• 29 August 2017

When the hush of winter falls over the European continent, it only means one thing – Christmas is around the corner and, along with it, the Christmas market season has arrived! Many of our Expat Explore winter tours include opportunities to join in these magical festivals, and over the years we’ve pinpointed our favorites.

The following Christmas markets are the cream of the crop, each boasting a remarkable destination, talented craftsmen- and women, delicious local treats, breath-taking decorations and warm ambiance. Choose one for your bucket list – there’s truly no better way to enjoy the festive spirit that sweeps over Europe during the winter!


ENGLAND – LONDON

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, London

For six weeks over the festive season, from mid-November to the beginning of January, London’s renowned Hyde Park is transformed into a frosty wonderland, filled to the rafters with holiday festivities. This free festive event in the heart of London draws visitors from near and far, with a dazzling selection of entertainment options. Entertainment includes the UK’s largest open-air ice rink, wondrous circus acts, The Nutcracker on Ice, the city’s largest German-style markets and 100+ rides and attractions.

Date: November – January
Opening hours: Daily 10am – 10pm
Location:  Hyde Park, London

Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas Market, Birmingham

Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas Market is the largest German-style holiday market held outside of the borders of Germany and Austria. The market is a result of the 50-year long partnership between the cities of Birmingham and Frankfurt. The festivities take place from mid-November all the way to the end of December, giving visitors plenty of opportunity to indulge in tempting festive fare, enjoy live music and entertainment and indulge in an enviable selection of traditional gifts to take back home.

Date: November to December
Opening hours: Daily 10am – 9pm
Location: Victoria Square and New Street

RELATED: Take a look at the 7-day Great Britain Christmas tour or browse our UK & Ireland tour packages.

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Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, London.
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The big wheel at Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park.

 

GERMANY – MUNICH 

German Christkindlmarkts (Christmas Markets) originated in the late middle ages in Germany with the 4-week celebration of Advent. There are literally hundreds of Christmas markets held in cities, towns and villages across Germany. From the end of November up until the end of December, the country is all about sparkling lights, Christmas trees, handicrafts and sweet treats. Christmas Markets all over Germany will be welcoming Festive Season travelers.

Munich Christmas Market 

Munich’s largest and oldest Christmas market, “Christkindlmarkt auf dem Marienplatz” is known as ‘the original’ and dates back to the 1700s. Look forward to an amazing array of German wintertime staples like sizzling sausages, pretzels gingerbread and spice-laden glühwein. Shop for homemade products like Black Forest ham, honey, schnapps and craft beer. Activities on offer include guided tour to find out more about the culture and history,  rides on the Christkindltram and even Bavarian singing lessons.

Date: End November – 24 December
Opening hours: Daily 10am – 8:30pm and Sundays 10am – 7:30pm (24 December 9am – 2pm)
Location: Marienplatz (St.Mary’s Square) in center of Munich.

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Christkindlmarkts (Christmas Markets) originated in the late middle ages in Germany with the 4-week celebration of advent.
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Munich Christmas Market, Germany.

LITHUANIA – VILNIUS

Vilnius Christmas Market

Regarded as one of the most lavish festive markets throughout Europe, the markets in Vilnius certainly pull out all the stops over the holiday season. Lithuania’s beautiful capital throws itself head first into festive fanfare and transforms the old Cathedral Square, City Hall Square and Bernardine Gardens into twinkling market destinations. Here, visitors can indulge in authentic Lithuanian holiday fare and shop traditional handcrafted goods.

Date: 01 December – 07 January
Location: Vilnius Cathedral Square

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HUNGARY – BUDAPEST

Budapest Christmas Fair & Winter Festival

There are two official Budapest Christmas markets – the Christmas Fair Vorosmarty Square and Basilica Christmas market.  They both run from mid November to end December.  The market on Vorosmarty Square is the oldest Christmas market in Budapest and internationally acclaimed. The location is in the heart of Budapest and takes place in an array of cottage-style wooden stalls and along two outdoor stages. It’s the perfect place to peruse the bustling marketplace while sampling delicious Hungarian festive treat like honey cookies and sweet pastries.

Date: mid-November – 31 December
Opening hours: Daily 11am – 11pm
Location: End of Váci utca road, in front of Gerbeaud Coffee House.


