Five authentic Christmas Markets to Visit in Europe


Imagine... the sweet scent of freshly baked gingerbread and roasted chestnuts wafts through the crisp evening air; twinkling lights glimmer off festive market stalls where local vendors sell handcrafted goods. As carols bounce along the cobblestone roads, magnificent cathedrals, monuments and medieval villages create the most memorable of backdrops. While this may sound like a scene from a yuletide carol, this is a typical evening at a European Christmas Market.
Since the late Middle Ages, Christmas Markets have appeared in town squares and city centres across Europe. In recent years, they've grown into a cultural phenomena, attracting thousands of seasonal visitors to a growing list of vendors, attractions and elaborate decorative displays. Still, to the delight of the contemporary traveller, many of these Christmas Markets maintain a traditional atmosphere that hearken back to the Europe of old. 

Have you ever thought about spending your holiday uncovering the sights, sounds and flavours of  Europe? If so, here is our list of the five most authentic Christmas Markets worth exploring in some of the best European cities to visit at Christmastime.

Christkindlesmarkt, Nuremberg, Germany

 

Dating back to the 16th century, the Christmas Market in Nuremberg's Main Market Square is one of Germany's oldest. Now one of Europe's most popular Christmas Markets, every year its quintessential wooden stalls are erected and filled with hundreds of vendors selling handmade gifts, decorations and other crafts. You won't find many large retailers here, as the majority of the market is focused on regional handiwork, Bavarian cuisine and local traditions. Of them, is the Christkind, a small blonde angel believed to bring presents to local children during the holiday. You'll find representations of her displayed throughout the city, but you might also come across the annually elected real-life Christkind making their way around and appearing at the market's ceremonies 

Christkindesmäkir, Strasbourg, France


The pride of Alsace, Strasbourg's Christmas Market is a truly remarkable experience. With ten locations throughout the city, visiting this market means exploring the whole of Strasbourg and thus a wealth of historical sites and cultural wonders. Make your way through its narrow cobblestone streets, past traditional Alsatian half-timbered houses before coming across the Great Christmas Tree. Standing a minimum of 30 metres tall, with over seven kilometres of twinkling fairy lights, this enchanting display is sure to amaze and give credence to Strasbourg's title as the Capital of Christmas.

Wiener Weihnachtstraum, Vienna, Austria


As you make your way along the Austrian capital's famous boulevard, the Ringstrasse, you'll quickly realize why this market's name translates to 'Viennese Christmas Dream'. Adorned in festive grandeur, wander its many stalls of locally made goods and Viennese treats. Delight as outdoor brass bands play, choirs sing and traditional sleigh rides pass by before making your way to the wonderfully decorated outdoor skating rink. Alternatively, ride the Ferris wheel and view all the twinkling lights and festive wonder from above.

Cathedral Christmas Market, Cologne, Germany


With one Europe's most beautiful and historical landmarks serving as its backdrop, few Christmas Markets as awe-striking as Cologne's. Marvel at the stunning facade of the breathtaking Cologne Cathedral as you move from one handicraft stall to the next. Be sure to try a slice of authentic Christmas bread, Christollen, as you peruse this ancient city's Old Town with a warm glass of Glühwein in hand. Prost!

Marché de Noel, Avignon, France

 
Home to its own unique and enchanting traditions, Christmastime in Southern France makes for a truly special holiday getaway. With its Papal history and medieval architecture, Avignon sets the scene for a winter fairy tale perfectly. Keep an eye out for elaborate crèche scenes lining the streets and filling storefront windows this time of year. While these nativity decorations reflect Provence's deep Catholic roots, you may also come across a number of bonfires and candles being lit throughout the city—a custom dating back to ancient pagan winter festivals. Of course, no trip would be complete without indulging in this region's renowned cuisine, with the traditional Provençal desserts and French mulled wine sure to be a highlight.

Discover the Christmas Markets of Europe

 
Looking to embark on a one-of-a-kind Christmastime adventure? A joyful treat for all the senses, a Christmas Market river cruise along Europe's timeless waterways is the perfect way to stoke your yuletide cheer. From the South of France, to Germany and Austria, take in the continent's many cultural wonders and historic gems as you journey from one historic Christmas Market to the next.