Christmas markets fill Europe’s cities during the holiday season and offer many different activities. A Christmas market, also known as an advent market, is a street market that celebrates Christmas during the four weeks of advent prior to the Christmas holiday.
Originating in German-speaking countries, Christmas markets have now spread to many other places and are a great way to get into the holiday spirit.
While you’ll find the largest concentration of Christmas market in western and central Europe, Christmas markets are now also a staple of cities in Canada, the United States, and even certain places in Latin America and Asia!
In this guide to the best Christmas markets around the world, we’ll share the unmissable markets to get you into the holiday spirit. Let’s start by taking a look at some of Europe’s most popular Christmas markets.
Christmas Market History
Christmas markets originated in Saxony, Germany, in the Late Middle Ages. They were held to celebrate the advent season and offered various activities such as Christmas tree sales, nativity scenes, as well as food and drink.
In German, Christkindlmarkt means “Christ Child Market,” in reference to the Christkind. The Christkind is a sprite-like child figure that has been a traditional gift-bringer in Germany and other German-speaking countries since the Reformation.
Today, Christmas markets have become a winter wonderland, offering a festive atmosphere and a variety of Christmas-related goods. As a result, they are a popular destination in December for tourists and locals alike.
Christmas shopping takes on a new meaning under twinkling Christmas lights. Each market has unique traditions, but some common themes include Christmas trees, nativity scenes, and Santa Claus.
Many markets also offer a variety of food and drink, including traditional German dishes such as Bratwurst (a type of sausage) and Glühwein (mulled wine). You’ll find these markets soon become one of your favorite Christmas traditions.
What to Expect
When visiting a Christmas market, expect a festive atmosphere with seasonal music playing in the background. The holiday cheer and charming yuletide glow will remind you of the magic of Christmas while you sample food from some of the best local restaurants.
Where to Find the Best Christmas Markets
Christmas markets are located all over Europe, so you’re sure to find one perfect for you on a Christmas-themed European vacation. Whether you’re looking for things to do in Copenhagen, Munich, Vienna, or anywhere in between, visiting Christmas markets is among the best things to do in most European cities in the wintertime.
These are some of our favorite Christmas markets around the world. Add them to your list to get into the Christmas spirit!
The Frankfurt Christmas market is one of the most popular in Europe and one of the oldest. Located in the scenic old town center, it has been running since 1393. With more than 200 stalls to keep them entertained, the market attracts over 3 million tourists annually.
There are many stalls selling typical wooden toys, rocking horses, dolls, and ornaments. Others specialize in delectable Christmas specials like mulled wine, roast chestnuts, grilled sausages, and gingerbread, filling the air with delicious holiday scents.
The Frankfurt Christmas market is known for its wide variety of food and drink options.
The Salzburg Christmas market is located in the heart of the city and offers a variety of traditional Austrian food and drink. The market also features a nativity scene, a Christmas carousel, and live music.
The Salzburg Christkindlmarkt is a one-of-a-kind event held in the city’s UNESCO-protected Old City. The market’s distinctive location in the center of Salzburg’s World Heritage-designated Market Square and its long history make the Salzburg Christkindlmarkt an extraordinary event.
The Budapest Christmas Market is one of the most popular markets in Hungary. There are so many ways to spend the Christmas and New Year holidays in Budapest. From the main Christmas Fair in Vörösmarty Square to the popular Advent Feast at St Stephen’s Basilica, visitors will be spoiled for choice when it comes to finding exciting and entertaining holiday activities.
More than 100 booths showcasing a variety of handmade local crafts and delectable Hungarian specialties are open for business. It is without a doubt one of the must-see Christmas markets in Budapest!
Prague, Czech Republic
The Prague Christmas Market is one of the most popular markets in the Czech Republic. It features hundreds of wooden stalls selling traditional Czech blown-glass balls, glass pearls, straw goods, hand-embroidered tablecloths, wooden toys, and biscuit cutters.
Adults can enjoy classic mulled wine, while children may be fond of Czech Christmas cookies and hot roasted chestnuts. Plus, there are plenty of more substantive Czech and German dishes for sale at stalls as well.
While you may buy beautiful mementos from the stalls, the markets are more than just shopping. There are many local cuisines and drinks to try, made on the stands in front of you.
