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European christmas market adventure tours

European Christmas Market Tours

Immerse yourself in a magical world where the air is filled with cinnamon and mulled wine. European Christmas markets captivate with joy and tradition, dancing lights, and heartwarming charm.  Join us on a Christmas market tour to Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, and beyond. Experience these magical wonderlands for yourself, where artisans offer their treasures and festive melodies fill the air. Eat, drink, and be merry across Central Europe on a festive river cruise, or admire the snowy landscapes on a toasty warm bus.

6280 reviews on

250+ European Christmas market tours with 100 reviews

Alpine Christmas Markets (Classic, 9 Days)

Alpine Christmas Markets (Classic, 9 Days)

Christmas Markets of Germany (Classic, 8 Days)

Christmas Markets of Germany (Classic, 8 Days)

Christmas in Central Europe, Vienna to Berlin

Christmas in Central Europe, Vienna to Berlin

Christmas Markets Rhine Cruise (Dusseldorf - Dusseldorf)

Christmas Markets Rhine Cruise (Dusseldorf - Dusseldorf)

German Christmas Markets (8 Days)

German Christmas Markets (8 Days)

Munich Xmas Markets

Munich Xmas Markets

Christmas Market in Tallinn  (Minimum booking of 2 guests)

Christmas Market in Tallinn (Minimum booking of 2 guests)

Baltic Capital Cities (Christmas)

Baltic Capital Cities (Christmas)

Enchanting Christmas & New Year's (2024) (Passau to Budapest, 2024)

Enchanting Christmas & New Year's (2024) (Passau to Budapest, 2024)

Grand Christmas & New Year's (2025) (Nuremberg to Budapest, 2025)

Grand Christmas & New Year's (2025) (Nuremberg to Budapest, 2025)

christmas markets in europe for couples

Why Visit Christmas Markets in Europe?

Top destinations for christmas market tours in europe.

Explore Germany’s many Christmas markets, from the tallest Christmas pyramid in the world in Dresden to Esslingen’s medieval market.

Stroll around the magical Christmas markets at Schönbrunn Palace and City Hall Square in imperial Vienna.  

Let yourself be enchanted by the atmosphere of Budapest’s Christmas markets at St. Stephen Basilica and Vörösmarty.  

Czech Republic

Discover the spirit of Christmas on Old Town Square, the oldest and most beautiful square in Prague.  

Tips for the best Christmas market tour experience in Europe

Sample local specialties.

Whether it’s mulled wine, gingerbread, chestnuts, or Christstollen, no Christmas market visit is complete without regional treats.

Visit multiple markets

Each Christmas market is a little different and offers regional characteristics that you shouldn’t miss—from themed markets to crafts to delicacies.

Combine culture with sightseeing

While you’re there, don’t miss the fabulous cities and old towns of Europe and combine your visit with an exploration.

Buy Christmas gifts

Whether it’s for yourself or loved ones back home, bring back a few souvenirs for some surprising gifts under this year's Christmas tree.

Dress warmly

Even though the atmosphere is warm, temperatures in Europe can get freezing in the winter, so you better dress warmly and layer up.

Have cash on hand

The payment methods at Christmas markets can be more traditional than you might expect, so be prepared to have some cash on you.

10 best European Christmas markets

Best christmas market tour operators.

G Adventures

G Adventures

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Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection

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On The Go Tours

2,110 reviews

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276 reviews

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Avalon Waterways

228 reviews

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AmaWaterways

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1,903 reviews

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Tour Scoop

Where to Find the Best European Christmas Market Tours for 2023 and 2024

Get into the holiday spirit with a european christmas market tour..

Christine Sarkis

The Scoop: What to Know About Trafalgar Tours

There are so many reasons to plan a winter trip to visit European Christmas markets . The vibe is cozy, festive, and taps into the holiday spirit like few other places on Earth. There’s always at least one massive Christmas tree decorated to the hilt. They’re the perfect place to shake off the feeling of obligation that comes with buying gifts off an Amazon list. And who can resist the warming drinks and snacks (Mulled wine! Warm roast nuts! Gingerbread!)? 

But for travelers from North America, traveling to Europe for Christmas markets in between Thanksgiving and Christmas can feel daunting. And deciding which European Christmas markets to visit can make it easy to call it quits and stall out on the planning, since they’re spread out all across Germany , France , Italy , and many other popular European tour spots.

PLAN YOUR DREAM TRIP: 15 Best Group Travel Companies for Guided Tours

That’s the joy of European Christmas market tours. Offered by a number of land-based and river cruise tour companies , these multi-day guided trips make it easy to visit three, four, or more Christmas markets in Germany, Austria, Hungary, France, Italy, or the UK. And while you’re there, you can sightsee at a time of year when the crowds are significantly smaller at Europe’s top tourist attractions . 

Where to Find the Best Christmas Market Tours for 2023 and 2024

Guided tour online travel agency TourRadar lists hundreds of Christmas market tours from tour companies including Trafalgar, Travel Talk, Avalon Waterways, G Adventures, Contiki, and Uniworld. 

The online travel agency TourHub also has a ton of Christmas market tour offerings. The site breaks down its list of available Christmas market tours by country, including Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, France, and the UK. At press time, there were still some discounts on 2023 departures.

River cruise operator CroisiEurope has a great collection of Christmas market river cruises. It also lists cruises that take place over the Christmas holiday and New Year’s cruises. Similarly, Avalon Waterways offers Christmas holidays sightseeing tours with a river cruise, bringing guests from city to city (and Christmas market to Christmas market) via the Danube, Rhine, and Main rivers. 

The experts at Cruise Critic have plenty of advice about the best Christmas markets to visit if you’re on a river cruise, too, and it’s definitely worth a read if you’re comparing different itineraries.

Many popular tour companies also offer Christmas market tours for all ages. These include:

  • G Adventures
  • EF Go Ahead
  • Road Scholar

Note that Contiki’s trips are geared to under-30s, making them a great option for students studying abroad who want a fun way to celebrate their winter breaks. Road Scholar’s list of Christmas market tour offerings includes European Christmas market tours and other holiday-themed itineraries to destinations around the world; they’re a great travel tour company for seniors in particular.

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26 Best Christmas Markets in Europe, From Vienna to Zagreb

By Caitlin Morton and Jessica J. Lee

Traditional christmas market in Frankfurt Germany

No one does the holidays quite like Europeans . From December to January, Christmas markets in Europe blend tradition with culinary flair. Think wooden chalets in medieval squares, angelic choirs and snow-capped cathedrals , twinkly lights on trees, log fires, and perhaps most importantly, seasonal treats both savory and sweet, along with all the hot mulled wine you can drink.

As the days become short and the temperatures drop, town squares fill with locals toasting the season, and celebrating with friends and family. Why not join them? Whether you want the long nights of nordic winter or the more temperate climes of southern Europe, there’s plenty of fairy-tale festiveness to go around.

Here, in no particular order, are 26 of the best Christmas markets in Europe—from big city destinations to those off the beaten track (plus, where to base yourself when you make the trip).

This article has been updated with new information since its original publish date.

All listings featured on Condé Nast Traveler are independently selected by our editors. If you purchase something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission. Additional reporting by Katherine LaGrave.

Cologne Christmas Market

Cologne, Germany

Location: Cologne Cathedral in Cologne, Germany

Why we love it: This market has everything you'd expect of a classic German spread. Glühwein, crafts, twinkling lights. One thing that stands out, though, is its entertainment—more than 100 stage performances throughout the festival, including Christmas swing music and gospel, puppet shows, and performances for children. After you've had your fill of tunes (and food), head toward nearby Hohe Strasse and Schildergasse, two of Cologne's well-known shopping areas, or make your way to Heumarkt for a spot of ice skating

Where to stay: Legend Hotel Cologne (0.2 miles away)

Tuomaan Markkinat in Helsinki's Senate Square

Helsinki, Finland

Location: Senate Square in Helsinki, Finland

Why we love it: This market scores major points for its mix of contemporary and traditional—as well as its commitment to sustainability. Though visitors can do everything from playing bingo for a vegan ham to watching a holiday outfit contest for dogs, it's not all quirky: Choirs sing Christmas carols on the weekends, and visitors can stroll illuminated market stalls while drinking hot mulled wine. Try some artisan cheeses or munch on candied nuts and jam-filled pastries. Not feeling Finnish enough for you? Relax in the wood-heated unisex sauna, smack in the middle of the market in Senate Square.

Where to stay: Hotel St George (0.4 miles away)

View of a street in the city of Malaga at Christmas. Is Calle Larios well known in Andalucia Spain

Málaga, Spain

Location(s): Muelle Uno, Paseo de Parque, and light displays on Calle Marques de Larios in Málaga, Spain

Why we love it: Want to escape the cold and try out a Mediterranean winter ? Head to the south of Spain for one of Andalucia ’s most famous Christmas market destinations. Stroll from the old port and Santa’s Grotto to Paseo de Parque to buy some local crafts. Nibble on traditional shortbread, nougat, and borrachuelos (wine-flavored fried pastries) as you make your way to Calle Marques de Larios to see the elaborate light displays. Best of all? You can even soak up festive cheer after the main holidays end, as the markets run into early January.

Where to stay: Vincci Larios Diez (0 miles away—it’s right on Calle Larios)

Brussels Winter Wonders Christmas market

Brussels, Belgium

Location: Grand-Place in Brussels, Belgium

Why we love it: Every December, “Plaisirs d’Hiver” takes over the open areas around the Bourse stock exchange, the Place de la Monnaie, the Place Sainte-Catherine, and the Marché aux Poissons, transforming the city into a winter wonderland . With more than 200 wood chalets, a covered ice rink, a Ferris wheel, and a light and sound show projected onto the Grand-Place, there’s something for the whole family to enjoy. Indulge in crisp fries with mayonnaise, tartiflette (a French potato casserole), Belgian chocolate (obviously) and waffles dotted with pearl sugar before doing a spot of Christmas shopping at the many stalls selling locally-crafted and artisan goods.

Where to stay: Hotel Amigo, A Rocco Forte Hotel (0.06 miles away)

Prague Christmas Market

Prague, Czech Republic

Location: Old Town and Wenceslas Square, with smaller markets at nearby Havel’s Market and Republic Square, in Prague, Czech Republic

Why we love it: Just five minutes apart by foot, Prague’s Old Town and Wenceslas markets are the best in a city that already tops our list of places to spend Christmas. (Chalk it up to the Gothic architecture and mulled wine stalls.) Fill up on traditional fish soup cooked in steaming vats, langoš (flatbreads) topped with cheese, and smoked meat dumplings. Don’t miss the roast ham and trdelník, otherwise known as chimney cake—a hot, rolled pastry rolled in cinnamon and sugar and cooked over a grill. Also, pack your hat and gloves: It gets cold here in December.

Where to stay: Four Seasons Hotel Prague (0.7 miles away)

Christmas in Tivoli Copenhagen Denmark

Copenhagen, Denmark

Location: Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, Denmark

Why we love it: The real-life inspiration for Disneyland , this twinkling theme park is the third-oldest operating amusement park in the world and beloved by tourists and locals alike. Come winter, it gets decked out in more than 500,000 fairy lights for the festive season. Enjoy music by the Tivoli Youth Guard while you warm up by a log fire. Kids can enjoy the rollercoasters before heading inside for family-friendly stage shows at the Glass Hall Theater and Tivoli Concert Hall. And don't miss delicious Danish treats like aebleskiver, small pancake puffs topped with powdered sugar, or honninghjerter. Similar to German gingerbread, this dense honey cake is sometimes filled with jam and buttercream and topped with a chocolate glaze. Hygge, indeed .

Where to stay: Nobis Hotel (0.1 miles away)

Traditional christmas market in Frankfurt Germany

Frankfurt, Germany

Location: Römerberg, Paulsplatz, Mainkai, Hauptwache, Friedrich-Stoltze-Platz, and Roßmarkt in Frankfurt, Germany

Why we love it: Spread over the old city center and dating back to a winter market first held in the 14th century, Frankfurt’s Christmas market is one of Germany’s largest and oldest. Pick up Lebkuchen (Germany’s traditional gingerbread), roasted chestnuts and smoked salmon while browsing handicrafts to find the right gift for everyone on your list. From Friedrich-Stoltze-Platz you can find the city’s LGBTQ+ “Pink Christmas” market, where all the stalls are decorated in—you guessed it—pink. Be sure not to catch the chiming of the church bells or the Advent concerts that take place every December weekend until Christmas. Grab a bratwurst and a locally-produced Apfelwein (apple wine) as you take in the huge scale of this Weihnachtsmarkt.

Where to stay: Steigenberger Frankfurter Hof (0.3 miles away)

Christmas Market in Wrocław Poland

Wrocław, Poland

Location: Market Square and Plac Solny in Wrocław, Poland

Why we love it: While recent years and soaring energy prices have seen the range of light displays scaled back somewhat, the Christmas market in the main city square of Wrocław remains a destination for visitors from all over Central Europe. This classic Christmas market officially comes to life around December 6, when Santa Claus greets visitors and the tree lights get switched on. But you don't have to wait until December to start sampling treats from the wooden stalls: we're talking potato pancakes, bigos (hunter’s stew),sausages, pierogi, chocolate gingerbread, waffles (in various flavors), and all the mulled wine you can handle.

Where to stay: Hotel Monopol (0.2 miles away)

Christmas market in Trento Italy

Trento, Italy

Location: Piazza Fiera and Piazza Cesare Battisti in Trento, Italy

Why we love it: Each year, the cobblestoned streets of Trento, in the mountainous northern Italian region of Trentino–Alto Adige, are filled with Christmas-light-covered trees and 90 wooden huts, combining for what Italians call Città del Natale , or “Christmas Town.” Vendors sell sheep’s cheeses and dried orange slices below the 13th-century Buonconsiglio Castle, and the Alps in the distance provide an incredible backdrop to the whole scene. Don’t miss the city’s fountains decorated with nativity displays by local craftspeople and be sure to fill up on tortel di patate (potato cake) and jam-filled treccia mochèna before the evening ends.

Where to stay: Il Torrione (0.04 miles away)

Edinburgh's Christmas market

Edinburgh, Scotland

Location: East Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh, Scotland

Why we love it: Adjacent to the Scottish National Gallery , this annual market turns Edinburgh 's sprawling East Princes Street Gardens into a “Santa Land” that you can witness from high above, atop the 108-foot-tall Ferris wheel, a.k.a the Big Wheel, and where you can scope out the view of Edinburgh Castle lit up for the season. Free family events in West Princes Street Gardens include a carols concert—and a celebration of Diwali too. Visit George Street for Edinburgh's Christmas ice rink; be sure to warm up with hot drinks and food afterwards. Indulge in Scottish holiday treats like venison burgers, Scottish craft brews, and hot toddies.

Where to stay: The Edinburgh Grand (0.4 miles away)

Dream Christmas Market in Vienna Austria

Vienna, Austria

Location: City Hall (on Rathausplatz) in Vienna, Austria

Why we love it: Some cities just look better covered in snow , and Vienna is one of them. Add some white lights against the backdrop of the city’s imposing City Hall, and you’ll see why this market is called the Viennese Dream . It has everything from reindeer rides to an ice rink for skating and curling, plus a ferris wheel and old-fashioned merry-go-round. Fill up on sausages stuffed with cheese, vanillekipferl (vanilla crescent cookies), and mulled wine. This is about as classic as it gets, folks.

Where to stay: Le Méridien Vienna (0.7 miles away)

Budapest Christmas market

Budapest, Hungary

Location: St. Stephen's Square in Budapest, Hungary

Why we love it: St. Stephen’s Basilica is Hungary's largest church , dedicated to the country's first king (Stephen, of course). It's fitting, then, that this festival takes place around the landmark in Szent István Square with 160 vendors, a skating rink, and weekend folk dance shows. Most of the action is in full swing before Christmas, but if you're there on January 1, stop by the fair for some lencseleves, or lentil soup—it's traditionally made in Hungary on New Year's Day as a symbol of prosperity for the coming year. And if you aren’t yet convinced, Budapest’s Christmas market was recently crowned Europe’s best in a vote by Europe’s Best Destinations .

Where to stay: Aria Hotel Budapest by Library Hotel Collection (0.08 miles away)

Location Targ Węglowy in Gdańsk Poland  Why we love it This port city on the Baltic Sea boasts an unexpected claim to...

Gdańsk, Poland

Location: Targ Węglowy in Gdańsk, Poland

Why we love it: This port city on the Baltic Sea boasts an unexpected claim to fame: Its Christmas market recently beat out hundreds of others to become Europe’s second best (see Budapest, above, for the top spot). The whole center of town transforms into a festive fair with over 150 stalls. You’ll find everything from nutcrackers to wool hats and handmade candles. After tasting Polish classics like pierogi and smoked cheese, you can indulge in everything from crispy tofu to fresh churros at its international food stalls. Kids can enjoy the Christmas storytelling sessions or even nature talks from the region’s forest rangers.

Where to stay: Hotel Gdansk Boutique (0.75 miles away)

Magic Christmas market in Colmar France

Colmar, France

Location: Place des Dominicains, Place Jeanne d’Arc, Place de l’Ancienne Douane, Koïfhus, Petite Venise, and Gourmet Market Place de la Cathédrale (all six markets are in and around Old Town) in Colmar, France

Why we love it: With its timbered houses and canal-lined streets, Colmar is basically a fairytale come to life year-round. But tack on some twinkle lights, an ice skating rink, and an early-1900’s carousel, and you have yourself one of the most charming Christmas destinations in all of Europe. Each market offers its own version of holiday cheer, from nativity scenes to children’s choirs, so be prepared for some serious stall-hopping. And foodies needn’t worry: The gourmet market will have you satisfied with oysters and Alsatian wines .

Where to stay: Hôtel Le Colombier (0.06 to 0.3 miles away, depending on the market)

Christmas market. Illuminations. Macerata.Marche. Italy. Europe

Alberobello, Italy

Location: Piazza del Popolo, Largo Martellotta, Largo Trevisani and Largo Pietra Ficcata in Alberobello, Puglia, Italy

Why we love it: Alberobello is famous for its mid-14th century “trulli,” conical white houses typical to southern Italy—and they take center stage at the Christmas Market Under the Trulli. Throughout December, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is alight with bright stars, moons, and snowflakes, all projected on the historic limestone walls. Wander the cobbled streets of the tiny town, admire the glimmering display, munch on cod fritters and pettole (sweet fried doughnuts), and wash it all down with a glug of vincotto. Don’t miss the “living nativity” scene in the days after Christmas—booking recommended!

Where to stay: Le Corti del Casale (1 mile away)

Christmas market in Zagreb Croatia

Zagreb, Croatia

Location: Pretty much the entire city of Zagreb, Croatia

Why we love it: Voted the best Christmas market in Europe in 2016, 2017, and 2018, Advent in Zagreb is pure holiday magic, mixed with a healthy dose of spectacle. Instead of being confined to one city block, Zagreb's festival spreads across the entire city: find traditional stalls in Trg Bana Jelačića (the main city square), ice skating in Tomislavac, concerts in European Square, and a live nativity scene in front of Zagreb Cathedral. Indulge in pork sausage sandwiches, cabbage rolls, and strudla—the Croatian take on apple strudel—washed down with a glass of rakija, a popular spirit.

