The Best Christmas Markets and Traditions


The Best Christmas Markets in Europe

It’s tough trying to find the best Christmas Markets in Europe. Ah, truly it is.

As some of you may know, I spent most of December criss-crossing along the former Iron Curtain between Istanbul and Berlin as part of a project called the #IronRoute. 

The original motivation had been to make sense of the Cold War. An unexpected advantage was the twinkling Christmas Markets scattered along my path.

What’s a girl to do?


So, to celebrate gingerbread, gluhwein and twinkling bright lights, I bring you this post: the Best Christmas Markets in the World. (Only, it’s not really the whole world. Just the countries between Turkey and Germany. But let’s face it, that wouldn’t make such a good title…)

To spice up the Season of Goodwill even more, I’ve designed specific categories for each Christmas Market so that everyone’s a winner. So, grab a glass of gluhwein yourself and make yourself comfortable. Drumroll please….

The Best Christmas Markets in the World – More or Less

Best Christmas Market Berlin Stars

The Most Organised Christmas Market

The Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin wins this prize outright by being the only Christmas Market I found that had an organised ticket booth with queues and formal entrance procedures. The market itself dazzled, set between floodlit buildings and accompanied by accomplished – and organised – musicians.

Best Christmas Market Trieste

The Sparsest Christmas Market

Trieste, in northern Italy, really excelled itself with Christmas minimalism this year. Take one vast, imposing, floodlit square, insert one Christmas tree and…Er, that’s about it. Compare and contrast with…

Best Christmas Lights Ljubljana

The Most Extravagant Christmas Market

Why let something stay in darkness when you can throw Christmas lights all over it? I love the approach that Slovenia took with their Christmas lights in Ljubljana…the more, the merrier I say!

Best Christmas Market Prague

The Most Christmassy Christmas Market

Prague wins easily by placing its Christmas Market on the aptly named Wenceslas Square. It also throws in a mention of the nativity, snugly hid among the gingerbread and wine…

Best Christmas Market Vienna

The Chic-est Christmas Market

Vienna did so well here I’m going to push the boat out and upload another photo. Glimmering away in the shadows of the Rathaus, this Christmas Market was one of the largest and most popular I saw. The weather was biting at the time as well, with sleet, high winds and the kind of low temperatures that make Spaniards shiver at the thought of them. And STILL it was popular. Impressive.

The sparkly stunning Christmas market in Vienna via @insidetravellab


Best Christmas Markets Budapest Couples

The Cutest Christmas Market

With these dough couples plus embroidered hearts, lace-trimmed blouses and scented sachets, Budapest’s Christmas Market wins the cutest prize…It also scoops up…

Best Christmas Market Budapest Food

The Best Food at a Christmas Market

From stir fry to sauerkraut, cinnamon cabbage to cinnamon cookies, mulled wine to roasted Romanian pastries, this Christmas Market in Budapest had the most on offer by far…

Hamburg Market Small via @insidetravellab

The Newest Old Christmas Market

Hamburg, Germany’s largest port, has over 17 different Christmas Markets. The one that stands in the shadow of the Rathaus looks as though it has been around for centuries but actually only popped up around 30 years ago. Who cares, when the gluhwein is this good though?!

Christmas handicrafts in Sweden via @insidetravellab

The Cheeriest Christmas Market: Malmo in Sweden

Who can resist these scarlet starlets? For plenty of wholesome hand-knitted crafts, head to Malmo in Sweden.

The Biggest Christmas Market: Munich in Germany

It’s the Munich Christmas Market – or Christkindlmarkt – and it’s rumoured to be the biggest in the world. Normally “big” puts me off when it comes to outdoor crowds. It makes me think more queues, more jostling and more blindness since my rather, ahem, petite stature leaves me nose to coat lapels more often than not. And in gigantic Germany, I start to get dangerously close to waist level.

Luckily, in Munich’s case, “big” meant big spaces between stalls with plenty of elbow room and jostling space for the sub-gigantic among us.

It also meant live Christmas carols from the balcony of the Rathaus, or Town Hall, whose carved stone tower twinkled in the light reflected from the 100 foot high Christmas tree. It meant sweet scented gluhwein served in ceramic boot-shaped mugs. Hansel & Gretel cookie houses and iced gingerbread hearts. Bratwurst and grated potato, creamy crepes and candy floss. Sturdy tankards of beer and intricate wooden candlesticks.


ANOTHER UPDATE: Interested in Christmas Markets in Western Europe? Check out this series from Follow Ben and Jenna.

Read More About Christmas Markets and Christmas Traditions