top of page

Christmas Markets in Europe: A Helpful Guide

Updated: Dec 5, 2023

I have been to at least 20+ holiday markets in the past couple of years and have plans to visit around 15 more this winter! I hope you find this guide to Europe's beautiful and enchanting markets helpful. I can't imagine Christmas without them now!


Trierer Weihnachtsmarkt 2022 - Christmas Market - Germany - Europe - Holidays - Holiday Spirit - Christmas Decoration - Christmas Decor - European Traditions
Trierer Weihnachtsmarkt 2022

First, I want to highlight these resources below. Simply scan the QR codes and click on the link! They will take you to helpful Google Maps I have created (still under construction) and a website that has listed and organized over 2,000 German Markets!



Now let us begin with one of the most commonly asked questions:


What is the best market in Europe?


That is a tricky question to answer. It really depends on your preferences. Do you want multiple markets in one location that you can walk to? I would suggest a big city such as Cologne, Berlin, Strasbourg, or even Basel. Are you looking for a uniquely themed market? I would then perhaps suggest the Hans Christian Andersen Market in the Netherlands! How about kids? Some markets have more rides and child-themed activities/events than others, such as Santa ziplining across the sky in his sleigh in Saarbrücken. Or are you looking for a smaller, less commercial, and more intimate setting? With smaller local markets, you can have fun getting to know the locals and their customs, find more unique items to buy, and deal with less crowding.


Figuring out which market to visit is a matter of preference! There are so many out there that you really have to narrow it down when requesting advice on which markets to add to your to-do list, especially if this happens to be a once-in-a-lifetime trip.


Christmas Market - Europe - Holidays - Holiday Spirit - Christmas Decoration - Christmas Decor - European Traditions - Luxembourg Winter Lights Festival
Winter Lights Festival Luxembourg 2022

How many Christmas Markets are there?


THOUSANDS.

Literally thousands.


For example, if you used the QR code to view the super helpful website I mentioned above, you'll see 2,292 markets officially listed in Germany ALONE. That doesn't include the hundreds found in other European countries. Mind-blowing!


There are so many because almost every German village/town hosts their own market, no matter how big or small. Christmas Markets originated in Germany, so that makes perfect sense! It's tradition!


Christmas Market - Europe - Holidays - Holiday Spirit - Christmas Decoration - Christmas Decor - European Traditions - Böhmischer Weihnachtsmarkt - Eiffel Tower - Marché de Noël à la Tour Eiffel
Marché de Noël à la Tour Eiffel 2022

What time do Christmas Markets open, and on what dates?


Markets open and close as early as the beginning of November and can last until around the first week of January. Smaller village markets are often a single-day affair, others a weekend or two, and most large cities will host them for weeks. It varies, and you must thoroughly review websites and Facebook pages to ensure you have the correct information.


Warning: So far, the most frustrating thing about Europe (for me) has been how difficult it is to find the accurate information I need. Websites and Pages are getting better, but I swear it feels like parts of Europe are actively resisting technology in every possible way they can! Then, even when I find it, it can be unreliable. I can't tell you how often I've shown up to a business/activity/venue to discover they are closed or I'm early/late. It happens to me on an average of once a week and is beyond frustrating. I haven't had trouble with Christmas Markets YET - but I wanted to throw the warning out there. If you're planning a major vacation, the bigger, more popular ones should have better and more reliable websites, but ALWAYS double-check on as many platforms as possible, which means checking Facebook and multiple websites. Take the time to search for the official website and avoid non-official event sites.


Christmas Market - Europe - Holidays - Holiday Spirit - Christmas Decoration - Christmas Decor - European Traditions - Basel Weihnachtsmarkt - Basel Switzerland
Basler Weihnachtsmarkt 2022

What time should I go?


As a general rule here in Europe, I don't show up to markets before 2:00 pm. If you do, there is a good chance some vendors will be closed. Unlike the States, where we have set hours, and everyone is generally there for those hours. Businesses here often open and close when it is most advantageous/convenient to them. Therefore, 2:00 pm is what I aim for because most things will be open, and I will have time to explore the market in the light of day. Then, around 4:00 pm, it will get dark, and I can get the nighttime experience with the choice to leave if the market becomes too crowded. Later in the evening, some markets can become so uncomfortably crowded that it's hard to move around, let alone shop or purchase anything to eat or drink. I had that experience in Berlin last year and had to leave, which was a bummer.


However, I break this rule when I'm heading to a larger/popular market. I'll head there as early as possible if I know things will get crowded fast. Make it a day trip and enjoy all that the city has to offer!


