There’s nothing quite like a good old-fashioned Christmas market.
The spiced scent of mulled wine, the calming steam coming from a mug of hot chocolate, the reassuring warmth of a hot dog…a great Christmas market has plenty of things to find and out-of-the-way stalls to explore, and luckily, there are lots of them around the world, so you’re well catered-for no matter where you want to travel.
Some of the best Christmas markets might not end up being where you’d expect; there are excellent options hidden away in cities that aren’t traditionally considered tourist hotspots, but they’re well worth visiting nonetheless.
Whether you’re after some delicious gingerbread or some of the best crafts around, here are the top 21 Christmas markets you can go to!
1. Birmingham, UK
We’re somewhat biased, because we know Birmingham in the UK well, but it is undeniably one of the world’s best Christmas markets.
While the prices can be a little high, there’s a cosy, warm feeling to the market, and it stretches all along the city’s New Street, winding up at the top of Victoria Square.
From there, a short walk takes you to an ice rink and some fairground attractions, so make sure you hop on those before you eat your hot dog to avoid accidents!
If you’re not quite feeling any of the traditional market’s attractions, there’s also a separate market that often makes its home in Cathedral Square, which locals know better as Pigeon Park.
There, you’ll find independent stalls selling all kinds of things, from food to crafts and even hot drinks to keep you company while you browse the market’s offerings.
It’s fair to say that the Frankfurt Christmas market is one of Birmingham’s biggest attractions; it’s survived some of the city’s most dire trials and tribulations in recent years, so it’s well worth a look if you happen to find yourself in Birmingham.
2. Manchester, UK
Another excellent British Christmas market, Manchester’s offering is beautiful, populated with gorgeous neon lighting and great decorations.
You’ll find hundreds of stalls dotted around the city’s centre, offering everything from food to crafted goods and lots more.
If you’re already in Manchester for the sights – which you might well be, given its up-and-coming status as a hotspot – then you should definitely set aside some time for the Christmas market.
The Manchester Christmas market began all the way back in 1998, and it’s been running ever since; the 2023 market marks the 25th anniversary of the city’s wonderful Christmas offerings.
With over two hundred stalls of festive treats to enjoy, Manchester’s Christmas market is the perfect way to while away a few hours if this happens to be your holiday destination for the year.
You’ll also find a Christmas light trail where you can take kids, family members, or even just yourself if you feel like immersing yourself in the festive atmosphere.
Like Birmingham, Manchester also often plays host to an ice rink when the Christmas markets roll around, so if you want to work off some of your Christmas treats and have some fun into the bargain, ice skating can be a great way to do so.
3. Edinburgh, UK
We round off our trio of festive UK markets with the Christmas showing in Edinburgh in Scotland.
An aerial view shows Edinburgh’s Christmas market to be one of the most breathtakingly beautiful on offer; it’s a colourful smorgasbord of sights, sounds, and smells that you’ll want to immerse yourself in.
Naturally, you’ll also find Santa’s grotto there, so you can tell him all about what you want for Christmas (or take your kids, of course).
This is often a fairly long-lived Christmas market; it’s been known to run all the way into January, so if you’re someone who hates it when the festive period ends, Edinburgh is a good market to visit.
As well as the markets, Edinburgh often plays host to live events commemorating Christmas and the holiday season in general, as well as funfair attractions and much more.
Of course, the city itself gets “dressed up” for Christmas too, making this Scottish gem of a city even more beautiful than it usually is when the festive season rolls around.
The markets themselves boast stalls selling all kinds of goods, from beauty products through to food and drink and much, much more.
4. Leipzig, Germany
This is one of the oldest Christmas markets still in operation, dating all the way back to the 15th century.
It’s managed to keep its old-school feel, too, so if you want to immerse yourself in a classic Christmas atmosphere, then you could do far worse than Leipzig at Yuletide.
Naturally, this being a Christmas market, you’ll also find fairground attractions just like in Birmingham, so make sure to enjoy the Ferris wheel! Otherwise, it’s business as usual, with great crafts and food on offer.
