23 Photos That Will Make You Want to Go to a European Christmas Market Right Now

Christmas market in Speyer, Germany
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Christkindlmarkt. Weihnachtsmarkt. Marché de Noël.

Whatever name they go by, Christmas markets are a holiday staple with a long history in Europe. The tradition of the Christmas market can be traced back hundreds of years – all the way back into the Late Middle Ages, in fact. The markets began in German-speaking regions of Europe that today make up Germany, Austria, Northern Italy, and the Alsace region of France.

And it's in these regions that you can find the best modern-day Christmas markets, too.

Christmas market in Rudesheim, Germany

Rudesheim market at night

The markets pop up at the beginning of Advent and last the four weeks until Christmas, drawing thousands (sometimes MILLIONS) of visitors each year. Some cities have one main market, while others have handfuls of smaller ones, often with unique themes. The markets are usually made up of decorated wooden stalls set up in a city square, with vendors selling everything from handmade Christmas ornaments to hot mulled wine and gingerbread.

The market stalls are often decorated with twinkle lights and fake snow, making for a wintery, festive atmosphere regardless of the weather.

Christmas market in Colmar, France

Visiting Europe at Christmastime is something that I've always dreamed of doing, and I finally got the chance this year – I went on a cruise down the Rhine with Viking River Cruises and visited no less than seven cities with Christmas markets throughout Germany, France, and Switzerland. Even though there was no snow in any of the cities I visited this year (darn you, unseasonably warm winter!), it was still pretty magical.

In case you need a little more convincing to add “visiting European Christmas markets” to your own bucket list, here are 23 that will make you want to get yourself to a festive market ASAP!

Christmas market in Colmar, France

1 – Beautiful decorations in Colmar, France in the Alsace region.

Heidelberg Christmas market

2 – Colorful market in Heidelberg, Germany.

Speyer Christmas market

3 – Speyer, Germany, at dusk as all the twinkle lights turn on.

Cologne Cathedral Christmas market

4 – Christmas market at the foot of Cologne Cathedral; one of seven different markets in the city.

Basel Christmas market

5 – Basel Christmas market at Münsterplatz at night.

Gluhwein mug in Germany

6 – A Glühwein mug! Each market (especially in Germany) has a special market mug each year. You pay a deposit when you buy a mulled wine or hot chocolate, and then can just keep the mug if you want. For just 2 or 3 Euro, these mugs make great (and affordable) souvenirs!

Christmas market in Rudesheim, Germany

7 – Rudesheim, Germany decked out for the holidays.

Cologne Christmas market

8 – Skating rink at the “Heimat der Heinzel” (Home of the Elves) market in Cologne, Germany.

European Christmas market

9 – Is that Santa in this stall in Strasbourg?!?

Rudolfplatz Christmas market in Cologne

10 – Adorable market stalls at the Rudolfplatz market in Cologne.

Basel Christmas market

11 – Münsterplatz market in Basel, Switzerland.

Basel Christmas market

12 – The market at Barfüsserplatz in Basel – the largest Christmas market in Switzerland.

Speyer Christmas market

13 – They go all out decorating the stalls in Speyer.

The Angels' Christmas market in Cologne

14 – The pretty Angels' Market at Neumarkt in Cologne.

Christmas market in Rudesheim, Germany

15 – A square lit up and filled with people in Rudesheim, Germany.

Rudolfplatz Christmas market in Cologne

16 – Rudolfplatz market in Cologne – one of the smaller (and less crowded) markets in the city.

Christmas decorations in Colmar, France

17 – I think Colmar, France, wins for the best Christmas decorations!

German Christmas market

18 – A very cute Christmas market stall.

Christmas market in Rudesheim, Germany

19 – Getting into the Christmas spirit in Rudesheim.

Heidelberg Christmas market

20 – Another market in Heidelberg, Germany.

Rudesheim Christmas market

21 – Christmas market stalls lit up at night.

Christmas market at Cologne Cathedral

22 – This is what a Christmas market looks like pre-opening. Most of the markets don't open until about 11 a.m., like this one at Cologne Cathedral.

European Christmas market

23 – Christmas ornaments and decorations galore in Strasbourg, France.

How to do it

Most cities – large or small – in this part of Europe have a Christmas market (or seven). Nuremberg has one of the most famous markets in Germany, and other German cities like Munich, Dresden, Stuttgart, and Berlin are also known for their holiday market offerings. You'll find markets all over Europe, though, from Brussels to Prague to Vienna. Even Spain puts on Christmas markets (though I'm told you won't find much food or mulled wine at those, which kind of defeats the purpose in my opinion!).

