“Probably the reason we all go so haywire at Christmas time with the endless unrestrained and often silly buying of gifts is that we don’t quite know how to put our love into words.”
Tis the season for hot chocolate, mulled wine, and lovely wrapped gifts. Fairy lights decorating city streets and magic white snow covering up the past year with its soft touch. The holidays are finally here, which means getting in the Christmas spirit. Singing Christmas songs, watching classic holiday films, and taking joy in the sight of pleasantly decorated establishments are seasonal delights which can be enjoyed for free.
Culture and traditions often hold special meaning for people because such events trigger memories and a sense of belonging within a certain society. One of Christmas’s most loved traditions is to shop at Christmas markets. It is the one place that is merrier than your own home decor. They are packed full of nostalgia, whimsy, and fun – and are incredibly sentimental, even if you’ve never experienced one before! It sounds incredibly cheesy. From Germany, to Switzerland, to New York, it’s difficult to find a coveted destination that doesn’t hold an impressive annual advent market. In fact, some have grown so popular, they’ve become tourist attractions in their own right.
Following are some of the most magical Christmas markets out there waiting for you to stroll around. May it be friends or family, it is the best place to celebrate the season with loved ones.
- Viennese Dream Christmas Market, Austria
From mid-November until Christmas, Vienna’s most beautiful squares are once again transformed into magical Christmas markets. The aroma of Christmas baking, hot punch and toasted almonds wafts through the air. The Old City and shopping streets are decorated with festive lights that spread the Christmas cheer in Vienna. At the event, also known as Wiener Christkindlmarkt, you’ll find over 150 stalls offering up tasty treats like Austrian sausages and gingerbread cookies, along with homemade Christmas punch. Not far from here is the Christmas Village on Maria-Theresien-Platz, between the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna and the Naturhistorisches Museum Vienna.
Over 70 booths offering traditional handicrafts and original gift ideas are set up here during Advent. The romantic Christmas Village on the University Campus is also a popular meeting point during the run-up to Christmas, especially for students. With a children’s railway and an old-fashioned carousel, the Christmas Village in the Altes AKH is also a big hit with families.
(The Christmas markets are canceled due to the lockdown up to and including December 12, 2021 and are expected to reopen on December 13.)
- Strasbourg Christmas Market, France
Spread over more than 10 locations, including a section of the UNESCO world heritage site of Grande Île, the hugely popular market lights up the city with thousands of twinkling Christmas lights and festive ornaments. A true institution, Strasbourg Christmas market has existed since 1570 and takes place every year between the end of the month of November and 31 December, all around the Cathedral and on twelve sites in the city centre. Each year, visitors go there to experience the enchanting and friendly atmosphere of the festive season. The Christmas markets in Strasbourg spreads out across the centre of the town, focused around Cathedral square and Place Broglie where hundreds of stalls sell ornaments, toys, food and mulled wine to keep you warm as you browse. For four centuries now, the emblematic Christkindelsmärik has been working its magic in the European capital. Over 300 wooden chalets, spread around different squares in the city, invite you to make some mesmerising discoveries in a fairytale atmosphere! Each year, a country is the guest of honour and a special market is dedicated to it. A wide range of entertainment is also on offer, including concerts, performances and exhibitions to discover on the town squares and cobbled side streets.
- Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square Christmas markets, Prague, Czech Republic
The Prague Christmas markets have been officially cancelled, and the stalls dismantled, in measures aimed at preventing the spread of Coronavirus. However, the 22m Christmas tree at the Old Town Square remains in place, beautifully decorated and shining brightly with illuminated snowflakes. And Christmas lights and decorations hang from trees throughout the city, giving Prague a lovely festive feel.
Prague’s magical Christmas markets with its beautifully designed wooden chalets take place on the major squares – Old Town square, Republic square, Wenceslas square or Peace square. They lay out plenty of exciting foodie items, handmade craft gifts and the most delicious warming drinks such as hot chocolate or spiced mulled wines. You will find great gift ideas as there is a vast selection of Christmas decorations, toys, jewelry, winter clothing and accessories. It is also a great alternative to the usual Christmas shopping experience. If you stroll around the city markets, you are sure to get in the festive spirit.
While Christmas markets are banned, permanent (all year round) market stalls are still allowed to open. Permanent stalls at the Old Town Square, Wenceslas Square and elsewhere are festively decorated, and selling local handicrafts, traditional Christmas treats, and hot and cold food (sausages, pastries, etc.). The only permanent market in the city centre, Havel’s Market (Havelské tržiště), will continue to open throughout December. It boasts a large Christmas tree, and in the absence of the official Christmas markets, it has taken on a very festive ambience. Address: Havelska Street, Prague 1. Open: Daily 06:00-18:30.
