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Our top 10 favourite European Christmas Markets | Insight Guides Blog

Our top 10 favourite European Christmas Markets

Visiting Europe's very best Christmas Markets is a highlight of any European city break between November and early January, with merry shoppers drinking mulled wine and nibbling on delicious sweet treats as they stroll among the stalls. Read on for a run-down of our top ten favourites
Prague Christmas market on Old Town Square
Prague Christmas market on Old Town Square

Prague's Christmas Market on the Old Town Square is unmissable. Photo: Shutterstock

 

There's nothing quite like Christmas Markets to sample the very best of European festive traditions – think mulled wine, gingerbread and handmade gifts – all unique to the country or region in which they are held. Sample turron (a seasonal nougat) in Madrid, admire elaborate nativity scenes in Florence and ice skate in Brussels... Read on for our run-down of the best Christmas Markets in Europe and start planning your visit now


1. Paris

The City of Love is a fabulous place for shopping at any time of year, but looks extra-special with its Noel glitter on. Visit the French capital on Insight Guides' Luxury Paris trip, as a festive treat; our local experts can help you time your trip just right to see the best of Paris' festivities. While you're there, make time to explore the Christmas Market at La Défence, packed with over 350 wooden chalets selling regional French crafts and cuisine, all set against a truly picturesque backdrop.

Open: 17 November–27 December 2016

2. Brussels

Brussels' Winter Wonders market is located on and around the Bourse and Marche aux Poissons. The market, one of Europe's most renowned, features street artists, traditional brass bands playing carols and a 2km-long trail of stalls selling gifts and foodie goodies. For non-shoppers, the ice rink and Ferris wheel will keep you occupied.

Open: 25 November 2016–1 January 2017

3. Cologne

There are seven markets in the city centre, each with its own particular events. The most famous is held outside Cologne Cathedral, but there is also the 'Home of the Gnomes' market (specialising in handicrafts) in the Old Town; the Angels Market (the oldest in Cologne) on the Neumarkt; the Brothers Grimm-themed Fairytale Christmas Market on Rudolfplatz; the gay-lesbian Christmas Avenue market, for inclusive and diverse stage events; the lower-key Christmas Market at Stadtgarten; and the Maritime Christmas Market on the banks of the Rhine. Phew!

Open: 21 November–23 December 2016


Cologne's Christmas Market is a pretty sight at night. Photo: Shutterstock


4. Madrid

The oldest and largest of Spain's Christmas Markets is held in Madrid's Plaza Mayor, with dozens of log cabins selling crafts, food and drink (including some local Spanish favourites, like turron, a delicious festive nougat) and displaying evocative scenes of the nativity. Insight Guides' Made for Madrid trip is a four-night break to the Spanish capital, with a mix of activities that can be enjoyed year-round with plenty of time to explore the markets too. Contact our local expert, to start planning your trip now.

Open: 28th November–31st December 2016

5. Munich

Capital of Bavaria, Munich holds several Christmas markets where you can revel in the smell of roasted almonds and Gluhwein. The most traditional is located on the Marienplatz, in front of the impressive Town Hall. Alternatively, markets are held in the English Garden, on the site of Oktoberfest at Theresienwiese, or in the quieter district of Haidhausen. With Christmas markets held here since the 14th century, Munich is a great place to enjoy traditional German treats.

Open: November 25th– December 24th 2016

6. Bruges

Bruges' Christmas Market is one of the most famous in Belgium, with its stunning setting in this Medieval city. Held at the Grote Markt (Market Square), shoppers can browse locally-crafted gifts and sample tasty Belgian chocolates. There is also an ice rink and horse-carriage rides for the kids (and the young at heart).

Open: 25 November 2016–1 January 2017


Traditional heart-shaped gingerbread are a tasty treat in Munich. Photo: Shutterstock


7. Prague

Prague's Christmas Markets are held at the wonderfully atmospheric Old Town Square, in front of the Church of Our Lady of Tyn, and on Wenceslas Square. Prague is famed for its wooden puppets and you can buy samples of these and much more as you wander the stalls. You won't go hungry, with the possibility of stocking up on traditional, hearty Czech food. For something sweet, try a Trdelník: rolled dough is wrapped around a stick and grilled, before being sprinkled with sugar and toppings (Nutella and chopped walnuts are top choices).

Open: 26 November 2016–1 January 2017

8. Florence 

Florence is a wonderful year-round destination but December makes for a special time to visit: crisp weather, twinkly lights and the German Christmas Market (Mercato Tedesco di Natale), held on Piazza Santa Croce, all make for an unmissable festive break. Here you'll find Italian and German foods, as well as decorations and crafts; the perfect souvenirs from your trip. Discover this and the Italian take on a Christmas Market for yourself on Insight Guides' Florence: A Trip Back in Time tour

Open: 30th November–18 December 2016 

9. Stockholm

The Old Town Christmas Market has been held in Stortorget since 1915. The jolly red stalls are a delight to explore: make the most of the ones selling glogg and gingerbread. Don't miss your chance to taste some uniquely Swedish cuisine such as reindeer and elk meat, or local sweets.

Open: 19 November–23 December 2016


Krakow's Market Square decorated with Christmas lights. Photo: Shutterstock


10. Krakow 

Frequently dusted with snow during the run-up to Christmas, Krakow's Christmas Market is a real show-stopper. Located in the Rynek (Old Town square), which is dominated by the majestic Cloth Hall and St Mary's Basilica, this market is a great example of Eastern European charm. Eat pierogi (delicious Polish dumplings), drink steaming-hot wine and be merry.

Open: 25th November–26th December 2016

 

Tempted to book a festive, December city break?

Insight Guides' local experts are ready to create your holiday to see Europe's best Christmas Markets: submit a trip request today