Where to stay: Esplanade Zagreb Hotel (0.5 miles away from Trg Bana Jelačića)

Striezelmarkt in Dresden Germany

Dresden, Germany

Location: Altmarkt Square in Dresden, Germany

Why we love it: Founded as a one-day market in 1434, the Dresden Striezelmarkt is widely considered Germany's oldest—though Frankfurt and Munich have also tried for the title. Age aside, Dresden’s market is certainly the most traditional: think handmade wooden toys, a festive train for the kids, and boughs of fragrant pine decorating every wooden stall. The annual focal points here are typically the 45-foot-tall Christmas pyramid and the stollen, buttery fruitcake dusted with powdered sugar and packaged with a special seal depicting the city's famous former king, August the Strong. Don’t miss the market’s annual gingerbread fest on December 10th.

Where to stay: Hotel Taschenbergpalais Kempinski (0.2 miles away)

Christmas Market at Skansen Stockholm Sweden

Stockholm, Sweden

Location: Skansen Open-Air Museum in Stockholm, Sweden

Why we love it: If you're looking to get really traditional, visit this open-air museum on the island of Djurgarden in the center of Stockholm, where all of the historic homes and farmsteads are decorated accordingly. Tuck into smoked turkey and sugared almonds at the market, or, if you’re feeling more adventurous, participate in traditional dances around the festive tree at Bollnäs Square and make your own Christmas decorations in the workshop. And if that hasn’t gotten you in the festive mood yet, there are Christmas concerts in the Seglora church each weekend. Make sure to catch the candlelit Lucia procession on December 13.

Where to stay: Grand Hôtel (1 mile away)

Christkindesmäkir in Strasbourg France

Strasbourg, France

Location: Place de la Cathédrale, Place Kléber, Place Gutenberg, Place Broglie, Place du Château (all near the city center) in Strasbourg, France

Why we love it: Strasbourg, a fairytale-like town in the Alsace region of France, becomes even more magical during the holiday season, branding itself the “capital of Christmas.” Its Christkindelsmärik (the oldest Christmas market in France ) attracts several million visitors each year, thanks to its charming wooden chalets, nightly concerts, and ice skating rink—not to mention all that foie gras and hot white wine. Make sure to try some bredele (Alsatian Christmas cookies) and don't forget about the city's other seasonal claim to fame: the Great Christmas Tree illuminated in the central square of Place Kléber.

Where to stay: Hôtel Les Haras (0.5 miles away)

Christmas Market at Winchester Cathedral Hampshire UK

Winchester, England

Location: Winchester Cathedral in Winchester, England

Why we love it: From mid-November to the week before Christmas, Winchester’s Gothic cathedral plays host to a carefully curated festive market. After checking out the region’s stunningly green South Downs National Park, you can head to the market to warm up. Fancy posh macaroni and cheese, a hog roast, or a rich Scotch egg? You’ll be able to indulge as you browse sustainable crafts, stationery, wooden toys, and garden decor. Sip a mulled wine and pick up some chutney and local cheese for your Christmas feast before heading into the cathedral for one of the renowned choral performances.

Where to stay: The Wykeham Arms (0.2 miles away)

Christmas market in Basel Switzerland

Basel, Switzerland

Location: Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz in Basel, Switzerland

Why we love it: We all know Switzerland is a winter wonderland , but it also happens to host some of the best Christmas markets in Europe—including Basler Weihnachtsmarkt in the Rhine-side town of Basel. The market features more than 150 vendors selling handmade toys and local treats like Swiss raclette and läckerli (traditional Swiss gingerbread) from their wooden stands, plus enough twinkle lights and trees to fill a million Instagram feeds. Don’t miss the view of the festive scene from St. Martin’s tower, open for admission throughout the Advent period, and be sure to write your Christmas wishes in the Basel Wish Book.

Stay here: Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois (1 mile away)

Tallinn Christmas Market

Tallinn, Estonia

Location: Town Hall Square in Tallinn, Estonia

Why we love it: In addition to Estonian Christmas dishes like black pudding and sour cabbage (it's better than it sounds, promise), Tallinn's market—a quaint fairy-tale village of stalls dusted with snow and twinkling with lights—also has a Santa who arrives by reindeer-pulled sleigh. The highlight, though, is its Christmas tree, which the city has been displaying in front of its town hall since 1441—making it the first Christmas tree to ever be displayed in Europe. Enjoy some gingerbread and mulled wine after taking a spin on the merry-go-round.

Where to stay: Hotel Telegraaf (0.08 miles away)

Christkindlmarkt in Salzburg Austria

Salzburg, Austria

Location: Residenzplatz and Salzburg Cathedral in Salzburg, Austria

Why we love it: Salzburg's famed Christkindlmarkt in the center of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Old City isn't just mulled wine and market stands: There are daily choral performances, sing-alongs (Tuesdays from 6–8 p.m.) and traditional wind music performed above the square on Thursday and Saturday nights. You can even try your hand at baking gingerbread or head out on a Salzburg Christmas tour to learn all about the market’s history—while indulging in goodies like roast pork sandwiches and roasted almonds along the way. We're not mad about the bauernkrapfen (fried pastries), either.

Stay here: Hotel Goldener Hirsch, a Luxury Collection Hotel (0.3 miles away)

Christmas market in Sibiu Romania

Sibiu, Romania

Location: Piața Mare in Sibiu, Romania

Why we love it: Romania might get a lot of hype around Halloween , but the country embraces Santa Claus just as much as Dracula. See: Sibiu Christmas Market, a glittery sprawl of stalls and fairy lights located in the Sibiu city center. Here you'll find more than 100 merchants, Santa’s workshop, and an ice rink, plus a new 72-feet-tall Ferris wheel, a new addition to last year's market. Be sure to enjoy some mămăligă (polenta), cabbage rolls, and mulled wine—and don’t miss out on meeting Moș Crăciun—that’s Romanian for Santa Claus.

Where to stay: Art Hotel (0.1 miles away)

Christmas market in Oslo Norway

Oslo, Norway

Location: Spikersuppa in Oslo, Norway

Why we love it: Jul i Vinterland , located in Oslo's city center, has all the elements you'd expect from a classic European Christmas market, from decorated stalls to a tree-lined ice skating rink. But what makes this particular festival stand apart is the food. Be prepared for coconut cupcakes and caramel apples, gløgg and warm porridge, currywurst and smoked salmon from the Lofoten Islands —as well as a chocolate wheel to spin if you’re feeling lucky. As if the culinary delights aren’t adventure enough, there’s a ferris wheel and carnival rides to boot.

Where to stay: Amerikalinjen (0.5 miles away)

BerlinPankow  LuciaWeihnachtsmarkt auf dem Gelände der Kulturbrauerei in Prenzlauer Berg. Zahlreiche Händler...

Berlin, Germany

Location: KulturBrauerei in Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin, Germany

Why we love it: While Berlin has more Christmas markets than we can count, this small Scandi-themed market in an old brewery courtyard is a real neighborhood favorite. Blend in among the locals meeting for after-work Glühwein as you enjoy a piping hot Flammkuchen (German flatbread) topped with potatoes, bacon, and cheese. Test out Finnish Glögi and Icelandic Jolagløgg (or any of the other mulled wine varieties featured) before diving into raclette or Mutzenmandeln (tiny cone-shaped fritters). Kids can enjoy a hot chocolate in a yurt before taking a ride on the swing carousel, while adults warm their hands by the many wood fires dotted around the site.

Where to stay: Hotel Oderberger Berlin (0.1 miles)

best european christmas market tour

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Magical European Christmas Markets By Train [2024]: Full Itinerary

  • Post author: Nicoletta
  • Reading time: 45 mins read
  • Post last modified: February 8, 2024
  • Post comments: 0 Comments

European Christmas Markets by train itinerary

Winter is approaching, and European cities are preparing for the most special time of the year. If you want to get into the Christmas mood,  Europe is the place . Its Christmas markets just open at the  end of November  and welcome you with delicious food and drinks, souvenirs, and a magical atmosphere.

I took my time to visit all the Christmas markets I included in this itinerary and traveled on the train routes between the cities. I visited each city and rated the Christmas markets, atmosphere, and food.

Based on my experience , I’ve created this itinerary so you can also experience the best European Christmas markets this winter.

✈ Travel Resources For Your Trip ✈

Here are some of my favorite travel resources I use for my travel adventures.

Overview Of The European Christmas Markets By Train: Full Itinerary

This itinerary will also take you to the most beautiful European cities . So that it doesn’t get too boring for you in the middle of the way, only seeing Christmas stuff.

I’ve planned  one day in each city , which is enough to explore their Christmas markets. On the other day, you’ll travel by train between each destination. The cities are close to each other, but train rides are longer. So plan accordingly.

PRO TIP:  Spend  the second day exploring each city , and take a train to the other destination in the afternoon/towards the evening. This way, you’ll get the most out of each city on this itinerary.

European Christmas Markets Map

Here is a map of this itinerary. Save it to your phone and follow it once you’re traveling:

Why Are European Christmas Markets Special?

Christmas Markets originally come from Germany , so it’s the epicenter of the most beautiful Christmas Markets in the world.

Imagine cute wooden huts with various smells , from delicious sausages, soups, sweets, hot chocolate , and the famous mulled wine . These are usually in a square in the middle of a city.

Besides, everything is decorated with Christmas ornaments , and music plays in the background, bringing you into the perfect Christmas mood.

That’s why European Christmas Markets are so special; you must experience them at least once in a lifetime.

How To Get Around European Christmas Markets

We’ll  use the Interrail/Eurail Pass for this itinerary . For those of you who aren’t familiar with this pass:

Interrail and Eurail Pass is a train pass to travel through Europe. You can choose the number of days you want to travel within a month. It can be on a flexible schedule or consecutive days . With Eurail Pass, you must also select countries you’ll travel to.

DIFFERENCE INTERRAIL PASS & EURAIL PASS

✅ Interrail Pass = for European citizens ✅ Eurail Pass   = for non-European citizens 

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European Christmas Markets With Interrail Pass

For our Christmas markets itinerary, we’ll need the  5-day Interrail Pass on flexible days  within 1 month . This will cover our train rides from one city to another as we’ll have four travel days out of the 9-day itinerary. 

To  use up the 5th travel day , you can travel from Brussels (end destination) to the airport or to 1 more European city you want to see.

➡ Get 5-Day Interrail Pass Here & Learn More

European Christmas Markets With Eurail Pass

The Eurail Pass works slightly differently than the Interrail pass. You’ll have to select the countries you want to travel through. The price depends on the number of countries and distances. So when getting the Eurail Pass, insert each country mentioned in this itinerary:

  • Czech Republic

➡ Get 5-Country Eurail Pass Here & Learn More

🚇  NOTE:  With both passes, you’ll only have to  pay extra for the high-speed  and  night train seat reservations . All other journeys are included, so you can hop on and off the trains between the destinations on your itinerary. It’ll  save you a lot of money  and  give you much flexibility .

Travel Itinerary Planning Services

Day 0. arrive in bupadest, hungary.

Hungary, with its capital city, will ideally  put you into the Christmas mood , and you’ll feel ready to explore more.

So firstly, get to Budapest, Hungary, on the first day. Check in to your accommodation and take the first glimpse into the city in the evening.

➡ Budapest has some of the best flight deals in Europe . Click here for great flights .

🏠 Where To Stay In Budapest

These are my top hotel recommendations in Budapest:

➡ The Three Corners Downtown Edition Hotel – budget-friendly – book here ➡ Hotel Moments Budapest – mid-range hotel – book here ➡ Budapest Marriott Hotel – luxury hotel – book here

European christmas markets by train Budapest

DAY 1. BUDAPEST, HUNGARY

Budapest Christmas markets are undoubtedly one of the most beautiful in entire Europe. No wonder the city itself creates a very special atmosphere with the  impressive buildings  and lights reflected in the  Danube River .

You’ll get to try  local specialties  such as  chimney cake  (Kürtőskalács), apple strudel, langos (fried dough with toppings),  potato pancakes , fried sausages with local bread, stuffed cabbage rolls, delicious goose with red cabbage, or cured meat. Then, drink local  mulled wine  and tea.

You can also buy chocolate, handmade toys (local grandmas create beautiful stuff), and Christmas ornaments.

🍭 SPECIALTIES TO TRY: Chimney Cake (Kürtőskalács), Langos, Potato Pancakes, Gulash 📍 LOCATION: Vörösmarty Square & Szent István Bazilika ✨ BUDAPEST CHRISTMAS MARKETS DATES: 17th of November until the 31st of December 2023

Magical European christmas markets by train Budapets

DAY 2. TRAVEL BY TRAIN BUDAPEST ⇒ PRAGUE

You can take some time to explore Budapest in the morning . Then, around lunchtime, take a train directly to Prague. That way, you’ll reach Prague in the evening, ready to check in to your hotel.

TOP EXPERIENCES IN BUDAPEST: ➡ City Highlights Evening Cruise With Drink ➡ Full Day Spa With Palinka

How To Get From Budapest To Prague By Train

I recommend taking either  EC Train  or  Regiojet .

Regiojet  is a Czech company providing trains and buses around Europe. Their trains are very comfortable. And you’ll get a  coffee or tea free of charge , so go for it. All train rides covered by Regiojet are included in your Interrail and Eurail Pass, which is amazing.

Use your Interrail/Eurail website to check the  timetables of the trains . Some are direct connections from Budapest to Prague. With others, you might have to change trains in Vienna.

Train ride from Budapest to Prague takes approx. 7hours & 30minutes .

🏠 Where To Stay In Prague

Here are my top hotel picks for Prague:

➡ U Medvidku Brevery Hotel – budget-friendly hotel – book here ➡ Questenberg Hotel Prague – mid-range hotel – book here ➡ Pytloun Boutique Hotel Prague – luxury hotel – book here

European Christmas markets by train itinerary Prague

DAY 3. PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC

The capital city of the Czech Republic has equally stunning Christmas Markets as Budapest. However, Prague has an even more unique atmosphere . You have to see for yourself.

Don’t worry if you haven’t had enough of the Chimney Cake or are missing any other specialty from Budapest, don’t worry. You can catch up in Prague.

Enjoy more food, such as  homemade gingerbread , traditional fish soup,  sweet dumplings  filled with jam, and pancakes. Then, finish with a  big jar of Czech beer , the most delicious and cheapest in Europe.

Central European countries have  beautiful handicrafts  that local grandmas prepare. Prague is not an exception. So it might be the place to buy some decorations for your Christmas Eve back home.

🍭 SPECIALTIES TO TRY: Chimney Cake (Trdelnik), Sausage, Sweet Dumplings 📍 LOCATION: Old Town Square & Wenceslas Square ✨ PRAGUE CHRISTMAS MARKETS DATES: 2nd of December 2023, lasting until the 6th of January 2024

Prague European Christmas Markets by train

👉 READ ALSO: Is Prague Worth Visiting? 19 Reasons To Visit & Best Things To Do

DAY 4. TRAVEL BY TRAIN PRAGUE ⇒ SALZBURG

Traveling from Prague to Salzburg, you’ll have to  change trains in Vienna . First, take some time in the morning to explore Prague. Or eat more delicious things on its Christmas markets (maybe more Chimney cake?).

Around lunchtime, hop on a train again to Salzburg.

TOP EXPERIENCES IN PRAGUE: ➡ 50-Minute Sightseeing Evening Cruise ➡ Beer Spa Prague

How To Get From Prague To Salzburg By Train

To get from Prague to Salzburg, you can again take  Regiojet  or use the Austrian railway train network called  ÖBB .

If you travel with ÖBB,  watch out for the Railjet train . Railjet is a beautiful, spacious train. I love traveling with Railjet. But, who is going to beat Regiojet with its free coffee?… well, you answer that.

Train ride from Prague to Salzburg takes approx.  8hours .

🏠 Where To Stay In Salzburg

I recommend booking one of these hotels in Salzburg for your stay:

➡ Villa Flöckner Bed & Breakfast – budget-friendly apartment – book here ➡ Hotel Am Mirabelplatz – mid-range hotel – book here ➡ Hotel Sacher Salzburg – luxury hotel – book here

christmas in austria salzburg markets

DAY 5. SALZBURG, AUSTRIA

Salzburg is the most charming city on this list, so it must be on our Christmas Market tour through Europe. It’s a  small town in Austria , close to the border with Germany.

And I’d say it’s more worth visiting than Vienna , the Austrian capital. So, if you are hesitant about which one of these cities to visit, you can make a choice now.

Go to the Residence Square , which hosts  one of the oldest markets in Europe . Then, walk across the Salzach River to  Linzergasse Street  until you reach the Mirabell Gardens. Get the best views of the Salzburg Fortress from the gardens and enjoy the Christmas atmosphere.

Sip hot  Glühwine (mulled wine), enjoy local sausages, and finish with delicious  Mozartkügel  (Mozart chocolate pralines) for dessert.

🍭 SPECIALTIES TO TRY: Brezel (Big Pretzel – sweet or sauer), Kaiserschmarrn (traditional shredded pancakes), Mulled Wine, Hot Chocolate 📍 LOCATION: Residence Square & In Front Of The Mirabell Palace ✨ SALZBURG CHRISTMAS MARKETS DATES: 23rd of November 2023 and finish on the 6th of January 2024

christmas in austria salzburg

Experience Austrian Tradition Krampus

If you are in the region on the 6th of December , you’ll also experience a unique Christmas tradition in Austria – Krampus. It’s a parade of creatures called ‘Krampus.’ These are hand-carved wooden scary masks . Locals dress up and go to the streets and scare everybody.

It’s actually very creepy yet interesting to experience. The purpose of this tradition is to scare away all the bad energy from the places and people before Christmas and prepare for the arrival of Jesus Christ.

👉 READ ALSO: Salzburg Itinerary 3 Days: Self-Guided Tour

DAY 6. TRAVEL BY TRAIN SALZBURG ⇒ NUREMBERG

Salzburg has a lot to see, so take some time today in the morning to appreciate Classical music in Mozart’s birthplace , go up to Salzburg’s Fortress , and chill in the Mirabel Gardens before you take the train.

TOP EXPERIENCES IN SALZBURG: ➡ Mozart Fortress Concert With Dinner ➡ Original Sound Of Music Tour

How To Get From Salzburg To Nuremberg By Train

Finally, a shorter train ride awaits us today, crossing the border to Germany . We’ll get to explore another stunning  medieval city , Nuremberg. In the evening, get to Nuremberg and have a good rest. Tomorrow, we’ll explore the city with its markets.

You’ll have to  change in Munich  to get from Salzburg to Nuremberg. You can take a  regional train  from Salzburg to Munich (blue-yellow train) and then change to an  Intercity train . Or take 2x Intercity trains operated by  DB  ( Deutsche Bahn – German Railways ).

Train ride from Salzburg to Nuremberg takes approx.  3hours .

🏠 Where To Stay In Nuremberg

Here are my top hotel picks for your stay in Nuremberg:

➡ Leonardo Royal Hotel Nuremberg – budget-friendly hotel – book here ➡ Astoria Apartments – mid-range apartment – book here ➡ Hotel Pomader Nuremberg – luxury hotel – book here

european christmas markets by train itinerary nuremberg

DAY 7. NUREMBERG, GERMANY

Nuremberg is a  beautiful medieval city  and, without a doubt, one of the  best Christmas markets in Germany . Stepping into the town, you’ll immediately feel the Christmas atmosphere and tradition. These markets have been around  since the 16th century .

