‘Tis the European season for winter warmers and SAD lamps, and now that Christmas is coming, you can brave the crisp air and step into a world of festive delights, surrounded by twinkling lights, wooden chalets, and beautiful cathedrals.
A long-reigning tradition that started in Germany and spread across the whole continent, Christmas markets are bursting with good cheer!
With it being so easy to hop across Europe, many people blend a weekend break to a cultural capital with the chance to sip hot wine, sample local delicacies and indulge in something sweet.
And even if you don’t do your gift shopping, simply soaking up the unique ambience of these markets is enough to leave anyone brimming with Christmas spirit.
Here’s our go-to guide to the best Christmas markets in Europe this year…
While summer sees us spreading our arms in the Alps and belting out the classics from The Sound of Music, winters in Salzburg have been lapping up cosy market charm since as far back as the 15th century. Bite into a warm gingerbread heart, meander the 95 stalls that sit at the base of the majestic Hohensalzburg Fortress and let the soothing carols from the choir lift you to lullaby-like heights. Of course, there will be concerts, balls, and all that epic Austrian culture to keep you feeling snug and smug during your stay.
Can you imagine a better setting for a spirited Christmas Market than the ancient fairground of the Tivoli Gardens? Vintage carousels lit up like a Christmas tree, chocolate box scenes, an ice-skating rink, nutcrackers and a table at one of the world’s best restaurants? This is the birthplace of fairytales and after wandering the enchanting gardens and stalls, you can watch the twinkling floating parade drift down the river.
Indulge in a little Joie de Vivre and Christmas joy at Europe’s oldest seasonal market. Strasbourg straddles the border between France and Germany and is a vision of historical architecture, glowering cathedrals, and Alsatian gourmet goodies. Along with strolling around the hundred stalls on the stunning Place Broglie, you can shop in a fully socially responsible way over at the OFF market where all vendors are committed to second-hand goods and fair-trade products.
Piazza Navona is one of Rome’s most beloved market squares and Christmas sees the whole place awash with nativity charm. Instead of Santa Claus making an appearance, as part of epiphany, it’s all about a friendly witch who comes to dole out gifts. Endless fairy-lights, baby JC in a wooden crib, and of course a ton of tantalizing Italian treats and sweets mean that you may have to be rolled out of this Christmas market.
Why have one Christmas market when you can have seventy? When it comes to seasonal goodwill, the Germans don’t do things by halves. Along with being one of the best capital cities in Europe, Berlin makes for an epic destination if you want your fill of Christmas cheer. There’s a medieval market in Alexanderplatz with a Ferris wheel for fabulous views, a classic feast market in Gendarmenmarkt, and warm up with a steaming mug of gluhwein.
Croatia’s advent market is considered one of the most beautiful in the world. They pull out all the stops over at Zagreb, dedicating not just a square, but a whole city to the celebration of Christmas. Think mammoth ice skating rink, endless trees bedecked in twinkling lights, stalls selling all kinds of handcrafted gifts and amazing food, and all-singing-all-dancing rides to make it fun for the whole family.
The city of a thousand spires is certainly a sight for sore eyes. Consistently voted one of the most beautiful cities in the whole of Europe, Prague has enough old-fashioned grandeur to make Paris tremble in her chic boots. Wintertime sees the city turn even more starry-eyed as it becomes blanketed in white snow, shimmering lights, wooden stalls, and puppet shows. Being one of the best places for falling down drunk, the beer in Prague is strong and the apple strudel and heartwarming Goulash worth the trip alone.
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