Nothing marks the festive season like a trip to one of the best Christmas markets in Europe where cobbled streets suddenly become aglow with twinkling lights and cheery stalls selling everything from spicy mulled wine to amazing gingerbread. But where in Europe holds the most impressive?
The best Christmas markets in Europe
Many of the best places to visit in Europe are just as magical in the wintertime as they are during the summer months.
1. Sofia, Bulgaria: Sofia Christmas Village
When: November 19 to December 21, 2022
Best Christmas market for: A purse-friendly weekend away
When it comes to well-known Christmas markets in Europe, chances are Bulgaria’s offerings are not high on your radar but that doesn’t mean this hidden European gem should be discounted. Set in the City Garden on Knyaz Alexander Square, across from the National Art Gallery, revelers are met with Christmas lights galore, authentic stollen, warm mulled wine, handmade decorations, and the most beautiful beeswax candles - the perfect gift for those tricky to buy for!
2. Valencia, Spain: Mostra d'Artesanía del Mercado de Colón
When: December 15, 2022, to January 5, 2023
Best Christmas market for: Lavish decorations and festive ornaments
Laid-back Spain is undoubtedly one of the easiest countries to work abroad from, but did you know it plays host to one of the most beautiful Christmas markets too? Valencia’s Mercado de Colón not only impresses with its lavish facade but also houses a pretty sophisticated Christmas market with a focus on Valencian crafts and artisanal products. The craftsmanship passed down through generations ensures the local ceramics, porcelain, and jewelry available are designed to the highest standards - this is a Christmas market with a difference, but don’t worry, you’ll still find delights associated with a more traditional market too.
When it comes to food and drink look out for warm spiced sangria, mulled cider, and Pumpkin Buñuelos (pumpkin fritters). Aside from the market, a stroll around the city’s churches and religious buildings is also a must - inside you’ll be met with wonderful Christmas nativity scenes, each assembled with miniature figures and beautiful backdrops.
3. Hamburg, Germany: Rathausmarkt Christmas Market
When: November 21 to December 23, 2022
Best Christmas market for: Traditional treats
Hamburg boasts a whole range of Christmas markets, most very traditional, but the German city is also known for an x-rated event in the red-light district of Hamburg near the Reeperbahn. The Santa Pauli market features strip-tease shows, sex toy stalls, and a tent where you can blend your own mulled wine, it’s worth a visit for something slightly more exciting than the usual events. On the other hand, traditionalists will love Hamburg’s Rathausmarkt, one of the best Christmas markets in Germany. Set in front of City Hall this historic yet beautiful market has been taking place for over 20 years. Innovative products and small artisans are the focus for 2022, but you’ll still find delightful decorations, a daily wind quartet and a mouthwatering selection of festive delights - don’t miss the world-famous stollen.
4. Tbilisi, Georgia: Christmas Village, Orbeliani Square
When: December 24, 2022, to January 14, 2023
Best Christmas market for: The best mulled wine selection
Revel in the special festive feeling of Christmas at Tbilisi's annual market where Georgian delicacies and mulled Saperavi (wine) await. As is usual across most of Europe, you’ll find a large selection of cute wooden stalls selling hand-made souvenirs, a fairy-tale-like Christmas tree, and typical Christmas treats but there’s also an ice skating rink and often live music too with bands playing popular Georgian music that’s sure to get you in the mood. Georgia is an Orthodox Christian nation so instead of celebrating Christmas on December 25, Christmas is precisely 13 days later, meaning markets in Tbilisi start later than most of their European counterparts.
5. Lyon, France: The Christmas Market at Place Carnot
When: November 26 to December 24, 2022
Best Christmas market for: food and drink lovers
Known as one of the best foodie cities in France and the city of lights, Lyon wows with its annual Fête des Lumières (Festival of Lights) - an awe-inspiring display of light-based installations and artwork but if you’re clever you can combine this revered festival with Lyon’s own Christmas market too, as there’s a crossover of four days, from December 8 to 11. This year, Lyon’s Christmas market will be located at Place Carnot, a quaint square in the Perrache quarter of the city. It’s one of France’s most beautiful Christmas markets with a fun Ferris wheel and a traditional Christmas carousel as well as over 100 stalls selling foodie delights such as saucisson, piquant Saint-Marcellin cheese, toffee apples, candied chestnuts, and incredible praline. For anyone more interested in gifts and decorations, you’ll find those too, there’s everything from jewelry and hand-painted decorations to clothing and Christmas figurines.
