There’s something truly magical about Christmas markets — especially when they’re located in a picture-perfect old town of a European city. If you’re thinking of checking one out this year (and you really should be!), read on and get the lowdown on 8 of the most unmissable.
1. Get festive in Budapest
Budapest’s biggest Christmas market is held in the gorgeously renovated Vörösmarty Square, just minutes from the Danube. Running from November 9 to January 1, it’s the perfect place to pick up local handicrafts as well as sample a delicious dish or two. Make sure to try töki pompos (Hungarian-style pizza). When you’re not exploring the market, unwind in the Széchenyi Baths and enjoy a classical concert at St. Stephen’s Basilica.
2. Step back in time in Dresden
If you’re looking for a traditional Christmas market, look no further than Dresden’s Striezelmarkt, which is the oldest in Germany. The 600-year old market is an enchanting experience, especially in the center where you’ll find a huge wooden arch with twirling figures and candles. End your visit with a tour of the city’s iconic Semperoper, one of the world’s most spectacular opera houses.
3. Experience Strasbourg’s iconic market
As the oldest Christmas market in the world, the Strasbourg Christkindelsmärik will definitely get you into the holiday spirit. You’ll find hundreds of stalls spread across the city center, which turns into a winter wonderland from November 24 to December 24. Find out more about this quintessential Christmas destination with a tour of the famous market. No trip to Strasbourg is complete without visiting the picture-perfect town of Colmar, which is ready-made for wine lovers.
4. Visit Vienna’s winter wonderland
From the Christmas village at Belvedere Palace to the Christmas market by the sumptuous city hall, Vienna is brimming with festivities. Grab a mug of gluhwein in one hand and a buttery pastry in the other and listen to international choirs perform across the city. Because you can never get enough of good pastries or classical music, enjoy a mouth watering strudel tasting at Schönbrunn Palace and a world-famous Four Seasons concert at Karlskirche.
5. Be a big kid in Bruges
Indulge all your childhood dreams at the Christmas markets in Bruges. Ride in a horse-drawn carriage along cobbled streets and admire the festive decorations as you snack on waffles and Belgian chocolate. If you haven’t had enough of this charming town, take a walking tour to discover its hidden gems before washing down the day’s sweets on a beer tasting tour.
6. Go traditional in Krakow
For a truly enchanting experience, visit Krakow’s Christmas market, which you’ll find in the heart of the Old Town. Meander through its wooden stalls and stock up on beautiful handmade gifts such as Christmas wreaths, baubles, and candles. Be sure to enjoy a hot beer, which is both a Polish specialty and very Harry Potteresque! You’ll also find an array of smoked cheeses and grilled meats. If these specialties excite your taste buds, head on a Polish food tour to indulge in more local goodies. To top off your trip, visit the unique Wieliczka Salt Mine and explore a one-of-a-kind underground world.
7. Shop ’til you drop in Prague
Prague’s Old Town Square hosts the city’s biggest and best Christmas market. Head to the top of the Old Town Hall’s tower and admire the market from above. From here, you’ll also spot other Christmas markets that are held around town. You’re really spoilt for choice in the Czech capital. After buying your fill of souvenirs, replenish your energy with a quirky medieval dinner. Then, give an escape game a try before a food coma sets in!
8. Explore Stockholm’s fairytale market
What better way to welcome the holiday spirit than by huddling around the cute wooden stalls of Stockholm’s Christmas market? Nibble on gingerbread, try reindeer and elk meat, and wash it down with some glögg (mulled wine). Then head out on a full-blown Christmas spirit walking tour. Top your trip off with a visit to the ABBA museum and dance along to your favorite hits!