The holiday season is here, meaning snowy adventures full of magical Christmas markets built to make shopping, eating and getting into the holiday spirit a key part of your European winter getaway.
It’s time to add a sprinkle of holiday magic to your travel plans as we dive into eight of our favorite whimsical Christmas markets. Found in both big cities and small towns, you can happily get lost amidst one-of-a-kind gifts, festive ornaments, seasonal snacks and hot mulled wine.
1. Advent Feast at the Basilica, Budapest, Hungary
Small but mighty – the Advent Feast at the Basilica has been voted the best Christmas market three times: 2020, 2022, and 2023. There’s a reason for this – from dancing lights projected on St. Stephen’s Basilica to weekends of folk dances, there is no detail spared to make it the most wonderful time of the year.
You can also head over to Vörösmarty Square and enjoy the oldest festive market in the city then revel in the huge advent calendar, which showcases a shiny new window display opening every day in December leading up to Christmas Eve.
2. Tallinn Christmas Market, Estonia
Held each year in Tallinn’s Town Hall Square, this snowy market will make you feel as if you’re being whisked directly into a Christmas movie. As you stroll down the cobblestone streets, you’ll understand why travelers voted Tallinn the Best Christmas Market of 2019. Highlights include a reindeer sleigh-pulling Santa, the savory smell of gingerbread, handmade Estonian gifts, Glögg (Estonian mulled wine) and the crème de la crème: its traditional towering Christmas tree which dates back to 1441 when Tallinn put up the first Christmas tree ever to be publicly displayed in Europe.
3. Magic Christmas in Colmar, France
Colmar’s picturesque beauty is straight out of a storybook year round, but at Christmas time it’s especially breathtaking with the addition of twinkling lights, cheery decorations and its very own skating rink. There are not one but six unique markets located in and all around Old Town, meaning you’ll want to spend a few days there for the full experience. And did we mention the food and drink selection? From the classic comforts of Spätzle to the sweet Chocolat Viennois drink there are tons of new tastes to discover. Exploring, eating and gifting in Colmar is really a treat so here’s the full guide to doing it right.
4. Trento Città del Natale, Italy
Nestled at the base of the Dolomites, the Piazza Fiera and Piazza Cesare Battisti are decked out for the holidays. Renowned for being the “Christmas Town,” Trento’s Città del Natale is a winter paradise with trees and streets covered in classic Christmas lights and nearly a hundred wooden market huts. You’ll find the region’s best sheep’s cheese, panettone, hand-carved wooden nativities and glass ornaments all for sale below the 13th-century Buonconsiglio Castle.
An extra Trento treat is the town’s effort to stay environmentally sustainable – not only do they sell local artisan products, but they use paper bags with a Dolomiti Energia certification while utilizing clean energy practices to give back to nature at such a crucial time of the year.
5. Salzburg Christkindlmarkt, Austria
Salzburg is a city taken straight from one of the most beloved films ever made: “The Sound of Music”. As such, it’s become increasingly popular in recent years as it was voted one of the world’s most festive cities to spend Christmas in.
Dating back to the 15th century, its Cathedral Square has been home to market stands and holiday celebrations. Today, Salzburg maintains its jolly holiday vibe with daily holiday sing-alongs and traditional wind music a few times a week. You can find warmth with a handful of hot chestnuts, some Bauernkrapfen (fried pastries) and you can even take a souvenir mug around the festival to refill with mulled wine and Apfelpunsch (an apple drink with an adult-sized punch). If you get the chance to enjoy it in the snow, you’ll feel like you’re in a winter wonderland. This UNESCO World Heritage site is one not to be missed – from the top of the Fortress Hohensalzburgdown down to the Salzach River.
6. Christmas in Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen, Denmark
As the second oldest amusement park in the world and the real-life inspiration for Disneyland, Tivoli’s twinking charm sparkles extra bright during the Christmas season. With over half a million fairy lights, traditional Pixie bands and chalet stalls lining the streets, this Danish institution is a showstopper in our lineup. Foodies will delight in the Flæskesteg sandwich – a Danish Christmas classic made from roast pork red cabbage, and a tangy mustard sauce; Aebleskiver – small pancake puffs topped with powdered sugar and Honninghjerter – a delicious honey cake that can be filled with jam and buttercream and topped with chocolate found here and around the city. Then you can wash it down with a mug of Scandinavian Gløgg, another form of the season’s best mulled wine.
Copenhagen is truly a Christmas marvel with markets all over the city, some other noteworthy ones are Kongens Nytorv and Højbro Plads. But to feel like a true kid, you can relax on the Polar Express before seeing Santa Claus and marvel at the fireworks that light up the sky on December 25 and again on December 31.
7. Advent in Zagreb, Croatia
Zagreb is regarded as one of the best Christmas Markets in the world, with good reason, having taken home the number one spot for Christmas markets in Europe three years in a row (maxing out on wins and giving room for other cities to take home the prize). This entire city takes part in the holiday magic with a giant Christmas tree and traditional stalls at Jelacic Square, a fountain that doubles as a festive light display in Park Zrinjevac and ice skating in Tomislavac.
For kids of all ages, the Jolly Christmas tram lets you take a spin around the city with Santa and his elves. And to keep the entertainment going, there is a “fuliranje” (fooling around event) dedicated to enjoying the best food and mulled wines the city has to offer while dancing freely in the streets.
8. Trier Weihnachtsmarkt, Germany
This medieval city is renowned as one of the most romantic Christmas markets worldwide. The festivities start in Dom Freihof Square with the Trier Cathedral behind hundreds of Christmas booths and continue into Hauptmarkt Square.
Home of the Mulled Wine Queen and Germany’s only singing Santa, Trier Weihnachtsmarkt or Christmas market is fun for the whole family. You can take home treats like classic snow globes, gingerbread ornaments or candles. And to taste local delicacies you can dig into Reibekuchen (fried potato cake), served with applesauce; Dampfnudeln (a large sweet dumpling with fruit fillings) and Pfannkuchen (german-style, bite-sized “pancakes”), topped with butter and cinnamon or a classic Bratwurst.
Bonus: Union Square Market, New York, New York
Though this is a European Christmas market list, we couldn’t complete it without a mention of NYC as no American Christmas story would be complete without it. Union Square is the Christmas market of Christmas markets in New York. There are over 160 stalls to visit filled with unique gifts for even the hardest to buy for, as well as delicious treats.
Beyond Union Square, New York is the definition of Christmas magic with its glorious tree lighting ceremony at Rockefeller Center looking over the ice skating rink, window spectacles that line Fifth Avenue and Radio City Rockettes giving visitors a Christmas Spectacular year after year.
Spreading holiday cheer
If you’re traveling this holiday season or next and looking for festive adventures, you’ve got the list of where to go. All you need to do next is download the Faye app for the most magical experience of all: a team of customer support specialists who are there for you – holidays included – for travel tips, advice and more.