It’s that time of the year again! The malls have begun playing the familiar festive jingles to signal that Christmas is only a little over a month away! It’s safe to say that for people who live in the tropical regions like us, a white Christmas is nothing short of a dream vacation.
And as our minds drift towards the powdery snow and lovely tunes of carols on the streets, we natural think about the ambiance of a good ol’ Christmas market as well, don’t we?
While you can find Christmas markets in most major European cities and towns these days, the practise actually originated in Germany and Austria before being adapted by neighbouring countries like France and the Czech Republic.
A few weeks before the festive celebration up till Christmas eve, you’ll find colourful stalls lining the town square, selling a variety of trinkets and scrumptious food such as traditional cakes, snacks and even mulled wine in some places. You’ll also find unique handicraft and Christmas ornaments too.
Each Christmas market is different depending on which part of Europe you’re in. Each exudes their own unique cultural charm and atmosphere. Well today, allow me to recommend to you 8 of the must-visit Christmas markets in Europe for a lovely white Christmas!
1. France: Strasbourg Christmas Market
Date(s)：24 November till 30 December（closed on Christmas Day）
Apart from being the official seat of the European Parliament, Strasbourg is also the largest city in the Grand Est region of France. The city’s historic city centre is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and boasts some truly ambient architecture.
Understandably, the Strasbourg Christmas market is the oldest of its kind in France, having been around since as early as the 15th century. The festive market is mainly based in the old town area of the city, and is most prominent in front of Place de la Cathédrale and Place Broglie. As you walk upon the streets, you might even hear the chiming of the cathedral bells and the distant harmonies of street carolers.
The Christmas market in Strasbourg houses more than 300 stalls, selling a variety of wares of edible tidbits. Trust us, you’ll need more than just one night to see everything here.
With that said, Place Kléber is where you’ll find the main attraction of the Strasbourg Christmas Market. At the centre of the square, stands a massive 30 feet tall Christmas tree all decked out in colourful Christmas lights and decoration. Understandably, this majestic spot is a top choice for an Instagram photo or two every year.
2. Germany: Rothenburg Christmas Market
Date(s)：30 November till 23 December
Rothenburg’s full name is Rothenburg ob der Tauber, which means the red fortress above the Tauber River. Rothenburg is affectionately known as the “medieval gem” of Germany and is the most perfectly preserved medieval town and fortress in the country.
Some Rothenburg’s common nicknames are “the fairy tale city” and “Christmas Town”. Needless to say, the Christmas ambiance here during the holidays is unbelievably charming, especially coupled with the Gothic architecture which adorn the town’s every corner.
While you’re in Rothenburg, you simply must visit its iconic Christmas Museum, the Käthe Wohlfahrt. The museum houses 11 unique exhibition zones, each showcasing the different Christmas decorations and aesthetics across different eras. You can also shop for Christmas ornaments here and even hunt for some memorable Christmas gifts!
3. Germany: Nürnberg Christmas Market
Date(s)：30 November till 24 December
The city of Nürnberg is one of Germany’s oldest cities and its Christmas Market dates back to almost 400 years ago. Being one of the oldest and the largest Christmas Market in Germany, the Nürnberg Christmas Market is a must-visit destination for anyone travelling in the city during the Christmas season.
The Nürnberg Christmas Market is as traditional as they come. Operating out of largely canopy huts, the stalls here sell a variety of traditional Christmas ornaments and, more importantly, rustic German street food fit for the occasion, allowing visitors a true experience of an authentic German Christmas.
Here’s an interesting fact: the Nürnberg Christmas Market is actually also called the Christkindlesmarkt in German, which means Market of the Blessed Child. Every year, the people of the city will select a young girl to play the part of the blessed child during the opening ceremony of the market. Visitors during this time can even grab a quick photo with her!
4. Germany: Munich Christmas Market
Date(s)：27 November till 24 December
Apart from the world-famous Oktoberfest, Munich is also equally famous for its massive Christmas Market. In fact, many say that the atmosphere at a Munich Christmas Market is just as fun as Oktoberfest itself!
Traditionally, the market stretches all the way from Marienplatz Square to the Neues Rathaus Administrative Building, housing over 200 stalls selling scrumptious food and, of course, beer!
Visually, the Munich Christmas Market is characterised by its glitzy decor. At the centre of the square is a massive Christmas tree decked out in shiny ornaments and beguiling lights. Along with the dancing flame of candles, the entire square becomes an almost magical sight as night falls. Truly magnificent.
5. Austria: Vienna Christmas Market
Date(s): 17 November till 26 December
As the capital of Austria, you’ll find plenty of Christmas markets throughout this romantic city. However, the most popular one is located in the square in front of the administrative building, Rathausplatz.
The Christmas Market in Vienna caters to visitors of all ages, even housing a designated zone for children, where they can get a hands on experience making Christmas cookies and candles.
Since Vienna is arguably the capital of music, you’ll be serenaded by the lovely voices of international carol groups as you throng the Christmas markets here. Such an immaculate experience!
6. The Czech Republic: Prague Christmas Market
Date(s)：1 December till 6 January
The Christmas market in Prague is known as one of the most beautiful markets in the world, so obviously, this has to go on your bucket list! The two main Christmas Markets in Prague are held side-to side between Old Town Square and Wencelas Sqaure. Thanks to the close proximity of both markets, it’s pretty simple to visit both at the same time.
The stalls of Prague’s Christmas Markets are housed in intricately-designed wooden huts, and as you throng them, you might find some romantic and cute Bohemian-style ornaments too! There’s also a balcony nearby from which you can view the entire market and take in the wonderful sights and ambiance of the moment.
7. Finland: Helsinki Christmas Market
Date(s)：2 December till 22 December
The Helsinki Christmas Market is an annual tradition held outside the Finnish Senate House in the city square. As one of the oldest Christmas Markets in Finland, the Helsinki Christmas Market is one of the most popular events on the calendar.
During Christmas each year, a young girl is chosen to play the part of St. Lucia. Dressed in a white robe, the girl will descend to the city square from the top of the stairs of Helsinki Cathedral, signifying the start of the festive season. You wouldn’t want to miss this unique procession if you’re in town at the right time!
One of the unique features of Helsinki’s Christmas Market is that Santa Claus will visit almost everyday to bring joy and surprise to those at the market. While the weather in Helsinki during the festive season might be unbearably cold, the faces of children when they see Santa truly warms the heart.
8. Denmark: Odense Christmas Market
Date(s)：30 November till 7 December
Odense is the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen, the legendary writer who is celebrated for his popular fairy tales. Fittingly then, being the birthplace of who many consider the king of fairy tales, Christmas in Odense is a magical experience, one akin to walking into a land of fairy tales.
During Christmas, walking in the old town of Odense feels as if you’ve been transported back to the 19th century. As the Christmas Market is set up, the people of Odense celebrate by dressing up in traditional costumes, allowing visitors a glimpse into what life was like back in the day. The atmosphere is exceptionally fun and rowdy, making the Odense Christmas Market one of the most tourist-friendly markets in Denmark.
As you throng the fairy-tale like market, make sure to sample some mulled wine as you immerse yourself in an unforgettable Christmas experience!
And there you have it, some of the most unique Christmas Markets you should visit at least once in your lifetime! If you’re planning a trip to Europe any time soon, make sure not to miss these memorable experiences!
Translated from: 白色圣诞：欧洲必访的8个圣诞市集