OCTOBER 2023, UPDATED DECEMBER 2023
Ideally, I would always travel seasonly, some destinations just have to be visited in the right season. With the Christmas season upon us, it is time to do your research on which Christmas markets to visit this year. I have visited my fair share of Christmas markets over the last year, I always manage to visit a few markets a year, so I was able to put together this “Christmas markets in Europe guide”. I hope to inspire you with my experiences and pictures!
Strasbourg: Strasbourg is called the “Capitale de Noël” during the Christmas period and after having visited it I can definitely say I agree. The Cathedral was such a stunning backdrop for the Christmas markets and I also loved the giant Christmas tree on Place Kleber. What is really great about Strasbourg is that you can visit different markets each night and that the whole city is decked out in Christmas decorations. You can find my blogpost on Strasbourg here. The Christmas markets in the Alsace usually open at the end of November and end right after Christmas.
Colmar: Colmar is closely located to Strasbourg and you can easily visit both on the same trip. Colmar is smaller and more colorful, just a little bit more fairy-tale like than Strasbourg (if it is even possible!). From Colmar you can also visit the neighboring towns, such as Riquewihr, Eguisheim and Ribeauville, which host their own Christmas markets. The decorations in this area are top-notch, but because everybody knows, it is guaranteed to be packed. Check out my recommendations for Colmar & Alsace Christmas markets here.
Paris: Paris is not famous for its Christmas markets, but I did find it a lovely Christmas destination. I absolutely loved admiring al the Christmas decorations at the luxury stores, so festive! Don’t forget to check out Galeries Lafayette when you are there. There are some little Christmas markets scattered through the city, but if you are looking for a family friendly Christmas market, I would recommend the Tuileries Christmas markets.
Aachen: If you are looking for a very traditonal German Christmas market, Aachen is a good opportunity. The town itself is stunning, so it provides the perfect backdrop for the Christmas market. I found the Christmas presents a bit more affordable than in the other markets, making it a good destination if you are still looking for gifts.
Cologne: In 2023 I finally visited Cologne’s Christmas markets and I was super impressed. The Christmas markt at the cathedral is super picturesque, but the real winner is the Heinzel’s winter fairytale at the Heumarkt and Alter markt, with the gorgeous ice skating rink. The ice skating rink is one of the largest in Europe and it adds really good vibes to the market. The downside of Cologne is that it is a very popular Christmas market. Luckily, there are lots of food stands, so you don’t have to wait too long for a drink or meal. Try going during the week, this siginificantly reduces crowds.
Düsseldorf: Düsseldorf is an old favorite of mine during Christmas time, we live close by and we have friends living there, so we have often visited these markets. The Christmas markets in Dusseldorf are scattered throughout the city, so everyone can spread out and enjoy the markets are their own pace. My favorite Christmas market is usually located on the Heinrich Heine Platz, this is the market decorated with the kitschy angels. The Christmas markets in Germany usually open half November until Christmas.
Dresden: Dresden hosts the oldest Christmas market of Germany, one of the most famous markets in Dresden is the Strietzelmarket, which is decorated super abundantly and looks very historic. We were able to catch the tail of the Christmas markets and I would love to go back to fully enjoy the spectacle for a few days.
Hann.Münden: Technically, I didn’t visit the Christmas markets in Hann. Münden, but we just caught the empty stalls and decorations, when we visited after Christmas. However, Hann.Münden was such a lovely town, I can only imagine how lovely its Christmas markets must be and I dare include it in my recommendations. It is open daily! Check out my blogpost on Hann.Münden here.
Heidelberg: Heidelberg is an underrated location in Germany, the old town is stunning and clean and features lovely Christmas markets. Heidelberg is not super touristy in the winter, so all the Christmas markets are very relaxed and small scaled. From the ice skating rink you have beautiful views of Schloss Heidelberg. Check out my blogpost on Heidelberg’s Christmas market here.
Schloss Dyck: If you are looking for an original Christmas market in Germany, look nu further than the market at Schloss Dyck, which is located closely to Düsseldorf. During the weekend the castle hosts a Christmas market where you will find all sorts of local products and of course glühwein. You do have to pay an entrance fee, but this includes a visit inside the castle, which was a lovely add.
Prague: We made the amazing decision to spend the days after Christmas in Prague. In Prague the Christmas markets continue until the beginning of January making it the perfect destination for your Christmas break. Prague’s main square is even more beautiful than usual, featuring an enormous Christmas tree and a fabulously decorated Christmas market. Check out my blogpost on Prague here.
Amsterdam: Of course I had to include Amsterdam on this list. The number of Christmas markets in Amsterdam is expanding, as this activity is becoming more popular in the Netherlands. Update: the ice skating rink is not at the Museumplein for 2023 🙁
Maastricht: It has been some years since I went to “Magisch Maastricht”, but magical it is. Maastricht is one of the most charming cities in the Netherlands, and I always feel like I am vacationing when I am there. Magisch Maastricht is hosted on Het Vrijthof, the main square of Maastricht and features an ice skating rink and Christmas Market. Make sure to also take a walk through the old city center, as the Christmas decorations are particularly lovely.
Poznan: If you are looking for an authentic market which is mainly visited by locals, Poznan has a great Christmas market. There are lots of activities and rides for kids, as well as tradional meals and mulled wine. Poznan itself is really colorful and a greatlocation for a city trip, why not do it over Christmas time to enjoy a not-crowded Christmas market?
London: I personally think that London is one of the most Christmassy destinations that you can visit. It seems like all stores and restaurants participate and go in full on Christmas mode. Maybe you didn’t know that London also has some Christmas markets, Covent Garden and London Bridge had lovely markets, if you need even more Christmas vibes!
On my wish list
Though I have visited my fair share of Christmas markets, there are always some items left on the wish list. I would love to visit Austria during the Christmas season, I heard that Vienna and Salzburg have stunning markets and Christmas decorations. I have also seen amazing videos of the Zagreb Christmas markets, they really go all out with lights and it seems like such an original destination. The Baltic countries apparently have great markets as well, I have never been in that area, the combination of a new city with a Christmas market would be perfect. The UK does Christmas so well, and charming cities such as York and Nottingham must be great over this period! I once visited Rothenburg ob der Tauber during the summer and would love to revisit during the Christmas season. It looks like a gingerbread Christmas fairytale year-round and I am curious what the decorations will add to that!