This is where you finally have to try  mulled wine  (glühwein), local  Nuremberg sausages , delicious gingerbread, or Schaumkuss cake . Walk around the stunning medieval walks and enjoy unique Christmas atmosphere.

🍭 SPECIALTIES TO TRY: Nürnberger Rostbratwurst, Schaumkuss, Dampknodel With Vanilla Sauce, Nuremberg Gingerbread, Mulled Wine 📍 LOCATION: Hauptmarkt (Main Square) & Rathausplatz & Next To St. Sebaldus Church ✨ NUREMBERG CHRISTMAS MARKETS DATES: 1st of December, and end on the 24th of December 2023

european christmas markets by train itinerary nuremberg

DAY 8. TRAVEL BY TRAIN NUREMBERG ⇒ BRUSSELS

Besides its charming Christmas markets, Nuremberg has a lot more to see. You have to  visit its castle , walk through the  historical walls around the city , admire its beautiful architecture, and learn more about the Nazi regime in the  Nazi Party Center .

TOP EXPERIENCES IN NUREMBERG: ➡ City Tour With Bimmelbahn Train ➡ Nuremberg Old Town Guided Tour

How To Get From Nuremberg To Brussels By Train

Our last train ride on this European Christmas markets itinerary will take us to the  home of European institutions ,  delicious chocolate with waffles , and more  craft beer . So towards the evening, take a train from Nuremberg to Brussels.

There is no direct train from Nuremberg to Brussels. You’ll most often have to change in Frankfurt. You can take trains from  DB ,  German Railways . They’ll get you to your final destination.

Getting from Nuremberg to Brussels by train takes approx.  6hours .

🏠 Where To Stay In Brussels

I recommend staying in the following hotels in Brussels:

➡ Marivaux Hotel – budget-friendly hotel – book here ➡ DoubleTree By Hilton Brussels City – mid-range hotel – book here ➡ OPO Hotel – luxury hotel – book here

DAY 9. BRUSSELS, BELGIUM

The  Sound & Light show   at the Grand-Place  (main square) makes the Christmas markets in Brussels a special place. The square is super charming, with impressive buildings such as the  Town Hall .

All the buildings turn into a different world during the show, and you standing in the middle of it will also be taken away. The show  starts at 5 pm  and is repeated every hour  until about 10 pm daily .

Apart from the light show, you can enjoy a big  ice skating ring  and  Ferris wheel  and sometimes see  animals in   stalls such as sheep or goats .

Hands down to the local specialties you have to try. Brussels Christmas markets will amaze you with delicious  Belgian waffles , some of the  best chocolate , glühwein, and  local craft beer . Don’t forget also to get  Belgian french fries , which are said to be the best in Europe (I agree, they are delicious).

🍭 SPECIALTIES TO TRY: Tartiflette, Belgian Waffles & Fries, Oysters, Genever, Hot Chocolate, Craft Beer 📍 LOCATION: Grand-Place & Rue de la Bourse & Place Sainte-Catherine ✨ BRUSSELS CHRISTMAS MARKETS DATES: 25th of November 2023 until the 1st of January 2024.

Budget For European Christmas Markets

The budget for this 9-day European Christmas Market itinerary per person ( mid-range traveler ) is  $1460 .

This is a very realistic budget for mid-range travelers who want to stay in nice hotels, try various local specialties at the markets, buy Christmas souvenirs, and do some of the recommended activities in each city.

Here is a breakdown of this itinerary budget for each travel category:

So the total budget for a 9-day European Christmas Itinerary by train , without restricting yourself too much and enjoying everything the cities offer, is $1460 per person .

NOTE: The budget will vary based on your preferences. You can significantly lower the cost of this itinerary if you stay in budget-friendly hotels and avoid buying a lot of stuff.

Eurostar Christmas Markets: Itinerary

If your goal is to visit Christmas Markets by Eurostar train , it’s possible. Let me give you an itinerary that you can travel by Eurostar and visit some of the most beautiful markets.

Eurostar operates within the following cities:

✅ London ✅ Paris ✅ Amsterdam ✅ Rotterdam ✅ Brussels ✅ Cologne

All of these cities host incredible Christmas Markets that you can enjoy. This is how I would plan a Christmas journey by Eurostar.

Here is a 7-day Eurostar Christmas Market Itinerary :

👉 READ ALSO: Christmas In Spain: Complete Guide With Traditions & Best Places

To help you plan your visit to the Christmas markets even more, I’ve also answered some of the most frequently asked questions. So check them out.

Do Trains Run On Christmas Day In Europe?

Yes , trains also run on Christmas Day in Europe. But they’re often fully booked way in advance as everyone travels to meet their families. Therefore, I recommend booking your train tickets at least 2 to 3 months in advance if you need to travel on Christmas Day to secure your spot.

Which European City Has The Biggest Christmas Market?

Vienna in Austria hosts the biggest Christmas market in Europe. Altogether, it has 12 markets. The biggest one is on Rathaus Square. Vienna truly has some of the most magical Christmas markets, so you should plan a visit one day.

What Is The Best Christmas Market To Visit?

The best Christmas market to visit is Salzburg . With its stunning architecture, this charming city is the perfect setup for Christmas Markets. You’ll walk through its streets hearing Christmas music, and the local markets are lovely, offering some of the best delicacies and delicious mulled wine with hot chocolate.

The atmosphere is just perfect. It’s a small city, which makes it more cozy .

Where Is The Oldest Christmas Market In The World?

Dresden has the oldest Christmas markets in the world, dating back to 1434. It’s officially called Dresdner Striezelmarkt , and you can look forward to over 200 Christmas stalls offering delicious food and drinks and some of the most beautiful Christmas ornaments to bring home with you.

Why Are All Christmas Markets German?

Because  Germany invented Christmas Markets . This tradition comes from German cities, and that’s why they’re the most famous and often some of the most beautiful in Europe. The first ever Christmas Market was organized in 1434 in Dresden , the eastern part of Germany, close to the Czech Republic.

WRAP-UP: European Christmas Markets By Train

This is my itinerary to see the most magical Christmas markets with the best European cities. Follow it and make the most out of your stay in Europe. I’m sure it’ll bring you into the proper Christmas mood.

If you have any questions or need further travel tips, you can always contact me at info(at)voicesoftravel.com . I’ll be happy to help you. Also, I can design a customized travel itinerary based on your travel needs and interests, so let me know if you’d like one.

Happy Christmas Travels!

More Travel Tips For Europe

Looking to visit more European travel itineraries? Check out my related articles:

2-Week Europe Itinerary

Christmas In Austria: Complete Guide With Traditions & Places

Austria Road Trip Itinerary 10 Days

Czech Republic Itinerary 10 Days

Slovakia Road Trip Itinerary 8 Days

Northern Italy Itinerary 10 Days

Spain Itinerary 14 Days

Switzerland Itinerary 8 Days

South Of France Itinerary 14 Days

Southern Spain Itinerary 10 Days

Switzerland Vs. Austria: Which Is Better To Visit?

voices of travel about me photo

About the author: Nicoletta  is a travel enthusiast and passionate language learner. While traveling, she loves to connect with locals using her language skills to learn about new cultures. Look for her skiing, hiking in the mountains, or exploring new destinations as she designs travel itineraries for her clients.

TRAVEL ITINERARIES : Interested in more travel itineraries? Check out my Travel Itineraries Page .

travel itineraries page

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Christmas in Strasbourg, France

European Christmas Market Tours & Vacations

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With dazzling light displays and a festive ambiance, traditional cuisine and charming customs, you can experience the grandeur of the winter season with a European Christmas Market Tour. The joyous traditions represent past and present heritage accentuated by crisp air, happy locals, celebrated chalets, and snowcapped cathedrals. Discover the best ways you can enjoy Europe’s Christmas Markets with the sample itineraries below.

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About Europe Christmas Market Tours

Welcome to a world where  the spirit of Christmas  comes alive in every street. At Europe Christmas Market Tours, we offer you an extraordinary festive experience. Our tours are designed to capture the essence of  Europe’s most iconic Christmas markets , from the aroma of mulled wine to the sound of carolers filling the air.

What Sets Us Apart?

  • Personalized experience : Our guided tours are capped at just 8 participants, ensuring a highly personalized experience led by guides who are regional experts, offering you insider access and local insights you won’t find elsewhere.
  • We take care of everything : Say goodbye to the hassle of booking accommodations and arranging transfers. Our packages are designed to let you focus on the joy of the season while we handle the logistics.
  • 24/7 Client Support : Our commitment to your satisfaction doesn’t end when you book your tour. We’re available around the clock to assist you with any queries or needs you may have during your journey.

When you book with us, you’re investing in a seamless experience. We take care of everything, from your  accommodations in cozy hotels  that exude local charm to your transfers between cities and attractions.

For those who enjoy the camaraderie of like-minded travelers, our  small group tours  offer a sense of community and shared excitement. If you prefer a more independent journey, our self-guided tours provide  the freedom to explore at your own pace , with the peace of mind that we’re just a phone call away.

From the moment you inquire to the time you return home, we’re here to make your Christmas market tours truly magical.

Top Cities to Visit on Your Europe Christmas Tours

Set out on a journey through Europe’s most captivating Christmas markets. Each destination offers its own  unique blend of tradition, culture, and festive spirit . Here are the top cities to include in your Christmas market tour.

Vienna’s Christmas markets are  a spectacle of elegance and tradition . The city’s historic squares transform into winter wonderlands, complete with ornate decorations and a wide array of handcrafted gifts.

Festive cityscape - view of the Vienna Christmas World and Vienna City Hall (Wiener Rathaus) on Rathausplatz, Austria

The Bavarian capital offers a quintessential  German Christmas experience . The city’s main market,  Marienplatz , is a hub of festive activities, featuring wooden stalls filled with traditional Bavarian crafts and treats.

Happy friends having fun drinking mulled wine and hot chocolate at Christmas Market - Cheerful young people enjoying winter holidays on weekend vacation - Focus on asian guy

3. Bratislava

Bratislava’s Christmas market is  a   festive fusion of tradition and charm . Nestled in the heart of the Old Town, the market offers a cozy atmosphere where you can indulge in  Slovak delicacies and shop for artisanal crafts, all while enjoying the city’s historic ambiance.

Christmas market in Bratislava, Slovakia

4. Innsbruck

Nestled in  the heart of the Alps , Innsbruck’s Christmas markets offer a unique mountain backdrop. The markets here are famous for their  Tyrolean   handicrafts  and the magical  Golden   Roof  that overlooks the main market.

Innsbruck, Austria

5. Salzburg

Salzburg , the birthplace of  Mozart , hosts Christmas markets that are as melodious as they are beautiful. The city’s markets are  known for their high-quality ornaments , traditional Austrian foods, and the sweet sounds of Christmas carols.

Young woman view from the back stands on the background of sunny Christmas Salzburg, Austria. Christmas trees with red Christmas balls against the background of the winter Salzburg.

Why Visit Christmas Markets in Europe?

European Christmas markets  offer a unique holiday experience steeped in tradition and cultural richness. These festive hubs are immersive events that capture the season’s spirit. As you wander through markets set in historic squares, you’ll find handcrafted gifts, seasonal treats, and local crafts that reflect each city’s  unique heritage .

The atmosphere is filled with the  scents of mulled wine  and roasted chestnuts, and the sounds of carolers and laughter. It’s a sensory feast that allows you to experience the holidays in a way that’s  deeply rooted in local customs , making it  a must-visit  for anyone looking to celebrate the season to its fullest.

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Unbeatable support, book with confidence, completely customizable, things to know.

On our tours, we want to adjust for your needs as much as possible. The place of your stay depends on your preferences, budget and hotels’ availability, especially if we travel during peak season. But don’t worry about it! We will inform you in advance of all the details..

It’s important to be aware that accommodations at the destinations are in high demand during the festive season. To secure your preferred type of housing, we strongly recommend booking early. By doing so, you increase the likelihood of obtaining the accommodation that best suits your preferences. While the availability of specific lodging options may vary, we assure you that we will make every effort to provide you with the most suitable accommodations based on your preferences. Our team is dedicated to ensuring your stay is comfortable and enjoyable, and we strive to meet your specific requirements to the best of our ability.

Everyone has different preferences, that is why we have decided to give you a free hand in choosing restaurants, this way everyone can eat what they want. We can recommend some places to you, and if you would like to eat at a particular restaurant, we can make a reservation for you – just let us know. One thing is for sure – you will not go hungry!

Yes, absolutely. We’re very flexible, and we understand that as the weeks go by you might come up with new ideas. So, depending on availability, we’d love to add in any new experiences that you might want to try!

Of course! Your interests are paramount to us. Whether you are a foodie looking to delve into each country’s kitchen, or a history buff eager to explore Europe’s timeless treasures, we’ve got you covered.

We work with a selection of activity providers that offer unique and authentic experiences, ensuring that they are the best representatives of the region you visit.

We’re passionate about ensuring your Europe Christmas market tour is nothing less than perfect. We offer round-the-clock support, reachable by phone or email, to resolve any issues or inquiries that may arise during your stay. No matter the time of day, we are here to provide instant assistance to make sure your experience is seamless.

To start planning your dream Christmas escape, begin by sharing your desires with us via our inquiry form. After that, you can also book a call with our travel agent to discuss these in more detail. Our agent will then craft a bespoke itinerary, tailored to your unique desires. We welcome your feedback and will fine-tune the proposal to ensure it’s the perfect fit for you. This meticulous planning process ensures we create the perfect holiday that exceeds your expectations.

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Chloe's Travelogue

23 Best Christmas Markets in Europe

Bucket List , Europe

Christmas is my favorite holiday. Traveling to Europe during the holiday season has always been on my bucket list. I cannot imagine any better place to immerse myself fully in the holiday festivity than Christmas markets in Europe!  

Glistening snow in a winter wonderland, fairy lights dazzling the streets, Christmas carols on the radio, heart-warming comfort foods and mulled wine, outdoor ice-skating rinks, illuminated Christmas trees, crazy holiday shopping rush…

Amuse yourself in the holiday festivity in these 23 Best Christmas Markets in Europe. Happy holidays!

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23 Most Magical Christmas Markets in Europe for your bucket list | #ChristmasMarketsEurope #EuropeanWinterHolidays

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Europe Travel Resources 

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🛏 Hotels: I use this booking site for competitive rates, a generous free cancellation policy and member perks. Always read reviews before booking.

✈️ Flights : I often use Google Flights to search for the best deals. Then, I directly book flights with the airline.  

🚅 Trains: I love using Trainline to search for train schedules and book tickets. The platform is super helpful when there are any delays, disruptions, or rail strikes, which are all too common in Europe.  

🚘 Rental Cars: Outside the major cities, you may not be able to rely solely on public transportation. For a road trip, book rental cars from Auto Europe .

🎫 Tours: My first choice for booking tours and activities in Europe is Get Your Guide . The platform is easy to book or cancel. It often runs promotions.  

🚑 Travel Insurance: You should always travel with insurance. (Credit card insurance often covers travel disruptions but not medical bills.) Check with your health insurance policy; if it doesn’t cover international travel, compare travel insurance here before purchasing.

🧳 Storage: I love carrying my luggage, says no one! Find storage in the city to safely lock it and enjoy exploring the city without weighing your shoulders. Best €5 you will spend!

23 Most Magical Christmas Markets in Europe | Berlin, Germany | #ChristmasMarketsEurope #EuropeanWinterHolidays

Berlin, Germany

Festival Dates : Rotes Rathaus (November 27 – January 7) Charlottenburg Palace (November 27 – December 31)

Location : Rotes Rathaus Market- Neptunbrunnen am Alexanderplatz, Spandauer Straße; Charlottenburg Palace Market- Spandauer Damm 20

Weather : -7℃ to 4℃ (19-39°F), rainy or snowy

Hotels to Stay :  

  • Luxury: Hotel de Rome
  • Mid-range: Circus Hotel  
  • Budget: Circus Hostel  

Best tours in Berlin :

  • Historical Christmas Market along the Unter den Linden
  • Berlin: Christmas Cruise with a drink
  • Berlin Christmas Lights Bus Tour with Mulled Wine

Berlin is a vast metropolis with more than 60 different Christmas markets , so it’s a great place to visit if you want variety.

You can easily visit several of them on one trip, but you shouldn’t miss Rotes Rathaus and Charlottenburg Palace. They’re both excellent for children but also enjoyable for those without children.

The Rotes Rathaus Christmas Market is one of the most popular  Christmas markets in Berlin . It is located near the Red City Hall building, hence the name. Children will have fun riding the giant Ferris wheel or one of the carousels, or ice skating around the Neptune Fountain. Santa flying overhead in his sleigh three times a day will be a special treat.

Adults will enjoy a variety of mulled wine and other hot alcoholic beverages, and there is lots of food, from traditional German food to international cuisine like Thai food.

The Charlottenburg Palace Christmas Market is set in front of the palace, a gorgeous setting for Christmas cheer. Carolers regularly walk through the market singing Christmas songs, and at certain times of the day, Santa also makes the rounds. You can eat German food or other cuisines like Hungarian or Ukrainian, mulled wine, and drinks like hot mojitos or hot chocolate.

The palace is lovely to explore before or after visiting the Christmas market. And while you’re near the Rotes Rathaus, you can easily see the TV Tower or Museum Island.

Contributed by Ali from Berlin Travel Tips

>> READ: Visit the hippest capital city Berlin. Spend two days to experience its turbulent history, vibrant art and cultural scene and exuberant nightlife.  

23 Most Magical Christmas Markets in Europe | Munich, Germany | #ChristmasMarketsEurope #EuropeanWinterHolidays

Munich, Germany

Festival Dates:  November 27 – December 23

Location : Wittelsbacherplatz, Brienerstrasse 6

Weather:  The average day temperature in December is 4℃ (39°F) degrees during the day and -2℃ (28°F) at night.

Hotels to Stay :

  • Luxury: Bayerischer Hof
  • Mid-range: Hotel an der Oper
  • Budget: Wombat’s City Hostel  

Best Tours in Munich :

  • Munich Christmas Markets & Village Tour
  • Munich Christmas Market Tour with Mulled Wine
  • From Munich: Neuschwanstein & Linderhof Castle Day Trip

Munich in winter  is particularly beautiful thanks to its fairytale atmosphere and stunning Christmas markets. The Medieval Christmas Market at Wittelsbacherplatz in Munich takes you back in history when the first Christmas markets appeared in central Europe in the medieval era.

Due to its historical character, the Medieval Christmas Market in Munich is considered particularly atmospheric.

All the stands are decorated in historical design down to the most minor details. Sellers wear traditional medieval clothing . You can also buy different kinds of handmade crafts and medieval clothing.

Food and drinks are served in plates and cups, replicating the old times.

Some must-try local specialties are roasted nuts, roasted wild boar sandwiches, and wine punch with rum (Feuerzangenbowle) .

The place where the Medieval Christmas Market is held is small. And it often gets overcrowded. To avoid the crowds, the best time to visit this Christmas Market is on weekdays during the day.

Across the street from the Medieval Christmas Market at Wittelsbacherplatz, you can visit another cozy Christmas Market. It is nested inside the backyard of Munich’s Residenz Palace. It is particularly popular with families with small children.

Contributed by Anna Andrias from BigWorld Short Stories

23 Most Magical Christmas Markets in Europe | Nuremberg, Germany | #ChristmasMarketsEurope #EuropeanWinterHolidays

Nuremberg, Germany

Festival Dates : December 1 – 24, 2023

Location : On and around Nuremberg’s Main Market Square

Weather : between -2 and 4℃ (29 to 39 ℉). It will generally be quite cold and maybe rainy, snowy, or sunny.

