Jingle all the Way: The Big Fat Christmas Market Guide

Europe's Best Christmas Markets

Hear that? It’s the distant sound of sleighs bells.

 

In cities all across Europe, tinsel is being unravelled and snow globes are being polished in preparation for this year’s Christmas market season.

 

So you don’t miss out on any of that Glögg-based action, we’ve got a round-up of the best places in Europe to get your festive on… 

Edinburgh

It doesn’t get much more Christmassy than tartan, shortbread and whiskey.

 

Fill up on all three at Edinburgh’s Christmas market which takes place in Harry Potter-esque surroundings, just below the iconic Mound.

 

Knick-knack laden stalls run the length of East Princes Street Gardens as far as the Scott Monument. And the festivities don’t end there.

 

Zig-zag your way around the ice-rink, ride the helter skelter or get a birdseye view of the twinkling lights from the top of the big wheel.

 

Where else should I shop in the city?

 

Head to Princes Street and check out the window displays and ginormous Christmas tree at the historic Jenners department store.

 

You’ll also find all the leading high street stores along this street where you can cross just about anything else off your Christmas list. 

 

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Amsterdam

Amsterdam pulls out all the stops when it comes to spreading festive cheer.

 

From old-school Dickensian markets that hark back to the Victorian era to hip food festivals inside former factory buildings, there’s a Christmas market for every type of Christmas shopper.

 

Most of the markets take place in the centre, but if you venture a little further you’ll find plenty more glitter and baubles in Haarlem, Lelystad and Keukenhof.

 

To experience a real-life winter wonderland, make your way over to the ice-rinks on Leidesplein and Museumplein where there’s a village of wooden chalets waiting to serve you hearty festive food and hand-warming drinks.

 

Where else should I shop in the city?

 

The pedestrianised Kalverstraat cuts right through the city centre and is home to two large shopping malls, Kalvertoren and Magna Plaza.

 

Amsterdam local Bart Van Poll recommends Haarlemmerstraat as a good street for shopping, with cool designer shops, small specialty shops, a few international chains and lots of stops for good coffee in between. 

 

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Strasbourg

Not only does Strasbourg’s market consistently top lists of Europe’s best Christmas destinations, but it’s also one of the oldest in Europe.

 

It’s said to date back to around 1570, when it was known as “Christkindelsmärik” (market of the infant Jesus).

 

Browse the fairy-lit stalls in and around place Broglie, rue de la Comédie, place de la Cathédrale and rue des Hallebardes.

 

Keep cosy with cups of vin chaud (mulled wine) while you stock up on traditional santons (clay figurines), wooden toys and gourmet treats.

 

Where else should I shop in the city?

 

Two major department stores – Galeries Lafayette and Printemps are both within a short walk from place Kléber.

 

Strasbourg local Julien Renouef recommends La Place des Halles et Rivétoile, a huge shopping mall with plenty of clothing stores and places to eat.

 

He also suggests taking the tram to the Rivétoile neighbourhood on the docks, where you’ll find many more stores and restaurants. 

 

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Brussels

Christmas in Brussels with Ryanair

Stalls filled with swirling snow-globes, scented candles and mouth-watering chocolates stretch on for two whole kilometres in Brussels. The atmosphere all around the market is just as amazing.

 

Once you’ve got your shopping done and dusted, check out the famous light and sound show, cheer on the traditional Christmas Parade or get your skates on and take to the ice.

 

Where else should I shop in the city?

 

Rue Neuve is one of the longest shopping streets in the city and is home to high-street favourites. Stock up on glossy boxes of pralines and truffles for your nearest and dearest at chocolate shops such as Neuhaus on the Grand Place and Galler, just off the square at Rue au Beurre. 

 

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Cologne

Christmas in Cologne with Ryanair

With over 160 fairy-lit wooden huts and one colossal Christmas tree (the largest Christmas tree in the Rhineland area, no less) Cologne is a Christmas destination to be reckoned with.

 

Its angelic carol singers, Glühwein (mulled wine) and roasted chestnuts will leave you with a warm, fuzzy glow, while the cute puppet theatre and traditional Santa’s grotto would melt even the grinchiest of hearts.

 

Where else should I shop in the city?

 

Running between Hohe Straße and Neumarkt, Schildergasse is the city’s main shopping street and is home to just about every leading retailer in Europe.

 

On Breite Straße in the centre, you’ll come across independent stores as well as shopping malls such as DuMont-Carré and Opernpassage. For hip local design and unusual finds head to Ehrenstraße or the Belgian Quarter. 

 

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Prague

Christmas in Prague with Ryanair

Prague’s Christmas markets are a feast for both the eyes and the belly.

 

Prepare to indulge in traditional barbecued sausages, Trdelník pastries, mulled wine and hot chocolate, before falling for the charms of wooden huts dotted throughout the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square.

