Holidays In Europe: 12 Beautiful Cities With The Best Christmas Markets

colmar

Colmar, France, dressed in Christmas lights.

European Best Destinations

Snowflakes are already falling softly on the roofs of the wooden chalets at the Christmas markets of some of the most beautiful cities in Europe as the aromas of mulled wine, cookies, gingerbread, roasted chestnuts and cinnamon spice perfume the air and festivals of lights illuminate the old streets and plazas.

Practically every European city and town carries on its own traditional end-of-the-year holiday festivity, many of which have been occurring for centuries.

And over those centuries, visitors have wandered through the ancient cobbled streets, savoring the traditional national foods, enjoying beautiful decorations and exploring the wooden stalls full of seasonal crafts and local Christmas fare.

Here is a selection of great cities with special Christmas markets for all tastes, including a couple of sunny ones to enjoy Christmas, New Years or both in Europe.

Dresden, Germany

Dresden is considered among the most beautiful cities in Germany, with one of the most charming and oldest Christmas markets in the country.

Glittering lights, twinkling stars, Christmas carols, beaming children's faces, mulled wine and the scent of gingerbread—Dresden's Striezelmarkt, held on the Altmarkt since 1434, has kept a unique character for nearly six centuries.

Among its specialties are mountain-wood crafts, Lusatian blue-printed fabrics and Moravian stars. The high point of the market is the 15-meter-high Christmas pyramid topped by wooden figures.

Smaller versions of the figures are for sale at the market.

“A piece of the original Dresdner Christstollen fruit loaf under the light of the step pyramid of the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains) is of course another must,” advises Best European Destinations, (EBD) which every year organizes the Best Christmas Markets selected by travelers.

Colmar, France

The entire French region of Alsace is well known and well travelled during the Christmas season for its marchés de noël. The Colmar Christmas market has been held since the 16th century — and to visitors, it could seem like little has changed since.

The narrow cobbled streets and squares with half-timbered medieval houses are a perfect setting for the market’s stalls selling handicrafts and local specialities. The inhabitants are also part of the festivities and they decorate their houses to add to the Christmas magic.

“Indeed, the city seems to have been created in the workshops of Santa Claus,” explains EBD. “The beautiful traditional half-timbered houses are colorful and look like gingerbread houses! Colmar is probably one of the most beautiful destinations in France and one of the most romantic ones for families, lovers and lonely travelers, for culture, wine tourism and nature lovers too.”

The European Union tourism organization suggests that visitors take a photo of their favorite house in Colmar and post it on social networks with the #ebdestinationsxmas.

Tallinn, Estonia

It’s become one of the must-see Christmas events in Europe and Tallinn, Estonia, was elected #1 of EBD’s Best Christmas Market list.

“With its coziness, historical location, wonderfully preserved medieval old buildings and long traditions the Tallinn Christmas market keeps its title as one of the best Christmas markets in the world,” writes the organization.

The Christmas tree in front of the Tallinn City Hall shares a long tradition. Since 1441, the most beautiful spruce tree has been placed there and decorated with lights. The Christmas market surrounds it amid medieval buildings in pastel colors as visitor stroll from stand to stand, sampling hearty treats like baked potato, sauerkraut, sausages and liqueur and buying high-quality handicrafts from nick-nacks to practical winter accessories.

There are carousels for children and Santa Claus distributes candy in his little house to those who are better at reciting verses.

Bath, England

The Bath Christmas market and festival of lights has been described as “Dickens Style,” where you feel as if you could bump into one his memorable characters as you walk the old streets.

The Roman baths and gothic Bath Abbey are decorated with lights and vendors sell handmade jewelry, knitwear, ginger snaps and roasted nuts at the different markets. Since no English Christmas would be complete without Christmas Carols, the songs of various choral groups ring through the air once night falls. Silent night, holy night...

Poznan, Poland

Poznań’s Christmas market (Poznań Bethlehem) was chosen as one of the top 10 Best Christmas Markets in Europe in 2019 and as the Best Christmas Market in Poland.