  • Luxury: Park Plaza Nuremberg  
  • Mid-range: Hotel Victoria Nürnberg
  • Budget: Motel One Nürnberg Hauptbahnhof  

Best Tours :

  • Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt Stagecoach Tour
  • Nuremberg Old Town & Christmas Market Tour
  • Nuremberg Culinary Tour through the Christmas City

The Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt is one of the oldest and most famous in Germany . Its origins date back to the 16th century, and every year, over two million visitors from all over the world come to this Franconian city to enjoy the festive atmosphere.

Nuremberg is known for its small sausages and gingerbread . Luckily, both of these are readily available at the Christmas market. They make for a perfect holiday snack with a cup of Glühwein (mulled wine).  

Also, many stalls sell traditional Christmas ornaments – a great souvenir or gift to take back home.

As the Christmas Market is centrally located, it is easy to make a slight detour to see some of the beautiful Gothic churches and the Medieval castle. The toy museum is a definite highlight, especially for families!

The Nuremberg Christmas Market has always been a beloved destination for young and old, but since 1999, the adjacent Children’s Christmas Market has made it even more fun for little ones. In addition to a couple of carousel rides, there are hands-on booths with arts and crafts, as well as baking activities for kids.

The Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt is very popular, so booking a hotel well ahead of time is essential. Although the market is prettiest after dark, avoiding Friday and Saturday evenings is best as they can be overcrowded!

Contributed by Kitty from Kitty Meets World  

23 Most Magical Christmas Markets in Europe | Cologne, Germany | #ChristmasMarketsEurope #EuropeanWinterHolidays

Cologne, Germany

Festival Dates : November 23 – December 23

Location : Roncalliplatz, Cologne

Weather : high 6° / low 1°C (34-43℉), expect rain and cold weather.

Hotels to stay :

  • Luxury: Excelsior Hotel Ernst am Dom
  • Mid-range: Hilton Cologne
  • Budget: MEININGER Hotel Köln West  

Best Tours in Cologne :

  • Cologne: “Christmas Magic” Guided Tour by Bike
  • Cologne: Christmas Market Magic with a local
  • Cologne Winter Rhine River Cruise

If you plan on visiting Europe and want to experience the best Christmas Markets, Cologne should be at the top of your list. Not only will you find unique gifts and plenty to do and see, but the atmosphere is guaranteed to get you in the Christmas Spirit!

Munich Christmas Market is the ultimate place for families, couples, and even solo travelers because there is something for everyone. One of the most popular things to do is to spend an hour on the Icerink . However, the best part of these markets is easily the food and drink selection. The best things to sample are Gluhwein and a traditional currywurst .  

Cologne Markets are also a fantastic place to find unique gifts you will not find anywhere else. From Christmas smokers to hand-carved kitchen items, you can do all your gift buying in one place.  

And as the markets are near the stunning Cathedral, you should take some time to explore it. For around 7 Euros, you can climb to the top and see the best city views. Just be aware that climbing to the top isn’t for everyone as they are old, narrow spiral steps.  

Contributed by Lowri Thomas From  Many Other Roads

>> READ: One day in Cologne, a historic city along the Rhine River: See a magnificent Gothic Cathedral, learn about the origin of perfume, and taste chocolates and Kölsch beer.  

23 Most Magical Christmas Markets in Europe | Strasbourg, France | #ChristmasMarketsEurope #EuropeanWinterHolidays

Strasbourg, France

Dates : November 24 – December 24

Admission : Free

Location : Grand Ile, Strasbourg

Weather : -1-4℃ (30-40℉), generally somewhat overcast, with about 30% chance of rain

  • Luxury: Life Renaissance
  • Mid-Range: Hotel de l’Europe
  • Budget: Chambre Nature Chez L’Habitant

Best Tours in Strasbourg

  • Alsace Villages & Colmar Christmas Market
  • From Strasbourg: Medieval Villages & Wine Tasting Day Trip
  • Strasbourg: Christmas Market by Night with Mulled Wine

Strasbourg is a delightful city to visit during Christmastime, as the town becomes aglow with the lights and sparkle of the holiday season.

Known as the “Capital of Christmas,” Strasbourg leans into that title. Intricate lights, decorations, and garlands adorn the half-timbered buildings all over town. And 12 different Christmas markets are dotting the Old City.

All the  Christmas markets in Strasbourg  have their charm, but there are a few standouts you cannot miss.

Le Grand Sapin market  features a massive 30-meter-tall Christmas tree that twinkles with lights. Don’t miss the hourly light show on the Christmas tree! The  Christkindelsmarik market at Hotel de Ville  is the largest and has stall after stalls adorned with colorful, vibrant displays of Christmas ornaments and gifts.

The markets around the  Strasbourg Cathedral  are also very atmospheric, and include a charming carousel in the shadow of the Cathedral.

The markets run from Nov. 24- Dec. 24. You can find all sorts of things to buy at the markets, but I’d recommend shopping for unique Christmas decorations, nativity pieces, or traditional Alsacian treats. Try a baguette flambée (toasted baguette with cheese), a tarte flambée (like a thin, crispy pizza, but usually topped with cream, onions, and bacon), or a mannele (a soft bun).

Contributed by Stephanie from The Unknown Enthusiast

23 Most Magical Christmas Markets in Europe | Colmar, France | #ChristmasMarketsEurope #EuropeanWinterHolidays

Colmar, France

Festival Dates : November 24 – December 29, 2023

Location : Colmar Old Town

Weather : from 6 to 0℃ (43-32℉). Snow is expected at this time of the year.

  • Luxury: Le Colombier  
  • Mid-range: Hotel Saint-Martin
  • Budget: Hotel Arc-en-Ciel Colmar

Best Tours in Colmar :

  • From Colmar: 3 Christmas Markets in Neuf-Brisach, Freiburg and Basel
  • Colmar: Walking Tour and Wine Tasting

The  Colmar Christmas Market  is one of Europe’s most beautiful Christmas Markets. It is an excellent place for any traveler, from solo travelers to couples or families.

Colmar is located in the historical region of Alsace in Eastern France, not far from the border with Germany. It is an easy 2-hour ride by fast train from Paris and a mere half-hour ride from Strasbourg, Alsace’s capital.

There are many Christmas Markets within the Old Town, each with a distinct charm. The Old Town is very compact and pedestrian-friendly, so walking from one location to another is easy.

The Christmas Market locations are Place des Dominicains, Place Jeanne d’Arc, Place de l’Ancienne Douane, the Koïfus (former customs, indoor market), Petite Venise (for kids) and the Marché Gourmand (food market) at Rue de la Montagne Verte.

In each Christmas Market, you will find lovely gifts by skilled local craftsmen, comfort food typical of Alsace and mulled wine . The Petite Venise also has attractions for children, while the Marché Gourmand is focused on foods and drinks.

In addition to the markets, you can also visit the Unterlinden Museum (Arts from the Middle Ages and Renaissance). At the same time, children might prefer the Choco-Story Museum or the Toys Museum.

If possible, visit during the weekdays. The city gets overcrowded on Fridays and weekends, and it isn’t easy to stroll around. Book your hotel one year in advance for the best choice and prices.

Contributed by Elisa from France Bucket List

23 Most Magical Christmas Markets in Europe | Reims, France | #ChristmasMarketsEurope #EuropeanWinterHolidays

Reims, France

Festival Dates : November 24 – December 24, 2023

Location : Promenades Jean-Louis Schneiter

Weather : 2℃ – 6℃ (35 -43℉). It is cold with some snow and rain

  • Luxury: La Caserne Chanzy Hotel & Spa, Autograph Collection
  • Mid-range: Best Western Premier Hotel de la Paix
  • Budget: Ibis Reims Centre

Best Tours in Reims :

  • Reims UNESCO sites & Champagne Tastings  
  • Champagne and Chocolates Tasting  
  • Night Tour of Reims with Torches  

Just 45 minutes from Paris, the  Reims Christmas Market  is France’s 3rd largest Christmas market , with 150 chalets, attracting over 1.5 million visitors.

The Reims Christmas Market is steeped in history. Its roots trace back to 496 AD when King Clovis and his 3,000 warriors were baptized on Christmas Day by Bishop Rémi of Reims.

You will find everything you can expect during the holiday, including regional specialties, crafts and gifts. Of course, plenty of bubbly is on offer in Reims, the unofficial capital of Champagne.

From a Ferris wheel offering panoramic views of the city to the Children’s Kingdom and Santa’s House , the market caters to all ages, making it perfect for families and couples.

Make sure you try some of the gingerbread, local cheeses, truffled sausages, champagne jam and the unique pink biscuits, Biscuits Roses de Reims , along with festive favorites such as mulled wine, chestnuts and pastries.

One of the things you won’t want to miss is the Reims Regalia light show , a spectacular multimedia event that takes place on the façades of the Cathedral of Reims and the Basilica of Saint-Remi.

It is a free, open-air show that doesn’t require booking, making it easily accessible to all visitors. The show’s schedule for the 2023 season includes performances on Thursdays at 20:00 (lasting about 10 minutes) at the Basilica Saint-Remi and on Fridays and Saturdays at 20:00 (lasting about 15 minutes) at the Cathedral Notre-Dame. There is also a special showing on December 31 at 20:00 at the Cathedral Notre-Dame.

Contributed by Kylie from Life in Rural France

23 Most Magical Christmas Markets in Europe | Paris, France | #ChristmasMarketsEurope #EuropeanWinterHolidays

Paris, France

Festival Dates : Tuileries Garden Christmas Market, November 18, 2023 – January 7, 2024

Admission : free (fees for ice skating)

Location : Jardin des Tuileries (1st district)

Weather : 3°C to 8°C (32-46℉)

Hotel to stay :  

  • Luxury: Hotel Duminy-Vendome
  • Mid-range: Hôtel du Lion d’Or Louvre
  • Budget: Hotel de Nesle

Best tours in Paris :  

  • Noël à Paris: Christmas Light Walking Tour
  • Paris Christmas 5-Course Dinner Cruise
  • Paris Open-Top Christmas Bus Tour

Paris is known as the “City of Lights.” When you visit Paris during the festive season, you can truly understand why. The entire city lights up, and many Christmas markets pop up around the French capital.

The most iconic Christmas market in Paris for decades is Tuileries Garden. It is a collection of dozens of wooden chalets and roller coasters.

And you can find all kinds of French delicacies and seasonal specialties, including mulled wine, French onion soup, tartiflette, raclette, crepes, pomme d’amour , etc.

However, the highlight of Tuileries Christmas Market is its outdoor ice rink. It is one of the best places to go   ice skating in Paris . Admission to the Tuileries ice rink costs €10 for adults and €8 for children, including skate rental.

Skating under Christmas lights is a very popular activity among families, groups of friends and couples. So, after 5 pm at dusk is the busiest time of the day. If you want to avoid the crowd, a morning session is recommended. 

If you wish to do a full Christmas tour of Paris, head to Galeries Lafayette to see its giant Christmas tree, the well-decorated Champs-Elysées Avenue and Galerie Vivienne.

Contributed by Soline from On the Road Diary

Where to Stay in Paris First Time | 10 Best Arrondissements to Stay in Paris for First-Time Visitors & On a Budget: Tips & Hotel recommendations, Things to Do in each area | #wheretostayParis #parishotels

Where to Stay in Paris?

23 Most Magical Christmas Markets in Europe | Ghent, Belgium | #ChristmasMarketsEurope #EuropeanWinterHolidays

Ghent, Belgium

Festival Dates : December 7 – December 31, 2023

Location:  Ghent’s historic old town

Weather:  Average temperatures in December range between 3°C and 10°C (38-50℉) with little rain and rare snow.

  • Luxury: 1898 The Post
  • Mid-range: Ghent Marriott Hotel  
  • Budget: Hostel Uppelink

Best Tours in Ghent :

  • Ghent Christmas Market Walking Tour
  • Canal Boat Guided Tour
  • Walking Tour of Historic City Center

Ghent is a beautiful fairytale-like city any time of the year, but it turns into a magical setting come the holidays. Over 150 stalls line the historic city center from Korenmarkt to Saint Bavo’s Cathedral for the annual Gentse Winterfeesten or Ghent Winter Festival.

The  Ghent Christmas market  is free to enjoy for all those visiting and perfect for couples, families and solo travelers. Although it is the second biggest Christmas market in Belgium, it has a cozy feel with an easy-to-navigate layout.

Besides roaming from one Christmas chalet to the next in search of that perfect gift, top activities include enjoying a gluhwein or  beer at the Moose Bar , ice skating, and riding the Ferris wheel.

Surrounded by illuminated lights, wreaths, and garland, visitors can take a moment to indulge in a delicious wurst sandwich, frites, waffles, and the seasonal Sneeuwballen candy.

Guests to the winter festival can climb to the top of Ghent’s Belfry for panoramic views overlooking the Christmas market festivities. No visit to this medieval city is complete without visiting Gravensteen Castle, which is set in the middle of the town, with an entertaining audio guide.

Contributed by Vanessa from Traveling Ness

23 Most Magical Christmas Markets in Europe | Basel, Swiss | #ChristmasMarketsEurope #EuropeanWinterHolidays

Basel, Switzerland

Festival Dates:  November 23 – December 23, 2023 Daily from 11 am to 8:30 pm.

Location:  Barfusserplatx and Munsterplatx in Basel, Switzerland

Weather:  High 40° / Low 23° C, most cloudy

  • Luxury: Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois  
  • Mid-Range: Hotel Marthof Basel  
  • Budget: Motel One Basel

Best Tours in Basel:

  • Walking Tour Through Basel Old Town
  • Basel’s Cheese, Chocolate, and Local Pastry Tasting
  • Swiss Travel Pass

Discover the magic of  Christmas in Basel  at Switzerland’s two best Christmas Markets. With over 155 charming wooden stalls, these markets are the ultimate holiday destinations.

Step into the Old Town and immerse yourself in the festive atmosphere at the  Barfusserplatz Market . Located near the beautiful Barfusser Church, this market offers unique treasures like cookie molds, hand-painted ornaments, and delectable treats. And don’t miss the magnificent Christmas Pyramid, where you can sip on warm Glühwein while enjoying the festive sights.

Head over to the  Munsterplatz Market , nestled by the Basel Minster, and be captivated by the stunning Christmas tree adorned with ornaments designed by the renowned artist Johann Wanner. You’ll find a treasure trove of handmade gifts and food stalls here.

Just next to the Munsterplatz, there’s a children’s market called  Marchenwald , where little ones can take part in immersive experiences tailored just for them.

Explore the mile-long Avantsgass im Glaibasel, a food market along the Rheingasse, where foodies enjoy sausages, Swiss raclette, Basel Läckerlim, and Glühwein.

Beyond the Christmas Markets, Basel has many activities to enjoy. The city is blessed with the stunning Rhine River as its backdrop. At the Basel Theatre, immerse yourself in the holiday spirit with daily stage presentations and a new Advent Calendar window opening. And remember to visit the Basel City Hall, where you can share your Advent wishes in the Wish Book. With over 40 museums, Basel truly offers something for everyone.

Contributed by Becky Bodnum from Cultivate Traveling 

23 Most Magical Christmas Markets in Europe | Zurich, Swiss | #ChristmasMarketsEurope #EuropeanWinterHolidays

Zurich, Switzerland

Festival Dates : 23rd November to 24th December.

Admission : No admission fees, with the markets spread out across the city.

Location : The main locations include Niederdorf quarter in the old city, Wienachtsdorf village near the opera house, and Zurich train station.

Weather : Wear warm clothing as the December temperatures are usually under 6℃ (42.8℉) with high chances of snow!

Hotels to stay at :

  • Luxury: La Réserve Eden au Lac Zurich  
  • Mid-range: Ruby Mimi Hotel Zurich  
  • Budget: Saint Georges Hotel  
  • Zürich Christmas Photoshoot & Walking Tour
  • Zürich: City Tour, Cruise, and Lindt Home of Chocolate Visit  
  • Zurich: Sightseeing and Gourmet Tour with Cheese Fondue

Visiting  Zurich for the Christmas markets  is a magical moment for all to experience. From the singing Christmas tree with festive carols to the winter markets and the delicious local warm delicacies, it makes a holiday extra special and festive.

Throughout the event, live music performances occur in main locations such as the Niederdorf quarter in the old city, Wienachtsdorf village near the opera house, and Zurich train station.

All these locations also have Christmas market stands, with the train station having more than 130 to enjoy!

As for the delicacies, you will find international options, typical Swiss fondue, bread filled with melted cheese, and the sweetest desserts like crepes . You definitely won’t be hungry with so much to choose from!

Zurich Christmas Markets are great for all ages, with a few activities for those with young children. Those looking to party with friends head to the courtyard of the Swiss National Museum . Here, you will find live DJs, food stands and a great place surrounded by festive lights .

For those looking to see the city from above, head up to the Observation deck viewpoint near the public university. It’s easy to get to with the city funicular for just a few CHFs. Alternatively, walk up for free!

Contributed by Zoe from Together In Switzerland

23 Most Magical Christmas Markets in Europe | Gothenburg, Sweden | #ChristmasMarketsEurope #EuropeanWinterHolidays

Gothenburg, Sweden

Festival Dates : Weekends from mid-November to early January. Every day from December 6-30th.

Admission : From 125 SEK. Some dates are more expensive. 255 SEK for unlimited access to the amusement rides.

Location : Liseberg Amusement Park, Gothenburg, Sweden

Weather : Chilly with temperatures ranging from -1°C to 3°C (30°F to 37°F). Expect a mix of cloudy and clear days, with occasional rain or snow.

  • Luxury:  Upper House
  • Mid-range:  Radisson Blu
  • Budget: Linnéplatsen Hotell & Youth Hostel

Best Tours in Gothenburg :

  • Gothenburg Christmas Market Tour
  • Gothenburg Archipelago Cruise  
  • Gothenburg Walking Tour with Swedish Fika

The  Liseberg Christmas Market in Gothenburg , Sweden, is one of many great Christmas Markets in the city. The Liseberg Amusement Park transforms into a winter wonderland full of Christmas decorations and a magical atmosphere.

At Liseberg Christmas Market, you can enjoy trying traditional Swedish foods such as pepparkakor (gingerbread cookies) and glögg , which is like mulled wine but includes dried fruit and nuts. You’ll find stalls selling Christmas decorations, home goods, and scented products that make great gifts.

There’s also an ice-skating rink, merry-go-rounds, live concerts, a chance to visit Santa’s workshop , and the giant Ferris wheel you can ride to see out over Gothenburg.

The market takes about half a day to explore, depending on whether you want to go on the rides.

Besides the Christmas market, there’s plenty to do in Gothenburg. Ride the ferries between the archipelago off the coast, where you’ll find cute little villages and beautiful views.

Or, visit the Haga district of Gothenburg, the oldest in the city. You can find many cute shops with beautiful Scandinavian-designed goods and cafes perfect for enjoying a Fika (cake and coffee). Be sure to try a cinnamon bun (kanelbulle).

Gothenburg is great for both couples and families. As a Swedish city, everywhere is inviting for children, and the rides and games at Liseberg Christmas Market will keep kids entertained. However, it’s equally fun for couples without children.

