Christmas Advent celebrations include incredible Christmas markets across Europe. There are hundreds of unique cities to visit around Europe. But which European cities are the best for Christmas markets? Which cities offer fewer crowds with all the fantastic offerings of hot chocolate, handmade gifts, artisanal products, mulled wine, and charming places for pictures? We will review the best and most underrated European cities for Christmas markets. Choose your next Christmas destination.
I love Christmas; the energy, the beauty, the cold, frosty weather, and the warm, cozy drinks make this time one of my favorite times of the year. I lived in New York City for years; Christmas is huge there! When I moved to London, I was blown away by how many more Christmas market options London had. Then, living in France, my mind was blown further. Since those early days in Europe, I’ve seen cities and Christmas markets all over the continent and find them all so fantastic!
The 2023 tourist season has been exceptionally busy. Summer travel started a bit slow but then ramped up in June and progressed through October. It seems the European hot spots in Italy, Germany, the UK, Croatia, and others just keep attracting tourists. The most popular Christmas Market destinations will be bustling, maybe the busiest ever. You may want to consider some less popular destinations. That said, some places are just so beautiful that even with the extra crowds, you must see them.
These are the best and the most underrated Christmas Markets in Europe.
The proximity of Lille to Bruges makes this city a fun road trip. Rustic wooden chalets fill Lille’s Place Rihour with plenty of shopping. The market is open from November 22-December 31st. Bruges is charming any time of the year, but it’s fantastic to see at Christmas. Their market is from November 24 to January 7. Lille is great for shopping at any time of the year, but Christmas makes it even better. The two cities would make a great holiday road trip. Make sure to have space for wine and chocolate because there is plenty of shopping for both. If you want something quieter or more romantic, I suggest Honfleur France.
Strasbourg is the Christmas capital in Europe, one of the most visited and most beautiful French Christmas cities. The architecture makes it quintessential, and their excellent Christmas markets a must-see, but the town will be packed. I would opt for Metz, a smaller city with about half the population and fewer tourists with a great Christmas Market that isn’t far from Strasbourg, so you can do both as a road trip. If you do a road trip, swing by Reims for some Champaign. The Cathedral of Reims is exquisite.
While Nuremberg’s Christkindlesmarkt is famous, it is less crowded than other German cities like Munich or Cologne. It’s known for its gingerbread cookies and handcrafted gifts. Berlin will be incredibly busy, but both cities are beautiful for Christmas. You can add Prague for a train trip or drive. It’s easy to get to Vienna too. Bratislava would be an excellent addition; the city has a great pedestrian area with a lovely Christmas market. Bratislava is great if you want to do some partying, too. They are great at parties for a smaller city option.
A lovely old city with beautiful architecture makes their Christmas market extra unique. I haven’t been to Kraków since 2018, but I’m sure it’s still enjoyable for Christmas. For a smaller city, the northern city of Gdansk has a fabulous Christmas market in its Old Town. It is known for its beautiful lights and a cozy, festive atmosphere, with fewer tourists than markets in Krakow or Warsaw.
Zagreb Advent has won a lot of awards for its Christmas celebration. Partying and taking pictures are the theme of Zagreb Christmas. Opening dates are usually December 2- January 7. Zagreb’s Christmas market is often cited as one of the best in Europe, but it’s still somewhat underrated compared to its Western European counterparts.
The city’s festive atmosphere and street decorations create an enchanted experience. They have a big craft and art event, but their markets could be better; you can buy loads of food, but only a few crafts are being sold in Christmas market areas. You can drink all sorts of drinks and enjoy taking pictures in cute setups, which is nice.
If you want something quieter with more shopping options, try Opatija’s Advent and drive to Rijeka, Croatia’s third-largest city, to visit some of their fantastic ceramics and jewelry shops. While there, fill up on delicious fresh fish and phenomenal Istrian wine.
I love Budapest; who doesn’t? There’s loads to do, great shopping, fantastic food, and plenty of fun. Opening dates are usually November 17- January 1. St. Stephen’s Basilica, Deak Sw, and Fovam Square are where the markets and ice skating are located. Budapest’s Christmas markets offer a unique blend of Hungarian and European holiday traditions. It’s less crowded than markets in Western Europe but equally enchanting.
I love London for Christmas, the shopping is always fantastic in Covent Garden, there are so many options for Christmas markets all over the city, but it’s so crowded. For a smaller city Christmas celebration, try Manchester and eat some delicious steak and ale pies covered in gravy. Piccadilly Gardens will be alive with winter gardens. Several parts of the city are converted into Christmas markets, shopping, and fantastic places to eat. For all the details, make sure to visit Manchester. The Manchester Christmas Markets 2023 will occur from 10 November to 21 December.
The Estonian city of Tallinn has been getting a lot of praise in the press for its Christmas celebrations. The Christmas market in the Old Town is known for its medieval charm and beautiful lights. It’s less crowded than Western European markets but offers a delightful, authentic experience. I haven’t been as of yet, but I’ve been hearing all the good word about Tallinn for Christmas.
Bologna hosts a charming Christmas market in the historic Piazza Minghetti. It’s a local favorite and offers a warm, traditional Italian holiday experience. Italian Christmas markets have many excellent goods to buy and incredible cookies. Bologna also has some of the best pasta in Italy, so expect to eat a lot of yummy food.
The official hometown of Santa Claus offers a unique and magical Christmas experience. The Arctic Circle locale, cozy market stalls, and winter activities make it a memorable destination. This is a place you book a year in advance.
Aarhus hosts a lovely Christmas market in the city’s heart, offering Scandinavian holiday traditions with fewer crowds than Copenhagen.
The Slovenian capital features a festive market in its picturesque Old Town, with fewer tourists than in more famous European cities. The city’s medieval charm and riverside location add to its allure. Wooden stalls along the river sell chestnuts, hot chocolate, and mulled wine. Unfortunately, like Zagreb, Ljubljana doesn’t have much to buy in their markets. The gifts in the Ljubljana Christmas market are wool socks and other woolen goods, some cute little trinkets, and wooden and leather goods.
If you want something less crowded in Slovenia, try Maribor, the second largest city in Slovenia. Maribor has a charming little market selling wooden goods, some excellent art, and unique cookies; my favorites are the Marelični Medenjaki rectangle thick cookies filled with apricots and covered in silky white chocolate.
Whether you are after a cozy, laid-back Christmas or the hustle and bustle of a famous Christmas destination, this list will help you decide where to book your Christmas vacation. The markets make this time of the year such a special occasion. Have a wonderful Christmas celebration and a fantastic journey. Subscribe for more travel posts. Have a lovely day.