There are few better ways to get oneself in the Christmas spirit than by visiting one of the best European Christmas markets. The markets have become a popular phenomenon over the years.
What was once confined to certain European countries have now started popping up around the world. Nowadays, no one needs to travel too far to find some kind of Christmas market.
However, as with all popular attractions, there are just as many terrible, knock-off Christmas markets as great ones. With that in mind, we’ve picked out a few of the world’s best European Christmas markets to travel to. We’ve tried to pick markets which represent their own country’s traditional Christmas markets, rather than imitations.
The best European Christmas markets in the world
Liseberg Christmas Market – Gothenburg, Sweden
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Dates: 17-19, 24-26 and 30 November, and 1-3, 5-10, 12-23 and 26 to 30 December
Sweden’s biggest Christmas market has tonnes on offer for visitors. Travelers will find streets covered in decorations, carol singers at all hours, and mulled wine (known as glog) on sale at every corner. Set amongst a major theme park, there are also rides to keep everyone entertained. Guests will also find all the traditional Swedish Christmas foods on sale such as smoked sausage, herring, and smoked salmon! In addition, people love to dress up to visit Liseberg market, so it’s a bit like a Christmas version of Comic Con in a sense.
The Old Town Market – Stockholm, Sweden
Dates: 19 November – 21 December
Dating all the way back to 1837, this market has got some serious pedigree. One of the major attractions of this market is the ‘Living Advent Calendar’. This one sees people popping their heads out of wooden doors to entertain and delight visitors. The old town setting is the perfect way to feel like you really have traveled back in time to visit the Christmases of the past.
Sigtuna market – Sigtuna, Sweden
Dates: 26 November, 3, 10 and 17 December
While the market in the old town of Stockholm dates back a fair way, that’s nothing compared to the town of Sigtuna about half an hour from the city. Said to be Sweden’s oldest town, it was allegedly founded in 980. Tourists can find all the Christmas market classics like food and crafts in this picturesque medieval town. In addition, there are dozens of delightful local cafes and restaurants.
Tivoli Gardens Market – Copenhagen, Denmark
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Dates: 18 October – 31 December
For fans of Denmark’s most famous writer, Hans Christian Anderson, this market is a must-visit. You’ll find actors performing scenes from the writer’s classic works and even one person playing the man himself who you can pose with for pictures. Tivoli also plays host to more fairy lights than you can possibly imagine, real reindeers, and of course, the market itself. Probably the biggest and best Christmas market of the lot, this one is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Den Gamle market – Aarhus, Denmark
Dates: Mid-November – 23 December
Usually this one is an open-air museum but in the winter months it transforms in a living historcial reenactment of Denmark’s past. Visitors can buy sweets and traditional Danish gifts from the many old-fashioned shops that spring to life.
Spikersuppa – Oslo, Norway
Dates: 26 November – 22 December
Oslo’s main Christmas market, Spikersuppa, this one is all tightly clustered around an ice skating rink. There’s plenty of the usual stalls, but the ice-skating is really what people come for.
Am Dom market – Cologne, Germany
Dates: 26 November – 23 December
Cologne Cathedral is a seriously impressive sight to behold. It’s the largest in Germany, so big that it’s basically impossible to get far enough back from it to get a good photo of the whole thing. In the huge square beneath is one of Germany’s biggest and best Christmas markets. It’s also home to the biggest Christmas tree on the Rhine, so it’s definitely worth a look!
Frankfurt Christmas market – Frankfurt, Germany
Dates: 27 November – 22 December
Having been running since 1393, the Frankfurt Christmas market is definitely doing something right. Whether it’s the scenic surroundings on the Römerberg and St Paul’s Square and the huge Christmas tree or just the huge selection of stalls selling traditional German Christmas fare, there’s plenty to enjoy at this market.
Stuttgart market – Stuttgart, Germany
Dates: 28 November – 23 December
Often considered one of Europe’s most beautiful Christmas markets, Stuttgart market is well worth visiting. Beneath the beautiful Old Palace, the location is perfect for history buffs. Plus, there are plenty of other local markets nearby to visit while you’re in town. Only 20km away are the famous Ludwigsburg and Esslingen Christmas markets.
Helsinki Christmas market – Helsinki, Finland
Dates: 2 – 22 December
Another classic trip for those looking for a bit of nostalgic fun. This entire market surrounds a merry-go-round and children will be able to enjoy daily visits from Father Christmas. As per usual, there are over 100 stalls selling local products, ornaments, foods, and drinks.
Christkindelsmarik – Strasbourg, France
Dates: 24 November – 30 December
The oldest Christmas market in all of France and definitely one of the best. While most Christmas markets are about the food, this one really focuses on arts and crafts or Christmas decorations. That specialisation means that this really is the one to go to for beautiful, unique gifts that you won’t find elsewhere.
Fira De Santa Lucia – Barcelona, Spain
Dates: 24 November – 23 December
If you want something a bit different from the usual Northern European Christmas market, this one is perfect. In Spain, Christmas is celebrated quite differently to elsewhere in Europe. For a start, it is the three wise men who deliver gifts to the children, not Father Christmas. Alternatively, there’s also the traditional Tió de Nadal. This is a hollow log that children must care for and feed throughout December so that he will… umm… defecate presents.
Also, rather than finding thick stodgy cakes, Spanish markets sell freshly made churros with chocolate, candied fruits, caramelized nuts, turrón Christmas chocolate, polvorone Christmas cookies, and marzipans. The biggest and best of these markets is the Fira De Santa Lucia in Barcelona. You’ll find everything that makes up a Spanish Christmas, and you might even be able to take a Tió de Nadal home too!
Lincoln Christmas market – Lincoln, United Kingdom
Dates: 7-10 December
Blink and you’ll miss this tiny little Christmas market in Lincoln. Still, it would be a tremendous shame if one did. The tiny Christmas market began back in 1982 with just 11 stalls and now it really is one of the best of British Christmas markets. Visitors will find all kinds of artisans from food to crafts, mostly locally produced too.
Manchester Christmas Markets – Manchester, United Kingdom
Dates: 10 November – 21 December
To be fair, this one is one of the imitation ones we said we would avoid. However, it’s one of the largest and most popular Christmas markets in the UK, featuring over 300 stalls. Different parts of the city have markets with different themes including French, German, and World.