 

Stock-up on beautifully crafted gifts including embroidered lace, wooden toys, Christmas tree decorations and cute traditionally-dressed dolls.

 

Where else should I shop in the city?

 

For even more shopping options, cross over to the city’s New Town. On Václavské námesti (Wenceslas Square) and the pedestrianised Na Příkopě. Here you’ll find a wide selection of clothing and gift stores. 

 

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Berlin

They don’t call Berlin the capital of Christmas markets for nothing.

 

One of the best markets is located at the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church where over 170 twinkling, tinsel clad stalls will seduce you with their unique decorations, ornaments, toys and handmade crafts.

 

Stave off the cold with warm fruity ciders, traditional glazed fruit and sausages straight from the grill.

 

Where else should I shop in the city?

 

Kurfürstendamm, and the department store known as KaDeWe, is heaven for shopaholics, while high-end and high-street shops flank Schlosstrasse (also home to the Berlin Boulevard shopping centre).

 

Hackescher Markt is great for unusual gifts. For a good selection of independent stores, head to Oranienstrasse and Bergmannstrasse. 

 

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Copenhagen

Christmas in Copenhagen with Ryanair

Where better to experience a fairy-tale Christmas than in the land of Hans Christian Andersen – Copenhagen.

 

Soak up the magical atmosphere at the city’s Tivoli Gardens. Wander the stalls, sip Glögg (spicy red wine) and treat yourself to a traditional Aebleskiver (apple slice).

 

If you’re travelling with the little ones, don’t miss the chance to meet Santa at Tivoli’s ‘Land of Elves’.

 

Where else should I shop in the city?

 

Copenhagen is home to Europe’s longest pedestrian shopping street, Strøget, where you’ll find most major high-street brands as well as historic department stores such as, Illum, and Amager Torv.

 

At Kongens Nytorv, check out Scandinavia’s largest department store, Magasin du Nord. For something a bit more unique, Copenhagen local, Rebecca Thandi Norman recommends the Værnedamsvej area. 

 

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Budapest

Christmas in Budapest with Ryanair

Alongside over 100 twinkling huts on Vörösmarty Square, Budapest comes to life with Christmas concerts, festive laser shows, ballet performances and a glittering ice-rink.

 

Fill up on Kürtőskalács – sweet, spiral-shaped pastries, roasted meats, fried sausages, freshly baked strudels and roasted chestnuts while you shop the stalls.

 

Where else should I shop in the city?

 

Head to the Pest side of the city for the best choice of shops and boutiques.

 

Váci Street (Váci utca), is Budapest’s main shopping street and runs from Vörösmarty Square to Vámház körút (Central Market Hall. Here you’ll encounter big-name brands as well as a good selection of restaurants and cafés.

 

If you still can’t find what you’re looking for, hotfoot it to WestEnd City Center, central Europe’s largest shopping mall. 

 

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Bruges

Christmas in Bruges with Ryanair

Just a short hop from Brussels by train or car, indulge your inner Hansel or Gretel with a trip to Bruges’ Christmas market.

 

The story-book surroundings of this UNESCO World Heritage site make this city a magical place to visit at any time of the year, but the city turns things up a notch over the festive period.

 

Experience the warm glow of fairy-lights in the Gothic centre, take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage or sip hot chocolate as you browse the colourful stalls.

 

Where else should I shop in the city?

 

For fashion boutiques and big name brands, check out the streets  between ‘t Zand and Markt Square.

 

If you’re in search of fancier gifts, you’ll find artisan chocolate shops scattered throughout Steenstraat, Geld Montstraat and Jakobstraat. 

 

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Krakow

Christmas in Krakow with Ryanair

Go and see the Krakow’s Rynek Glowny come alive with thousands of lights this Christmas.

 

Eat your fill of hearty Polish food and mulled wine, buy some charming handmade decorations and enjoy wrapping up against the wintry Polish weather.

 

What is really interesting about this market is Krakow’s Szopki – intricate, handmade, multi-coloured glittery ‘Christmas Cribs’ on display.

 

On the first Thursday of December, Christmas gets serious when the crib-makers gather to find out who wins the great Krakow crib-off.

 

Where else should I shop in the city?

 

Check out Kazimerz and the open air markets – particularly Plac Targowy. Pick up typical souvenirs at the Cloth Hall in the centre of the main square including glasswork, lace, amber, wood carvings, local sweets and stuffed dragons.

 

Krakow local Gabriela Francuz recommends Galeria Kazimierz and Galeria Krakowska for anything you can’t find at the markets.

 

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Munich

Christmas in Munich with Ryanair

Munich’s Christmas market tradition can be traced back to the Nicholas Market which first took place at the city’s Frauenkirche in 1642.

