Bratwurst sizzling in Berlin, fairy-lights twinkling in the Tivoli Gardens, and sugar dusted waffles and Ferris Wheels – an avalanche of Christmas fun is sweeping across Europe. What started as a few wooden huts selling gluhwein in a tiny German town has spread to a continental frenzy of festive pleasures.
Even seasonal naysayers can’t help but be pulled headfirst into a heady world of lights, feasting and cheering. Travelers seeking a fairytale break will find the animated streets and squares of Europe at their finest this time of year.
Prop up with prosecco at the al fresco bar, splurge on stunning arts and crafts, and lose yourself to the melody of midnight mass ebbing through the tight knit streets – this is your guide to la crème de la crème of Europe’s Christmas Markets…
Don’t be weighed down this Christmas, ship your luggage so you can hit the snow dusted ground without a care. The serenity of knowing your bags are taken care of door to door means even more time to peruse the stalls, sip mulled wine and stocking up on gifts.
More often associated with being a young, hip and highly progressive city, Berlin knows how to turn up the traditional charm come Christmas. The Weihnachtszauber Market creates quite a buzz, with over half a million cheery revelers hitting the stalls for their fill of warm gooey strudel and soothing cups of white chocolate milk. Sitting snugly beneath the shimmering domes and pillars of the impressive Konzerthaus and Friedrichstadkirche, the square becomes a vision of snowy tents, fir trees, and handmade wooden toys.
Head towards bustling Alexanderplatz and follow the neon lights of the Ferris Wheel for even more festive fun. The Christmas market outside the Roten Rathaus is one of the oldest, and there is certainly an air of 19th century finesse that seeps into the stalls and hand-painted baubles. Take a turn on the ice-rink and rub your eyes in disbelief at the famed Christmas pyramid ablaze with over five thousand lights.
From November 27th – December 26th
Prague, Czech Republic
As pretty as a picture throughout the year, the city of spires truly captures Christmas card vibes come the winter months. The sight of the five hundred spires dusted with snow and the ivory bridges crisscrossing the river is enough to make you swoon, even without the festive markets and carved puppets. Wenceslas Square (yes, named after the Good King himself) is the spot for hearing Czech carols and joining the throngs of people slicing glazed hams and throwing back grog with honey.
When the curtain of night falls, there is an air of romance, as couples nurse frothy glasses of beer with mittened hands, and browse hand-blasted ceramics, delicate silver jewelry and the famous witch puppets that are so synonymous with a trip to Prague.
From December 2nd – January 6th
A land of living fairytales and the birthplace of Hans Christian Anderson – it’s no surprise that Copenhagen creates a whimsical buzz around Christmastime. The already lovely Tivoli Gardens turn into a winter wonderland, adorned in spruce, sparkling lights, and boasting sixty well-dressed stalls offering seasonal delicacies.
More than a million-people flock to Denmark for the festive period, and many come to ride the rollercoaster, watch the light show, book a table at award winning Nobu, and witness the cabaret at the Glass Hall Theater. Being one of the Scandi cool ice countries means that you are in for a good chance of snow and temperatures certainly plummet in December, making those reindeer lined gloves look all the more appealing.
From November 18th – December 31st
Rome may have the might of the Colosseum and Venice the meandering canals, but Bologna boasts the best Christmas market in Italy. Nowhere captures the glut and glory of food quite like the Italians. Christmas nougat that sticks to your teeth, cured meat so thin it will melt on the tongue, and citrus peel crumbed in chocolate – this is a market for mesmerized food lovers.
Not only is the Bologna Christmas market a fine one for foodies, but it’s the oldest Christmas market in Italy and has been standing since 1796. The Fiera di Natale market sits beneath the spires of the 12th century San Pietro Cathedral and boasts ancient nativity scenes. If you happen to stick around the town until the New Year you will also bear witness to the burning of an effigy of an old man to clear remnants of negativity from the previous year.
From November 20th – December 26th
Being undecidedly perched on the border of France and Germany means that you get the best of both worlds in the Alsatian sweetheart capital. Strasbourg is gloriously picturesque come spring, summer or fall – but the seasonal grace truly gives her a chance to shine. Timbered houses are decked in garlands, the scent of gingerbread and mulled wine fills the air, and the smoke stacks from roaring fireplaces make you feel cozy inside.
Evenings are best spent standing around chatting as you chew on flamed cake thin pizza topped with crème fraiche, bacon and onions or nibble on handfuls of roasted chestnuts and cookies. In-between gorging on seasonal snacks you can stock up on hand whittled nativity figurines and beautiful dusty old books. With over three hundred stalls, there is certainly a bright and bustling buzz about the town come Christmas.
From November 24th – December 30th