Europe is, without question, the best place to be in the run-up to Christmas.
So many wonderful historic cities make the most of their location, their history, and their culture with extensive Christmas markets that capture all of the magic and atmosphere of the season. These markets are a great place to buy food and gifts (especially gifts for kids!), but they're also wonderful to spend some time in, immersing yourself in the holiday spirit and the sense of wonder from the season.
Of all European nations, Germany is best known for its Christmas markets—it sets the standard that many other countries imitate. But some of the best Christmas markets are actually outside of Germany as well!
1. Amsterdam, Netherlands
The Netherland's most popular city offers a wide range of Christmas markets, from the traditional ones outdoors to the more modern experiences indoors. With such a variety of markets to explore, you may want to check out accommodation and apartments in Amsterdam, and consider staying for a few days!
The main winter market can be found on the Rembrandtplein, while a 20m Christmas tree dominates the Dam Square in front of the Royal Palace. If you want your own tree for holidays, smaller ones can be purchased at the famous flower market.
2. Cologne, Germany
This German city on the Rhine attracts millions of visitors every year to its seven different Christmas markets. The larger ones can be found downtown—they dominate the winding alleyways and narrow cobbled streets with the smell of spiced wine and baked apples. Smaller markets can be found elsewhere in the city as well.
You can buy candles and traditional decorations in the Old Town while admiring the stunning and historic cathedral that looks over one of the most popular Christmas markets. And whatever you do, don't miss out on sampling some Dresden stollen cake at the Angel Market!
3. Lille, France
As you might expect, the Christmas markets in France have a slightly more refined and elegant style than those in Germany. The one in Place Rihour, with over eighty chalet-style stalls, is among the best.
Mulled wine and ‘love apples’ are among the delicacies on offer, alongside food, gifts, and decorations from around the world. Plus, this being France, there is a wide selection of sophisticated boutiques to explore as well, both Christmas-themed and otherwise.While you're in town try to make time to visit the
While you're in town try to make time to visit the Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille, considered France's greatest museum after the Louvre in Paris.
4. Strasbourg, France
The Christkindelsmärik in Strasbourg is the oldest and most famous Christmas market in Europe, dating back to 1570 and now covering twelve different locations across the city. As well as having 300 different stalls to browse, the holiday season is supported by a range of live music concerts and cultural events including the Living Nativity play.
From the giant Christmas tree on Place Kleber to the quaint decorations on the traditional half-timbered houses, the Alsatian spirit of hospitality and goodwill is alive and well in a magical winter wonderland. It will be a delight to all.
5. Vienna, Austria
Vienna can rival Strasbourg in terms of its Christmas market history, with traditions going back to the 1200s. These days, over 150 stalls cluster on the Rathausplatz in front of the imposingly gothic town hall, and the square is transformed into a magical kingdom that's a Christmas gift in its own right. The nearby Rathhauspark is home to rides, carousels, and Christmas illuminations. The Spittelberg Market in the museum quarter specialises in silverware and hand-blown glass.
The Austrian capital is one of Europe's great cities for culture and history all year round, famous for its museums and its boys' choir. Nevertheless, the run up to Christmas is undoubtedly the best time to visit!
While visiting a Christmas market is a pleasurable experience in its own right, don't forget to explore the rest of the city! The markets are generally in beautiful towns or cities with stunning architecture and beautiful cityscapes. Alternatively, many companies run tours of European Christmas markets by bus that you might want to take advantage of.
So, whether you're visiting a Christmas market as part of a winter holiday, or simply treating yourself to a day's excursion while you start your seasonal shopping, Europe offers a cornucopia of choices and delights.