Spending Christmas in Europe is such a magical time. Luckily for you, Europe is full of amazing festive Christmas markets. The joyful spirit of Christmas lives on in Europe, from legendary Christmas Markets to Old-World traditions, tree-decorating, and steaming mugs of glühwein. It is sure to warm your heart when you visit Europe’s festive Christmas Markets.

If this is your first time planning your winter holidays in Europe, this guide will help you get into the holiday spirit. Typically these markets run from the last weekend in November right up to Christmas eve.

Best festive Christmas markets found in Europe

Typically a visit to a Christmas market involves shopping for handmade gifts, partaking in local foods at the stalls, drinking mulled wine, and sharing stories with family or friends.  A recipe for mulled wine and its preparation can be found here.

Winter wonderland in Bruges, Belgium

wintery wonderland at bruges canal

[winter along the canal in Bruges]

Undoubtedly, celebrating the holidays in Bruges, Belgium, would be ideal. As you gaze out at the beautiful view, you see gingerbread houses, cobblestone streets, and a wintery wonderland.

belgium chocolatet

[delicious Belgium chocolate in the stalls]

Back in the 17th-century chocolate was a sign of luxury.  Cocoa beans were first introduced to Belgium by explorers.  Initially, it was used to make hot chocolate.  Today travelers enjoy it made into fine chocolates.

STRASBOURG, FRANCE

pretzels in strasbourg france

Strasbourg is the oldest Christmas market in Europe. Often voted as a favorite amongst travelers, the market first started back in the year 1570. Stalls are set-up in front of the Strasbourg Cathedral. Strasbourg gets very crowded this time of year, so you may want to look at accommodations outside the town.

Nuremberg, Germany

Nuremberg childrens carousel

[children’s carousel]

To enter the market, you will pass through the old city walls. The market stalls offer visitors a variety of goods, including Christmas ornaments, sausages, and wines. If you enjoy gingerbread, you should try it along with sausages topped with sauerkraut. Of course, if you have time to spend in the city, don’t hesitate to visit the museums and explore the restaurants.

Vienna, Austria

vienna christmas market

[ride the train in Vienna]

No doubt, the Vienna Christmas markets are one of the best in Europe.  The central city has over 20 markets to explore.  To keep the kids entertained you’ll find an ice skating rink and children’s workshop at Rathausplatz in addition to market stalls.

There are many other options to visit festive Christmas markets in countries such as Prague, Budapest, Zurich, or Brussels. Some are so well-known that people plan their destination with the thought of visiting them. Others are hidden gems you may want to add to your trip itinerary.

ice skating in brussels

For instance, Brussels has an impressive Christmas market for families with lots of attractions including, ice skating, Ferris wheel rides, festive decorations, and light shows. Of course, one reason to pick Brussels is it stays open until the first weekend in January.

Experience the holiday season by River Cruise

A delightful way to experience timeless holiday magic while exploring several countries is by taking a river cruise. During the Holiday season, both the Rhine & Danube are popular routes for holiday cruisers. These tours provide delightful opportunities for families from around the world to reconnect onboard the elegant ships.

Final thoughts

I would recommend you plan your visit to the festive Christmas markets well in advance because the hotels fill up quickly. Also, you may want to include other regions into your itinerary if you plan on a self-drive trip.

Has our guide inspired you to visit the Christmas markets? Let us know in the comments below.