Considered the most wonderful time of year, the Christmas season is spent wrapping presents, watching classic movies and of course, being merry. While American cities like New York may be synonymous with the Christmas spirit, there’s nothing quite like the Christmas markets in Europe. For your upcoming holiday, shop one-of-a-kind gifts and experience age-old traditions even Ebenezer Scrooge would enjoy.
Whether you’re looking for a city getaway or a fairytale-like Christmas, London’s got you covered. During the Christmas season, the city is transformed with glittering lights, festive decorations and unique events sure to warm the heart of any Grinch. You’d be remiss to skip Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park’s annual tribute to the holiday. The six-week, fairground-style festival boasts the United Kingdom’s biggest outdoor ice rink, a towering Ferris wheel and over 100 wooden cabins offering gifts, handmade crafts and jewelry.
Be sure to check out the city’s other markets, offering both traditional and modern ways to celebrate the season. Sip on mulled wine as you walk down the River Thames at Southbank Centre Winter Festival or learn the ropes of hosting a green holiday at the Zero Waste Christmas Market.
While Italy may be well-known as a summer destination, the country sure knows how to celebrate Christmas, too. This yuletide season, you can find merriment in Milan, the country’s fashion city full of markets that combine culture, tradition and taste. One of the most famous villages is Mercatino di Natale, situated in front of the gothic-style Duomo and decked out in over 60 charming huts selling local gems and traditional Christmas gifts. If you’re looking for novelties more specific to Italy, check out “Oh Bej! Oh Bej!”, located amidst Sforza Castle. The traditional fair, translating to “How Beautiful! How Beautiful!” in the local dialect, is one of the oldest in Italy, dating back to 1510. You’ll love the warm atmosphere and hundreds of stalls offering festive foods, antiques and handcrafted gifts, all entirely made in Italy.
As soon as the colorful autumn leaves fall, Vienna transforms into a magical Christmas oasis, full of dazzling markets selling seasonal goodies and mouth-watering treats. The long-lasting tradition dates back to 1298 when Albrecht I allowed Vienna citizens to put together a December market. Discover the rare charm of Vienna during the holiday season at Viennese Dream Christmas Market, located in front of Rathus, Vienna’s city hall. Along with international choirs singing carols, you’ll find reindeer rides, ice skating, a giant Christmas tree and an area dedicated to children, where they can learn how to make Christmas cookies and candles.
Feel the joy of the season as you visit the city’s other numerous villages, including the Belvedere Christmas market. One of Vienna’s most stunning sites, the palace is home to more than 40 festive stalls offering elaborate decorations and special culinary delights.
Perfect for anyone looking to get into the Christmas spirit, the Brussels Christmas markets are just as versatile as the city itself. The most popular is Winter Wonders, situated in the heart of the city near the 17th-century Grand-Place. One of the most awe-inspiring squares in all of Europe, the main square comes alive during Christmastime with its light show and larger-than-life nativity scene. Explore the area’s hundreds of chalets, fairground attractions, covered ice rink and unique 360-degree, immersive audio and visual journey at DOME. Experience the magic of the holiday at other destinations, including Karreveld Castle, Place de la Vaillance, Place Flagey and more.
Prague, Czech Republic
Offering a more authentic, festive setting for your holiday, Prague has a variety of Christmas markets all within walking distance of each other. While they’re smaller events, they offer an authentic yuletide spirit with the beautifully decorated wooden huts selling seasonal gems and treats. The largest in the city is Old Town Square, located near the Old Town Hall and Astronomical Clock. In front of Týn Church, you’ll discover the famous Prague Christmas tree and nativity scene, sure to give you postcard-worthy photos and a dreamy setting for your shopping spree. Not buying anything? Find entertainment with their variety of caroling, concerts, dance performances and other live shows during the season. If you’re in search of wood-carved toys, glassware or sweet treats, take a short stroll to Wenceslas Square.
While you might visit the Budapest markets for your fair share of holiday spirit, you’ll also learn more about the beautiful city and its culture. Rather than just selling commercialized novelties, the Budapest Christmas markets focus on preserving authentic Hungarian folk traditions and delicacies. One of the most acclaimed villages is the Christmas Fair and Winter Festival at Vörösmarty Square, located in the center of the city. It’s been around since 1998 and boasts food stalls, handicraft shops and free concerts. Satisfy your sweet tooth with the hot chocolate at Café Gerbeaud, known for transforming its exterior into an advent calendar or light show each December. If you’re looking for Hungarian treasures, head over to St. Stephen’s Square, where Christmas Fair by the Basilica is accompanied by one of the biggest churches in all of Hungary. Browse the special, high-quality crafts created by the members of the Association of Hungarian Folk Artists, then marvel at the laser painting show projected on the Basilica.
Often associated with the concept of hygge or feeling of coziness and belonging, Copenhagen can invoke Christmas cheer even in the most wintry conditions. You can unleash your childlike wonder at Tivoli Gardens, the 176-year-old theme park that inspired Walt Disney. With over 1,000 Christmas trees, 70,000 hanging baubles and an elegant ice rink, the Nordic-style market will transport you to a Christmas utopia.
Already known for its colorful setting, Nyhavn Harbour is even more picture-perfect during the holiday season. Spend your afternoon following the stalls, all beautifully decorated with glimmering lights and festive decor, leading you down the canal. Browse a wide variety of mulled wine stalls and snag your very own Christmas heart decoration, a common Copenhagen novelty. Nearby, check out the Christmas market at Højbro Plads, a glitzy hub providing live reindeer and their very own Father Christmas.
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