A woman shopping for gifts at a Christmas market

Best Christmas Markets in Europe & Beyond

27 Aug 2019 By Adele Grant
A woman shopping for gifts at a Christmas market

As soon as winter approaches most of us start gearing up for the holiday season, and what better way to celebrate the merriest time of year than hitting a Christmas market? Nothing is more festive than drinking mulled wine as you wander decorated stalls in search of unique gifts, all to the sound of cheery music.

So, with city breaks proving more and more affordable at this time of year, why not soak up the holiday spirit from some of the best markets in Europe and beyond? From amazing displays in New York to ice skating in Amsterdam and indulging in local delicacies in the Christmas market capital, Berlin – get ready for a magical getaway.

Here’s our pick of the best.

Prague

Prague Old Town Square Christmas Market

What to expect?  The Czechs really know how to celebrate Christmas with festivities right across the city. Most of the action takes place around the Old Town, which becomes a scene to behold during winter with lit-up stalls surrounded by majestic Gothic architecture. The giant Christmas tree is one of its main features, while its petting zoo goes down a treat with mini travellers.

The celebrations at Wenceslas Square are the next best thing with stalls specialising in handmade goods, while foodies should make a beeline for Náměstí Republiky, where you’ll get to sample the finest local food, from spit-roasted meats to freshly made pastries.

Best markets

  • Staromestske namesti (Old Town Square) – 1st December to 6th January
  • Vaclavske namesti (Wenceslas Square) – 1st December to 6th January
  • Namesti Republiky (Republic Square) – 1st December to 30th December
  • Prazsky hrad (Prague Castle) – 28th November to 3rd January
  • Tylovo namesti (Tyl’s Square) – 23rd November to 24th December

Other things to do:

Petrin Hill
The Vltava
St Vitus Cathedral
Old Jewish Quarter
Charles Bridge
Beer tour
Prague Castle
John Lennon Wall
Astronomical Clock

Where to stay:

Pure White – This 4 star hotel has a modern yet historical feel with its plush interiors and antique exterior. Close to the city’s major sights not only is it in a great location, but there’s a choice of restaurants onsite when you don’t fancy heading out.

Red & Blue Design – This century-old building is in a prime location for exploring the city with both Wenceslas Square and Charles Bridge close by. Once inside, rooms come with a contemporary decor, while its cafe downstairs is a great place to grab breakfast.

Jalta Boutique Hotel – In the heart of all the action, in Wenceslas Square sits this stunning 5 star property. Its high-quality decor guarantees a sophisticated city break with bathrobes and L’Occitane cosmetics in your room. What’s more, the hotel comes with its very own museum which guests can enter for free.

Top tip: If you’re holidaying on a budget, head for Prague’s smaller markets as the prices are often lower. These fairs tend to offer a more authentic experience too.

Prague Christmas breaks

Berlin

Weihnachtszauber Christmas Market in Berlin on a Clear Winter's day

What to expect? In true German style, Berlin comes alive at Christmas time. With a wide selection of markets to choose from with over 60 scattered throughout the city, there’s no getting away from the festive fun. There’s something about beautifully lit stalls surrounded by the smell of steaming glühwein and traditional street foods like currywurst, that you won’t find anywhere else.

You’re bound to pick up some unusual gifts too with vendors selling everything from one-off pieces of jewellery to ornate decorations and local artwork. Weihnachtszauber at Gendarmenmarkt is a popular choice for its historical surroundings and collection of tents selling all kinds of trinkets, while Winter World on Potsdamer Platz is celebrated for its fun-filled atmosphere with one of the tallest slides in Europe, musical performances and an ice-skating rink.

Alternatively, the Christmas market at Charlottenburg sits at the entrance of a palace and comes with its very own fairytale forest.

Best markets

  • Weihnachtszauber (Gendarmenmarkt) – 26th November to 31st December
  • Winter World on Potsdamer Platz (Tiergarten)) – 26th November to 26th December
  • Alexanderplatz Christmas Market (Mitte) – 26th November to 26th December
  • Christmas market at Charlottenburg Palace (Charlottenburg) – 30th November to 26th December
  • Lucia Christmas Market (Kulturbrauerei) – 26th November to 23rd December

Other things to do:

Brandenburg Gate
Reichstag
Museum Island
Berlin Wall
Berlin Cathedral
Charlottenburg Palace
TV Tower
Jewish Museum Berlin
Topography of Terror
Berlin Zoo

Where to stay:

Kempinski Hotel Bristol Berlin – As you arrive at this hotel, you’ll instantly be wowed by the elegant reception area complete with its shiny marble floor and gold columns. Rooms are classic with stylish fittings, while the brasserie and piano bar set the tone for the evening. In terms of location, you’re in one or the city’s biggest shopping areas with top sites nearby.

