From Berlin to Budapest, fill up with festive cheer at one of Europe’s most charming Christmas markets
Christmas markets can quickly become tackier than tinsel on a radiator, so we’ve rounded up those that prioritise artisanal gifts and independently-run food vendors, with just the right amount of festive sparkle. Christmas spirit permeates the crowds, but if you prefer to haggle without the hordes, we recommend arriving on opening day, when the word hasn’t spread beyond the local community – you’ll get first-pick on products, and traders will be extra happy to see you after days of setting up. Christmas markets are a wonderful reason to plan a winter city break, replete with hot toddies, cosy bars and boutique hotels. These are the best Christmas markets in Europe this winter 2023.
Known as France’s ‘capital of Christmas’, Strasbourg’s festive spirit is city-wide. Head to the Grande-Île de Strasbourg and wander between the half-timbered houses and gingerbread streets, all dressed up in ribbons, super-sized baubles, pine garlands, and even teddy bears on Le Tire-Bouchon restaurant (beware the snap-happy crowds here). Just as the city sits on the border between France and Germany, so too do its cultural influences, so follow the smell of fried onions to Place des Meruniers, where you’ll find the Alsatian delicacy flammekueche (or tarte flambée), as well as fresh pretzels, crepes, truffles, spaetzle and knackwurst.
Don’t miss: The town of Colmar, an hour south by car, which has its very own market and specialises in local crafts from ceramics to jewellery – the perfect stocking fillers.
When: 24 November – 24 December 2023
Where to stay: Places to stay book quickly in Strasbourg so act fast. Cour du Corbeau is one of Europe’s oldest hotels, across ten half-timbered buildings. From 240 GBP per night.
In Ghent, during the lead up to Christmas, you can ride the tram or bus for free every Sunday, but this twinkly city is best seen on foot, especially when you’ll want to pause at every other chalet-style stall. Compared to some of Germany’s Christmas markets, there are fewer bells and whistles at Gentse Winterfeesten, but its setting beneath St Bavo’s cathedral and Gravensteen is what makes it so special. Fill up bags of cuberdon (‘little nose’) sweets for last-minute gifts, or take a nostalgic ride on the vintage ferris wheel for a fresh perspective.
Don’t miss: The roller rink, which is replacing the ice rink this year, so hold off on the essential beer-tasting until after you’ve taken a spin.
When: 7-31 December 2023
Where to stay: 1898 The Post has grand high ceilings, a cosy honesty bar, and Le Labo amenities in the bathrooms. For a well designed stay in the centre of the city, you can’t do better. From 179 GBP per night.
The Winter Wonders Market is set against Brussels’ historic Grand Place. The market offers a wide array of activities and attractions, including an ice rink, a Ferris wheel, and a captivating light show. Visitors can explore stalls filled with Belgian specialties, including chocolates, Belgian waffles, and Belgian fries (that’s right, they’re not originally French). The market hosts local craftspeople offering handmade lacework, ceramics, and intricate wood carvings.
Don’t miss: the live music and street performances
When: 24 November – 31 December 2023
Where to stay: The Hoxton Brussels has a double height lobby, bar and restaurant, and 198 rooms with views of the Jardin botanique de Bruxelles. From 118 GBP per night.
Amsterdam always transforms after dark, and its penchant for theatre only amps up throughout December – quite literally, with more than 100,000 lights reflected in the canals. Just as high-energy skaters orbit the tree in the centre of the ice rink, the market revolves around Museumplein, set beneath the striking Rijksmuseum. There’s an Alpine chalet lined with big beer-soaked tables, competitive curling, a fairy-lit fairground, a maze, and even Coca Cola’s souped-up seasonal ‘Christmas Caravan’ festooned with cabochon lights.
Don’t miss: Deep fried and delicious oliebollen – a traditional Dutch doughnut-style treat that just so happens to pair perfectly with glühwein.
When: 13 December 2023 – 1 January 2024
Where to stay: The Hoxton sits right on the canal in Amsterdam for beautiful views, within walking distance of the city’s major attractions. From 216 GBP per night.
Copenhagen’s Christmas market at the Tivoli Gardens is illuminated with more than a thousand twinkling lights throughout the park. The market features an extensive selection of stalls, offering Nordic ornaments, cosy knitwear made from local wool, and Danish designed ceramics and glassware. Look out for stalls preparing traditional æbleskiver – spherical pancakes dusted with powdered sugar and served with a dollop of raspberry jam –and enjoy with a mug of warm gløgg, a spiced mulled wine served with roasted almonds and raisins. There are also stalls offering smørrebrød – open sandwiches topped with herring, roast beef, or pickled vegetables – and Danish pastries, including flaky buttery wienerbrød.
