Four of the Best Christmas Markets in Europe

While the tradition began in Germany, there are Christmas markets all over Europe. Here are four of the best!

A Christmastime trip to Europe without a visit to a Christmas market isn’t a real Christmastime trip to Europe! You can’t miss these beautiful community gatherings and their cultural celebrations that bring so much to the magic of the Christmas season. If you’re not going to Europe for Christmas this year, you can still use this list to start planning a future trip!

The Christmas market is also called Christkindlmarkt, which literally means “Christ Child Market.” The translation is closer to the angel-like “spirit of Christmas” instead of to the literal Christ child – and the best of these markets do capture the spirit of Christmas!

While Christmas markets began in Germany in the Late Middle Ages, they have become popular all throughout Europe. The lights, the food, the music, the dancing, and the beautiful craftwork all come together to create a special kind of Christmas magic. While there are many different beautiful Christmas markets throughout the country, here are four that stand out among the rest.

Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market in Cologne, Germany

Cologne Christmas Market

Cologne in Western Germany is a romantic, 2,000-year-old city dominated by High Gothic architecture and its cathedral. At Christmastime near the cathedral, you can find a beautifully decorated Christmas tree and the sparkling Christmas market. There is no entrance fee, so you can simply enjoy the splendor of the market without spending a dime.

There are more than 100 free events and so many stalls to choose from, ranging from crafts to organic culinary specialties. Make sure you pick up a special edition of the Cologne Christmas Market mug to take home as a souvenir of your time at this beautiful place!  

In 2021, the Christmas Market is open from November 22nd through December 23rd. The organizers expect over 4 million visitors a year to the 130 booths in the Roncalliplatz where the Christmas Market takes place.

Christkindelsmarik in Strasbourg, France

Christmas market in Strasbourg

How about a Christmas market in France? While there are several to choose from, one of the best is the Christkindelsmarik in Strasbourg. 

Much larger than the Cologne Christmas Market, Strasbourg’s Christmas market offers more than 300 stalls. Many of the stalls are run by designers and artisans from the region. They offer such goods as wooden toys made in Alsace, pottery, Advent wreaths, Christmas baubles, and much more.

In 2021, the Christmas Market is open from November 26th to December 26th. While you’re there, you can even entrust your pet to the market’s Dog Daycare so you can focus on your shopping. You can explore the Christmas flea market, the Christmas crafts fair, or the Advent Village. There are plenty of events and beautiful music to enjoy.

Edinburgh’s Christmas Market in Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh's Christmas sign

If Scotland is more your style, then you can’t miss Edinburgh’s Christmas. This festival is more than a traditional Christmas market; it offers plenty of entertainment for the whole family. 

You can book a tour of the Christmas Tree Maze (starting at 4.50 pounds), explore the winter windows, the late-night installation, or Santa Land. The family-friendly rides in Santa Land include the Race-o-Rama, Candy Cane Bungees, and even bumper cars. 

The traditional Christmas market is located in the East Princess Street Gardens and offers local products as well as tasty treats. From breweries to local artists, you’ll find it all in the market. 

In 2021, the festival started in November and will run through the beginning of January. There is no entrance fee, but you will want to save for tickets to the rides and various attractions.

Christkindlimarkt in Zurich, Switzerland

Christmas market in Zurich
Michal Stipek / Shutterstock

Here’s an indoor Christmas Market option, in case you aren’t excited about shopping outside in Europe in December! The Christkindlimarkt in Zurich, Switzerland is located in the middle of the city’s historic station hall, which is the largest railway station in Switzerland.

If you love lights and projections, the Christkindlimarkt is the best choice for you. Watch the Christmas Lightshow after 4:00 PM and follow the “Fascinating Projections” on the back wall of the interior facade of the railway station as they tell Christmas stories. 

Of course, you’ll want to explore some (if not all!) of the over 200 stalls at the Christmas Market. While there are many stalls with gifts, there are also plenty of food options. Stop for some ramen to warm up or enjoy a gourmet hot dog!

Christmas can mean so many different things, but part of the beauty of the season is its ability to bring people together. Christmas markets are a wonderful way to give a community a chance to gather. Talented singers and dancers have the opportunity to perform. Artisans can share the immense work they put into crafting their wares with the world. Best of all, families can spend time together, and with their community, as they delight in the magic of Christmas. 

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