We can’t think of anything more festive than booking off our last few days of annual leave and jetting off to the continent on a European Christmas market jaunt.
Though it has been said that the Germans do Christmas markets best (and we have included some Deutsch locations for you delectation), the likes of Austria, Estonia and Poland have made it onto our list of enchanting locations bringing Yuletide joy.
Whether you’re a Scrooge or a full-on Christmas elf, these markets are are the ideal spots to grab some presents and get yourself in the merry mood. What’s more, you can binge on mulled wine, gingerbread and chocolate as the snow falls. Besides food, drink and souvenirs, several of the markets also offer visitors the chance to enjoy a spot of ice skating and visit Father Christmas.
The majority of Christmas markets in Europe were cancelled last year due to the Coronavirus pandemic, so we’re excited to see the majority return this year. That said, it’s important to double check countries’ entry requirements before booking a trip.
So, grab your favourite puffer coat and mittens and prep your Instagram because these delightfully chilly destinations are where you need to head this December:
1) Best For: Activities
Christmas Market By Budapest Basilica, Hungary
Open until January 1, this Christmas Market has it all; vegan and gluten free options, concerts, folk dance performances, a 3D visual show projected on the side of a church and an ice rink to boot. Be sure to visit on New Year’s Day and feast on lentils (yes, really!), which supposedly bring money into the year ahead.
WHEN: November 18 – January 1
WHERE TO STAY: The 5 star Four Season’s Hotel never disappoints, with luxurious rooms and overlooking the Danube river – and you can walk to the Széchenyi Lánchíd bridge in just a few minutes.
TRAVEL: Flights from London to Budapest are available with Wizzair and Ryanair – check the best deals on Skyscanner.
2) Best For: Family Fun
WeihnachtsZauber at Bebelplatz, Berlin
While there are a plethora of Christmas Markets in the German capital, this is the most magical, surrounded by Berlin’s most iconic buildings. Catch the daily performances by world-class artists on the stage, fire-eaters, musicians, dancers, actors, and acrobats, there’s never a dull moment at this Christmas Market. If you want to end the year with a bang, spend your New Year’s Eve watching their firework display and enjoying German nibbles and tipples.
Previously, WeihnachtsZauber was located at Gendarmenmarkt, but has been moved to Bebelplatz until 2024 and the new digs are just as breathtaking.
WHEN: November 21 – December 31
WHERE TO STAY: While there is an endless amount of stunning Airbnb’s to choose from, why not treat yourself and stay at Soho House Berlin to do Christmas right?
TRAVEL: Flights from London to Berlin are cheap and cheerful with easyJet.
3) Best For: Last Minute Gifts
Southbank Market, London
Maybe you’re still waiting on a few Christmas gifts to arrive, or perhaps you’ve simply left it too late, there’s an easy fix: just pop into town and bag some gems from independent sellers while enjoying mulled wine and street food by the river Thames. Visiting the Southbank Winter Market is a win-win.
WHERE TO STAY: If you’re not living in London, we’ve got you covered whether you’re looking for a luxury stay or you’re on a budget.
WHEN: 3 Nov – 26 Dec
4) Best For: Local Food
Zagreb Christmas Market, Croatia
The focal point of this Christmas Market in Croatia’s capital is food and drink, and you won’t be disappointed. Stack plates high with spicy sausages, stuffed cabbage rolls, festive sweet treats and wash it down with best local wines. There are also arts and crafts scattered around the stalls, and a huge ice skating rink on King Tomislav Square.
WHERE TO STAY: When exploring the capital of Croatia, we’d definitely recommend the 5-star Esplanade Zagreb for the most indulgent of stays – without the hefty price tag. Rooms start from as little as £110 a night.
WHEN: November 26 – January 7
TRAVEL: Check the best deals on Skyscanner.
5) Best For: Guaranteed Snow
Tallinn Christmas Market, Estonia
Tallinn’s unspoilt medieval town centre plays host to possibly the prettiest Christmas market on the map, not least because snow has blanketed the square every year since it started in 2001. There’s a cosy feel to this market, with just over 60 small wooden huts selling handcrafted wreaths, lamps and sheepskin rugs, plus plenty of gingerbread, local honeys and mulled wine to ward off the cold. Musicians and dancers weave through the crowds, while at the heart of it all, apart from the illuminated snow sculptures, lies Estonia’s most famous and largest Christmas tree. Children also have the chance to visit Santa Claus and his live reindeer and ever take a pony ride
WHEN: November 19 – January 2
WHERE TO STAY: When you’ve had your fill of marshmallows and ginger bread, head to Old Town Apartment – Pagari 1 situated in a historical building in the Old Town of Tallinn and just a stone’s throw away from the market. Alternatively, book a couple of nights stay in Rapunzel Tower Apartment which features a balcony and panoramic sea views from the top floor.