THE CZECH REPUBLIC – PRAGUE

Prague Christmas Market

The Prague Christmas Market offers a truly idyllic market experience spread out over many blocks, all within walking distance of one another. Holidaymakers can look forward to an authentic manger scene, nativity-themed zoo (wonderful for curious youngsters!), a giant Christmas tree and a marvelous array of traditional handcrafted gifts like wooden toys, puppets, intricate glassware, embroidered lace and more. If you visit, remember to try the Trdelnik (traditional cake and sweet pastry), vánocvka (a braided raisin pastry), and vosí hnízda (biscuits crammed with nuts and rum).

Date: early December – January
Location: Old Town to Wenceslas Square

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Prague Christmas Market in Old Town, Prague.
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Czechian Christmas Food: Baked sweets and cookies (Top left), Trdelnik – a traditional Czech pastry filled with cream (top right) and the process of making Trdelnik (bottom left)

AUSTRIA – VIENNA

Viennese Christmas Market

Renowned for its fabulous festive splendour, the Viennese Christmas Market takes place in front of the City Hall in Vienna and constitutes a seasonal highlight for visitors and locals alike. Against this magnificent backdrop, market-goers can indulge in festive Viennese treats like vanillekipferl (crescent-shaped Christmas biscuits) or mouth-watering Sacher Torte (chocolate cake). They can listen to international choirs singing carols or partake in workshops where they can learn to make Christmas cookies or candles.

Date: Mid-November – 26 December
Location: Square in front of City Hall

Christmas Village Belvedere Palace

The much-loved Christmas Village Belvedere Palace is the perfect place to explore the city’s baroque lifestyle and traditional Viennese handicrafts. All this against the backdrop of one of the world’s most famous residences (Belvedere Palace). This beautiful Christmas market features 40+ festive stalls that specialize in tempting holiday cuisine, beautifully crafted decorations, inventive gifts and more.

Date: End November – 26 December
Location: Christmas Belvedere Palace

Christmas Village Maria-Theresien Platz

Set against opulent imperial scenery, the Christmas Village Maria-Theresien Platz takes place between the Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Art. This singular setting provides a rich, historical tapestry against which visitors and locals can enjoy the unique culinary delights and festively decorated stalls we’ve come to expect from the Viennese.

Date: End November – 26 December
Location: Christmas Belvedere Palace

Magical Christmas market in Vienna, Austria.
Magical Christmas market in Vienna, Austria.
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Vienna Christmas Food: Sausage (top left); traditional Austrian cookies; roasted chestnuts with mulled wine (bottom left) and Apple punch and more baked goods (bottom right)

SWEDEN – STOCKHOLM

Stockholm Christmas Markets

The city of Stockholm is home to a number of Christmas markets! One of the most famous ones include the Christmas Market (Gamla stans julmarknad) in Old Town, the oldest market in Stockholm. It has been held since 1914! The Kungstradgården Christmas Market is where artisans and local merchants offer handcrafted products from the forest and sea; as well as the Rosendal Palace Christmas Market.

Gamla Stan, Stockholm Christmas Market
Date: End November – 23 December
Opening hours: Daily 11am – 6pm
Location: Stortorget Square (Old Town)

Rosendal Palace Christmas Market
Date: End November – 23 December
Opening hours: Tuesdays to Sundays from 11am to 4pm
Location: Rosendal Palace near Skansen

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ITALY – ROME, FLORENCE & VERONA

Veronatale, Verona Christmas Market

The annual Mercatino di Natale in Verona, Italy takes place from mid November to late December and transforms this already jaw-dropping destination into a festive dreamland that features 300+ stalls offering regional foods, beautiful handicrafts and all sorts of German specialties. This Italian/German cross-over makes for a wonderful multi-cultural festive event – look out for the nativity scenes from around the world exhibited in the underground passageways of the Roman Arena and remember to sample some fragrant panettone or nutty croccante while you’re at it.

Date: To be confirmed
Location: Piazza dei Signori, Verona.

Mercato Tedesco di Natale in Florence (German Christmas Market)

This market hosted in Piazza Santa Croce was inspired by the traditional German Heidelberg market. You will find more than 55 wooden huts selling traditional German delicacies and different products like furniture, Christmas decorations and delicious snacks like strudel and gingerbread.