Visiting Christmas markets can be as simple as booking a holiday getaway to a city with a popular market for a few days.

Or you could do what I did and book a Christmas market river cruise. We saw SO many cool cities and Christmas markets on my Rhine Getaway cruise with Viking, and enjoyed holiday-themed activities (and drinks) onboard, too. If a Viking River Cruise can fit into your budget one of these years, I highly recommend going in December!

Have you been to any Christmas markets in Europe? If so, which has been your favorite?

Photos from Christmas Markets in Europe

 

*Note: I did partner with Viking River Cruises for this trip, however all opinions and photos are 100% my own. You can't buy my opinions, no matter how much mulled wine is involved.  😉

61 Comments

  • Rashaad says:

    My favorite one is Brussels – home of some amazingly delicious waffles 🙂

  • Laurie says:

    Gorgeous photos! You must have a great camera! Ha ha…just kidding…you are a GREAT photographer; the camera is just a tool. 🙂 My favourite one is the Nuremberg market – I’ve been lucky enough to have gone twice as I have a friend in the area. We did quite a few markets and I must admit I was “marketed” out by the time I left Germany but four years later I’m ready to tackle them again sometime! The Cologne ones look great as well….I visited some of the same places as you did on my Rhine cruise many moons ago but I think a cruise at Christmas time would be awesome. There is just something magical about the markets – especially at night with the lights, the people, decorations and the wonderful smells! I agree…the mugs are great souvenirs. Just about to brew up a cuppa to have in one of them right now – always fun to bring back something that has a lovely memory that you can actually use.

    • Amanda says:

      Going to the Nuremberg market is definitely on my list, especially after visiting so many other great ones in Germany! Cologne was one of my favorite stops, simply because there were so many markets and they were all so DIFFERENT. (Though my feet were killing me by the end of that day after walking to all of them, haha!)

      Being in Europe and around all the markets around Christmas really was magical.

  • Meghan Oaks says:

    Christmas market season in Germany is my favorite season! I love the lights, the decorations, the Christmas carols, and most of all, the Glühwein! Glad you got to see so many of them on your river cruise!

  • Lovely post! I Love Christmas markets:) I’ve been to Vienna recently and wrote about its charming Christmas markets:)

  • Dominique says:

    The Christmas Market River Cruise sounds like a great idea! I’ll keep this on my list of potentials for next year! I’ve only visited two Christmas Markets in my life – the one in Edinburgh and this year I’ve been to Dusseldorf. I will also go to Maastricht which is supposed to have the best Christmas Market in The Netherlands.

  • Caroline says:

    These are amazing pictures! Even the pre-opening one looks festive and inviting. Definitely want to re-create this trip some day and experience all the Christmas market magic 🙂

  • Cam says:

    Love Christmas in Europe! We have family that lives in Reil, Germany (just south of Koblenz) so we visited them during the holidays about 6 years ago. One of my fave memories. Vancouver set up a similar market a few years ago but its’s just not the same!

  • Erin says:

    Oooh, I didn’t need any more convincing about the Christmas markets, but you have certainly added more beautiful photos to my list of evidence as to why a Christmas markets trip would be a great idea. Thanks Amanda!

  • Michelle says:

    These are absolutely beautiful!

  • I just got back from a weekend in Brugge to see the Christmas markets there! They were quite small, with more food then Christmasy items to purchase, but it was adorable! I did find some really special trinkets to purchase and enjoyed much delicious food and mulled wine. Would love to go to the ones in Cologne!

  • Julie says:

    I am heading to Paris and Brussels on Dec 26th and am happy that the Christmas markets will still be open. I so badly wanted to visit them before Christmas, but couldn’t fit it into my schedule. But, a flash sale by British Airways led me to an impulse buy!! A gift to my husband and I – a trip to Paris and Brussels, on our own, no children! Woo! Hoo! Can’t wait!

  • Rachel says:

    Great photos! These are all places I definitely want to visit. My favorites so far have been in Brussels, Budapest and Vienna!

  • Bryan says:

    Awesome photos! Puts the Christmas market at the German brewery here in Charlotte to shame.

  • Kirsten says:

    We just came back from Germany and visited 7 different markets between France and Germany. My favorite was a small one in the Residenz in Munich, my kids loved the Kids Market in Nuremberg, and my husband’s favorite was Rothenburg ob der Tauber. One thing is for sure, it is definitely something everyone should experience!

  • Cindy says:

    Great photos! I would love to do one of those Christmas market river cruises.

    • Amanda says:

      I thought it was such a great way to (easily) visit a lot of markets! Plus, river cruising in and of itself is really fun and relaxing. I can definitely see myself doing another one!

