A Christmas Market at dusk in Germany

Even the biggest Scrooge would have his heart warmed by Europe’s historic Christmas markets. Often in beautiful city squares or other significant settings, they’re full of artisanal gifts to buy, the familiar scent of mulled wine, delicious things to eat from around the world, glowing Christmas lights, and plenty of holiday cheer. These 10 European cities with Christmas markets do it especially well.


Said to be the oldest in Europe, the Striezelmarkt Christmas Market dates back at least as far as 1434. Traces of history point to a market that offered typical sweets, known as striezel, and stollen, the distinctive Christmas bread from Dresden that’s studded with candied and dried fruits and covered with icing sugar. The market comes at Christmas from many angles, with brightly lit Christmas trees and nativity scenes, and elf cottages and Santa’s house. If you still want more, the city has nearly a dozen others.

Where to stay: The Buelow Palais is a historic hotel with its own sort of magic, and its location in the Baroque Quarter puts it near the much newer Augustus Market.


Everything the Austrian capital does is classy, and the Christmas markets are no exception. The Schoenbrunn Palace Market is the city’s most famous, with a stunning location in front of the Habsburg Palace and a strong focus on arts and crafts. But there is also the Viennese Dream Christmas Market, with its own striking setting in front of the city hall and caroling by international choirs on weekends, as well as a good number of smaller markets around the city.

Where to stay: The boutique Hotel Motto strikes the perfect balance between homage to a period in history (particularly the golden age in Paris) and the urban vibrancy of Vienna today.


Advent is the high season in Munich, a city that claims to have held traditional Christmas markets as far back as the 14th century. The best known is the romantic Marienplatz Market, held in front of the neo-Gothic town hall, an epicenter of Bavarian coziness. There’s a particular focus on the goods that are needed to construct nativity scenes, such as lanterns and gifts from the Magi like frankincense and myrrh. The other must-see is the Viktualienmarkt, the city’s year-round open market, which gets into the holiday spirit with food, mulled wine, Christmas carols, and — so Munich — a nativity scene in the beer garden.

Where to stay: Right outside the Viktualienmarkt, the stylish Louis Hotel has 72 well-designed rooms with handcrafted furniture.


Slovenia is rapidly developing a reputation for nature and sustainable tourism, but it also knows how to celebrate winter holidays in the capital. Ljubljana is known for its many Christmas markets. A key attraction is the Land of Ice, an unusual collection of frozen sculptures. Sure, it’s a bit kitschy, but the artisan gifts — particularly the consumable ones, like schnapps and honey — on display at the vendors’ stalls are top-quality, and the food, drink, and social scene are even better.

Where to stay: The most stylish boutique property in town is Hotel Cubo, less than five minutes from main Christmas market also near the river. Hedonists will appreciate the excellent breakfast, while conservationists can respect the sustainability initiatives.


The Christmas markets in Budapest stand out for their dedication to preserving local culture and traditions. They’re about small handmade gifts based on glass blowing, knitting, wood carving, candle making, pottery, embroidery, lace work. and leather crafting. The main markets are the Christmas Market at Vorosmarty Square, which is beautifully presented, and the Budapest Basilica Christmas Fair, with its focus on Hungarian delicacies, such as chimney cake.

Where to stay: The historic Matild Palace is a 15-minute stroll to either of the most famous markets, and it has special Christmas menus for the month of December at Matlid Café & Cabaret and Wolfgang Puck’s Spago.


A regular winner in listicles about the best Christmas markets in Europe, the event in Nuremberg differentiates itself with its strict regulations about what can and cannot be sold. Although it’s one of Europe’s biggest, oldest, most traditional, and most popular in the world the organizers are still committed to limiting the sellers to locals and banning the sales of plastic toys and gewgaws.

Where to stay: The family-run Hotel Elch is a standout for its urban style within a timbered building that dates from the 14th century but now has a very contemporary soul.


One of the sexiest cities in Europe, Prague hosts a terrific mix of traditional and contemporary Christmas markets. The two most important markets are within five minutes’ walk from one another, the biggest ones in Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square. With their brightly colored wooden stalls and holiday light displays, they illuminate the city and conjure a good dose of holiday magic.

Where to stay: The Emblem Hotel is a lifestyle property with 59 gorgeous rooms, a chill-out lounge, and an unbeatable rooftop terrace.


Billing itself the French Capital of Christmas, the Alsatian city, on the border with and heavily influenced by Germany, lights up with miles and miles of fairy lights. The main market, beside the massive cathedral, has more than 300 stalls selling gifts and snacks. A separate Advent Village has workshops, performances, and a fir tree forest, and the OFF Market emphasizes the social and solidarity economy with upcycled and ethically produced products.

Where to stay: The five-star Maison Rouge is just a five-minute walk away from the cathedral and the market activities.


The Christmas market in the Belgian capital is unique because it stays open through the first Sunday in January, which is New Year’s Day this year. (Most Western European markets close just before Christmas.) The market fills Grand Place, the city’s central historic square, and many of the streets around it, with a highlight being the Sound & Light Show, which fills the UNESCO-designated square with colors and music.

Where to stay: With its location just one block from Grand Place, Hotel Amigo has a winning deign that marries the historic and the contemporary, with an impressive art collection.


Krakow’s Christmas market takes place on the city’s main square, Rynek Glowy, which has for centuries been a center of trade in Poland. In November, wooden stalls appear, selling Christmas decorations, gifts, cards, and sweets and other foods like pierogies and smoked cheese, many of which are made by local artisans. Children’s ensembles and other artists perform carols.

Where to stay: The design-forward Balthazar Hotel (note the Christmas-related name) is just off Rynek Glowy and has sumptuous Art Deco interiors.