A Guide to European Christmas Markets

A key ingredient to the winter festivities in Europe, Christmas markets date all the way back to the Middle Ages. If you haven’t already heard of them, these markets are basically fairytale winter wonderlands. Each with uniquely designed stalls, usually illuminated with beautiful lights, they are all very photogenic and picturesque. These markets are most popular among tourist, but also loved among locals. Each stall of each market is home to its own one-of-a-kind goos, from hot wine and Tredník to ornaments and notebooks. One of the highlights of my winter trip to Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic last year was the many Christmas markets I got to explore while there. So, since its now the holiday season, I thought it’d be fun to write a post about some of the markets that I visited this time last year.

Germany

Berlin

The capital of Germany, Berlin is home to about eighty unique Christmas markets throughout the city. Since I was there in early January, the only one still open when I arrived was in Breitschiedplatz. Located down the street from a major shopping area, this market is the perfect place to look for some more unique gifts rather than the mainstream things found at nearby shops. The market’s Gedächtniskirche and a huge Christmas tree mark the middle of the square, as well as over 100 different stands and 70 fair rides making for a stunning scene. While here, my family and I ordered a few desserts and ended up buying a couple unique Christmas ornaments. Other well known markets throughout Berlin include the ones at Potsdamer Platz, Alexanderplatz, Charlottenburg Palace, and in Spandau. Though I didn’t get to visit any of them, I have heard a lot of good things about each and I would definitely recommend checking them out if you’re in Berlin while they are open.

Munich

Out of all the cities on this list, Munich definitely has the longest history with Christmas markets. The city’s Christkindlmarkt has roots going back over 700 years, making it very traditionally German. Located within the Marienplatz, and throughout the side streets surrounding it, the New and Old Town Halls surrounding the square create a beautiful scene. Tons of handmade ornaments, exclusive decorations, and delicious treats can be found throughout this market’s stalls. There are many smaller markets in Munich, though the Christkindlmarkt undoubtedly overshadows all of them (for good reasons). We arrived in Munich on Christmas eve, the closing date of the main market, but we were luckily still able to experience it and walk around for the last couple hours it was open!

Austria

Salzburg

With its dozens of beautiful churches, chilly cold weather, and stunning surrounding countryside, Salzburg is the perfect winter town. There are twelve main Christmas markets within the town, the most well known being the Christkindlmarkt beneath Hohensalzburg Fortress. One of the oldest Christmas markets in the world, it has very deep historical roots. The delicacies sold at these stands include hot wine, roasted peanuts, and warm crepes, as well as many gifts. Since my family and I only had a day in Salzburg, and it happened to be after Christmas, we didn’t get to visit any of the main markets. However, while looking for lunch, we came across a small hidden market just off the main street of Getreidestrasse. This tiny market had a couple nice food stalls, which we decided to buy some lunch from, and some cool souvenirs.

Vienna

Each of Vienna’s Christmas markets have their own unique Viennese charm. Schönbrunn Palace’s market has about 60 stalls, each with their own original and handmade gifts and treats. With a beautiful yellow palace as the backdrop, plus a huge Christmas tree in the middle, this market is especially photogenic. I had an apple donut dish from one of the stands there for breakfast, and it was one of my favourite things I had throughout the entire trip. Maria-Theresien Platz’s market is also very impressive, with its great location between two famous museums. The market’s stalls surround the square’s imposing Maria Theresa statue, which the square is evidently named after.

Czech Republic

Prague

Two of the best Christmas markets in Prague include the ones in the city’s Old Town Square and Prague Castle. Old Town Square’s market is named one of the top ten in the world, being very well set up and designed overall. Spread throughout one of Prague’s largest squares, it is bordered by some of the best designed buildings in the town. Prague Castle’s market can be found within the courtyard of the castle, with a huge Christmas tree lighting up the area. Despite its small number of stalls, it was easily one of my favourite markets of my entire trip. I had a delicious pasta from one of the stands, as well as an amazing Trdelník, a traditional Czech dessert.

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