The Top Ten Christmas Markets around the World
Strasbourg — The ‟Capital of Christmas”
Known as the ‟Capital of Christmas” in France and attracting over two million visitors a year, the Strasbourg Christmas markets are sure to get you in the Christmas mood. The Christkindelsmärik in Place Brogilie is known to be the oldest Christmas market in France (founded in 1570). In the historic center of the town near the huge Gothic cathedral and in Place Brogilie you will find over 300 wooden chalets (little huts) selling decorative items, Alsatian pastries, mulled wine, and more. The market of Christmas Delights of Alsace is a wonderful display of the regions culinary traditions. Here you can try the famous Alsace wine, the foie gras, the bredle, as well as numerous Christmas specialties. The Strasbourg markets generally begin around the 24th November and end just before Christmas. If you decide to visit you are certainly in for a treat!
Prague — For The Best Views
A recent opinion poll by USA Today saw readers vote the Prague Christmas markets as the most beautiful in the world. Every year in the city, the sweet delicious scent of mulled wine and trdelník (Czech hot sugared pastry) spreads around the Prague castle, where you can explore the famous markets while being able to enjoy the stunning view of the city.
The main Christmas markets in Prague are in the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square. In the Old Town Square you will find an animals stable, equipped with sheep, goats, and a donkey, perfect for children. Traditional Czech food such as barbequed sausages (klobása) is served as well as the country’s best beers, Pilsner Urquell, Staropromen, and Budvar. The Prague markets start at the beginning of December and finish a few days into January.
Vienna — Christmas Spirit in Front of the Rathaus
Perhaps one of the oldest Christmas markets in the world, the market in Vienna dates back all the way to the Middle Ages in 1298. The unique charm of this market is enhanced by the glorious backdrop of the City Hall at Rathausplatz, inside which children can learn how to make Christmas candles and cookies. As well as this, there is a carousel and reindeer train for the little ones.
The Christmas Village is located outside of Belvedere Palace, one of the most important sights in Vienna. There are over 40 festively decorated stalls here, selling handcrafted gifts and a huge array of culinary specialties but the arts and crafts stalls are particularly well-loved. The ice rink in the center is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser too. Afterwards, a great spot to warm up is the Alpine log cabin Josefinenalm, where you can watch the candles be made by local craftsmen. The festive fun starts in the middle of November and ends just after Christmas day.
Bath — Street Food and Mince Pies
The Bath Christmas market is the largest in the UK, and with its picturesque Georgian streets, it really does create a magical festive scene. As a student at the University of Bath, I have visited this market numerous times and can verify that it is a must-do. Handmade products from local suppliers make up an impressive 99% of everything that is sold, so you will additionally be supporting small-business owners at the 200 chalets.
The Kingsmead Square Festive Street Food Market samples delicious international foods alongside live music and a glass of mulled wine, of course. At the Abbey Hotel, there is even an Après-Ski bar, which is the perfect cozy hideaway in the chilly weather — wooly blankets included! Have a taste of comforting British mince pies and soak up the Christmas ambience. Markets begin towards the end of November and close up in the middle of December.
Copenhagen — Stunning Light Shows and Cabaret
In Copenhagen, it is a tradition to hold the Christmas markets in the stunning Tivoli Gardens. There are thousands of fairy lights illuminating the lake, and there are now three special lights shows, too. Plenty of stalls, rides (of which there are 27), and games can be found inside the gardens, alongside the iconic music venue, the Glass Hall Theatre. The theatre allows you to watch the Christmas cabaret, with this years being entitled ‟Crazy Christmas Cabaret Is Planet Rump — The Farce Awakens” and performed in English.
The historic gardens are fully decorated with snow-covered trees, Christmas lights, Santa’s reindeer, and wooden houses. Meanwhile, there is also a market in Freetown Christiana, which resembles an oriental bazaar, and the Nyhavn harbor market, supposedly the coziest market in Copenhagen. If you want to experience a truly Nordic Christmas atmosphere, this is the place to come! The markets start in mid-November and finish at the end of December.
