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Ultimate Guide for the Best European Christmas Market Trip

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EUROPE, TRAVEL GUIDE

Ultimate Guide for the Best European Christmas Market Trip

Christkindl Express Train Ride in the snow at the Vienna Christmas Market

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Pop up shops around the world are always an enjoyable experience. They specialize in one niche and often turn a once empty space into a lively culture all exclusive to itself and its guests. When you add Christmas to the mix, along with the scenic areas all around Europe, it’s an unmatched experience for all to enjoy. And that is exactly what a European Christmas market is all about. From the smell of wine to market stalls filled with the classic Christmas scents and handmade decorations, you can’t help but get into the Christmas spirit. Christmas Market shops usually sell items like Christmas ornaments, candles, holiday decor, and items in that genre. For all things Christmas, Christmas Market Circles are essentially a one-stop-shop.

Holding the world’s most scenic and lively locations, there are a plethora of options to get together to experience the start of the annual holiday season of Christmas in Europe. And as time gets closer, and the holiday clock ticks away, let us show you how to make the most of your European Christmas market trip.

Our extensive and in-depth list will be your guide to the best Christmas Markets in Europe and how to include multiple markets in one trip. We will provide itineraries for each country with train stops in cities that have the best of Europe Christmas markets. Every Christmas market is different and has their own unique traditions and ornamental flare based on the local culture. By the end, you will have your European Christmas market trip planned and ready to be booked. And you definitely will be more knowledgeable about Christmas markets in Europe before you even set foot on a plane!

What Are European Christmas Markets?

Christkindl Express Train Ride in the snow at the Vienna Christmas Market
Christkindl Express Train Ride

Christmas markets are much like pop up shops. They don’t stick around for the entire twelve months out of the year and stay out for a limited time only. For the most part, these Christmas markets are usually small little stores, designed in such a way that they can easily be set and torn down. They are similar in design to pop up shops except that Christmas markets usually remain outdoors.

Locations vary, but they usually plant their business in an open park, parking lot, or big public space. Traditionally, market shops are independently owned and you will only see one or two staff members manning each individual shop. Overall, market shops are small little shopping communities designed to create an outdoor festival- like feel for guests. Take for instance the Christmas Market in Bryant Park New York; this location sees thousands of tourists annually, and the shops are placed next to an ice skating rink in the park to create a real Christmas feel.

When Do European Christmas Markets Start?

The European Christmas market season typically opens for the holidays in November. However, we have experienced some that open as early as the last week in October. So for all your Christmas shopping needs, November is the optimal time to hit those European Christmas market shops. They usually remain open for a week after Christmas, which is great to get the best shopping deals, flight deals, hotel deals and to extend that Christmas nostalgia a little longer. Check out our blog post on booking flights with Skyscanner to get the best deals on your airfare.

Austria Christmas Markets

With a coat of arms that has more detail on it than a Game of Thrones sigil, Austria is a must-go-to spot for the ultimate European Christmas Market experience.

Route Plan

While you are in Austria for your European Christmas market trip, you will have easy access to multiple cities that will account for a funfilled multiday Christmas market itinerary.

Start in Vienna and take the train to Salzburg then on to Innsbruck. From there you will have access to a multitude of European Christmas markets. From Switzerland to Germany and even all the way to France. All these markets are easily accessible by train so check out Omio’s service schedule as they tend to have the best deals on train travel in Europe.

And remember while you’re not out and about shopping at those Austria Christmas markets, you will definitely want to check out all of Austria’s art, architecture, theatre, and literature, as the country is ripe with it! Now we move onto which Austria Christmas markets you’ll want to check out.

Vienna Christmas Market

The Viennese Dream Christmas Market

Entrance to the Viennese dream Christmas Market
Viennese Dream Christmas Market

This market sits nicely right in front of the City Hall. It’s atmosphere, backdrop and more make this Christmas market great for when you’re done sightseeing in Vienna. There’s an undeniable Christmas factor to this market that fills the air with a near cliche jingle bell feel. One thing that separates this Christmas market from the rest is how the location caters to a kid demographic. The city hall provides an outlet for kids to participate in activities like making cookies, crafts and more.

  • Where: On the square in front of the City Hall
  • When: 15th November – 26th December 2019

Christmas Village Belvedere Palace

Belvedere Palace
Belvedere Palace at Christmas

This market is set against the Belvedere Palace, one of Vienna’s most beautiful and significant sights. More than 40 festively decorated market stalls offer traditional handcrafted goods, elaborate Christmas decorations, and special culinary delights.

