Where to Look for the Best Christmas Markets in Europe?

Beautifully decorated stalls on a Christmas market

When someone talks about the most wonderful time of the year, there is no questioning what this person means (and not just because of Andy Williams’ eponymous hit). There is something special about the Christmas holidays. There is something pure in shared impatience for the magic to come that binds everyone who celebrates this beautiful holiday. It is a season of hope and anticipation, excess and indulgence, endless queues in the shopping centers, and a gift rush. But most importantly, this is a season of the pure joy, love, and stunning lights of Christmas markets.

The spirit of the holidays arrives much earlier than the big day itself, when the cities start changing into the celebration mode at the end of November. The shopping window displays begin to sparkle with lights. Santa creates a base in every mall, trying to determine who is naughty and nice. Amazing Christmas fairs and venues appear in every major European city, bringing light, splendor and love to everyone. But do you know where to look for the best of them?

Top Christmas Markets in Europe: Germany, France & Switzerland

Best Christmas Markets in Europe
Best Christmas Markets in Europe

Every European country has at least one annual Christmas market to boast. However, in most cases, the number of annual fairs is much higher, and the traditional festive markets are hosted in every major city. To cover each European country would take a while, so let’s settle for something less ambitious for starters. We invite you to gather around the fireplace, get a mug of hot chocolate (mulled wine is also an option), and talk about three countries renowned for upholding the marvelous tradition to the highest possible standards – Germany, France, and Switzerland. 

Fairytale Christmas in Germany

Best Christmas Markets in Europe
Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin

The picturesque capital of the country, lively Berlin, houses some of the top Christmas markets in Germany. Make sure to stop by the Gendarmenmarkt fair and the Fairytale Christmas Market at Jagdschloss Grunewald if you happen to be in the area in December. The Gendarmenmarkt has a particular location on the most beautiful square in Berlin. It looks especially lovely decorated for the holidays. The seemingly endless wooden stalls offer fantastic hand-made goods, and visitors have a chance to watch the skilled craftsmen doing their spell working right on the spot. The Fairytale Christmas Market is in the courtyard of the oldest preserved castle of Berlin, Jagdschloss Grunewald. As you can imagine, the decorated market stalls, shining lights, and Christmas trees add another layer of magic to the fairytale location. To top it all, famous fictional characters like Hansel and Gretel greet visitors upon arrival to enhance the experience.  

Dresden is another good place to hunt for the Christmas atmosphere. Notably, it is the oldest Christmas market in the country. As the tradition dictates, the aroma of hot Gluhwein and freshly baked German Christmas bread fills the air, and the Christstollen and the happy laughter of children having fun on the carousels. Its calling card is the traditional handcrafted nutcrackers that would make a lovely souvenir to bring back. 

Best Christmas Markets in Europe
Munich Christmas Market

Munchner Christkindlmarkt, nestled in the heart of Munich, is a place to look for the authentic traditional atmosphere with an exciting twist. This fair dates back to the 14th century and is one of the most beautiful events of the year. The decorations are something out-of-this-world. The offered goods are like gold dust, and Bavarians couldn’t help but add fire to the classical festivities. Hence, the live music and streets performances are truly outstanding. 

Best Christmas Markets in France

Best Christmas Markets in Europe
France Christmas Market

The tour of France Christmas markets should start with the grandest and most beloved of them all. We are talking about Strasbourg Christmas Market, of course. Traditionally held in the city’s historic quarter, this place crawls with tourists and locals alike, searching for a cheerful atmosphere, delicious food, and interesting gift ideas. Hundreds of stalls offer hand-painted nativity figurines, unique Christmas decorations, elegant jewelry, and many other remarkable goods. As you can see, Strasbourg Christmas Market is an excellent place to get in a jolly mood, take some fabulous pictures, and maybe even find perfect presents.

The city of Bordeaux is another great destination. The area is famous not only for its vineyards but also for its incredible Christmas Market. The fair features over 150 vendors selling hand-painted Christmas tree decorations, leather goods, jewelry, and other local products. It’s a fantastic place to start with holiday shopping and treat yourself to an early Christmas gift while enjoying all the classical attributes of the traditional seasonal fairs.

Make sure to check out Avignon’s Christmas market if you are interested in the more off-the-beaten-path destination. It’s not as famous as its rivals and a bit smaller in size. However, it doesn’t affect the festive atmosphere of the market in the slightest. The fair is exactly the right place to look for a present for your loved ones without the need to tolerate huge crowds. You can get a glass of hot mulled wine and take your time browsing the charming wooden stalls. And if you are not in the mood for shopping, stop by to soak in the festive atmosphere and admire a giant Christmas tree, fairy lights, and animated nativity scenes.

Top Christmas Venues in Switzerland

Best Christmas Markets in Switzerland
Switzerland Christmas Market

Undoubtedly, one of the most special markets in Switzerland is in Basel. Imagine that the smell of waffles, mulled wine, and famous grilled sausages literally fill the air. Over 100 wooden stalls decorated with twinkling lights offer a wide choice of gift ideas and high-quality local goods. The fair gem is a stunning Christmas pyramid of 13 meters in height. Obviously, this is a popular meeting point, and an excellent place to get Instagram-worthy pictures. 

The scenic capital of Switzerland can’t boast the oldest Christmas market in the country, unlike Basel, but it doesn’t mean that Bern’s annual fair is inferior in any way. The city houses three markets every year, and each of them is beautifully unique. But if you have time for one visit only, we advise you to head to the newest addition, Bern Star Marke. Arguably this is the most spectacular venue in Switzerland. The decorations are superb, and if you are on the market for some gift ideas, vendors offer a wide variety of designer to handcrafted items, so everyone can find something to taste. 

Zurich, in turn, astonishes everyone with one of Europe’s largest indoor Christmas markets, Christkindlimarkt. The place invites you to enjoy live music, enthusiastic chatter, children’s laughter, and love. There is no chance that you will fail to find a perfect gift among all the goodness on offer! The classic place for the event is the central train station of Zurich. So if you happen to travel to the city by train during the run-up to Christmas, make sure to allocate some time to visit this magical fair. 

If you are looking for an A-lister among the best Christmas markets of Europe, there are quite a few competitors for the crown. They are scattered all around Europe, and a few entries mentioned here are only a tiny fraction. Each candidate is one-of-a-kind and has something extraordinary to offer. To choose th ebst among them is highly unfair as well as virtually impossible. So the best course of action is to visit at least a few of Europe’s best Christmas markets on the list and make a choice for yourself. There is no guarantee that you will pick a favorite, of course, but there is no doubt that you will have a lot of fun in the process. And we will be happy to help you organize the Christmas tour of your dreams!

by Ksenia Zaiceva