions: Strasbourg is well-connected by rail. If you’re coming from Paris, hop on a TGV for a swift 2-hour journey.
  • Where to stay: Consider the historically rich Hotel Gutenberg or the regally opulent Hotel Maison Rouge, both central with a rich Alsatian charm.

Amsterdam, Netherlands: Amsterdam Christmas Market

The Amsterdam Christmas Market exudes a cosy, festive charm, nestled near the illustrious Rijksmuseum.

  • Highlights:
    • A picturesque ice rink sprawled across Museumplein, with the iconic Rijksmuseum standing proudly in the background.
    • Indulge in traditional Dutch treats, most notably the Oliebollen – deep-fried sweet dough balls dusted with powdered sugar.
    • Diverse pop-up shops and stalls that present an eclectic mix of gifts from handcrafted jewellery to unique Dutch trinkets.
  • Location: Scattered around the city but primarily in Museumplein.
  • Directions: Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport is one of Europe’s major hubs. From Central Station, the market is a breezy tram ride away.
  • Where to stay: The Pulitzer Amsterdam offers a luxurious canal-side retreat, while The Hoxton blends modern chic with historical nuances.

Sibiu, Romania: Sibiu Christmas Market

Set against a backdrop of historical edifices and cobbled pathways, the Sibiu Christmas Market is a portal to Romania’s rich heritage.

  • Highlights:
    • Set in the Grand Square of Sibiu, this market offers a fairy-tale backdrop with baroque architecture and cobblestone paths.
    • A plethora of Transylvanian crafts await, along with local gastronomy – think kurtoskalacs (chimney cakes) and rich stews. Traditional performances add to the festive cheer.
    • The ethereal atmosphere is heightened with the snow-capped Carpathians looming in the distance.
  • Location: The heart of Sibiu – the Grand Square.
  • Directions: While Sibiu boasts its own airport with European connections, one can also take a scenic train ride from Bucharest.
  • Where to stay: Casa Luxemburg offers views of the square, while Council Tower Suite adds a touch of Romanian opulence.

Trento, Italy: Mercatino di Natale

Mercatino di Natale in Trento is a delightful concoction of Italian and German yuletide traditions, enriched by its alpine setting.

  • Highlights:
    • A delightful blend of Italian joy and Germanic traditions, given its Alpine setting.
    • Stalls brimming with local handicrafts, intricate wooden toys, and gastronomic delights – don’t miss the apple strudel and vin brulé (mulled wine).
    • The backdrop of snow-draped mountains adds a touch of magic to the festive ambiance.
  • Location: Predominantly in Piazza Fiera and Piazza Cesare Battisti.
  • Directions: Trento is accessible by rail from major Italian cities. A journey from Milan or Verona offers picturesque Alpine views.
  • Where to stay: Grand Hotel Trento promises luxury, while B&B Hotel Trento offers modern comfort with a touch of tradition.

Additional Charming Markets:

  • Vienna, Austria: The city glistens with multiple markets, but the Vienna Christmas Dream Market in front of City Hall is unparalleled in its grandeur.
  • Dresden, Germany: The historical Striezelmarkt, one of Germany’s oldest Christmas markets since 1434, promises traditional crafts and the famous Dresden Stollen.
  • Budapest, Hungary: The Christmas Fair at Vörösmarty Square is a hub of Hungarian crafts, treats, and festive performances, with the aroma of roasted chestnuts filling the air.
  • Lake Como, Italy: The Lake Como Christmas market comes alive with a myriad of stalls offering a variety of local crafts including hand-carved wooden trinkets and bespoke Italian leather goods. Gastronomic treats are a highlight, with stalls selling traditional Italian Christmas cake, pandoro​. The market spreads around the historic centre of Como, with stalls located in several squares and streets such as Piazza Grimoldi, Piazza Cavour, and Via Pretorio among others​.
  • Paris, France: The Paris Christmas markets feature unique gift items and holiday-themed decorations amidst iconic landmarks such as the Notre Dame and Trocadéro Gardens, evoking a truly Parisian Christmas spirit.

Journeying through the Christmas Markets in Europe is akin to stepping into a festive fairy tale. The scents of mulled wine, roasted nuts, and freshly baked goods fill the air, while the sounds of carolers and the sparkle of lights create a magical ambiance. Whether you’re wandering through the historic lanes of Strasbourg or savouring the Alpine charm of Trento, the spirit of Christmas in Europe is simply unforgettable. Don your warmest attire and set out for a Yuletide adventure like no other!

For more winter adventures, check out our blog Best Christmas Markets in the UK!