For many, Christmas time is the best time of the year. It can be celebrated by hanging mistletoe, chopping down the perfect evergreen tree, or caroling into the night. But if you’ve never taken a trip to one of Europe’s many Christmas markets, this is a holiday tradition to add to your list. Filled with holiday goodies, warm fresh foods, and almost as much holiday spirit as the North Pole, Christmas markets are a great way to celebrate what the 1963 holiday tune calls “the most wonderful time of the year.”
Here, experts share tips from some of their favorite Christmas markets -- and some of the one-of-a-kind things you can find when you visit!
Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt In Nuremberg, Germany
This Christmas market has a long history and a lot of tradition behind it. The Nuremberg Christmas market is one of the oldest in Germany, dating back to the mid-16th century, so you can expect a full-on Christmas extravaganza from a visit to this town’s Christmas market.
Travel expert Silke Wolf of Local Insiders had a ton of information about the famous market, and since she lives near the town of Nuremberg, she has spent more than enough time at this market to speak to the ins and outs of a great Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt experience.
“As a local, I have been to this market every other year and I love it. I can even tell you about the best-mulled wine -- in my opinion, Vollrath’s Heidelbeergluhwein. The traditional part of the Christmas market is on Hauptmarkt. On Hauptmarkt you’ll find a lot of food stalls selling local food such as the famous grilled sausages, the so-called Nuernberger Rostbratwürste, in a bun.”
While you’re shopping, Wolf suggests you pick up a Zwetschgenmännlein, which translates to plum man. Wolf says these small figurines carved out of dried plums are unique to Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt -- she hasn’t seen them at any other Christmas market she’s visited.
This year this historical market will be open from November 29 to December 24, 2019!
The Singing Christmas Tree And Christmas Market In Zurich, Switzerland
This market, also known as the Werdmühleplatz Market, centers around a one-of-a-kind Christmas-tree-shaped stage, but our experts, Brooke and Buddy Baum of Trailing Away, travelers who’ve spent dedicated time visiting European Christmas markets, have other favorite attractions at this winter wonderland.
“Like many nights of our Christmas market extravaganza, we explored multiple markets in our one night in Zürich. Our favorite market was the Werdmühleplatz Market. Here they had a singing Christmas tree stage where kids would sing a variety of festive tunes. Plus, they had vendors selling delicious offerings like raclette with potato and a miniature version of fondue. Since food in Zurich was extremely expensive, we loved getting to have this more affordable taste of some of the must-try cheese dishes.”
If you’re a cheese connoisseur -- or just a foodie -- this Christmas market should be at the top of your list. The market will be open from November 21 to December 23, 2019.
Old Rixdorfer Christmas Market In Berlin, Germany
The Old Rixdorfer Christmas Market, or Alt-Rixdorfer Weihnachtsmarkt, is known as “one of the most romantic of Berlin's Christmas markets,” and it is definitely the market you’ll want to stop at if you’re headed to Germany for the holidays -- especially if you’re traveling with your significant other.
Expert Kevin Axe of JayWay Travel has a few tips for visiting this stunning, old market.
“Berlin has over 80 Christmas markets, but my favorite -- and the favorite of many locals -- is the Alt-Rixdorfer Weihnachtsmarkt. Built by 18th-century Bohemian refugees, the Alt-Rixdorf district still has the atmosphere of a Czech village. Unusually, many of the vendors are charities raising money by selling delicacies and crafts made by the people they serve, so you can find everything from traditional favorites like folded Christmas Stars and Feuerzangenbowle, a showy drink which involves setting a rum-soaked sugarloaf on fire and letting the caramelized sugar drip into mulled wine, to food and drink from around the world.”
Take in the romantic atmosphere and indulge in good food and tradition when visiting this market, open from December 6 to December 8, 2019.
Strasbourg “Christmas Capital” Christmas Market In Strasbourg, France
Known as the Capital of Christmas, this market will afford you the traditional Christmas merriment with a French twist.
Travel experts Brooke and Buddy said this was definitely the most decorated Christmas market city they visited. “Every street was dripping with decorations and each seemed to offer a new theme. Plus, the old timber-framed houses and canals make for such a scenic stroll. Shop owners get involved as well and there are hundreds of delicious food and drink offerings. The hot wine is much lighter tasting here than what you'll get used to in Germany, and they also have some very French-inspired food options, like foie gras -- not something we enjoy, but interesting to see!”
Roam this festive Christmas market from November 22 to December 30, 2019.
Fairytale City In Stein Am Rhein, Switzerland
What better place to live out your own Christmas fairytale than in a place named fairytale city? This unique Christmas city will leave you in the holiday spirit past Christmas and well into the new year.
Expert Christina Holthuis of A Little Nomad shared why she deems this market a gem.
“Every year, they choose one of the classic fairytales, like Rapunzel, and decorate about 20 shop windows according to this theme. There are tours with traditionally dressed maidens that will lead you through the entire fairytale city, explaining it from the view of a maiden that lived during the old days. [Given] the combination of the romantically lit bridge that crosses the Rhine River flowing out of Lake Constance and the medieval houses, the scent of candied almonds, and the sound of Christmas music, this small Swiss town really is a Christmas fairytale come true.”
You can wander around this enchanting market from December 4 to December 31, 2019.
Southbank Christmas Market In Southbank, London
If you’re planning on a trip to London for the holiday season, then a stop at the Southbank Christmas market could and should be an addition to your trip.
Wolf loved the market for its British atmosphere and wonderful scenery. Plus, she said, “It’s a foodie’s paradise as you get to experience craft beer and street food with a British twist.” She recommends “a burger with a twist” and said the market offered pulled pork burgers and buns with inventive fillings.
“It looks very much like a London street food market,” which she told us she loves.
If you have an appetite for unique cuisine and are in search of some gorgeous views, this is an excellent destination. Or, if you’re like Wolf, you may want to go for the holiday lights. “No other city knows how to illuminate their city like London,” she told us.
The Southbank Christmas Market is open from November 2019 to January 2020. Check back for exact dates.
Hellbrunner Adventzauber In Salzburg, Austria
There are multiple Christmas markets to be explored in Salzburg, Austria, but Brooke and Buddy hold the wondrous market on the grounds of Hellbrunn Palace in high regard.
They told us they consider Salzburg a must-visit during the holidays, in part because the classic Christmas song “Silent Night” was penned nearby.
“In addition to its all-season attractions -- it’s filled with history and beautiful architecture -- this city offers multiple unique Christmas markets,” Brooke and Buddy told us.
Hellbrunn Palace, where they walked around the famous trick fountains, lit up especially for the market, was their favorite. “We also tried a yummy orange rum punch -- one of the more unique warm market drink offerings.”
Enjoy this unique market from November 21 to December 24, 2019.
With years of history and tradition behind each of them, a visit to any one of these European Christmas markets will mean packing your bags for a winter wonderland getaway this 2019 holiday season. If you’re lucky, you may even get to hop from one Christmas market to the next!
Planning to stay in the U.S. for the holidays? No problem, here are the best U.S. cities for a Christmas getaway in 2019.