Contributed by Hannah from That Adventurer Blog

23 Most Magical Christmas Markets in Europe | Riga, Latvia | #ChristmasMarketsEurope #EuropeanWinterHolidays

Riga, Latvia

Festival Dates : December 3, 2023 – January 8, 2024

Location : Dome Square (Doma laukums, Centra rajons, Rīga, LV-1050)

Weather : The average temperature in December is 1°C (33°F) high and -3 °C (27°F) low. With an average of 12 rainy days, expect the weather to be humid or snowy.

  • Luxury: Metropole Hotel by Semarah
  • Mid-range: Hilton Garden Inn Riga Old Town
  • Budget: Ibis Riga Centre

Best Tours in Riga :

  • Riga Central Market Latvian Food Tour  
  • Riga Old Town Tour
  • Stories of Soviet Riga Walking Tour

When exploring the best Christmas markets in Europe, the   Riga Christmas Market  in the historic Dome Square is a must-visit destination. This market, nestled in the heart of Riga’s Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, offers a glimpse into the traditional Latvian culture, making it an ideal stop for Christmas enthusiasts. The market’s size is manageable, allowing for a more intimate and less crowded experience compared to some of Europe’s larger markets.

Shopping enthusiasts will find an array of unique gifts and souvenirs. Handmade woolen mittens, amber jewelry, and intricate wooden carvings are popular.

Be sure to try the ‘piparkūkas’ (gingerbread cookies) and ‘karstvīns’ (mulled wine) , a staple at the market. Hearty Latvian dishes, such as ‘piragi’ (bacon buns) , provide warmth and sustenance on chilly evenings.

For those looking to explore beyond the market, Riga’s Old Town offers a labyrinth of cobblestone streets filled with historic architecture, cozy cafes, and museums. The Art Nouveau district, with its stunningly ornate buildings, is a short walk away and is a must-see.

The Riga Christmas Market is perfect for couples seeking a romantic holiday experience and families looking for a festive outing. Visiting during the evening offers a magical experience as the lights add to the festive atmosphere.

To fully enjoy the market, dress warmly – Latvian winters are cold! Wear a proper winter coat and boots, preferably waterproof. While credit cards are widely accepted, carrying cash at the stalls is advisable for smaller purchases.

Contributed by Una from Wandernity

23 Most Magical Christmas Markets in Europe | Bratislava, Slovakia | #ChristmasMarketsEurope #EuropeanWinterHolidays

Bratislava, Slovakia

Festival Dates : November 23 – December 23.

Admission: Free

Location : Main square & Hviezdoslavovo square

Weather : Temperature ranges from 39°F (4°C) to a low of 28°F (-2°C). Expect a very cold visit, with snow often falling in December.

  • Luxury: Luxury Grand Apartments
  • Mid-range: Skaritz Hotel and Residence
  • Budget: Patio Hostel

Best Tours :  

  • Bratislava Christmas Walking Tour
  • Bratislava Walking Tour
  • Speedboat tour on the Danube River

Bratislava is a hidden gem in Eastern Europe, best known for its iconic Castle perched high above the city. In December, the city offers a festive delight for visitors through its famous  Christmas Market .

Several markets are spread across the small city, which is walkable at any time of year. The most famous market is located in the Main Square.

As you wander around the Main Square, you will find stalls offering a combination of local Slovak food, cold and warm beverages, and quirky festive souvenirs. On weekends, there is also entertainment in the Main Square with local bands playing on a large stage, specially constructed for the festive season.

If you want a brief escape from the crispness of Christmas, you can head over to one of the quirky cafes in the Main Square. Enjoy warm festivities with local delicacies and themed decorations, turning them into a winter paradise.

During the frostiness of the Slovakian capital, its castle offers a different dimension, with a chilly eerie swirl around its grounds. It makes for a great cheap activity if you wish to take a break from Christmas festivities.

Bratislava Christmas Market stalls are set up for socializing with a warm drink, welcoming everyone from families to couples to friends.

If you want a spectacular view of the Christmas Markets , head up the  Old Town Hall Tower  for a unique bird’s-eye view. Old Town Hall Tower opens from 10 am to 6 pm, Tuesday-Sunday. Admission is €8 for Adults or €4 for children.

Contributed by Tom from Tom Henty’s Travel

23 Best Christmas Markets in Europe for your bucket list | #ChristmasMarketsEurope #EuropeanWinterHolidays

Budapest, Hungary

Festival Dates : November 17, 2023 – January 1, 2024 from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Location : Christmas Market at Vörösmarty Square, district V.

Weather : Average high: 3°C (38℉) | Average low: -2°C (28℉)

Winters in Budapest can be brutal despite the rather mild averages. Luckily, there may be some sunny days but expect damp weather with snow sometimes.

  • Luxury: Budapest Marriott Hotel  
  • Mid-range: Central Hotel 21 and Apartments  
  • Budget: Fanni Budapest Guesthouse  

Best Tours in Budapest :

  • Budapest Christmas Market Guided Walking Tour with Tastings
  • Budapest: Christmas & New Year Special Danube Dinner Cruises
  • Széchenyi Spa Full Day with Optional Pálinka Tour
  • Hungarian Chimney Cake Workshop

Sprawling on two sides of the Danube, Budapest tells the tale of two cities: Buda and Pest. But  Budapest in winter  is particularly a magical time with both sides putting up their fancy clothes for the Holidays.

In mid-late November each year, Christmas Markets & Fairs pop up throughout the city. There are 13 holiday markets and fairs during this time of the year, including in Vörösmarty Square and in front of St. Stephen’s Basilica. (If you want to be in the middle of it all, stay in Pest.)

The most popular one takes place in Vörösmarty Square. This market includes around 100 stalls selling traditional food, Christmas ornaments, and winter beverages. Make sure to try the mulled wine and the traditional palinka. Goulash, stuffed cabbage, langos, flat bread (lepény), chimney cake are all traditional foods that keep you full during the cold winters.

With plenty of activities for kids, including caroling and visits from Santa, the Christmas Market in Vörösmarty Square is an excellent choice for a family vacation.

Aside from spending time at the Christmas markets, Budapest also offers plenty of other things to do. Don’t miss out on shopping at the Grand Central Market Hall. Stroll along the Danube Embankment, walk on Andrássy Avenue, explore Heroes Square, and visit Buda Castle.

Contributed by Cris from LooknWalk

23 Most Magical Christmas Markets in Europe | Prague, Czech Republic | #ChristmasMarketsEurope #EuropeanWinterHolidays

Prague, Czech Republic

Festival Dates : December 2, 2023 – January 6, 2024

Location : Old Town Square

Weather : The average high for December is 40°F (4°C), and average lows are 32°F (0°C). Snow and rain are possible, but the city only sees about an inch of precipitation.

  • Luxury: Grand Hotel Bohemia  
  • Mid-Range: Maximilian Hotel  
  • Budget: Icon Hotel

Best Tours in Prague :

  • The Nutcracker Ballet
  • Christmas Sightseeing River Cruise with Hot Drink
  • Prague Old Town Christmas Walk

The Prague Christmas Market is one of the most beloved in Europe and Prague’s most beautiful of its kind. The city’s primary market is in the Old Town Square, in the heart of the city. Travelers of all ages will find something to love about this market.

A towering Christmas tree stands as the centerpiece, adorned with many dazzling ornaments and lights. The iconic buildings of the square also make a breathtaking backdrop to the festivities.

There are hundreds of booths selling food, handmade ornaments, trinkets, and more.

The Christmas market is the perfect opportunity to try traditional Czech street food, from Prague ham, grilled sausages, fried cheese, and potato dumplings . Be sure to grab an Instagrammable Trdelnik pasty and svařené víno , or mulled wine (one of the best things about visiting Prague in winter ).

As the city’s most popular market, note that it will be pretty busy and crowded at all times of the day. It is worth it for the magical vibes, though! It is also one of the only markets open into January so that you can experience the festivities after Christmas.

There are several other Christmas Markets throughout the city, including at  Prague Castle  and Wenceslas Square, along with smaller ones at Republic and Peace Squares.

Contributed by Caroline from Pictures and Words Blog

23 Most Magical Christmas Markets in Europe | Zagreb, Croatia | #ChristmasMarketsEurope #EuropeanWinterHolidays

Zagreb, Croatia

Festival Dates : December 2, 2023 – January 7, 2024

Location : Ban Jelacic Square, Zrinjevac Park, Upper town, King Tomislav Square, and more.

Weather : Temperature ranges between 0℃ and 5 ℃ (30-41℉), although it can often go below 0℃. Usually sunny and dry with the possibility of snow. Bring gloves and a hat because the cold can be brisk!

  • Luxury: Esplanade Zagreb Hotel or Met Boutique Hotel
  • Mid-range: Pod Zidom Rooms or Hotel Academia
  • Budget: Casablanca Boutique Bed&Breakfast or Irundo Downtown Apartments

Best Tours in Zagreb

  • Zagreb Magical Christmas Tour
  • Taste Zagreb Food Tour
  • Zagreb Walking tour with a traditional meal
  • Zagreb Private Walking Tour with Funicular Ticket 

Zagreb has a magical Christmas market, awarded “Best Christmas Market in Europe” three years in a row.

Zagreb Christmas markets  last from early December to early January. Most of the locations are fairly close to each other.

Anyone who enjoys a traditional Christmas market with lots of lights, excellent traditional food, and an abundance of mulled wine will be charmed by Zagreb’s many Christmassy locations.

One of the most popular Christmas markets is Fulirangje, a foodie heaven on Strossmayer Square . Another popular attraction is Ice Park, which features a huge ice rink on King Tomislav Square . For romantic walks and gorgeous Instagram photos, visit the upper town and Zrinjevac Park , the most decorated locations in Zagreb! The ice rink on King Tomislav Square is the perfect location for families to make fun Christmas memories.

The food at the Christmas market locations is quite pricey, but there are many great restaurants to visit for someone looking for more affordable options. Some of the favorites are Nokturno, La Štruk, and Batak.

Overall, Christmas in Zagreb is the most stunning time of the year. Don’t miss this European gem!

Contributed by Karla from Karla Types

23 Most Magical Christmas Markets in Europe | Vilnius, Lithuania | #ChristmasMarketsEurope #EuropeanWinterHolidays

Vilnius, Lithuania

Festival Dates : November 26, 2023 – January 1, 2024

Location : Cathedral Square, and outside the Town Hall

Weather : High of 0℃ (32°F), and low of -5℃ (23°F)

  • Luxury: Hotel Vilnia
  • Mid-range: Novotel Vilnius Centre
  • Budget: Art City Inn

Best Tours in Vilnius :

  • From Vilnius: Christmas Miracles in Kaunas Full Day Trip
  • Trakai Tour with Audio Guide
  • Hill of Crosses Day Tour from Vilnius

Vilnius Old Town is one of the largest towns in Northern Europe, spanning 887 acres. It hosts one of the most beautiful Christmas Markets in Europe!

The stunning Vilnius Christmas Market is a hidden gem. It is yet more affordable and less crowded than other European countries during the holiday.

One section of the Vilnius Christmas Market is located in Cathedral Square, while the other is outside the Town Hall within walking distance.

The Cathedral Square market is the main one, with a 100-foot tall Christmas tree uniquely decorated every year, along with a vendor market in the rustic wooden-roof chalets.

Near the Town Hall Christmas Market, you can find another large Christmas tree surrounded by snow globe cafes, where you can enjoy a hot drink, such as mulled wine. There are also some vendors set up during the day.

In addition, there is a charming Christmas train that winds its way through Old Town. Families with children can ride the train and enjoy the festive sights of Old Town at Christmas.

Aside from the Vilnius Christmas Market, other things to check out in  Vilnius in winter  include the gorgeous Trakai Castle, which is covered in a thin layer of snow, and the Uzupis neighborhood, which exudes an artsy bohemian vibe.

Vilnius is a walkable city, making it easy to navigate for anyone, whether traveling as couples or families with children on holiday.

Contributed by Kristin from Tiny Footsteps Travel

23 Most Magical Christmas Markets in Europe | Seville, Spain | #ChristmasMarketsEurope #EuropeanWinterHolidays

Seville, Spain

Festival Dates : December 1st – January 6th

Location : Plaza Nueva and surrounding areas

Weather : Mild Andalusian winter with temperatures ranging from 8°C to 15°C (46°F to 59°F). Expect sunny days, making it a perfect atmosphere to explore the festive market.

  • Luxury: Hotel Alfonso XIII 
  • Mid-range: Petit Palace Canalejas
  • Budget: Soho Boutique Sevilla

Best Tours in Seville :

  • Christmas & New Year’s Eve Flamenco and Dinner
  • Guided Tour of Cathedral, Giralda and Alcazar
  • Guadalquivir River Sightseeing Eco Cruise

Seville’s Christmas Market is a beautiful tapestry of  Spanish Christmas traditions , blending tradition and festivity in the heart of Andalusia. The city’s vibrant energy during Christmas is perfect for couples seeking a romantic getaway and families creating lasting holiday memories.

Seville’s Christmas market occurs in a historic and iconic location, adding a unique ambiance to the festive atmosphere. Walking past the stalls, you will see the Giralda, the Cathedral’s iconic tower, the Biblioteca de las Indias and the Alcazar, the Moorish castle.

The market boasts an array of handcrafted decorations, artisanal gifts, and local treats, creating an enchanting atmosphere. Visitors can indulge in seasonal delights like turron (nougat) and churros while exploring the diverse stalls.

Given Seville’s deep connection to flamenco, you will likely find live flamenco performances  in and around the Christmas market.

Compared to many other European Christmas markets, Seville benefits from a mild climate . Visitors can enjoy the market comfortably outdoors without facing frigid temperatures.

Beyond the market, Seville offers architectural wonders like  the Cathedral and Alcázar . Consider joining a guided tour to uncover the city’s rich history.

Contributed by Paulina from Visit Southern Spain

23 Most Magical Christmas Markets in Europe | Manchester, U.K. | #ChristmasMarketsEurope #EuropeanWinterHolidays

Manchester, England

Festival Dates : From mid-November to the end of December

Location : Manchester

Weather : The average temperature in December is 46°F (8°C). Unlikely to snow, but expect rain during the day.

  • Luxury: Hotel Gotham
  • Mid-range:  Hotel Indigo Manchester – Victoria Station, an IHG Hotel
  • Budget:  The Mitre Hotel

Best Tours in Manchester :

  • Manchester Etihad Stadium Tour  
  • Manchester National Football Museum Ticket  
  • Manchester United Museum and Stadium Tour  

Manchester Christmas Markets  are one of the largest Christmas markets in all of England. With over 300 stalls, there is something for everyone, whether searching for the perfect gift or simply wanting to soak up the festive atmosphere.

The Christmas market in Manchester promises a delightful experience filled with festive cheer and memorable moments for couples and families. Families can enjoy activities and attractions for children, such as Santa’s Grotto or ice skating . Couples can get festive while enjoying mulled Cider or hot whisky at Picadilly Gardens.

If you’re planning a visit to the Christmas market in Manchester, here are a few insights and tips.

First, the best time to visit is during weekdays. It can get quite crowded, especially on weekends. Second, dress warmly, as the weather can be chilly during December. Lastly, don’t forget to bring some cash, as not all stalls may accept card payments.

While the Christmas market is a highlight, other places in Manchester are worth exploring.

The city is known for its rich history and vibrant culture, so you can walk around the historic Northern Quarter, visit the impressive Manchester Cathedral, or explore the fascinating  National Football Museum . Football fans can also book a visit to  Etihad Stadium .

Contributed By Paulina from the UK Every Day

23 Most Magical Christmas Markets in Europe | Vienna, Austria | #ChristmasMarketsEurope #EuropeanWinterHolidays

Vienna, Austria

Festival Dates : Late November to Christmas Eve

Locations : Rathausplatz (City Hall Square), Schönbrunn Palace Market, Belvedere Palace Market (and many more!)

Weather : 0°C to 5°C (32-41°F). Occasional snowfall for a picturesque setting.

  • Luxury: Hotel Sacher Vienna
  • Mid-range: Hotel Am Konzerthaus
  • Budget: MEININGER Hotel Wien Downtown Franz

Best Tours in Vienna :

  • Schönbrunn: Christmas Market, Palace Tour & Concert
  • Vienna: Christmas Markets Tour
  • Vienna: 3-Hour Christmas Tour by Segway
  • Vienna: Christmas & New Year’s Concert in St. Peter’s Church

Christmas in Vienna   isn’t your average one-stop-shop affair — it’s a festive adventure spread across different spots with Rathausplatz , a dazzling ballroom of lights; Schönbrunn Palace Market , an imperial waltz of flavors; and Belvedere Palace Market , a whimsical dance of festive delights. And do not forget Stephenplatz , Karlsplatz , and Maria-Theresien-Platz Christmas markets!

Each market is a distinct adventure, a treasure trove of traditional crafts, and a playground for gourmet delights, making them perfect for couples looking for a relaxed winter break and families wanting a taste of Austrian holiday traditions.

If you plan a trip to Vienna this Christmas, get ready to warm up with mulled wine, nibble on roasted chestnuts or lebkuchen, and get lost in the sea of stalls!

Beyond the markets, discover the stunning halls of Schönbrunn or take a leisurely walk around the charming gardens of Belvedere. And don’t forget to  catch the nightly musical performances  and the festive tree lighting ceremonies.

Lastly, immerse yourself in the city’s musical heritage with a classical concert. It’s a genuine Viennese experience that adds a cultural note to your Christmas escape.

Contributed by Goya from Goya Galeotta

23 Most Magical Christmas Markets in Europe | Tallinn, Estonia | #ChristmasMarketsEurope #EuropeanWinterHolidays

Tallinn, Estonia

Festival Dates : December 1, 2023 – January 7, 2024

Location : Town Hall Square, Tallinn

Weather : Temperature ranges between -15 ℃ and -3℃ (5-26℉). It is usually raining or snowing.

  • Luxury:  Radisson Collection Hotel
  • Mid Range:  Park Inn by Radisson Central  
  • Budget:  CityBox Tallinn City Center

Best Tours in Tallinn :

  • Tallinn Private Guide Tour with a Local
  • Tallinn Food Tour
  • From Tallinn to Helsinki Day Tour with Ferry

If you want to visit Europe in winter, consider Tallinn in Estonia. The Tallinn Christmas market has been voted the best in Europe multiple times!

The best thing about this Christmas market is the location since it is located in the old town square. The entire place turns into a fairytale wonderland during Christmas. With the illuminated Christmas tree right in the middle of the square, it becomes more magical with snow.

Diverse vendors sell anything from food to Christmas goodies and ornaments. Check out traditional Estonian Christmas cuisines, such as black pudding, sour cabbages, gingerbread and mulled wine .

Also, live performances by artists take place on the main stage; watching the Estonian dances is such a pleasure. For children, there is a cute little merry-go-round.

Plan your trip once it starts snowing in Tallinn to experience its magical Christmas market, whether for couples or families. And while visiting the city, consider  taking a walking tour with a local  to learn about its rich history and culture.

