Visiting Christmas Markets in Europe is a great way to start the festive season. They really get you into the Christmas spirit. Whether you visit just one on a weekend trip or do a multi-city tour you will feel Christmassy very quickly. Taste some Glühwein, have some local food, browse the handmade gifts and watch some festive shows. There’s so many in Europe to choose from and each one is different. In this post, I will tell you my top five Christmas Markets in Europe.
But before we get onto my favourites, let’s answer some basic questions…
What Are Christmas Markets In Europe?
I know it sounds like a silly question, but believe me, I have been asked! Quite simply, Christmas Markets are a European tradition. Around Christmas time these markets pop up, selling local wares; food, crafts and more. They’re a great place to find some really special and traditional Christmas gifts.
Where Are Christmas Markets In Europe?
EVERYWHERE! Quite literally! You can find Christmas Markets in the UK, Spain, Germany, Czech Republic, Poland and more. You’ll find them in cities all over Europe. They all have their own traditions and local wares. So it’s great to visit more than one city or country when doing a Christmas Market tour.
How Many Christmas Markets Are In Europe?
In all honesty, I have no idea. But there must be hundreds! And I’m sure more pop up every year. Every European country has a Christmas Market, many cities in each country have the markets and many cities have several separate markets. Normal in a city you will find different Christmas Market themes, such as French Christmas Markets, Medieval Christmas Markets and Pink Christmas Markets. Some are better for food and drinks, others are better for crafts. Sometimes they’re all quite close, others can be a little spread out. If you’re in a city for a Christmas Market trip, be sure to visit more than one.
What Dates Are Christmas Markets In Europe?
It depends on where you go. On the whole, most markets take place between mid-November to the weekend before Christmas. However, some start in early November, or end in January, there’s even the odd few that are only around for certain days, such as the Grassington Dickensian, that I still need to go to (check it out here).
So now that those questions have been answered, here are my top five European Christmas Markets:
1. European Markets – Albert Square – Manchester
Maybe it’s just because the Manchester Christmas Markets are my closest big markets, and it was these markets that I first went to. But whatever the reason, I do have a soft spot for the European Markets in Albert Square, Manchester. This is the main hub of the Christmas Markets in Manchester. There is an alpine village, a huge bar and plenty of craft stalls. The stalls are all under the watchful eye of a giant inflatable Santa.
Located outside the Town Hall, there are often more stalls inside the hall. So if you’re starting to feel the chill, you can duck in for some warmth.
There’s also plenty more to do in Manchester, more Christmas Markets (ten at my last count) and other attractions.
Check out reviews of the European Christmas Market In Albert Square here
2. Salzburg Christkindlmarkt – Cathedral and Residenz Square – Salzburg
This is a Christmas Market that I will give you a specific date for. Although the market runs from late November to Boxing Day, you have to visit this market for the Krampus Run.
The date of the Krampus Run is the 5th December, the day before St. Nicholas’ Day. And it is the only day you really need to visit this Christmas Market. Sure, there’s food, crafts, mead and Advent singing throughout, but Krampus Run is a tradition you do not want to miss.
Traditionally St Nicholas goes around and gives good children sweets, at the same time the Krampus (a huge devil-like creature with horns) finds and beats bad children with chains. Anyone else think that the English tradition of a lump of coal is a bit tame?
So on the 5th December, at around 18:30, the Krampus appear. First, St Nicholas gives a talk and then loads of Krampus appear (I’d be tempted to say hundreds, but I’m probably exaggerating). They run around the Christmas Market, scaring everyone. The Krampus do get close and physical (not hurtful), one even stole my hat (he did give it back). Try to get near the front to see the run in its full glory and have interactions. But be aware, pickpockets use this time to their advantage, I felt someone go in my pocket, but luckily it was empty. So have nothing of value in your pockets and just be aware whilst you’re having fun.
The market is in a square where the cathedral is, so if you need a warm-up, you can pop in. Also, it is below the Fort, which makes a pretty view. If you stay in Salzburg there’s plenty to do, the Fort is worth a visit, the views are spectacular and you can visit Mozart’s houses.
Check out reviews of Salzburg Christkindlmarkt here
3. Schönbrunn Palace Weihnachtsmarkt – Schönbrunn Palace – Vienna
If you want a Christmas Market with a beautiful backdrop, this is the one to go to. Located in front of Schönbrunn Palace, the market forms a circle and makes a very pretty sight. It is a charming market, with a huge Christmas tree. Go here for the atmosphere, arts and crafts. The food here is also good, be sure to try Germknödel (Austrian dumplings).
This Christmas market is a little out of town, it was about a thirty-minute walk from where I stayed. Or if you don’t fancy walking, you need to catch Tram 60 to Schloss Schönbrunn.
Make sure wrapped up warm for this one though; there’s not much shelter here and the wind can seriously get to you.
And since you’ve made the journey out of town, be sure to at least explore the grounds of the palace. Even in winter, the gardens are beautiful and the Neptune Fountain is not to be missed. You can also explore the Habsburgs’ Summer Palace, but you need to buy tickets.