City Hotel Berlin East – Enjoy a spacious stay with 24-hour room service and satellite TV thrown in for good measure. You’re in a great location to with Alexanderplatz Square just a 15-minute tram ride away. Looking to indulge German style? Then head to the onsite restaurant and sample country specialities.

Abba Berlin hotel – Situated in a fantastic location close to the popular Kurfürstendamm shopping street, this stylish hotel is a great choice for stays in Berlin. When you’re not unwinding in the comfort of your room, there’s a wellness centre where you can enjoy long hot tub soaks.

Top tip: Always make sure you come equipped with cash. Not only will this come in handy with many of the market’s attractions requiring tickets, but some of the city’s most popular fairs come with an entry fee.

Berlin Christmas breaks

New York

What to expect?

There’s nowhere quite like New York during winter with incredible decorations draped over some of the city’s most iconic landmarks and more Christmas movies filmed here than you can count on one hand. So with that in mind, it’s hardly surprising that it’s home to some amazing markets.

From indoor to outdoor fairs, take your pick from a long list of events. The centrally situated Bryant’s Park Winter Village tends to attract a constant stream of tourists with its magical
ice-skating rink which is installed especially for the occasion along with 100 pop-up stalls. Alternatively, Union Square Holiday Market has more of an urban vibe with eco-friendly products made locally.

For something completely different, Grand Central Holiday Fair allows you to escape the cold with its indoor stalls, while Deck the Stalls Holiday Market’s rooftop setting is a real highlight.

Best markets

  • Bryant’s Park Winter Village (Bryant Park) – 28th October to 5th January
  • Grand Central Holiday Fair (Grand Central) – November 13th to 24th December (closed on Thanksgiving)
  • Union Square Holiday Market (Union Square Park) – 15th to 24th December (closed on Thanksgiving)
  • Columbus Circle Holiday Fair (Central Park) – 28th November to 24th December
  • Deck the Stalls Holiday Market (rooftop at Pier 17) – Every Sunday in December

Other things to do:

High Line
9/11 Memorial and Museum
Statue of Liberty
Central Park
Rockefeller Center
Empire State Building
Times Square
Brooklyn Bridge
Fifth Avenue
American Museum of Natural History
Broadway and the Theater District

Where to stay:

Wyndham New Yorker – Not far from the bright lights of Times Square, you can’t miss this hotel with its illuminated lettering which decorates the building’s exterior. What’s more, its stylish, well-equipped rooms have welcomed a number of big-name celebrities including Muhammad Ali. For the best views, head to the Sky Lounge on the 39th floor.

Ameritania Times Square – This boutique style hotel sits in Times Square close to the city’s Theatre District. Rooms are modern with art adorning the walls and quirky interiors alongside old-world furnishings. Start the day with a continental breakfast or finish it off with a cocktail from the hotel’s romantic lounge.

The Manhattan at Times Square Hotel – Ideally located in Times Square, this 4 star hotel comes with 685 rooms, each guaranteeing a comfortable stay when you need to relax after a long day exploring the city. There’s also a cafe onsite where you can grab convenient snacks and hot drinks.

Top tip: If you’re thinking of heading to Bryant’s Park Winter Village and happen to have your own skates, then you can hit the rink for free.

New York Christmas breaks

Budapest

Christmas market stalls at Saint Stephen Basilica Square in Budapest

What to expect? The Hungarian capital is a great choice when it comes to Christmas markets, rivalling some of the best in Europe you’ll find a range of bigger and smaller fairs across the city. With famous squares resembling nativity scenes, there’s no better place to get your festive fix this winter.

There are two main markets which should be on your radar – Christmas Fair Vorosmarty Square and Christmas Market by Basilica. The one in Vorosmarty Square is the city’ oldest market and is often considered the most beautiful. The area in front of the Basilica is adored for its central ice rink, laser show and lighting of an advent calendar every Sunday.