“The Poznań Christmas Market will take you to a truly enchanted winter land: a land of ice, snowflakes and original Christmas attractions located in the Poznań Old Market Square and Freedom Square during this magical time,” according to EBD.

The city also holds an ice sculpture festival unique in Europe and counts on participants from all over the world to turn massive blocks of ice into works of art in front of the visitors.

Metz, France

For EBD, the Metz’s (France) Christmas season is one of the best in Europe for family holidays. The city features six markets full of hand-crafted gifts in the Christmas pyramid and some of the finest gingerbread around.

“Have a twirl on the open-air ice-rink, then warm up cold hands around a mulled wine or hot chocolate. Let the illuminations chase away the dark winter days, enjoy traditional treats like the merry-go-round, a walk through the magical "Trails of the lanterns" or stock up on the gastronomic Christmas essentials at the city market hall.”

Vienna, Austria

For many people, Vienna is one of the most beautiful European destinations and a magical city to celebrate Christmas. The city has the best Christmas market in Austria and one of EBD’s best Christmas markets in Europe.

For the season, the city transform its prettiest squares into enchanting Christmas markets in a shining fairytale land, with stands full of Christmas gifts, tree decorations, candy, warm drinks, a carousel and craft Christmas workshops for kids.

“What we like in Vienna is the elegance of its Christmas decorations and its chic, sobriety and elegance,” EBD notes.

Budapest, Hungary

The Advent Feast at the Basilica in Budapest is one of the favorite Christmas markets in Hungary and one of the three top Christmas markets in Europe.

The organizers of this event work hard every year to make sure that the Christmas spirit sparkles in front of Budapest's grandest cathedral and spreads over the Christmas markets welcoming everyone one with hand crafted gifts and Hungarian and international food such as the local favorite, “flódni,” and the Hungaricum chimney cake.

There’s ice skating for children (offering skateboarding and weekend skating lessons for kids under 14) in a central rink that surrounds a towering Christmas tree.

It’s said that Santa Claus himself goes shopping at the Advent Feast at the Basilica.

Luxembourg City, Luxembourg

The Winterlights Festival in Luxembourg, one of the oldest and most traditional Christmas markets in Europe, has grown larger in recent years, with decorations, events and special lighting taking over the old streets of the capital of the only Grand Duchy in the world. The Christmas Markets with their wooden chalets are spread around many of its beautiful plazas.

Locals and visitors will discover a warm, family-friendly atmosphere as public spaces have been decorated in a festive Christmas spirit and the smells of baked goods, warm mulled wine, hot chocolate and Luxembourgish specialties such as Gromperekichelcher (potato pancakes) with apple sauce, fill the air.

Copenhagen, Denmark

Homeland of the writer of Christmas fairytales, Hans Christian Andersen, Denmark is a very special place to experience the end-of-the-year festivities.

The historic Tivoli amusement park in Copenhagen becomes a magic world with its glittering lanterns, antique carousels, wooden stands decorated with pine branches and snow-covered trees to create that perfect Nordic Christmas atmosphere.

Santa Claus and his reindeer are also there to welcome visitors. The garden has been decorated with more than 70,000 Christmas baubles and 1,000 Christmas trees completely covered in lights.

Not even the harshest winter weather can spoil the fun and the memories for a lifetime.

Malaga, Spain

For those who prefer less “wintry” weather but still want to enjoy the Christmas spirit, there’s always Malaga, Spain—one of the trendiest destinations for all travelers in Europe. 

Among other features, Malaga boasts the largest number of museums per square kilometer in Europe, and at Christmas the city’s palm trees are decked with Christmas garlands.

The streets are full of musicians and concerts while Christmas markets bristle with crafts and gifts and the city offers some of the most innovative Christmas lighting.

Granada, Spain

Also in the south of Spain, and also selected as one of the best “Sunny Christmas Destinations,” Granada offers several Christmas markets full of local specialties such as “Pan Cadiz” or “Polvoron de Jijona,” street shows and different activities for young and old.

 The main market is situated on Plaza Bib Rambla next to the Cathedral.

