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The definitive list of the best Christmas markets in Europe

POSTED ON 6 November 2017

Christmas Market

The best Christmas markets in Europe

Christmas is a stone’s throw away, and we couldn’t be more excited! For the next few weeks, all of the best Christmas markets in Europe will be in full swing;  so, buckle up and enjoy the ride, as we prepare to visit, in no particular order, all of Europe’s most fantastic Christmas markets.

Just remember, when you find yourself inspired to book a winter break to one of these festive hot-spots, so you can continue to gleefully flee from time’s irresistible march a while longer, book your Glasgow Airport parking at Airport Park and Ride, that way, you can go and warm your soul safe in the knowledge that your car is in good hands.

Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen is a beautiful city at any time of year, but it truly comes alive at Christmas. The small, welcoming capital of Denmark is vibrant, and by Scandinavian standards, pretty affordable.

During the Christmas period, Copenhagen’s squares and streets become iridescent with brightly lit stalls, all enchantingly piled with pastries, cakes, apple dumplings, gløgg (Danish mulled wine) and all sorts of hand-crafted Christmas trinkets.

Copenhagen’s best Christmas markets can be found in Nyhavn, Christiana and Tivoli Gardens. The Gardens, in particular are transformed with 500,000 lights, thousands of Christmas trees swathed in the scents of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg all of which combine to create a mesmerising centre piece to the city’s Christmas festivities.

Kraków, Poland

Poland’s second city, Kraków, situated on the river Vistula, is one of the oldest cities in Poland. And, it’s a wonderfully diverse place. Traditionally one of Poland’s leading centres of academia, culture, and art, and one of the country’s most important economic hubs, Kraków’s Christmas markets are legendary.

Held, every year, in the city’s vast central square, – indeed, the largest market square in Europe – Rynek Główny, in the middle of the historic district of Old Town, the Christmas markets are widely recognised as some of the best in Europe.

If you want to make sure you see Christmas markets that are covered in snow and filled with local cultural treasures, Kraków is the place to go! The traditional Polish hand-painted glass baubles are worth looking out for – not that you’ll need to look very hard.

In addition, you should look out for the local gingerbreads – traditionally heart-shaped and decorated with coloured frosting, they’re delicious.

The Christmas markets in Kraków are famous for the local artisanal works on display; blacksmiths, carvers, glass-blowers and more, all plying their trade.

Finally, the traditional local nativity ornaments, szopki, are simply stunning. In fact, since 1937, the city council has sponsored a competition, the winners of which will be displayed, ad infinitum, in the Kraków History Museum. Kraków’s Christmas markets will not disappoint you.

Zagreb, Croatia

The Christmas markets in Zagreb have won the European Best Christmas Market – voted for by 100,000 travellers – for the last two years running, so fantastically festive are their offerings.

Visitors to the Zagreb Christmas markets can download a smartphone app that will guide them around the many attractions on display in this, the truest of winter wonderlands.

The exquisite Habsburg architecture of the capital is adorned with myriad lights and decorations, making the stunning city, that is both big enough to be full of hidden treasures, and small enough to be easily walkable and retain its charming atmosphere, a really magical place to visit at Christmas.

Mulled wine, hearty local sausages and cinnamon doughnuts are some of the highlights of the festive fare on offer, and there is a plethora of street entertainments throughout the Christmas markets too.

Colmar, France

In the Alsace region of France, not far from the borders with Switzerland and Germany, is the stunning Alsatian city of Colmar. The Christmas markets here are famous, drawing over 1,000,000 visitors a year, and taking over the town entirely.

This spectacular old town, filled with half-timbered houses pointing to the historic wealth of the place, has five Christmas markets, filled with amusements for kids, wine stalls, sweet vendors, charcuteries, and ginger-bread sellers is simply breath-taking at Christmas time.

Don’t miss out on the most popular area of the town, Petit Venise, its market has an abundance of festive rides and amusements.

Bruges, Belgium

Bruges is the largest and oldest surviving medieval township in all of Europe, and it is simply beautiful with a unique character and charm all of its own.

Canals, cobbled streets, historic buildings, spacious squares and a gothic cathedral with a 13th century belfort, all combined with the lights, decorations and Christmas markets makes it feel like Bruges was made for Christmas, or maybe even Christmas was made for Bruges.

There’s an ice rink on Simon Stevinplein, and the main markets are on Market Square. The stalls are packed with the usual Christmas goodies, treats and trinkets, and of course, chocolates. But the main attraction is Bruges itself, lit up in the snow. Not one to miss.

Salzburg, Austria

The Christmas markets in Salzburg, set in the World Heritage listed Old City, are some of the oldest in the world, – with roots going back as far as the 1400s – with traditional market stands and beautiful surroundings making it a truly special occasion to witness.

Wandering the streets, surrounded by spectacular Baroque architecture in the home of Mozart, you’ll be stunned by the intimacy and character of both the city and the Christkindlmarkt in Cathedral Square.