If you’re looking to try something traditionally Hungarian during your time in Budapest, you’ll find vendors selling the famous Chimney cake right across its fairs. Adored for its beautiful cinnamon and sugar coating, you won’t be able to resist licking your lips.

Best markets

  • Christmas Fair Vorosmarty Square (Vorosmarty Square) – 8th November to 1st January
  • Christmas Market by Basilica (St Stephen’s Square) 23rd November to 1st January
  • Christmas Market of Hungarian Flavors (Erzsébet Square) – 23rd November to 1st January
  • Advent in Budapest (Városháza Park) 23rd November to 28th December

Other things to do:

Parliament Building
Szechenyi Spa Baths
Heroes’ Square
New York Cafe
The Shoes on the Danube Promenade
St. Stephen’s Basilica
Hungarian State Opera House
Fisherman’s Bastion
Buda Castle
The Danube
Szimpla Kert

Where to stay:

Marmara Design Hotel – With oriental influences throughout and some of the city’s biggest sights close by such as Parliament Building and St. Stephen’s Basilica, this property places you in a fantastic location. The free Wi-Fi is a bonus too.

Museum Hotel Budapest – Close to many of the city’s biggest attractions, guests are invited to relax in modern rooms featuring a mini bar, safe and satellite TV. The onsite hot tub is another highlight, perfect on those cold winter days.

Royal Park Boutique Hotel – Not far from the well-known Andrassy Ut Boulevard, Royal Park comes with all the modern features you require for a stylish stay in Budapest. When you don’t want to wander far for a bite to eat, the onsite Italian restaurant is on hand to serve up Mediterranean favourites.

Top tip: Make sure you don’t miss the light show at Christmas Market by Basilica. It really brings the magic of the season alive with its colourful lasers projected onto St Stephen’s Basilica.

Budapest Christmas Breaks

Krakow

Main market square in Krakow with Christmas tree and market stalls

What to expect? As one of Europe’s best Christmas market destinations and voted the cheapest, there’s no better place for your festive fix. You can expect a traditional Polish experience when you visit the Christmas market in Krakow. This affordable hotspot is proving more and more popular during the festive period, which is hardly surprising with the incredible Main Market Square hosting the event. Despite only being one fair, this impressive area transforms into a light-filled marvel surrounded by 13th century architecture – a sight to behold.

Wander its wooden stalls taking in the wonderful aromas which come from the many open grills or keep your eyes peeled for quirky gifts, from locally made woollens to handmade vodka in a range of flavours. Or, if you prefer mulled wine just look out for the giant barrel vendors with grzaniec wrote on the side. You’ll also find that the city stays true to its winter traditions with carol singers providing the music, while you can’t ignore its Christmas Crib Contest which takes place every year and has been held here since the 19th century.

Best markets

  • Rynek Glowny Market (Main Market Square) – 30th November – 7th January

Other things to do:

Wawel Cathedral
St Mary’s Basilica
St Florian’s Gate
Auschwitz – Birkenau
Wieliczka Salt Mine
Wawel Castle
Franciscan Church
Cloth Hall
Schindler’s Factory
Botanical Garden

Where to stay:

Leone Aparthotel – Close to Main Market Square and Wawel Castle in the sought-after Jewish Quarter, your location doesn’t get much better. This stylish hotel is like stepping into the 20th century with its old-fashioned furnishings setting the tone.

Liv’Inn Aparthotel – Within walking distance to the Old Town with funky in-room decor promising a quirky stay, it’s a great choice for trips to Krakow. All rooms are well-equipped with a fridge, mini bar and a safe. Not to mention you can also take full advantage of the free Wi-Fi.

Spatz Aparthotel – Found in Jewish Quarter close to the Main Market Square, Spatz Aparthotel comes with tastefully decorated rooms complete with wooden flooring and a warm colour scheme. Guests can enjoy a delicious breakfast before they hit the city’s biggest sights or gourmet lunches come afternoon.

Krakow Christmas breaks

Top tip: Make sure you pack for the weather – Krakow can be extremely cold at this time of year with average temperatures of -1°C in December.

So, where will you be spreading the Christmas cheer this year?

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