Celebrating Advent and the Christmas season is one of Europe’s longest traditions. But these days, it’s more than just a tradition.
Christmas is a social event for friends and family to get together after work or on the weekends and often includes time spent at the local market.
I’ve been fortunate to live much of my life in Europe, where visiting the Christmas markets is a winter highlight. In this guide, I share my views on the best Christmas markets in Europe for 2023.
Best Christmas Markets in Europe 2023
Choosing the best is difficult as every city has something unique to offer. But you can’t go wrong with spending Christmas in one of these incredibly festive cities.
1. Dresden, Germany
Dresden Christmas Market – The oldest Christmas market in Europe is located in one of the most beautiful cities in Germany. Dresden gets my vote for the best Christmas market for its stunning location, historic market, delicious food from around the world and relatively low prices.
Dresden is renowned for its food specialties, including Stollen, a traditional German fruitcake that is a staple of the season, and, of course, glühwein.
One must-see attraction is the Royal Palace, which is now a museum. In winter, it’s beautifully decorated.
2. Vienna, Austria
Vienna Christmas Market – As one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, Vienna’s markets are stunning, especially those at Schoenbrunn Palace and Vienna Town Hall.
A Viennese specialty is the vanillekipferl, a crescent-shaped cookie made with vanilla and almond flour. Also, try the famous Wiener schnitzel, Manner Schnitten wafers and Sachertorte from nearby Salzburg.
3. Manchester, England
Manchester Christmas markets – Honestly, having visited Manchester a couple of times, I never imagined it would one day be home to such a huge event.
Manchester hosts several markets in the city centre with many rides, ice skating and a Giant Santa.
4. Strasbourg, France
Strasbourg Christmas Market – Strasbourg is a picturesque small city perfect for those who prefer a more intimate and romantic getaway.
With its fairytale old town, complete with half-timber houses and pretty canals, Strasbourg has a unique character that sets it apart from other destinations.
Strasbourg, and Alsace more generally, is a foodie paradise, with a restaurant scene showcasing Alsatian cuisine.
Some Alsatian food specialties to look out for:
- Flammekueche: A thin, crispy pizza-like dish with crème fraîche and various toppings.
- Choucroute: A traditional Alsatian dish made from sauerkraut, sausage, and pork that is slow-cooked and served with potatoes.
- Kougelhopf: A dome-shaped sweet cake studded with raisins and almonds.
5. Prague, Czechia
Prague Christmas Market – Prague is one of the most dynamic and exciting cities in Central Europe. As it’s always changing, there is often something new to experience. It’s the kind of place you’ll want to visit more than once.
Prague can be an affordable destination for visitors, giving you the chance to experience great food and entertainment without breaking the bank.
Some Czech specialties to try:
- Pilsner beer: Prague is home to the original Pilsner beer.
- Trdelník: A sweet, spiral-shaped pastry typically rolled in cinnamon and sugar or coconut.
- Chlebíčky: An open-faced sandwich made from slices of bread that are topped with a variety of ingredients, including ham, cheese, and pickles.
- Goulash: A hearty stew made from beef, paprika, onions, and potatoes.
- Knedlíky: A soft dumpling made from flour and either potatoes or bread.
- Štrúdl: A classic pastry made from a thin layer of dough rolled around various sweet fillings, including apples, nuts, or cheese.
6. Zurich, Switzerland
Zurich Christmas Market – Switzerland is famous for its cosy winter and food festivals, and Zurich is home to the best.
The old town streets are lined with wooden chalets selling delicious food like raclette (served as melted cheese on a baguette), gifts made by Swiss artisans and traditional decorations.
Some Swiss food specialties in addition to raclette:
- Fondue: A warm blend of Swiss cheeses perfect for dipping bread or vegetables.
- Biberli: Swiss gingerbread cookies.
- Chocolates: Obviously.
7. Budapest, Hungary
Budapest Christmas Market – As my former place of residence, I can’t recommend Budapest enough. The architecture, museums, ruin bars, thermal baths and the Danube River. It’s all incredible and relatively budget-friendly.
The city is packed with vibrant festivals and winter events, making it an ideal destination for anyone who loves to celebrate, and the markets continue into January.
8. Ljubljana, Slovenia
Ljubljana Christmas Market – Slovenia’s capital is an adorable small city on a winding river lined with Christmas stalls.
The country is known for its eco-friendly focus and you’ll find high quality, locally sourced and sustainably produced food and gifts.
Make sure you take the funicular up to the hilltop castle for panoramic views of the city and its surroundings.
9. Edinburgh, Scotland
Edinburgh Christmas Market – Not only one of the best in Scotland but also in Europe. This is a huge event with more than 2.5 million annual visitors. Spread over four locations, there’s a lot to see and do here.
Stick around for the famous Hogmanay Festival, a unique New Year’s celebration featuring live music, street performances and fireworks.
10. Krakow, Poland
Krakow Christmas Market – Krakow is one of the most beautiful European cities and it’s home to the best of Poland’s winter markets.
Located next to the famous Cloth Hall, it’s unbeatable in terms of history, culture and architecture.
Of course, you’ll want to try a range of unique Polish dishes, including pierogi, smoked cheese and fruit-infused vodka.
Region Guides: Where to Go
Nuremberg – A historic city with half-timbered houses, classic food and excellent museums. The market is one of the world’s largest, oldest and most traditional. Nuremberg is popular with families as they have a market dedicated to children’s activities.
Munich – One thing that puts Munich ahead of other destinations is simply the number and variety of markets to choose from. Munich has everything from Medieval-style chalets to a Pink Christmas and the alternative Tollwood Winter Festival.