Not only is this one of the oldest Christmas markets in Germany, but it’s also one of the biggest, so you can expect to find over 250 stalls waiting for you if you visit.
The centrepiece of the Leipzig Christmas market is the famous Marktplatz, where you’ll also be able to see a massive Christmas tree that dwarfs much of the city itself, standing at a fearsome 20 metres tall.
This is also where you’ll find lots of live entertainment to make your Christmas one to remember; what’s on at any given time tends to be fairly unpredictable, so make sure that you check out the program before you head to Leipzig for Christmas!
5. Budapest Advent Feast, Hungary
As the name suggests, the Advent Feast is a true Christmas extravaganza.
It takes place outside the iconic St. Stephen’s Basilica building and offers an absolute treat for the eyes; just gazing upon this assortment of winter wonderland scenes is enough to give even the most jaded Scrooge a love of Christmas.
This is a more “bespoke” Christmas experience than other markets offer, with plenty of gourmet food experiences and event programs to enjoy.
The Advent Festival began in 2010, with 2023 marking the feast’s 13th anniversary. It usually runs right up until New Year’s Day or thereabouts, making the festive period in Budapest one to truly remember.
The markets are joined by a fair that should keep both children and adults alike entertained, as well as gorgeous Christmas-themed decorations that will add that much-needed dash of magic to your holidays.
You can also look forward to live performances from all kinds of acts, including gospel singers, rock bands, and much more, who will keep you entertained while you enjoy the local crafts and foods available at the market.
6. Valkenburg aan de Geul, Netherlands
Slowly but surely, the Netherlands’ Valkenburg aan de Geul (commonly shortened to simply Valkenburg) transforms itself into a winter wonderland all its own, culminating in a wonderful Christmas market and event in the winter months.
Here, you’ll find plenty of mulled wine, beer, and other alcohol to warm your belly on winter nights, and you’ll also be able to see parades and other events if you wait around for a little while.
There’s no better way to be infused with the Christmas spirit!
In 2023, Valkenburg welcomed visitors to the so-called Christmas Town, which invites visitors to sample the many delights of a Dutch Christmas.
They include lights, local treats, and live music, all of which you can enjoy both aboveground and underground thanks to Valkenburg’s rather unique cave system.
Bear in mind that this is one of the most popular destinations in the world when it comes to Christmas attractions, so it’s important to book ahead of time if needed and to research parking and travel thoroughly in advance.
If you can plan your trip sufficiently, you’re all but guaranteed a great time at Valkenburg if you’re planning to visit for the holiday season.
7. Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is already a pretty magical city, so it should come as no surprise that its Christmas market really goes all out.
With huge Christmas trees welcoming you to the city, you’ll find merchants offering traditional Christmas gifts and merchandise here, and you’ll also be able to partake in some mouth-watering sweets and delicious Czech delicacies.
Make sure to incorporate this market into your Prague trip if you’re planning to go this winter.
The main venues for Christmas markets in Prague are Wenceslas Square and Old Town Square, both of which you’ll find in the centre of Prague (and which should be pretty thoroughly signposted, too).
However, you can also find ancillary Christmas markets in smaller locations like the front of the Palladium shopping centre and the Old Town Havel’s Market, which is the only permanent market in the city’s heart.
Traditional Czech food is available at the markets, too, including klobasa, garlic and cheese flatbread, and dumplings, as well as sweet treats like crepes and spiced gingerbread.
You’ll struggle to leave Prague’s Christmas market without being thoroughly suffused with a sense of Christmas cheer.
8. Tallinn, Estonia
Tallinn is effectively already a winter wonderland by itself, so imagine what happens when you add Christmas into the mix!
This beautiful market was voted one of the most attractive in Europe, and it’s easy to see why even just when you’re looking at pictures of it, let alone visiting it.
With stalls dusted with a thin coating of snow, classic Christmas goods and food on offer, and a chill in the air that gives a pleasant briskness to browsing the market, Estonia should be on your list of Christmas destinations.
