Originating in Germany, Christmas markets have spread throughout Europe and now form a staple part of the festive season. Not only can you find special gifts for loved ones, but there’s ample opportunity to feast on local delicacies, socialise with local people and explore new sites.
With Christmas looming, we’ve rounded up some of the best of European destinations renowned for Christmas markets while being steeped in history, beautiful architecture and diverse culture.
When: Late November – 31 December 2018
Berlin is one of the best cities for getting into the Christmas spirit, as it turns into a wonderful blaze of fairy lights and roasted chestnuts around the Christmas period. One of the best markets to visit has to be the WeihnachtsZauber at Gendarmenmarkt, which is located in the centre of the city, surrounded by three of Berlin’s most impressive buildings: the Deutsche Dom, the Konzerthaus and the Franzozische Friedrichstadtkirche.
The market has a cosy atmosphere with hundreds of stalls and a giant Christmas tree, with daily live performances taking place for entertainment. With an array of amazing products on sale, what really stands out is the food! You can find everything from French specialties to German and Austrian cuisine.
Where to stay: Hotels in Berlin
When: 1 December 2018 – 6 January 2019
Prague during the festive season is like a fairy tale, with the Old Town twinkling in shades of red and gold, with a giant Christmas tree and the sound of classical music humming. The main markets are centred in the Old Town square and Wenceslas Square – just five minutes apart. Luckily, these markets are open every day including Christmas Day itself.
As well as market stalls selling all manner of toys, sweets, candles, clothes and trinkets, you will sometimes see children’s choirs and a set-up depicting Bethlehem. Food wise, the smell of roasting ham, garlic flatbread with cheese and sweet cakes are enough to entice you to hang around and try it all. Finish off with a steamy cup of hot chocolate or popular Czech beer. Delicious!
Where to stay: Hotels in Prague
When: November 23, 2018 – January 1, 2019
The Hungarian capital is home to two major Christmas markets and they are both a hub of festive activity through November, December and January. Since 1998, the most beautiful, oldest and internationally acclaimed Budapest Christmas fair on Vorosmarty Square has attracted visitors from around the world.
The second is on St. Stephen’s Square by St. Stephen’s Basilica, which this year features a Christmas laser projection on the Basilica. Both markets have a vast selection of artisan and handmade goods, traditional Hungarian crafts, food stalls and even run special guided tours with wine tasting.
Where to stay: Hotels in Budapest
When: 17th November – 26th December 2018
Dating back to the Middle Ages, Vienna’s Christmas markets are now an age-old tradition. There are several that take place, including Christmas Village Belvedere Palace that is set against the backdrop of the baroque world-famous residence, and the ever-popular Christmas and New Year’s market at Schönbrunn Palace.
One of the most-visited though is the Viennese Christmas Dream on Rathausplatz in front of the City Hall. The spectacular market welcomes shoppers eager for a festive treat. A mix of old traditions, family-friendly entertainment and atmospheric music make the market a truly unmissable event in the heart of Vienna.
Where to stay: Hotels in Vienna