When you’re in the mood to grasp a cup of hot cocoa and settle in for some holiday cheer, there’s no better place to go than a Christmas market. Christmas markets originally started popping up in Europe as street markets during the four weeks of Advent. They originated in Germany, Austria, South Tyrol, North Italy, and France as early as 1294, and are now a steadfast tradition all over the world (although they’re most popular in Europe and North America). You’ll get the best of everything here: food, drinks, toys, gifts, and even some performances! And hey, what better way to do some souvenir shopping
than with local handicrafts? These are some of the best Christmas markets around the world.
1. Dresden’s Strietzelmarkt, One of the Oldest in the World
Dresden’s Strietzelmarkt is one of the oldest running Christmas markets in the world, opening its (hypothetical) doors in 1434. This one draws a whopping two million visitors per year! It’s also the oldest Christmas market in Germany
, and its named is derived from Hefestriezel, a sweet delicacy now known as “German Christmas Cake.”
This market is located on the Altmarkt Square, in the historical city centre. Its focal point is the world’s tallest Christmas pyramid, at a height of 14 metres. Striezelmarkt is also home to the world’s biggest nutcracker. Both are worth coming by to see!
2. London’s German Style Christmas Market in Hyde Park
The scene at London’s Hyde Park is like a Christmas market on steroids. The Brits have paired classic German-style Christmas markets with a sort of theme park setting, known as Winter Wonderland. The area includes everything from ice skating, to the magical ice kingdom, Zippos circus, and a giant wheel.
If that’s not your thing, the markets are definitely worth sticking around for. There are more than 200 fairy-lit Bavarian-style wooden chalets, stocked full of Christmas goodies. Bring a blanket to sit on and a few candles to light up the night. If you’d like company, a London guide can even take you there.
3. Brussels’s Family-Friendly Christmas Market
In Brussels, Belgium
, the Christmas market stretches from the Place de la Monnaie in Vismet, through the Grand Place, the Bourse, Place Sainte-Catherine, and straight to Black Tower. It’s a huge amount of space, and it’s completely overflowing with 230 traders, shopkeepers, and artisans. Also onsite you’ll find a Ferris wheel, a skating rink, and even some ice art installations.
The market is also very children friendly, thanks to its abundance of toys, foods, drinks, handicrafts, concerts, and more. The whole city centre shuts down for the occasion, and it’s a sight to see.
4. Cincinnati's Small and Intimate Christmas Market
If those big, loud and proud Christmas markets are a bit too overwhelming for you, there are definitely smaller markets scattered around the globe. Including the very beautiful Christkindlmarkt in the U.S. city of Cincinnati for example.
You can grab some traditional German food – perhaps a bratwurst or a schnitzel – before taking in the Germania Lantern Parade. The children are also welcomed to get involved, and you can complement the experience with some good German beer. Of course, there will be plenty of items for sale!
5. The Prague Christmas Markets
Mulled wine and hot mead are just two treats you’ll find inside these awesome Christmas markets with their tiny stalls selling all manner of goodies. The main markets can be found at the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square. There’s also a smaller market at Republic Square.
The variety found in Prague is what makes the place so popular. The markets usually have brightly decorated wooden huts selling all sorts of handicrafts like candles, ornaments, hats, gloves, and scarves, and even puppets and dolls dressed in traditional costume.
You’ll hear carolling and singing, and you can take in the scene while chowing down on some traditional foods. You’ll see large hams roasted on spits, barbecued sausage, and fresh pastries like Trdelnik – a hot sugar-coated cake. Local guides in Prague can even help you figure out what exactly you’re eating; the language can be tricky, after all. How’s that for festive cheer?
6. Edinburgh's European (and Scottish) Markets
turns into an idyllic Christmas destination around this time of year, and if you thought the city looked romantic before, you have no idea what’s in store. Over the past 20 years, the Christmas Market has been held below the Mound, stretching from East Princes Street Gardens Terrace and around the Scott Monument. It has a number of crafters, artists, gift shops, and delightful foodie options for every visitor.
But there’s also the Scottish Market at St Andrew Square, which is a winter showcase of some of the country’s best craft, food, and drink options. You’ll find some locally produced sausages, fresh seafood, unique chocolate, wonderful cupcakes, gin, Scottish brewed craft beer, handcrafted jewellery and woodwork, and so much more.