There’s also a rather impressive Christmas tree to see most years, and if you’re lucky enough to attend the opening of the Christmas festive period in Tallinn, you may well spot some legendary local singers or artistic talents.
The markets themselves favour local producers and independent stalls, so you know that you’re supporting smaller Estonian businesses for the most part if you visit the Tallinn Christmas markets.
Make sure that if you do go along to Tallinn, you sample the local glog, which is the Estonian word for mulled wine. You haven’t tried this delicacy until you’ve tried it in Estonia, after all!
9. Basel, Switzerland
You’ve probably heard of the Basel Christmas market in your travels, and we’re not surprised if you have.
Switzerland is, unsurprisingly, one of the most beautiful locations to visit for Christmas, and Basel is well-known among both native Swiss and travellers for its affinity to Christmas.
Here, you’ll find a Christmas market, a grand tree, and plenty of Christmas decorations and finery to doll up the usual Swiss shopping experience. It’s truly magical.
A large part of the market can be found in front of Basel’s famous cathedral, where you’ll find plenty of stalls to browse as you look at the glorious Christmas lights that illuminate the square.
You can then move onto the Barfusserplatz, or “barefoot plaza”, named for an order of Franciscan monks who founded a church in the area in the 14th century. The more you know!
Highlights for the markets include local delicacies like gingerbread, raclette, and sausages, as well as crafts created by local artisans and traders. There’s something for everyone in the Basel Christmas market.
10. Madeira, Portugal
Portugal might not be one of the first locations that jumps to mind when it comes to great Christmas celebrations – after all, the climate is generally pretty temperate – but the Madeira Christmas market should show that up for the misunderstanding it really is.
This is a great Christmas offering, complete with folkloric demonstrations and storytelling events and, of course, lots of local food and drink to enjoy as you explore the market’s winding stalls.
If you’re not someone who enjoys the cold weather (although we have to say that it’s a huge part of the Christmas experience for us), then Madeira also makes an ideal Christmas destination, as it’s much warmer there than it is in many other places.
Of course, the markets themselves are also well worth travelling to Madeira for on their own. There, you’ll find local delicacies and flowers to purchase, as well as Christmas tree decorations, crafts, and much more.
When you’re done shopping in Madeira, you can explore the island’s incredible light displays, which add to the sense of Christmas cheer and give tourists an opportunity for some truly amazing photographs.
11. Brussels, Belgium
Nestled in the heart of Western Europe is this beautiful Christmas market in Brussels.
There are markets all over the country, of course, but Brussels’ offering is typically grand and spectacular. The city is bathed in warming light from decorations and from the tree that adorns its market, and while you’re exploring, you’ll find beautiful traditional stalls offering everything from hand-crafted goods to typically delicious Belgian food.
Come for the lights, stay for the beer!
You can look forward to more than 200 stalls to browse, with plenty of local foods and crafts on offer for curious travellers. Whether you’re looking for jewellery, something savoury to enjoy, or something sweet to eat, you’ll find it here.
When you’ve got everything you want from the markets, you’ll also find traditional winter activities like curling and ice skating on offer, as well as a Ferris wheel from which to view the true majesty of Brussels.
Naturally, just like with any Christmas market worth its salt, Brussels also plays host to a number of live events during the Christmas period, so stick around and you might just see something special while you’re looking around the markets.
12. Bruges, Belgium
We couldn’t let this list slide without mentioning another beautiful Belgian city.
Bruges may be most famous for its appearance in the renowned Martin McDonagh movie, but the city has much more to offer than strange, dark tales of assassination.
Its Christmas market is vast and beautiful, offering local beer, mulled wine, and cheese, among other delicacies. If you’ve been to Belgium before, you’ll know just how beautiful it can be, but if this is your first time, Bruges is an excellent choice.
Just like Brussels, the Bruges Christmas market has lots of wonderful things to see and do, including a beautiful Christmas tree, myriad decorations, and immersion in the sense of history and place that Bruges offers.
