Welcome to Christmas in Europe! German Christmas markets – like Nuremburg Christmas Market and Frankfurt Christmas Market – are among the most famous in Europe, but there are equally festive ones elsewhere, especially in France, Austria and the Czech Republic. There are even plenty of Christmas markets in the Uk these days. The markets usually start in late November and carry on until Christmas Eve. Here are a few of the best:
1. Prague, Czech Republic
The Christmas markets in Prague are centered around Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square. Hand-carved tree decorations and hot honey liquor are specialities. The markets are very atmospheric, especially at night when the trees and stalls are lit up and carol singers warm the cold evening weather.
2. Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
If you like the sound of picture-book Bavarian towns surrounded by medieval walls and guard towers, then take a spin along the Romantic Road. Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a fairy tale town highlight with atmosphere in lashings, and it’s worth spending a few nights here. Along with one of the best Christmas markets in Germany, it has narrow cobbled streets, half-timbered buildings, year-round Christmas shops and even a medieval torture museum.
Nuremberg Christmas market, in Bavaria, is one of the largest Christmas markets in Europe. Expect hundreds of stalls lining the cobblestone market square in front of a medieval church. Each year, more than two million people from around the world pay a visit, and weekends are particularly hectic.
4. Offenburg, Germany
This little Christmas fair is great for kids because there’s a wonderful ice rink. Meanwhile the adults can watch while tucking into currywurst sausages. Close by is a fairyland forest of lights and twinkling Christmas trees, and other massive trees lit up with washes of coloured beams. It’s very magical. Take your camera.
5. Ribeauville Medieval Christmas Market, France
Of all the Christmas markets in Europe, this is the most fun. It’s like a Christmas fair, with all the stallholders dressed up in medieval costumes. The long main street and side squares are clustered with stalls selling hot cider, hot chocolate, animal skins, local sausages dripping with cheese, and so much more. There are medieval games to play, dancing, blacksmiths and camels wandering around too. You have to go! It’s the best small Christmas market in Germany.
In Vienna, the Magic of Advent complements the Christmas market outside the City Hall, with ice skating performances, pony rides and fairy tales portrayed in artistically arranged display cases. Another Vienna market takes place outside the Schönbrunn Palace, and features concerts and a marionette nativity play!
7. Strasbourg, France
The lighting displays here are magnificent and the scale of the event is impressive. Indulge your senses with spicy mulled glühwein, sausage sandwiches and caramelised apples. Being so close to Germany, it has a German feel with a hint of ooh la la.
The birthplace of Mozart – Salzburg – offers two memorable old-fashioned Christmas markets. Not surprisingly, music is featured stongly in this beautiful baroque city, along with nativity plays, peeling church bells, toasted almonds, hot roasted chestnuts and yet more twinkling stores in a fortress square.
Another large Christmas market, and one of Germany’s most beautiful, takes place in Stuttgart. Here, the stalls form a bewitching, twinkling city in itself. If you base yourself here you can also visit Ludwigsburg, which has a market square dominated by giant angels and a baroque performance stage.
A Christmas market of some sort has been going on in Frankfurt since 1393, making it one of the oldest in Germany. There are more than 200 decorated stores and an enormous Christmas tree stands proud among the half-timbered buildings and tourists chewing on marzipan biscuits and frankfurters smothered in mustard.