There's nothing better than taking a leisurely stroll through a European Christmas market on a crisp cold night. Whether you're sipping a warmed apple cider or perusing hand-crafted trinkets, the atmosphere is just right to get you in the holiday spirit. For those ready to start planning a trip, what are you waiting for? From Italy to Austria, these are the best European holiday markets to visit this year.
Christkindlestmarkt, Nuremberg, Germany
The holiday market in Nuremberg is comprised of over 150 stalls, which satiate the two million shoppers that turn up each year. What sets this market apart is that it’s a place for authentic crafts—but not tchotchkes. Plastic wreaths aren’t allowed, and in general, kitschy elements are discouraged. The Christkindlestmarkt opens on the Friday before the first Sunday of Advent with a festive opening ceremony. Don’t forget to munch as you shop—they’re known for homemade gingerbread and, of course, the original Nuremberg bratwurst.
Lumières de Noël, Montbéliard, France
Montbéliard is southeast of Paris, near the Swiss border, and the whole city becomes a winter wonderland around the holidays. For an entire month, between November and December, 160 stalls assemble in the city center, all selling high-end, artisanal goods. The whole market is lit up and welcomes 570,000 visitors each year. This is where you’ll find products unique to France to bring home to your loved ones—from pork terrine and confit canard to soaps handmade in Marseille.
Viennese Christmas Market, Vienna, Austria
Supposedly a tradition for more than 700 years, this six-week market sets up its 150-plus vendor stalls outside city hall. There are reindeer rides for the children, and traditional spiced wine punch for the adults. This market is a Christmas carol come to life—you really will find chestnuts roasting on an open fire. You’ll also find hand-spun glass ornaments, aromatic holiday candles, and all the fried, sugar-coated pastries your heart desires. For the higher-end shoppers searching for one-of-a-kind gifts, there is also a smaller holiday market in the Spittelberg neighborhood.
Christmas Market, Krakow, Poland
Held in the Rynek Glowny district of Krakow, the market runs for roughly the first 25 days of December. Fresh snow often blankets the market, falling steadily as you roam the aisles of crafts. In terms of shopping sustenance, spiced nuts are a must-try holiday snack here. The Krakow market is a surprisingly good antiquing opportunity, and you’ll also come away with beautiful, hand-painted souvenirs. The Polish take pride in their craftsmanship—even the most basic souvenirs have been sculpted with care rather than mass-produced in a factory.
Winter Wonders, Brussels, Belgium
Open from the end of November to the beginning of January, Brussels’ winter festival, Plaisirs d’Hiver, is home to over 200 stalls. Some sell gifts, while others serve classic Belgium beers, waffles, and cones brimming with fries. The market stretches for a mile and a half and is located behind the church of St. Catherine. And if you find the whole experience a bit overwhelming, there are guided tours of the market for English speakers.
Advent, Zagreb, Croatia
The holiday season kicks off in Croatia when the advent wreath is hung around the Mandusevac fountain in the center of the city—they light the first candle of the wreath on December 2. If you are in town on a Sunday, stop by to see them continue to light the Advent wreath candles. The Croatian market has an enormous open-air skating rink, and the food vendors include some of Zagreb’s best restaurants. They also host live ice sculpture carving and free concerts in the middle of the market.
Tivoli Gardens Christmas Market, Copenhagen, Denmark
A picturesque Nordic holiday market, Tivoli Gardens hosts dozens of vendor stalls from mid-November through December. The stalls post up in small wooden houses that line the gardens, creating a snow-globe-town feel. There’s a small amusement park within the gardens, and of course, Santa and his reindeer stop by every year.
Santa Croce’s German Christmas Market, Florence, Italy
Santa Croce, a Franciscan-made basilica in the heart of Firenze, has an expansive piazza that hosts a German Christmas market every year. Though it’s a German market in Italy, you can still purchase high-quality Italian leather goods. And while there are authentic German treats at the Christmas market, from spaetzle to strudel, you’ll also be able to find Italian classics, like arancini, in abundance. After some holiday shopping and a hot drink, stop by the Duomo to see their famed nativity set.