Attention: Pay attention to when the markets close. I made the mistake once of forgetting that things often close early in Europe. My friend and I arrived and decided to find a restaurant and have a formal dinner before heading to the market. Well, it was all closing down by the time we exited the restaurant! I believe that was around 8:00 pm. So please don't make the same mistake I did.


Disclaimer: This is a general rule that I follow. This does NOT mean that every single market will not be in full swing before 2:00 pm. It just means that, in my experience, festivals and markets do not fully open until around that time.


Christmas Market - Europe - Holidays - Holiday Spirit - Christmas Decoration - Christmas Decor - European Traditions - Strasbourg France - Marché de Noël à Strasbourg
Marché de Noël à Strasbourg 2022

What day of the week is best?


If you can manage it, and the market is open during a weekday, I would go then. Overcrowding (as mentioned above) can be a serious issue and make any market experience less enjoyable for some. Therefore, avoiding weekends is always recommended. If you can't make it on a weekday, I would arrive early to get in as much time as possible before the crowds descend.


Christmas Market - Europe - Holidays - Holiday Spirit - Christmas Decoration - Christmas Decor - European Traditions - Paris France -  La Magie de Noël aux Tuileries
La Magie de Noël aux Tuileries 2022

Do all markets go by the same name?


They do not! In Germany, they are often called Weihnachtsmarkt. France has their Marché de Noël, and they are Julmarknad in Sweden. However, some can have specific names, such as the Heissa Holzmarkt found in Berlin or the Charles Dickens Festival in the Netherlands. When searching online, knowing the official name of the market you are looking for can make information much easier to find.


Christmas Market - Europe - Holidays - Holiday Spirit - Christmas Decoration - Christmas Decor - European Traditions - Bernkastel-Kues Germany - Adventskalender Weihnachtsmarkt Bernkastel-Kues
Adventskalender Weihnachtsmarkt Bernkastel-Kues

Are all Christmas Markets the same?


After visiting markets for a couple of years, they all started to blur together a little, and I would joke that "they are all the same." While they often share the same features, plenty of markets offer unique experiences outside the generic food, drink, Ferris Wheel, carnival rides, and vendors. I've discovered Italian, Japanese, and Norwegian-themed markets in Berlin. Medieval-themed markets can be found in multiple countries, and others can be found in unique locations such as the popular Ravenna's Gorge Market (Ravennaschlucht) and Valkenburg Caves. No matter what you are looking for, it's out there! Sometimes, you just need to do a little searching to find it.


Christmas Market - Europe - Holidays - Holiday Spirit - Christmas Decoration - Christmas Decor - European Traditions - Saarbrücken Germany - Christkindlmarkt Saarbrücken
Christkindlmarkt Saarbrücken

What should I wear?


Dress warm! Below, you will find suggestions (with links) to winter gear that are some of my essential must-haves and also other items to consider purchasing!



Disclaimer: I'm simply providing examples of what I am talking about so you can find products that work best for you. I did do a bit of searching to find the best-rated items with the most reviews, though! Purchase at your own discretion!


Christmas Market - Europe - Holidays - Holiday Spirit - Christmas Decoration - Christmas Decor - European Traditions - Kaiserslautern Germany - Weihnachtsmarkt
Weihnachtsmarkt Kaiserslautern

Where should I stay?


Lodging can be pricey right next to the markets. While it is convenient and charming to stay close, you can always book further away. My only suggestion would be to ensure it is next to a public transportation hub (if available). That way, you will have easy access to the entire city!



What if I don't speak the language?


If possible, learning to say yes and no and small phrases in the local language is always polite. The effort is well received. If not, Google Translate or any translation tool works just fine! However, I will say most of the time in Europe, even if I try to speak the language, they immediately know I’m American and switch to English (it must be my horrible accent, lol). Additionally, I'll often find they will state they "don’t speak well," then turn around and demonstrate practically flawless English, which is always funny. Overall, I’ve had little to no issues getting around and communicating! When in doubt, type what you want to say into your translator and show it to them.


Always be flexible and know that no matter how well you communicate, you may end up with the whole cake instead of just one piece. Or receive a completely different dish than what you thought you were ordering. It's all part of the experience! When those little mistakes happen to me, I don't even try to correct them. It's not their fault I can't speak the language, and it's a funny story to tell when you get home! If you go into experiences with this sort of attitude, I guarantee you'll enjoy exploring different cultures more. These situations are almost inevitable, and it's best to laugh and avoid getting too frustrated.


Attention: I always try to learn the phrase "I am sorry, I do not speak _____. Do you speak ______?" I find this apologetic approach more well-received than walking up to someone and immediately asking them to speak my language. We are guests in their country, and it's best to be polite and as courteous as possible when trying to communicate.