TRAVEL: Direct flights with EasyJet, AirBaltic and RyanAir to Tallinn start at £70. Check out flights here.
6) Best For: Staying Put
Manchester Christmas Markets, UK
If you’d rather stick to home soil to get your Christmas fix, we can’t recommend Manchester’s Christmas markets more: over the years, they’ve snowballed into an award-winning festive fantasia, attracting seven million visitors yearly.
Follow the 300 chalet-lined market trail across the city centre for all kinds of bespoke gifts, from fine jewellery to bonsai trees, while stopping for cocktails at the pop-up-style Christmas Vintage Lounge on Exchange Square. The real highlight is the street food on Albert Square. With every European delicacy, from Spanish paella to Hungarian goulash, we defy you to leave on an empty stomach.
Locations include: Cathedral Gardens, Market Street, Exchange Square, Corn Exchange, Exchange Street, New Cathedral Street, King Street, St. Ann’s Square, Brazennose Street
WHEN: November 12 – December 21
WHERE TO STAY: Located 500 yards from the centre, King Street Townhouse is a pure haven, with an infinity spa pool on its seventh floor overlooking Town Hall’s clock tower, meanwhile The Cow Hollow Hotel in the city’s Northern Quarter offers free Prosecco and antipasti between 6pm and 8pm and complimentary milk and cookies before bed.
TRAVEL: Complete with coach and train station as well as airport, Manchester is one of the easiest cities in Europe to get to. Travel via Megabus with prices starting at just £7.40 from London.
7) Best For: A Fairytale Setting
Prague Christmas Markets, Czech Republic
Prague’s distinctively medieval backdrop of church domes, towers and magnificent ninth-century castle provides the ultimate festive skyline. Stroll through cobbled streets, past hidden courtyards and over pretty bridges to Staromestské Námestie (the Old Town Square), or Wenceslas Square, for the largest and most magical Christmas markets (Vánoční trhy). They are filled with atmospheric choirs, giant Christmas trees and fairy light-festooned stalls selling locally made gifts including luxe ceramics, embroidered lace, hats and gloves and scented candles. As for drinks, be sure to try the honey wine (Medovina), mulled wine (svařák), hot chocolate (horká čokoláda) and grog, which is a mixture of rum, water, lemon and sugar.
WHEN: November 27 – January 6
WHERE TO STAY: You can’t visit Prague at this time of year without staying at the Smetana Hotel which is just a short stroll from Old Town Prague, the Astronomical Clock, Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, and more. Meanwhile, there’s always this beautiful penthouse Airbnb in the Old Town with a terrace overlooking the which is just a short walk from Wenceslas Square and Charles Bridge.
TRAVEL: Direct flights with EasyJet, RyanAir, British Airways and W!zz start at £34. Check out flights here.
9) Best For: First-Timers
Plaisirs d’Hiver, Brussels, Belgium
Stretching over a mile from Grand Place to Place Sainte-Catherine, Belgium’s Plaisirs d’Hiver (Winter Wonders) is perfect for first-time Christmas market pizazz. Thanks to the Eurostar, you can be there in two hours and, let’s face it, it’s worth going for the sugar highs alone. Tuck into fluffy Belgian waffles, caramelised apples and seasonal croustillons (sugar doughnuts) while listening to the brass band. Beyond sweet treats, there’s an ice skating rink, Ferris wheel, nightly sound-and-light shows and the stalls offer all the usual stocking-fillers including nutcrackers and hand-blown glass decorations.
WHEN: November 26 – January 2
WHERE TO STAY: Nothing screams ‘luxury’ like the Steigenberger Wiltchers, situated in a 10-minute tram ride away from the Royal Square. Alternatively, book out an apartment located 100 years from Brussels City Hall, Museum of the City of Brussels and the Grand Palace.
TRAVEL: A single Eurostar train journey from London to Brussels starts at £39. Find out more here.