Date: End of November – 24 December.
Location: PiazzaSanta Croce, Florence

Mercatino di Natale della Befana in Rome 

The most famous of all Italian Christmas markets you will find in the eternal city. Hosted on the ancient Piazza Navona where the Stadium of Domitian, Bernini’s Fountain of Four Rivers and the Pamphilj Palace can be found. Watch street performers go, while you browse the wonderful array of things to buy like Befana puppets, local art, Christmas decorations and toys.

Date: End December – Early January
Opening hours: Weekdays 10am – 1am; weekends and holidays 10am – 2am
Location: Piazza Navona, Rome

RELATED: The Italian Delights tour & Europe Christmas & New Year Escape travels to Rome and Florence over the Christmas season.

Piazza Navonia, Rome.
Piazza Navonia, Rome.

THE NETHERLANDS – AMSTERDAM 

Amsterdam is home to a whopping 26 Christmas markets that spread festive cheer throughout the city. The festive season in Amsterdam officially kicks off on 17 November at 7pm with the annual Turn on the Lights event (if you’re there, make your way to De Bijenkorf building on Dam Square). Duration of the Christmas markets vary, but most market destinations are open from late November to early January. Top picks include the markets at Leidseplein and Museumplein, where holidaymakers can stroll amidst villages of wooden chalets while they indulge in warming drinks and the national festive treat – olibollen (Dutch doughnuts). Burn off the calories afterwards by indulging in a vigorous bout of ice skating and be sure to catch the Amsterdam Light Festival in January if you can.

Leidseplein Market

Date: 13 November – 10 January
Opening hours: Monday to Friday 10am – 11pm, Weekends, 10am – midnight .
Location: Square on the crossroads of Weteringschans, Marnix, and Leidsestraat.

Museumplein Market

Date: 21 November – 28 February
Opening hours: Sunday to Thursday 10am-9pm, Friday to Saturday 10am – 1pm
Location: Front of the Rijksmuseum

RELATED: Travel to Amsterdam with us on the Europe Christmas Taster or Europe New Year Taster.

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The Netherlands, Amsterdam. Honey Cakes or Stroopwafels in Dutch (top left), food stall (top right) candied fruit (bottom right) and beautiful Dutch Christmas decorations (bottom left).

SCOTLAND – EDINBURGH

The Scottish capital is renowned for its festive flair (it’s the home of Hogmanay after all)! Its main advent market stretches all the way from the Mound, along East Princes Street Gardens to the Scott Monument. This sweeping winter wonderland features countless vendors touting local arts and crafts, as well as a slew of culinary purveyors to keep the crowds warm and well-fed. Look out for the Children’s Market at Santa Land (late November – early January) where youngsters can traverse the Christmas Tree Maze to the elves’ workshop and take a spin on the Big Wheel at the city center so see the entire festive tableau from above. Like the Edinburgh Christmas Facebook Page for updates.

Edinburgh Christmas Market

Date: Late November – Early January
Opening hours: Daily 10am – 10pm
Location: East Princess Street Gardens, around the Scott monuments up to St Andrew Square.

RELATED: Take a tour of Scotland on the Great Britain New Year tour!


DENMARK – COPENHAGEN

Denmark’s capital is home to various advent markets that feature a vast array of this highly-acclaimed design destination’s best artisanal wares. These items include – knitted crafts, rich leather goods and intricate glass ornaments to name but a few. Head to the market at Tivoli gardens for 60+ stalls, a fireworks festival and live performances by the Pixie Band; or make your way to the market at the harbour in Nyhavn to enjoy waterside mulled wine and Danish festive treats. The Tivoli Fireworks festival is on from 25 – 27 December and again from 31 December to 3 January.

Copenhagen Christmas Market

Date: Late November – 31 December
Opening hours: Daily 10am – Midnight
Location: Tivoli Gardens

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Christmas Market in Copenhagen, Denmark.
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Christmas in Copenhagen! Tasty sweets (top left), beer tasting (top right), Danish Coconut and chocolate confectionery and a Danish choir singing carols in the street (bottom right)

Experience the magic of a European winter on one of our Christmas and New Year’s tours!

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