It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Who wouldn’t want a glass of mulled wine accompanied by some delicious food while listening to carols at a market enlightened by hundreds of thousands of Christmas lights? Sounds perfect, doesn’t it? Well, as every year, Christmas is coming and all cities try to host the best Christmas market in the region. Some of them are still a bit better and bigger than the others, so if you’re looking for the best Advent in Europe this year, check out our list and prepare for your next getaway!
1) Zagreb, Croatia
Ready, set, … the best Advent in Europe (three years in a row!) is in Zagreb – go there! During the Christmas season, Zagreb offers numerous events that will meet even the most demanding ones among you. Unique events, plenty of food and genuine Christmas atmosphere await you on the streets and squares of Croatian capital. The magic begins with the Ice park on Tomislav Square where you can skate in the rhythm of Christmas songs and continues with small wooden houses with Advent decorations on Zrinjevac by the pavillion and on Europski trg (square), where you can try local specialties and enjoy some fantastic mulled wine. Zagreb’s rich program will win you over in a second, whether it’s for many organized concerts and Christmas trains or simply for the magic atmosphere across the city.
When: 1 Dec 2018 – 6 Jan 2019
2) Budapest, Hungary
7th annual Advent Feast at the Basilica is an open-air festive Christmas market which welcomes everyone with fantastic food (both Hungarian specialties and international delicacies) such as the all-time favorite ‘flódni’ – the Hungarian chimney cake, yummy burgers, fish menus and much more. The market also offers many attractions, including ice-skating for children in a big rink surrounding a massive Christmas tree (free for children under 14), and features some modern elements, such as country’s best contemporary hand-craft products, a fantastic light show that gives a whole new look of St. Stephen’s Basilica if you wear 3D glasses, and flash mobs – but there is also Santa Claus going shopping to the Advent Feast at the Basilica. Do you need more reasons to buy a ticket for Budapest?
When: 27 Nov 2018 – 2 Jan 2019
3) Vienna, Austria
Why settle for one Christmas market when you can have more than 20 of them? That’s what you’ll find in Vienna where festive Advent villages fill up the loveliest squares and stand next to impressive architectural wonders, like Schönbrunn and Belvedere. Just to highlight a few – the biggest (and for many, the best) of them is the Vienna Christmas Dream on Rathausplatz, with more than 150 traditional stands and stalls set in front of the City Hall, while for those interested in handmade arts and crafts, there is the Art Advent on Karlsplatz. Voted as one of the three best Christmas markets in Europe, the whole city of Vienna turns into a magical Christmas land, with trees, gifts, decorations and warm drinks creating a unique Viennese experience you definitely don’t want to miss!
When: 17 Nov – 26 Dec 2018
4) Colmar, France
France’s 1st and Europe’s 2nd best Christmas market can be visited in the city which combines all it takes for a dream destination – gastronomy, wines, traditions, culture, architecture and history. For 18 years by now, Colmar has been hosting a 6-week-long Christmas magic spread across five markets in a labyrinth of narrow streets lined with old half-timbered houses. Each Christmas market is a mini-village, highlighting passionate and enthusiastic craftsmen. Most of them are from Alsace and have been chosen for the quality and the uniqueness of their products, so make sure to buy at least one souvenir. Apart from that, you’re invited to participate at guided tours, wine-tastings, children animations, exhibition of traditional toys, as well as many shows and concerts.
When: 23 Nov – 30 Dec 2018
5) Brussels, Belgium
Even though it has been around only since 2002, the Christmas market in Brussels has been pulling off its Plaisirs d’Hiver/Winter Pret festival with class. It includes a sound-and-light show on the Grand Palace and along Place Sainte Catherine, but that’s not all – more than 200 wooden chalets offer Christmas wared, handmade crafts and souvenirs to the visitors of Brussels market. Keep in mind that you cannot go there without tasting some moules (mussels) and caricoles (peppery whelks or winkles), Belgian fries and fluffy waffles, seasonal croustillons (sugar doughnuts), and Belgium’s two most welcome additions to world cuisine: fine chocolates and powerful beer. Near the fish market you will find a sparkling 50-meter-high Ferris wheel, while a bit further, at the Place de la Monnaie you can enjoy skating on a 2500-square-meter-big ice rink while dancing along to the most popular Christmas songs, which is a perfect fun both for younger and older generations, right?