In addition to the market stalls that the Christkindlmarkt holds, you will also be beset with a variety of festive entertainers and events, including: sing-a-longs; traditional wind music; children’s readings; parades; concerts and; Christmas tours.

Rovaniemi, Lapland

With its snow-covered landscape, beautifully lit Christmas trees, and countless magnificent ice-sculptures, Rovaniemi is quite possibly the most Christmassy place on earth; the fact that Santa lives there just seals the deal.

Where could be better to go for a Christmas market that will help to stave off the dark and take the edge off the cold of winter’s breath, than the home of Santa Claus, himself?

Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland, is the Official Hometown of Santa Claus. Indeed, the city plays host to Santa Claus Village, right on the edge of the Arctic Circle.

And on top of the fact that you can visit Santa himself and you’re absolutely guaranteed a white-covered winter wonderland with perfect pink hued mornings, you can also see the Northern Lights, take reindeer and husky rides, and, my personal favourite; go o0n snowmobile safaris – there cannot be many better ways to escape the grim clutches of darkness than on the back of a snowmobile!

Nuremberg, Germany

Nuremberg is renowned for being one of the best Christmas markets in Europe, if not the best.

The Christkindlesmarkt, on the Hauptmarkt, is one of the oldest and most spectacular in all of Germany, and therefore, probably, all of the world, too.

Nuremberg is a picturesque, medieval town in Bavaria, and its architecture and character lend perfectly to the Christmas theme.

Throughout Christmas, the medieval square is dotted with lavishly decorated stalls, filled with the standard Christmas detritus, sweets, decorations, mulled wine, and most importantly – in Nuremberg – lebkuchen, the famously delicious local gingerbread.

The icing on the cake? It’s pretty likely to snow. So, why not let the lights of Nuremberg warm your soul this Christmas?

Vienna, Austria

The old-world charm, elegance and grace of Vienna make the perfect back-drop for truly magnificent Christmas markets, giving an extra dimension to the magical appeal of Christkindlmarkts of Vienna.

The imperial baroque architecture on display in the wide avenues of Austria’s capital city, bathed in warm, twinkling lights, sprinkled with market stalls, and suffused with the wonderful aromas of roasted chestnuts, freshly baked pastries, sausages, and glühwein (the local variation of mulled wine) cannot fail to get you in the Christmas spirit.

Add a sprinkling of snow, myriad beautifully decorated Christmas trees and over 20 official Advent Markets, throughout the city, and you definitely found yourself in one of Europe’s best Christmas Markets. Vienna, at Christmas, is a city that cannot fail to make you feel alive with wonder and joy.

Tallinn, Estonia

The medieval Old Town of Tallinn assumes a wonderfully enchanting atmosphere at Christmas time. A fresh blanket of snow covers the streets and gabled rooftops, outdoor candles bring a warm, flickering glow to the darkness of the cobblestone lanes, and although the nights are long and dark, you’ll find the city to be at its most enchanting.

This year, the market on Town Hall Square will be adorned with over 40,000 lights, and the stage will be dressed with 600 Christmas stars.

At the stalls, you can expect to find a range of hand made goods, local delicacies, sweets, drinks and other Christmas decorations. Tallinn is fast becoming one of Europe’s most popular Christmas destinations.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

The darkness of winter creeps up, but not in Amsterdam. The lights, the hot chocolate, the ice-skating, the shopping, the atmosphere, all combine to successfully fight off the cold and usher in the festive period with hope and joy.

Dam Square is adorned with lights and a ginormous Christmas tree – 20 metres tall – standing in front of the Royal Palace, which itself, is swathed with a staggering 40,000 lights. Between the majesty of the huge tree and the beautifully illuminated Bijenkorf, Dam Square is the centre of Christmas in Amsterdam.

In addition to the decorations on Dam Square, Museumplein is home to a fantastic ice rink, surrounded by cosy stalls stacked full of festive victuals. There’s another ice rink at Leidseplein, with a fantastic array of food stalls, bursting with oliebollen, waffles and sausages, helping to complete this square’s contribution to Amsterdam’s wonderful winter wonderland.

Also on Museumplein, you’ll find Amsterdam’s main Christmas market – although, unlike many other cities on the list, there isn’t one specific market, there are many neighbourhoods with festive market stalls – with stalls selling all the usual Christmas decorations, foods, drinks and other minutiae. The Ice Village on Museumplein is a fantastic place to escape from the winter blues.

The Amsterdam Festival of lights, which sees most of the city lit up with a splendid array of light installations along the streets and canals, further adds to the city’s defence against winter’s darkness.

Moscow, Russia

Moscow’s Christmas markets and Winter Festival are absolutely wonderful.

There’s an ice sculpture museum, markets, fairgrounds, lights, trees, food and drink, and a wonderful atmosphere that you won’t find in Moscow any other time of year.