Don’t miss: Copenhagen’s alternative Christmas market, held in the hippie enclave of Christiania.
When: 17 November – 31 December 2023
Where to stay: Hotel Sanders’ central location, on a quiet cobblestoned side street, is hard to beat. From 265 GBP per night.
Held along the cobblestone medieval streets of Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s Stortorget Julmarknad Christmas market has been held since 1837, and showcases exclusively local Swedish craft, including wooden figurines, hand-knit woollens, and delicate ceramics across the 40 red-painted wooden stalls. Try the saffron-flavoured Lucia buns, a Swedish treat often enjoyed on 13th December during the celebration of St. Lucia’s Day, accompanied by warm, aromatic glögg. Other stalls offer heartier dishes like meatballs with lingonberry sauce and gravlax, and there’s plenty of pepparkakor – Swedish gingerbread cookies.
Don’t miss: The vast decorated Christmas tree in the centre of the market, held there every year since 1920.
When: 25 November – 23 December 2023
Where to stay: Ett Hem is housed in a redbrick townhouse and combines European antiques with mid-century design staples. From 375 GBP per night.
If you want an alternative festive experience, Christmas in Iceland is thick with folklore and fun. You won’t find Santa at the market, but 13 Yule Lads and their mythical Yule Cat entertain the public by playing pranks and getting into mischief. Head to Ingólfstorg Square in the old quarter for the main market and buzzy ice rink, or wander round the corner to find the Oslo Tree on Austurvöllur, which is lit on the first Sunday of advent (this year, it’ll land on November 27). Look out for stalls selling piparkökur (gingerbread) and books intended for Jolabokaflod – an Icelandic tradition in which people exchange books as gifts on Christmas Eve. Strike it lucky, and you might even see the Northern Lights.
Don’t miss: Hop on the number 1 bus from downtown Reykjavik towards the community-run Christmas Village in Hafnarfjörður, where local bands and choirs perform festive favourites.
When: 25 November – 17 December 2023
Where to stay: Positioned in the heart of the action, the buzzy Ion City Hotel couples contemporary interiors with panoramic mountain views. From 185 GBP per night.
Unlike some of Europe’s big-hitters, Tallinn’s Christmas market is an intimate event. What makes it extra special is the fresh snow, real icicles on the trees and flakes falling from the sky. Under a blanket of white, Town Hall Square is transformed with fairy-lit wooden huts selling glögi (a fruitier version of gluhwein), Nordic knitwear, baubles, crackers and trinkets. Since it’s not overly touristy, you’ll find locals unwinding after work and doing their own Christmas shopping here, too.
Don’t miss: The huge pans of fried potatoes, beef cheek, blood sausage, pork knuckle and sauerkraut to keep you warm whilst you explore.
When: 1 December 2023 – 7 January 2024
Where to stay: Sleep in a stylish shipping container at the central Hektor Container Hotel. From 63 GBP per night.
In Berlin’s western district, the Old Town of Spandau’s pedestrianised cobbled streets set the scene for the largest Christmas market in the city. Traditional Bavarian touches include a huge spangled tree in the market square, a historical market next to St Nikolai church, and a bowler-hatted ‘Lierkastenman’ playing his barrel organ. This year there will also be a new ice-skating rink alongside 400 artisanal stalls and a live-animal nativity scene. There’s often a smattering of snow throughout December, too.
Don’t miss: the Gluhwein served in kitsch collectable mugs, and the Santa Claus visits to the market every Wednesday.
When: 27 November – 23 December 2023
Where to stay: The flamboyant Hotel Zoo Berlin goes all out for Christmas, with easy transport links across the city. From 210 GBP per night.
The 400-year-old Christkindlesmarkt at Nuremberg is one of Germany’s oldest and most renowned Christmas markets. Stalls sell everything from wooden toys to snow globes and nutcrackers, and traditional treats like Lebkuchen – spiced gingerbread – and Stollen are also available, along with warm Gluhwein. Make sure to try the Nürnberger Rostbratwürstchen (small grilled sausages) served with Sauerkraut.
Don’t miss: The opening ceremony led by the Christkind – a symbolic embodiment of the spirit of Christmas.
When: 1 – 24 December 2023
Where to stay: Contemporary neighbourhood hotel Karl August has a range of rooms and suites to suit all budgets. From 146 GBP per night.