- Christmas in Tivoli, Copenhagen, Denmark
Thousands of twinkling lights offer warmth in the cold winter darkness, more than 15 Christmas trees glimmer in beautiful colours and the wonderful tunes played by the Tivoli Youth Guard can be heard in every corner of the Gardens. Explore the snow-clad stalls, and marvel at the enchanting light projections. The Christmas magic will spread in Tivoli between 19 November and until 2 January. The smell of sweet Christmas treats is in the air, while classic Christmas dishes simmer in the restaurants. Indulge your sweet tooth with sumptuous Christmas cakes, freshly baked Danish doughnuts or crunchy cinnamon popcorn – perfect together with hot cocoa, mulled wine or the year’s Christmas brew. Once again the historic garden will be filled with glittering Christmas lights, the cutest wooden houses decorated with pine branches, and snow-covered trees to create that perfect Nordic Christmas atmosphere. Of course, Santa Claus and his reindeers will also be there to welcome everyone to the amusement park’s fun rides and the cozy Christmas market. This year, Christmas decorations will be glittering brightly in various special spots in Tivoli. In front of Nimb, a large red Christmas heart will feature projected images showing charming Christmas stories. For the first time ever, you can see a sparkling Christmas tree on the Tivoli Lake as well as the usual iconic Christmas tree set up in front of the Tivoli Concert Hall. A magical, sparkling Christmas atmosphere is guaranteed. The garden will be decorated with more than 70,000 Christmas baubles and more than 1,000 Christmas trees completely covered in lights. Around 60 stalls will be bursting with any Christmas decoration, snack, sweet, or hot drink your heart could desire, and you may even fix some presents at the stalls selling knitted products, leather products, crafts, and deli items.
- Vörösmarty Square and St. Stephen’s Basilica Christmas Market, Budapest, Hungary
Budapest has one of the best Christmas markets in Europe leading the city to be a popular winter break destination. Most visitors tend to stay 3 or 4 days but there are more than enough things to do to keep you occupied on a longer visit. The main Budapest Christmas Market and Fair is open from November and past Christmas Day until New Year’s Day. Budapest is home to the most modern and vibrant Christmas markets in Europe, the city is bustling with things to do in winter. Visit the House of Terror museum, Buda Castle, Parliament House or go ice skating at the City Park. Try langos, the famous Hungarian street food, and an afternoon slice of cake at a historic coffee house. Browse the Vorosmarty Square Christmas Market for handmade Hungarian gifts and end the day watching the sunset across from the Hungarian Parliament. Budapest Christmas markets are great if you are looking for unique, locally made gifts, and also if you want to eat and drink some Hungarian specialties. Here are our best Christmas markets in Budapest according to a lifelong Budapest local. From the main Christmas fair in Vörösmarty Square to the famous Advent Feast at St Stephen’s Basilica, visitors are spoiled for choice when it comes to finding fun and exciting holiday activities.
- Christkindlesmarkt and Gendarmenmarkt, Germany
Christmas markets are one of the most famous and beloved German holiday traditions. Berlin offers a wide variety of Christmas markets all over the city, with different ambiances catering to all kinds of visitors. Centrally located at one of the most beautiful squares in Berlin, this Christmas Market offers quality Christmas decoration, food and entertainment. Not only thanks to its location between Französischer Dom and Deutscher Dom is the Christmas market at Gendarmenmarkt, one of the most atmospheric in the city. The market offers a large range of handmade goods crafted by artisans, Christmas food, and entertainment. In the market’s large crafts tent, visitors can look at wood carvers, belt makers, dressmakers, comb makers and other craftspeople over the shoulder. Not far away, talented graphic artists, photographers, stonemasons and painters display their works. Culinary offerings at the Gendarmenmarkt Christmas market range from unusual snacks to gourmet menus and traditional Christmas delicacies. Jugglers, fire-eaters, choirs and classical, jazz or Gospel ensembles provide a varied entertainment programme on each market day. A part of the proceeds of the admission fee is given to charity.
- Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, London
The festive favorite, which began in 2005, brings in huge crowds every year thanks to its 200-plus rides, including a 70-meter high big wheel, mulled wine stations and an outdoor skating rink, which happens to be the largest in the UK. Winter Wonderland returns to London from 19 November 2021 to 3 January 2022. If you need an excuse to feel festive already, it doesn’t get much better than this. After being cancelled in 2020, Hyde Park’s huge Winter Wonderland has just made a long-awaited return for Christmas 2021. That means all of the rides, the outside ice rink, ice-sculpting workshops, giant wheel and Christmas circus shows are back. Plus, a new 1970s-themed ice bar. In fact, it has 200 attractions, so who knows what else you’ll find there. If you try hard enough you can probably smell the mulled wine and cinnamon hot chocolate all the way from your home office. Browse the traditional Christmas Market, one of the largest London Christmas markets complete with charming chalets overflowing with festive goods. Shop for unusual and unique gifts, arts and crafts, trinkets, jewellery and decorations.
- Basel Christmas Market, Switzerland
The Basel Christmas market has been voted the winner of the European Best Christmas Markets. Basel will therefore host the most popular Christmas market in Europe in 2021. Basel switches on the Christmas lights and decorations each year at the end of November. The festive decorations in the city centre create a special atmosphere that transforms your Christmas shopping into a memorable experience. The Basel Christmas Market, declared the “Best Christmas Market 2021” by “European Best Destinations”, is held from Thursday, 25 November until Thursday, 23 December 2021. Particularly recommended is the Christmas market, which is being held right in the centre of the city and at the heart of the festively decorated Old Town. The Basel Christmas Market can be found on Barfüsserplatz and on Münsterplatz – one of the most beautiful squares in Basel. A magnificent Christmas tree stands on Münsterplatz, with ornaments by the well-known decorator Johann Wanner. In 2021 around 130 traders and artisans will offer their goods for sale in small, rustic wooden chalets. Anyone still looking for gift ideas can seek inspiration in the wide selection and enchanting ambience. The market is enriched by numerous pre-Christmas events.