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Best Christmas markets to visit around Europe

As the end of the calendar year draws near, Christmas markets all around Europe will start waking up, bringing a magical, cheery, fair-like atmosphere filled with music and dancing.

The tradition of European Christmas markets started a long time ago in the late middle ages, with the first market believed to have been in Vienna in 1294! Markets are usually made up of many stalls set up in open public areas, offering all kinds of fare from food, to hot mulled wine, and even hand-made crafts.

With cheap flights from Malaysia, delicious eggnog, the smell of roasted chestnuts, and a bit of festive magic are all just a flight (or two) away! Let us show you around the best Christmas markets in Europe.

1. Berlin & Dresden, Germany

The Christmas markets in Germany are some of the most well-known in Europe, and there are bound to be a handful of them in every big city such as Frankfurt, Munich, Cologne, and Nuremberg.

Berlin is especially known for Christmas markets, with over 50 of them spread out over the city! Among the largest is WeihnachtsZauber at the Gendarmenmarkt, a picture-perfect cobblestone square surrounded by churches. Weihnachtsmarkt, located in front of the Charlottenburg Palace, is another fantastic location to soak in the Christmas spirit. These markets are a great place to experience the best of German craftsmanship as you will see many shops selling everything from handmade Christmas ornaments and delicate jewellery to the finest hand-crafted moustache combs! If you’re feeling chilly (or even if you’re not), gluhwein (warm, sweet, mulled wine) is the perfect drink to top off this festive experience. Tip: the wine mugs make a nice keepsake if you’re willing to forego your mug deposit!

Opening dates for WeihnachtsZauber: 28 Nov to 22 Dec 2019
Opening dates for Weihnachtsmarkt: 25 Nov to 26 Dec 2019

Snow covers the tiny rooftops of stalls at the Striezelmarkt in Dresden, and the Christmas tower stands brightly in the centre.

The Striezelmarkt in Dresden’s Altmarkt Square is one of Germany’s oldest Christmas markets, with a history tracing back to more than 500 years ago. The “Christmas Pyramid” is hands-down the biggest attraction. Located right in the centre of the market, this 14-metre-high tower is the tallest of its kind in the world. If you’re looking for something nice to take home, there are lots of small stands selling wood-carved trinkets and ornaments. For those with a sweet tooth, do try the traditional fruit bread stollen, or maybe pflaumentoffel, a little doll made out of dried prunes to be eaten after Christmas for good luck!

Opening dates for Striezelmarkt: 27 Nov to 24 Dec 2019

2. Salzburg, Austria

Salzburg’s Christkindlmarkt at the Dom and Residenzplatz is one of the oldest markets in Europe, and also one of the most picturesque. The market sets up in the front courtyard of the Salzburg Cathedral, and you’ll feel like you’re in a fairytale wonderland with the Hohensalzburg Fortress looming over from a distance. Salzburg is also a wonderful city with beautiful baroque architecture and a rich history to explore. Most famously known as the birthplace of Mozart, Salzburg is alive with concerts and amazing orchestral performances put on by the most talented student musicians in Europe.

Opening dates for Christkindlmarkt: 21 Nov to 26 Dec 2019

3. Brussels, Belgium

If you’re looking for a magical winter wonderland, look no further than Plaisirs d’Hiver (or Winter Wonders) in Brussels. This is a full-fledged event complete with merry-go-rounds, art illuminations and pop-up villages in different locations every weekend. The Winter Wonders Christmas Market comprises 250 little stalls decked in fairytale lights in the city centre. Take a leisurely winter stroll down the rows of quaint wooden huts that sell everything from baked apples to cute scarves and beautiful arts and crafts. To top off your winter experience, there will be ice-skating rinks open in various public squares.

Opening dates for Plaisirs d’Hiver: 29 Nov 2019 to 5 Jan 2020

4. Barcelona, Spain

In Barcelona, the most famous market is the Fira de Santa Llúcia located near the Avinguda de la Catedral. Since its debut as a celebratory fair more than 200 years ago, the market has since grown to accommodate over 300 stalls today! You can find anything and everything related to Christmas at this market, from fresh Christmas trees and mistletoe to scarves and puppets. For those with kids, the Tió de Nadal is a fun activity that involves a Christmas wooden log which releases gifts and candy when hit with a stick. And for the adults, take home the unique Barcelonan Catalan caganer as a souvenir – a small figurine with his pants down and butt exposed, squatting slightly and going ‘number 2!’ This will surely be a conversation starter!

Opening dates for Fira de Santa Llúcia: 29 Nov to 23 Dec 2019

5. Budapest, Hungary

One of the best Christmas markets in Budapest is the Christmas Fair at Vorosmarty Square, right in the centre of the Pest side of town. It features cute wooden cottage stalls that are set up in a large public square named after a national poet. Be sure to catch the traditional folk dances performed to live music, and try traditional Hungarian snacks like kürtöskalács, a sugared, spiral-shaped pastry; lángos, fried bread with your choice of toppings; and tempting fried sausages or juicy roasted meats. The traditional handicrafts produced with exceptional skills are worth a good look too.

Opening dates for Christmas Fair at Vorosmarty Square: 8 Nov 2019 to 1 Jan 2020

6. Copenhagen, Denmark

For a perfect Scandinavian Christmas, the market at Tivoli Gardens offers a uniquely Danish experience with a touch of magic brought to you by gorgeous Christmas lights and snowflakes on fir trees. It is set in a theme park, so you can check out the Ferris Wheel, the roller coasters and the ice-skating rink once you’ve exhausted your shopping list and your appetite. On 25 to 27 December, you can even feast on the sight of fireworks at the Fireworks Festival.

Opening dates for Christmas in Tivoli: 16 Nov 2019 to 5 Jan 2020

7. Prague, Czech Republic

Market-goers walk around the market, decorated with two lit-up Christmas trees, and the beautiful Tyn Cathedral in the background

Prague any other time of year is already filled with beauty and wonder, but come Christmas time, the ancient city transforms into a fairytale town. The two most popular Christmas markets are located in Wenceslas Square and Old Town Square, and you should definitely try some traditional Czech favourites: grog (rum with hot water and lemon) and mead (honey wine). Don’t be alarmed by the tubs of water full of fish – it’s a central European Christmas tradition to buy a live carp, keep it in the family bathtub for a couple of days, before turning it into a tasty Christmas dinner.

Opening dates for Christmas markets at Wenceslas Square and Old Town Square: 30 Nov 2019 to 6 Jan 2020

8. Stockholm, Sweden

A picturesque Christmas market in Stockholm is surrounded by beautiful buildings and lights.

Stockholm’s century-old Skansen Christmas Market captures the quintessential Scandinavian Christmas. Cheery Swedish ornaments are displayed brightly next to exotic Christmas treats like smoked sausage, eel, and salmon. If you have a craving for something sweet, then pepparkakor (ginger cookies), saffron tea buns, and a hearty mug of mulled wine are sure to hit the spot.

Opening dates for Skansen Christmas Market: Weekends between 30 Nov to 22 Dec 2019

Also Read: 10 Best places to visit in December for Malaysians

The festive holiday season is fast approaching! So get your shopping list together and start planning your winter adventure. Book cheap flights, hotels and car rental via Skyscanner today, or download our free mobile app for easy browsing and booking on the go.

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Originally published on Nov 2016 and last updated in Nov 2019. Any prices are lowest estimated prices only at the time of publication and are subject to change and/or availability.

Adapted from an article originally written on Skyscanner.