25 Magical Christmas Markets Worth Traveling For
There's nothing like a snowy, shimmery, glühwein-y Christmas market to get even the grinchiest among us in the holiday spirit. We've rounded up 25 of the most magical markets around the world, from Switzerland to Singapore — that's two markets for every one of the twelve days of Christmas (plus one more for the partridge in the pear tree)!
Keep reading to discover our festive favorites:
1. Bath, England
November 22 – December 9, 2018
Set against the majestic backdrop of Bath Abbey's soaring spires, Bath's annual Christmas Market transforms the historic city into an enchanting maze of over 200 wooden chalets, holiday decorations and traditional festivities.
This cozy English town's take on the classic German Christmas market is one of the country's most popular and is perfect for travelers who like their Yuletide celebrations served with a side of figgy pudding.
2. Brussels, Belgium
November 30, 2018 – January 6, 2019
Brussel's bustling Christmas market — known as Winter Wonders — is one of the largest such events outside of Germany. Stretching from the Grand Place to Place Sainte Catherine and beyond, it's a sprawling affair packed with activities for both children and adults.
In addition to over 240 stalls serving everything from warming shots of liquor to fluffy waffles hot off the iron, visitors will find an illuminated ferris wheel, shimmering light displays and a 200-foot skating rink.
3. Bremen, Germany
November 26 – December 23, 2018
The Bremen Weihnachtsmarkt is easily one of the most atmospheric Christmas markets in Germany, set in the Hanseatic city's UNESCO-listed town hall square.
Some 170-odd decorated stalls and stands crowd the medieval city center, while twinkling lights cast a warm glow along Bremen's postcard-perfect houses and alleyways.
4. Chicago, IL
November 16 – December 24, 2018
If a trip to Europe isn't in the cards this winter, never fear: Inspired by the centuries-old festivities at held at Nuremberg each year (see #14 on our list), Chicago's annual Christkindlmarket is a lively take on the beloved German Christmas market.
Located in the heart of downtown Chicago, the Christkindlmarket features traditional German crafts (perfect for bulking up your cuckoo clock collection), food and drink — and yes, that includes glühwein.
5. Colmar, France
November 23 – December 30, 2018
The Alsatian city of Colmar in the east of France looks like something straight out of a fairytale. This is never more true than at Christmastime, when the romantic churches, picturesque canals and half-timbered buildings of its well-preserved Old Town are illuminated by thousands of twinkling lights.
There are five Christmas markets in Colmar, each one more charming than the last. The pedestrian center makes it easy to meander from one merry corner of the medieval city to the other. Feeling chilly? Warm up with a cup or three (or twelve!) of vin chaud (mulled wine) — this is French wine country, after all!
6. Copenhagen, Denmark
November 17 – December 31, 2018
While Copenhagen is beautiful year round, the Danish capital really comes into its own during the holidays, when cheerful Christmas markets pop up throughout the city and every shop window glitters with candles and festive baubles.
But it's the spectacular decorations and 60-odd market stalls at Tivoli Gardens that really steal the show. A genuinely charming amusement park (no, really — it’s even a popular date spot amongst locals), Tivoli Gardens transforms into a dazzling, light-festooned winter wonderland.
7. Dresden, Germany
November 28 – December 24, 2018
There are actually eleven different Christmas markets sprinkled throughout this festive city, but the Striezelmarkt is by far the largest and most famous.
Hailed as the oldest in Germany, this sprawling Christmas market has been bringing holiday cheer to visitors since 1434. It's the perfect place to sample a hearty slice of Stollen (or Striezel), the traditional German sweet bread from which the Striezelmarkt takes its name.
8. Erfurt, Germany
November 27 – December 22, 2018
Erfurt's Weihnachtsmarkt takes place against the backdrop of two magnificent Gothic churches in the heart of one of Germany's best-preserved medieval towns.
Its picturesque settings makes the Weihnachtsmarkt one of the prettiest Christmas markets in Germany, as well as a fantastic option for travelers looking to get slightly off the beaten track.
9. Gotenburg, Sweden
November 16 – December 30, 2018
Gothenburg is not nicknamed "the Christmas City" for nothing. There are a variety of excellent Christmas markets to be found around the city — from the trendy À la London design market to the traditional rows of cheerful wooden stalls that crowd Gothenburg's old quarter.
But it's the one at the Lieseberg amusement park that really takes the cake. Offering everything from traditional shopping to ice skating to classic Christmas buffets, Liseberg is home to Sweden's largest and most dazzling Christmas market. Bedecked in nearly five million lights, the popular park is transformed into glittering wonderland that will both delight and surprise.
