It’s that magical feeling that we can’t shake when it’s getting later in the year. Days are getting darker, temperatures drop and we all bundle up, have our mulled wine or hot cocoas and get into the festive spirit. We make our way through town as twinkling lights welcome us, and stuff our shopping bags with gifts for our loved ones. This is exactly where Christmas markets come in.
But what are the top Christmas markets in Europe, the UK and the US? We asked our friends for help.
1. Rothenburg ob den Tauber Christmas market (Germany, Europe)
Rothenburg ob der Tauber in Germany is like a huge Disney village come to life. Gingerbread houses and old cobblestone alleys embellished with twinkling lights and extravagant decorations will make you feel the Christmas joy in no time.
Every street is decorated and everywhere you can find seasonal dishes and souvenirs for sale. This means the entire town is a giant Christmas market. But the center of it all is Reiterlesmarkt, one of the oldest Christmas market in Germany, located in the townhall square. During Advent, Santa is also around, talking to children and singing joyful songs. Sometimes a trumpeters band accompanies him. For the best view over the Christmas market, climb to the top of the townhall tower. Just next to the Christmas market, in an old house, is Kathe Wohlfahrt Village, a shop and museum filled to the brim with handmade Christmas decorations, both old and new.
What I liked the most about the Christmas market in Rothenburg ob der Tauber was the strong community feeling, unpreceded by any other seasonal market in Germany or beyond. It’s like everybody knows everybody and there are only smiley faces around. Compared to other towns in Germany, where each hut has its own Christmas mug, in Rothenburg ob der Tauber a new mug is released every year for the whole town and they are even gathered collectively. (Which is also quite handy as you don’t have to remember where you bought the wine from and return to the same stand.)
Besides hot mulled wine and Eierpunsch to warm you up, the mandatory treat is a Schneeball, a local pastry with any tasty filling one can think of. It looks just like a fluffy snowball. Some love it, some hate it, but it’s definitely worth a try!
Recommended by Raluca from TravelWithASpin
2. Kraków Christmas market (Poland, Europe)
If you want to visit a Christmas market in Europe that it’s less popular than the obvious destinations such as Munich or Brussels, head to Krakow!
It’s the most touristy city in Poland with a heartbreakingly beautiful old town. The Christmas market is located in the heart of Krakow. Not only you will have a chance to do some shopping and try local food but also you will be surrounded by pretty and colorful tenement houses.
What can you find at the Christmas market in Krakow? First of all, handicrafts. From handmade scarves and hats to Christmas decorations and jewelry.
Secondly- food! You will have a chance to buy homemade alcohol, cake, cheese, and many more.
When you get hungry, you can eat delicious Polish sausage (kiełbasa), bigos (sauerkraut stew), żurek (rye soup), or grochowka (Polish split pea soup). All these dishes will warm you up and keep you full for hours!
Recommended by Karolina from Polish Foodies
3. Denver Christkindlmarket (Colorado, USA)
The Denver Christkindlmarket is one of the best Christmas markets to visit worldwide. So many people head to Europe to experience Christmas markets, but they can actually be visited and loved right in the United States!
At the Denver Christkindlmarket, locals and visitors can celebrate the holiday season by playing games, eating traditional German food (and enjoying mulled wine), and purchasing holiday trinkets. What makes it so marvelous is that when the market is in full swing, you truly do forget that you’re in the middle of Colorado; you feel like you’re off in Germany!
I may be biased, but my favorite thing about the Denver Christkindlmarket is the food. They have everything from spaetzle to bratwurst. Plus, there’s tons of outdoor seating with heaters, so even if you visit when it’s cold, you can stay cozy.
The Denver Christkindlmarket is so unique; they host a variety of local artists to entertain guests throughout the entirety of the market from November through December. They even have a ’70s night on the schedule this year, where everyone can boogie and have a good time!
The market used to be held downtown, but now it’s slightly moved to Civic Center Park. It’s still fairly central but now is a bit more spread out, allowing guests to mingle without feeling crowded.
Similar to other Christmas markets, it’s encouraged that you get there early to avoid crowds, especially as there has been a capacity limit in the past due to health regulations. Once you’re done exploring, take the time to walk 16th Street, visit the Dairy Block, stop by Union Station, and maybe even visit a nearby town like Golden for more holiday festivities.
Contributed by Krystianna from Volumes & Voyages
4. Bolzano Christmas market (Italy, Europe)
The Christmas holidays in Europe are varied and unique, and you’re never at a loss for new traditions to explore. But if you’re looking to add an Italian touch to your European holiday, look no further than Bolzano Italy.
Italy may not be as well known for their Christmas markets as some countries, but the culture of northern Italy blends Germanic alpine traditions with Italian to create a unique and compelling culture to explore.
