Holidays & Celebrations

The best Christmas markets in Europe in 2023

Get ready to grab a mug of Glühwein and explore the most beautiful Christmas markets in Europe this festive season.

Christmas markets
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Updated 15-5-2024

When the festive season arrives, a magical atmosphere grips Europe as an array of beautiful Christmas markets set up shop in the continent’s largest cities. Locals and tourists alike flock to these cozy settings to sip on Glühwein and browse numerous chalets filled with handmade gifts and trinkets.

With so many Christmas markets to choose from, however, knowing which to visit can feel overwhelming. So, to help you narrow down your options, here are the most stunning Christmas markets in Europe to get you in the festive spirit.

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The best Christmas markets in Germany

Germany is famous for its iconic Christmas markets (or Weihnachtsmärkte) which first appeared in the German-speaking areas of Europe in the late Middle Ages. You can find one in pretty much every town and city across the country in the run-up to Christmas, but here are some of the more well-known ones.

Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt (Nuremberg)

A roundup of the best Christmas markets in Europe wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg.

Dating all the way back to the 16th century, this is one of the oldest festive markets in the world. It is also unique in that it centers on the biblical figure of the Christkind.

Nuremberg Christmas market

Every year, more than two million visitors descend upon the city’s central square, the Hauptmarkt, to browse almost 200 wooden stalls.

Among the gifts and goodies on offer are traditional handcrafted wooden ornaments – such as the Christmas angel, Prune Men (Zwetschgenmännle), and nutcrackers – which Nuremberg is famous for.

Visitors will also discover an array of delicious local treats such as sweet gingerbread (Lebkuchen) and original Nürnberger Bratwurst, to keep them full as they shop.

1 December – 24 December 2023

Dresdner Striezelmarkt (Dresden)

Dating all the way back to 1434, Dresden’s Striezelmarkt is considered to be the first genuine Christmas market in the world.

Each year, millions of shoppers visit the market to sample traditional Saxon delicacies such as fruit and marzipan-infused Striezel (or Stollen) cake – the market’s namesake.

Dresden Christmas market

They can also browse more than 230 stands in the historic square and enjoy a range of music performances throughout the season. The market is also home to the world’s tallest Christmas pyramid which stands at 14 meters high.

The real highlight, however, is Stollenfest, which sees Dresden’s top bakers parade through the city alongside a horse-drawn wagon carrying an enormous two-tonne loaf of the famous cake. Of course, experiencing this iconic event wouldn’t be complete without sampling a slice!

29 November – 24 December 2023

Weihnachtsmarkt am Kölner Dom (Cologne)

Set against the backdrop of the towering Gothic Kölner Dom, Cologne’s stunning Christmas market is a huge draw for those in search of the most atmospheric Weihnachtsmärkte.

More than 150 quaintly designed huts (or buden) set up shop in front of the monumental cathedral at the Weihnachtsmarkt am Kölner Dom.

Cologne Christmas market

As well as hunting for unique and beautiful gifts, visitors can watch numerous artisans at work, including glassblowers, embroiderers, and airbrush teams.

In addition to the main market on Cathedral Square, there are six specially-themed ones to explore, including an Angel Market, a Harbor Market, and an LGBTQ-friendly Christmas Avenue. Needless to say, there is plenty to keep everyone happy.

23 November – 23 December 2023

The best Christmas markets in Belgium

Once the festive season arrives, Belgium’s biggest cities transform into winter wonderlands as the country’s popular Christmas markets arrive. Here are the ones not to miss.

Winter Glow (Bruges)

Imagine soaring medieval towers and idyllic canals covered with a blanket of ivory snow and streams of fairy lights. Well, this is the majestic scene you can expect to see as Bruges ups its charm during its annual Winter Glow festival.

A variety of handmade gifts and traditional festive food and drink are available to buy at the two Christmas markets in the Grote Markt and Simon Stevinplein.

Bruges Christmas market

Aside from shopping, visitors can also take a spin on an outdoor ice rink, sip on Glühwein at the cozy Vorst Winter Bar, and enjoy a range of festive concerts throughout December.