You can enjoy the scents of freshly-baked waffles and hot chocolate, as well as all kinds of other local delicacies that should put paid to even the most brutal Christmas food cravings.
While Bruges is certainly a smaller city than Brussels – and, as such, boasts fewer attractions – that just gives the city a more intimate and local feel, which is ideal for those who don’t like the massive crowds that capital cities often attract.
13. Dusseldorf, Germany
In many ways, Germany is one of the most traditional countries in the world when it comes to Christmas, and that’s certainly true of the beautiful Christmas market in Dusseldorf.
Like many other Christmas markets, it’s beautifully decorated and staged, although this one is just a little more muted than others; if you like your markets less ostentatious and more cosy, then this is definitely one to check out.
That’s not to say you won’t find the usual mixture of activities, food, and drink here, though.
Situated outside Dusseldorf’s Town Hall, the Christmas markets bring the usual mixture of wonderful local foods and crafts for you to peruse.
You’ll find seasonal drinks to cradle while you gaze up at the city’s gorgeous Christmas lights, as well as rides for adults and kids alike (and let’s face it, we could all do with indulging our inner child more during the Christmas season).
Dusseldorf’s Christmas celebrations also include a guided tour that will serve as an excellent education about the city and its history, and you’ll even get some mulled wine at the end!
14. Malaga, Spain
Christmas in many parts of Spain is a decidedly traditional affair.
You’ll notice Nativity scenes being installed by eager workers, as well as Christmas lights being switched on and a huge variety of clothes and other goods for sale in the Christmas market.
Malaga is one of the most beautiful cities in Spain, and while you may not immediately think of it when it comes to Christmas, you’ll find that the market in Malaga easily competes with any of its closest geographical rivals.
While the markets themselves are stunning in Malaga, it’s the Christmas lights you’ll likely visit for; they’re some of the most impressive of their kind in all of Europe, and they must be seen in person to be believed.
The markets are, of course, no slouch either, though, with local Malaga delicacies like borrachuelos and marzipan to enjoy, as well as roasted chestnuts if you want a more simple and humble snack.
Since Malaga takes on a more traditionalist bent for its Christmas market, you’ll find more religious and traditional imagery dotted throughout the city, making this just as great a Christmas destination as it is a summer getaway.
15. Salzburg, Austria
A truly great Christmas market can really bring you to tears, and that’s what the market in Salzburg is aiming to do.
Mozart once called this gorgeous city home, and just taking a quick look around, it’s very easy to see why he did. The Christmas market is, quite simply, breathtakingly beautiful, giving you plenty to look at and even more to peruse.
Make sure to bring a hearty helping of currency with you so that you’ve got enough to buy everything you want to from the markets!
The Christkindlmarkt, to give it its proper name, is one of the world’s most historic Christmas markets. Situated in the middle of the Old City, which is a World Heritage listed site, the market has something for everyone to enjoy.
Naturally, that includes whatever local Austrian delicacies you could want to get your hands on, as well as drinks, locally-made goods, and other Christmas accoutrements.
With about a hundred market stalls to choose from, Salzburg is perhaps one of the cosier Christmas markets you’re likely to find, but that doesn’t make it any less unforgettable for you and your family.
16. Strasbourg, France
We haven’t listed a French Christmas market so far, but that’s not because they’re not worth visiting; there are just so many excellent options to choose from that we’re spoiled for choice!
Strasbourg’s Christmas market is, as you’d expect from this gorgeous gem of a city, an absolute peach, and it offers plenty of historic delights to make you feel like you’re immersed in the Christmases of old.
Culturally, Strasbourg straddles the line between France and Germany, and that’s exactly what you can expect from the city’s Christmas markets as well.
Here, you’ll find plenty of traditional food on both the German and French sides of the cultural divide, including gingerbread, which Strasbourg has developed a reputation for creating.
As such, this is a perfect opportunity to avail yourself of one of the most satisfying local delicacies you’re ever likely to find, as well as to explore a city that’s absolutely crammed with history in every nook and cranny.
