There’s something truly magical about Christmas markets, especially when they’re located in the picture-perfect heart of a historic European city. Unsure about which one to check out this year? We’ve rounded up 14 of the best Christmas market destinations across Europe, each with its own unique charm.
1. Budapest, Hungary
When: November 18 to December 31, 2022
Where: Vörösmarty Square, Budapest, 1051 Hungary
Why: Budapest is home to “Europe’s best Christmas market in 2022”
Budapest is home to two Christmas markets just a few minutes’ walk from each other, so all tastes are easily catered for. Advent at the Basilica takes place on St Stephen’s Square, where festive scenes are projected onto the magnificent basilica every evening of advent, above 160 stalls peddling festive fare in a market so good it’s been crowned the best in Europe for 2022. Or for a dose of tradition and history, Budapest Christmas Fair is the city’s oldest and biggest Christmas market, held in the gorgeous Vörösmarty Square. Both markets are perfect for picking up handmade gifts, trying delicious Hungarian winter dishes — don’t miss the chimney cake — and plenty of fun activities. There’s a schedule of Christmas and classical concerts at St Stephen’s Basilica, and skate rental and entry is free at the ice rink under the Christmas tree.
2. Dresden, Germany
When: November 23 to December 24, 2022
Where: Altmarkt, Dresden, 01067 Germany
Why: The world’s oldest Christmas market is one of many in this historic city
If a traditional Christmas market is high on your list, Dresden’s Striezelmarkt, considered the oldest in the world, ticks a hell of a lot of boxes. Approaching its 600th year, the market is an enchanting holiday experience where around 250 stalls and a 15-meter candle arch centerpiece attract no less than 3 million annual visitors. Striezelmarkt is one of nine Christmas markets in the city, with everything from a medieval festival inside the walls of Dresden Castle to the illuminations on Prager Straße, the main shopping street, to experience. At Dresden’s spectacular Semperoper opera house, Christmas concerts and ballets run throughout the holidays — so if you’re looking for a trip filled to the brim with festive highlights, Dresden is a great place to start.
3. Zagreb, Croatia
When: November 26, 2022, to January 7, 2023
Where: Park Zrinjevac, 10000, Zagreb, Croatia
Why: The theme this year is toys, so it’s great for kids and nostalgic adults alike
Zagreb was crowned Europe’s best Christmas market three years in a row, and it’s no wonder why. At Advent Zagreb, wooden stalls fill Park Zrinjevac and line the surrounding streets, while an ice rink takes over King Tomislav Square just a few steps south. Elsewhere it feels as though the entire city is festooned with lights, so a walking or bus tour is worth braving the cold for. As well as the usual Christmas market offering of food, drink, handmade gifts, and entertainment, Zagreb’s annual theme for 2022 is toys. In a futuristic twist, augmented reality experiences at various pop-ups throughout the city will take you back in time to visit the Croatian capital’s former Biserka toy factory, which made some of the most iconic toys of the 20th century. Take a hop-on, hop-off tour of the city to make your way around the events, and you’ll experience festive Zagreb to the max.
4. York, UK
When: November 17 to December 23, 2022
Where: St Sampson’s Square, York, YO1 8SG, UK
Why: Michelin-starred food and unique Yorkshire flavors
York’s St Nicholas Fair Christmas market celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, so you can expect the festivities to be turned up a notch. 70 alpine chalets stretch around St Sampson’s Square and along Parliament Street, transforming the English city into a winter wonderland. As well as mulled wine and roasted chestnuts, you can peruse produce and artisan gifts from local traders. You’ll find everything from Christmas cards to Yorkshire pudding beer and locally made gin on offer, while the hungry should head for the Winter Hütte, a “Swiss with a twist” pop-up dining experience by local Michelin-starred chef Andrew Pern. Don’t miss the Christmas Tree Festival at nearby York Minster, the UK’s largest Gothic cathedral, where local businesses, schools, and charities have decorated 40 trees and you can add your own Christmas message to a prayer tree.
