10 Biggest Christmas Markets in Europe
Christmas is a magical time, filled with festive cheer, goodwill, and a sense of excitement for kids and adults alike. There are many amazing holiday destinations for a family to celebrate Christmas in Europe. However it’s at the biggest Christmas markets in Europe that the magical atmosphere really comes alive!
Awash with countless stalls selling a variety of crafts and festive flavours, spectacular decorations, and seasonal activities like ice skating to enjoy, there’s nowhere else quite like a Christmas market! But, which is the biggest Christmas market in Europe?
Vienna Christmas World in Austria is not only the biggest Christmas market in Europe, but it’s also one of the oldest on the planet. In fact, some of the longest-running and biggest Christmas markets in Europe, if not the world, are located in Austria, Germany, and other nearby regions.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the biggest Christmas Markets in Europe.
1. Vienna Christmas World, Austria
Vienna Christmas World has origins that date back as far as 1298 when the city hosted its first-ever December Fair. Since then, the oldest Christmas market on Earth has grown to be one of the most iconic and well-known on the planet.
It’s located near Rathaus, Vienna’s historic town hall, and one of the most impressive buildings in the city. The fair itself covers the entire town square in front Rathausplatz. If you are looking to hang around the market area for several days or just want somewhere located in the central area, here is where you can stay to be close to the square for easy access.
With more than 3 million visitors each year, guests can enjoy a huge array of attractions, including a gigantic 3,000-square-meter ice rink. You can also skate along a number of icy paths that crisscross the market, dropping by the more than 150 stalls for a warming drink or a tasty bite to eat. And there are plenty of local festive delicacies on the menu, such as gingerbread, stollen, roasted chestnuts, and much more.
Magnificent Christmas decorations adorn every surface, while the iconic Christmas tree towers above the entire market. Lights sparkle into the night, creating a breathtakingly magical atmosphere, while numerous workshops and shows ensure there’s no shortage of things to see and do!
2. Cologne, Germany
Germany is home to countless Christmas markets, with seemingly one in every town! The largest is in Germany’s Cathedral City, Cologne. Situated at the foot of the iconic twin-towered Cologne Cathedral, the Cologne Christmas Market attracts around 4 million guests each year. It’s actually made of several smaller markets joined together, each with a different theme.
You’ll find a wealth of culinary treats, with local specialties at each different market. Festive spiced cakes and pastries are just some of the goods on offer. You’ll also catch the unmistakable aroma of chestnuts roasting on an open fire, succulent sausages, and much much more.
One of the best things about the Cologne Christmas Market is the sheer number of craft and art stalls you’ll find. It’s an incredible place to pick up some unique Christmas gifts for all the family, amid a truly spectacular winter wonderland.
There are also tons of shows to take in and a captivating array of entertainment options to enjoy. Here are stays that are within 5kms of Cologne Cathedral to make the most of it. However, if you fancy escaping the city center crowds, you’ll find smaller, neighborhood Christmas markets dotted throughout the city and along the river.
3. Dresden, Germany
Dresden’s Christmas market dates back to 1434, though it has seen an impressive evolution since then. While it started out as a one-day event, it’s now a Christmas mecca that runs from the start of December until Christmas Eve.
The market is held at Dresden’s Altmarkt each year and boasts more than 240 stands selling an array of local gifts, arts and crafts, and of course, delicious food, millions of visitors from around the world make sure to visit each year.
You can stay within 5kms of the market to easily enjoy the fabulous stalls and incredible decorations. The Dresden Christmas Market is also home to a variety of curious quirks and exciting things to see and do. It boasts the largest Christmas Pyramid in the country, as well as a stunning fairytale castle. Look closely at the castle, and you’ll see that it’s actually a life-sized advent calendar!
As you stroll through the vibrant market, you’ll enjoy the aromas of mulled wine, hot chocolate, sizzling sausages, gingerbread, and of course, freshly baked stollen. Dresden is famous for its stollen, and the tradition of baking this gorgeous fruit cake goes back hundreds of years in the city.