  • Amanda says:

    Wow, this will get anyone in the mood for Christmas! Will pin this!

  • Wow, Colmar looks so colorful and festive! And I love the orderly lanes of the German ice skating rink. Over the past few weeks, I’ve enjoyed holiday decorations in Lisbon, Porto, Barcelona, and Dublin, and am currently exploring the Christmas markets of the Baltic states. So far Riga, Latvia wins for this region!

  • Danny says:

    Great photos! You’ve really done a beautiful job capturing the energy and atmosphere of Christmas markets in Europe. I’ve been living in Germany for the past three years, and one of my absolute favorites is the Medieval Christmas Market in Esslingen am Neckar (near Stuttgart). It’s a bit out of the way, but if you’re ever in the area during the Christmas season, I definitely recommend a visit!

  • Lotte says:

    All those lights look so festive! It is way to hot though, not a proper summer with ice and snow. Maybe in January, I have my fingers crossed:-)

  • Lili says:

    While I loved the markets in Germany, I also have a great fondness for the markets in Italy after Christmas. And seeing everyone converge on Piazza Navona in Rome on the eve of the Epiphany was amazing!

  • ‘Love! ‘Love! ‘Love your photographs! And sure, I’ve been to many a Christmas Market as I live in the home of Christmas Markets itself – Germany!
    p.s. I’ve been to Christmas Markets in various German cities, France and England.

  • Tonya says:

    These are beautiful and on my bucket list for sure! Christmas is my favorite time of year and I love all the sights, sounds and smells of Christmas. I know Europe is famous for them, but have you been to any markets in the states?

    • Amanda says:

      No, I can’t say I’ve been to any in the States! I’ve heard Chicago has a pretty big one, but I don’t know of a whole lot of great Christmas markets in the US.

  • Audrey says:

    These look lovely! I am yet to spend winter in Europe, so I’ve never been able to experience the Christmas markets – I know I would love all the gingerbread and glühwein!!

  • Our Wanders says:

    Wow, you’ve really seen a lot! We don’t really need pictures to want to go to Christmas markets as we love them so much! 😀

    Vienna is our favorite so far! We’ve been to Vienna earlier, but we’ve seen it in its Christmas glory for the first time this year. We love Vienna so much anyway and we have another magical memory about it now after our Christmas trip. 🙂

    Happy holidays!

  • Sammi says:

    I visited Bath market this year, and there was not enough mulled wine, or food- tho’ there was a pop up food market in the Southgate centre! There wasn’t ANY baileys hot chocolate either, which made me very sad! The Koln markets look awesome– especially with the ice skating.

    • Amanda says:

      The Cologne markets were definitely the most varied – and perhaps the most festive! Definitely would rank high on my list of best Christmas markets!

  • Linda March says:

    I haven’t managed to get into Germany, Austria or Switzerland to see any of the christmas markets, but I’ve been in two Christmas markets in Romania – specifically in Timisoara and Sibiu. Small, but lovely, with a lot of local products on display, hot wine with cinnamon and orange and a nice atmosphere.

    I dream that someday I will manage to get to the Viena Christmas market. But not this year. Maybe the next one.

  • Britt says:

    Omg that Prager Schinken at the Christmas Market in Speyer was probably the best thing I ate in all of Germany. Speyer was also one of my favourite Christmas Markets, and the Cathedral was amazing (well worth the two hour detour on the way from Wurzburg to Trier). My other favourite markets was the one in St Wolfgang, Austria (more like a whole christmas town!), Wurzburg, Germany and the medieval Christmas market in Munich where they set out Gluhwein on fire in goblets! So awesome and unique.

    I think I’ve got a bit of Christmas Market fatique now- but I don’t think I could ever get sick of drinking Gluhwein!

  • Florian says:

    Hey! I definitely recommend you going to the well-known Christmas market in Nuremberg. As I’ve seen you have already put it on your list, so don’t miss it out. It is very traditional and you can get “Nürnberger Glühwein” and the very tasty ginger bread for which the city is also known for. Furthermore, you should not miss the stands selling “Nuremberg Bratwurst” (grilled sausages). So in case you’re going, you will really have a good time there!

  • Loz says:

    I’m dying to go to Christmas markets in Europe. I would combine it with finding northern lights and Russia. Being from Sydney the flights are long and expensive so I think combining everything and going for aciuple of months would be my best bet. Love the photos. Can’t wait to see for myself.

    • Amanda says:

      That would be a great trip! Though I would suggest maybe visiting Russia and then heading to Norway to search for the Northern Lights – it’s not as cold in Norway, and they have much less cloud cover in the winter months!

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