The month of December means only one thing in Europe – Christmas markets! Organised in almost every European town, these special events put you into the festive mood immediately. Each year, I’m on a lookout for the best Christmas markets in Europe. So, here is the Culture Tourist’s list of the best Christmas Markets in Europe to visit in 2023.
Best Christmas Markets in Europe
Europe has a long tradition of getting into the Christmas mood by organising numerous festive markets. The first Christmas markets were organised during the Middle Ages in Germany. They became especially popular during the Reformation time. Traditionally held on a town square, they became popular December trip destinations. Here are some of the best Christmas markets in Europe you should visit in 2023.
European Christmas Markets to visit in 2023
Christmas Market in Cologne, Germany
When: 23 November – 23 December 2023
With around 4 million people visiting it annually, Cologne is home to one of the most popular Christmas markets in Europe. Although one of the biggest Christmas markets today, it was established late by German standards, in 1820. Cologne has numerous themed Christmas markets located around the city. You can quickly visit all of them by riding on a Christmas train.
One of my favourite things at the Christmas Market in Cologne is a special Christmas river cruise. Some of the best Christmas locations in Cologne are the Village of St. Nicholas, the Market of Angels, the Christmas Market at Cologne Cathedral, and the Cologne Harbour Christmas Market.
Christmas Market in Mechelen, Belgium
When: 15 – 17 December 2023
Rich in history and filled with beautiful old buildings, wandering around Mechelen will put you in a Christmas mood imediatelly. With speakers playing Christmas music all around town, you’ll feel like you’ve entered a Christmas fairytale. Christmas stalls selling Christmas decorations, food and presents are located near each other in the city centre, so you can stroll around and explore them on foot.
One of my favourite activities at the Mechelen Christmas Market was ice skating on a beautiful rink on a canal. Many nativity scenes located around the city, winter bars, and so many fun winter activities make Mechelen one of the best Christmas Markets in Europe.
Christmas Market in Zagreb, Croatia
When: 2 December 2023 – 7 January 2024
Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, is home to one of my favourite Christmas markets in Europe. During December, the entire city centre becomes a vast Christmas market. Well-known Croatian chefs rent stalls and prepare special menus for this event, making it one of the best European Christmas Markets for all foodies.
During the Advent in Zagreb, numerous concerts, special events and performances are organised, as well. You’ll find multiple Christmas market locations in Zagreb. An unmissable place is The Esplanade Hotel terrace, with many great foodie stalls. At Kralja Tomislava Square, you’ll find a massive ice skating rink. Zrinjevac Square is also lovely because of its beautiful light decoration and many musical performances.
Christmas Market in Frankfurt, Germany
When: 27 November – 21 December 2023
Frankfurt is home to one of the largest Christmas markets in Germany located on several locations around the city. First documented in 1393, it’s one of the oldest European Christmas markets. The Christmas tree became its symbol at the beginning of the 19th century only, when the tradition of decorating Christmas trees became more popular in Germany.
The Frankfurt Christmas Market locations you should visit are Römerberg, St Paul’s Square, Main Quay, Hauptwache, Friedrich Stoltze Square. Especially interesting is the market at Friedrich Stoltze Square with a theme of ‘Pink Christmas’. You can find more info about Frankfurt Christmas Market here.
Christmas Market in Maastricht, the Netherlands
When: 30 November – 31 December 2023
Maastricht, located in the south of the Netherlands, is home to one of the best Dutch Christmas Markets. Situated on a historical Vrijthof Square, it makes a beautiful setting for one of the best Christmas markets in Europe.
It becomes a Christmas village during the entire month of December, with numerous events celebrating the jolly season. You’ll find an ice skating rink on it, many Christmas stalls and lovely decorated small restaurants and cafés. I visited Maastricht Christmas Market several times, and each year, it only gets better.
Christmas Market in Vienna, Austria
When: 11 November – 26 December 2023
Vienna is home to one of the most famous Christmas markets in Europe, first mentioned in 1298. It’s a massive Christmas market with twenty locations spread around the city.
However, the most famous Vienna Christmas Market location is in front of the Rathaus or the Town Hall. Other popular locations are Art Advent on Karlsplatz, the Christmas Village at Belvedere Palace and the Christmas Village on Maria-Theresien-Platz, in front of the Kunsthistorisches Museum. The Christmas stalls sell traditional punch, mulled wine, various sweets and pastries, Christmas decorations and local products, making lovely Christmas presents.
Christmas Market in Prague, Czech Republic
When: 2 December 2023 – 6 January 2024
Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, is one of the best places to visit in Europe during the Christmas season. With its historic setting, the Christmas market in this Central European city has more of a traditional feel.
The two central locations of the Prague Christmas Market are Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square. At the Old Town Square, you’ll find an impressive 25-metre-tall Christmas tree decorated in traditional colours, red and gold. Numerous stalls sell Christmas decorations, local products, famous Czech beers and delicious food like trdelnik (my favourite), sweet dumplings and traditional Czech dishes.
Christmas Market in Berlin, Germany
When: 27 November – 30 December 2023
Berlin is home to many Christmas markets, special events and festive concerts, making it one of the best destinations to visit in Europe in December. It’s home to over one hundred Christmas markets, and you can see all of them on this link. If you prefer a Christmas market with a historic setting, then the one in front of the City Hall is a place to go. Famous for its Ferris wheel, you’ll find traditional arts and crafts being celebrated there.
The square in front of the Charlottenburg Palace is home to one of the most beautiful Berlin Christmas markets. However, if you like Christmas markets with a modern twist, visit the one at the Alexanderplatz.
Christmas Market in Innsbruck, Austria
When: 15 November – 23 December 2023
Located in between the Alps, Innsbruck is a European destination where you can expect to have some snow while visiting its Christmas Market. You can enjoy more of the Austrian tradition at this Christmas market with Saint Nicholas and Krampus visiting it. Its Old Town is where you’ll find a typical Christmas Market surrounded by medieval buildings and colourful facades. For a modern touch, visit the Christmas Market at Maria-Theresien Strasse.
However, the most unusual one is the Panorama Christmas Market at Hungerburg. You should take a cable car to get there, from which you’ll have a stunning view while passing stations designed by Zaha Hadid. At its top, you’ll find a Christmas Market selling food, drinks and other Christmas goods.
Christmas Market in Colmar, France
When: 23 November – 29 December 2023
The French region of Alsace is home to some of the best Christmas Markets in Europe. Besides Strasbourg, one of the towns with the most beautiful Christmas Markets to visit is Colmar.
Once in Colmar, a picturesque town with all houses decorated with Christmas decorations, you’ll feel like Christmas time never stops there. Each house has Christmas decorations, and you’ll find numerous Christmas markets around town. During the night, special light installations are projected on them, making you feel like you stepped into a Christmas fairytale. The town has six Christmas markets, each bearing a different theme.
Christmas Market in Barcelona, Spain
When: 24 November – 23 December 2023
Although not perceived as a winter destination, Barcelona is home to one of the best European Christmas markets. The main event has been organised on the square in front of the Barcelona Cathedral since 1786. The celebrations start on Saint Lucy Day on 13 December.
Barcelona Christmas Market differs from German markets because it has a traditional Spanish feel. You’ll find stalls there selling Christmas trees, decorations and typical Tió de Nadal. It’s a log standing on two legs, with a smiling face and covered in a red blanket. It traditionally brings presents to children during the Christmas time.
With so many great Christmas markets, Europe is a wonderful place to visit in December. From North to South, East to West, you’ll find them in each country on the Old Continent.
Have you visited any Christmas markets in Europe? What was your favourite Christmas market in Europe? Let me know in the comments!