In fact, each year, the town’s best bakers come together to make the largest stollen in the world. If you’re lucky, you’ll see it being paraded about the fair on a carriage, and for a small donation, you can even enjoy a slice!
4. Budapest Christmas Fair, Hungary
The Budapest Christmas Market is a superb celebration located in Vörösmarty Square in the heart of Hungary’s capital city. A huge Christmas tree sets the scene and dominates the market, creating a breathtaking spectacle as soon as you arrive.
There are 1000+ stays within 1km of the market, most of which are a lot more budget friendly than stays in other more expensive European cities. From here you may smell the aroma coming from the market that will make you salivate, and you can easily slip into the market to wander among the stalls. You can taste local treats like chimney cakes (Kürtőskalács) freshly baked over hot embers and dusted with cinnamon or nuts, or hearty Gulash served in a bread bowl. Yum!
Meanwhile, the city’s iconic Gerbeaud building is tastefully decorated and serves as a gigantic advent calendar. Each day, a window is opened up and the number of days left until Christmas is revealed! During this exciting daily event, there’s also a wonderful light show and concert that you can enjoy for free.
Throughout December, there are plenty more free events to marvel at as well. Local bands take to the stage each afternoon and evening, filling the air with traditional festive tunes, as well as more modern genres, such as blues, soul, jazz, and much more. Stick around, and you’ll often catch a fabulous dance display or even a traditional puppet show too.
5. Strasbourg, France
Blending French and German traditions, the Alsatian city of Strasbourg becomes the ‘Capital of Christmas’ each December! Locals and visitors alike have been enjoying the festivities each year for more than 4 centuries, with the main event taking place in front of the spectacular Notre Dame Cathedral located in Strasbourg.
There are many places to stay close to the Cathedral in Strasbourg and its a lovely town with many things to do in Strasbourg other than the market. Withing the Christmas market you can take a wander among the gorgeous wooden chalets, each one offering something special. Keep an eye out for Alsatian Bredele (small Christmas butter cookies), tasty smoked fish, and local mulled wine or unfermented grape must (non-alcoholic hot grape juice).
Beyond the culinary delights, you’ll also find a fantastic range of hand-crafted goods, such as wood carvings, ceramics, carpets, and clothes. With regular craft workshops and displays from local producers, you can see how much skill and effort goes into every piece. Meanwhile, carol concerts and other shows are held most evenings.
6. Manchester, UK
Manchester Christmas Market is a relative newcomer compared to the historic fairs of Austria and Germany, with its first edition in 1998. However, it’s rapidly grown to be the largest and best-known Christmas market in the UK.
It takes over the city centre expanding out from Albert Square, the heart of the market proper, spreading to a further 9 individual, but closely linked, sites. Each has its own charm and character, and you can easily walk among them all over a day or two.
Millions of people come along each year to explore the more than 300 stalls that are spread out across the fair, enjoy the incredible decorations, and take in some excellent live music. You’ll find a wealth of hand-crafted gifts on offer, as well as food and drink from across the globe, including paella, burritos, and of course, fish and chips.
There are lots of things to see and do as well, and to be close to the action you can stay within 5kms of the market for easy access. Check out the incredible giant Christmas pyramid, take in some street theater, explore the Ice Village, and skate on the impressive ice rink. Oh, and don’t forget the numerous amusement park rides!
7. Brussels, Belgium
Starting in early December and running until the first week of January, the Brussels Christmas Market is a festive bonanza. The heart of the market is in the city’s main square, the Grote Markt or Grand Place, which is home to an enormous Christmas tree, surrounded by the charming facades of the surrounding buildings. Here, you can enjoy regular light shows and concerts, as well as a number of incredible stalls and attractions.
