1. Brussels, Belgium
Started in 2002 and puts on the Plaisirs d’Hiver/Winter Pret (“Pleasures of Winter” festival which includes a sound and light show on the Grand Place. There is a market that surrounds the Bourse (Stock Exchange) and runs along the Place Sainte Catherine. There are plenty of souvenirs, handmade crafts, food and drink available, including Belgium’s finest chocolate and beers. There’s entertainment all around including a Ferris wheel and ice skating rink. You can visit this market from late November through early January. Don’t forget to keep your eyes out for the Winter Wonders guest of honor!
2. Copenhagen, Denmark
Trees decorated in Christmas lights can be seen everywhere in Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen’s historic amusement park, during this Christmas market that runs from mid-November through late December. Wander past the four miles of Christmas lights while enjoying savory pastries and hot mulled wine. Don’t forget to watch out for the elves that roam the city around Christmas time, because they just might bring you presents if you leave them bowls of porridge in the attic!
3. Dresden, Germany
What’s better than a sweet, delicious fruitcake? How about a four-ton fruitcake? This supersize dessert is paraded through the city in early December and then is cut into pieces for the market-goers. Fun fact: this Dresden Striezelmarkt is the oldest continuing Christmas market in Germany, dating back to 1434.
4. London, England
There is no shortage of Christmas cheer and holiday festivities at the Christmas market on Regent Street in London. London’s largest outdoor skating rink can be found in the Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland, along with a toboggan slide, a Ferris wheel, carolers and a traditional German Christmas market. What makes this location so unique? Each year there is The Great Christmas Pudding Race in early December, where contestants who dress in costume make their way through an obstacle course in Covent Garden all while balancing fruitcakes on spoons!
5. Munich, Germany
Here you will be able to walk around an 85-foot, shimmering and bright Christmas tree on the Marienplatz. While you’re walking around, don’t forget to grab gingerbread, potato pancakes or warm sausages. Let your kids dress up as angels in the “Heavenly Workshop” located in the Town Hall’s pub where they can do arts and crafts and bake cookies. Let the taste of Christmas come to you, as the Christmas tram travels through the city serving gingerbread and spice wine. Catch all the winter fun from late November through December 24th.
6. Nuremberg, Germany
Known as one of the most famous Christmas markets of them all, the market in Nuremberg attracts some two million visitors and shoppers. Hundreds of stalls fil the market streets with gifts, crafts, toys and food. There is fun had by all, even the stall owners, who get to participate in a contest to see who can take home the “Gold Plum Person” prize for having the best “Nuremberg Plum People” puppet.
7. Prague, Czech Republic
Located in Wenceslas Square and Old Town Square are the two best Christmas markets of Prague. There are plenty of sweets to be eaten, mulled wine to be drank, and fun to be had. The highlight of this market isn’t the small petting zoo, manger scene, brightly decorated lights or giant Christmas tree. Instead, the highlight of this market is on December 5th when Mikulas roams the streets of Old Town Square with an angel and a devil rewarding the good children and giving a little fright to the naughty ones.
8. Rome, Italy
If there is one city to display extravagant Nativity scenes during the Christmas season, it’s Rome. There are nativity scenes of all sizes, pizza parlors, toys, carnival games and 101 different kinds of peanut brittle. In stalls throughout the market, you will see “Bafana’s” with a jolly Bobbo Natalee. “Le Bafana” is the Christmas witch who brings Italian children presents on Epiphany in early January.
9. Salzburg, Austria
Documenting back to the 15th century, Salzburg’s Christkindlmarkt is one of Europe’s oldest markets. With fewer than 100 stalls, it’s smaller than the other well-known Christmas markets around Europe. Along with a crafts market and a living Nativity scene, there’s also one of the world’s largest Advent calendars which can be seen on the 17th century palace built for Salzbburg’s archbishop princes, called Scholls Hellbrunn. You can experience this market from late November through December 26th.
10. Strasbourg, France
Complete with singing choirs, an ice rink, Nativity plays, and mulled wine, the Christmas market in Strasbourg is known as the oldest Christmas market in France. Surrounding Notre Dame Cathedral and along Place Broglie, there are stalls filled with ornaments, figurines, and lots of tasty treats including cookies, pretzels and roasted chestnuts. Running from late November through late December, you can be enchanted by the warm garlands and Christmas lights that glitter throughout the neighborhood of this market.
Visiting a European Christmas Market is now on my bucket list. Which one looks the best to you?