Highlights for 2023 include a new Light Experience Trail which sees a series of eight installations illuminate the city as darkness falls, and a chilly Christmas dive on 23 December.

Whatever you choose to see, though, Bruges certainly won’t fail to deliver its annual dose of gezelligheid this festive season.

24 November 2023 – 7 January 2024

Winter Wonders (Brussels)

Christmas in Brussels seems to grow bigger every year, earning the city a well-deserved spot on our list of the best markets to visit.

During the festive season, traffic comes to a stop along the two-kilometer expanse from Grand-Place/Grote Markt to Place Sainte-Catherine/Sint-Katelijneplein.

Brussels Christmas market

In its place are throngs of holidaymakers buzzing around the popular Plaisirs d’hiver (Winter Wonders) market. Locals and tourists alike come to browse around 250 wooden stalls scattered across the center.

In addition to selling a huge range of arts, crafts, and handmade gifts, the market takes the opportunity to flaunt the city’s diverse pan-European cuisine.

Visitors can also glide across a huge skating rink, hop on the giant Ferris wheel at Place Sainte-Catherine, and enjoy a range of exciting new attractions, including a Secret Garden and magic swings.

24 November – 31 December 2023

The best Christmas markets in the Netherlands

In addition to hosting numerous holiday events throughout the festive season, there are several major Christmas markets in the Netherlands that transform the country’s cities into picturesque scenes.

Amsterdam Ice Village

Amsterdam hosts several Christmas markets that are sure to warm you up during the cold winter months. However, the biggest is located in the capital’s famous Museumplein.

Each year, the sprawling square transforms into a winter wonderland as the Ice Village comes to town. Visitors can explore more than 45 market stalls selling a variety of locally-made gifts and tuck into a range of traditional Dutch treats such as oliebollen or poffertjes.

People ice skating on a rink outside the Rijksmuseum in the Netherlands
Photo: pidjoe/Getty Images

They can also skate across a huge outdoor ice rink before warming up with a hot chocolate or Glühwein at one of the bars around the edge.

Meanwhile, the popular one-day Funky Xmas Market at Westergasfabriek offers a less touristy setting. Here shoppers can pick up homemade crafts, local art, music, and more.

If you happen to be in Amsterdam during the festive season, be sure to catch the annual Amsterdam Light Festival which sees a series of magnificent light installations pop up across the city.

13 December – 26 December 2023

Christmas Town Valkenburg

The small town of Valkenburg in Limburg certainly knows how to celebrate Christmas. In fact, you might say that it is its specialty as it marks the occasion with 51 days of festivities.

From mid-November to early January, Valkenburg quite literally transforms into Christmas Town where residents and tourists can enjoy numerous festive attractions, rides, parades, and theater performances.

Valkenburg Christmas market

What really makes it special, though, is its one-of-a-kind underground Christmas market which takes place inside a vast cave system.

Located within the Municipal Cave and Velvet Cave, this is the largest underground Christmas market in Europe and adds an atmospheric twist to traditional festive shopping. Visitors are invited to explore a labyrinth of stalls scattered along the illuminated marlstone corridors.

Meanwhile, the Wilhelmina Cave houses figures depicting the Christmas story, allowing guests to reconnect with the spiritual side of the holiday.

17 November 2023 – 7 January 2024 

The best Christmas markets in France

Although Christmas markets are not exclusively a French tradition, they are still very popular throughout the country as people begin to celebrate Christmas in France.

Strasbourg Christmas Market

Strasbourg is home to some of the oldest Christmas markets in France and arguably some of the most picturesque in Europe. 

During the festive season, the city is taken over by around a dozen markets that spread out across the historic center, on the Grande Île.

Strasbourg Christmas market

Known as Les Marchés de Noël de Strasbourg, these provide magical settings in which to shop for gifts and socialize with friends.

The most famous, however, is Christkindelsmärik which takes place in front of Strasbourg Cathedral. This is also the oldest market in the city and dates back to 1570. More than 300 wooden chalets exhibiting traditional Alsatian specialties can be found here.