The Old Town Square, in the city’s center, and Wenceslas Square, located at the city’s heart, are home to the main Christmas markets. The two squares are only a 5-minute walk from each other.
The Vienna Christmas Market is one of Austria’s largest and most popular markets. There are several markets in different locations around the city. For those who want to get into the holiday spirit, the market in front of City Hall is a must-see event. Its distinctive setting adds to the appeal.
The magnificent baroque backdrop of the world-famous residence, one of Vienna’s most beautiful and notable monuments, sets the popular Christmas Village Belvedere Palace against the lovely backdrop of a classic winter scene. Over 40 beautifully illuminated market stalls sell traditional handcrafted items, lavish Christmas decorations, and unique culinary delicacies.
With the scents of Christmas baked goods and hot punch, Austria’s most beautiful squares exude a magical Christmas atmosphere.
Carmel, Indiana, USA
The Carmel Christkindlmarkt is one of the most popular markets in the United States. It was voted Best Holiday Market in 2021 by USA Today.
Every year, the Carmel Christkindlmarket offers presentations by world-renowned woodworkers from the Erzgebirge region, who share their art and culture with visitors.
With a genuine German market atmosphere, guests can browse a wide range of goods from Germany and other German-speaking European nations.
A charming outdoor ice skating rink is set in the middle of the market, which features a mix of traditional German foods, beverages, and presents sold from small wooden huts.
The Vancouver Christmas Market is one of the most popular markets in Canada in one of Canada’s best cities. It’s located at the Jack Poole Plaza and features over 80 stalls selling various food, drink, and Christmas-related items.
You will find endless activities in Vancouver to keep you in the holiday spirit. There are holiday-themed scavenger hunts in Vancouver for kids, a heated alpine lounge with stunning views and cozy seating for socializing, a love lock installation, a holiday carousel, a Christmas tree you can walk in, and so much more.
Enjoy a hot cup of Glühwein or apple cider while taking in Vancouver’s spectacular view of the North Shore. It’s the ideal time to take a selfie surrounded by beautiful lights and sounds.
The Basel Christmas Market is one of the most popular markets in Switzerland. With its location on the banks of the Rhine River, it is easily one of the most beautiful markets in Europe.
The warm Christmas lights light up the cobblestone thoroughfare, and many structures’ windows and facades glisten with original decorations.
There are more than 300 stalls selling a wide variety of traditional Swiss goods, including handmade chocolates, christening gowns, and cuckoo clocks.
The magnificent Christmas Market at Basel is a centuries-old tradition as Switzerland’s most beautiful and largest holiday destination, with a rich history.
The Dresden Striezelmarkt is one of Germany’s oldest and largest Christmas markets. It dates back to 1434, with its 240 stands attracting about 3 million visitors worldwide. The market runs for the whole of the advent season, until Christmas Eve.
The Pflaumentoffel, a centuries-old handcrafted edible figure crafted from dried plums, is one of Dresden’s most well-known specialties. The Ferris wheel offers spectacular aerial views of the Striezelmarkt’s meticulously decorated stalls.
The Christmas market in Metz is regarded as one of France’s most beautiful Christmas markets. Metz is decked out in its holiday finest, with numerous Christmas markets open across the city, illuminating the Sentier des Lanternes.
This compact city has five Christmas markets in a circular route around the magnificent Gothic cathedral. It’s easy to see them all on foot or catch one of the free buses that go through the city.
You’ll also find many traditional French foods, including crepes, macarons, and baguettes. The market is also great for finding unique gifts, such as hand-painted pottery and jewelry.
The magic of Metz’s Lantern Trail is breathtaking. It will leave you feeling inspired and bring a Christmassy warmth to your heart.
With so many great Christmas markets to choose from, you’re sure to find one that’s perfect for you. So whether you’re looking for traditional goods, food, and drink, or you’re looking for a unique experience, there’s a Christmas market out there that’s perfect for you.
This article originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks.
Casandra Karpiak is a travel writer and owner of Savoteur. A Toronto native with Danish roots currently residing in British Columbia, her travel writing has been seen on The Associated Press wire, MSN, FOX, CBS, NBC, Entrepreneur, 24/7 Wall St, Times Daily, and many more. When she’s not traveling, she can be found at hockey arenas all over BC cheering on her two young sons.