17. Cusco, Peru
Again, Peru might not be the first place your mind goes to when you think about Christmas markets, but it’s actually one of the most quaint and wonderful places you can go if you’re looking for a unique Christmas experience.
In Cusco’s Plaza de Armas, you’ll find a market that’s primarily geared towards local crafts and curios, so if you’re looking for somewhere to get a drink or some food, this probably isn’t the best market for you.
However, Cusco’s famous retablo makes it well worth a visit. A retablo is a box that contains a scene of religious significance, and that scene is usually a Nativity, since Christianity is very important to the locals.
These boxes can be heartbreakingly beautiful, and they’re crafted by local artisans who are serious about their work, so if you want to sample local Peruvian genius, look no further than the retablo.
With that said, there are other reasons to head to Cusco, including local Christmas delicacies and the local ponche, which is a kind of warm punch that will put some fire back in your veins.
18. Cologne, Germany
The existence of another excellent German Christmas market probably shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, given that Germany is arguably the home of what we know to be the traditional Christmas market environment.
However, the main market in Cologne is truly something special. It’s usually situated near the city’s gorgeous cathedral, which gives the whole scene a severe, humbling quality.
Thankfully, the stalls themselves do a lot to alleviate that feeling, offering lots of wonderful crafts, foods, drinks, and performances to enjoy during the Christmas period.
There are smaller markets to enjoy as well, and they offer everything from food and drink all the way through to workshops that children and families can appreciate together.
Whether you’re after tourist-friendly Christmas market shenanigans or something more low-key and quiet, you’ll likely find it at one of Cologne’s many Christmas market spots, so make sure to explore a little before settling on a venue to while away the evening.
If you can, try to get up high so you can see the market from a good vantage point as well. It’s something to behold.
19. Washington DC, USA
Washington DC’s famous Downtown Christmas Market is one of the best of its kind in the USA, which is an especially impressive feat when you consider that Europe is usually the home of the best Christmas markets in the world.
Still, this market has plenty to offer the itinerant traveller, including lots of food shopping, local crafts, and everything else you’d expect from a classic Christmas market.
What’s more, in 2023, the retail lineup placed special emphasis on Black and minority-owned businesses from the local Made in DC initiative, meaning you know your money is going to a good place.
There’s plenty of live entertainment to soak up here as well, including musicians singing Christmas songs you’ll likely be familiar with. Why not grab a drink and join in?
Washington DC may not be the first place that springs to mind when you’re thinking about the most iconic Christmas market locations in the world, but hopefully, if more people visit the Downtown Christmas Market, that will change.
20. Copenhagen, Denmark
We’re returning to Europe for our final Christmas market recommendation, and we’re taking a trip to the beautiful country of Denmark, where you’ll find one of the most celebrated Christmas markets in Europe, as well as the wider world.
Copenhagen is Denmark’s capital, so it stands to reason that you’ll find some incredible Christmas market offerings here, but the city has numerous markets to enjoy, each offering something slightly different.
For the most part, though, each of Copenhagen’s markets boasts local crafts and homegrown artisanal items to enjoy, as well as food and drink to warm even the coldest cockles.
If you visit the Tivoli Gardens market, you’ll also find a fairground-come-theme-park that children can enjoy, and hey, there’s no shame in you accompanying them and having a wonderful time yourself as well!
Copenhagen is truly a magical city all year round, but it really comes to life at Christmas.
BONUS: Nottingham, UK
We couldn’t let this list finish without mentioning another one of our favourite Christmas markets from the UK.
Nottingham isn’t one of the cities that most people mention when they talk about popular UK tourist destinations, but we think that’s a real shame; it’s a gorgeous city with plenty to offer its visitors, and never is that more true than when the Christmas market rolls around.
There are stalls, rides, and more to see, with local art and events punctuating the beautiful Christmas goods.
Put Nottingham on your Christmas list and you certainly won’t be disappointed! Pair it up with another UK market – Birmingham’s is very close by train or car – and you’ll be even more content.