10 festive markets to visit in Europe this year
It’s not too late to book a last-minute Christmas getaway. These fantastic destinations all boast traditional festive markets that are perfect for getting into the Christmas spirit, enjoying a mulled wine, or picking up some gifts.
1. Tallinn, Estonia
Dates: 1 December 2023 to 7 January 2024
If you’ve yet to visit Estonia, adding Tallinn at Christmas time to your bucket list is a must. There are the usual stalls and food to try here, but it’s the entertainment that really sets it apart. There are dance troupes, bell ringers, bands, and even a reindeer sleigh in Santa’s grotto that are great when you want a break from shopping.
2. Budapest, Hungary
Dates: 18 November 2023 to 1 January 2024
There are two main Christmas markets in Budapest in Vorosmarty Square and the Basilica. Both offer free concerts and plenty of stalls to browse. But the Basilica also hosts an ice-skating rink and laser projections to make it even more magical. The market is a great chance to taste traditional Hungarian food, including halászlé, a fish soup that is often eaten as part of the Christmas feast.
3. Bohemia, Czech Republic
Dates: 24 November 2023 to 1 January 2024
If you want to see some of the Czech Republic beyond Prague, why not take in some of the Christmas traditions of the Bohemia region? As well as stunning classic and gothic architecture to take in, many cities host Christmas markets that attract fewer tourists than others. Ceske Budejovice and Cesky Krumlov are just two of the options to consider.
4. Seville, Spain
Dates: 1 December 2023 to 5 January 2024
Seville is a great destination to head to if you want to mix Christmas markets with art and culture. You can pick up plenty of handmade gifts from the stalls – with the Feria de Artesania Creativa being particularly packed with handcrafted goods. The main tourist area is filled with impressive lights, and you can often spot holiday dancing or choirs singing Christmas carols too.
5. Merano, Italy
Dates: 24 November 2023 to January 6 2024
What better backdrop to a Christmas market than the stunning Italian Alps? Merano is a picturesque spa town that’s perfect for a mini break during the winter season. As well as the usual stalls selling handmade goods, you can often find choirs and bands playing festive tunes – the sudtirol cakes are a must-try when you’re here.
6. Cologne, Germany
Dates: 23 November to 23 December 2023
Cologne is a favourite destination for people who love to visit Christmas markets, which take over large areas of the city, including beneath the towering cathedral. There’s a whole area dedicated to children, so if you’re planning a winter trip with little ones, Cologne could be the perfect place to book.
7. Zagreb, Croatia
Dates: 2 December 2023 to 7 January 2024
Croatia might be more commonly associated with summer holidays, but the capital hosts dozens of small Christmas markets around the city during the festive season. The Upper Town medieval settlement is a great place to start before heading to the Lower Town to find markets in the parks. You can sample some unusual festive treats, including sarma, a stuffed cabbage roll, and plum brandy.
8. Copenhagen, Denmark
Dates: 17 November to 31 December 2023
Have a glimpse of how the Danish celebrate Christmas by sampling Glögg (it’s similar to mulled wine) as you visit the market in Tivoli Gardens – the world’s second oldest amusement park where you can enjoy thrill rides too. As well as the extravagant market in Tivoli Gardens, you can find smaller markets dotted throughout the city with a cosier atmosphere.
9. Bratislava, Slovakia
Dates: 23 November to 23 December 2023
Every year, the most beautiful part of Bratislava is turned into a Christmas fairy tale when the markets open up. The Old Town is impressive at any time of the year, but with twinkling lights added and delicious delicacies, it’s sure to bring you good cheer. The main square also holds a stage, so be sure to check the programme for performances.
10. Gdansk, Poland
Dates: 2 December to 23 December 2023
If you’re thinking about a trip to Poland, it’s probably Kraków that comes to mind. Yet, you could be missing out on a gem if you overlook Gdansk. The historic city centre is wonderful to explore at any time of the year, but it’s really magical when the Christmas market is on. If you have young children, elf parades and the Snow Queen are sure to keep them entertained.