6. Aosta, Italy: Marché Vert Noël
When: November 20, 2022, to January 6, 2023
Best Christmas market for: Handmade stocking fillers
Fans of traditional Italian dishes, Christmas snacks, and amazing salamis should head directly to Aosta, one of the most delicious markets in all of Italy. Surrounded by the most wonderful of scenery the small mountain town’s Marché Vert Noël is close to ski resorts and the Gran Paraiso National Park, meaning you can combine three interests in one beautifully festive trip. The market itself is made up of wooden chalets selling everything from handmade toys that make the perfect stockings fillers, pretty wooden ornaments, joyous knits, and of course food! Make a beeline to the fondue stalls, the perfect antidote to a snowy day, and of course don’t miss Zuppa Alla Valpellinentze, a soup made of Savoy cabbage, bacon, fontina cheese, and black bread.
7. Nuremberg, Germany: Christkindlesmarkt
When: November 25 to December 24, 2022
Best Christmas market for: Traditionalists
Dating back to the 16th century, Nuremberg hosts one of the oldest and biggest Christmas markets in Germany, and although it’s beautifully traditional and features thousands of beautiful stalls, Christkindlesmarkt also has a strong focus on sustainability, bringing it right into the 21st century. Energy to keep it going is supplied by regional hydroelectric plants and three’s a great reusable cup system for mulled drinks and beers. In terms of stalls, you’ll find absolutely everything related to Christmas here - one-off decorations, fresh gingerbread, award-winning Christmas stollen, handcrafted textiles, and much, much more!
8. Krakow, Poland: Krakow Christmas Market
When: November 25, 2022, to January 1, 2023
Best Christmas market for: Fewer crowds
Complete your own at-home nativity scene with the sweet wooden Christmas decorations and elaborate figures on sale at Krakow’s Christmas market. Set in the main square of the city, Krakow's Christmas market entices visitors with its very own ice skating rink and enormous star-topped Christmas tree. There are fewer stalls here than Christmas market stalwarts Nuremberg and Lyon but that also means fewer people, so in turn, shorter queues. The mulled wine and hot chocolate options are some of the best in Europe, but be sure to look out for Polish sausage, spiced Christmas cake, and poppyseed cake too.
9. Bern, Switzerland: Berner Sternenmarkt (Star Market)
When: November 24 to December 30, 2022
Best Christmas market for: Mountain views and stunning scenery
As one of the best places to travel in 2022 Switzerland feels synonymous with Christmas due to the country's snow-capped peaks, cozy chalets, and whimsical streets but it’s also home to one of the best Christmas markets in Europe, that of Bern, a pretty town just 95kms from the Swiss Alps. There are actually seven markets here but our favorite and the one where the most typical Christmas scenes await is Berner Sternenmarkt, filled with over 70 stalls selling fresh baked goods, handmade toys, and handicrafts - there’s also a whole chalet (with 200 seats!) dedicated to fondue, need we say more?
10. Stockholm, Sweden: Stortorget’s Christmas Market
When: November 19 to December 23, 2022
Best Christmas market for: unique handicrafts
Fanning out from a central Christmas tree in the center of Stortorget square in Stockholm’s old town are stalls that make up one of the oldest Christmas markets in Sweden. Originating in 1837, this super traditional event doesn’t have as many stalls as most markets on our list (a modest 41 to be precise) but what it lacks in size it makes up for in quality. Here you’ll find interesting art, handmade ceramics and unique jewelry but there are also festive candies, Swedish Glögg, cotton candy and lots of other seasonal delicacies too.
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Lydia is a travel writer and editor, based mostly in London. Her work has been published in print and online for the likes of Harper's Bazaar UK, ELLE UK, Marie Claire US, Condé Nast Traveller Middle East, Town&Country, BBC Good Food, Oh magazine, MailOnline, and woman&home.
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