Contributed by Soumya Nambiar from Travel, Books & Food

23 Most Magical Christmas Markets in Europe | Oslo, Norway | #ChristmasMarketsEurope #EuropeanWinterHolidays

Oslo, Norway

Festival Dates:  October 30 – December 19, 2023

Location:  Spikersuppa

Weather:  Below freezing point (0°C / 32°F)

  • Luxury :  Hotel Christiania Teater
  • Mid-range:   Radisson Blu Hotel Oslo Alna
  • Budget : The Verdandi Hotel  

Best tours in Oslo: 

  • Oslo Christmas Tour with gløgg and Christmas sweets
  • Traditional Norwegian Christmas Cruise
  • Oslo: Winter Highlights 3-Hour Bike Tour

When you think of Scandinavia, you think of cold weather, snow and winter. This is precisely what Oslo offers in December, along with a cozy Christmas market.

The market is a typical European Christmas market with many stalls, a Ferris wheel, a helter-skelter, and many opportunities to buy warm food and drinks. Make sure to try Gløgg, a Norwegian mulled wine !

But what makes Oslo’s market special is the opportunity to go ice skating in the center of the market. It’s an authentic Scandinavian experience to ice skate outdoors .

If you visit with kids, Sunday is the day most locals take their children, so it could be a good idea for you to do so, too. But if you don’t have kids, go on a different day. It also opens midday and is significantly quieter during the daytime than at night.  

Oslo makes for the perfect trip for anyone and everyone. The atmosphere in Oslo is so relaxed and peaceful that it makes for a laid-back city break in winter. And the Christmas market sums the city up perfectly: cozy!  

Contributed by Josh from  A Backpacker’s World  

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Journey of Doing

7 Christmas Market Trip Itinerary Ideas

Hopefully by now, I’ve convinced you to make your own Christmas market trip to Europe!  Despite the cold, there is nowhere I’d rather celebrate the holiday season than in Europe.  The smell of roasted chestnuts, the warmth of mulled wine, traditional wooden stalls selling beautiful Christmas decor, and glimmering Christmas lights all get me out of our hotel room on the coldest of nights.  That being said, even if the Christmas markets don’t get you going, these Christmas market trip itineraries can help you plan your vacations at any point in the year.

This post is heavily focused on central Europe.  Did you know that Hungary and the Czech Republic are not  considered to be part of Eastern Europe?  Test your knowledge through this  European map quiz .  It’s sure to inspire a whole host of alternate itineraries to try, particularly if you want to experience Eastern Europe destinations.  Estonia, Latvia, and the entire Balkan peninsula are calling to me.

If you’re looking for more inspiration, check out this list of some of the  best European Christmas markets !

Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links for tours and products I love at no additional cost to you.  You can read my  full disclosure policy here.

Christmas Market Trip Travel Tips

To maximize your trip, I highly suggest that you book an open jaw ticket.  A open jaw ticket is one that arrives in one city and departs from another city.  Typically, I like to choose my two furthest points to minimize any backtracking.  I use Skyscanner to get an idea of what are the cheap travel deals. Using my home airport (DFW) I search to anywhere in Europe.  I also subscribe to Scott’s Cheap Flights and CheapDFW .  Once I know what is on sale, I use ITA Matrix to figure out which flights I want. I use Book with Matrix to find the best deal for my specific flight.

Use Rome2Rio to compare train, bus, and car transportation options.  Trains are usually the most efficient way to travel, but it depends on the size of your group.  In some cases, it might be better to drive.  We’ve done both.  If you’ve never been abroad and you’re not comfortable navigating public transportation, you might want to consider a river cruise, but I promise that you can do this!

Winter in Europe is cold.  I could do a whole packing post on what I’ve learned, but I haven’t done it yet.  My suggestions are to purchase cuddledud base layers that can be layered under leggings or jeans.  I find cashmere sweaters to the best for staying warm.  I have a pair of wool lined waterproof Ugg books that I’ve had for six years.  They keep my feet warm and dry.  Beyond that, you’ll want a scarf, a hat, an ear band, and gloves, too.  I am all about the layering!

One Week Christmas Market Trip Ideas

Classic central europe.

Salzburg, Austria (2 nights)

Vienna, Austria (2 nights)

Prague, Czech Republic (3 nights)

Affordable Central Europe

Munich, Germany (2 nights)

Bratislava, Slovakia (2 nights)

best european christmas market tour

One Week Itinerary for France Christmas Markets

The Alsace wine route is great at any time of year, and it’s perfect for Christmas markets, too!  I recommend flying into Paris and immediately catching a train from Charles de Gaulle to Strasbourg.  We’ve done this Paris to Strasbourg itinerary twice and it’s super easy!  From there, you can rent a car or take the train.  If you opt for the train, I think Strasbourg and Colmar are the best connected.  On the return, you can spend a couple nights in Paris and enjoy their Christmas markets, too.  We’ve spent Christmas in Paris twice and it’s just magical at Christmas time.

Note:  Not all Alsatian Christmas markets are open every day.  You’ll want to check the Alsace Christmas market calendar before making plans, especially for some of the smaller towns in Alsace.  The suggested itinerary below is for markets that stay open consistently, but there are some off the beaten path towns in Alsace that I love!  I would choose Strasbourg or Colmar and then fit together some of the smaller towns based on your own Christmas market trip timing.  (We actually walked from Colmar to the Eguisheim Christmas markets one day.  That might be a little intense, but it’s doable!  

Strasbourg (2 nights)   

Colmar (2 nights)

Paris (3 nights)

10 Day Christmas Market Trip Itineraries

Both of these itineraries will allow you to see some of the most popular Christmas markets in Europe.  Many popular river cruises use some variation of these itineraries, but this will allow you to enjoy seeing the cities at night.  I think they appeal to difference audiences, though I love each of these itineraries equally.  

Don’t miss the incredible ice rink in Slovakia.  It’s one of my favorite memories of our first trip, though I love the ice rink in Salzburg as well.  (I came home from studying abroad with black and blue knees from ice skating!)

Central European Capitals

Budapest, Hungary (3 nights)

Bavarian Christmas Tour

Salzburg, Austria (3 nights)

Nuremberg, Germany (2 nights)

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany (2 nights)

Munich, Germany (3 nights)

best european christmas market tour

Two Week Christmas Market Trip Itinerary Ideas

This is the first Christmas market trip itinerary that we used, and it is intense.  It’s worth it though.  For me, there was nothing more magical that ending our trip with the big Christmas tree in the middle of Old Town Square.  It felt like my favorite scene in the Nutcracker and I loved every minute of it.

Classic Central Europe Itinerary

Vienna, Austria (2 nights)

Prague, Czech Republic (3 nights)

best european christmas market tour

German Christmas and Central Europe Itinerary

This itinerary flies into and out of Munich.  If your trip will end on or shortly after Christmas Day, I recommend reversing it to end your trip in Salzburg .  On Christmas Eve, you can visit the chapel where Silent Night was first performed .  How’s that for a magical Christmas Eve??

Nuremburg, Germany (2 nights)

best european christmas market tour

Which are the Most Beautiful Christmas Markets?

All of these cities are beautiful in their own right.  There are things I love about all of them.  Nuremberg is the original German Christmas market.  I think Salzburg has the most beautiful views.  Vienna has the most beautiful Christmas lights.  Marienplatz in Munich is one of the most beautiful squares I’ve ever seen.  Old Town Square is a scene out of The Nutcracker.  Budapest at night is pure magic.  The old town in Bratislava epitomizes Christmas cheer.  Rothenburg ob der Tauber is the Christmas village of  Kathe Wohlfahrt in real life.

You can’t go wrong with any combination of these cities.  Pick your favorite Christmas market trip and get excited!  They are all lovely in their own right.  If you’re looking for more Christmas markets in Germany, Lorelei has a lot of unique Bavarian Christmas markets, villages, and towns on her blog!

best european christmas market tour

Salzburg:  The Alpine Christmas Markets

Where to Stay:   Hotel Goldgasse or Hotel Goldener Hirsch

Where to Eat:   Zum Zirkelwirt or Gasthof Wilder Mann

Don’t Miss:   Apple Strudel and Christmas Cookie Class

Who Loves Salzburg:   People who don’t mind being outside.  Between the Christmas market at Hohensalzburg Fortress, the one at Helbrunn Schloss, and the lakeside village markets, you have to enjoy spending time outside.  I wouldn’t recommend missing any of those markets, in addition the ones in the middle of the aldstadt, but if you don’t enjoy being outside, I would head to a city that offers more indoor activities.

Vienna:  The Beautiful Christmas Markets

Where to Stay:   Hotel am Stephansplatz or Ritz Carlton Vienna

Where to Eat:   Trattoria da Angelo – I love the rose ravioli!

Don’t Miss:   The Christmas lights!  I love the chandeliers near St. Stephan’s Cathedral.

Who Loves Vienna:  If you love music, culture, and cafes, Vienna has plenty of things to do on cold, wet days.  After touring Schonnbrunn Palace, you can take in a classical concert or see a strudel show.  I love sipping amaretto hot chocolate and reading at Cafe Central.  There are numerous museums, covering every topic you could imagine in the heart of Vienna.  If that’s not enough to satisfy your culture appetite, take a class to learn the Viennese waltz.  (We did; it was fun!)

best european christmas market tour

Bratislava: Christmas Markets for Foodies

Where to Stay:   Sheraton Bratislava or Roset Boutique Hotel

Where to Eat:   Rio Grande Restaurant – I love the lava steak!

Don’t Miss:   A food tour of the Christmas markets !  You’ll try a lot of Slovak specialties.  Find a place where you can comfortable enjoy the ambiance around the ice rink in the old town.  A lot places have outdoor heaters and blankets to keep warm!  It’s worth it!

Who Loves Bratislava:   If Vienna is too big, too modern, or too expensive for you, Bratislava feels like a world away from the grand architecture of Vienna.  Less than an hour away, it offers a similar beauty to Prague without the crowds.  Despite the cold temperatures, we enjoyed the public art, seeing the fortified city walls, and learning more about the differences between Slovakia and the Czech Republic, which ultimately led to their split during our lifetime.  I find this piece of modern history fascinating.

best european christmas market tour

Budapest:  The City Backdrop for Christmas Markets

Where to Stay:   Hilton Budapest

Where to Eat:   Pest Buda Bistro and Strudel House

Don’t Miss:   Any of these tours: Budapest night walking tour with river cruise , historical Budapest , Budapest Christmas market tour .  These are some of my favorite tour guides in Europe.  I can’t wait to go back and book them again!

Who Loves Budapest:   How can you not love Budapest?  That being said, if you love history, you’ll love Budapest.  If you love beautiful architecture and grand boulevards, you’ll love Budapest.  Budapest is the coldest of the Christmas markets we visited, so you’ll want to be prepared for that, but I think it is worth it.

Prague: The Fairytale Christmas Markets

Where to Stay:   Four Seasons Prague or Mandarin Oriental Prague

Where to Eat:   Pasta Fresca  or Meat and Greet

Don’t Miss:   St. Vitus Cathedral .  The Spanish Synagogue .  Old Town Square at night.  Charles Bridge in the early morning light.  Mala Strana.  The list for Prague goes on and on, doesn’t it??

Who Loves Prague:   If you like nightlife, Prague is your city.  (That’s not really my jam, but I recognize that it may be other people’s.)  If you love awe-inspiring stained glass and fairy tales come to life, don’t skip Prague.  One of my most fond memories of Prague is wandering the lamplit streets of Mala Strana on the way to the castle.  I could picture easily what it must have felt like in the 1500s.  I love getting out early and experiencing the Charles Bridge when its mostly empty with only the lamps are illuminating it.  The entire city seems mysterious and magical.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber: The Christmas Village

Where to Stay:   Hotel Klosterstuble

Where to Eat:   Profumo di Pasta da Guiseppe

Don’t Miss:   The Night Watchman’s Tour, eating a schneeballen , and visiting Kathe Wohlfahrt .

Who Loves Rothenburg ob der Tauber:   Anyone who loves Christmas.  It’s hard not to be a Grinch in this postcard perfect town.  If you love medieval town walls (my husband does), it’s neat to be able to walk around the city as though you are the night watchman.  The views of the German countryside are beautiful, too.

best european christmas market tour

Munich:  The Traditional German Christmas Markets

Where to Stay:   Aloft Munich

Where to Eat:   TBD – we’re still in search of truly great meals in Munich!  That being said, Aldi has fresh and delicious pretzel rolls that Tom and I both still talk about.  (Why yes, my husband has identified the best products at Aldi in Europe, too.  It’s his favorite store.  He tells our family if Aldi doesn’t sell it, you don’t need it.)

Don’t Miss:   Listening to the traditional band and making friends at Hofbrauhaus .

Who Loves Munich:   Anyone who loves science or history.  Munich occupies a large space in World War II history, and I highly recommend learning more about its role in the world during that time.  The Deutsches Museum is the most comprehensive science museum I’ve ever visited, and I highly suggest visiting it.  Munich is much larger than it seems, so you’ll want to plan to get out of the old town and experience more of the neighborhoods with different feels.  The Aloft gave us a map of all the Christmas markets in the city, and many offer more traditional crafts than the markets in the city center.  (That’s yet another reason to stay with them – they encourage you to see more!)

best european christmas market tour

Nuremberg:  The Original German Christmas Market

Where to Stay:   Melter Hotel and Apartments

Where to Eat:   at the Christmas market!  (I love the Nuremberg sausage.  And the pretzels.)

Don’t Miss:   Taking a food tour of Nuremberg !

Who Loves Nuremberg:   People who love history.  You need to visit the Documentation Center.  Not everything can be filled with Christmas cheer, but it’s important to understand that the atrocities that happened during World War II didn’t happen over night.  It is the result of a slow and methodical stripping away of the humanity of others.  We’re in danger of repeating that again, so I encourage you to learn more than we were taught it school.  It remains one of the most transformative experiences of my education.

best european christmas market tour

Strasbourg Christmas Markets: The Capital of Christmas

Where to Stay:   Regent Petite France Hotel & Spa or Le Bouclier d’Or

Where to Eat:   at the Christmas market!  Don’t miss the Vin Chaud Blanc – my favorite is right in front of the Strasbourg Cathedral – literally smack dab in the middle.  It’s an additional Euro and it’s worth it.  

Don’t Miss:   Strasbourg Christmas Market Food Tour  

Who Loves Strasbourg:   People who are looking for a bigger city with their Christmas market.  For me, it felt like a smaller Vienna or similar to Bratislava.  I really loved being able to take a break from the crowds at our hotel spa, too.  (It overlooks the Petite France canals, too!)    

best european christmas market tour

Colmar Christmas Markets: Christmas Markets with Canals

Where to Stay:   La Maison des Tetes

Where to Eat:   Via Roma , La Pignata , or the Covered Market right across from Petite Venise.  (You’ll want reservations anywhere in Colmar during Christmas time.  Colmar gets so busy!   

Don’t Miss:   Alsatian wine tasting at Domaine Martin Jund

Who Loves Colmar:   People who don’t mind crowds.  People who love holiday decor.  People who want to feel non-stop Christmas cheer.  The entire town is decked out for Christmas and it’s busy.  It can be a little overwhelming if you have sensory overload issues.  If you find yourself in that position, take a morning and head over to Eguisheim.  It’s a little quieter, a little calmer, and absolutely gorgeous.  

best european christmas market tour

What Should I Buy at a Christmas Market?

For me, the best souvenirs at Christmas ornaments.  Tom and I have started a tradition where we purchase a Christmas ornament from the cities we visit.  Many of the Christmas markets have regulations that you can’t sell cheap crap that is mass produced.  Thus, you’ll find beautiful hand-painted or hand-blown Christmas ornaments.  I could look at them for hours, to be honest.  Whether your Christmas tree has a theme or a color, chances are, you’ll find something that is absolutely perfect for you.  Strasbourg had the best selection of the incense houses to create a Christmas village at home.  

Beyond that, look for things you can’t find at home.  In each city, I’ve always found something that was unique to the region.  My grandmother loves her potpourri Christmas tree we purchased in 2016 and it still smells great!  Similarly, my cousin loves the wooden dog statue we found for her on this last trip.  My mother-in-law loves her traditional German wooden pyramid decoration.  I love the bath salts my mom found me; she loves the schnapps, spices and oils she purchased for herself.  You can certainly purchase things like jewelry and journals, but I think the best part of Christmas markets is finding the specific regional things that you can’t find easily in the United States.

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Sara loves to help people use their vacation time more effectively by planning beautiful, memorable, and delicious trips. She spends several weeks every year exploring Italy and central Europe. In addition to her full-time job, she is constantly searching for beautiful places and spaces. She loves the direct flights between Dallas and Italy, France, and Germany but is always up for wherever a great deal on an airline ticket will take her. (Sara also really loves European Christmas markets and tries to visit at least one new one every holiday season.)

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Stockholm is yours to explore ttoday oon a guided tour.

WOW, absolutely beautiful! I can’t believe how many cities/countries you’ve traveled to in Europe and have gotten to experience the true Christmas spirit each has to offer!

great ideas for christmas ITINERARIES 

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10 Best Christmas Markets in Europe

Here's a look at the best Christmas markets in Europe to visit this year, from Italy and Germany to the United Kingdom.

best european christmas market tour

Adri / Getty Images

Glittering fairy lights, gourmet treats, and handmade treasures for sale in a picturesque, historic setting — Europe's famous Christmas markets evoke a classic scene straight out of a Christmas card.

There are plenty of perks to visiting Europe during the holidays, from charming seasonal decorations to great skiing. But Christmas markets, found in small towns and large cities across the continent, are one of the best ways to soak up the festive atmosphere.

In markets from Strasbourg and Berlin to Amsterdam and beyond, you can sip mulled wine and nibble on pastries as you meander your way through the stalls and chalets. Whether you prefer to collect glühwein mugs in Germany or shop for tartan Christmas ornaments in Scotland, here are 10 of the best Christmas markets in Europe. Though dates vary by year and location, you can typically expect the markets on this list to be open from late November to late December or early January.

Gendarmenmarkt Christmas Market, Berlin

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Marvel at the giant Christmas tree at the center of this historic market in Germany's capital city, where you can shop for traditional blown glass, wood carvings, and more. Head to the heated dining tents to fill up on German specialties like hearty spätzle and refreshing Kölsch beer. On New Year's Eve, ring in the new year at the market's annual party, which features everything from DJs and theatrical performances to food and firecrackers.

La Défense Marché de Noël, Paris

This market is the biggest in the Paris area, with more than 350 chalets and thousands of square feet of merry decorations, all located underneath the Grande Arche de la Défense. Shop for handicrafts and souvenirs among the market's many stalls, or indulge in some of the cheese, chocolate, and mulled wine on offer — you are in France, after all.

Strasbourg Christmas Markets

More than half a dozen Christmas markets pop up in this city in northeastern France each year, supporting Strasbourg's claim to be the "Capital of Christmas." All the markets are worth a visit, but the oldest and grandest is the Chrìstkìndelsmärik, which dates back to 1570. Whether you visit the original or one of the city's other market gems, you can shop for wooden toys and blown-glass ornaments or simply enjoy the miles of fairy lights and decorations on display. When you've worked up an appetite, dig into some foie gras or the traditional Alsatian cookies known as bredele.

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, London

With its stunning street decorations and bustling ice skating rinks, London is one of the best places on earth to visit at Christmas. The pinnacle of the city's festive offerings, though, is Hyde Park Winter Wonderland . At this sprawling market and festival, you can sip mulled wine or marshmallow-topped cocoa as you shop for candle votives, ornaments, crafts, and gourmet food. After you've checked out the stalls, you can take in a show, ride more than a dozen different roller coasters, and even meet Santa, all without leaving the park.

