Snow-capped peaks, light displays, mulled wine – these are most festive fairytale Christmas markets Europe has on offer.

Europe sparkles during the festive season. With its Christmas markets Europe shines with lively entertainment, great local food and wine, and traditional celebrations. Here are some of the prettiest and the best Christmas markets Europe tempts you with:

Innsbruck, Austria

City and mountains, tradition and innovation – opposites go hand in hand in Innsbruck. During Advent this makes the city at the “Heart of the Alps” a favourite place for travel lovers looking for a short festive break or to enjoy some Christmas shopping. And the new attraction – the LIGHTSHOWMAX 500 is being held in one of the city’s most beautiful historical places.

2019 is the 500th death anniversary of Emperor Maximilian I, and the celebrations are being launched in November with the LIGHTSHOW MAX 500, an audio-visual 3D light projection. Several times a day from 20 Nov – 20 Jan 2019 in the extraordinary historic ambience of the Imperial Palace courtyard, the specially staged Mapping Show invites you to embark on an imaginative journey into the world of Maximilian, the “Last Knight and First Gunner”.

With streets decorated with Christmas lights and snow-capped mountain peaks, traditional brass band music and a sparkling crystal Christmas tree, Tyrolean tradition and modernity go hand in hand in Innsbruck.  Enjoy Christmas lights, the delicious aroma of hot chestnuts or mulled wine at its Christmas markets.

Innsbruck’s “Christmas in the Mountains” with six Christmas markets

Innsbruck’s “Christmas in the Mountains” has six enchanting Christmas markets with more than 200 stalls, and each market has its very own character:

Christmas Market in the Old Town (Nov 15 – Dec 23, 2018)

There’s a real sense of nostalgia at the city’s oldest and largest Christmas market, held under the huge Christmas tree outside the Golden Roof. There are more than 70 stalls selling arts and crafts and Christmas decorations. Children can immerse themselves in the Fairy Tale and Giants’ Alley in a world full of fantasy. And from the viewing platform you can enjoy a wonderful overview of the Old Town and the market.

Christmas Market in Maria-Theresien-Strasse (Nov 25 – Jan 6, 2019)

The market in the Maria-Theresien-Strasse presents a very modern image and boasts an avenue of sparkling crystal trees provided by the Tyrolean world market leader in Christmas lighting. The shops stock a wide range of Christmas products from all over the world.

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Christmas Market on Maria Theresien Street, Innsbruck. Photo: Innsbruck-Tourismus

Christmas Market on the Market Square (Nov 15 – Dec 23, 2018)

The Christmas market on the Market Square is a popular meeting place for families who love the attractions for children, such as the puppet theatre, carousel, story time and the Jaufenthal Crib. The sparkling,15-metre high Swarovski Christmas tree topped with a giant star shines out over the bustling colourful market.

Panorama Christmas Market on the Hungerburg (Nov 24 – December 23, 2018)

This Christmas market is held on the Hungerburg, Innsbruck’s highest mountain. It may be small but it features magnificent panoramic views of the city. A special highlight is the 10-minute ride on the Hungerburgbahn funicular railway, straight from the city centre up to the “viewing point”.

Wilten Christmas Magic (Nov 26 – Dec 22, 2018)

The market offers cultural diversity and regional food with an unmistakable Tyrolean twist. The delightful atmosphere of the Wiltener Platzl square with small independent shops and market stalls makes it popular with many Innsbruckers as a place to meet up after work.

St. Nikolaus Christmas Market (Nov 23 – December 23, 2018)

The small market in Innsbruck’s oldest district is the “youngest” contributor to the diversity of Innsbruck’s “Christmas in the Mountains”. Atmospheric music, home-baked biscuits and a quiet, homely atmosphere give it its special character.