Meanwhile, on Place Kléber, a majestic 30-metre-high Christmas tree adorned with thousands of twinkling lights provides an enchanting backdrop for photos.

24 November – 24 December 2023

Lille Christmas Market

Food is a key feature of Christmas markets in France. However, it is the star of the show at Lille’s Christmas market.

The irresistible aroma of cinnamon, gingerbread, and roasted chestnuts fills the air in the Place Rihour where more than 80 decorated chalets set up shop during the festive season.

Lille Christmas market

Food lovers can also savor a range of regional delights such as macarons, Maroilles cheese, and Babelutte candy while shopping for traditional toys, decorations, and specialties from Germany, Canada, and Poland.

They can also hop on a 50-meter-high Big Wheel and lap up majestic views of the city and snow-covered village below.

If you get the chance, make sure to check out the beautifully decorated shop windows along the streets of the Vieux Lille, too.

22 November – 31 December 2023

The best Christmas markets in Switzerland

If you want to make the most out of celebrating Christmas in Switzerland, then make sure to check out these popular festive markets.

Basel Christmas Market

Basel’s Christmas market is considered to be one of the prettiest in Switzerland. It was also voted the ‘Best Christmas Market in Europe’ in 2021 and for good reason.

During this time, the streets of the historic old town are bathed in a sea of golden light and bordered by a hundred towering pine trees, offering an enchanting ambiance.

View over the Christmas market at the Bafüssplatz in Basel at dusk
Photo: Juergen Sack/Getty Images

This is made all the more magical by a beautifully decorated Christmas tree that forms the centerpiece of Münsterplatz.

Aside from browsing 150 chalets in Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz, visitors can sample an array of local delicacies in Adväntsgass im Glaibasel (Advent’s passage). Swiss raclette, waffles, and genuine Basel Läckerli (gingerbread) are just some of the delights on offer that showcase Basel’s diverse cuisine.

There are also numerous events in Basel during the festive season, including concerts, theatre shows, and exhibitions.

23 November – 23 December 2023

Montreux Noël 

Sprawling along the shores of Lake Geneva against a breathtaking backdrop of the Swiss Alps, Montreux Noël is undoubtedly one of the most picturesque Christmas markets in Europe.

It is also one of the most magical, thanks to its famous flying Santa Claus attraction which sees him dash across the sky, over the busy Market Square (Place du Marché), every evening.

Santa flying his sleigh over the busy Christmas market at Montreux Noël 
Santa flies over shoppers at Montreux Noël (Photo: Montreux Noël official website)

Notably, visitors can also hop on a cog train to the top of Rochers-de-Naye mountain and visit Santa in his house.

Shoppers, meanwhile, can hunt for treasures within the beautifully decorated Covered Market and tuck into a variety of festive bites at the popular food corner.

Those looking to lap up stunning views of the lake and mountains, on the other hand, can do so from the top of the Ferris wheel in Market Square.

There is plenty to entertain little ones too, including a workshop that invites them to create their own colorful candles. Needless to say, there is something for everyone at this popular Christmas market.

23 November – 24 December 2023

The best Christmas markets in Spain

Spain might not be the first country that springs to mind when you think of the best Christmas markets in Europe, but believe it or not, the sunny destination has plenty of them.

Fira de Santa Llúcia (Barcelona)

Located in front of Barcelona Cathedral in the city’s Gothic Quarter, Fira de Santa Llúcia is one of the biggest Christmas markets in Europe.

It also prides itself on being the oldest fair that revolves around the nativity scene. As a result, you can expect to find numerous Biblical displays among the 300 stalls.

A "caganer" stall at the Fira de Santa Llucia in Barcelona
Photo: ioanna_alexa

Take a closer look, however, and you may notice something a little strange about baby Jesus’s birth as the infamous caganer (crapper) makes an appearance.

This curiously crude figure, which depicts a defecating man or woman dressed in traditional Catalonian clothing, is intrinsic to Catalan culture, and a particular source of amusement – or offence – during the festive season. So don’t be surprised if you spot a little man squatting in the corner of Jesus’s crib with his pants around his ankles!

