If there’s one thing that staves off the cold wind and the biting chill of wintertime, it’s the warm fuzzy feeling you get wandering around majestic Christmas markets in December, when the air is full of infectious laughter, excited chatter and plenty of Christmas magic. Whether you’re there to browse, pick up unique knick-knacks or simply indulge on the steaming mugs of mulled wine and apple cider, it goes without saying that Christmas markets in Europe are some of the best in the world. From London to Berlin, don’t forget to include these incredible Christmas markets in your upcoming festive activities – just one visit is sure to have you believing in Santa Claus all over again… 

Vienna, Austria

No matter what time of year you visit Vienna, the Austrian capital is a thing of beauty, so mesmerising that you’ll have trouble convincing yourself that you haven’t stepped foot directly into the pages of a medieval storybook. The Christmas wonder here begins around mid-November and the two main markets are the Viennese Dream Christmas Market in front of the City Hall and Christmas Village Belvedere Palace, set against the beautiful baroque backdrop of Vienna’s most striking buildings. Both are infected with seasonal joy while the Viennese Dream boasts international choirs inside City Hall singing carols on the weekends, and an area dedicated to children where they can learn how to make Christmas cookies or candles. 

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Bratislava, Slovakia

The Slovakian capital does Christmas like it does loksa – flawlessly, of course! Bratislava is right in the heart of Europe, combining majestic mountains and beautiful castles with winding medieval streets that truly come alive under the blanket of the festive season. And while it may not have the reputation of their Austrian and German counterparts when it comes to Christmas markets, Slovakia has its own set of traditions that certainly make it a strong contender. With many pop-up markets scattered throughout the city, the main event takes place in the main square of the Old Town, also known as Hlavné námestie. Lights, music and food cover every corner of the square, bringing together locals and tourists alike to laugh and bond over traditional Slovak cuisine, a steaming mug of hot honey wine and a singalong or two. 

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Berlin, Germany

With visitors coming from far and wide to observe the string of Christmas markets (roughly around 80) in the German capital, you know that the festivities in Berlin are something special. With the earliest starting around mid-November and lasting until early January, the whole city is awash with festive cheer, twinkling lights, and the world-famous glühwein is found on every corner. Oh, and it’s worth noting that some smaller markets only open for a few days so make sure you double-check before embarking on your journey. 

Potsdamer Platz’ Winter World is also a popular attraction in Berlin at Christmas, with less focus on spiced alcohol and trendy gifts, and more on exciting sports. Try your hand at curling or don some ice skates and show off your glide – kids are offered free lessons so don’t let the little ones miss out. Top tip? Visit the amazing Alexander Square Christmas market and then head up the landmark TV Tower, located just steps away, for a birds-eye-view of the incredible events below. Go one step further and dine at the Revolving Restaurant Sphere – the slow-turning eatery will allow you to admire the market from every angle while indulging on some delicious fare. An experience like no other! 

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Prague, Czech Republic 

If the faint aroma of cinnamon gently wafting through the air at all times is your idea of heaven, then the Christmas markets in Prague is where you should be this December. Festive cheer is in abundance in the Czech Republic capital, and the picture-perfect city is truly illuminated by the wonder of Christmas spirit from late November to early January. Rich history surrounds the Old Town Square, with the 14th-century twin spires of Our Lady Before Týn on one side and the iconic 15th-century astronomical clock on the other. Between the two is the heart of the market, where the scent of cinnamon is the strongest but bringing with it smells of freshly grilled sausages, wafts of garlic from the garlic and cheese flatbreads and hints of citrus from the gallons of svarák, the Czech take on mulled wine. 

Wenceslas Square is where you can admire the neck-craning Christmas tree; try and visit at 5pm when the sun begins to set, and the colourful lights are switched on. And, if your walking shoes can take it, climb the near-300 steps to the top of Prague Castle, a gorgeous landmark built in the 9th century. Within the heart of the complex, you’ll also find another incredible Christmas tree and many festive stalls, perfect for purchasing a hot beverage to nurse while you wander around the castle’s majestic exteriors. 

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London, United Kingdom 

Okay, although technically not a Christmas market, there’s no such thing as a visit to London in the colder months without a trip to the famous Winter Wonderland. The larger-than-life event is held yearly at Hyde Park and is full of exciting rides, incredible live performances, classic funfair attractions, plenty of food and even more drink (it is London, after all). As of 2021, pre-booked tickets are essential for entry, with the price depending on the time of day you choose to attend – but Christmas magic in one of Europe’s most beautiful cities? Priceless. 

Southbank Centre Winter Market is also the perfect place to experience winter festivities by London’s famous riverside, combining delicious global cuisine with eclectic stalls where you can pick up unique stocking fillers and interesting knick-knacks. There’s nothing quite like the twinkling Christmas lights bouncing off the River Thames as you walk along the bank with a mulled wine in hand. 

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Strasbourg, France

Did you know that Strasbourg has been titled France’s Capital of Christmas’? Step into a real-life nativity scene as you make your way through a few of the 300 traditional market stalls that populate the heart of the Grand Île, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with the 30-metre-high Christmas tree at the centre displaying a cascade of colours. Be warned – crowds are very common so if you want to explore the main area of the market somewhat uninterrupted, make sure you visit in the morning when the stalls first open. Oh, and come on an empty stomach too because the delights that await you here are mouth-watering to say the least – think sizzling sausages and fruity brioche, spicy gingerbread, and handmade cakes. 

Make a stop in​‘La Petite France’, where the stores specialise in handmade Christmas decorations and a gingerbread bakery produces sweet treats all day long. Pick up some three-meat baeckeoffe stew or choucroute garnie (pickled cabbage dressed with charcuterie) to munch on while you browse. To spread the goodwill, drop by the Village of Sharing at the foot of the grand Christmas tree, which showcases charities and non-profits. Above all, Strasbourg instils Christmas spirit through its extensive calendar of events – over five hundred different activities are scheduled for the month-long festival, be they concerts, exhibitions, workshops or entertainment.

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