Europe’s Christmas markets (Christkindlmarkt or Weihnachtsmarkt) are the place to indulge in festive foods, sip mulled wine, and enjoy holiday shopping with a backdrop of illuminations and snow-dusted Christmas trees. Here’s a rundown of some of the best European Christmas markets—a long-standing tradition dating back to the 12th century.
Vienna Christmas Markets, Austria
Vienna has over nine Christmas markets, and each is as magical as the next. Stalls are set up in stunning locations such as Belvedere Palace, City Hall Square, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and Schonbrunn Palace. With time to spare, take a day trip to Salzburg, where you can combine holiday shopping with a visit to Mozart’s birthplace or a Sound of Music tour.
Munich Christmas Markets, Germany
Germany is home to the original Christkindlmarkt, and Munich is one of the best places to take in the festive atmosphere. The city’s famous Christmas markets include a gigantic setup on Marienplatz in Old Town, where you can feast on bratwurst, gluhwein (mulled wine), and lebkuchen (gingerbread cookies) while shopping for unique gifts, tree ornaments, and handicrafts.
Montreux Christmas Market, Switzerland
With dozens of festive wooden huts lining the shores of Lake Geneva and the snow-capped Alps in the distance, the Montreux Christmas market—one of Switzerland’s largest—is incredibly picturesque. While you’re there, admire the fairytale Chillon Castle, ride the cogwheel railway up to Santa’s grotto, and warm up with a classic Swiss fondue.
Strasbourg Christmas Market, France
Strasbourg’s Christkindelsmarik is the biggest Christmas market in France and claims to be the oldest in Europe, first held in 1570. Its idyllic location is also ideal for exploring the Alsace and beyond: After celebrating Christmas in Strasbourg, take a day tour to the medieval town of Colmar, renowned for its own lively Christmas market; go wine tasting in the Alsace wine region; or even hop over the border to explore Germany’s Black Forest.
Berlin Christmas Markets, Germany
Berlin has more Christmas markets than anywhere else in Germany, so you’ll be sure to find something to suit your tastes. Popular choices include the Alexanderplatz and Gendarmenmarkt markets, while the Winter Wonderland on Potsdamer Platz is great fun for families. The market at Charlottenburg Palace takes the prize for the most impressive location.
Budapest Christmas Market, Hungary
Take a festive walking tour through Budapest with a local guide and browse the stalls beneath the magnificent St. Stephen’s Basilica, sample seasonal foods at the huge market on Vorosmarty Square, and admire the illuminations along the grand Andrassy Avenue.
Zagreb Christmas Markets, Croatia
Croatia might not be the obvious choice for a holiday getaway, but Zagreb is the country’s heart of its yuletide festivities. Learn about unique Croatian Christmas traditions, admire the live nativity scene, and explore the markets in Ban Jelacic Square and Zrinjevac Park.
Prague Christmas Markets, Czech Republic
If you’re spending the holiday season in Prague, be sure to visit the festive markets held in the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square, then take a romantic evening river cruise and see the city’s UNESCO World Heritage–listed monuments brought to life with twinkling Christmas lights.