Please enjoy the slideshow below (click on the photo/arrow to see all).


Is it ok to take the Christmas mugs we are given?


This is a huge debate that goes back and forth. Overall, I would say yes, taking them at most larger markets is okay. In fact, many mugs are made specifically for you to take them! They will have the current year or a unique design made because they know people like to collect the mugs. However, you want to be careful in some smaller local markets. Smaller stands may only have a limited number of mugs; taking the mug would dwindle their supply. If you are unsure, please ask!


Pro Tip: If you are traveling with your mugs, bring bubble wrap or any type of cushioning to wrap them in for the journey home. You can also bring some baby wipes (for cleaning) and a bag for placing them in your backpack or purse when out and about. You may not have anywhere to wash them when you are done, and things can get sticky. Don't forget that some larger markets have multiple mug types. Make sure you have a big enough bag or book a place nearby you can take them back to!


Another idea, if you don't care about the mugs, is to bring your own insulated cup to pour your drink into! This way you can immediately get your pfand back and also keep your drink hot! It's expensive, but I'm obsessed with this Ember Mug (click me), and it would be absolutely perfect for this!


Christmas Market - Europe - Holidays - Holiday Spirit - Christmas Decoration - Christmas Decor - European Traditions - Stuttgart Germany - Wintertraum
Wintertraum Stuttgart

What is a pfand?


A pfand is the extra amount charged when you receive a glass from one of the drink vendors. So, if the drink costs 5€ and the pfand is 2€, your drink will be 7€. Then when you return your mug/glass (to the same stall), you will receive your 2€ pfand back IF you choose to return your mug.



Berliner Weihnachtszeit am Roten Rathaus - Berlin Germany - Christmas Market - Europe - Holidays - Holiday Spirit - Christmas Decoration - Christmas Decor - European Traditions
Berliner Weihnachtszeit am Roten Rathaus

Is it free to enter?


Most markets are free to enter! You simply walk on up and enjoy! However, some specialized markets do require tickets, so it's always good to double-check on the website!



What is the best mode of transportation, and how hard is it to find parking?


This is very situational. For markets in Paris, I would suggest avoiding driving in the city. I'm not even sure traffic laws exist there! If you are flying in, trains may be your best method of transportation when visiting multiple cities. If you are more of a local, the trains can often be more expensive or take way longer than by car. I usually drive to markets because it's way more convenient timewise. However, if it's a big city, I would suggest parking at a train station outside the city and taking public transportation in. I did not enjoy driving in Basel at all, and Strasbourg was crazy busy traffic-wise when I went! Logistics are different for every trip, and I can't tell you definitively what would be best for you without knowing your exact itinerary.



Where do I park?


Parking can be a little more difficult if you show up later in the day, depending on how busy the market gets. If you take my advice and go earlier, your chances of finding parking are greater than if you show up later in the evening (in most cases). Furthermore, when searching for a parking lot/garage, you often get more results using the local word. For example, when I search for a parking lot in Germany, I search for a "parkplatz."


Some of my most reliable parking garages are found at train stations and airports (especially in larger cities). You can often reserve these online, and most are located near public transportation that will take you directly into the city!


Attention: When using parking garages in Europe, bring your parking ticket with you. Put it in a secure location (wallet, zipper pocket). Do not leave it in your car! You will pay on your way back to your car BEFORE you get into your car to leave. As Americans, we are used to paying at the exit. If you do this, you will get stuck trying to leave. You would then have to physically exit your car and find the machine to pay at. You do not want to be that person!! So, pay on the way back to your car. In Germany, the machines are called kassenautomat and can often be found at the exits or the corner of a staircase. There are usually signs directing you where to go.


Please enjoy the slideshow below (click on the photo/arrow to see all).


What kind of shopping is available?


You can find all kinds of items to buy, including food! Markets can be great places to find unique hand-crafted items to buy for yourself or give to others. Even homemade candy or yummy dried sausages in various flavors (see above). However, I will warn you that many markets are becoming more and more commercialized. You can often find the same type of stand at multiple markets, which makes me sad. I want them to keep their authenticity, but I guess, in some ways, it is inevitable.


Please enjoy the slideshow below (click on the photo/arrow to see all).


What kind of food is available?


Each market and different countries will serve different kinds of local foods. It's fantastic! Some of my favorites to try are the reibekucken/kartoffelpuffer mit Knoblauchsoße, bratwurst, Champignons mit Knoblauchsoße, goulash soup, schweinsteak sandwiches mit Knoblauchsoße (see a theme here?), chimney cake/kürtőskalács/baumstriezel, käsespätzle, and so much more. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it! If you go with friends, try getting a variety of dishes and sharing so you can try as much food as possible!