Check out reviews of Schönbrunn Palace Weihnachtsmarkt here
4. Spittelberger Adventmarkt – Spittelberg – Vienna
Another Christmas Market in Vienna, but it has to go on my list of favourites. This one is closer to the city centre, in the historical quarter. The stalls wind their way through alleyways, niches and courtyards, the shops and bars either side of the streets are also included. This market has a cosy, authentic feel, and can get very busy.
This market is great for food and drink, plus local crafts such as sheep wool inlays. The stalls here aren’t a uniform design, which gave the market its authentic feel. Just be careful not to get lost as you wind through the alleyways.
If you want to visit Vienna Christmas Markets, there’s nine at the last count, but make sure these two are the top of your list. There’s also plenty of other attractions to see, such as St Stephen’s Cathedral.
Check out reviews of Spittelberger Adventmarkt here
I stayed at Hostel Ruthensteiner, which was a little out of the main town, but a nice almost halfway point between the palace and the main centre. They also gave out maps with all the Christmas Markets on them, information about each one and how to get to each one. It was a great hostel, you can check them out and book here.
5. Mittelaltermarkt Und Adventsspektakel – Wittelsbacherplatz – Munich
Affectionately called the Medieval Market, the proper name of this Christmas Market is the Munich Advent Spectacle. As Christmas Markets in Germany date back to at least 1410, this market is meant to portray an idea of what Christmas Markets were like back then. It is a compact and crowded market, but that doesn’t mean it’s not brilliant fun.
Vendors are in medieval costume, there are traditional crafts, such as sword-making (you can buy the swords made, but I’m not sure how easy it would be to get them through customs). You can watch blacksmiths at work, Renaissance dancing, jugglers, swords displays, fire shows and more. When you buy a drink it is served to you in a drinking horn (this is a great Christmas Market for mead).
Munich has a number of other great Christmas Markets, such as the Pink Market. There’s also plenty to see in the city, such as the English Gardens and Nymphenburg Palace. If you have time, I’d also recommend taking a day to visit Neuschwanstein.
Check out reviews of Mittelaltermarkt Und Adventsspektakel here
In my mind, these five are the best Christmas Markets in Europe to visit. If you have any others that you think should be included, please comment below.
The Best Way To See Christmas Markets In Europe
If you’re wondering how to plan a Christmas Market trip in Europe, it’s pretty easy to do and you have several options. It’s completely personal preference whether to do a Christmas Market weekend break or a full week. I did four cities in a week, and it was exhausting but worth it.
You have the option of Christmas Markets in Europe tours (check out Tourradar and get 5% off our first trip by using this link). Or you plan your own itinerary.
Tours can explore the European Christmas Markets by coach or river cruises. They take the stress away from finding the best places and routes.
Though if you would prefer the freedom or planning the trip yourself, you can easily visit Christmas Markets in Europe by train or bus. Personally, I used Flixbus, which included rail between Vienna and Salzburg. You can book your transport here.
If you’re looking for Christmas Markets in Europe with snow, obviously there is no guarantee, regardless of where you go. Though I’d say your best bet is to stay away from the UK and Spain and try the more central European countries. I went to Hungary, Austria and Germany at the beginning of December and didn’t see a flake of snow. So don’t put your hopes on a white Christmas Market, no matter where you go.
European Christmas Market Tips
If you’re planning a Christmas Market trip, here are just a few tips:
- Book early – European Christmas Markets are a popular festive holiday, so be sure to book accommodation and transport early so you don’t miss out;
- Wrap up warm – this might seem obvious, but seriously, if you’re out all day it gets freezing and you may not be able to pop in anywhere for a warm. Think base layers, gloves, thick socks, hats, scarves. You’re better to have too much and have to take some layers off than being cold (though there’s often the option to buy layers at the markets);
- Draw out some cash – I was shocked that in Europe, not all market vendors took card, and regardless you may need cash for a deposit for cups. So make sure you draw out some cash before you go to the markets, and preferably at cash points away from the markets, I have known cash points to run out of cash in Manchester;
- Have a plan – You’re going to be out all day, you’re going to get cold, so you don’t want to be trying to figure out your route. Have Google Maps on your phone, with your accommodation marked, or grab a map from your hostel/hotel if they are giving them out. Also, if you are planning to visit several Christmas Markets in one city, plan your route before you head out. That way you won’t have to stand in the cold, trying to work out which market to visit next;
- Go early – Not all Christmas Markets stay open late, so make the most of each day by starting early. It’s also great to see the markets at dusk;
- Be wary – Christmas Markets are busy, bustling, people are drinking and spending money. The perfect prey for pickpockets. So stay wary, don’t have valuables in your pockets, keep an eye on your bags and generally keep an eye out;
- Watch your Glühwein intake – or the intake of your alcoholic beverage of choice. It can be easy to get wrapped up in the atmosphere, drinking hot mulled drinks. So make sure you eat properly, you don’t want to get too drunk and forget the experience.
I hope you have a great time exploring some European Christmas Markets this year. What do you think of my top five Christmas Markets? Have you been to any? Or do you think there are other Christmas Markets in Europe that are the best? Let me know in the comments below.