There’s nothing quite like a festive market to bring out the Christmas spirit in people.
While these events can be traced back to Vienna – the city’s first recorded December market was in 1298 – the tradition has spread across the world over the centuries.
In fact, some have grown so popular, they’ve become tourist attractions in their own right.
Here’s our rundown of some of the top Christmas markets that are taking place around the world this year.
Wiener Christkindlmarkt, Austria
With reindeer rides, a giant Ferris wheel and a classic nativity scene to marvel at, Vienna’s magical spectacle encapsulates the festive spirit fantastically.
Although there are around 20 Christmas markets in the Austrian capital to choose from, Wiener Christkindlmarkt, or Rathausplatz, is one of its oldest and most traditional events.
Held in front of City Hall, the event, also known as Viennese Dream Christmas Market, also features a 150-square-meter children’s ice rink, while the famous Tree of Hearts, a giant maple tree decked out with hundreds of glittering hearts, is a hot favorite with visitors and a great photo opportunity.
There are also plenty of stalls offering up tasty treats like Austrian sausages and gingerbread cookies, along with homemade Christmas punch.
Wiener Christkindlmarkt runs from November 10 to December 26.
Basel Christmas Market, Switzerland
It’s hard to find a destination that does Christmas better than Switzerland.
Most Swiss towns are pretty much taken over by festive markets at this time of year and the atmosphere is incredible. But Basel Christmas Market is the biggest and arguably the best around.
Separated into two different sections at Barfusserplatz and Munsterplatz, it’s made up of around over 150 fabulously decorated stalls selling Christmas spices, decorations and candles.
Family attractions include the Christmas fairytale forest at Munsterplatz with activities such as gingerbread and candle decorating, a star workshop and a festive train.
Attendees can also take a walk up the stairwell of St. Martin’s tower for incredible views of the lights illuminating the old town, or sip on some mulled wine at the 13-meter high Christmas pyramid on Barfusserplatz.
Basel Christmas Market opens on November 23 and is scheduled to run until December 23.
Strasbourg Christmas Market, France
One of Europe’s oldest Christmas markets, Strasbourg began back in 1570, but it’s evolved considerably since then.
Spread over more than 10 locations, including a section of the UNESCO world heritage site of Grande Île, the hugely popular market lights up the city with thousands of twinkling Christmas lights and festive ornaments.
Drawing in over two million people a year, the festive market features hundreds of wooden chalet stalls selling everything from decorations and presents to local Alsatian wine.
Place Kleber is probably its most popular spot thanks to the Great Christmas Tree on display.
But visitors will be treated to countless magical sights while wandering through the city’s narrow alleyways and pretty squares.
Strasbourg Christmas Market begins on November 24 and closes on December 24.
Brussels Winter Wonders, Belgium
Brussels really comes to life at Christmas time thanks to Winter Wonders, which is more akin to a festival than a market.
One of Belgium’s biggest and most popular events, the annual extravaganza extends across the Bourse, Place de la Monnaie, Grand Place, Place Sainte Catherine and Marche aux Poissons.
A light and sound show, ice skating, and fairground rides are among the activities to enjoy, while visitors can also browse through about 200 or so chalets serving glühwein, Belgian beers and waffles and stare in wonder at the enormous Christmas tree erected in Grand Place.
Brussels Winter Wonders will run from November 24 to December 31.
Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square Christmas markets, Prague, Czech Republic
To say the city of Prague goes all out at Christmas is something of an understatement.
The Czech capital is the very definition of a winter wonderland during the festive period.
While there’s no shortage of markets throughout the city, the main ones can be found in Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square.
Thankfully these spots are only a few minutes’ walk apart, so revelers can easily visit both in a day.
Old Town Square provides endless entertainment in the form of live shows, dance performances and creative workshops, while Wenceslas Square is great for handmade gifts and local treats like klobasa (Czech sausage) and mulled wine.
The markets will be open from December 2 to January 6, 2024.
Fira de Santa Llucia, Barcelona
Dating back to 1786, Fira de Santa Llucia has grown from a one-day event to commemorate the feast day of Santa Llucia, which falls on December 13, to a three-week fair.
Held right outside Barcelona Cathedral, the bustling market is separated into four different sections.
The first is nativity and figurines, where visitors can pick up nativity scene type decorations and figurines. Greenery and plants is packed with both natural and artificial trees and various types of plants.
The crafts section features handmade products and jewelry, while simbombes is designated for musical instruments.
There are also many festive activities like storytelling, a Christmas parade, and the caga tio, an enormous pinata-style Christmas log that spills out candy and gifts when beaten with a stick.
Fira de Santa Llucia will be taking place from November 24 to December 23.
I Mercati Natale, Piazza Santa Croce, Florence
There’s much to see at this enchanting market, but nothing can top the beautiful backdrop supplied by Santa Croce’s Franciscan Basilica.