When: 30 Nov 2018 – 6 Jan 2019
6) Prague, Czech Republic
Prague has been maintaining its long tradition of hosting one of the best Christmas markets in Europe – and it will not fail us this year as well. The two best Christmas markets in Prague are on the Wenceslas Square and in the Old Town Square around a giant tree, manger scene and small zoo. The sparkling markets sell wooden toys, handmade jewelry, Bohemian crystal and classic Czech marionettes, but you can also find something yummy for tooth decay – from delicious honeyed gingerbread and vosí hnízda (nutty cookies with a lot of rum) to mead and svarene vino (a sweet mulled wine). The traditional Czech Christmas dinner consists of wine sausages and carp fish, so don’t forget about this mouthwatering delicacies. if you happen to be in Prague on 5th of December, you are up for a special treat – St. Nicholas and his crew roam the town accompanied by an angel and a demon, wading through the crowds in the Old Town Square tallying the naughty and nice children.
When: 1 Dec 2018 – 6 Jan 2019
7) Copenhagen, Denmark
The capital of Denmark celebrates its Jul with Christmas market and myriad of glowing Christmas trees in the city’s famous historic amusement park, Tivoli Gardens. Four miles of lights enlighten hundreds of stands draped on the lakeside willows. Do as the Danes do and ward off the cold with æbleskiver (iced doughnuts with black currant jam) and glogg, a steaming hot mulled red wine laden with raisins, almonds, cinnamon sticks, and cloves – all steeped in aquavit or schnapps. For a complete experience, try to visit a crafts market along a canal in the historic Nyhavn district – if you wish to catch the town crier, visit the market between 5 and 6pm. The most important thing, however, is to find nisser, tiny elves that go across Denmark in time of Christmas, wearing clogs, red shirts and pointy red caps. They might bring you presents if you leave bowls of porridge in the attic for them. Who wouldn’t want a few more presents, especially from Copenhagen?
When: 17 Nov – 31 Dec 2018
8) Stockholm, Sweden
Ever since 1903, Stockholm has been strengthening its Advent season with four different markets in the city, in the Old Town, Skansen, Kungstradgàrden and Djurgàrden. These markets offer a wide selection of handmade toys, ornaments and specialties of Swedish gastronomy, especially the delicious glogg (Swedish mulled wine), gingerbread cookies (pepparkakor), saffron buns (lussekatter). Most of these markets close at 6pm, so make sure to continue your tour in Drottninggatan, a looong pedestrian street in the city centre full of shops decorated for this magical occasion or to visit the church of Seglora where beautiful Christmas concerts are held each year. While in Stockholm during the Advent, stop by at the Royal Mews (Kungliga Hovstallet), the stables where the royal horses, harnesses, and carriages create a traditional Christmas fair where you can buy high quality handicrafts and delicacies while exploring the buildings and checking out the horses too.
When: 14 Nov – 23 Dec 2018
9) Nuremberg, Germany
Although Germany has several strong competitors, the Christkindlesmarkt in the charming medieval city of Nuremberg has been, without any doubt, a number one Christmas market in the country for over 400 years. The main market held in the city’s biggest square (Hauptmarkt) abounds in lights, Christmas songs, art crafts and glasses filled with mulled wine, or as Germans call it – Glühwein (which goes great with a traditional German Wurst, by the way). More than 180 market stalls, all fantastically decorated, invite you to enjoy the local gold-foil angel known as Zwetschgenmännle, made of prunes, toys and games. Christkindlesmarkt is a fairy tale dreamland with two carrousel based on old originals with reindeer and Santa Claus’ sleighs, as well as a mini Ferris wheel, a small merry-go-round and a steam railway.
When: 25 Nov – 24 Dec 2018
10) Tallinn, Estonia
Over the past few years, the Christmas market in Tallinn has become increasingly popular in the foreign media as one of the best in Europe. This year the market abounds in heart-shaped ornaments chosen to decorate the market for many reasons (the market itself is heart-shaped when viewed from the air as well!) – the heart is a symbol of love, and Christmas is the most heartfelt holiday in general, don’t you agree? For children, there are carousels and Santa Claus which gives candy to those who are good at reciting verses, but there is also mulled wine for children (don’t worry, there are different flavors for adults, too). The market has a very rich cultural program – on the weekends there are more than 3 000 performers appearing on the stage, and during the Advent period a candle is lit every Sunday and church leaders greet the gathered crowd.
When: 24 Nov 2018 – 6 Jan 2019