And finally, there’s a Children’s Market! With face painting, Christmas crafts, and fun children’s shopping opportunities.
7. Lyon, France's Traditional Markets
The city of Lyon
in France is particularly proud of its Christmas markets, especially because they’re a great source of inspiration for both young and old. There’s a fantastical feeling in the air when you walk through these cobblestoned streets, especially while perusing great gift ideas and mouth-watering specialities.
There are actually two Christmas markets: the Croix Rousse market, Lyon’s only covered market where you’ll find a living Christmas tree farm, and the market at Place Carnot with its fairy tale huts and beautiful lighting.
8. New York City’s Holiday Market at Columbus Circle
Of course New York City
would put on an epic holiday market! We expect nothing less of the Big Apple. With its carol singers, street performers, and beautifully twinkling lights, this market gets international in its selections, making it one of the most unique markets in the world. Endless market stalls will have you perusing the offerings for hours!
Grab a cup of hot cider and a plate of Turkish or Mexican food, and explore your surroundings. You’ll find handmade wooden puzzles, artisan chocolates, homemade jewellery, and clothing accessories for just about anybody.
9. Munich's Christkindlmarkt
This might be our absolute favourite. Where else in the world will you find mythological monsters running through the streets during the 500-year-old traditional Krampus Run?
This Christmas market has been around for many years, and it’s one of Germany’s most beloved Yuletide events. It takes place at the heart of Munich city, and it’s not hard to find thanks to its 30-metre-high Christmas tree embedded with over 2,500 lights. There are over 160 stalls for you to peruse, many specializing in handicrafts, ornaments, and artisanal treats. Grab some mulled wine (or beer – you’re in Germany!) and wander at your leisure.
Pay attention to the special Bavarian highlights as well, because you may not find them in other German markets. They include wood carvings from Oberammergau, gingerbread from Nuremberg, and some glassware from the Bavarian Forest.
10. Nuremberg, Germany’s Famous Christkindlesmarkt
is renowned for its Christmas markets but this might be the most famous of all as evidence suggests this was the first Christmas market ever to exist. It takes place in Hauptmarkt Square, in the Old Quarter, full of medieval charm and the sweet scent of gingerbread. Sample some bratwurst and beer, or take the kids to the children’s market known as Kinderweihnacht. Here you’ll find an old-fashioned carousel, a Ferris wheel, and even a steam train that will take you through a Nativity scene trail.
This market can be overwhelming with its offerings, and over two million people visit every year. There are about 180 wooden stalls covered in red and white cloth, which stands for its name of “Little Town from Wood and Cloth.” You’ll find all sorts of wares between these stalls, including gingerbread, fruit loaves, Christmas tree angels, cribs, ornaments, and everything else you can think of.
11. Budapest's Christmas Fair
Food is the theme at this Budapest
celebration. By the end of November, Vörösmarty Square has turned into the most festive place in the city! Cottage-style wooden stalls and two outdoor stages take over the square, where people come to share their wares. The scent of traditional honey cookies and mulled wine permeates the air. Besides all the usual fare, the food here is to die for. Bread pizza baked in clay ovens, stuffed cabbage dishes, roasted goose thigh, pork knuckles, and grilled sausage (and more) all await those looking to experience some real Hungarian food on a Budapest food tour.
Several events take place through the course of the fair as well, including the special Lighting of the Candles on the Advent Wreath in the Magic Garden. Isn’t that just such a beautiful sentence?
12. The Frankfurt Christmas Market in Birmingham, UK
, is home to the largest German Christmas market outside of Germany, and it certainly does the tradition justice. The stalls here over a huge range of locally-crafted items such as decorative ironwork, woodcarvings, handmade handbags, toys, musical instruments, organic cosmetics, and more. Many handicrafts are imported from places like Africa, India, and South America, giving the entire fair a wonderful multicultural feel.
As with most markets, there’s also a great selection of local food and drink, including organic sausage and ale from the local microbreweries. You’ll also want to try some homemade chutneys and cheeses!
Where’s your favourite Christmas market?