We all know why Christmas is a special time of year. You spend it with your loved ones, you enjoy good food and, obviously, give each other presents, but for travel addicts the weeks leading up to Christmas are a great time to go on a trip, especially in Europe. This is because, a few weeks before the holiday, Christmas markets start popping up all over the continent and they really are something special to enjoy, with some countries boasting incredibly long traditions of hosting such events. Want to go and visit one? Well, here’s a list of the best Christmas markets in Europe for 2019, in no particular order.
The Hungarian capital is a great example of how Christmas markets work in Central Europe. Vörösmarty Square, at the very heart of the city, hosts the main Christmas market in Budapest with loads of wooden stalls where the locals sell their traditional products. This means plenty of great food and interesting stuff to do. Numerous concerts and other events are held here during this time, plus there are also many workshops and programs for kids, all completely free. On 6th of December kids can also meet Santa, who comes here directly from Finland every year.
Another great Christmas market in the city is the one in front of St. Stephen’s Basilica, where you can find a skating rink and purchase a bunch of interesting gifts and souvenirs, so spending (at least) one day in Budapest at this time of year seems like an excellent choice.
Christmas markets are one of the main Austrian Christmas traditions, a custom that is centuries old in this country, and you will see why even if you spend less than 24 hours in Vienna during this time. Given that Christmas markets appear pretty much all over the wider city center, you will have plenty of choices to experience something new and exciting. Just imagine, wandering around the capital city of what used to be a great empire, surrounded by all that culture and history, and enjoying the holiday season to the fullest. Maybe you even decide to visit the Prater and the amusement park there. There can be no doubt that Vienna is one of the best Christmas market cities in Europe every single year, including 2019.
Oh, and don’t forget to drink a healthy amount of mulled wine, another one of great Austrian Christmas traditions.
Let’s move to Europe’s north now. Do you want to be drowned in Christmas spirit? Because that’s exactly what Gothenburg’s Lisenberg Christmas market will do to you. Literally millions of lights and hundreds of Christmas trees will be all around you when you visit this crazy yet impressive market, plus you will have the chance to try some of Sweden’s most famous dishes. And since this is so far north, the chances are snow will have fallen by this time in the city, which will only add to the atmosphere. And just like with the previous entry on this list of best European Christmas markets destinations, don’t forget to grab a glass or two of glögg, Sweden’s take on mulled wine.
Brussels has to be among the best Christmas markets in Western Europe in 2019. Not only does it have several traditional markets you can visit (with Plaisirs d’Hiver being the main location), but there are also loads of unique events you can visit during this time too, each one lasting for a couple of days or so. These are essentially small markets with their own specific themes, ranging from designers’ markets to events focused on ecology. Therefore, these are some of the most interesting Christmas markets in Europe and combining that with everything else the EU capital has to offer means you’ll never have to worry about what to do in Brussels in a day.
In the last few years, the Christmas market in Tallinn has experienced a surge in popularity, and for a very good reason. The city oozes with history and has loads of perfectly preserved houses from the medieval period, so you can really easily get into the mood in this magical surrounding. Santa in the flesh is there to give gifts to children who can recite Christmas carols, and carousels all around you provide loads of fun and give this event a fairly unique touch. Obviously, this is a great site for souvenir shopping, plus you have loads of food to try, with various types of roasts being the local specialty. This is without any doubt one of the best European Christmas markets, and the word about it is quickly spreading all over the world.
The Christmas market in Manchester definitely can be taken into account when talking about the biggest Christmas markets in Europe. Spread out all over the city center, it numbers hundreds of stalls, and the locals regularly make it a part of their night out. You will see why when you get a grasp of the number of bars and restaurants in the area, but if you just want to enjoy a relaxed evening or a day in Manchester you can do that too without any trouble. What is interesting about this Christmas market is that it starts early in November, with a special ceremony dedicated switching on the lights scheduled for November 14th, 2019. So, if you’re in the city at that time, you will still be able to get in the Christmas mood, even if the holiday is more than a month away.
You may be surprised to find Zagreb on this list, but if you come to its Christmas market you’ll quickly realize that it deserves to be here. As a matter of fact, the market has received several awards for excellence over the last few years because the whole city center turns into one of the biggest Christmas markets in Europe. There are loads of stalls selling everything from mulled wine and sausages to “fritule”, a local delicacy which can perhaps be best described as mini-doughnuts (you absolutely must try these). The city center also has plenty of great restaurants and bars, so foodies will be absolutely delighted. Add to that a big ice-skating rink and loads of people who come here from all over Croatia, and you are in for a day in Zagreb (or several days, of course) that is very interesting indeed.
As we all know, Rome is a magical city, so it’s not a big surprise that the weeks leading up to Christmas are full of different events. Still, the most famous event and probably one of the most famous Christmas markets in Europe is the one held in Piazza Navona. It opens every year on December 8th, and the surroundings of the venue are nothing short of spectacular. Magnificent fountains surround vendors selling various souvenirs and delicious treats (this is Italy, after all), and coming here will give the opportunity to visit Vatican City to Christian believers. Add to that the numerous ancient monuments all around you and you certainly get one of the best European Christmas market destinations you can think of. The vibe here is something very special and it will leave quite an impression on you, even if you only spend one day in Rome.
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is very much worthy of a visit all year round, but being here during Christmas time is really something special. There are two main Christmas markets to visit in this European city – one is traditionally held in Old Town Square, while the other is in Wenceslas Square. If you’re aiming to spend only 24 hours in Prague, try to be in town on November 30th and head to the former location to witness the tree lighting ceremony, mingle with the locals and maybe listen to a good concert along with grabbing some delicious bites, of course. The other location offers a slightly different vibe but is nevertheless very beautiful, especially with the impressive National Museum in the background. Wenceslas Square is known as a good shopping location too, so if you’re looking for presents for your loved ones you’re in the right place.
If Edinburgh doesn’t strike you as a notable European Christmas market destination, you couldn’t be more wrong! What awaits you in this beautiful city is a six-week Christmas extravaganza full of shows, events, rides, foods and everything else that guarantees a great time for the whole family. The whole thing takes place right in the city center, and the event also includes a big Ferris Wheel from which you can enjoy a fantastic view. The bravest among you will surely want to ride the Star Flyer, a carnival ride that spins you 60 meters above the ground. Yes, the view is quite spectacular from there too, if you can remember to enjoy it. In any case, one day in Edinburgh is a great way to enjoy and have fun with the locals because the Scots are really friendly and hospitable people.
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Anca is a travel writer and the founder of One Day Itinerary - the biggest collection of travel itineraries for those who are time-limited or just want to maximize their time while traveling. Although she easily becomes homesick for Croatia, she thinks travel is essential to her happiness. She has traveled to more countries than she is years old and doesn’t plan on changing that fact. In her travel guides she aims to inspire people to travel whenever they have a spare day (or two).