The centrepiece of Munich’s Christkindlmarkt in Marienplatz is a towering Christmas tree, illuminated by hundreds of lights. Surrounding the tree are the market’s stalls, where Bavarian treats like Lebkuchen, roasted chestnuts and Gluhwein can be enjoyed. As with other German Christmas markets, Munich’s is opened with an elaborate ceremony involving a local girl who is chosen to embody the spirit of Christmas by enacting the role of the Christkindl. For those seeking a taste of classic Bavarian cuisine, the market offers a range of hearty specialties, including Wurstl (sausages) served with Sauerkraut and crispy Bretzeln (pretzels), as well as Apfelstrudel (apple strudel) and Dampfnudeln (steamed dumplings).
Don’t miss: the opening ceremony involving the Christkindl.
When: 27 November – 24 December 2023
Where to stay: The Rosewood Munich is housed in a baroque building, a short walk from Marienplatz. From 520 GBP per night.
If you’ve ever been to one of Vienna’s coffee houses, you know the Austrian capital does ‘cosy’ incredibly well. In December, the smokey smell of roast chestnuts and baked potatoes wafts through City Hall Square’s Christkindlmarkt, and little kids will be particularly delighted by the Tree of Hearts, carousels and creative cookie and candle-making classes in Rathaus. Over at the gorgeously grand Schönbrunn Palace, a stylish market sells bespoke gifts and artisanal goods in the courtyard.
Don’t miss: The children’s railway at the Christmas village on the University Campus, and live gospel concerts at Minoritenkirche.
When: 11 November – 26 December 2023
Where to stay: Hotel MOTTO mixes Wes Anderson whimsy, Parisian art deco glamour and pin-sharp Austrian efficiency. From 206 GBP per night.
Set against the backdrop of Hohensalzburg Fortress, the Salzburg Christkindlmarkt is a celebration of Austrian elegance and holiday traditions. It is one of the oldest Advent markets, with its roots in the 15th century, when the ‘Tandlmarkt’ was held on Cathedral Square. Today, local choirs perform the Adventssingen (traditional Advent songs), and traditional sweets such as Maroni (roasted chestnuts) and Gebrannte Mandeln (candied almonds) are widely available. Make sure to try the local warm brew: Jagertee, a winter drink made with rum, black tea and spices.
Don’t miss: trying the iconic Austrian Jagertee
When: 23 November 2023 – 1 January 2024
Where to stay: Hotel Goldgasse’s 16 rooms all have unique murals and contemporary furniture. From 153 GBP per night.
Beneath the spires of Basel Minster cathedral, Christmas market traders spoon hot punch and scoop raclette into the hands of shoppers weaving their way in between stalls selling lackerli – a spiced Basel biscuit – and kokosmakrönli, a kind of coconut macaroon. Strung with paper poinsettias and lights, the snowglobe scene of Münsterplatz includes a beautifully decorated tree adorned with hand-blown glass baubles by Johan Wanner, whose Christmas shop is a 20-minute walk away on Spalenberg.
Don’t miss: Arguably the hairiest of hairy bikers, on Saturday 3 December Santa rides in on a Harley Davidson pimped out by his elves with tinsel, faux snow and lots of lights, collecting donations for local causes.
When: 25 November – 23 December 2023
Where to stay: Der Teufelhof Basel is an art-filled residence in Basel’s old town, which feels more like a gallery than a hotel. From 159 GBP per night.
There were rumours that one of Europe’s best Christmas markets would be cancelled this year, but a last-minute change in organiser has put it back on the festive calendar, much to the delight of those hankering after a Hungarian honey cookie and a bread bowl of steaming gulyas (you’ll need it – temperatures can drop to minus numbers). There are arts and crafts materials to purchase, including hand-printed wrapping paper and scented candles; a 3D light show projected onto the facade of St Stephen’s Basilica, and an impressive array of live music such as folk, blues, jazz and soul.
Don’t miss: Kürtőskalács, or ‘chimney cake’, rolled around a skewer, baked on an open fire and dipped in toppings such as crushed almonds.
When: 17 November 2023 – 1 January 2024
Where to stay: Budapest has no shortage of artsy boutique hotels. Hotel Rum is boldly decorated with local art and is positioned a short walk from the city’s merriment. From £123 GBP per night.
Zagreb’s Advent Market is one of the most popular Christmas markets in Europe, renowned for its vibrant atmosphere and themed zones catering to different tastes. Stalls brim with ceramics, hand-printed textiles and unique handmade jewellery. Fritule, small deep-fried doughnuts, are a cherished sweet treat and a quintessential part of the Advent experience. Another beloved specialty is sarma – cabbage rolls filled with a mixture of minced meat and rice, simmered in a rich tomato sauce. For those seeking a warming beverage, a cup of kuhano vino, or mulled wine, is a must-try. Traditional Croatian music and dance troupes often take the stage, offering a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of the region.