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Snowflakes are already falling softly on the roofs of the wooden chalets at the Christmas markets of some of the most beautiful cities in Europe as the aromas of mulled wine, cookies, gingerbread, roasted chestnuts and cinnamon spice perfume the air and festivals of lights illuminate the old streets and plazas.

Practically every European city and town carries on its own traditional end-of-the-year holiday festivity, many of which have been occurring for centuries.

And over those centuries, visitors have wandered through the ancient cobbled streets, savoring the traditional national foods, enjoying beautiful decorations and exploring the wooden stalls full of seasonal crafts and local Christmas fare.

Here is a selection of great cities with special Christmas markets for all tastes, including a couple of sunny ones to enjoy Christmas, New Years or both in Europe.

Dresden, Germany

Dresden is considered among the most beautiful cities in Germany, with one of the most charming and oldest Christmas markets in the country.

Glittering lights, twinkling stars, Christmas carols, beaming children's faces, mulled wine and the scent of gingerbread—Dresden's Striezelmarkt, held on the Altmarkt since 1434, has kept a unique character for nearly six centuries.

Among its specialties are mountain-wood crafts, Lusatian blue-printed fabrics and Moravian stars. The high point of the market is the 15-meter-high Christmas pyramid topped by wooden figures.

Smaller versions of the figures are for sale at the market.

“A piece of the original Dresdner Christstollen fruit loaf under the light of the step pyramid of the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains) is of course another must,” advises Best European Destinations, (EBD) which every year organizes the Best Christmas Markets selected by travelers.

Colmar, France

The entire French region of Alsace is well known and well travelled during the Christmas season for its marchés de noël. The Colmar Christmas market has been held since the 16th century — and to visitors, it could seem like little has changed since.

The narrow cobbled streets and squares with half-timbered medieval houses are a perfect setting for the market’s stalls selling handicrafts and local specialities. The inhabitants are also part of the festivities and they decorate their houses to add to the Christmas magic.

“Indeed, the city seems to have been created in the workshops of Santa Claus,” explains EBD. “The beautiful traditional half-timbered houses are colorful and look like gingerbread houses! Colmar is probably one of the most beautiful destinations in France and one of the most romantic ones for families, lovers and lonely travelers, for culture, wine tourism and nature lovers too.”

The European Union tourism organization suggests that visitors take a photo of their favorite house in Colmar and post it on social networks with the #ebdestinationsxmas.

Tallinn, Estonia

It’s become one of the must-see Christmas events in Europe and Tallinn, Estonia, was elected #1 of EBD’s Best Christmas Market list.

“With its coziness, historical location, wonderfully preserved medieval old buildings and long traditions the Tallinn Christmas market keeps its title as one of the best Christmas markets in the world,” writes the organization.

The Christmas tree in front of the Tallinn City Hall shares a long tradition. Since 1441, the most beautiful spruce tree has been placed there and decorated with lights. The Christmas market surrounds it amid medieval buildings in pastel colors as visitor stroll from stand to stand, sampling hearty treats like baked potato, sauerkraut, sausages and liqueur and buying high-quality handicrafts from nick-nacks to practical winter accessories.

There are carousels for children and Santa Claus distributes candy in his little house to those who are better at reciting verses.

Bath, England

The Bath Christmas market and festival of lights has been described as “Dickens Style,” where you feel as if you could bump into one his memorable characters as you walk the old streets.

The Roman baths and gothic Bath Abbey are decorated with lights and vendors sell handmade jewelry, knitwear, ginger snaps and roasted nuts at the different markets. Since no English Christmas would be complete without Christmas Carols, the songs of various choral groups ring through the air once night falls. Silent night, holy night...

Poznan, Poland

Poznań’s Christmas market (Poznań Bethlehem) was chosen as one of the top 10 Best Christmas Markets in Europe in 2019 and as the Best Christmas Market in Poland.

“The Poznań Christmas Market will take you to a truly enchanted winter land: a land of ice, snowflakes and original Christmas attractions located in the Poznań Old Market Square and Freedom Square during this magical time,” according to EBD.