Bamberg – This Bavarian city is known for its historic architecture dating from the 11th to the 19th century. It’s a wonderfully walkable city that can be visited in a day or two. The highlight is the nativity scene that changes weekly throughout Advent.
Read the complete guide to Christmas markets in Germany for other places to visit this year.
Salzburg – One of the most charming destinations in Austria. The pedestrianised centre is lined with boutique shops, you can walk through the Mirabell Gardens to visit the palace and take the fortress funicular to visit the castle and enjoy the views over the city.
Hallstatt – Hands down, the most picturesque village in Austria. Situated on a lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains; the scenery is breathtaking.
My guide to the Christmas markets in Austria goes into a lot more detail of what you can expect.
Birmingham – The largest German-style market outside of Germany and Austria.
Bath– The historic city of Bath is worth visiting all year round, but especially for a winter break. Stay in a romantic bed and breakfast, explore the Roman baths during the day and then visit the festive markets in the evening.
My list of the best Christmas Markets in the UK should provide you with plenty of inspiration for a weekend getaway or local celebration.
Brussels – For the most options to see, do and eat in Belgium, end your year with a visit to Brussels. The Grand Place is one of the most exquisite squares in Europe, lined with elaborate architecture with gold touches. It’s a pretty amazing place to visit. You can’t go wrong here.
Bruges – In spring, Bruges is known for its flower-lined canals, but in winter, visitors can focus on the Flemish architecture, exceptional restaurants and small museums.
Ghent – Ghent is similar to Bruges in that the old town is built around canals lined with historic architecture. The difference is Ghent is quieter with fewer tourists, so it’s a great option if you want to experience a slightly less crowded Flemish city.
Belgium Christmas markets are always great. Read my guide to the top 5 worth visiting this year.
Lausanne – Bô Noël brings Lausanne to life during the four weeks of Advent by showcasing local makers.
Basel – Switzerland’s cultural and Christmas capital with multiple large markets and attractions in the Old Town. I’d love to visit more often if it wasn’t so expensive.
Read on for a complete list of destinations and Christmas markets in Switzerland.
Lille – Although it’s less well known as a holiday destination, Lille’s market is compact but high quality. Lille is one of my favourite French destinations for food and museums.
Paris Christmas Markets – I spent seven incredible years in Paris and miss it terribly. I feel like the markets are much more touristy and commercial than elsewhere, but Paris is never a bad idea, and the Champs-Élysées is beautiful with its decorations.
Gdansk – A stunning and unique market thanks to its Baltic Sea location. Forming part of Poland’s Tricity region alongside Sopot and Gdynia, its Hanseatic history adds to its cultural appeal.
Warsaw – There is not only a traditional event in the Old Town Market Square but a contemporary market in Praga, Warsaw’s alternative district.
For the latest on the Christmas markets in Poland, read my guides to each of Poland’s wonderful cities.
Bologna – Bologna is the foodie capital of the Emilia-Romagna region and, in my opinion, all of Italy. You’ll find food-themed events taking place throughout winter. If you love Italian food, visit Bologna.
Venice has artisan products like local Murano glass, traditional Carnival masks and great tapas-style food called cicchetti. It doesn’t hurt that Venice is one of the most unique and stunning locations in the world.
Milan – If you want a big city winter holiday with boutique shopping, high-end Italian food and popular events, Milan has got it all.
Copenhagen Christmas Market – Copenhagen is home to a lovely market in front of the Town Hall, or you can enjoy the family atmosphere at the Tivoli Gardens. Walking along the decorated Nyhavn in December will round out your Danish experience.
Stockholm – A great city to visit all year round, Stockholm has excellent museums and galleries, a scenic archipelago, indoor shopping areas where you can stay warm and pretty decorations in the streets.
Tallinn – The most beautiful city in the Baltic States, Tallinn has one of the most well-preserved historic old towns with cobblestone streets pretty main square. You could even take a day trip to Helsinki to experience the Finnish winter markets.
Riga – It may not be the most visited of cities, but Riga is underrated and deserves more attention. Riga is cheap to get to and affordable once you get there. The city centre is walkable and charming, with cafe-lined streets and incredible Art Nouveau architecture.
Vilnius – The Christmas Town is the highlight of winter in Lithuania, with Cathedral Square home to one of the most stunning modern Christmas trees in the world.
Zagreb – The Croatian capital has probably the most traditional of the Balkans markets. Zagreb is a quiet city, especially in winter, but it’s cute and compact, perfect for a winter break.
Sibiu – You might not think of Romania regarding Christmas, but historic destinations like Brasov and Sibiu are great for a relatively cheap and interesting experience.
Tirana – I wouldn’t go to Albania just for the market stalls, but Tirana is always a fun city to visit and very unusual compared to elsewhere!
Those are my recommendations for where to go in 2023. As you can see, many options exist, so I understand it’s a difficult decision!
I suggest picking one of the top 10 or choosing your preferred country first and then taking it from there.
Our choices have an environmental and social impact on the places we visit. When travelling, keeping sustainability in mind is important.
Implement some or all of these simple measures to create a positive impact.
- Shop mindfully. Only purchase what you really need.
- Walk, cycle and use public transport to get around.
- Stay in a sustainable hotel powered by renewable energy.
- Stay in hotels. Short-stay apartments can lead to a lack of affordable housing for locals.
- Avoid using plastic or buying items made or packaged with plastic.
- Try to eat locally sourced organic food where possible.
- Limit your consumption of meat and dairy.
- Explore more than just the main tourist areas.
- Support the arts and attend local events.
Opening dates vary per destination, but they typically open from the first weekend of Advent to Christmas Eve.
This is completely subjective, but Germany, Austria and Belgium have many of the best Christmas and holiday markets.