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bruges christmas market
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The 16 best Christmas markets to visit in Europe this winter

The festive season is around the corner. Get planning a trip to the best Christmas markets in Europe

Written by
Ellen Himelfarb
&
Michelle Tchea
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Summer's over, Halloween's been and gone, and the hours of daylight are shrinking. Luckily, there's still something to celebrate before the year is out. That's right, it's time to stick on Mariah Carey and start dreaming of glühwein and tinsel. Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, after all, and the best Christmas markets in Europe are spectacular celebrations of all things festive. That they cover every corner of the continent from Tallinn to Seville is the cherry on top.

Are cherries festive? That doesn’t matter so much. What matters is getting in the festive spirit, and planning a trip to Bruges to sample pralines in an ancient shop is a guaranteed moodsetter. Europe's towns come alive in the winter as quaint squares and streets are filled with old-fashioned stalls and twinkling lights, transforming the continent into a festive wonderland. 

The best Christmas markets in Europe

Good for: a huge tree

Photograph the gabled buildings of Town Hall Square while you can. After the sun goes down and the lights blink on at 3 pm, it’s all about the massive Nordic tree, a feature since 1441 – years before any other European nation began putting them up. Between hot wine, Baltic cheese and the traditional black pudding with sauerkraut, you can pay a visit to Santa positioned fireside in his plush grotto. Bonus twofer: hop the No 19 ferry at the port, and you could be at Helsinki’s Christmas market in Senate Square within two hours.

Raekoja Plats, 10146 Tallinn. Nov 25-Jan 8. Daily 10am-7pm.

Good for: a funfair

For six weeks, Copenhagen’s most fashionable fairground becomes a carnival with Hans Christian Andersen-themed funfair rides and nightly tree-lighting ceremonies. Get your glögg from candlelit wine bar Nimb and your traditional apple-filled æbleskiver doughnuts from the Waffle Bakery. If Copenhagen’s cabbage-stuffed pork sandwiches aren’t your thing, a new gourmet food hall offers burgers, pizza, tacos and Chinese street food.

Vesterbrogade 3, Copenhagen. Nov 18-Dec 31. Sun-Thu 11am-10pm; Fri-Sat 10am-11pm.

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Good for: snacks

The wooden kiosks go up at Münsterplatz, a cobbled town square facing the baroque cathedral where ninth-century King Charlemagne is buried. This is one of the nearest European markets to London – accessible in less than four hours by train from St Pancras – and it specialises in a distinctive anise-flavoured gingerbread called printen. Vendors also dish up mulled-wine-flavoured candy and a crisp-edged potato fritter called kartoffelpuffer that gives a latke a run for its money.

Münsterplatz, 52062 Aachen. Nov 18-Dec 23. Daily 11am-9pm (December 22-23, 11am-8pm).

Good for: tipples

The ornate spire of Nuremberg’s Schöner fountain overlooks a market square fragrant with gingerbread (and bratwurst, the city’s most famous culinary export). Families pitch up on Saint Nicholas Day (December 6) to pose for photos with golden-haired ‘angels’ who work the crowds. After hours, the grown-ups prop up the bar with take-home mugs of glühwein and the local smoked beer.

Hauptmarkt, 90403 Nuremberg. Nov 25-Dec 24. Mon-Sun 10am-9pm (Christmas Eve 10am-2pm).

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Good for: sunshine

Jesus wouldn’t have wanted you to freeze your whatsits off in his name. In Andalusia, where temperatures hover in the mid-teens winter-long, you can skate around an ‘ice rink’ beneath palm trees dusted with fake snow or ride a camel down Avenida de la Constitución to view the famously elaborate nativity scenes. Locals make the pilgrimage at the beginning of the market to see musicians serenade the Virgin Mary at the cathedral, with the Moorish Giralda tower in the background.

Plaza Nueva, 41001 Seville. Dec 5-Jan 5. Mon-Sun 11am-3pm and 5pm-9pm.

Good for: choice

Colmar’s sixteenth-century half-timbered streets already deliver a fairytale vibe. But with six Christmas markets taking over virtually the entire town, it’s like a nativity scene has come to life. Artisan huts strung with lights and stocked with Alsatian crafts cluster around the Gothic Dominican church, the medieval Maison Pfister and Colmar’s own Little Venice canal district. Don’t miss spiced vin chaud at the market in Place Jeanne d’Arc.

Various locations, Colmar. Nov 24-Dec 29. Mon-Thu 10am-7pm; Fri-Sun 10am-8pm.

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Good for: shops

When the steam from a dozen kielbasa grills dissipates, get a good look at the medieval city walls, the ombré-effect brick tower and the enormous Renaissance bulk of the Cloth Hall. Amid Krakow’s treasures, sellers put out kitsch displays of glass baubles, ceramic figurines, furry hats and a thousand flashing gadgets. All the while, white horses and their carriages stand by to whisk you around town.

Rynec Glowny, Krakow. Dates TBC.

Good for: fairytale vibes

Wood-cabin stalls fill Simon Stevinplein square, set between medieval townhouses that look like they’re straight from a picture book. Bop to the strains of Europop as you shop for crystal ornaments, hand-knitted woollies and waxy cheese. The kiosks facing Steenstraat offer tasters of jenever gin and waffles drowned in whipped cream. Or warm up with deep steaming bowls of mussels and Flemish chicken stew at nearby bistro Poules Moules.

