Photo by Olga Niekrasova/Shutterstock
Photo by Suratwadee Rattanajarupak/Shutterstock
Prague’s largest Christmas markets are open every day from the end of November to early January, including on Christmas Day.
The best way to celebrate the holiday season in Europe? Visit craft-filled wooden stalls, watch performances by Christmas carolers, or take in the lights at these delightfully festive markets.
A distinctly European tradition, Christmas markets are essentially amusement parks for the winter holidays, bringing the spirit of the season to life in the form of treats, goods, and attractions. They’re not exactly hard to come by in Europe—Germany alone has almost 70 spread across the country. But that doesn’t mean they’re all the same. As the most wonderful time of the year approaches, we’ve rounded up eight unique Christmas markets in Europe. Some are lesser-known and others are well-trotted, but each is a must-see during the holiday season.
Prague’s largest Christmas markets are walking distance from each other, so you can easily explore both in one day. Old Town Square’s festivities include daily carol concerts, dozens of stalls selling traditional crafts, and a brightly lit central Christmas tree, while the Wenceslas Square market specializes in handmade goods and Czech treats such as klobása (Czech sausage) and Pražská šunka (roasted ham). Christmas markets in Prague are open every day from November 30 through January 6, including on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.
The setting of the Ravenna Gorge Christmas Market—in a gorge under the viaduct of the Höllentalbahn railway in the Black Forest Highlands—is best described as straight out of a fairy tale. The market’s various stalls are surrounded by forestry, which adds a true “winter wonderland” feel when dusted with snow. In 2019, the pop-up shopping and entertainment fair takes place Friday through Sunday from the last weekend in November through December 22.
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This Valkenburg holiday celebration features a series of vendors alongside the intricately detailed chapel, murals, and sculptures of the Netherlands’s 18th-century Velvet Cave. The Christmas market is set within a maze of underground passageways and rooms, making an experience here both a festive shopping trip and a historical tour. This year’s 22nd edition of the Velvet Cave Christmas Market will be open to guests from November 15 until December 29.
Set in one of Rome’s grandest piazzas, the Christmas and Epiphany Market in Piazza Navona juxtaposes the new—think torrone sweet treats, souvenir-style trinkets, and Mylar balloons—with the gravitas of the 1st-century outdoor plaza. Throughout December until January 6, visitors can browse stalls filled with handmade crafts, Italian treats, and local art, all while keeping an eye out for the oft-appearing Father Christmas.
In 1298, Austria’s capital held its first Christmas market. Today, there are more than 20 Christmas-related events to choose from across Vienna during the holiday season. From November 15 to December 26, revelers can enjoy reindeer rides, marvel over classic nativity scenes, and wander through more than 150 food and souvenir stalls in front of the grandiose City Hall at the Vienna Christmas Dream Market.
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With a location high atop a mountain overlooking the German countryside, the Royal Christmas Market at the Hohenzollern Castle challenges visitors to decide between browsing the goods or taking in the views first. Don’t worry—while the castle’s interior rooms house most of the market’s vendors, ticketed visitors are free to roam the treasure room, two churches, cellars, and outdoor terraces of the Prussian royal family’s ancestral seat. The market will be open November 29 through December 1 and December 6 through December 8 this year.
It’s not every day that you can visit a UNESCO World Heritage site, explore a historic Swiss town, and get your Christmas shopping done all in one place—but that’s exactly what the St. Gallen Christmas Market offers. While visitors are often taken with the series of stands lined up from the Waaghaus to Market Square, they shouldn’t forget to look up; the sky over St. Gallen is illuminated by 700 stars every year during the Advent, leading locals to nickname the quaint Switzerland town “the city of stars.” Back on the ground, merry-go-rounds, seasonal drinks and food, choir performances, and a lit Christmas tree can be enjoyed by all who visit from November 29 through December 24.
Bring the whole family along to the annual Christmas in Tivoli in Copenhagen. From November 16 to January 5, the world’s second-oldest operating amusement park opens a festive market alongside its year-round attractions, rides, and games. Locals and tourists of all ages will be delighted by the more than 1,000 lit Christmas trees and approximately 60 stalls with seasonal offerings, including Christmas treats, decorations, and gifts.
A version of this article originally appeared online in December 2016; it was updated on November 29, 2019, to include current information.
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