Every year, countries around the world embrace the festive spirit, immersing their cities and historical squares in beams of glimmering light, splendid decorations, majestic Christmas trees and century-old holiday traditions. Sample warming mulled wines and delicious candied treats whilst shopping for handcrafted gifts for loved ones, for there is no better way to celebrate the holiday season than to attend a Christmas market. We profile ten of the largest in the world.
24 November – 24 December The famous Dresden Striezelmarkt continues to break records every single year. Alongside a selection of spectacular festive features, local bakers prepare a gigantic stollen – a traditional German fruitcake – parading it through the streets to the market before ceremoniously dishing out slices to visitors. As Germany’s oldest market, this year the market celebrates its 580th anniversary in the heart of the baroque city. With over 100 events in the program, intricate traditional crafts on offer and an endless choice of festive culinary specialties such as cakes, glazed apples and sugared dough balls, one of Germany’s most popular Christmas market attracts millions of visitors – this year, make sure to be one of them. Altmarkt, Dresden, Germany
28 November – 1 January Every year, the Budapest Christmas Fair takes place in the centre of the historic city on Vörösmarty Square. As the oldest and most spectacular of all markets in Budapest, it is well worth a visit. Quaint cottages and over 100 wooden stalls transform the area into a magical wonderland, complete with the delicious scent of mulled wine, cinnamon, roasted chestnuts and traditional honey biscuits. Alongside, visitors will have apt opportunity to sample traditional Hungarian dishes such as pork knuckle and stuffed cabbage. Soak up the Christmas atmosphere whilst picking out artisan-handcrafted gifts for loved ones and don’t forget to observe the mesmerizing light and music show adorning the façade of the renowned Gerbaud building, whose windows turn into a giant Advent calendar counting down the days to the big day. Vörösmarty tér, Budapest, Hungary
19 November – 31 December For a Nordic themed Christmas, you can’t beat Tivoli gardens in Copenhagen. Spanning an area of 82,300 square meters, the Christmas market offers 50 stalls along the park’s pathways, all selling decorations, arts and crafts and hot drinks to keep you warm. With wooden houses, magical bells, glass ornaments, snow covered trees and even opportunities to meet Santa’s very own reindeer, this really is a true Nordic Christmas experience. Alongside this, this year a large Alpine village will also attract visitors, complete with skis and sledges, an Alpine express and a festive merry-go-round. Vesterbrogade 3, Copenhagen, Denmark,
25 November – 24 December The Capital of Christmas in Strasbourg is Europe’s oldest market and a wonderful feast for eyes, transforming the French city with mesmerizing illuminations. Founded in 1570, the market continues to uphold traditional Alsatian traditions, offering a spectacular 300-chalet village winding through the cobbled streets throughout 11 sites within the city center. With the vast selection of Christmas gifts and decorations on offer, a plethora of spiced breads, sweets and pastries and over 500 scheduled events, there is something for everyone. Most of the markets are situated in Strasbourg’s majestic cathedral square, yet others are scattered within the vicinity. Particularly noteworthy is the market on Place des Meuniers that offers Alsatian cuisine, as well as the famous Christkindelsmärik, steeped in history and with the magical power to transport you back to the 16th century. Place Broglie, Strasbourg, France, +33 3 88 52 28 28
18 November – 24 December Run by the German American Services, Chicago’s Christkindlmarket brings a long-standing German tradition across the world and is one of the largest outside Europe. Held annually since 1996, it has become a Chicago wintertime institution and is now one of the most popular attractions of the city. Complete with its very own Christkind visiting the market on Christmas Eve, enjoy the ultimate European experience by digging into authentic German bratwurst, sipping from traditional beer steins and warming the heart with fruity glühwein. Additionally, there is a large selection of German products such as holiday ornaments, nutcrackers and cuckoo clocks to browse through, as well as candied treats, crispy waffles, stollen and traditional potato pancakes to sample. 50 W Washington St, Chicago, IL, USA,
Dating back to 1915, Stockholm’s market is located in the Old Town and is the most famous in Sweden. Little red stalls are dotted around Stortorget square, selling Swedish delicacies such as smoked sausages, eel and dry-cured reindeer and elk-meat, as well as Nordic glögg, their own version of mulled wine. For those with a sweet tooth, make sure to try the pepparkakor, a traditional ginger biscuit. Alternatively, if shopping for gifts, look out for local Christmas ornaments made of straw and handmade candles.
24 November – 11 December England loves to embrace the spirit of Christmas, attracting thousands of visitors to its markets each year. One of the largest and most picturesque is in Bath. With over 170 wooden chalets lining the winding streets of the inner city, this really is a one of the most magical and romantic winter experiences on offer. The market sets itself apart by endeavoring to maintain distinct British traditions, selling artisan products and traditional fare such as Scottish Caledonian steak burgers, hearty soups, and fresh pancakes. Importantly, don’t forget to indulge in the finest mulled wine made with locally sourced ingredients from the area before embarking on a myriad of festive experiences. Visitors will not be stuck for choice in this holiday wonderland with numerous activities on offer – whether its ice-skating or bathing in the warmth of the famous spa baths, Bath caters for an unforgettable experience. Abbey Churchyard, Bath, England,+44 844 847 5256
25 November – 1 January For those looking for a Christmas experience with a difference, Hong Kong’s Winterfest will certainly provide. With a fantastic viewpoint over Victoria Harbor and the city’s gigantic skyscrapers adorned with Christmas illuminations, the market is seamlessly integrated into its glamorous surroundings. Merging a unique blend of Western and Eastern festive traditions, including a classic Christmas tree, Winterfest ensures that Hong Kong is one of the best places in the world to celebrate the holiday. Soak up the enchanting atmosphere, whilst sampling the traditional winter delicacy of congee, a warm bowl of rice simmered in delicate chicken broth. Visitors planning to stay over the New Year are in for an even bigger treat with a spectacular countdown met by an explosion of fireworks over the bay. Open Piazza, 10 Salisbury Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong, China, +852 2508 1234
Located along the streets from the Grand Palace to Place Sainte Catherine, the Brussels’ Plaisirs d’Hiver is one of the most impressive Christmas Markets on the European scene. With over 240 stalls and a 200 foot-long ice-rink, the market is a spectacular introduction to the holiday season. Sample the delicious flavors of the local sugary doughnuts and observe the 18,000 lights illuminating the Ferris wheel before moving onto the enormous fir tree – towering at 22 meters, it has been gifted by the city of Riga and overlooks the beautiful Grand Palace. This year, the market has promised to repeat the hugely popular Christmas Parade that will light up the inner city with its joyful atmosphere on December 14.
21 November – 4 January Edinburgh’s Christmas Market is part of a huge festive extravaganza that spans the area along Princes Street, all the way from St. Andrews Square, the Scots Monument and through to the Charlotte Square Gardens. The traditional market at the bottom of The Mound offers a range of gastronomic surprises, from sweet waffles, bratwurst to piping hot glühwein, as well as a generous selection of arts and crafts. Nearby, test your skills at the stunning ice-rink, glide down the North Pole slide and swing around on the carousel, all whilst marveling at the glorious view of Old Town. Undoubtedly, the UK’s northern capital shows how its done when it comes to celebrating the winter holiday, as beautiful Edinburgh transforms into a glittering wonderland with its infectious Christmas spirit. East Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh, +44 844 545 8252