As a result, the town of Bolzano in the Italian Alps has the largest and some consider the best Christmas market in Italy. Located in the region of South Tyrol (Trentino Alto Adige) in northern Italy not far from the Austrian border, the winter views of the surrounding Alps are the perfect backdrop for the annual market.
During the day you can hit the slopes at one of the area’s many ski resorts. In the evening, the town streets sparkle with lights and you can spend all evening browsing from stand to stand. Given its location, you can usually count on snow which lends a magical ambience.
If you’re a foodie, the Bolzano Christmas market is heaven for tasting the regional food specialties and Italian Christmas foods of the region, from warm roasted chestnuts and soft pretzels, to local sausages with sauerkraut, apple strudel, and hot mulled wine (called gluhwein).
If you’re looking for a warm and inviting Christmas destination in Europe, add Bolzano to your list!
Recommended by Lori from Italy Foodies
5. Prague Christmas Market (Czech Republic, Europe)
Prague belongs to the most charming destinations – now add the fairytale-like Christmas atmosphere and cute markets and you got yourself the most perfect Christmas destination there can be.
There are many Christmas markets in Prague but you shouldn’t miss these three: the Old Town Square Christmas market, the Prague Castle Christmas market, and at least one smaller market in one of Prague’s neighborhoods – e.g. the Náměstí Míru Christmas market.
The Old Town Square market is by far the most traditional one and the largest one in Prague. Surrounded by cute merchant houses and with the astronomical clock as a witness, it’s a beautiful venue. Prague’s main Christmas tree is located right there and its lightning ceremony has become so popular it had to be canceled because the crowds grew enormous (pre-Covid). The numerous vending stalls sell potato pancakes, sausages and hams, roasted chestnuts, mulled wine and hot meat, as well as the sweet delicacy called Trdlo. Under normal circumstances, there’s a rich cultural program taking place on the main stage.
The Prague Castle Christmas market is all about the atmosphere. There’s no better place to hold a small and intimate market than within the castle’s grounds. Oftentimes, you can come across the Castle Choir performing, which makes it even more magical.
The market at Náměstí Míru in Vinohrady district is popular among locals, including the abundant expat population. It’s where friends meet up for a hot drink and then continue to one of the many restaurants in the vicinity. The market is located right by the majestic church of St. Ludmila.
In Prague at Christmas, you can witness Czech traditions – in the performances, as well as during the sale of Christmas trees and live carps (which may be a bit too much for some since they’re killed right on the street). On the eve of Dec 5, you can come across St. Nicholas, devils, and angels roaming the streets and rewarding kids who’ve behaved well all year.
Recommended by Veronica from Travel Geekery
6. Strasbourg Christmas market (France, Europe)
Strasbourg in France, also called the Capital of Christmas, is home to one of the largest and most impressive Christmas markets in Europe! The market can literally be found all over the city, on countless different squares, from the end of November until the end of December. Therefore, to catch a glimpse of the Christmas market, visit Strasbourg in December.
On this Christmas market, filled with wooden stands, you’ll find local crafts, Christmas decorations as well as amazing delicacies such as pretzels with cheese and mulled wine. In addition, you’ll also find a large ice rink on Place Kleber. The main reason why the Christmas market is so popular here is because every single part of the city centre has been transformed into a Christmas paradise, not only the squares where the market is held but also all the other streets which get magnificently decorated (really)! Of course, besides the Christmas market, Strasbourg has a lot more to offer, which makes the city perfect for a weekend break!
Practically, the Strasbourg Christmas market runs each day of the week from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. or 10 p.m., depending on the specific day. You can easily get to the city by train or by car, but make sure to park your car outside of the city centre because you’ll want to visit everything on foot!
Recommended by Emma from Emma’s Roadmap
7. Chicago Christkindlmarket (Illinois, USA)
Started in 1996, the Chicago Christkindlmarket is the most authentic traditional holiday market outside of Europe. This Bavaria-themed Christmas market is free to the public. Locals and tourists alike enjoy the unique shopping experience, family-friendly events, tasty treats, and cultural activities. It is centrally located on Daley Plaza, at the corner of North Clark Street and West Washington Street. The Washington (blue line) stop is adjacent to the plaza.
The Christkindlmarket opens at 11:00 AM daily and runs seven days a week. There are crowds every day, as it’s one of the most popular winter events in Chicago. The time to find the smallest crowds are weekends right when it opens, but even then there are still other visitors with the same idea. Another good time to go is weekdays before 5:00 PM when the after-work crowd arrives. The best time to go is weekdays during traditional business hours (other than lunchtime).
While the Chicago Christmas Market is known for good food as well as high-quality gifts, one of the most popular things to get there is hot chocolate in a custom mug. Each year, the market has a unique design. These mugs sell out annually and have become a collectible among Chicagoans who get one every year.
