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Best European Christmas markets

The best European Christmas markets

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Published on 02 Dec 2022

Are those jingle bells we can hear? The British Isles is home to a host of fantastic Christmas markets but if you’re seeking authentic, immersive and colourful Christmas experiences, a European river cruise is a must for the festive period. Here are the 5 best European Christmas markets

European Christmas markets

Prague, Czech Republic

Christmas markets are an important part of the festive magic in the Czech Republic and the markets in Prague are possibly the most impressive in the country. Open from the 2nd of December to the 6th of January, you can continue the festivities long after Christmas. There are plenty of stalls with handmade gifts including lights, wooden toys, ceramics, clothing and puppets/dolls dressed in traditional costumes - you’re bound to find something for your loved ones. Alongside this, exquisite food is available to keep your tummy happy. From large hams roasted on spits to cakes and pastries prepared right in front of you, you most definitely won’t leave hungry. 

Copenhagen, Denmark

“Soaking up the atmosphere at one of Copenhagen’s many Christmas markets is a lovely way to get into the festive spirit,” says Jess from Enjoy the Adventure. “Nyhavn’s Christmas market is located by the harbour, providing an iconic setting to browse holiday presents. Explore the market to find handmade gifts, cosy hats and accessories. Wander around while enjoying a glass of mulled wine or hot choc and grab some tasty and warming treats from one of the many food vendors. Make sure to bring your camera to get some stunning shots of the market and canal. 

“Whilst in Copenhagen, you have to visit the Tivoli Gardens which are transformed into a magical winter wonderland at Christmas. Each year, lighting designers create a new festive facade with thousands of festive lights bringing a warm festive glow to the winter darkness. Pick up some delicious treats such as caramelised almonds, hot dogs or burgers. Browse some of the stalls and souvenir shops to find some cute Christmas gifts. While you’re there, you have to try out some of the rides as Tivoli is the second oldest amusement park in the world. I really enjoyed the rollercoaster at Tivoli, it’s 625 metres long and is one of the world’s oldest wooden rollercoasters still in operation. It is also one of only seven tracks in the world to have a driver onboard.” 

Cologne, Germany

Cologne’s Christmas markets are as beautiful as they are extensive. Choose from larger markets held in downtown Cologne with live music performances and spectacular skating rinks or smaller markets with local handicrafts and a thriving festive atmosphere. As you stroll Germany’s 2,000-year-old city the smell of baked apples, gingerbread, cinnamon and mulled wine will surely warm your cockles. You can even look forward to a maritime atmosphere at the Harbour Christmas market - a beautiful destination to celebrate the festive season. 

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest really is one of the most enchanting places I’ve visited in Europe,” says Bejal from Be-Lavie. “The city is split between the Danube River with one side being called Buda and the other Pest, where the famous Chain Bridge crosses. For fabulous views, head over to Fisherman’s Bastion to get picture-perfect vistas of the city during the day and lit up at night where you can marvel at the iconic Hungarian Parliament Building. 

Bejal recommends three different Christmas markets; “Vörösmarty Square Christmas Market is in the heart of the city centre, opposite the world-renowned Gerbeaud Café where you must pop in for some traditional patisserie! This market has been ranked as one of the most beautiful markets in Europe. It’s great for wood carvings and food. St. Stephen Basilica Christmas Market is a must-visit for artisan stalls and gourmet food - there’s even an ice rink. A perfect place to purchase hand-crafted and eco-friendly Christmas tree decorations. Lastly, Town Hall Park Christmas Market is situated in a small park off the town and is perfect if you have children. It’s home to the largest Christmas tree in Budapest!”

Amsterdam, the Netherlands

The city that has it all, Amsterdam is magical year-round but even more so at Christmas. The Netherlands’ eclectic capital hosts a number of Christmas markets each year with the most popular being Amsterdam Winter Paradise (with indoor and outdoor ice skating rinks as well as a Ferris wheel which offers panoramic views of the city), The Royal Christmas Fair (which boasts a 20-metre-high Christmas tree) and the Floating Christmas Market (which is the only Christmas market of its kind in the Netherlands). Amsterdam’s Christmas markets are perfect for finding unique, authentic gifts. We highly recommend a visit to Museumplein where you’ll find a winter market with lots of festive wares.

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