Europe's 5 Most Enchanting Christmas Markets
The holiday spirit comes alive in Europe through the many festive outdoor Christmas markets that begin setting up as early as November. Here, visitors will find everything from traditional sweets to one-of-a-kind gifts, family friendly activities, and even visits with jolly old Saint Nick himself. While each market is special in its own way, set against a backdrop of dazzling lights and sparkling Christmas trees, these five are endlessly enchanting.
Christkindlesmarkt - Nuremberg, Germany
Germany is where the first Christmas market opened (in the 1400s!), meaning visitors here will have their pick of some of the world’s favorite shopping plazas. Head to Main Market Square to discover Nuremberg’s Christkindlesmarkt, one of the most popular, which dates back to the mid-16th century. Here, more than 180 market stands come together to create a magical atmosphere. Shop for handcrafted toys, teddy bears, music boxes, glass objects, and more special gifts. Warm up with famous Nuremberg grilled pork sausages, seasoned with flavorful spices like cardamom, ginger, and marjoram. Hop aboard the historic, horse-drawn stagecoach for a fun tour of the market while listening to live holiday music played on a golden horn. Guests waiting to board are kept warm by fluffy blankets.
Why It’s Enchanting: While children will have fun at any Christmas market, Nuremberg’s Christkindlesmarkt goes above and beyond with a dedicated section called the “Kinderweihnacht.” Located on Hans-Sachs-Platz, there are crafts, a two-tier carousel, steam train, mini Ferris wheel, and a variety of special programs just for children.
Old Town Square - Prague, Czech Republic
The brightly decorated wooden stalls — nestled amongst Prague’s beautiful centuries-old architecture — open for the season toward the end of November in Old Town Square near the Jan Hus Memorial. Grab a mug of hot mulled wine and make your way through the many vendors selling handmade items such as ornaments, embroidered lace, and jewelry. Sample freshly roasted ham, sausages, and spicy gingerbread. Carolers and school choirs perform daily on the open-air stage and a petting zoo provides entertainment for the little ones. When you’re ready for a change of scenery, the equally charming market at Wenceslas Square is within walking distance.
Why it’s Enchanting: Like many outdoor holiday celebrations, the Christmas tree lighting at Old Town Square is a top attraction. But unlike others, this towering tree — brought in from the Liberec region’s forests — plays host to a tree lighting ceremony EVERY afternoon.
Viennese Dream Christmas Market - Vienna, Austria
With Vienna’s spectacular Town Hall glowing brightly in the background, the Viennese Dream Christmas Market gets extra points for its beautiful atmosphere. Set in gorgeous Rathausplatz Square, this Christmas market is BIG, colorful, and lively. Be prepared to go there with enough time to experience it all. Sip some warm Gluhwein and discover treasures like hand-painted nutcrackers, fresh wreaths, and wooden puzzles. Embrace the wintry weather and take a spin around the outdoor ice-skating rink, lit up beneath the numerous, vibrant light displays.
Why it’s Enchanting: The excitement continues inside. The Town Hall has an area on the first floor just for the youngest market goers, with hands-on holiday programs such as candle making and Christmas cookie baking.
Hans Christian Andersen Christmas Market - Odense, Denmark
Held in the hometown of the world-renowned Danish writer, this Christmas market takes a heaping dose of his classic fairytale magic and sprinkles on a dash of seasonal whimsy. Located in the square near the author’s childhood home and museum, visitors will experience what the holiday season was like in the 19th century. The setting is authentic as it gets, and shoppers will find themselves surrounded by beautiful townhouses and half-timbered houses built long ago. Though this market is smaller in size, its offerings are just as grand as any of the bigger Christmas markets. Shop for porcelain tableware and knitted scarves, then watch wood workers craft holiday décor right before your eyes.
Why it’s Enchanting: The entertainment is inspired by Andersen’s fairytales. Jugglers, costumed characters, horse-drawn carriage rides, a carousel, and a goose parade are just some of the merriment visitors may encounter.
Trento Christmas Market - Trento, Italy
Beginning in November, the Italian city of Trento becomes known as Città del Natale, or “Christmas Town.” Located in Italy’s northernmost region, just south of the Dolomites, this Alpine town is rich with Austrian influences, old-world charm, and breathtaking views. The Christmas market is held in two public squares, Piazza Fiera and Piazza Cesare Battisti, where artists and merchants sell handmade gifts, holiday décor, and clothing from behind quaint wooden stalls. Trento’s shared Italian-Austrian heritage can be witnessed (and experienced!) in the many food and drink offerings at this Christmas market — from the traditional Panettone holiday cake to the fresh apple strudel.
Why it’s Enchanting: This Christmas market is also “green market.” Environmental sustainability has a strong presence and is emphasized through clean energy, local products, and eco-certified paper bags.
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