For more about “Christmas in the Mountains”, see www.christkindlmarkt.cc

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Christkindlmarkt Maria Theresien Straße. Photo: Innsbruck Tourismus/ Alexander Tolmo

Romantic Germany

Rhineland‑Palatinate will be transformed into a Christmas wonderland with festively decorated houses, the smell of freshly baked biscuits and the melodies of traditional Christmas carols. The clear waters of the Rhine and the Moselle mirror the softly glowing fairy lights and the air is fragrant with the scent of mulled wine. At Christmas time, the picturesque villages on the Moselle become a magnificent backdrop for the romantic Christmas markets.
Cochem

Cochem, a small town on the Moselle offers a large variety of wintry delicacies and mulled wines made from Moselle grapes, served in the ‘Adventszauberzelt’ (magical Advent tent). Cochem’s Castle Christmas on December 15 and 16, 2018 offers a sparkling view of the Moselle from the Reichsburg.

Wine market

The ‘Mosel-Wein-Nachts-Markt’, an underground Christmas market in Traben-Trarbach, is all about the juice of the vine: the ‘Vinotropolis’—consisting of a number of wine cellars and ancient underground vaults—opens its doors on the weekends between Nov 30, 2018 and January 1, 2019. A tranquil market underground; quietly gliding ice skates on the rink above.

Bernkastel-Kues: Take the plunge

Romantic alleys characterise the medieval town centre of Bernkastel-Kues. St. Nicholas visits the Christmas market on its opening night on Nov 23, 2018. More than 100 swimmers plunge into the Moselle with flaming torches and swim a stretch of 1km in the traditional ‘Fackelschwimmen’.

Trier

In Trier, Germany’s only Mulled Wine Queen will invite you to warm your hands as well as your belly amidst the 90 decorated  wooden stalls. Mulled wine produced by local winegrowers, accompanied by a hearty bratwurst, potato pancake or dessert, will round off any visit to the Christmas market. The market is open from Nov 23 to Dec 22, 2018.

For more, visit Romantic Germany’s Christmas markets website.

Germany Christmas market Bernkastel-Kues Photo C. Arnoldi

Bernkastel-Kues. Photo C. Arnoldi

A Taste of Danish Hygge at Aarhus

Mulled wine, special Danish Christmas pastries and traditional Danish Christmas markets provide the ingredients for a festive weekend break. In Denmark’s second city Aarhus, where the seasonal markets open on Nov 17 to Dec 30, experience the atmosphere of Christmas, see Denmark’s largest decorated Christmas tree, go skating in the park and take in a Christmas concert.

Skywalk view

The best place to start is at the new Salling Rooftop. Located on the top of the Salling department store, take in the 360º views over Aarhus. With a glass of warming glögg (mulled wine) and æbleskiver (a special kind of Christmas pancake puff served with rich marmalade and coated in lashing of powdered sugar), walk along the new Salling SKYWALK, suspended 27 metres above the ‘Strøget’ pedestrianised street below.

Old Town Christmas market

Head to Den Gamle By for the Old Town’s Christmas Market and at this living museum, experience the atmosphere of Christmas during three time periods – the 1800s, the 1920s and the 1970s. In this open-air museum of urban history and culture, take a peek inside some of its 75 historic houses, which have been relocated from all over Denmark. In the old merchant’s house, for example, you will see the famous Danish Christmas story ‘Peter’s Christmas’ then stop for lunch at the half-timbered Simonsen’s Have.

Tivole Friheden

At nearby Tivoli Friheden see the Christmas Market illuminated with over 300,000 Christmas lights and witness the largest decorated Christmas tree in Denmark. There are stalls filled with handcrafts and a food market offering traditional Danish classics.

Ice Skating

Take to the ice on the city’s outdoor skating rink in the Concert Hall Park and warm up afterwards at one of the Concert Hall seasonal concerts in December. Options include The Sound of Christmas on 8 December and on 20 December there’s the Anders Blichfeldt Christmas Gospel. Christmas music can be heard across the city’s many churches and unique hand-made gifts and Christmas decorations can be bought at the Cathedral Christmas market and along the old cobbled streets of the buzzing Latin quarter.

Away from the markets make time to visit the ARoS art museum, one of the largest museums in Northern Europe. On its roof see Your rainbow panorama, a 150 metre long, circular panoramic path with 360º views of the city.

