European Christmas markets

European Christmas markets

Are you a Christmas junkie? Can’t get enough of gingerbread spice, mistletoe kisses, and an overwhelming sense of good cheer?

Some of us start our Christmas shopping in July, while others wait until the malls are shimmering with tinsel and alive with background Christmas music. 

For those of you looking for that unique, one-of-a-kind gift, you should consider travelling in the European off-season to avoid the crowds and also to enjoy the seasonal craft markets. Yes, the European Christmas market season is upon us!


My top three European Christmas markets

Strasbourg, France
November 27th – December 24th

Known as the original Christmas Market or Christkindelsmarik (the Baby Jesus Market), this event dates back to 1570. 

With 444 years of practice, Strasbourg has perfected the art of Yuletide celebrations. As the sun sets, the city is alight with thousands of decorations, and the air is scented with roasted chestnuts and hot mulled wine. 

The 100 foot Christmas tree in Kebler Square is the major focal point, but the stalls radiate outwards into the adjoining streets and alleyways. A major effort has been made to vet vendors to ensure they showcase locally made crafts and souvenirs. 

Special concerts and light shows entertain the shoppers. Be sure to sample the hot mulled wine served from steaming caldrons. Non-alcoholic options are also available. 

Must-finds are bretzels, the Bredele Market and cervoise.


Prague, Czech Republic
November 28th – January 1st

Truly one of the most beautiful settings in all of Europe. 

A giant Christmas tree lights the Old Town Square, and the surrounding wooden huts sell typical Czech souvenirs such as garnet jewellery, wooden puppets, ceramics, bobbin lace and handmade Christmas ornaments. 

The market is permeated by the heady fragrances of mulled wine and hot punch, spicy gingerbread cakes, barbecued sausages and roasted ham. 

The Christmas season is the most important time on the Czech calendar, and no expense is spared to provide the ultimate in entertainment, with phenomenal street performers, choirs, and internationally renowned ensembles.


Vienna, Austria
November 21st – January 3rd

There are actually a number of different markets scattered throughout Vienna, and some open as early as mid-November. 

The cultural and Christmas market in front of Schonbrunn Palace offers romance in front of an imperial backdrop, and is converted to a New Year’s Market after Christmas. 

This atmospheric location is home to traditional handicrafts, exquisite silver jewellery, and handmade ornaments. 

The Viennese are known for their sweet delicacies and hot Glühwein. Music plays a major role in the celebration of the holiday season, so the sweet sounds of choirs and marching bands resound within her streets. 

Must-finds are the beautiful Viennese snow globes, and a must-try is the decadent Sacher torte.


It’s easy to experience the Christmas markets in Europe

Tour operators such as Insight and Globus offer special Christmas Market tours Alpine Christmas Markets. 

Most of the river cruise companies also operate deluxe Christmas market itineraries (for those of you who only want to unpack once) - Christmas Market River Cruise  

The holiday season is not only for the young . . . it’s meant for the young at heart.

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About the Author

Joy has long been a believer in the art of travel: the belief that a vacation is something to be anticipated savored and then long remembered as one of life’s great adventures. 
Website: thejoyoftravel.ca

You can contact Joy at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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