9) Best For: Designer Decorations
Tivoli Christmas Market, Copenhagen, Denmark
In 1997, John Loring set the cobbled streets sparkling and transformed the city’s famous Tivoli Gardens into a twinkling winter wonderland with more than 500,000 fairy lights. Now, this Scandi-chic market, along with welcoming scents of gløgg (mulled wine), exhilarating rides and brightly coloured stalls, selling the type of sweaters made famous by Sofie Gråbøl in The Killing, attracts more than a million visitors a year.
WHERE TO STAY: You’ll find it hard to locate a hotel with its very own indoor swimming pool right in the heart of Copenhagen. So, let us present you with Manon Les Suites Guldsmeden, which is situated 0.6 miles from Copenhagen Central Station and boasts four-poster beds in each apartment as well as organic toiletries.
For lovers of dark and moody interiors, you must visit Hotel Herman K: a luxury boutique hotel with a 40ft high ceiling lobby and featuring a 2-floor gourmet restaurant.
Travel: Fly directly to Copenhagen with EasyJet, Ryanair, British Airways and more from £12. Find out more here.
10) Best For: Something Different
Christmas Markets, Valkenburg, Holland
If you fancy a change from the well-trodden Christmas markets (and don’t mind the trek) head to the labyrinth of tunnels and caves at this quirky underground grotto, which sits beneath a pretty hilltop in Valkenburg. Packed with Instagram-worthy features, including mural carvings, an 18th century chapel and stalls selling everything from hand-blown glass to local artwork, visitors can even have a nose around Santa’s house. Don’t leave without trying some poffertjes (mini pancakes) at the Enchanted Garden café.
WHEN: November 12 – January 9
WHERE TO STAY: Soak up the Christmassy vibes at the adorable Huys van Steyns mansion which dates back to 1892, when Louis Steyns started the production of the prestigious shoe brand Ambiorix. Alternatively, get cosy in this two-bedroom holiday home located two miles from the Christmas market and featuring its very own sauna.
TRAVEL: British Airways, easyJet, and FlyBe fly directly from London to Amsterdam for as little as £25. Find out more here.
11) Best For: Stepping Back In Time
Schoenbrunn Palace Christmas Market, Vienna, Austria
With a market practically on every corner, where better to don your finest faux-fur than Vienna? Schoenbrunn Palace Christmas Market is best for stylish shopping, while the largest and gaudiest Christkindlmarkt (Christmas market) dates back to 1294 and is bursting with atmosphere. Set in the Rathausplatz in front of the neo-Gothic City Hall, locals come to check out the festive window scenes painted by local artists, and stay for the glühwein (mulled wine). Take a stroll through Rathauspark for old-fashion carousel rides, pick up a trinket at one of 15 sales booths, write a post card and send it at the Post Office in the Clouds or go ice skating at the the 3,000 m² ice rink.
WHEN: November 12 – December 26
WHERE TO STAY: For those wanting five-star luxury, it’s essential that you book a night’s stay (at least) at Hotel Ambasador. Opened in 1989, the hostel has hosted famous guests including Marlene Dietrich and Mark Twain and has a winter garden overlooking the historic Neuer Markt square. If you’re on a tighter budget, we recommend Motel One Wien Westbahnhof which is just a few steps away from the Mariahilfer Straße shopping street and is decorated as modern as Vienna’s hotels come.
TRAVEL: Direct flights to Vienna from London start at £22. Find out more here.
12) Best for: Christmas Lights
Mulhouse Christmas Market, France
The Christmas market takes place on the most important square of the city – Place de la Réunion. Known as being one of the most colourful Christmas markets in the world, the site is the perfect opportunity for the town to celebrate its textile heritage with Christmas fabric created each year hung on the facades of around 100 typical festive huts.
WHEN: November 24 – December 27
WHERE TO STAY: Just 700 yards from Mulhouse Christmas Market sits this beautiful apartment featuring two bedrooms and views across the city. Elsewhere, there’s Domaine Du Kaegy located a short drive away in Steinbrunn-le-Bas. The hotel offers five-star accommodation with its indoor pool, hammam and shared kitchen.
TRAVEL: Fly direct to Zurich from London from £26 (1hr 20mins from Mulhouse). Find out more here.