For more, visit the Aarhus website

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Latin Quarter, Aarhus. Photo: Visit Aarhus

Catalonia, Spain

Catalonia celebrates Christmas with an eclectic mix of colourful events. Discover the festive Catalan traditions, gastronomic festivals, events and Christmas craft markets in Catalonia.

Tió de Nadal

Caga Tió, a small log of wood with a painted smiling face, is a Catalan Christmas tradition. It appears in homes across the region from December 8 during the Feast of Immaculate Conception. Children keep the log as a pet until Christmas, the belief that the log will bring more gifts if it is looked after well. On Christmas Eve, the children are given a stick with which they hit the Caga Tió and sing a special song, for the Caga Tió to produce presents.

Caganer at the Nativity Scenes

A caganer is a bare-bottomed, pooping figurine considered by many in Catalonia an essential feature of the traditional nativity scene. There is no clear explanation for the Caganer; some believe it’s a symbol of good luck others think that he represents the mischief that is in all of us. Usually hidden in the Nativity scenes, you are supposed to find it in every Catalan Nativity Scene.

Three Kings Parade

One of Catalonia’s most treasured traditions takes place on the evening of January 5 (famous in Barcelona!). Three kings have been said to visit each town in Catalonia and give gifts to all the family. The following day, children find presents from The Three Kings at home or coal if they have behaved badly.

Festive food

A traditional Christmas feast includes:

  • 25 December – Sopa de Galets, a hearty festive broth that consists of vegetables with large shell-shaped pasta (galets) and giant meatballs (Pilota) is a typical starter, before a main dish of roast chicken, lamb or baked fish.
  • 26 December –With the meats and vegetables used to do the Christmas Sopa de Galets, Catalan families prepare cannelloni, smothered in creamy sauce and cheese, as the main dish for the 26th December (Sant Esteve).
  • 6 January 2018 – On Three Kings Day, after the children have opened their presents or coal (for the naughty ones), families eat Tortell de Reis. Tortell de Reis is an O-shaped pastry stuffed with marzipan or cream and topped with glazed fruit. The Tortell de Reis contain a hidden dried field bean and a tiny figurine of one of the three kings. The person who gets the figurine gets to wear the paper crown. The person who gets the dried fava bean in their cut has to pay for the Tortell.
  • All Christmas season – Torrons are a festive Catalan dessert. Torrons are usually made using nougat, almonds, marzipan, chocolate, eggs or honey and are one of the oldest Christmas foodie traditions, usually washed down with plenty of delicious Catalan cava.

Catalan Christmas markets and fairs 

You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to Christmas activities in Catalonia. The most famous is Barcelona’s Fira de Santa Llucia which sits under the city’s famous Gothic cathedral. A firm favorite amongst tourists and locals, the market holds over 300 stalls selling festive decorations, nativity scenes, handmade crafts, food and wine and the famous Caga Tió.

For information, visit https://experience.catalunya.com/en

christmas markets catalonia

Caga Tió

Winter Wonderland, London

From Nov 23, 2018 – Jan 6, 2019, London’s Hyde Park turns into a magical winter wonderland. Massively popular with locals and travel lovers alike, this year’s new attractions including Ice Sculpting Workshops, Peter Pan On Ice, Teletubbies Christmas Show and the return of The Magical Ice Kingdom with a sparkling new theme – ‘The Secret Forest.’

It also features UK’s biggest outdoor ice rink, the return of Zippos Circus and Cirque Berserk with all new shows, and stand-up comedy ‘lates’ at the Circus MegaDome, plus Bar Hütte festive karaoke booths.

Add roller coasters and Santa Land to this mix, and it’s a perfect day or evening out with the entire family!

For more, visit the Winter Wonderland website.

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Photo: Winter Wonderland

We hope you enjoy the festive Christmas markets Europe offers in spades!

Also Read: 

Holiday Travel: Fairytale Destinations for the Christmas Season

Festive New York holidays: Best Christmas Experiences In the Big Apple