  • Where: Belvedere Palace, Prinz Eugen-Straße
  • When: 22nd November – 26th December 2019

There are many smaller Vienna Christmas markets to check out here and there but these two are highly recommended.

A great hotel to stay in that’s close by to the Austria Christmas market scene is the Hilton Vienna Plaza. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay here as the location was in short walking distance to all major sites in Vienna.

When you feel like you have experienced everything Vienna has to offer however you plan to stay in Austria then you’re gonna wanna hit the next closest Austria Christmas market. Queue Salzburg which is only a 2-hour and 48-minute train ride away. Long enough to revel at your newly purchased Christmas ornaments.

Salzburg Christmas Markets

Salzburg Christmas Market

A baker making Christmas Treats
European Christmas Treats

Also known as The Salzburg Christkindlmarkt it is one of the longest standing and premier Christmas markets to attend in Salzburg. It not only has some great gifts available for the whole family but also provides fascinating cultural events built on tradition and local customs. With over 95 exhibitors it is divided into 6 sections and color-coded to more easily navigate.

  • Where: On Cathedral and Residenz Square, in Salzburg’s historic city center
  • When: 21st November – 26th December 2019

Advent Magic in Hellbrunn

Since you’re already in Salzburg other notable Salzburg Christmas market here is the Advent Magic in Hellbrunn which is only a twelve-minute drive from the Cathedral of Salzburg.

  • Where: In Hellbrunn Courtyard
  • When: 21st November – 24th December 2019

If you want to center your trip around Salzburg rather than Vienna then book your hotel stay early as rooms book up very fast. We recommend the Sheraton Grand Salzburg however if that is booked we have listed several more here.

Continuing on with our Austria Christmas Market itinerary the next stop is less than two hours away by train.

Innsbruck Christmas Markets

Innsbruck Old Town Christmas market decorated for Christmas
Innsbruck Old Town Christmas Market

Old Town Christmas Market

Innsbruck is another great place to visit for your European Christmas markets in Austria, and there’s a lot to choose from! So if you’re staying in Innsbruck then you’re gonna want to check out Old Town Christmas Market. Here you will find Christmas ornaments, handicrafts, and other winter treats. Traditional dishes such as Kiachln and a mug of Glühwein (mulled wine) will keep you warm while strolling through this market.

  • Where: In front of the Golden Roof, in Innsbruck’s historic city center
  • When: 15th November – 23rd December 2019

Christmas Market Maria-Theresien Straße

Innsbruck Maria-Theresien Strasse decorated for Christmas
Innsbruck Maria-Theresien Strasse

A short distance away from the Old Town Christmas Market you have the ever-gorgeous Christmas Market Maria-Theresien Straße. Here you will find a wider offering of more modern Christmas designs.

Where: Maria-Theresien Straße
When: 25th November 2019 – 6th January 2020

Minutes from this market you can visit Panorama Christmas Market on Hungerburg or The Family Christmas Market at Marktplatz, then on to the market of Christmas Magic in Wilten. Each market provides something unique for the family, from carousels to petting zoos.

A great and reputable hotel to stay at while you’re in Innsbruck that provides an optimal centralized location close to all these markets would be AC Hotel by Marriott Innsbruck.

Germany Christmas Market

Dresden's Striezelmarkt
Dresden Christmas Market

With a black, yellow, and red flag waving in the background, we move on to the best German Christmas markets. With a history dating back to over a century ago, Germany is big on it’s Christmas holiday celebrations. With more than 150 Christmas markets to choose from a Germany should be high on your Christmas market itinerary. And remember they also have great beer and huge pretzels.

While listening to the festive music peruse the beautifully decorated stalls that offer handicrafts and gifts, baked treats, glühwein, and delicious regional specialties. Throughout Germany, Christmas markets celebrate seasonal customs and traditions in delightful historical settings.

Route Plan

If you want to continue your journey from Innsbruck, Austria we recommend starting your German Christmas market itinerary in Nuremberg. From there you can hop on a train, and head over to Dresden and finally end in Cologne. We prefer the train because you get to enjoy the German landscape while not having to worry about the typical car angst (one-way fees, parking, gas, etc).