10. Helsinki, Finland
December 1 – December 22, 2018
Been dreaming of a white Christmas? Snowfall in Finland during the holiday season is practically guaranteed, especially in northern Lapland — home to reindeer, magical evergreen forests, and Santa (the city of Rovaniemi is the official home of Santa Claus).
If you forgot to pack your snowshoes, don't despair: the southern capital of Helsinki hosts Finland's most popular Christmas market, featuring over 100 stalls selling locally crafted gifts, ornaments and traditional treats. Decked in glowing lights and Christmas cheer, the annual Tuomaan Maarkinat is a cozy affair that radiates warmth in a chilly city.
11. Innsbruck, Austria
November 15 – December 23, 2018
Nestled high in the Austrian Alps, Innsbruck is a popular winter sports destination that also boasts some of the most impressive and picturesque Christmas markets in the country — the Hungerburg Christmas Market, for example, is situated on a mountain peak almost 1,000 feet above the Alpine city, offering panoramic views of the festivities below.
Innsbruck's loveliest market is located in the city's historic Old Town, surrounded by ornately decorated medieval buildings and majestic, snow-covered mountains. Over 70 stalls line the cobblestone alleyways, offering traditional Austrian crafts and treats in a picturesque setting.
12. Kaysersberg, France
November 30 – December 23, 2018
Bigger isn't always better. The idyllic Alsatian town of Kayersberg puts on one of the region's most charming and authentic Christmas markets in the region, which is perfect for festive travelers looking to escape the crowds at Colmar (#5 on our list) or Strasbourg (#21).
Each year, the medieval town is meticulously decked in Christmas cheer: half-timbered houses are illuminated with care, churches set up elaborate nativity scenes, and the old town hall courtyard is filled with the decorated stalls of 29 local craftsmen selling everything from blown glass to wooden toys to local cheeses.
13. New York, NY
October 27, 2018 – January 2, 2019
Leave it to New Yorkers to take a centuries-old tradition and make it completely their own. The holiday shops at the annual Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park may be inspired by European markets, but the result has an unmistakable New York flair.
In addition to the popular open-air market, the Winter Village is home to top-notch casual fare, entertainment, and a world-famous ice skating rink.
14. Nuremberg, Germany
November 30 – December 24, 2018
Germany's most famous Christmas market is also one of its most traditional — dating back to at least the 17th century, Nuremberg's Christkindlesmarkt is filled with almost 200 stalls selling traditional Bavarian crafts, treats and sweets.
You can easily lose hours strolling through the maze of market stalls, sampling freshly baked gingerbread (or Lebkuchen), Nuremberger sausages and (of course) plenty of glühwein.
15. Prague, Czechia
December 1, 2018 – January 6, 2019
Prague is a breathtakingly beautiful city at any time of year, but there's something about the Christmas season that adds a whole other level of enchantment to the Czech capital.
If you're lucky enough to find yourself in the city for the holidays, you'll have your pick of Christmas markets to choose from. The market at the Old Town square is the most popular, and with good reason — it's a lavishly festive affair, yet it retains the intimate charm that many other large Christmas markets seem to outgrow.
16. Quebec City, Canada
For old-world charm and old-fashioned Yuletide cheer a bit closer to home, travelers should head to Quebec City in the winter wonderland of Canada, where the holiday season transforms the old town into an enchanting wonderland of snow-covered cobblestone streets, warm lights, and frosty windowpanes.
Located in the heart of Old Quebec, the annual German Christmas Market is a festive maze of traditional stalls and twinkling decorations.
17. Riga, Latvia
December 1, 2018 – January 6, 2019
According to Latvians, Riga was the site of the world's first decorated Christmas tree. (This claim is challenged by Estonians, who believe that this honor in fact belongs to Tallinn—#22—but we'll get to that later). The legend is kept alive each year in the town square, where an illuminated tree stands at the heart of Riga's Old Town Christmas Market.
Latvia's unique blend of Christian and pagan tradition makes for a Christmas experience unlike any other. In addition to Christmas market staples like mulled wine, gingerbread, and roasted nuts, keep an eye out for distinctively Latvian traditions like dragging the Yule log and miming to drive away bad spirits.
Southeast Asia is unlikely to be on your Christmas market radar, but that hasn't stopped Singapore from putting on one of the world's most impressive seasonal displays. Christmas Wonderland is a dazzling festival of lights, food, and entertainment set in the Gardens by the Bay — Singapore's futuristic nature park.
