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

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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.  😉

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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63 Comments on “23 Photos That Will Make You Want to Go to a European Christmas Market Right Now

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  1. Thanks so much for the beautiful photos. We are booked for a Viking Cruise this December and I am even moor excited now that I’ve seen how beautiful it will be. I would love your thoughts on any of the excursions you went on during your trip. We are also planning to visit Lucern for a couple of days before cruise. Thanks again for the pics and any other advice you can give.
    Pam

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