It’s the time of year again, when ordinary squares in Europe transform into festive wonderlands adorned with glittering decorations and the enchanting aroma of mulled wine and roasted chestnuts.
Bringing tradition, culture and holiday cheer together, Christmas markets across the continent create a warm and joyful atmosphere. From the historic streets of Strasbourg to the imperial alleys of Vienna, we explore five of the best Christmas markets in Europe for 2023 – each promising a unique celebration of the yuletide spirit.
Strasbourg, France (24 November – 24 December 2023)
Known as the ‘Capital of Christmas’, Strasbourg’s Christkindelsmärik is one of the oldest Christmas markets in Europe. The historic city, with its timber-framed houses and winding cobblestone streets, is the perfect backdrop for a festive celebration.
The market dates back to 1570 and boasts more than 300 stalls selling handcrafted ornaments, local delicacies and artisanal gifts. The Grande Île, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is transformed into a Christmas village with themed districts. Don’t miss the towering Christmas tree at Place Kléber, beautifully illuminated and the focal point of this picturesque market.
Vienna, Austria (10 November – 26 December 2023)
Vienna embraces the holiday season with a sense of elegance and sophistication at the Wiener Christkindlmarkt. Set against the stunning backdrop of the Rathaus (City Hall), this picturesque market invites visitors with its dazzling lights and opulent decorations. More than 150 stalls offer an array of handicrafts, exquisite ornaments and delectable Austrian treats.
A highlight of the Wiener Christkindlmarkt is the daily appearances of the Christkind, an angelic figure who opens the market with a prologue, spreading messages of love and peace. After exploring the market, you can enjoy classical concerts, ice-skating in Rathausplatz, or ride on the vintage carousel for a nostalgic touch to the holiday festivities.
Cologne, Germany (23 November – 23 December 2023)
Situated against the magnificent backdrop of the city’s historic cathedral, Cologne’s Christmas market is a quintessential German yuletide experience. Kölner Weihnachtsmarkt boasts more than 160 festive pavilions, creating a vibrant and lively atmosphere. The scent of mulled wine, gingerbread and bratwurst fills the air as you meander through the market’s intricately decorated stalls.
The highlight is the Heinzels Winter Fairytale, a magical spectacle featuring animated characters telling the story of the Heinzelmännchen – the mythical house gnomes of Cologne.
Tivoli Gardens Christmas Market
Copenhagen, Denmark (19 November – 31 December 2023)
With its Nordic charm, the Tivoli Gardens Christmas Market in Copenhagen combines the excitement of an amusement park with the festive spirit of the holidays. More than 60 stalls offer a mix of traditional Danish handicrafts, seasonal treats and unique gifts.
The highlight of this market is the nightly light show, which bathes the park in a spectrum of colors, creating a magical ambience. You can also enjoy classic amusement rides, ice-skating and live entertainment – it’s the perfect destination for families seeking both festive and fun experiences.
Pražské Vánoční Trhy
Prague, Czechia (2 December 2023 – 6 January 2024)
Nestled in the heart of the historic Old Town Square, Prague’s Christmas markets offer a fairytale experience against the backdrop of the city’s medieval architecture. The Pražské Vánoční Trhy is renowned for its unique handmade crafts, including delicate glass ornaments, traditional wooden toys and intricate lacework.
You can savor Czech holiday treats like trdelník (a rolled pastry coated in sugar and cinnamon) and medovina (honey wine) while enjoying performances by local musicians and choirs. The dazzling Christmas tree, adorned with lights and ornaments, forms the centerpiece of the market, creating a magical atmosphere that will transport you to a bygone era.