Vancouver — Christmas By The Harbor
Known as the ‟Yuletide Celebration” in Canada, the Vancouver Christmas market is held at the Jack Poole Plaza and boasts a 30 ft Christmas tree with over 36,000 lights. Since 2016, there has been an enclosed Alpine Haus tent, accommodating over 250 people all while offering spectacular views over the North Shore. You can enjoy European culinary Christmas specialties, with authentic Glühwein, Bratwurst, Gulasch, Spätzle, and more.
The Vancouver Christmas market is known to be one of the most authentic in the whole of North America. Moreover, since the market has gained more vendor space, there are now daily demonstrations of the Feuerzangenbowle (Fire Tongs Punch), which is a mixture of mulled wine and rum, the preparations for which involve the caramelizing of a sugar cone over the concoction. The markets run from late November to Christmas Eve.
Madrid — Markets in The Plaza
The Madrid Christmas markets are well-known for the quality and variety of their products. The Christmas market in Plaza Mayor has around 104 log cabins — offering Christmas products, such as nativity scene figures, and entertainment — all taking place in the most beautiful square in the city. This market in Plaza Mayor is 100 years old and is very popular with locals and tourists.
The Feria Dulces de Navidad is a market in front of Madrid’s Opera House, specializing in the sale of Christmas sweets and particularly turrón, a nougat-style block made from almonds. The main department store in Spain, El Corte Inglés, sets up a massive winter cabin on Plaza de Callo selling a range of Christmas accessories, all with the backdrop of the giant lit up Christmas tree. The markets are there between late November and late December.
New York — Celebrate Christmas in The Big Apple
The Bryant Park Winter Village has a reputation as the best place to go in the city to get into the Christmas mood. This is understandable as it has a 17,000 square foot ice skating rink (offering free ice-skating and skating lessons), over 150 shopping kiosks and food vendors. The ‟Tree Lighting Skate-tacular” sees fireworks emerging from the giant Christmas tree after performances from internationally-acclaimed professional ice skaters such as Johnny Weir, a two-time Olympian, and New York City big band Lapis Luna. At the observation deck, you can warm up while having a great view of the skating below. This market begins at the end of October and goes on until the beginning of January!
Budapest — Krampampuli By The Basilica
The biggest Christmas market in Budapest is held in St. Stephen’s Square by the Basilica. This market is especially known for its magical sparkling lights and is one of the most affordable Christmas markets in Europe, with free admission being to all events. Hungarian specialties such as lepény (flat bread), Sekler cake, and winter beverages like Krampampuli, which is made up of rum, orange, dried plum, and other tropical fruits then heated with white wine and tea, are all offered at the markets.
Every day at 18:00, there is the ‟light painting”, a stunning light show with a festive theme, which should not be missed. Plus, on Fridays and Saturdays there is the Folk Dance performance by the Göncöl Folk Ensemble, which is free to join and a perfect way to warm up in the cold weather. The markets are open between early November and late December.
Nuremberg — Meet the Christkindl
Germany has a deep-rooted tradition of Christmas markets and the Christkindlesmarkt (named for the Christ Child) in Nuremberg is arguably the country’s most famous market abroad. Every year, the market is opened with a reading of a Christ Child poem by an adolescent chosen by the city to represent the angel. You can even meet the Christkind (the angel), as it visits the market daily at 15:00.
As Nuremberg was the center of the spice trade, Lebkuchen (gingerbread) are extremely popular (and come with different coatings such as chocolate, sugar, and strawberry) as well as the tasty Stollen cake. Make sure to also get your helping of the famously delicious Nuremberg sausages! Zwetschgenmännla, which are edible souvenir figures with very detailed dried fruit decoration, are a known phenomenon at the Christkindlesmarkt. For example, the funny Prune Men are figurines of piano players, waiters, and football players made entirely of dried prunes and figs.
When the time comes to get your warming mug of mulled wine, you will be pleased to know that you can keep the special Christmas market mug (designed differently each year) as a souvenir. This market begins at the start of December and ends after Christmas day.