Simon Stevinplein, 8000 Bruges. Nov 25-Jan 8. Mon-Thu 11am-8pm; Fri-Sun 11am-10pm.

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Good for: boozy drinks  

Crowned by a giant advent wreath, this market is one of the best in German-speaking Switzerland. Drawing thousands of locals every year thanks to its friendly atmosphere, the market itself is cosy and full of tradition, with more than 70 market stalls selling handmade crafts, souvenirs and Santa-shaped gingerbreads. The best bit? Lucerne Weihnachtsmarkt’s unique collectible mugs, which can be refilled at any of the market’s spiced mulled wine stands.

Franziskanerplatz, 6003 Lucerne. Dec 1-21. 11am-9pm.

Good for: its ginormous tree 

Germany’s known for its epic Christmas markets – after all, both Nuremberg and Aachen make this list – but one of the country’s lesser-known (but no less spectacular) editions is to be found in Düsseldorf. Despite being a much smaller city than Berlin or Munich, Düsseldorf doesn’t have one Christmas market but five, making it feel like the entire city centre is one giant Chrimbo celebration. The giant Christmas tree makes for Insta-worthy photo opportunities, but there’s also an ice-skating rink and a giant Ferris wheel – perfect for capturing beautiful views of the city from above.

Königsallee, Düsseldorf. Nov 17-Dec 30. Sun-Thu 11am-8pm, Fri-Sat 11am-9pm.

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Good for: stunning city views

Paris doesn’t need Christmas lights to look as gorgeous as it does (the French capital is known as the City of Light, after all), but the city looks even better when decked out for the festive season.  More than a dozen Christmas markets are dotted throughout Paris, but our pick is the one in Tuileries Garden, which stretches across the garden’s entire north edge from Rue des Pyramides to Place de la Concorde. Escape from the crowds by hiding out in the champagne bar and then riding on the giant Ferris wheel, which boasts excellent views out over the city. Tres chic!

Pl. de la Concorde, 75001 Paris. 19 Nov-8 Jan. Mon-Thu 11am-11pm, Fri-Sat 11am-12:45am, Sun 11am-11:45pm.

Good for: amusement park cheer

Located in the city’s Liseberg amusement park, Gothenburg’s Christmas market comes with a healthy dose of Disney-esque magic. Watch a Swan Lake ballet on ice, wander the market for glögg (Swedish mulled wine) and artisan goods and don’t miss Liseberg’s rides and activities. Not to forget the huge Christmas tree, which is huge and celebrates classic minimalist Scandi design. 

Örgrytevägen 5, 402 22 Göteborg. 19 Nov-Jan 3. Opening times vary – check site below for details.

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Good for: artisan goods 

Venice’s spectacular Christmas market is dedicated to its artisans and, throughout December, amounts to one of the city’s finest attractions. Selling everything from Christmas ornaments and Murano glass decorations to traditional Italian sweets like almond nougat and panettone, Campo Santo Stefano is transformed into a Christmas village filled with craftsmen and food producers. With just 30 boutique shops, this market emphasises quality bespoke goods over tacky festive tat.

Campo Santo Stefano, 30124 Venezia. Dec 3-24. Opening times yet to be announced.

Vilnius, Lithuania
Photograph: Shutterstock

14. Vilnius, Lithuania

Good for: all kinds of shopping 

There might be six Christmas markets in Vilnius but they all focus primarily on one thing: shopping. In the shade of the Lithuanian capital’s largest Christmas tree, the biggest and most popular festive market is in Cathedral Square and makes for a popular spot to stock up on souvenirs and trinkets. Head down to Panorama Christmas Market for artisan gifts and jewellery, while a more unusual Christmas market can be found at Loftas Kaledu Muge, a hipster spot and focal point for the city’s roving fashion designers.

Locations vary. Dec 3-24. Times vary

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Good for: scotch! (obvs)

Edinburgh’s dazzling Hogmanay new year celebrations might draw the biggest crowds but don’t forget the city’s annual Christmas market. This year promising to be bigger and better than ever, Edinburgh’s festival chivalry will include artisan markets, food vendors, a Santa-themed zone and, obviously, a tonne of scrummy whisky stands. Starting on East Princess Street Gardens, the market stretches all the way down to the Royal Mile.  

Princes St, Edinburgh EH2 2HG. Nov 25-Jan 3. Opening times yet to be announced.

Good for: a snow-free Christmas 

Believe it or not, some people don’t like slipping and sliding around on snow at Christmastime – but that doesn’t mean they don’t love some seasonal cheer (hello Aussies!). The Christmas market in the Madeiran capital of Funchal is perfect for that kind of Christmas: the pedestrian streets of Avenida Arriaga are awash with vendors selling exotic flowers and a huge range of edible goods. From mandarin and aniseed liqueurs to vinha d’alhos – pork marinated in wine – it’s a treat for your tastebuds. And, crucially, no snow.

Av. Arriaga, 9000-027 Funchal. 1 Dec-8 Jan. Opening times yet to be announced.

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