Nuremberg Christmas Markets

Nuremberg Christmas Market called Christkindlesmarkt
Christkindlesmarket in Nuremberg

Christkindlesmarkt Christmas Market

The enticing aromas of mulled wine, sweet roasted almonds, Nuremberg sausages, and gingerbread create an unforgettable atmosphere in the Old Town of Nuremberg, Germany. This world-famous German Christmas market boasts 180 wooden stalls decked out in the most glorious of all Christmas decor. Also known as the Kris Kringle market.

  • Where: Old Town Nuremberg
  • When: December 24th, 2019 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. 
    Ceremonial opening with a prologue: Nov. 29th, 2019 5:30 p.m. 

Nuremberg Children’s Christmas

Just around the corner from the Christkindlesmarkt (Kris Kringle market) is a child’s fairytale dreamland. It has many rides and attractions to entertain the little ones such as a magnificent two-tiered carousel, a mini Ferris wheel, a steam railway, and a small merry-go-round. Santa Claus is there to listen to the children’s wishes and also poses for photos. Many decorative stalls invite the children to join in activities like baking, candle-pulling, glass workshop, wood-burning, and many more activities to make this Christmas one to remember.

  • Where: Central Square in Old Town Nuremberg
  • When: The Nuremberg Christmas Angel visits the Children’s Christmas on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays at 2:30 pm

Staying in a centralized location in Nuremberg is quite easy however just like with all hotels this time of year they tend to fill up pretty fast. Here is a list of hotels that are in the Sudostadt district convenient to the Nuremberg Christmas Market.

Dresden Christmas Market

Striezelmarkt Dresden lit up with Christmas light and decorations
Striezelmarkt in Dresden

The Striezelmarkt

The Striezelmarkt originally started back in the 15th century. The word ‘Striezel’ actually refers to a cake made at this time of year called a ‘Stollen’.

Striezelmarkt is certainly one of the most traditional German Christmas markets. Many of the activities at this market are inspired by the local industries like mining, woodworking, and pottery. The Striezelmarkt dedicates each of the Advent weekends to one of the traditions of the area.

  • Where: On the Altmarkt square in the center of Dresden
  • When: 27th November to 24th December 2019

Augustusmarkt

The Augustusmarkt is the second-largest Dresden Christmas market. With its special international ambiance and its illuminated pagoda, the Augustusmarkt is one to be reckoned with. Augustusmarkt offers its visitors a mix of tradition and internationality which is unique to the city of Dresden.

  • Where: From the Neustädter Markt to the Dreifaltigkeitskirche
  • When: 28th of November 2019 – 23rd of December 2019

While you are in Dresden getting your fill of the Christmas spirit there is one thing you absolutely CAN NOT miss. It is less than an hour’s car drive away or you can take the train to a river ferry on the Elbe. It is called the Bastei Bridge and it will be a site to remember and one of the most picturesque places you will ever visit. In our opinion, it is one of the best hidden gems in Europe.

A great area to stay in Dresden is Altstadt. This is a central location to all there is to see and do. And very close proximity to the rail station. Here is a list of hotels in the Altstadt district.

Cologne Christmas Market

Cologne Christmas Market in front of the Cologne Cathedral
Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market

Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market

The Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market is most known for having the largest tree in Rhineland along with 150 attractively designed wooden pavilions. This Cologne Christmas market has great mulled wine, artisan themed food and a variety of live entertainment. The backdrop will leave most breathless as the market sits right near the Romaine- Germanic Museum and the Cologne Philharmonic Concert Hall. Another great thing about this Cologne Christmas market is the fact that it sits at the epicenter of most of the other Christmas markets in the area. For instance, these markets below are driving distance away or great for exploring Cologne’s public transportation. 

  • Where: Roncalliplatz next to Cologne Cathedral
  • When: 25th November – 23rd December 2019

Other Xmas markets in Cologne include

  • Old Market Christmas (Two-minute drive)
  • Heavenue Cologne – Also known as the Gay Christmas Market (Eight-minute drive)
  • Christmas Market in The Stadtgarten (Six-minute drive)

Cologne is far from lacking in terms of Christmas markets. Like most cities in Germany, there’s a plethora to choose from. And each one holds a unique quality from the rest. If one travels to Cologne enough or happens to spend a lot of time on vacation, and they are all worth visiting. Also, don’t forget to also check out Cologne’s Nativity Scene. Which is spread across 110 places across Cologne.

