Photo by Shutterstock
Photo by Shutterstock
Munich’s Christmas market is a “nein” this year.
After a year when most were canceled, some of Europe’s festive markets are back on again for the 2021 holiday season. Not all have been spared, though, as pandemic problems linger.
Europe’s Christmas markets have long been a highlight of the holiday season: the fairy-tale villages, the one-of-a-kind crafts, the sugary pastries, the spiced glühwein. This year, travelers are craving holiday cheer more than ever. But because of rising COVID cases in Europe, some of the continent’s beloved Christmas markets are shutting down this season. No need to go full Scrooge just yet, though, as many of the classic markets are still open (often with new entry restrictions and health and safety protocols in place).
The information below is accurate at time of publication, but anyone planning on a Christmas-village crawl across the pond this year should make sure the markets they want to visit remain open as they prepare for their trip. There may also be specific requirements for entry, such as vaccine proof, or reduced operating hours. Happily, many of Europe’s most charming Christmas markets still have their fairy lights on for this holiday season—here’s a list.
Before we get into the markets that have (sadly) closed or pushed pause due to an uptick in COVID cases in Europe, let’s address the more uplifting list of the holiday markets that we love that are still on. While this is far from an exhaustive list of the wonderful Christmas markets that take place throughout Europe, it gives a sense of which ones are open and the kinds of restrictions in place.
Christmas in Tivoli
Through January 2
One of the world’s oldest amusement parks isn’t letting the pandemic dampen its holiday spirit. This year, most of the rides, games, and attractions remain open, along with illuminated Christmas trees, seasonal light projections, carols performed by the Tivoli Youth Guard, and a slew of market stalls. A COVID pass—verifying vaccination, recovery from COVID, or a negative COVID test result—is required for entry.
Christmas Magic Gendarmenmarkt
November 22–December 31
Artisans, acrobats, angels on stilts, plus tons of sausages and schnitzel—it’s all happening again this year on the plaza in front of Berlin’s stately Konzerthaus. Like the Baden-Baden market, this one also has 2G rules requiring proof of vaccination or past COVID illness.
Royal Christmas Magic at the Hohenzollern Castle
November 25–January 9
In nonpandemic years, visitors flocked to a holiday market at this historic mountain-top castle, the ancestral seat of the Prussian Hohenzollern clan. This year, the market is called off, but those seeking a royal Christmas (and who can show proof of full vaccination or evidence of COVID recovery) can still get tickets to tour the rooms of the festively decorated manse and its grounds.
Despite recent protests against COVID restrictions in the Netherlands, Christmas markets are happening both in cities and villages, including Amsterdam’s sprawling Winter Paradise (December 19–January 3) and Ice Village at the city’s ice rink (December 15–26). In the southeast corner of the country, near Germany, the Valkenburg market draws fans for its unusual setting: Not only does the whole town turn into a Christmas village, but the festivities continue underground too, with a market in the maze of corridors beneath the ruins of the town castle, aka the Velvet Cave, and a nativity scene in the Wilhelmina Cave. COVID has shortened the market’s hours and added some entry requirements (check the website FAQs for the latest info), but it hasn’t canceled Christmas.
St. Gallen Christmas Market
November 25–December 24
Every year, 700 stars (or star-shaped light installations) shine over St. Gallen’s Christmas market, which winds through the city’s abbey district, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The monastery’s ancient library and baroque architecture add to the Old World, yuletide ambience of the experience, a magical experience that requires COVID vaccination for entry (travelers can get a Swiss COVID certificate here).
Advent Bazilika market
November 19–January 1
Budapest’s Advent Bazilika market has more than 100 stalls of handcrafted gifts (think ceramics, leather goods, jewelry), near-daily performances, an ice rink, and a candle-lighting ceremony every Sunday. It’s a big, bright spot in Vörösmarty Square, in front of St Stephen’s Basilica.
And now for the less fortunate news: the markets that have been again negatively affected by the pandemic. There’s always hope for 2022 and beyond.
Vienna Christmas Dream Market
Undeterred by recent protests against COVID restrictions, Austria has imposed a new national lockdown in an attempt to curb its rising case numbers. As a result, all Christmas markets are canceled until at least December 13, including this most loved one in the country’s capital of Vienna.
Baden-Baden Christmas Market
After a ceremonial opening event on the evening of November 24, Baden-Baden's market shut down on December 4, following the trend of other markets in Germany.
Munich and Nuremberg Christkindlmarkts
The German state of Bavaria has canceled all its Christmas markets this year, which include the biggies in Munich and Nuremberg. Revelers will have to do without the latter’s famed bratwurst and gingerbread this year.
Leipzig and Dresden Christkindlmarkts
The Christmas market in Leipzig is one of the oldest and largest in Germany. It dates back to 1458 and usually has more than 300 stalls. This year, however, it will take a hiatus, as the state of Saxony heightens COVID safety restrictions and shuts down all the Christkindlmarkts (including the one in Dresden, which also started in the 1400s).
Ravenna Gorge Christmas Market
One of Germany's most picturesque markets, the Weihnachtsmarkt in der Ravennaschlucht (or Ravenna Gorge Christmas Market) is tucked into the Black Forest valley of Ravenna Gorge under the famous and much-photographed arched railway viaduct. Sadly, fans will have to wait until next year to visit.
Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square Christmas Markets
Prague’s two main markets opened for the season in November, but didn't last.
For up-to-date international travel restrictions, visit the U.S. State Department’s detailed COVID-19 travel information and country-specific advisories, which are typically updated regularly. We often cross-check these references with entry requirements that are published by each individual country’s foreign or public health affairs office.
U.S. travelers should be aware that all international passengers age two and older flying into the U.S. (including returning U.S. citizens and permanent residents) must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test before boarding their flight to the United States.
In addition, the CDC has detailed recommendations for travel during the pandemic, both for vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers.
Travelers should also verify all the public health measures and openings and closures that are in place throughout Europe. Some businesses and services may have limited operating hours or capacity restrictions, curfews could be in place, and there could be additional regulations on the ground, including COVID passes that are required for entry into certain venues such as in France and Italy. These restrictions can change frequently so it’s important to stay current.
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