5. Helsinki, Finland
When: December 1 to December 22, 2022
Where: Senate Square, 00170 Helsinki, Finland
Why: A focus on sustainability and locally made gifts
Helsinki Christmas Market has become an integral part of the Finnish capital’s Christmas celebrations since it began in the 1990s. Surrounding a traditional wooden carousel (psst: it’s free to ride), more than 100 stalls selling handmade ornaments, clothes, jewelry, toys, food, and more. The market is divided into themed “gift alleys” where similar vendors are grouped, and shoppers will be spoiled for choice. The market has a focus on sustainability — as well as a commitment to recycling and minimizing waste, the stalls and carousel are run exclusively on renewable energy. Helsinki is only a two-hour ferry trip from Estonia’s capital, Tallinn, home to another charming Christmas market.
6. Tallinn, Estonia
When: November 25, 2022, to January 8, 2023
Where: Town Hall Square, 10146 Tallinn, Estonia
Why: Santa’s grotto and traditional sleigh, plus a program of music performances
In the heart of Tallinn’s beautiful medieval center, Town Hall Square is transformed when the holidays come around. The huge Christmas tree, a tradition that goes back to the 1400s, is surrounded by stalls selling a variety of festive gifts, from sheepskin clothing to wreaths and sweets. Music plays a big part in the Estonian capital’s Christmas celebrations, and brass bands and dance performances can be enjoyed throughout the holidays. Santa’s arrival on a traditional reindeer sleigh is bound to delight kids both large and small — as will a visit to his grotto.
7. Dublin, Ireland
When: December 8 to December 21, 2022
Where: Dublin Castle, Dame St, Dublin 2, Ireland
Why: A historic setting in a 13th-century castle, with other festivities on its doorstep
Dublin’s most popular Christmas market, set in the historic Dublin Castle, is a magical mix of history and holiday cheer. More than 30 alpine-style stalls selling decorations and artisan crafts fill the courtyard of the 13th-century fortress, while a program of music by the likes of the Dublin Gospel Choir adds to the festive atmosphere. Kids will love the vintage carousel, but there’ll be plenty of food, beer, and mulled wine, too. Entry to the Christmas market is free but advance tickets are required (you’ll find them on the Dublin Castle website). Elsewhere in the city, don’t miss the fantastically illuminated Temple Bar area, or the winter transformation of the Guinness Storehouse by renowned visual artist GRIF.
8. Prague, Czech Republic
When: November 26, 2022, to January 6, 2023
Where: Old Town Square, 110 00 Prague, Czech Republic
Why: Traditional performances, a petting zoo, and plenty of grog
Prague’s Old Town Square hosts the city’s biggest and best Christmas market. You’ll get a brilliant view of the festivities from the Old Town Hall’s tower, where you can also spot the other Christmas markets that are held around town. Wenceslas Square, Prague Castle, and Kampa Island should be on your list if you want to visit them all. Among the handmade ornaments, winter accessories and traditional Czech foods like gingerbread and trdelník pastries, there’s a petting zoo, a magnificent 25-meter tree, and a program of carol singing and traditional performances. Adults can swap mulled wine for grog, a local concoction of rum, water, lemon, and sugar.
9. Stockholm, Sweden
When: November 19 to December 23, 2022
Where: Stortoget, 111 29 Stockholm, Sweden
Why: There are 10 markets to visit, with Swedish winter food and gifts from Lapland
There are no fewer than 10 Christmas markets dotted across the 14 islands that make up Stockholm. The most impressive and central, Stortorgets Julmarknad, has origins in Stockholm’s medieval markets. Grab some glögg (mulled wine) and peruse its (probably, hopefully) snow-covered stalls for a taste of Swedish Christmas, or coo over crafts from Lapland, modern design gifts, jewelry, candles, and decorations. You’ll also find traditional and local winter dishes like game sausages, cheeses, sweets, and marzipan. Want to check out some of the others? A Christmas spirit walking tour will give you the scoop on Sweden’s Christmas traditions and other great local markets to visit.