13) Best For: A German Show-Stopper
Christkindlesmarkt, Nuremberg, Germany
The Germans know a thing or two about Christmas markets. Over 2,500 are dotted around the country but Nuremberg’s 400-year-old Christkindlmarkt is arguably the most famous. Shining in the Bavarian city’s old town, this festive gem has it all: twinkling lights, super-strong glühwein and delicious Bratwurst. Each of the 180 stalls sell genuine tat-free treasures, from handmade candles to enamelled music boxes, and special wardens ensure all products are locally made. It all adds to the authentic flavour and the buzzing Bierkeller next to the ice-rink is a guaranteed Christmas spirit booster.
WHEN: November 27 – December 24
WHERE TO STAY: Our go-to stays in Nuremberg are the Adina Apartment Hotel thanks to its fitness centre, sauna and indoor pool and Le Méridien Grand Hotel, located mere steps away from the Old Town. Its Art Deco-style Atelier bar also offers 1920s charm – what more could you want for Christmas?
TRAVEL: Enjoy flights to Nuremburg from just £21. Find out more here.
14) Best For: Seeing In The New Year
Edinburgh Christmas Markets, UK
Bringing traditional German flavour to the Scottish capital, stallholders at The European Market are from Frankfurt, while The Scottish Market serves up local delights. Treat your pooch to canine cookies from The Grassmarket on Saturdays, lose yourself in the fir tree maze and ride the Edinburgh wheel for fantastic city views. Once Christmas is wrapped up, it all kicks off again for Hogmanay: a legendary New Year’s party where 80,000 revellers come for music, fireworks and lashings of whisky.
WHEN: November 19 – January 2
WHERE TO STAY: Whether it’s Hotel Indigo Edinburgh or The Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh, you’ll find it hard to find anywhere better to stay in walking distance of the city’s fantastic markets. With stunning views of Edinburgh Castle, Princes Street or the historic Old Town, we suggest you book your stay right about… now.
TRAVEL: A Megabus to Edinburgh from major UK destinations is by far your cheapest way or travelling to the city. Check out prices here.
15) Best for: Architecture
Poznań Bethlehem, Poland
If you’ve never heard of Poznań Bethlehem or Poznań Christmas Market then you’re in for a treat as, come December, the city turns into an ice-covered haven. While the Christmas attractions can be found in the Old Market Square and Freedom Square, adults and children alike won’t want to miss the site’s famous ice sculpture festival, were visitors from around the world come to chip away at blocks of ice to make artistic masterpieces. Polish food such as potato stuffed pierogies, piernik (Polish gingerbread) smoked Polish cheese and warming vodka (yes, really) will also be on offer.
WHEN: November 29 – December 23
WHERE TO STAY: Don’t let Hotel Blow Up Hall 5050’s unusual name put you off booking a couple of nights’ stay. Built a five-minute walk from Poznań’s Old Town Main Market, the hotel’s restaurant specialises in Polish dishes with a modern twist and each room comes with an iPhone that works as a room key and a way to call hotel staff. Alternatively, head on over to PURO Poznań Stare Miasto which features a sauna and sun terrace as well as free bikes to hire for sightseeing.
TRAVEL: A single direct flight to Poznan costs as little as £12. Check out prices here.
16) Best for: Mystery and magic
Cluj-Napoca Christmas Fair, Romania
Spending a few days in Transylvania might sound more appropriate for Halloween than for Christmas, but we beg to differ. The Cluj-Napoca Christmas Fair, situated in the city’s Unirii Square, celebrates the medieval beauty of the city’s old buildings and the church of Saint Michael, which serves as the gates to the site. Whether it’s shopping from the local vendors, film viewings, or skating around the statue of Matia Corvin, there’s fun to be had for all the family. Better yet, there’s a Santa house and a tram dedicated to Father Christmas on offer for children.
WHEN: November 26 – December 31
WHERE TO STAY: Contrasting with the traditionalism of the city’s architecture is Hotel Platinia, which is situated a short walk from the Old Town. For a more homely feel, check out this adorable Airbnb with windows looking onto the city centre and a king size bed – the dream!
TRAVEL: A single direct flight costs from £22. Check out prices here.
Digital Fashion Editor
Daisy Murray is the Digital Fashion Editor at ELLE UK, spotlighting emerging designers, sustainable shopping, and celebrity style. Since joining in 2016 as an editorial intern, Daisy has run the gamut of fashion journalism – interviewing Molly Goddard backstage at London Fashion Week, investigating the power of androgynous dressing and celebrating the joys of vintage shopping.
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