Although this traditional fair is transported from Heidelberg, Germany to Florence every year, it’s a very Italian affair in many ways thanks to the scenery and the many Italian treats, such as panforte, for sale.
However, there’s certainly no shortage of gingerbread, strudel and traditional Heidelberg Lebkuchen cookies.
Those who take a walk to the nearby Piazza del Duomo will be treated to a magnificent nativity scene, as well as an impressive Christmas tree that’s lit up ahead of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8.
I Mercati Natale begins on November 18 and runs to December 17.
Advent in Zagreb, Croatia
It’s easy to see why Zagreb was voted the “best Christmas market destination” in travel portal European Best Destinations’ online poll for three consecutive years.
Made up of around 25 Christmas markets spread across the Croatian capital, Advent in Zagreb is a magical sight.
Think live nativity scenes, ice sculpture carvings, outdoor gigs, pop-up bars and a Christmas tram complete with Santa and his elves.
Advent in Zagreb also has an area devoted to “fooling around” (or “fuliranje”) where you’ll find delighted revelers dancing in the street while eating street food and listening to live entertainment.
Advent in Zagreb 2023 is scheduled to run from December 2 to January 7, 2024.
Christmas in Tivoli, Copenhagen, Denmark
Rumored to be the inspiration for Disneyland, this Danish amusement park and pleasure garden is a dazzling place to visit any time of year.
But you’ll struggle to find anywhere as enchanting as Tivoli Gardens during the festive period.
With over 1,000 beautifully decorated Christmas trees adorning the beautiful grounds, and everything from fairground rides to a traditional Pixie Band for entertainment, it’s a winter experience like no other.
The annual Lucia procession on December 13, where more than 100 girls process through the gardens carrying candles and singing to mark St. Lucia’s Day, is a particular highlight, along with the firework displays that take place between December 25 and 26, as well as New Year’s Eve.
Christmas in Tivoli is taking place from November 19 to December 31. (The park will be closed on December 24).
Tallinn Christmas Market, Estonia
The Estonian capital’s annual affair is one of the more modern European Christmas markets.
Set inside Tallinn’s Town Hall Square, it’s packed full of stalls with traditional Estonian cuisine, artisan bread and handicrafts for sale.
On the entertainment front, there are carousels, a winter grotto and a Santa who rolls up on a sleigh complete with reindeer.
Visitors are also treated to regular performances by dance troupes and choirs.
But as with many such markets, the Christmas tree is the main event. Tallinn’s tree has been displayed here since 1441.
Tallinn Christmas Market 2023 is due to take place from December 1 to January 7, 2024.
Skansen’s Christmas Market, Stockholm
Stockholm isn’t exactly lacking when it comes to Christmas markets, but none are more traditional than Skansen.
Set on the island of Djurgarden in the world’s oldest open-air museum, it’s a wonderful exhibit of Swedish culture with some added yuletide magic.
The historical houses on display in the museum are decked out in colorful decorations for the occasion and all the tables inside are set up for Christmas dinner.
Visitors can make their own decorations at Christmas workshops, take part in regular craft demonstrations or join in with the dancing games around the tree at Bollnäs Square, Skansen’s main site.
Skansen’s Christmas Market is open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from November 24 until December 17.
Tuomaan Markkinat, Helsinki
This wonderfully Scandinavian Christmas market is held in Helsinki’s Senate Square, near the Emperor Alexander II statue.
Tuomaan Markkinat’s centerpiece is a vintage carousel, but the countless vendors selling traditional Christmas delicacies, glogi, Finland’s take on mulled wine, and handicrafts are also a big draw.
Younger attendees can visit Santa Claus, who has his own wooden cabin here, and join festive activities like Christmas cookie decorating.
The market’s food court is particularly impressive, with a host of top eateries to choose from.
Tuomaan Markkinat is set to run from December 1 to December 22.
Vörösmarty Square and St. Stephen’s Basilica Christmas Market, Budapest, Hungary
Budapest has two main festive markets – St. Stephen’s Basilica Christmas market, or Advent Bazilika, and Vorosmarty Square Christmas market.
The former takes place in front of the famous basilica, where crowds gather to watch the regular 3D light shows that are projected onto its facade.
In addition, there are around 150 stalls with vendors selling sweet treats, wine and arts and crafts.
Meanwhile, the Vorosmarty Square market is positioned in the heart of the city and attracts over 800,000 visitors annually.
Its main highlight is usually a giant advent calendar that reveals a new window display on a daily basis from December 1 to 23, although the fantastic Hungarian foods that line its stalls – langos and chimney cake are also particular standouts.
The markets will open on November 17 and close on January 1, 2024.
Christkindlesmarkt and Gendarmenmarkt, Germany
Open-air winter street markets have long been associated with Germany, and the European country is home to some of the oldest and most visited festive markets.