10. Vienna, Austria
When: November 19 to December 26, 2022
Where: Rathausplatz, 1010 Vienna, Austria
Why: Two skating rinks, a Ferris wheel, and a huge carousel are all great for kids
There are 12 Christmas markets in Vienna, from the popular Christmas Village at Belvedere Palace to the vast Christmas World on the city’s main square, Rathausplatz. Here, as well as the quintessential glühwein, cookies, and strudel, you’ll find more than 100 booths with traditional decorations and handicrafts. The Tree of Hearts will inspire even Scrooges to fall in love, while a Ferris wheel and ice skating add extra thrill to the romance. Littles one are also well-catered for, thanks to a huge carousel, reindeer train, children’s chalet, and junior skating rink. Throughout December, Christmas concerts appear on the program alongside the traditional Four Seasons concerts at the world-famous Karlskirche.
11. Strasbourg, France
When: November 23 to December 24, 2022
Where: Place Kléber, 67000 Strasbourg, France
Why: France’s oldest Christmas market has 300 stalls and regular concerts for families
Held since the Middle Ages, Strasbourg’s Christkindelsmärik is the oldest Christmas market in France. With more than 300 stalls, a 30-meter high Christmas tree, a skating rink, and a program of concerts and events for the whole family, it more than delivers on its claim as the “Capital of Christmas”. Find out more about this popular Christmas destination (less than two hours from Paris) with a tour of the famous market, or take the opportunity to explore the Christmas traditions in Colmar and other picturesque villages of the Alsace region on a tour.
12. Copenhagen, Denmark
When: November 18 to December 31, 2022
Where: Tivoli Gardens, Vesterbrogade 3, 1630 Copenhagen, Denmark
Why: A Christmas market and amusement park combined
Copenhagen’s famous city center amusement park Tivoli Gardens is a year-round attraction, but visit in December and it turns into a Christmas village. Market stalls nestle between the rides and lights of the park, while a skating rink takes center stage. See it all as you make your way through past the tempting smells of the food stands and the plethora of gifts and decorations on sale, to the soundtrack of festive songs from the Tivoli Youth Guard. The ferris wheel is worth the wait in line to see hundreds of Christmas trees and half a million lights — its centerpiece tree in the middle of the park’s lake is a first for this year. Tickets are required to enter Tivoli Gardens and for the rides, which can be bought in advance.
13. Bruges, Belgium
When: November 25, 2022, to January 8, 2023
Where: Markt, 8000 Bruges, Belgium
Why: A festive gem in the middle of a glowing city
It isn’t just the Bruges’ main market that gets a Christmas makeover as December nears. The whole medieval city takes on a fairytale appearance thanks to the “Winter Glow,” where sparkling lights meet festive traditions at every turn. Explore the wooden chalet-style booths at the Christmas market on Grôte Markt (Market Square), offering hand-blown baubles, hot chocolate, waffles, and more, all surrounding a skating rink. As it turns dark, take a horse-drawn carriage ride along Bruges’ cobbled streets to see the decorations from a magical vantage point, or follow the Light Experience Trail where eight seemingly plain locations across the city are transformed by otherworldly light installations.
14. Barcelona, Spain
When: November 25 to December 23, 2022
Where: Avinguda de la Catedral, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
Why: A focus on tradition and nativity scenes
Barcelona’s oldest Christmas market, Fira de Santa Llúcia, dates back to 1786 and is the oldest market dedicated to nativity scenes and Christmas traditions. In the shadow of Barcelona Cathedral, no fewer than 160 of its 192 stands sell exclusively Christmas-themed items, like nativity figures and tree decorations. Visit the stunning nativity scene at the nearby Plaça de Sant Jaume for a life-sized version, or take a tour of the rest of the Gothic Quarter to discover more of the city’s festive traditions. Elsewhere, the smaller Christmas market at La Sagrada Família has a more local feel and great food, while the Port Vell Christmas Fair is the city’s newest, with a huge Ferris wheel, 30-meter LED Christmas tree, and a spectacular floating nativity scene made from lights.