To be close to the action so you can dip out if you want to, are just over 200 hotels and apartments within 1km of the market. Like this you can fully enjoy the heart warming Christmas spirit of the market.
Millions of people visit the Brussels Christmas Market each year, enjoying a wonderful festive adventure that takes them throughout the city centre. More than 200 stalls await, offering tasty international cuisine, including oysters, escargots, and local delicacies, making it a must among foodies. There are also plenty of sweet treats for the kids and classic Belgian dishes to enjoy.
As you wander through the market, you’ll see incredible gifts, arts and crafts, and snug winter clothing. Look out for the beautiful Ferris Wheel, which offers an incredible view over the lights and decorations, and be sure to check out the igloo for some live music.
8. Prague, Czech Republic
Each winter, Prague’s Old Town Square is transformed into the biggest Christmas Market in the country to create a buzzing festival atmosphere. With a strong focus on tradition, you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped back in time to a bustling medieval marketplace, complete with talented craftsmen and women, all hawking their wares.
There are hundreds of places to stay within 1km of the square within this charming city, leaving you spoilt for choice. Plus like Budapest, there are many places that are budget friendly and rather lovely.
As you dip out of the hotel, and get to the market you will find hundreds of stalls, with some incredibly unique gifts on offer, with an array of traditional Czech Christmas goods to choose from. Look out for gorgeous wooden toys, blown glass baubles, embroidered cloths and tablecloths, wood carvings, and so much more. As for food, you’re in for a treat, with spit roast hogs, pickles, sausages, and roasted chestnuts.
There are also countless sweet treats and pastries to tuck into, like the delicious gingerbread biscuits known as Štramberk ears. Plus, you can enjoy a steaming hot cup of mulled wine, a rich hot chocolate, or a delicious dark beer to keep you warm!
9. Gdańsk Christmas Fair, Poland
The quaint port city of Gdańsk in northwest Poland is home to what many say is the most beautiful Christmas Market in Poland. Against stiff competition like Kraków and Wrocław, that’s an impressive claim! It’s certainly well-deserved though and the Gdańsk Christmas Market goes all out to create a magical ambiance for the millions of people who visit each year.
To be close to the magical atmosphere, you can pick from over 1000+ stays within 1km of the fair, many of which are very budget friendly.
The fair offers some more traditional touches than other markets we’ve looked at so far, with gorgeous scenery, such as the Three Wise Men, Angel Mill, and angels and saints dotted about among the festivities. Visitors can enjoy a spin on a gorgeous Venetian carousel, ride in a horse and carriage through the cobbled streets, and check out a wonderful program of artistic events and concerts.
You’ll find more than 120 stalls to explore, boasting an array of unique gifts, decorations, handcrafted goods, delicious regional recipes, and sweet treats. Adults can also enjoy a steaming mug of mulled wine or spiced hot beer (a Polish delicacy), while the kids will adore the thick, gooey, hot chocolate.
10. Edinburgh, Scotland
The historic centre of the Scottish capital undergoes a transformation each year, with an incredible Christmas Market stretching all along the Royal Mile and up to East Princes Street Gardens. There are only a couple of hundred places to stay close to the market, but there is plenty to do to justify staying close.
The market is complete with a fabulous ice rink, Santa’s Grotto, and amazing light shows and concerts, people travel from far and wide to enjoy the sights.
Kids can enjoy a range of amusements and rides at Santa Land, while adults can keep warm with a glass of mulled wine, or by sampling a dram of whisky or two! For a non-alcoholic option, check out the mulled Irn Bru, a truly Scottish tipple! When hunger strikes, you’ll find a wide offering of food options to suit all tastes. From vegan ‘pigs in blankets’ to haggis and everything in between, you’ll be spoiled for choice.
There really is something for everyone, and as you browse the various stalls and stands, you’ll find everything from Harry Potter-inspired gifts to local arts and crafts. The artisan markets are a joy to behold, with impressive handmade gifts, decorations, and live music filling the air.