Capital city Berlin has around 80 to choose from, but Gendarmenmark is perhaps its most renowned.
Positioned between the Franzosischer Dom and Deutscher Dom, it’s a maze of wooden huts with Bratwurst, mulled wine and ginger bread for sale, along with unique Christmas gifts.
At night, visitors can enjoy nightly concerts with dance and musical performances.
Over in Nuremberg, Bavaria’s second-largest city, the famous Christkindlesmarkt has been around since the 16th century.
During the Christmas period, around 200 stands are erected in the city’s central market square and the whole area is abuzz with activity.
The market usually draws in around two million people every year and is undoubtedly one of Nuremberg’s annual highlights.
Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt 2023 kicks off on December 1 and ends on December 24.
Gendarmenmarkt opens on November 27 and is set to close on December 31.
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, London
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland is one of the most highly anticipated winter events in the UK capital.
The festive favorite, which began in 2005, brings in huge crowds every year thanks to its 200-plus rides, including a 70-meter-high big wheel, mulled wine stations and an outdoor skating rink, which happens to be the largest in the UK.
Visitors can also take part in ice sculpting workshops, watch a circus troupe, listen to live music at the lively Fire Pit bar, or tuck into some of the many foods on offer at the Street Food Village.
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland is scheduled to open on November 17 and will continue until January 1, 2024
Krakow Christmas Market, Poland
Stretched across a huge section of Rynek Glowny, the Polish city’s central square, Krakow Christmas Market is among the largest in Europe.
Historic landmark St. Mary’s Basilica serves as a stunning backdrop to the yearly event, which has been around since the early 14th century, as does the Renaissance Cloth Hall.
Revelers can tuck into Polish delicacies such as kiełbasa (sausage,) shop for handcrafted gifts or treats, while taking in live music from folk bands and carol singers.
The market also hosts a nativity competition in which participants, including school children and local artists, create small nativity scenes, or cribs, which are displayed at the statue of Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz, situated in the square, before a winner is chosen.
Krakow Christmas Market will be held from November 24 to January 1, 2024.
Christmas Wonderland at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore
Now in its 10th year, Singapore’s Christmas Wonderland is continuing to grow in popularity.
Staged at the famous Gardens by the Bay nature park, the annual event, which lasts for around four weeks, covers more than 27,000 square meters and is separated into three areas – Supertree Grove, Frosty’s Fairground at The Meadow, and Gingerbread Grove – all packed with attractions.
From fairground rides, to a Christmas train, to light and sound shows, to carnival games, to a life-sized gingerbread house lit up by candy canes, to live performances, there’s plenty of activities to choose from.
The 20-meter tall Spalliera, a magnificent design inspired by Mesola Castle in north Italy is one of the main highlights, along with the stunning Walk of Lights, which is illuminated by around 75,000 bulbs.
Christmas Wonderland at Gardens by the Bay opens on December 1 and closes on January 1, 2024
The Distillery Winter Village, Toronto
Formerly known as the Toronto Christmas Market, the Distillery Winter Village is an intimate and charming take on the traditional European festive market.
Held in the historic Distillery District, it features outdoor shopping cabins and food vendors, Christmas carol sing-a-longs, a gingerbread hunt and a 50-foot Christmas tree.
Visitors will be able to find everything from artisanal food, handcrafted gifts and festive drinks at the numerous stalls here.
The Distillery Winter Village 2023 will be open daily (other than December 25) from November 16 to the New Year.
Winter Village at Bryant Park, New York
Each and every year, Manhattan’s Bryant Park is transformed into a magnificent wonderland for the Winter Village.
The renowned open-air market is a wonderful sight to behold, with over 150 custom-designed kiosks and a 17,000-square-foot outdoor rink that’s free to use provided you have your own skates.
Its rinkside bar and food hall The Lodge provides an eclectic mix of eateries, along with an outdoor beer garden and a cocktail bar.
Outside the Winter Village, the Josephine Shaw Lowell Fountain is at its most beautiful during winter time, when it regularly freezes over.
The Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park opened on October 27 and is scheduled to run until March 3, 2024.
First launched in 1996, Christkindlmarket Chicago takes inspiration from the historic Christkindelmarkt in Nuremberg, Germany, bringing a taste of traditional German Christmas markets to the ‘Windy City’.
Now staged across three locations around Chicago, Daley Plaza, Gallagher Way at Wrigley Field and RiverEdge Park in Aurora, the hugely popular market provides live entertainment alongside a multitude of stalls selling everything from bratwurst and hot spiced wine, to hand-crafted ornaments.
Admission is free, but those attending the Daley Plaza market who are keen to skip the crowds have the option to purchase a $25 fast-entry pass on weekends.
Christkindlmarket Chicago runs from November 17 to December 24.
Information correct at the time of publishing.
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