Edinburgh's Christmas

Load up on sweets like cinnamon-sugar chimney cakes and cotton candy at this joyous celebration in the Scottish capital city as you shop for hand-carved wooden candle holders and traditional tartan ornaments. Later, spend a few hours in Santa Land in the West Princes Street Gardens, where you can take on the candy cane bungees (trampolines) and bumper cars.

Salzburg Christmas Markets

These historic Advent markets , which are held in several places around the Austrian city of Salzburg, date as far back as the 15th century. Two special highlights are the picturesque hilltop market at Hohensalzburg Fortress and the market in Cathedral Square, which offers more than 95 vendors. No matter which locations you visit, you can savor the aromas of hot chestnuts and mulled wine as you take in all that Salzburg has to offer.

Plaza Mayor Christmas Market, Madrid

Mario Guti / Getty Images

Pick up handcrafted Belén statuettes (depicting Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and other nativity figures) as well as intricate ornaments for your tree at this centrally located Madrid market . While there, soak up the history of the expansive Plaza Mayor, which dates back to when King Philip II moved his court to Madrid.

Mercatini di Natale, Milan

Flavio Vallenari / Getty Images

Gaze up at the magnificent Duomo cathedral with a warm drink in hand as you browse the charming stalls and small huts of the Mercatini di Natale , a Christmas market held each year in Milan's Piazza del Duomo. Shop for Italian cheeses and Yuletide souvenirs as you take in the spirit of the city — the perfect way to cap off a day of sightseeing.

Het Amsterdamse Winterparadijs, Amsterdam

This "winter paradise" in Amsterdam is ideal for families — and anyone else who likes having plenty to do at a holiday market other than eat and shop. Here, you can play a game of curling, go for a ride on a snow tube, or have a no-gloves-required snowball fight with faux snow in the market's Snowgarden. Later, warm up by roasting marshmallows on one of the festival's fire pits or heading to the winter cinema for a nostalgic Christmas movie.

Basel Christmas Market

Juergen Sack / Getty Images

The Basel Christmas Market takes place each year in the Swiss city's historic Old Town. Spread across Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz squares, the market's 155 wooden chalets sell everything from waffles, mulled wine, and grilled sausages to Swiss raclette and the local delicacy Basler Läckerli, a spiced biscuit similar to gingerbread. Shop for hand-painted Christmas ornaments, handmade toys and jewelry, and anise-flavored cookies while you take in some of Basel's best views. Be sure to sample some feuerzangenbowle, a traditional German drink prepared by setting a rum-soaked sugarloaf on fire and melting it into mulled wine.

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best european christmas market tour

The Best European Christmas Markets Road Trip: A One Week Itinerary

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How to plan the perfect road trip through Central Europe’s most charming Christmas Market Cities from the UK, or anywhere in mainland Europe.

(Updated 2024)

This post may contain affiliate links, which means we might earn a small commission on anything purchased through these links at no extra cost to you. Learn more on our Disclaimer page .

How to plan a European Christmas Road Trip Itinerary

There are multiple components to think about when planning a European Christmas Market road trip itinerary. Home to 44 interesting and unique countries, Europe covers a large area and choosing where to go can be overwhelming. December is one of the best times to visit as the continent overhauls itself into a festive winter wonderland. Touring through Central Europe’s most charming Christmas Markets can be one of the best ways to get into the Christmas spirit. We’ve created 4 easy steps to help you plan the perfect European Christmas Market road trip itinerary.

Time needed: 1 week.

When to go: Late November-December when the Christmas Markets are open.

Weather: Cold.

Currency: Euro.

1) Choose your destinations

A lot of people who have never visited mainland Europe before (and even those who have) underestimate its size. At 10.53 million km², Europe is a huge continent. There are far too many European countries to fit into one trip and countless cities to explore too. So how do you decide where to go? Whittling your list down to only a few destinations can be difficult. You need to balance seeing as much as possible in the time available and giving yourself enough time to do each place justice.

A typical rule of thumb for visiting a European city is that you can normally hit all the main points of interest in 1-2 days. Some cities are larger than others, particularly capital cities, but up to 2 days gives you a good flavour of a place’s culture and time to see all the main sights. This means you can realistically include up to 6 cities in a week long European road trip . These can be in as many countries as you like, but logistically will depend on distances and borders. Planning a route through multiple conjoining countries can help you maximise the diversity of your trip. On the other hand, you could choose just one or two countries to really get a feel for a place by staying for multiple days.

You’ll likely choose your destinations based on where you’re starting from. For most, this will be a capital city, such as London, Paris, Berlin, Brussels or Amsterdam. Western Central Europe is the most easily accessible from these destinations, encompassing Northern France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Western Germany and The Netherlands . Using these 5 countries as a shortlist can be a good starting point for planning a European Christmas road trip.

The first thing you need to do is plot the major cities you’re interested in visiting and list your priorities.

2) The best Christmas Markets in Europe

Europe is world-renowned for its Christmas Markets and is probably the most festive place in the world to visit around Christmastime. Most towns and cities in Europe have a Christmas Market. Some run from November through to January , while others are only open in the weeks just before Christmas . The larger cities, particularly capital cities, are more likely to have longer-running Christmas Markets (although these will likely be busier and more expensive too). Europe is also home to lots of interesting cites with rich histories and attractions. Balancing a mix between Christmas festivities and traditional sightseeing activities is recommended for a well-balanced trip.

Europe is home to some of the most famous Christmas Markets in the world . Vienna, Salzberg, Budapest and Prague all top the list of best European Christmas Markets. While Germany is one of the best countries in Europe for Christmas Markets, as many of the holiday’s traditions originated there. Nuremburg, Dresden, Leipzig and Berlin are also popular German Christmas Market towns.

The issue is that these iconic Christmas Markets are spread far and wide across Europe. Visiting them all in one week would be difficult without spending the whole trip in the car. To get the most out of your European Christmas Markets road trip, you’ll need to shortlist the destinations that you can easily drive between in one week . This means condensing your search into a smaller geographical area and maybe even choosing smaller towns. We’d recommend focussing on Western Central Europe , which has a huge variety of cities to choose from across 5 countries (Northern France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Western Germany and The Netherlands). Visiting lesser known Christmas Market cities in Europe can also yield the advantages of being less busy and less expensive. We’ve listed 24 of the best cities in Western Central Europe in the next section to help you get started.

Read next: Prague’s Best Eco-friendly Hotel: Botanique

The 24 best cities in Western Central Europe

Northern france.

1) Amiens – Located in northern France, Amiens is divided by the Somme river and known for its Gothic Cathedral and Medieval Belfry. Floating market gardens ( hortillonnages ) can be found on the city’s canals, while the Christmas Market has been held every year since 1997.

2) Arras – Arras is most well-known for its military history. A network of quarry tunnels (The Carrière Wellington) can be found under the city and were used by soldiers during WWI. While the Canadian National Vimy Memorial lies north of the city. The town boasts cobbled streets, buildings with Flemish facades, a Town Hall and Belfry. Arras’ Christmas Market is the biggest north of Paris and features over 140 artisans and exhibitors.

3) Cambrai – Known as the Duke of Wellington’s headquarters for the British Army of Occupation from 1815 to 1818, Cambrai is a small city near the German border.

4) Colmar – Located in north-eastern France near the border with Germany, Colmar features a picturesque Old Town with cobblestone streets and half-timbered medieval and early Renaissance buildings. Colmar has six Christmas markets to choose from, as well as a Gothic 13th-century church and the Unterlinden Museum, which houses the Isenheim Altarpiece. Colmar is on the Alsace Wine Route, making it a firm favourite with wine lovers who stop to try local Riesling and Gewürztraminer wines.

5) Douai – Known as the City of Giants , Douai is a small city in northern France known for the region’s most impressive belfries. Douai is home to Douai Abbey, a Roman Catholic monastery founded in Paris in 1615, uprooted by the Revolution and finally returned to England in 1903.

6) Laon – Laon is a hill-top city with a dramatic cathedral at its centre. The city is encircled by walls and was once the capital of the Carolingian Empire in the early middle ages.

7) Lille – Situated near the border with Belgium, Lille is a cultural hub and bustling university city. Its historic centre, Vieux Lille , is known for 17th-century houses, cobbled pedestrian streets and a large central square. Lille is easily accessible from the UK at only 1hrs 30min on the Eurostar from London St Pancras.

8) Reims – The unofficial capital of the Champagne wine-growing region, Reims is known for its grand cathedral with stained-glass windows and Gothic carved portals, including the Smiling Angel. For more than 1,000 years, French kings were crowned here. Reims Christmas Market is the 3rd largest Christmas market in France with over 135 stalls offering regional specialities, crafted products, souvenirs and food and drink items.

9) Strasbourg – Strasbourg is the formal seat of the European Parliament. Its proximity to the German border has resulted in culture and architecture blending of German and French influences. Possibly the best Christmas Market in Europe, Strasbourg’s Christkindelsmärik features over 300 wooden huts, spread around different squares in the city.

10) Antwerp – Antwerp is a port city in Belgium known for its centuries-old Diamond District that houses thousands of diamond traders, cutters and polishers. With history dating to the Middle Ages, Antwerp is home to Flemish Renaissance architecture and the 17th-century Rubens House, period rooms which display works by the Flemish Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens. The Christmas Market boasts over 90 stalls, as well as an ice-skating rink, miniature golf, winter bar and giant Ferris wheel.

11) Bruges – One of Europe’s most romantic cities, Bruges is renowned for its canals, cobbled streets and medieval buildings. The 14th-century City Hall and 13th-century Belfry overlook the main Christmas Market, which features an ice rink and numerous wooden chalets. In Winter, Bruges is transported into a Winter Wonderland as the annual Winter Glow Festival takes over the city.

12) Brussels – The capital of Belgium, Brussels is known for being the administrative centre of the European Union, as well as housing numerous historical and architectural landmarks, some of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In winter, Brussels’ Winter Wonders event covers the city with festivity. Wooden chalets, pop-up bars and restaurants span over a mile (2km), while families can enjoy the Ferris wheel or merry-go-round. Brussels is easily accessible from London via the Eurostar, which takes less than 2 hours.

13) Ghent – Ghent is a strong contender with Bruges for most picturesque Belgian town. With a Medieval history and impressive cathedral, Ghent is a popular Christmas getaway destination. The Christmas Market is fun for all the family, with more than 150 wooden huts, Ferris wheel and merry-go-rounds.

Read next: The Thorough Guide to Bruges

14) Luxembourg City – The capital of a small European nation of the same name, Luxembourg City is known for ruins of medieval fortifications, dramatic cliffs and sweeping views. The annual Winter Lights Festival illuminates the city with Christmas cheer and visitors can enjoy Christmas stalls, food and drink, a Ferris wheel, miniature train, concerts, workshops and shows for children.

Western Germany

15) Bonn – Located in western Germany, Bonn is known for Beethoven House, a memorial and museum honouring the composer’s birthplace. The Christmas Market runs for over a month and visitors can shop for locally-produced souvenirs, as well as exploring Bonn Minster, the old City Hall or Poppelsdorf Palace.

16) Cologne – Famed for its twin-spired, Gothic Cathedral, Cologne is over 2000 years old. Tourists can explore the lavish Christmas huts, browsing crafts, souvenirs, jewellery, toys and tasty treats. Art lovers should visit Museum Ludwig, which showcases 20th-century art, including many masterpieces by Picasso. While the Romano-Germanic Museum houses Roman antiquities.

17) Düsseldorf – Düsseldorf is known for its fashion industry and art scene. The city is split into two, with the Old Town on the east bank and modern commercial areas lying to the west. Visitors can explore the 13th century St. Lambertus Church and Schlossturm ( Castle Tower ) or wander streets lined with boutique shops, including Königsallee and Schadowstrasse. Known as the fairytale market , Düsseldorf Christmas Markets are unique. Each market has a different theme and the wooden huts are topped with characters from the Brothers Grimm fairy-tales.

18) Frankfurt – Frankfurt is a large German city and major financial hub, home to the European Central Bank. Known as the birthplace of writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, much of the city was damaged during World War II. The reconstructed Old Town is the site of Römerberg, the square that hosts the annual Christmas market. Featuring a huge Christmas tree, these markets are the perfect place to buy a mulled wine or roasted chestnuts and watch the chiming of Frankfurt’s Church Bells.

19) Monschau – Located, near the Belgian border, Monschau has a picturesque Medieval centre, with half-timbered houses and narrow cobblestone streets. The hill-top Monschau Castle looks over the city and often hosts open-air concerts. Monschau not only hosts the traditional German Christmas Market stalls but also boasts a House of Christmas. Throughout the months of March to December, the House of Christmas offers Christmas decorations for sale on all 3 floors. Christmas carols played by various music ensembles can be heard around every corner and visitors can also explore The Red House, the 1752 home of a local and wealth cloth manufacturer, featuring lavish period furnishings and a carved, winding oak staircase.

20) Rothenburg ob der Tauber – Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a German town located in northern Bavaria. Featuring Medieval architecture, half-timbered houses and cobblestone lanes, the Old Town is home to the annual Reiterlesmarkt (Pre-Christmas Market). Visitors can also climb the Town Hall tower for panoramic views of the city, or explore the town walls, which include many preserved gate houses and towers, plus a covered walkway on top.

21) Trier – Located in the Moselle wine region, near the Luxembourg border, Trier is one of the most underrated cities in Germany. Founded by the Romans, the city contains numerous well-preserved Roman structures including the Porta Nigra gate, the ruins of Roman baths, an amphitheatre just outside the centre and a stone bridge over the Moselle River. With over 95 Christmas stalls, the Christmas Market features a daily festive programme against a backdrop of the imposing Trier Cathedral.

The Netherlands

22) Rotterdam – Located in south Holland, Rotterdam is a port city with a Maritime Museum featuring vintage ships and exhibits, as well as the 17th-century Delfshaven neighbourhood, Pilgrim Fathers Church and Erasmus bridge. Home to the Dutch Royal family, Rotterdam welcomes visitors, who can enjoy several Christmas Markets, as well as a Finnish Christmas Shop.

23) Amsterdam – The capital of The Netherlands, Amsterdam is famed for its intricate canal network, as well as numerous bike paths, the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum (which houses works by Rembrandt and Vermeer) and modern art at the Stedelijk. There are numerous Christmas Markets throughout the city with the largest market next to the skating rink on Museumplein. The Winter Paradise Festival transforms the city with the Ice*Amsterdam Village featuring an ice rink.

24) Utrecht – Utrecht is a charming university city, known for its medieval centre, tree-lined canals, Christian monuments and Domtoren, a 14th century bell tower with sweeping city views, as well as the Gothic Cathedral of St. Martin on central Domplein square.

Read next: The 10 Best Things to do in The Netherlands

3) Choose the things you want to see in each city

Once you’ve got a rough plan of the countries and cities you want to cover, it’s time to plan what you want to see. Google Maps is a great resource which allows you to save locations as pins, plot routes and plan your own walking tours of a city. GPS My City is also a fantastic resource, which gives detailed information on all the major (and not so major!) sights in each city, and provides suggested walking routes as well as letting you design your own. DIY walking tours can be a great way to see a new city and are free too! Most Europeans cities are walkable, or have an Old Town that is walkable, so this is a great way to see your main points of interest in one day.

4) Planning the route

After shortlisting your locations and mapping out your points of interest, the next step is to solidify your plan and work out how to get there.

Looking at the locations on a map will give you a good idea of the natural order in which to visit each place (and how much you can fit into the time available), although there are other considerations.

Do you own car or are you going to hire a car?

It is possible to drive a car from the UK via the Eurotunnel. If this is your plan, your first and last night may need to be close to Calais.

Hiring a car can allow you to start and end in different places (even different countries). Hire cars are easily rented at most international airports, but there can be quite substantial surcharges for dropping off in a different country to the one you picked up in, so bear this in mind.

You can find out more about getting to and from Europe later in this article.

Daily driving time

The last thing you want is to plan your trip and then spend all your time in the car. It’s preferable to plan to spend no more than 3 hours driving each day. You can do this by making the most of the excellent European motorway network which will get you quickly from A to B. Alternatively there are some beautiful scenic routes, but it is worth considering the unpredictable European winter weather, which is very variable – it can be anything from sun through to rain, sleet, snow and dense fog! You can read more tips for driving in Europe at the end of this article.

Seeing the city by day or by night

By day, a city may be beautiful but by night it can be truly magical! You don’t have to do everything all in the same day. Some people prefer to see a city first by night, and then in daylight the following morning.

Winter days are short – typically light from 8:00 to 16:00. Maximise your daylight sightseeing hours by travelling after dusk. This does mean you end up travelling in the dark, so get no drive-by views, but that’s not a problem if you are using motorways which typically traverse less attractive landscapes anyway. Travelling after dusk can also mean you might hit rush hour traffic, although it tends to be more busy coming out of a city than going in on an evening.

Suggested destinations

We’ve created a suggested European Christmas Market road trip itinerary below, which is the perfect mix of culture, history and Christmas. It visits 5 of Europe’s most beautiful cities , without rushing. The 5 cities we’d recommend visiting are:

  • Luxembourg City

These are all destinations that are not too far to drive between, minimising journey times and maximising sightseeing. This itinerary gives you a good mix of European culture, including gothic architecture, Medieval canals, picturesque landscapes, ancient history and of course, festive Christmas Markets. It’s also a flexible itinerary with suggested detours, giving you the opportunity to add destinations including:

Interactive Europe Christmas Markets Road Trip Map

Northern europe christmas road trip itinerary, day 1 – travel to ghent.

Ghent describes itself as Europe’s Best Kept Secret , and it’s not wrong. Boasting a history that goes back to the Middle Ages, with architecture to match, Ghent is one of the most beautiful cities in Belgium. The compact old city centre has a canal network and is packed with historical buildings including churches and castles, as well as lots of great places to eat and drink. The Gravensteen Castle is not to be missed, while the Graslei (row of harbourside guildhalls) makes for a perfect photo. As you pass the dramatic Cloth Hall , look up to the top windows and spot people fencing at the world’s oldest fencing club! See the city by night for a festive experience. During winter all the old buildings are illuminated until midnight, making wandering the narrow streets a magical experience. The Christmas markets are fun for all the family, with a Ferris Wheel, vintage merry-go-round, Moose bar and Children Village to boot.

Taking a boat tour is one of the best activities in Ghent. This is a great way to see the city and hear fascinating commentary from the skipper. Be aware that in winter the boats open from about 10:00 and may not run in bad weather. Climbing the Belfry for the superb views of the city is one of the best things to do in Ghent and shouldn’t be missed. You only need to take the stairs for the first couple of floors as beyond that there is a lift to the top.

Christmas Market Location: From Sint-Baafsplein Square to the end of Korenmarkt.

Christmas Market Dates: The second week of December to New Year’s Eve.

Key things to do:

  • Gravensteen Castle
  • Climb the Belfry
  • Saint Bavo’s Cathedral
  • Saint Nicholas’ Church
  • Ghent City Museum
  • Boat tour on the canal

The best sightseeing tours in Ghent: One of the best ways to learn about a new city in a short amount of time is on a walking tour. You can book onto a Private 2-Hour Walking Tour with a local guide to see the main attractions in Ghent, including the medieval city centre, Gravensteen Castle, Graslei and Korenlei. You’ll learn a lot through informative commentary, orient yourself and pick up local bar and restaurant recommendations too. Themed guided walks are very popular, with a Beer and Sightseeing Adventure and Small-Group Chocolate Tour  also available. Foodies can even book a Guided City Food Tour which includes food and drink tastings of local cuisine. While those who like to be a little more active, should consider joining a Guided Urban Bike T o ur .