Pro Tip: Bring ziploc-like bags with you to store any food you would like to take home. However, if doing so, be sure that anything you transport adheres to customs regulations when crossing boarders!


Please enjoy the slideshow below (click on the photo/arrow to see all).


Is there only Glühwein for sale?


No! Europeans love their alcohol, so you'll find all kinds. While glühwein is the quintessential Christmas Market drink, depending on the size of the market, you should be able to find various options. Hot chocolate is often sold with the option to add a cream liquor, which is one of my favorites!


Keep in mind that glühweins come in various flavors, and different countries also have their own versions. For example, Vin Chaud can be found in France, Glögg in Sweden, and Bisschopswijn in the Netherlands! My advice is to try them all!


If you bring the kids, be sure to order the kid's version, which is called a kinderpunsch in Germany.


Pro Tip: Bring water with you so you don't have to purchase any when out and about. The only downside is you have to carry said water.



Do I have to use local currency instead of my credit card?


Most markets still require cash. The only place I went that readily accepted credit cards so far was the market in Basel, Switzerland. Even there, we encountered a few situations with craft vendors where we needed to pull Swiss Francs out.


How much cash you bring depends on your drink, food, and shopping goals. I would probably at least pull 100 out. Try to avoid bills more significant than 20, and it's always helpful to have change on you! I find these coin organizers useful if you can get your hands on one.


Attention: Try to only pull cash out from official bank ATMs. Also, always decline their conversion and let your bank decide. NEVER do a cash exchange at the airport, etc. These will majorly rip you off!!


Please enjoy the slideshow below (click on the photo/arrow to see all).


What kind of prices can I expect for food and drink?


As this season progresses, I'll try to include more examples of prices from different markets. These prices are from the recent Ludwigshafener Weihnactsmarkt that I attended.



What kind of bathrooms are available, and do I have to pay?


Cold ones! These are often trailers parked on the property or porta potties, and depending on the country, you will have to pay! It's usually around 1 euro or less. They can be small, so I wouldn't try to bring a ton of things in with you. This is yet another reason to keep those coins handy!


I joked about them being cold because, in general, in Europe, I've found that bathroom windows will be open year-round (or have no heating). It's not a pleasant experience!



Can I bring my furry friend with me?


In general, I would advise not to bring them. Sure, if you know your local one allows it and won't be crowded, then I guess it'll be ok. Keep in mind, though, that these markets are cold, crowded, loud, and there is always the potential for broken glass. If you do, I would bundle them up and put them in a stroller or wagon. However, then you'll have to navigate through narrow paths and crowds with it.


If you do want to bring them to a market, Hello it's Jasper is a fun blogger who takes her dog everywhere she can. She recently posted a guide that you can find here. I highly recommend you view and follow that guide for their safety and comfort!


Also, sometimes, she will post on holiday markets made specifically for dogs! Her most recent one (linked above) references the Erlebnisbauernhof Gertudenhof. If you missed that one this year, there is also another that is held at Europabad Karlsruhe called the Hundeweihnachtsmarkt!



Have anything else to add? A question? Find a mistake I made?


Please get in touch with me at info@allieinwanderland.com, and I'd be happy to add, answer, or fix whatever you have for me!


I will continue to edit this guide as time passes, so keep coming back to see if anything has changed!


Additional Information:


A helpful website I found that has 2,292 German markets listed and organized.


Another Christmas Market website:


Non-German Christmas Market Google Map (created and updated by me)


German Christmas Market Google Map (created and updated by me)


Christmas/Easter Market Facebook Group


Disclaimer: I wanted to get this information out as soon as possible since markets are opening up across Europe! I will edit and update as time goes on. Above all else, I hope this makes you feel more comfortable planning your trip and helps alleviate any fears about venturing out to partake in this beautiful tradition. It's truly magical.



🆓 I strive to keep everything I offer as affordable as possible or free! Yet, some have asked to express further gratitude. ❤️ So, I've introduced: "Buy Me A Mile." 🛣️ If you're inclined to contribute, a simple click on the link below is all it takes! Your support fuels the growth of this budding business of mine. 💼👩‍💼 Exciting plans are unfolding on the horizon! 📈🔝 Every mile makes a difference!


🔗 https://www.allieinwanderland.com/product-page/tip-of-appreciation


💯 To be clear, please do not feel obligated in any way! Your presence here alone is most certainly appreciated. 🙏 This is simply a way for some to express their gratitude if they feel the need. 🫶


I appreciate your support.

Happy adventures!

- Allie

758 views0 comments

Comments


bottom of page