You are one lucky person if you get to experience one of the quaint but amazing European Christmas markets. They are all over Europe, these days, in cities and small towns and villages.
These markets began as early as the 14th century as winter markets for people to come and buy their winter provisions. Eventually, the markets in Germany began offering gift items and decorations to mark the beginning of the Advent season. The markets then spread throughout all of the German-speaking countries and later to countries all over Europe.
I researched the very best of the European Christmas markets voted on by the people who attend them. Here’s my list of the top 5 Christmas markets in Europe.
Strasbourg identifies itself as “The Capital of Christmas” and if you go there during the Christmas season, you’ll find it is truly an enchanted place to visit.
Strasbourg is located across the Rhine River from Germany, and in fact, was once a part of Germany. It is in what is now known as the Alsace region of France. As a part of Germany, Strasbourg’s Christmas market dates back to 1570, although their website states that it actually began in the 12th century but 1570 is the beginning of the Protestant church market. (They really just threw out the Catholic name for the market.)
Christkindlsmärik in lovely Strasbourg has over 300 wooden chalets in the historic center of town. These chalets contain the finest items of artistic quality. And they are decorated with lights galore creating a festive atmosphere in which to shop.
There are myriad events to take part in while you visit Strasbourg at Christmas. For instance, there’s the lighting of The Great Tree in Place Kléber. And speaking of lights, there are miles of lights in Strasbourg, in the streets, along the river and canals, and on the wooden stalls of the market. There is also a tour of the Nativity scenes including a living Nativity scene at the Cathedral.
The Christmas market opens on November 22 and runs through December 24. You can get there by air, arriving at Strasbourg-Entzheim International Airport, about 10 kilometers from the city center. You can catch a shuttle train to Strasbourg’s train station four times an hour and from there you can catch a city tram to the market area. Click here to learn all about this wonderful city at Christmas.
According to my good friend, Karin, Nuremberg is the BEST Christmas market in Germany. And she should know since she is from Germany and Bavaria in particular.
Christkindlsmarkt begins with the Christkind herself appearing on the balcony of the Frauenkirche on the main market square, Hauptmarkt. In her long flowing white and gold dress and her blonde curls, she officially opens the Christkindlsmarkt on the Friday before the first Advent. The ceremony is most impressive and draws tourists from all over Europe and the world.
The market is made up of over 180 wooden stalls with red and white canvas tops, a trademark of the Nuremberg market. Inside the stalls, you’ll find many handmade treasures including decorations, gift items, and food and drink. Nuremberg bratwurst is a 700-year-old tradition. There’s NO excuse for leaving without trying this native delicacy. And the lebkuchen is to die for. That’s German for gingerbread, folks! The trademarked Nuremberg lebkuchen is so famous that they guard the secret recipe here. You can take a peek at the bakery, of course, a thatched-roof honey and gingerbread house at the Christkindlsmarkt.
The easiest way to get to the Nuremberg Christkindlsmarkt, if you’re coming from the U.S., is to fly into the Munich airport and take the train to Nuremberg. You don’t have to have a reservation for the train either. The train system in Germany is stellar. You just show up and off you go! Click here for more information about the Nuremberg Christkindlsmarkt.
If you believe in fairytales, and even if you don’t, Salzburg at Christmas is like walking into your very own fairytale it is so beautiful.
The Christkindlmarkt in Salzburg traditionally opens on the Thursday before the first Advent Sunday and runs through December 26. It originated as a winter market, like the others in German-speaking countries, and evolved into the Christmas market of today.
There are several Christmas markets in Salzburg but the Christkindle market at the Dom and Residenzplatz is the oldest in the city. It is near the Cathedral, where the original markets were held. Traditional Austrian specialties, mulled wine, and delicious treats can be found in the over 100 wooden hut stalls in the Old City, a World Heritage site.
There are special events besides the opening ceremony of the Christkindlmarkt. There is Advent Singing every Tuesday at the Grosses Festspielhaus with over 150 musicians, actors, and shepherd children taking part in this intimate performance of traditional folk music, Alpine folk traditions, and plays.
Salzburg is known as a city of music with good reason. Mozart was born and lived in Salzburg and his music permeates the city. Just outside Salzburg in Obendorf, Silent Night was first performed at St. Nicholas Church. You can be sure to hear this song at Christmas in Salzburg. Click this link to find out more about this wonderful city at Christmas.
Voted the number one Christmas market in Europe for 2019, the Tallinn Christmas market is a Baltic marvel. Set in Tallinn, Estonia, on the Baltic Sea, directly across from Helsinki, Finland, this market is held in the medieval Town Hall Square. It runs from November 15 through January 7.
Forbes touted Tallinn’s market as one of the 10 most beautiful Christmas markets in Europe. Tallinn is the capital of Estonia and people come from all over the world to visit its Christmas market. Arrival is typically by air at Tallinn’s international airport, Lennart Meri Tallinn Airport. From there you can take a tram, bus, or taxi to the city center.
There is a huge Christmas tree towering over the square in the heart of Tallinn. In fact, they claim that this is the place of the first Christmas tree erected in 1441.
The Christmas market is full of traditional Estonian handicrafts and foods like kringle, a pretzel-shaped sweet bread. The over 50 stalls are decorated with lights as is the Town Hall Square itself. Because it is so far north, there WILL be snow at Christmas, turning the town into a winter wonderland with its medieval buildings and Christmas decorations. Click here for more information on this unique city and its beautiful Christmas market.
Dresden’s Striezelmarkt will run from November 27 through December 24 at Dresden Altmarkt square. This is the OLDEST Christmas market in Germany going back 585 years! It’s also the largest Christmas market in Dresden. Yes, there is more than one.
Dresden is a picturesque city in the eastern part of Germany in the Saxony region. You can reach Dresden by flying into the Dresden-Klotzsche Airport, located north of the city. Then take a train into the city center.
The main Christmas market in Dresden boasts 233 stalls in the Striezelmarkt. You’ll find Ore Mountain wood crafts, Moravian stars, and Lusatian blue printed fabrics as well as other handcrafted regional favorites.
If you happen to be in Dresden on December 8, don’t miss Stollenfest, a festival dedicated to the Christmas Stollen, a buttery German bread filled with nuts and dried fruits, and covered in powdered sugar. The Dresdner Stollen is uniquely Dresden and worthy of a festival!
There are too many Christmas events in Dresden to name here. It is truly a Christmas city with its twinkling lights and Striezelmarkt. Click here to learn more about the city and its market.
The Wrap Up
Pack your bags and get ready to visit one of the top 5 European Christmas Markets in 2019. From Austria to Estonia and in between, these cities and Christmas markets will get you in the mood to celebrate your favorite winter holiday!
To read more about winter travel click these links;
- Best 5 Christmas Ski Destinations
- Ultimate Gift Guide for Travelers
- Denver’s Amazing Monet Exhibit and More
- Now is the Time to Plan Your Holiday Travel
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