 

Look forward to tucking into tasty treats such as Lebkuchen (traditional gingerbread) and grilled bratwurst and picking up hand-crafted souvenirs including Cristmas tree baubles and wooden and ceramic nativity figurines.

 

The gay Christmas Market on Stephansplatz is a fun recent addition –  pink Christmas trees and drag-queen carol singers are the order of the day here.

 

Where else should I shop in the city?

 

The area between Marienplatz and Karlplatz is the heart of shopping in Munich. Here you’ll find the best choice of shops, from luxury brands to high-street labels.

 

One of Munich’s newest shopping centres, called Fünf Höfe (Five Courts) is located just off Odeonsplatz. For traditional Munich souvenirs such as beersteins and Bavarian teddy bears, head to Orlandostraße and the streets surrounding the Hofbräuhaus. 

 

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Gothenburg

Christmas in Gothenburg

We know this Christmas market is in an amusement park, and we know what you’re thinking – but really, this is a lot more than a few shoddy ring toss stalls with a bit of tinsel on. No, in Gothenburg they don’t mess about.

 

The Liseburg amusement park is turned into a proper, bona fide, sparkling, captivating, magical winter wonderland every November. Over five million fairy lights adorn the trees that are happily growing throughout the park.

 

There are fire pits, actual roaming reindeer, an ice rink, and all the hot Glögg you can drink.

 

Where else should I shop in the city?

 

Avenyn is Gothenburg’s main shopping thoroughfare. You’ll also find Swedish and international brands at the Nordstan shopping centre, as well as the Nordiska Kompaniet (NK) department store.

 

For quirky vintage buys, check out the The Haga district. Pick up up Swedish handicrafts as well crafts made by the indigenous Sami people of Swedish Lapland in the shops of Victoriapassagen.

 

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Nuremberg

Christmas in Nuremberg with Ryanair

Just a 90-minute drive from Munich, Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt is one of the oldest and largest of Germany’s Christmas markets.

 

It’s known as ‘the little town of wood and cloth’ (awww!) and pops up its stalls the day before advent begins. Fairy-lights fill the Nuremberg night, along with the sweet smell of mulled wine, roasted nuts and Nuremberg’s famous gingerbread.

 

There’s even a special ‘Kinderweihnacht’ area for kids, with carousels, a steam train, and stalls where they can make their own gingerbread men, candles and more.

 

Where else should I shop in the city?

 

Michael, a Ryanair customer, suggests the following: “The most popular shopping districts are in the inner city the Karolinenstraße, Breite Gasse and Königsstraße.

 

"If you are looking for smaller shops, better go to the district of 'Gostenhof'. Creative people, little shops.” 

 

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Birmingham

Each November and December, Birmingham brings a little bit of German festive cheer to the city with its annual Frankfurt Christmas Market. 

 

The Frankfurt theme is a nod to the signing of the Frankfurt-Birmingham Partnership Agreement in 1966, which kicked off a unique alliance between both cities that has resulted in numerous joint projects, initiatives and collaborations.

Feast on authentic pretzels, bratwurst and gluhwein as you shop the stalls for handmade crafts and jewellery. 

 

Where else should I shop in the city?

 

Stock up on anything else you've forgotten at shopping districts such as Bullring & Grand Central, Custard Factory and pretty arcades such as Great Western Arcade, Piccadilly Arcade and Burlington Arcade.

 

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Vienna

Vienna's Rathausplatz transforms into a magical winter wonderland from mid-November to the end of December.  

Look forward to browsing some 152 stands, each heaving with sweet Christmas treats, hot chocolate and gingerbread. You'll be spoilt for choice when it comes to festive souvenirs and gifts, so be sure to leave some space in your luggage!

 

Where else should I shop in the city?

 

Mariahilferstrasse is one of the city's most popular shopping streets. Here you'll find all major big name stores as well as the famous Naschmarket where delicious freshly baked breads and local cheeses are waiting to tempt you. 

 

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Riga

If you're looking for Europe's best value Christmas market, look no further than Riga.  The Latvian capital recently topped a Post Office poll of Europe's most budget-friendly Christmas market cities. City break essentials such as meals for two, accommodation and festive goodies such as gluhwein and gingerbread were all found to be cheaper in Riga than any other European Christmas market city. 

 

Where else should I shop in the city?

 

Head to the Old Town and Tērbatas and K. Barona streets for larger chain-stores and small design shops. You'll find these all located within walking distance of the Christmas market on the Old Town square. 

 

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Nantes

christmas-markets-europe-nantes
via Facebook @marchedenoelnantes

 

One of the biggest markets in all of Western France, Marche de Noel in Nantes knows how to kickstart the holiday festivities.