Don’t miss: The smaller Fuliranje food market at Strossmayer Square for restaurant pop-ups
When: 2 December 2023 – 7 January 2024
Where to stay: Amadria Park Hotel Capital is housed in a 1920s Art Deco former bank, and has a restaurant, cafe and gym. From 147 GBP per night.
Krakow’s Main Square, one of the largest medieval squares in Europe, is transformed each year into one of Europe’s finest Christmas markets. It’s known for its unique handmade decorations, many of which are created by local artisans, such as painted Polish pottery and ornate papercraft. Try traditional Polish food such as oscypek (smoked cheese) and kielbasa (sausage), as well as pierniki (gingerbread), makowiec (poppy seed cake), and sernik (cheesecake). You can also drink a cup of grzane piwo – a hot mulled beer seasoned with spices – and take part in the sharing of Opłatek: a holiday tradition where family and friends share the thin, unleavened wafer decorated with nativity scenes.
Don’t miss: the mulled beer – where else are you going to try it?
When: 24 November 2023 – 1 January 2024
Where to stay: Hotel Corpernicus offers 29 rooms in a 16th century building on Krakow’s oldest street with views of the Wawel. From 178 GBP per night.
Mulled Irn-Bru, anyone? Yes, really – but Edinburgh’s Christmas-Hogmanay hybrid celebrations aren’t all gimmicky Scottish clichés: the pretty city is one of the UK’s most spectacular whatever the season, and its festive trimmings only bring out the best. You can wander between stalls of gingerbread houses, hand-made decorations, bags of dried fruit, Belgian waffles and burgers. We like that the ice rink is directly next to some of the stalls, so you feel like you’re skating down the street, with Scott Monument and Castle Rock as a backdrop.
Don’t miss: A stroll down fairy-lit George Street – it’s certain to ignite your festive spirit. Bag a table at the gorgeous new Gleneagles Townhouse, which is within walking distance of the action.
Where to stay: the new Virgin Hotels Edinburgh in the city’s historic old town. From 242 GBP per night.
When: 17 November 2023 – 6 January 2024
For those seeking an all-out, neon-lit festive immersion, Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park delivers. Book a private pod on the giant observation wheel, roast marshmallows over firepits, soar above Hyde Park on the helter-skelter, or get the beers in at Bavarian Village – and don’t forget extra layers for the Eighties-themed ice bar.
If its chaotic quality isn’t quite the quaint Christmas experience you’re after, head to East London for the Hackney Christmas Market, which takes place every weekend in the run-up to Christmas. Shop ethically-sourced and artisanal wares, while sipping mulled wine and craft beer. In West London, Duke of York Square in Chelsea hosts an upmarket artisanal food market on Saturdays. On Saturday 18 November, it will celebrate the switch on of its winter lights with an afternoon of live entertainment and festive merriment.
Don’t miss: Somerset House and the National History Museum for hot toddies and ice skating in a gorgeous setting.
When: 17 November 2023 – 1 January 2024
Where to stay: Your spoilt for choice when it comes to boutique stays in the British capital. The Standard in Kings Cross is ideally located to explore the city’s festive offerings, with a destination hotel bar to boot. From 329 GBP per night.
Website: hydeparkwinterwonderland.com; bohemiaplacemarket.com
The Bath Christmas Market is a quintessential English holiday experience set against the backdrop of one of the country’s most picturesque cities. Nestled in the heart of Bath’s historic centre, the market boasts over 170 chalets adorned with twinkling lights. Visitors can sample a wide range of seasonal treats, including mince pies and Christmas pudding with brandy butter.
Don’t miss: a walk around the Georgian town, lit by the old street lights.
When: 23 November – 10 December 2023
Where to stay: For quintessential Georgian splendour, you will be hard pressed to find a more fitting hotel than The Royal Crescent Hotel and Spa. From 300 GBP per night.
With around 300 stalls selling hot buttered gin, fistfuls of gyros, hand-made pizza, local ales and Baileys-laced hot chocolate, Manchester’s market is arguably the best in the country for street food and independent vendors (especially with Leeds cancelling their market this year). Throughout the city, stalls are set up beneath a giant light-up Santa, but the main market is at Piccadilly Gardens’ very own Winter Wonderland (it can get busy, so head there in off-peak hours to avoid crowds). The snow globe bar and the stalls close up shop a few days before Christmas, but you can take to the ice rink on Cathedral Gardens till January 3.
Don’t miss: The market’s famous Yorkshire pudding wraps, on sale at Porky Pig’s carvery.
When: 10 November – 21 December 2023
Where to stay: LEVEN, Manchester’s coolest new boutique hotel. From 107 GBP per night.