Is there anything better than wandering through the warm glow of a European Christmas market while the smell of candied nuts and chimney cakes waft under your nose? From late November through the New Year, European cities transform into festive examples of Yuletide cheer and one of the best ways to see them is with a Christmas Market river cruise. From Germany to Sweden and everywhere in between, cities look like they belong inside an artist’s snow globe and if you haven’t experienced one yet, you’re missing out. Here are some of the top Christmas Markets across Europe for your next holiday river cruise vacation.
That’s how the German people say Merry Christmas when they gift advent calendars and children write their letters to Der Weihnachtsmann, or Father Christmas. Germany is world renowned for its Christmas Markets and there are beautiful ones all over the country. Here are some of the best to check out!
Striezelmarkt – Dresden
Made famous for its Stollen Cake, Striezelmarkt has hundreds of years of tradition as a top European Christmas Market. Resting along the Elbe River and with Old Town Dresden’s gorgeous architecture as a backdrop, there may not be a more picturesque market in Europe. Through the course of the holiday season, the market sees around 3 million visitors from every corner of the globe. If you go, make sure you try the Stollen, a sweet bread made with candied nuts, fruit and icing or sugar. Wooden ornaments and authentic nutcrackers make wonderful gifts to bring home to loved ones.
Marienplatz – Munich
While some would prefer to visit Munich during the famed Oktoberfest celebrations a month or two prior, the Marienplatz Christmas Market is just as compelling for a visit. Known as the “Christkindlmarkt,” the market is held in Marienplatz, the town center of Munich. The square fills with booths offering all manner of Christmas food, drink and decoration to locals and visitors traveling through the city. While there are several other Christmas markets to be found across the city, Marienplatz is the most famous.
Weihnachtsmarkt – Hamburg
One of Germany’s northernmost cities, Hamburg has a rich maritime history as a Hanseatic League center of trade for hundreds of years. Weihnachtsmarkt (which literally translates to “Christmas Market”) is one of several markets which pop up in the city during Christmastime and it takes places outside of city hall around a giant Christmas Tree. Glittering lights, delicious smells and plenty of tidings of good cheer can be found here!
France Christmas Markets
You can probably guess what that means. As French children write their postcard to Père Noël and leave their shoes by the fireplace to be filled with presents, there are Christmas markets galore to explore. Here are some of the best!
Paris – All of Them
Paris, known as “The City of Lights”, might want to consider a name change to the city of Christmas cheer. Everywhere you go in France’s capital, you’ll find rows and rows of booths, known as chalets, offering everything from mulled wine and sweet breads to garlands and ornaments. Our advice would be to check the market at Notre Dame Cathedral and Champ de Mars underneath the Eiffel Tower as they’re usually bustling with visitors and vendors alike.
Marché de Noël – Lille
It’s easy to spot Lille, France’s Christmas Market thanks to a giant tree and ferris wheel both lit up with lights and decorations. Found in Place Rihour, a major tourist center, this market features a multinational spread as Lille is just south of the Belgium-France border. While considerable smaller than some other European Christmas Markets, many actually enjoy the intimate feel as it simply drips with authentic Christmas spirit.
La Magie De Noël – Colmar
Near the river Rhine and the border with Germany sits Colmar, a region of France known for its outstanding sweet white wines. It’s also known for a gorgeous old town with wooden-framed homes that look simply delightful decked out in wreaths, lights and Christmas trees. It’s truly like something from a fairy tale. A robust event calendar means most days is a new Christmas-themed activity to enjoy!
European Christmas Market Honorable Mentions
You don’t have to be in Germany or France to enjoy a spectacular Christmas market. They can be found in countries all over Europe, each with distinct offerings and traditions. Most are available for visiting for the entire month of December, with some starting in November as well. Here are some of our favorites elsewhere in Europe!
Skansen’s Christmas Market in Stockholm, Sweden
Viennese Christmas Market in Vienna, Austria
Old Town Square in Prague, Czech Republic
Rynek Glowny in Krakow, Poland
Fira de Santa Llúcia in Barcelona, Spain
Winter Wonderland Hyde Park in London, England