Head over to Red Square for ice-skating in front of the Kremlin and St. Basil’s Basilica. Here you’ll also find a wonderful array of Christmas stalls, replete with babushka and other khokhloma toys, traditional food – crepes with caviar, baked potatoes with mushrooms and pickles and Russian gingerbread – and drink, and various Christmas decorations. You’ll also find a variety of fairground rides.

The biggest Christmas market in Moscow can be found at VDNKh park. You’ll find more fairground rides, lights, trees, Russian cartoon characters, a magnificent Christmas carousel, a huge clock counting down the time to New Year, and of course, a vast number of market stalls filled with Christmas foods and gifts.

Rome, Italy

During the Christmas period, and winter in general, Rome is at its most Roman. With a distinct lack of tourists, the Romans are free to do as the Romans do.

The Piazza Navona is home to the biggest and best Christmas market in Rome, with a variety of stalls selling Christmas gifts and thousands of lights, adding to the festive appearance of an already beautiful plaza.

Parco Tor di Quinto plays host to an Ice Park & Christmas Village, where you’ll find an ice rink, surrounded by traditional Christmas market stalls, selling Roman foods, mulled wine, and Christmas gifts.

Paris, France

Paris has myriad Christmas markets throughout the city, lit by millions of festive lights and adorned with countless Christmas trees.

The Alsatian Christmas market, on the Gare de l’Est, focuses on food and gifts from the Alsace. You’ll find stalls selling Alsatian wine, sausages and choucroute, with free tastings, Christmas theatre and storytelling and beautiful regional gifts to take home.

The Champs Élysées alone is bedecked with millions of twinkling lights and lined with 400 Christmas trees, helping to create a festive ambience that is amongst the best in Europe. Mulled wine, tartiflette, the scent of cloves and spices, Christmas gifts, decorations; the Village de Noël des Champs Élysées is not to be missed whilst you’re in Paris.

Cologne, Germany

You’ll find Cologne to be home to no fewer than eight Christmas markets, on both sides of the Rhine, all with different themes.

The inviting aromas of baked apples, cinnamon biscuits, ginger bread, sausages and mulled wine will follow you, benevolently, through the winding alleys of this beautiful City.

The busiest Christmas market in Cologne is the one at the foot of the awe-inspiring Gothic cathedral. Hundreds of buden, – quaintly designed market huts – thousands of lights, the food and drink, the Christmas tree, the atmosphere, all sitting in the shadow of the Cathedral are absolutely fantastic.

You should also pay a visit to the Angel’s Christmas market, held on Cologne’s Neumarkt, right in the heart of the city. The market is inhabited by charming chalets and high-quality products, decorated with thousands of tasteful, sparkling lights and traditionally painted Christmas plates, alongside many other artisanal offerings.

Mulled wine, eggnog and hot chocolate attract many locals to the markets for a warm beverage, after work. Finally, the Angels, dressed in white and sparkling with glitter drift through the streets or Neumarkt, spreading festive cheer. There is also a weekly visit from Santa.

The Old Christmas Market, at Alter Markt, in front of the Town Hall, is definitely the city’s most attractive. The house gnomes open this market, in the heart of Cologne’s Old Town.

Legend has it that the Heinzelmännchen (house gnomes) carried out myriad tasks to help the locals prepare for Christmas – making sausages for the butcher, sewing clothes for the tailor, and baking bread for the baker. The winding alleys of the “house gnomes Christmas market” are all differently themed, in the style of the town’s old guilds, as a result.

Prague, Czech Republic

A city with practically untouched architecture from as long as 600 years ago, Prague straddles the Vltava river, is bordered by a steep wooded hill, and retains much of its medieval layout.

Negotiating your way through the narrow alleys and lanes during the Christmas period can be a truly enchanting experience.

The Old Town square is festooned with lights and market stalls, selling traditional gifts and foods, and, unlike some of the larger Christmas markets in Europe, the inviting, quaint and familiar atmosphere that the medieval town helps to create is nothing short of magical.

Dresden, Germany

Dresden’s Christmas markets are spellbinding. With a variety of markets, populated with traditional Alpine huts, Christmas music, wonderful festive aromas and traditional hand-crafted gifts.

The most important part of the Dresden Christmas experience; the Saturday before the second Sunday in advent, an absolutely monolithic stolen (traditional German Christmas cake) is paraded through the streets of the city and into the market, before being cut up and given out to the gathered crowds.

Glasgow Airport Park and Ride

When you’re planning your desperate flight from winter’s dark clutches; fleeing to some atmospheric, festive Christmas markets in Europe to play your part in the vainglorious attempt to hold back the passing of time and the grasp of darkness, using naught but alcohol, cake and candles, remember to book your airport parking in Glasgow on www.airportparkandride.com – we have the best prices, safest car parks and the simplest booking system you will find.

We’re proud to be doing our little bit to sprinkle a bit of joy on the Christmas period, by providing you with airport parking made simple.

Book a hotel at your European Christmas market destination.