Recommended by Brodi from Our Offbeat Life
8. Zagreb Christmas market (Croatia, Europe)
Among all Christmas markets in Europe, the one in Zagreb has been voted as the best one 3 times in a row (2016-2018). So if you enjoy the Christmas spirit this is a place to visit between the end of November and the beginning of January.
The city center is divided into upper and lower towns. You should start with Upper Town, arrive there with the short funicular. There is Lotrščak Tower where they fire canon each day at noon. From there, continue to st. Marko’s Square with the medieval church, parliament, and president palace.
You will return to Lower Town via Stone Gate, which is a place of pilgrimage. There you should stop first at Zagreb Cathedral, where you can adore a live nativity scene. Next is Lenuci’s Green Horseshoe, a U-shaped system of city squares with parks, statues, fountains, and neoclassical 18-century buildings, 700m X 700m in size. Here is the core of the Christmas market with lights, concerts, a beautiful ice rink, a gigantic Christmas tree, stands with local and tasty food, mulled wine and gingerbread, or original and handmade gifts.
You should finish your visit at the main Ban Jelačić Square with live music. This is also a popular spot to wait for the new year and observe fireworks. While you are there don’t miss on their cuisine while it is unique with influences from Slavic, German, Mediterranean, and Turkish tradition.
Recommended by Džangir from Dr Jam Travels
9. Savannah Christmas market (Georgia, USA)
The Savannah Christmas Market attracts countless visitors to the city each year with its charming holiday shops and family-friendly events.
The market is held in the Plant Riverside District, which is located along the far west end of River Street. Plant Riverside is considered the “Entertainment District,” so expect plenty of colorful LED lights and live shows during the festive month-long celebration. It’s a popular place for visitors who love being in the heart of all the action during the holiday season!
A few of the most popular events include the annual tree lighting ceremony, a Santa “meet & greet” event for the kids, and regularly scheduled performances from Savannah’s own Cirque Divina aerialists. There are also numerous family-friendly crafting events and even a post office where the kiddos can drop off their letters to Santa.
The Holiday Boat Parade is one of the most memorable events. It’s a Southern-style parade where Santa and his helpers arrive via boats draped in colorful holiday lights. Visitors can line up along the riverfront in the early evening to watch or head to one of the district’s nearby rooftop bars for VIP viewing opportunities.
The booths at the Savannah Christmas Market highlight unique handcrafted goods from local artisans. They also include snack booth options that sell hot chocolate, cider, and other toasty drinks to keep shoppers warm.
The Savannah Christmas Market is held annually from Thanksgiving week through New Year’s Day.
Recommended by Erin from Savannah First-Timer’s Guide
10. Winter Village at Bryant Park (NYC, USA)
The Winter Village at Bryant Park has one of the best Christmas Markets in the world. The Holiday Shops at the Winter Village is a European-inspired open-air market with over 170 kiosks and shops. The shops sell a variety of goods including artwork, holiday items, home items, health and beauty supplies, jewelry, toys, and apparel. In addition to selling goods, there are many kiosks that sell food, such as NYC hot spots “DO”, “Wafels & Dinges”, “Max Brenner”.
The Winter Village at Bryant Park has many attractions in addition to the Holiday Shops. Their ice skating rink is open November through early March. Ice skating at Bryant Park is free if you bring your own skates, or you can rent skates for a fee. Reservations are required and are available at BryantPark.org.
There are also Cozy Igloos available to rent, iceless curling at the Curling Cafe & Bar, and a cozy lodge where you can enjoy mulled wine and delicious food.
My favorite thing about the Bryant Park Winter Village is its perfect location in the heart of midtown. It feels like a winter wonderland in the heart of New York City, with a beautiful backdrop of iconic NYC buildings including the NYC Public Library and the Empire State Building.
Recommended by Shannon from Traveling Teacher Girl
11. Valkenburg Christmas market (the Netherlands, Europe)
We finish this roundup of world’s best Christmas markets with the Netherlands’ most famous one: Valkenburg aan de Geul. Aptly called Christmas Town for the occasion, this village bordering Germany and Belgium is completely wrapped in the Christmas spirit.
Starting in the town’s centre (or Santa’s Village), there are tons of booths selling gifts, local food and drinks, as well as arts and crafts. This is also where you can find the Christmas LightArts, inspired by Valkenburg’s medieval history and rich Christmas tradition.
Look up and you will find Valkenburg Castle and the ‘largest illuminated Christmas tree of Europe’: Whilhelminatoren.
For foodies, the town even organises a Christmas-themed culinary walking-route.
But most popular are the Christmas markets hosted in the town’s marlstone caves. Europe’s largest underground Christmas Market can be found at the Municipal Cave (Gemeentegrot) and a smaller version at Velvet Cave (Fluwelengrot). The Christmas spirit really comes alive here, as the yellow-stoned underground maze combined with booths and cosy lights come into play.
What is your favourite Christmas market? Share your recommendations in the comments below.