The city also holds an ice sculpture festival unique in Europe and counts on participants from all over the world to turn massive blocks of ice into works of art in front of the visitors.

Metz, France

For EBD, the Metz’s (France) Christmas season is one of the best in Europe for family holidays. The city features six markets full of hand-crafted gifts in the Christmas pyramid and some of the finest gingerbread around.

“Have a twirl on the open-air ice-rink, then warm up cold hands around a mulled wine or hot chocolate. Let the illuminations chase away the dark winter days, enjoy traditional treats like the merry-go-round, a walk through the magical "Trails of the lanterns" or stock up on the gastronomic Christmas essentials at the city market hall.”

Vienna, Austria

For many people, Vienna is one of the most beautiful European destinations and a magical city to celebrate Christmas. The city has the best Christmas market in Austria and one of EBD’s best Christmas markets in Europe.

For the season, the city transform its prettiest squares into enchanting Christmas markets in a shining fairytale land, with stands full of Christmas gifts, tree decorations, candy, warm drinks, a carousel and craft Christmas workshops for kids.

“What we like in Vienna is the elegance of its Christmas decorations and its chic, sobriety and elegance,” EBD notes.

Budapest, Hungary

The Advent Feast at the Basilica in Budapest is one of the favorite Christmas markets in Hungary and one of the three top Christmas markets in Europe.

The organizers of this event work hard every year to make sure that the Christmas spirit sparkles in front of Budapest's grandest cathedral and spreads over the Christmas markets welcoming everyone one with hand crafted gifts and Hungarian and international food such as the local favorite, “flódni,” and the Hungaricum chimney cake.

There’s ice skating for children (offering skateboarding and weekend skating lessons for kids under 14) in a central rink that surrounds a towering Christmas tree.

It’s said that Santa Claus himself goes shopping at the Advent Feast at the Basilica.

Luxembourg City, Luxembourg

The Winterlights Festival in Luxembourg, one of the oldest and most traditional Christmas markets in Europe, has grown larger in recent years, with decorations, events and special lighting taking over the old streets of the capital of the only Grand Duchy in the world. The Christmas Markets with their wooden chalets are spread around many of its beautiful plazas.

Locals and visitors will discover a warm, family-friendly atmosphere as public spaces have been decorated in a festive Christmas spirit and the smells of baked goods, warm mulled wine, hot chocolate and Luxembourgish specialties such as Gromperekichelcher (potato pancakes) with apple sauce, fill the air.

Copenhagen, Denmark

Homeland of the writer of Christmas fairytales, Hans Christian Andersen, Denmark is a very special place to experience the end-of-the-year festivities.

The historic Tivoli amusement park in Copenhagen becomes a magic world with its glittering lanterns, antique carousels, wooden stands decorated with pine branches and snow-covered trees to create that perfect Nordic Christmas atmosphere.

Santa Claus and his reindeer are also there to welcome visitors. The garden has been decorated with more than 70,000 Christmas baubles and 1,000 Christmas trees completely covered in lights.

Not even the harshest winter weather can spoil the fun and the memories for a lifetime.

Malaga, Spain

For those who prefer less “wintry” weather but still want to enjoy the Christmas spirit, there’s always Malaga, Spain—one of the trendiest destinations for all travelers in Europe. 

Among other features, Malaga boasts the largest number of museums per square kilometer in Europe, and at Christmas the city’s palm trees are decked with Christmas garlands.

The streets are full of musicians and concerts while Christmas markets bristle with crafts and gifts and the city offers some of the most innovative Christmas lighting.

Granada, Spain

Also in the south of Spain, and also selected as one of the best “Sunny Christmas Destinations,” Granada offers several Christmas markets full of local specialties such as “Pan Cadiz” or “Polvoron de Jijona,” street shows and different activities for young and old.

 The main market is situated on Plaza Bib Rambla next to the Cathedral.

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I'm a dual Colombian-Luxembourgish freelance journalist, inveterate traveler and writer based in the world's only Grand Duchy. I write a column on European affairs for

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