Home Lifestyle Holidays & Celebrations Christmas markets in Europe: an expat’s guide to the best
Last update on 27/01/2023

‘Tis the season for carols, Santa, mulled wine, and Christmas markets across Europe. Visit some of the best Christmas markets this holiday season.

When Christmas arrives, an incomparable atmosphere grips Europe – one that you will experience only in the continent. People flock after work to spend time at Christmas markets in Europe. Locals warm up with glühwein while listening to the strains of Silent Night in the background, or sort through mounds of specially crafted goods.

The more adventurous even travel afar to see the best European cities at Christmas to soak up the seasonal atmosphere. But with the abundance of markets to choose from, which ones should you visit? Get into the festive spirit and head to the best Christmas markets in Europe.

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Best Christmas markets in Germany

German Christmas markets are famous the world over, and it’s no wonder – you can find one in pretty much every town.

Nuremberg (Nürnberg)

Any list of the best Christmas markets in Europe is not complete without Germany’s Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg. Dating back to the 1600s, the market, which is hosted yearly on the city’s Hauptmarkt, becomes filled to the brim with stalls.

Nuremberg Christmas market

These stalls showcase the handcrafted wooden ornaments Nuremberg is famous for such as the Christmas angel, Prune Men (Zwetschgenmännle), and nutcrackers. Once you’re exhausted from all the shopping, feast on other local specialties like sweet gingerbread (Lebkuchen) and the thin original Nürnberger bratwurst.


Dresden’s Striezelmarkt is, in fact, one of the oldest Christmas markets in Germany.

Dresden Christmas market

Since 1434, millions of shoppers have visited this market near the Elbe River to sample traditional Saxon delicacies like the fruit and marzipan-infused Striezel cake – the market’s namesake – and glimpse the world’s tallest Christmas pyramid and nutcracker.

Cologne (Köln)

Set with the backdrop of the towering Gothic Kölner Dom, Cologne‘s stunning market is a huge draw for people in search of the perfect photo op and unique market finds.

Cologne Christmas market

The Am Dom Christmas market will be awash in bright fairy lights and the wafting aroma of delicious cinnamon mulled wine as over 160 quaintly designed huts (or buden) set up shop in front of the monumental cathedral. After exploring the main market, head over to six of Cologne’s specially themed markets. Specialty markets include an Angel Market, a Harbor Market, as well as an LGBTQ-friendly Christmas Avenue.

Best Christmas markets in Belgium

Below are three popular Belgian Christmas markets.

Bruges (Brugge)

Imagine soaring medieval towers and idyllic canals covered with a blanket of ivory snow as well as streams of fairy lights all over – Bruges ups its charm as one of the best European cities at Christmas.

Bruges Christmas market

The fairy-tale medieval town is not one to miss for its sheer winter charm. The Brugge Christmas market never fails to deliver its yearly dose of gezelligheid with its whimsical stalls, ice skating rink, and packed cultural program for the season featuring a snow and ice sculpture festival, winter hikes, parades, and live concerts.


Christmas in Brussels seems to grow bigger every year, earning the city a place on our list.

Brussels Christmas market

Car traffic in the capital city stops along the two-kilometer expanse from Grand-Place/Grote Markt to Place Sainte-Catherine/Sint-Katelijneplein to be replaced with throngs of holidaymakers buzzing around its Plaisirs d’hiver (Winter Wonders) market. Over 240 market stalls – along with a gigantic skating rink, toboggan slope, and a cavalcade of lights – will be stationed in the city center. The markets offer arts, crafts, foods, as well as drinks that flaunt the city’s diverse pan-European tastes.

Best Christmas markets in the Netherlands

The main Dutch cities hold various holiday events and Christmas markets in the Netherlands.


In the small town of Valkenburg in Limburg, Christmas is their specialty.

Valkenburg Christmas market
Entrance to a Christmas market cave in Valkenburg, the Netherlands (Photo: Chris Friese/Flickr)

Set in a one-of-a-kind underground setting inside a vast cave system, the Valkenburg Christmas market is among the best Christmas markets in Europe. Head to the Gemeentegrot and Fluweelengrot caves to discover stalls offering Dutch specialties in an intimate setting.