The festival features live music, carnival rides, ice skating, and gourmet food from celebrity chefs and Michelin-starred restaurants. The real stars of the show, however, are the 80 awe-inspiring light sculptures found throughout the Gardens, handmade by Italian craftsmen.
19. Stein am Rhein, Switzerland
December 5 – December 31, 2018
The picturesque Swiss town of Stein am Rhein — about an hour from Zurich — boasts one of the loveliest Christmas markets in the country, thanks to its backdrop of well-preserved medieval half-timbered houses, painted facades and cobblestone streets.
Each year, the town's Maerlistadt ("fairytale town") is based on a different classic fairytale — the theme for 2018 is "Rapunzel" — making the festival a delightful option for both travelers with children and the young at heart.
20. Stockholm, Sweden
November 24 – December 23, 2018
Whether you're seeking traditional Yuletide celebrations, contemporary holiday cheer, or you're just looking to get sloshed on some glögg (mulled wine), you can't go wrong with a Christmastime trip to Stockholm.
Stockholm's Old Town Christmas Market is the oldest in the country and an absolute must for anyone looking to experience a classic Swedish Christmas. The 40-odd little red huts at this traditional market sell all sorts of Swedish handicrafts and Christmas treats—smoked reindeer anyone?
21. Strasbourg, France
For centuries, the French-German border danced back and forth over cities like Strasbourg and Colmar (#5) as the two countries engaged in a tug-of-war for control of the Alsace region. One of the happier results of that conflict was a distinctly Alsatian culture combining the best of both French and German traditions.
These traditions are on full display at Strasbourg's annual Christmas market, which is arguably the oldest in Europe — its been in operation since 1570 — and certainly one of the finest.
Set amidst the city's cobbled streets, medieval half-timbered houses, and picturesque canals decked in glittering lights, the Christkindelsmärik (or Marché de Noël) is one of the prettiest large markets in Europe with over 300 wooden chalets spread throughout the city center.
22. Tallinn, Estonia
November 24, 2018 – January 5, 2019
Estonians maintain that their capital city was the site of the very first decorated Christmas tree (take that, Riga!). The claim is impossible to prove one way or the other, but with a tradition dating back to 1441, Tallinn can boast early trendsetting at the very least.
As is true in many of Europe's snowier countries — which were latecomers to the whole Christianization party— Christmas in Estonia is a fascinating fusion of Christian and pagan tradition.
Located in the historic town hall square, Tallinn's annual Jõuluturg is one of the coziest Christmas markets in Europe and a fabulous way to partake in Estonia's unique Yuletide celebrations.
23. Toronto, Canada
November 15 – December 23, 2018
Like the city itself, Toronto's annual Christmas market is a delightful blend of old and new. With its sparkling canopies of light, traditional carolers, beer gardens, a glühwein terrace and a life-sized gingerbread house, it's no wonder that the Toronto Christmas Market has been voted one of the best in the world.
24. Vienna, Austria
November 17 – December 26, 2018
Sumptuous imperial palaces, splendid streetscapes, cozy coffee houses, and an inimitable artistic and intellectual legacy make Vienna one of the most stunning destinations in Europe, regardless of the season.
Christmastime is especially magical: the air is filled with the aroma of freshly baked cookies and warm punch, carols are sung by world-renowned choirs, and thousands of lights sparkle against glorious baroque backdrops.
And then, of course, there are the Christmas markets. The Christkindlmarkt on the Rathausplatz is the city's largest, featuring over 150 vendors, ice skating, and concerts in front of one of Vienna's most iconic landmarks.
25. Vipiteno, Italy
November 24, 2018 – January 6, 2019
South Tyrol, the northernmost province of The Beautiful Country, Italy, shares more than just its border with Austria and Switzerland — this historically German-speaking Alpine region also shares many Yuletide traditions with its neighbors, including a love of Christmas markets.
The market at Vipiteno (Sterzing in German) — one of the five popular markets in South Tyrol known romantically as the "Road of the Five Stars" — is considered one of the loveliest in the region.
Set against a backdrop of colorful medieval houses and majestic alpine views, the Mercatino di Natale (or Weihnachtsmarkt, if you prefer) is an enchanting blend of Italian and Germanic Christmas traditions, including elaborate nativities, aromatic cakes and, naturally, plenty of piping hot vin brulé (glühwein).
by Katryna Balboni