Christmas markets may have originated in Germany, but the tradition has made its way around the world.
Although the first Christmas Market was held in 1294, the tradition has held strong throughout the years. It serves as a time for communities to come together to celebrate the magical spirit of the Christmas holiday.
Each market has its own unique twist, but nearly every markets feature local vendors that sell anything from baked goods to handmade trinkets to Christmas decorations. Of course, the infamous mulled wine is typically on the menu as well.
Today, several Christmas Markets have sprung up across Europe with each country infusing the age-old tradition with its own customs and culture.
Here’s a list of the 10 best European Christmas Markets:
1. Dresden, Germany
The Dresden Christmas Market originated in 1434, and, after years of succession, has grown to the largest German Christmas Market in the world. Locally known as Striezelmarkt, the most popular market is held in the historical city center at Altmarkt Square. This market lives up to its reputation and features the world’s tallest Christmas tree standing at 14 meters, as well as the world’s largest nutcracker. The Dresden Market is open from November 24 to December 24.
2. Colmar, France
The charm of this city is undeniable, especially during Advent (the 4 weeks leading up to Christmas). During the holiday season, Colmar’s old town is covered in snow and completely illuminated with Christmas lights. From the streets to the people, everything is covered in Christmas décor.
The Colmar Christmas Market runs from November 25-December 30.
3. Zagreb, Croatia
Croatia is relatively new on the Christmas market scene, but it’s making up for lost time by creating a very unique holiday destination. It’s only right that the capital of Croatia hosts the best Christmas market in the country complete with a giant ice sculpture, skate rink, and locally curated gifts and treats. Last year the market had 56,000 visitors in December, and those numbers are expected to increase. If you’re a Christmas Market newbie, this will be the one to choose!
Zagreb’s Christmas Market runs from November 26-January 8.
Photo by Sarah Stierch
4. Brussels, Belgium
The enchanting “Winter Wonders” in Brussels features over 200 chalets, a Christmas parade, ice rink and a sound and light show. Not to mention, this city has nearly a dozen Christmas markets in total—the perfect place to be to get into the holiday spirit.
Brussel’s Christmas market runs from November 25 to January 1.
5. Cologne, Germany
Cologne lives up to Germany’s Christmas market reputation. The downtown area is transformed into a winter wonderland with dozens of huts, a huge Christmas tree near the Cologne cathedral and a massive skating rink. Millions of visitors make their way here each year.
Cologne’s Christmas market begins November 11th and goes through December 23rd.
6. Birmingham, England
Birmingham may not be known for much, but its “Frankfurt Christmas Market” is the largest authentic German Christmas Market outside of Germany and Austria. Famous for its singing moose “Chris Moose”, the market is held in Victoria Square with nearly 200 vendor stalls. The German theme is felt strongly from the beers to the bratwurst.
The Frankfurt Christmas Market is held from November 17-29.
7. Graz, Austria
The Christmas Market in Graz, Austria is pretty similar to all the others except for one thing: the Feuerzangenbowle, which is a blend of rum and wine that is set ablaze before drinking. The entire city has 7 markets and this fiery cocktail can be found in each one of them. Though, the largest market is held in front of City Hall with a giant tree and merry-go-round.
The Christmas Market in Graz starts on the 1st of December and ends on the 24th.
8. Prague, Czech Republic
One of the best parts about the Prague Christmas Market is the abundance of traditional foods. From klobása to Trdelník, visitors can get an authentic taste of Central European cuisine. The second best is the massive Christmas tree that sits in the center of the Old Town Square. The contrast of the Christmas décor against the gothic-style infrastructure is a rare and worthwhile sight.
Catch this market from November 26 to January 6.
9. Stockholm, Sweden
It’s easy to get into the Christmas spirit when you’re surrounded by the snowy Alps. Stockholm’s Christmas Market has no shortage of holiday essence—the town center is full of uniform red stalls selling sweets, smoked sausages, reindeer and elk meat, glögg (mulled wine) and other traditional Swedish products.
This market is held from November 19 to December 23 in the Old Town at Stortorget Square.
10. Nuremberg, Germany
The Christmas Market in Nuremberg is best known for the “Christkind” that welcomes guests from the balcony of the Church of Our Lady in the Old Town just above the bustling marketplace. The center itself is filled with over 180 booths, festive lights and the delicious smells of gingerbread and German sausages.
You can visit this market from November 25 through December 24.