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Top five Christmas markets to visit in Europe

If you're planning a city break, the festive season is a time when the cities of Europe come alive with their Christmas markets.

 

Whether you're looking to shop for handcrafted gifts, indulge in delicious seasonal treats, or simply soak up the festive atmosphere whilst taking in some sights, there is plenty to see and do. So, wrap up warm and get ready to embrace the Christmas spirit, check out these top Christmas markets.

1. Berlin

During the festive season, you’re truly spoilt for choice in the vibrant capital of Germany as there are over 80 Christmas markets in Berlin.

Located in the heart of the city is the Alexanderplatz Christmas market - it’s one of the busiest as it has over 100 stalls, an ice rink and fairground rides. If you’re looking for a more regal atmosphere, then head to the Christmas market in Charlottenburg, where it’s held in front of the 17th century royal palace. In all markets, you’re bound to find a wide range of handcrafted gifts, traditional German food, and sweet treats.

On your trip to Berlin, make sure to visit its iconic landmarks such as the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin Wall Memorial and the Reichstag Building.

2. Vienna

Vienna is renowned for its rich cultural heritage and elegant charm, and during the Christmas season, it takes on a fairytale-like quality. One of the top Christmas markets in Vienna is held at the Rathausplatz, in front of the city's beautiful neo-Gothic town hall.

It has an ice skating rink, a beautiful Christmas tree, and numerous stalls selling crafts, gifts, and delicious Austrian treats. Another Christmas market with a very impressive backdrop is at the Schönbrunn Palace.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this was the summer residence of the Habsburg dynasty, one of the most influential royal families in Europe.

Other highlights of Vienna include St Stephen’s Cathedral, Belvedere Palace and Hofburg Palace. Also head to the Wurstelprater Amusement Park and take a ride on the Wiener Riesenrad or Ferris Wheel to get incredible views of the city.

3. Budapest

Budapest, known as the "Pearl of the Danube," becomes even more enchanting during the Christmas season. One of the main Budapest Christmas Markets is held in Vörösmarty Square, right in the heart of the city.

This market is all about tradition and authenticity, where you'll find an array of Hungarian handicrafts, including intricate lacework, hand-painted ceramics, and local cuisine.

After visiting the Christmas fairs, discover Budapest's iconic landmarks, including the stunning Buda Castle, perched atop Castle Hill, which offers panoramic views of the Danube River and the city below.

The Hungarian Parliament Building, with its neo-Gothic architecture, is another must-see attraction, especially when illuminated at night. The perfect way to unwind after a day of exploring Hungary’s capital is to relax in the city's famous thermal baths, like the Széchenyi Thermal Bath.

4. Bruges

Bruges, often called the "Venice of the North" for its picturesque canals and historic architecture, offers a delightful Christmas market experience. The main Christmas market is located in the city's Grote Markt (Market Square) and a smaller one is held in Simon Stevinplein.

The Christmas markets in Bruges is known for its cosy atmosphere, where you can explore traditional wooden chalets selling Belgian chocolates, lace, and crafts. While you're there, don't miss the chance to take a romantic horse-drawn carriage ride through the beautifully lit streets of Bruges.

5. Prague

With its stunning Gothic and Baroque architecture, Prague is a city that seems plucked from the pages of a fairytale.

The main Prague Christmas markets is held in its historic Old Town Square, where you can buy a variety of goods, including Christmas gifts, decorations, handmade crafts, jewellery, and traditional Czech products. Once you are done browsing the stalls, make sure to visit the iconic Charles Bridge, the majestic Prague Castle and the Prague Astronomical Clock, one of the world's oldest fully functional astronomical clocks.