 

Follow the trail of sparkling fairy-lights hung up between buildings and find yourself surrounded on all sides by a plethora of lit up stalls selling everything from wooden crafts to mouth-watering waffles drenched in French chocolate.

 

Set against the backdrop of Place Royale, the massive market brings Christmas to life wafting aromas of mulled wine and roasted chestnuts through the air. Pick up all your last minute gifts at the trinket stalls and take in the traditional atmosphere in the city’s historic square.

 

For more festive cheer, head across to l’Autre Marche, the ‘other market’, where a more bohemian vibe takes over. Here, you’ll find fair-trade products and a deep focus on local, sustainable shopping.

 

Flights to Nantes 

Tallinn

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iStock Risto0

 

If authenticity is what you’re looking for in a Christmas market, then look no further than one of Northern Europe’s oldest capital cities, Tallinn.

 

Spreading the Christmas cheer since 1997, the market is held in Tallinn Town Hall Square and opens annually from the last week in November. Taking centre stage is the stunning Christmas tree that has stood in the square each year dating back to 1441.

 

Marvel at the stunning scenery lining each end of the square while you sip on hot chocolates and snack on gingerbread. Browse the endless rows of knick-knacks, join in with the choirs and take a ride on the carousel.

 

Don’t miss your chance to see this medieval fairy-tale village come alive with holiday cheer and spend next winter visiting one of Europe’s best Christmas markets.

 

Flights to Tallinn 

Dresden

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iStock ZU_09

Climbing the ranks as one of the continent’s trendiest destinations, Christmas in Dresden is an unforgettable experience to say the least.

 

Dresden’s Striezelmarkt is almost 600 years old and has developed a unique character over its years of existence, making it a must see in Europe at Christmas time. Boasting one of the most beautiful backdrops in Europe, the city transforms into a winter wonderland each year, filling its squares with tables of regional products, Christstollen fruit loaf and sweet wines.

 

Bask in the rich history of the Altmarkt Square and spend all evening wandering along the markets that stretch all the way up to Albertplatz and the main railway station. Open from November until Christmas Eve, this is most definitely something to add to your Christmas list.

 

Flights to Dresden 

Seville

europe-christmas-markets-seville
via Facebook International College of Seville

Nervion’s Christmas market in Seville is Spain’s biggest and best, attracting thousands of eager tourists each year.

 

Head to Plaza Nueva in front of City Hall and join in with the festivities that surround a bucket load of wooden huts selling pottery, jewellery, clothes, wooden toys and other products typical to the Andalusia region.

 

People come from far and wide to experience this occasion in the stunning setting of age-old architecture drowning in traditional and natural beauty. Dedicated to showcasing the best of the city, the annual Christmas celebrations are the highlight of the events calendar and one not to miss out on!  

 

Flights to Seville 

Poznan

markets-in-europe-christmas-poznan
iStock Iocha

Get lost in Poland’s winter wonderland this Christmas at Poznan Bethlehem, the country’s best set of festive markets.

 

Home to the International Ice Sculpture Competition, crowd the Old Market Square and watch in awe as huge blocks of ice transform into spectacular statues that stay in place until they melt. Continue the trend and tuck into some more unique experiences by booking a polish food tour or taking in the Christmas fire show.

 

A dynamic few days of gingerbread, craft beer and festive cheer, the Poznan Christmas markets are without doubt some of the best on the continent.

 

Flights to Poznan

Basel

european-christmas-markets-basel
iStock Juergen Sack

Park the skis and hop on a gondola into the centre of the city for what is arguably one of the best Christmas festivals in Switzerland.

 

The markets in Basel take place across Barfusserplatz and Munsterplatz, some of the most beautiful lcoations in the region and transform the city centre into a real sight for sore eyes. The city on the Rhine knows how to properly celebrate the season with its magnificent Christmas tree decorated by the famous Johann Wanner and its wooden chalets that cover every inch of both squares.

 

Indulge in Basel Lackerli, Swiss taclette and grilled sausages as you explore the maze of colourful lights and tinsel. When you’ve seen all there is to see of the main markets, head across to the neighbouring Rheingasse where the celebrations continue.

 

Flights to Basel 

Kyiv

markets-in-europe-for-christmas-kyiv
iStock alisa24

Take a trip to the east and watch as Kyiv transforms into a hub of festive cheer and twenty two miles of cosy Christmas cabins.

 

Ukraine’s capital comes alive with stalls popping up all over the city. Explore St. Sophia’s Square, the Expocentre, Mariinskiy Park, Spivoche Pole and Poshtova Square, picking up a different delicacy as you go. Warm your hands with piping hot gluhwein and spot Santa dressed in blue as he hands out presents to the children.

 

Visit the tree decorated with toys in St. Sophia’s Square, take a ride on the carousel and watch some of the local musicians light up the streets with renditions of Christmas carols.

 

Flights to Kyiv