Best Christmas markets in France

Get ready to enjoy Christmas in France with these festive markets.


Strasbourg is home to one of the oldest and best Christmas markets in France.

Strasbourg Christmas market

The Strasbourg Christkindelsmärik crowds the gothic Place de la Cathédrale with 300 stalls exhibiting traditional Alsatian specialties.


It’s no secret that people go to Christmas markets for the food and food is no doubt the star in Lille’s market.

Lille Christmas market

Gourmands can savor regional delights from macarons, Maroilles cheese to babeluttes. Visitors can do this all while sipping vin chaud in this popular Christmas market.

Best European Christmas markets in Switzerland

If you want to get the most out of Advent and Christmas in Switzerland, don’t miss these merry markets.


Located at the meeting point of Switzerland, France, and Germany, Basel has diverse influences on its architecture and culture.

Basel Christmas market

During the winter, Basel’s famous Christmas market puts these influences all on display. The market is situated in the heart of the city at Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz. It hosts over 180 traders and artisans offering their goods for sale in small, rustic wooden chalets. Swiss cuisine abound in Basel’s Christmas market from the Basel Läckerli gingerbread to the cheesy raclette. Culinary offerings from Basel’s German and French neighbors are also widely available.


A Christmas market with a view of the Swiss Alps from the banks of Lake Geneva, the Montreux Christmas market has it all.

Montreux Christmas market

One of the most picturesque and best markets in Europe, Montreux opens it shores to 150 exhibiting chalets and half a million visitors from 21 November to 24 December 2019. If you have yet to satisfy your fill of traditional Swiss Christmas activities, hop on a cog train to visit Santa in his house at Rochers-de-Naye. You can also drive to the nearby Christmas village in Caux for more shopping.

Best Christmas markets in Spain

Read about Christmas holidays in Spain for everything you need to know about celebrating a Spanish Christmas. These Spanish Christmas markets are bound to get you in the festive mood.


Madrid‘s Plaza Mayor is the place to be during Christmas season; Plaza Mayor transforms into the annual home of the city’s grandest market.

Madrid Christmas market

The main square overflows from 23 November 2019 to 6 January 2020. Plaza Mayor hosts around 100 small log cabins laden with nativity figurines, Christmas ornaments, toys, and food. After hours of shopping at the Madrid Christmas market, marvel at the canopy of colorful Christmas lights decorating the streets on your way to Plaza Isabel II, which also becomes sweet tooth heaven every winter where an overwhelming selection of Christmas desserts like turrón, marzipan, glacé fruit, mantecados, and the seasonal roscón de Reyes are on offer.


230 years since its inception, Barcelona’s Fira de Santa Llúcia is still a spectacle to behold. One of Europe’s largest Christmas markets, the fira hosts around 300 stalls. The market bursts with holiday fares and oddities found only in Catalonia. The market opens from 30 November to 23 December 2019.

Barcelona Christmas market

Amidst nativity scenes displayed across the market, you will find a curiously crude figurine infamously known as the caganer (crapper). The small figure depicts a man or woman wearing traditional Catalonian clothing in the act of defecating. Walk around the market and you will also undoubtedly spot a caga tió. The tió is a poo-related Christmas staple in the form of a giant log pooping presents if beaten viciously enough.

Best Christmas markets in the UK


Edinburgh has two popular Christmas markets during the winter season.

Edinburgh Christmas market

The Edinburgh Christmas Market takes place at East Princes Street Gardens. It showcases traditional Scottish fares like sausages, cakes, seafood, whisky, and ale. The market also has food, crafts, and gifts from all over Europe on offer.

Best Christmas markets in the rest of Europe

Wherever you point the compass, there are always great markets in Europe that you can visit. In Luxembourg, a favored choice is the main Luxembourgish Christmas market in the capital’s Place d’Armes.

Finally, on the continent’s west coast, it’s worth exploring Portugal’s Christmas fairs. For example, the Madeira Islands come alive during the holiday season. Avenida Arriaga at the heart of island capital of Funchal hosts a traditional Christmas market that rivals those in the Germanic regions, although with a Portuguese twist by having exotic flowers on display and typical saccharine snacks and drinks rife for taking..