A great hotel that also close to the Cathedral is the Cologne Marriott Hotel. This four and a half star stay provides everything one needs to complete their vacation in Cologne. A perfect distance between all the Cologne Christmas markets named above and the infamous Cologne Cathedral.

France Christmas Market

As if France wasn’t magical enough throughout the year. Imagine the vibe that the holidays bring during the Christmas market season. Locals and visitors alike flock from all parts of the world to experience the french customs at Christmas time. Only one thing beats spending Christmas in Paris and that is spending New Year’s in Paris. Our friends at LiveLoveRunTravel share everything you need to know before you go.

Route Plan

A perfect time to enjoy the French countryside while taking the train to 3 unique cities in France that you would probably not otherwise travel to. Starting in Paris take the 2 hour and 20-minute train ride to Colmar. From Colmar, the train to Strasbourg takes only 35 minutes. You can complete this circle and head back to Paris on the train in 1 hour and 40 minutes. Depending of course if that is where your departing flight is leaving from. Although, if you would like to experience what else western Europe has to offer check out our post on the best cities in western Europe.

Paris Christmas Market

Paris Christmas Market with Eiffel Tower in the background.
Paris Christmas Market

La Défense Christmas Market

La Défense Christmas market is the premier Christmas market in Paris. Boasting huge attendance numbers and unmatched lively experience, when you attend you’ll get to choose from over 350 chalets and 400 meters of holiday decorations. Minutes from this market are the Marche Noel del la Defense, the Christmas Market Shopping Mall, and the Grande Arche de la Defense monument. La Defense is the perfect area to hit multiple Christmas markets on your European Christmas market itinerary.

  • Where: Paris de la Defense, Grande Arche
  • When: 17th November 2019 to 6th January 2020

Village de Noël at Champs de Mars

With the Eiffel Tower as a backdrop, this Paris Christmas market is a must-see. Also save this market for the evening hours because the glittery lights of the Eiffel tower provide an even more magical experience. Oh and while you’re there enjoy a nice dinner at the 58 Tour Eiffel Restaurant, we promise you will not be disappointed.

  • Where: Champs de Mars, Eiffel Tower
  • When: 17th November 2019 to 6th January 2020

One of the best places to stay while in town for the Christmas Market at La Défense is the Melia Paris La Defense. This hotel provides it all from great room service, awesome views of the city and more.

Colmar Christmas Market

Place de Dominicains

One of the advantages the Colmar Christmas markets have is that they are close together. They are all located along a path that’s just over a half-mile long. While most of these markets have similar foods and attractions each of them boasts a different cultural twist that differentiates it from the one before.

Some of these markets include the Place de la cathédrale, Place de l’Ancienne Douane, Place Jeanne d’Arc, Children’s Christmas Market, The Petite Venise, Indoor Craft Market, and The Koïfhus. All of these markets are either walking distance from each other or driving distance.

  • Where: Colmar town center
  • When: 22nd November to 29th December 2019

Here is a perfect list of hotels in Colmar city center.

Strasbourg Christmas Market

Ultimate Guide for the Best European Christmas Market Trip 1

The Strasbourg Christmas Market

Also known as “the Capital of Christmas”. Strasbourg is one of the oldest Christmas markets in Europe. From the fairy-like lights to the delicious aromas, let yourself be carried away by the city’s warm atmosphere,  marvel and wander around the 300 wooden chalets set up in the city’s historic center.

  • Where: Grande Île in Strasbourg
  • When: 22nd November to 30th  December 2019

Check out these great hotels in Strasbourg.

With all the European Christmas markets available we hope our list has helped you narrow down your search and maybe even offer a route where you can see more than one. Not only is it an experience to remember it will help even the grumpiest Scrooge get into the Christmas spirit. Let us know if you have visited any on this list and what you liked most about it.

(2) Comments

  1. I love this list! I moved to Budapest last year and they definitely have some of the best Christmas markets too and also the biggest ice-skating rink in europe! It’s a magical time of the year!

    1. Indeed! Christmas time in Europe is one of a kind.

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Chris and Reg are an interracial, married, travel-obsessed couple exploring the world, and are the founders of Chris and Reg Travel. Our motto is enjoying 5-star quality at 3-star prices. Our goal is to help you enjoy the same comfort without blowing the budget.

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