Where to stay:

Budget: Hostel Uppelink Mid-range: Hotel Astoria Gent Luxury: Pillows Grand Boutique Hotel Reylof Ghent

Day 2 – Ghent to Luxembourg City

Bordered by Belgium, France and Germany, Luxembourg is a small European country that many visitors miss. The capital, Luxembourg City ( Ville Haute ), is perched atop sheer cliffs and separated from the newer city by a deep river valley. As a truly strategic position, it has changed hands many times over the centuries, and has a rich heritage which reflects this.

The annual Winterlights Festival transforms Luxembourg City into a winter wonderland. Christmas Markets spring up all across the city, while live concerts, exhibitions, performances and workshops for kids are held in various venues. The Christmas Market stalls feature Christmas decorations, handicrafts, toys, clothes, jewellery, sweets, drinks and all sorts of food, and are particularly beautiful at night. Those who wish to learn more about the city’s festive traditions can join a Guided   Magical Christmas Tour .

While you’re in the city, wander through the Old Streets and admire the views from the Bock Casements (defensive tunnels cut into the cliffs). The impressive Cathédrale Notre-Dame is not to be missed, while art lovers should head to the National Museum of History and Art .

The superb new and free tram service makes it easy to get around, while a lot of the city is walkable. The City Line Bus Tour is a popular way to see the city in a limited amount of time, with 4 tours per day and a ticket valid for 24 hours.

Accommodation in the old city is limited (and expensive), but you can very easily stay in the new city and travel in by tram. Public transport is cheap and easy to use, and recommended as the one-way system can be congested and parking near the old city can be tricky too.

Christmas Market Location: The main market is at Place d’Armes, with other events in Place de la Constitution, Kinnekswiss, Place de Paris, the courtyard of the Old Athénée and Champ du Glacis.

Christmas Market Dates: Mid-November to early January.

  • Palais Grand-Ducal
  • Bock Casemates
  • Cathédrale Notre-Dame
  • Panoramic Elevator of the Pfaffenthal
  • Musée national d’histoire et d’art Luxembourg
  • Constitution Square

The best sightseeing tours in Luxembourg City: Those looking to get into the festive spirit should join a Guided   Magical Christmas Tour to learn more about Luxembourg’s history and traditions. Alternatively, taking a Guided City Walking Tour with Wine   is very popular and takes in Luxembourg City’s main sights, including Constitution Square, Place Guillaume II, Place d’Armes and Grand Ducal Palace. Those looking for a little more adventure can join a Guided E-Bike Tour , an eco-friendly way to see the city’s highlights. While those who wish to do less walking can enjoy the sights on a double decker bus as part of the City Line Bus Tour .

Budget: Luxembourg City Hostel Mid-range: DoubleTree by Hilton Luxembourg Luxury: Hotel Le Place d’Armes

Day 3 – Luxembourg City to Strasbourg

As the self-designated Capital of Christmas , Strasbourg has been hosting a Christmas market in Place Broglie since 1570. And what a market it is! Christmas lights and decorations adorn every building, an enormous Christmas tree pops up in Place Kléber and over 300 Christmas stalls can be found in every square (and there are lots of squares!). It’s no wonder that more than 2 million people visit Strasbourg Christmas Market ( Christkindelsmärik ) every year. Couple this with the fact that it is a truly beautiful city, and it’s easy to see why Strasbourg is top of many people’s Europe Christmas Markets list.

While Strasbourg may be French, its proximity to the German border and turbulent history has resulted in a mix of culture and architecture that has both German and French influences . The city became French after the conquest of Alsace in 1681. It was then taken back by Germany after the Franco-Prussian War in 1871 until the end of World War I in 1918 saw it revert back to France. Today, visitors can visit the Gothic Cathédrale Notre-Dame which features daily shows from its astronomical clock and offers sweeping views of the Rhine River from partway up its 142m (466ft) spire.

Upon arrival, the best way to orient yourself is with a guided walking tour. Explore the Historical Centre on a Private Walking Tour or jump straight into the festivities with a Christmas Market Tour . Those looking for a unique perspective should consider joining a 1.5-Hour Guided Segway Tour , which is fun for all abilities. While foodies will love a Traditional Food Group Walking Tour , which introduces you to the city’s highlights and stops to sample traditional delicacies and drinks.

Day 4 – Strasbourg (and the Colmar/Alsace region)

Strasbourg is a beautiful spot and, as the Capital of Christmas , deserves a full day on this European Christmas Market road trip itinerary. Start your day with a Batorama Boat Tour , a large glass-topped boat. Cruising around the city is a great way to orient yourself. Make sure you book the longer tour, which will not only take you into the picturesque Petite France but will also show you the more modern districts, including the European Parliament, whilst giving an insightful commentary into the turbulent history of this town on the French-German border.

Photographers shouldn’t miss Petite France, a lovely place to stroll, and so photogenic. While history buffs can head to the Historical Museum of the City of Strasbourg. If you’d like to explore the area, you can join a Full-Day Highlights of the Alsace Tour , which visits highlights of the region, including Colmar, Eguisheim, Riquewirh and Haut Koenigsbourg Castle. While a Wine Tour & Tastings fr o m Strasbourg is the perfect way to spend the day if you’re a wine lover. This highly-rated tour explores the Alsace Wine Route, tasting local wines and visiting local villages. A Half-Day Wine Tour is also availale for those who wish to spend a little more time in Strasbourg’s centre.

The Christmas Markets are the main event. They are all located in the Old Town ( Grand Ile ), which is an easily walkable area encompassed by the River Ill. And of course make sure you stay until after dark, when the city lights up and the streets become truly magical. To really get in the festive cheer, consider spending the day on a Alsace   Christmas Markets Tour , which visits local Christmas Market Towns, including Colmar, Eguisheim and Riquewihr.

Accommodation in Strasbourg gets booked very early and tends to be very expensive. The Park & Ride tram service, runs frequent services in and out of the city and is incredibly reasonably priced. Booking a hotel or B&B out of the city and transiting in can save you money.

Christmas Market Location: The main market is in Place de la Cathédrale de Strasbourg and Place Kléber, with others spread across Place Gutenberg, Place Broglie, Place du Château, Place du Marché aux Poisson, Place du Temple Neuf, Place Saint Thomas, Place des Meuniers, Place Benjamin-Zix, Place Grimmeissen, Advent Village at Square Louise-Weiss and Place du Corbeau.

Christmas Market Dates: The end of November to Christmas Eve.

  • Cathédrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg
  • Palais Rohan
  • St. Thomas Church
  • Parc de l’Orangerie
  • Ponts Couverts de Strasbourg
  • Historical Museum of the City of Strasbourg

The best sightseeing tours in Strasbourg: Explore the city’s highlights and Historical Centre on a Private Walking Tour or a 1.5-Hour Guided Segway Tour . Learn more about the city’s festive traditions on a Christmas Market Tour or sample local delicacies on a Traditional Food Group Walking Tour .

Budget: The People – Strasbourg Mid-range: HANNONG Hotel & Wine Bar Luxury: Maison Rouge Strasbourg Hotel & Spa, Autograph Collection

Day 5 – Strasbourg to Trier

Trier is one of the lesser well-known German cities but so worth visiting. Located conveniently between Strasbourg and Bruges, Trier has some of the best preserved Roman ruins in Europe, as well as beautiful buildings and of course a wonderful Christmas Market.

Visiting the Porta Nigra , an amazingly preserved Roman gateway to the city, is a must, while the Constantine Basilica features Emperor Constantine’s throne room, a huge and impressive building which is today used as a church. And the Imperial Roman Baths are one of three in the city, reached by a pleasant walk though the Palasgarten (Palace Gardens) and are unmissable for a history lover.

Set against the imposing backdrop of Trier Cathedral, Trier Christmas Market boasts over 95 wooden huts, selling local produce, handmade crafts, souvenirs and tasty food and drink. The romantic setting in the main square is the perfect place to grab a mulled wine and take in the twinkly fairy-lights.

Christmas Market Location: Domfreihof, the main square in front of the cathedral.

Christmas Market Dates: The end of November to just before Christmas Day.

  • Porta Nigra
  • Kaiserthermen
  • Trier Amphitheatre
  • Trier Saint Peter’s Cathedral
  • Palasgarten
  • Liebfrauenkirche
  • Rheinisches Landesmuseum Trier

The best sightseeing tours in Trier: Take a Guided City Highlights Walking Tour to learn more about Trier’s rich Roman and Medieval history. Or consider doing a self-guided outdoor-escape-game for a fun and unique way to explore the city.

Budget: FourSide Hotel Trier Mid-range: Best Western Hotel Trier City Luxury: Park Plaza Trier

Day 6 – Trier to Bruges via Waterloo/Monschau/Brussels

As the trip comes to an end, it’s time to start heading back home. Travelling from Trier to Bruges can be done via a scenic drive through Monschau , taking in the German countryside. Brussels would make a good alternative to visit en-route, as it’s half-way between Trier and Bruges. While history lovers should stop at Waterloo, the site of the 1815 Battle of Waterloo. The battlefield site is a large, flat area, with a huge mound topped by a lion statue, as a memorial to all those who fought. You can climb the Butte de Lion (the lion monument), which was built on a man-made mound between 1823-1826. There is also a well laid out and thought-provoking museum, where you can learn more about the history of the battle through artifacts and a 3D movie.

As you arrive in Bruges, it’ll most likely be dark. This is the perfect time to head out and appreciate the magical festive lights which are part of the annual Winter Glow festival , which takes over the city in winter. Follow the Light Experience Trail, which illuminates some of Bruges’ most iconic buildings or enjoy a hot drink in the cosy winter bar pop up at the Minnewater ( Lake of Love ). Or take a walking tour to orient yourself. You can join a classic 2-Hour Guided Walking Tour to learn more about the city’s history, or a Dark Side of Bruges Private Evening Tour to discover mystery, dark stories, interesting facts, and the old legends of Bruges’ Medieval Centre.

Day 7 – Bruges

The capital of West Flanders, Bruges is known for its Medieval houses with crow-stepped gables, impressive Neogothic architecture and historic centre, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Start your day with a Boat Cr uis e and Guided Walking Tour , taking in the highlights of this romantic city. Visit the Lace Centre to learn more about the history of lace in Bruges, or climb the 366 steps up the Belfry of Bruges ( Belfort ), a 13th century clock tower that stands 83 metres (272ft) high and give tourists panoramic city views. There are plenty of wet weather activities, including the Historium , Fries Museum and Chocolate Making Workshop with Chocolate Museum Entry , with museum passes available ( Musea Brugge Card ). While foodies can join a Belgian Beer Tour , Waffle and Beer Workshop or Private food Tour .

Overlooked by the Neogothic Provinciaal Hof (the former meeting place for the provincial government of West Flanders), Bruges’ Christmas Market can be found in the 10th century main square, Markt , as well as along Simon Stevinplein Street. Featuring a large ice rink, festive decorations and numerous wooden stalls selling unique souvenirs, Bruges Christmas Market is one of the best in Belgium, if not the whole of Europe.

Christmas Market Location: Grote Market with huts also along Simon Stevenplein street.

Christmas Market Dates: End of November to early January.

  • Belfry of Bruges
  • Basilica of the Holy Blood
  • Church of Our Lady Bruges
  • Sint-Salvatorskathedraal
  • Bruges City Hall
  • Historium Bruges
  • De Halve Maan Brewery

The best sightseeing tours in Bruges:

Orient yourself on a 2-Hour Guided Walking Tour , or discover Bruges’ darkest secrets on a Dark Side of Bruges Private Evening Tour . Those who like to stay active can join a City Highlights Bike Tour , while foodies can sample local cuisine on a Private food Tour . Give the poor ponies a break and skip the horse-drawn carriage ride, instead opting for a Guided Rickshaw Tour , a fun and cruelty-free way to see the city.

Budget: Hotel Malleberg Mid-range: The Black Swan Hotel Luxury: Grand Hotel Casselbergh Brugge

Day 8 – Travel home

You can head home at the end of day 7, or spend another night in Bruges and head home on day 8, depending on your destination. Those heading for the UK will likely spend a whole day travelling, while those going to an airport might have a shorter journey. You can find out the best, easiest and most accessible ways to transit to and from Europe in our How to get from the UK to Europe and How to get to Europe Internationally sections below.

Europe Accommodation

While we’re big fans of spontaneous travel, with short trips like this it’s best to plan ahead to make the most out of your time. Christmas is a very popular time of year to visit Europe with Christmas Markets seeing hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Accommodation therefore often books up in advance.

City centre hotels within walking distance of the main attractions are very convenient, but also very expensive, and get booked up very quickly. Many also offer parking (often at an extra cost). Bear in mind that parking can often be underground – check your car will fit the low ceilings and tight parking spaces before booking.

Renting an apartment is possible (even for 1 night) and can be a good alternative to staying in a hotel. There are also lots of great, locally-owned B&Bs in Europe.

Many cites have excellent public transport, which are often trams, so you can stay a little further out of the city and still have easy access to the centre. Websites like Booking.com or Hostelworld.com are good for initially sourcing accommodation. It’s always worth checking whether you can get the room cheaper via the accommodation’s own website.

How to get from UK to Europe

For many, a trip to mainland Europe starts or ends in the UK. Or you may be an international visitor, wishing to include the UK in your itinerary. Here are the best ways to get between the UK and mainland Europe. Each route can be done without flying, which is more eco-friendly and means you can take a car too.

Ferry crossings UK to France

The Dover to Calais ferry crossing is the most popular option to get to France by boat. It takes less than two hours with up to 20 sailings a day. P&O Ferries is one of the largest providers of the route. Booking in advance can be far cheaper than leaving it to the last minute.

It’s also possible to cross from the UK to France via the following routes:

  • Newhaven to Dieppe
  • Portsmouth to Caen, Cherbourg or St Malo
  • Poole to Cherbourg
  • Plymouth to Roscoff

These routes are run by DFDS Seaways and Brittany Ferries . They’re less frequent than the Dover-Calais crossing and typically more expensive.

Ferry crossings UK to The Netherlands

It’s also possible to cross from the UK to The Netherlands.

Hull to Rotterdam is the most popular route. Run 3 times a day by P&O Ferries , the route takes around 10 hours so is popular as an overnight route. You get a cabin included in your ticket and can make the most of your days by transiting overnight. P&O often run sales between October-December where you can travel for around £50 or you can buy one get one free.

DFDS S eaways provides crossings from Newcastle to Amsterdam (Ijmuiden) which runs 7 times a day. This is a convenient option for those travelling from the north of England or Scotland. While Harwich to Hook of Holland is operated by Stena Line and runs 16 times daily.

Trains UK to France

The fastest way to get from the UK to France is by Eurostar . Leaving from London St Pancras , the Eurostar heads to Lille, Paris, Lyon, Avignon, Bourg-St-Maurice and Marseille . The shortest route (stopping at Lille) takes under 1 1/2 hours, while the last stop is 8 hours away from London.

If you wish to take your own car from the UK, it’s best to book the Eurotunnel . Running 24 hours a day, 365 days per year, with up to 7 departures per hour, the crossing takes only 35 minutes from Folkestone to Calais . Tesco Clubcard Voucher codes can be redeemed when booking the Eurotunnel, so if you save up those points you can actually get the crossing for free!

Trains UK to Belgium

The Eurostar runs from London to Brussels , which takes less than 2 hours, and Antwerp in less than 3 1/2 hours. Bruges can be accessed with a quick change at Brussels Midi/Zuid on an Any Belgian Station ticket.

Alternatively, you could take the Eurotunnel from Folkestone to Calais and then drive into Belgium.

Trains UK to The Netherlands

The Eurostar also stops in Rotterdam and Amsterdam , which takes less than 4 hours.

Buses from UK to Europe

Taking a bus is one of the most eco-friendly ways to travel Europe. Flixbus operates hundreds of routes and is our preferred method of transport in Europe, being comfortable and super affordable. It services a large number of major UK cities, with those leaving from London heading to destinations including Lille, Paris, Bruges, Ghent, Brussels, Antwerp, Cologne, Frankfurt, Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Utrecht . It’s then possible to get a Flixbus to pretty much any city in Europe. National Express also runs routes from the UK to Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris and Dublin.

How to get to Europe Internationally

There are several major European airports that serve most international flights. Paris, Brussels, Frankfurt and Amsterdam are popular airports, due to their location being easily accessible to most of Central Europe. Typically, flights into a capital or large city are cheaper than flying a less busy route. The best time to buy flights is around 10-12 weeks before your flight date.

Getting around Europe

Flixbus offers hundred of routes throughout Europe and connects almost every major city. It’s super cheap and eco-friendly too. Europe has a great railway network that is affordable (although considerably more expensive than Flixbus). Tickets can be booked through Rail Europe or Trainline . If you want freedom to travel at your own pace, hiring a car is preferable.

Most European cities will be walkable, or have a walkable Old Town. Larger cities are usually served by tram networks, which are often very affordable.

Things to Know Before You Go

If you plan to drive your own car abroad or hire a car, check your car insurance and breakdown cover will cover you. Road conditions can be unpredictable in winter so it’s best to be completely covered.

Read next: The 6 Best Travel Insurance Companies for Every Kind of Trip

To drive in Europe in your UK car, you also need UK magnetic plates (not GB) on the back of the car.

Tolls are common and have different lanes for you to pay by card or cash (it’s a good idea to carry both). Be careful as you approach them to get in the right lane for you, which can be worked out by the large signs above each lane. Watch out as you pull away from the toll too, as many lanes condense back into a few and there are vehicles on both sides.

Some cites (for example , Brussels) need you to pre-register your car for emissions purposes. Check each city you plan to visit, as some might have no-vehicle zones or specific times cars can and cannot enter certain areas.

It’s a smart idea to read up on the road rules for each country as they might vary. For example, France requires you to carry a breathalyser kit and warning triangle in your car at all times. The motorways flow seamlessly from one country to another, but the speed limits change and isn’t always clearly signposted, so be sure to be careful and know the rules.

As with any customs, there are strict import/export rules between the UK and Europe. Check what you can take with you and what you can bring home. Brexit has impacted the free flow of goods between UK and the rest of Europe, and there are rules on things like meat and dairy products that you might not expect. And if you are planning on bringing back alcohol and food as presents, know what the limits are. The Christmas Markets provide some great opportunities for Christmas shopping, as do many of the small specialist shops, but don’t ignore the supermarkets – they can also have great choice at reasonable prices.

COVID-19 regulations are still changing on a frequent basis. While most countries are back to business as normal, it’s still a good idea to check entry requirements and any testing/paperwork requirements that might exist at the time of travel.

Don’t forget your passport and driving license. It’s also a good idea to carry a EHIC (European Health Insurance Card), although having comprehensive travel insurance is a must too.

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Lucy and Dan are travel writers, photographers, content creators, and founders of Thoroughly Travel. They're on a mission to help others travel for less money, with less environmental impact. You'll find them whale watching, wildlife spotting, road-tripping and seeking authentic experiences around the world. After quitting their 9-5s to backpack Mexico and Central America, they travelled New Zealand for a year on working holiday visas. They're currently Digital Nomad-ing their way around Europe.

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