Walk around the market and you will also spot Caga Tió, a giant log that poops presents when beaten with a stick.

Oddities aside, the market is filled to the brim with goodies such as decorations, candles, plants, clothing, and even musical instruments. Those less keen on shopping, however, might prefer to enjoy a range of entertainment and activities including parades, traditional dancing, and music performances.

25 November – 23rd December 2023 

Mercado Navideño Plaza Mayor de Madrid

Each year as Christmas approaches, Spain’s capital hosts its grandest market, Mercado Navideño Plaza Mayor de Madrid.

More than a hundred log cabins laden with nativity scene figurines, Christmas ornaments, toys, and joke gifts fill the city’s main square, Plaza Mayor. Meanwhile, a brightly lit carousel brings a touch of magic to the historic center.

Madrid Christmas market

During this time, the streets of the city are illuminated with thousands of lights and creative installations as the different neighborhoods take part in the Madrid Christmas Lights Festival. Often dubbed a ‘light fashion show’, this is a truly spectacular sight to behold.

Another great spot to enjoy Madrid’s Christmas lights is on Plaza Isabel II, which becomes a sweet tooth heaven during the festive season. Here, visitors can delve into a treasure trove of delicious sweets and desserts in front of the majestic Royal Opera House.

A brightly lit Christmas tree and an array of colorful lights create the perfect setting in which to enjoy turrón, glacé fruit, mantecados, and other local delicacies.

Given its impressive size and popularity, it is hardly surprising that Madrid’s Christmas market gets extremely busy during the weekends. Therefore, it might be worth visiting on a weekday or early in the evening when the atmosphere is more relaxed.

25 November – 31 December 2023

The best Christmas markets in the UK

The German Christmas market craze has certainly taken off in the UK. Indeed, each year, the country’s main cities strive to recreate the magical atmosphere that originated at the Weihnachtsmärkte.

Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas Market

In honor of one of Germany’s oldest and biggest Christmas markets, Birmingham’s annual Frankfurt Christmas Market offers an authentic slice of German festive fun. In fact, it prides itself on being the ‘largest authentic German Christmas market outside of Germany or Austria’.

During this time, residents and visitors from across the UK and Europe descend upon Victoria Square and New Street to browse a range of traditional crafts and gifts and sample Germany’s finest food.

Birmingham's Frankfurt Christmas Market at Chamberlain square at dusk
Photo: Allan Baxter/Getty Images

Pretzels, schnitzels, bratwursts, and Stollen are just some of the delights they can wash down with a cup of Glühwein, Weißbier (wheat beer), or hot chocolate.

Meanwhile, a program of live music keeps the crowds entertained at Victoria Square and a Big Wheel and ice rink in Centenary Square provides plenty of family fun.

While you’re at the market, be sure to look out for Birmingham’s singing Christmas Moose (Chris Moose) who has become somewhat of a legend in his own right.

2 November – 24 December 2023

Edinburgh Christmas Market

Scotland’s capital certainly pulls out all the stops when the festive season arrives, hosting a range of seasonal attractions throughout the historic center.

During this time, around 70 stalls set up shop in East Princes Street Gardens, against a majestic backdrop of Edinburgh Castle and the city’s iconic skyline.

Edinburgh Christmas market

Visitors can browse an array of handmade gifts and artisan products while tucking into a variety of delicious European and Scottish snacks. They can also enjoy several funfair rides including the popular Big Wheel, Starflyer, and Helter Skelter in this location.

Little ones, meanwhile, might prefer to head over to West Princes Street Gardens where they can explore a children’s market and enjoy a range of funfair rides and family-friendly attractions. Alternatively, they can meet Santa at St Andrew Square or skate on an alpine ice rink on George Street.

Notably, George Street also hosts Light Night, one of the major Christmas light installations and shows in the city, which is well worth watching. With so many things to do and see, however, you might want to plan your day out ahead of time.

17 November 2023 – 6 January 2024