11 of the Best Christmas Markets in Europe Including Bruges, Bath and Bolzano

People enjoy Christmas market in Tallinn | ©  Igor Sokolov/Shutterstock
People enjoy Christmas market in Tallinn | © Igor Sokolov/Shutterstock
The festive season is nearly upon us, which means Europe’s cities are about to be transformed into winter wonderlands. Here’s our guide to the best Christmas markets to visit this year.

1. Copenhagen, Denmark

Experience hygge (the Danish art of cosiness) firsthand with a trip to Copenhagen this Christmas. There are eight (that’s right, eight!) Christmas markets to choose from, including the impressive Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and Nyhavn harbour with its rows of chocolate-box houses along the waterfront. Perhaps the most festive of all is the Hans Christian Anderson Christmas Market which celebrates Denmark’s most famous storyteller. Foodies should head to the Meatpacking District for a taste of New Nordic cuisine with a hot chocolate and warm blanket.

November 18 to December 31, 2017

Christmas market with Ferris wheel on the Nytorv square in evening Mikhail Markovskiy/Shutterstock

2. Lindau, Germany

For a romantic weekend away this Christmas, look no further than Lindau on the shores of Lake Constance (Germany’s largest lake). This special Christmas market takes place right on the harbourside, with stunning views of the snow-covered Alpine mountains, best enjoyed with a glass of glühwein. The surrounding woodland is illuminated by thousands of bulbs and you can take a tour through the enchanting fairytale forest with one of the town’s night watchmen, or check out the ice-skating rink in nearby Reutin.

November 23 to December 17, 2017

© Bavaria Tourist Board 

3. Tallinn, Estonia

The Tallinn Christmas Market is an absolute must-see on a winter break in the Estonian capital. The market takes place in the medieval Town Hall Square, which has been decorated with a sparkling Christmas tree since 1441! Visitors to this picturesque part of town can enjoy Estonian Christmas delicacies including blood pudding, sour cabbage and ginger breads, or shop the stalls for handmade festive gifts.

November 17, 2017 to January 6, 2018

People enjoy Christmas market in Tallinn © Igor Sokolov/Shutterstock

4. Bruges, Belgium

Bruges is home to some of Europe’s best Christmas markets and practically oozes seasonal cheer. Walk through the cobbled streets sipping mulled wine or Belgian beer, while enjoying traditional waffles and frites. Check out Grote Markt with its pretty, wooden chalets surrounding a glittering ice rink in the shadow of the iconic Belfry of Bruges. Easy and inexpensive, Bruges is the perfect destination for a short and magical Christmas break with a group.

November 24, 2017 to January 2, 2018

Christmas decoration and lighting Old Market Square in the historic center of Bruges, Belgium © kavalenkau/Shutterstock

5. Krakow, Poland

In the 19th century, locals would head to Krakow’s central square to collect their Christmas trees, choosing between rows of idyllic firs. Today Rynek Glowny is home to hundreds of wooden stalls selling wares from local toymakers, homeware designers and metalworkers. Pick up a traditional Christmas decoration for your tree, like one of the hand-painted glass baubles (a Polish specialty). The Krakow Christmas market traditionally lasts from the last weekend of November until early January.

Main Market Square and Sukiennice (The Cloth Hall) in the evening © Travel landscapes/Shutterstock

6. Zagreb, Croatia

Zagreb pulls out all the stops come winter with events scattered throughout the city. King Tomislav Square transforms into an enormous ice-skating rink, with ice ballet performances. Try traditional Croatian cuisine including strudel and strukli (a baked dished served with sweet or savoury fillings) in Zrinjevac Park under the festive lights – perfect for couples – and head to Zagreb’s main square (Ban Jelačić) for the seasonal market, with performances on the big stage.

December 2, 2017 until January 7, 2018

You might also be interested in: The Best Winter Drives in America

Advent in Zagreb, Ice Park, Art pavilion and Christmas stands on King Tomislav park © DarioZg/Shutterstock

7. Colmar, France

The quintessential French town of Colmar loves Christmas. What better place to spend a festive break than walking along the medieval canals watching local choirs sing carols as they sail by, skating in the town square or taking a wreath-making workshop in a wine bar? Colmar is home to five Christmas markets (Place des Dominicains, Place de l’Ancienne Douane, Place Jeanne d’Arc, Children’s Christmas Market and an indoor craft market) each with its own theme.

November 24 to December 30, 2017

© Colmar Tourist Office/Flickr 

8. Edinburgh, Scotland

Looking around Edinburgh, it feels like the postcard-perfect city was made for Christmas. For 2017, an advent calendar will be projected onto General Register House, with 25 glimpses of Edinburgh winters from years gone-by, dating all the way back to the 1700s. Check out the Christmas Tree on The Mound, a gift from Hordaland in Norway. There are two Christmas markets to explore, one on George Street and the other at East Princes Street Gardens.

November 17, 2017 to January 6, 2018

Christmas lights 2016 in Edinburgh's Princess Street Gardens with the Sir Walter Scott Monument © Ulmus Media/Shutterstock

9. Bath, England

This famous Roman settlement, recently voted one of the UK’s most liveable cities, is the perfect winter staycation. Shop for Scandinavian accessories and locally made wares in over 200 Christmassy stalls. Watch Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol performed by students at Bath University, a festive tradition among the people of Bath, along with singing carols by candlelight.

November 23 to December 10, 2017

During the festive period vendors sell from temporary wooden chalets in the city centre © antb/Shutterstock

10. Lausanne, Switzerland

Known as the pearl of Switzerland, Lausanne, on the banks of Lake Geneva, is perfect for a festive weekend getaway. This year the Christmas market coincides with Lausanne Lumières festival of lights, with installations by 15 local artists. There are also gourmet guided tours, making Lausanne a great choice for culture vultures and foodies alike (think cheese, chocolate, wine and fondue) and for the first time ever, the Christmas market culminates in Lausanne’s New Year’s Eve celebrations.

November 23 to December 31, 2017

© Lausanne Tourist Board 

11. Bolzano, Italy

Like Lindau, Bolzano is perfect for a romantic winter getaway. The medieval city is a gateway to the Dolomites mountain range, surrounded by vineyards in the summer and snow-capped hillsides come winter. It’s also worth visiting to experience some Tyrolean food (a mix of Italian and Austrian influences) including: gröstl, a bacon, onion and potato fry-up; kaspressknödel, flat-bread dumplings with mountain cheese; and strauben, a Tyrolean version of churros – maybe even tastier!

November 24, 2017 to January 6, 2018

Visitors attends next to a carousel at the traditional Christmas markets of Bolzano © Simone Padovani/Shutterstock