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 favourites.
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 ambience. Choose one for your bucket list – there’s truly no better way to enjoy the festive spirit that sweeps over Europe during the winter!
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, a Bavarian village, the “Arctic Circle which is filled with snow and ice sculptures, wondrous circus acts, Santa Land and 100+ rides and attractions.
Date: 19 November 2021 – 3 January 2022
Opening hours: Daily 10am – 10pm with last entry at 9.30pm
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 opportunities to indulge in tempting festive fare, enjoy live music and entertainment and indulge in an enviable selection of traditional gifts to take back home.
Please note that the 2021 event is set to take place as of the publishing date. However, things may change due to Covid-19 so please check details before your visit.
Date: 4 November to 22 December 2021
Opening hours: Daily 10am – 9pm
Location: Victoria Square and New Street
German Christkindlmarkts (Christmas Markets) originated in the late middle ages in Germany with the four-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 travellers.
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 a guided tour to find out more about the culture and history, rides on the Christkindltram and even Bavarian singing lessons.
Date: 22 November – 24 December 2021
Opening hours: Daily 10am – 9pm and Sundays 10am – 8pm (24 December 9am – 2pm)
Location: Marienplatz (St.Mary’s Square) in the centre of Munich.
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 headfirst 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 for traditional handcrafted goods.
Date: 29 November 2021 – 6 January 2022
Location: Vilnius Cathedral Square
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 the end of December. The market on Vorosmarty Square is the oldest Christmas market in Budapest and is 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 treats like honey cookies and sweet pastries.
Please note that the 2021 event dates have not yet been confirmed due to Covid-19.
Date: Usually mid-November – 31 December
Opening hours: Daily 11am – 11pm
Location: End of Váci utca road, in front of Gerbeaud Coffee House.
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, a nativity-themed zoo (wonderful for curious youngsters!), a giant Christmas tree and a marvellous 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).
Please note that these dates are provisional and the event will be confirmed in November 2021.
Date: 27 November 2021 – 2 January 2022
Location: Old Town to Wenceslas Square
Viennese Christmas Market
Renowned for its fabulous festive splendour, the Wiener Weihnachtstraum (Vienna Christmas Dream) 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: From 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 is set 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
Please note these event dates may be adjusted due to Covid-19. Be sure to check before visiting.
Stockholm Christmas Markets
The city of Stockholm is home to a number of Christmas markets! One of the most famous ones is the Christmas Market (Gamla stans julmarknad) in Old Town, the oldest market in Stockholm. It has been going since 1914! The Kungstradgården Christmas Market in the heart of the city is where artisans and local merchants offer handcrafted products from the forest and sea.
Gamla Stan, Stockholm Christmas Market
Date: 20 November – 23 December 2021
Opening hours: Daily 11am – 6pm
Location: Stortorget Square (Old Town)
Veronatale, Verona Christmas Market
The annual Mercatini di Natale in Verona, Italy takes place from mid-November to late December and transforms this already jaw-dropping destination into a festive dreamland. It features 300+ stalls offering regional foods, beautiful handicrafts and all sorts of German specialities. This Italian/German cross-over makes for a wonderful multi-cultural festive event – lookout 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: 12 November – 26 December 2021
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: 27 November – 19 December 2021
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
Amsterdam is home to dozens of Christmas markets that spread festive cheer throughout the city! The festive season in Amsterdam officially kicks off in early December 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.
Date: From mid-November to early January
Opening hours: Monday to Friday 10am – 11pm, Weekends, 10am – midnight.
Location: Square on the crossroads of Weteringschans, Marnix, and Leidsestraat.
Date: Usually from the end of November – January
Opening hours: Sunday to Thursday 10am-9pm, Friday to Saturday 10am – 1pm
Location: Front of the Rijksmuseum
Please note some of the Amsterdam Christmas market dates still need to be confirmed due to Covid-19.
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 centre so see the entire festive tableau from above.
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’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.
Copenhagen Christmas Market
Date: 12 November – 22 December 2021
Opening hours: Daily 10am – Midnight
Location: Tivoli Gardens
Have you got that festive feeling yet? Experience the magic of a European winter on one of our Christmas and New Year’s tours!
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