Best Christmas Markets in Europe 2015
Each winter thousands flock to outdoor markets setup throughout Europe. From cozy villages to bustling cities, it seems that Europeans embrace the Christmas market tradition even more than the tourists. For many, this is the true essence of the holidays – cinnamon in the air, hot mugs of wine-centric libations, and carolers strolling the cobbles. It all makes for a far more appealing destination than the drafty North Pole.
While winter vacations in Europe aren’t as common, that’s not to say they aren’t warranted, especially during the holiday season. Expedia.com asked me to share some of the sweethearts of the Christmas market festivals in Europe this advent.
Strasbourg, France | November 27 – December 31
With 23% of 41k votes, Strasbourg’s Capital de Noel was named the 2015 Best Christmas Market in Europe for the second year in a row. The votes reflect my sentiment- the festivities, light displays, and vendors in Strasbourg are bar none the best. While the city itself may be considered small, the market is not. With over 300 stalls setup in 12 different locations, themed villages are a highlight with a dedicated children’s market and guest country village. This year the special guest country is the city’s northern neighbor, Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. (Parking Map) Don’t miss: Le Petite France
Cologne, Germany | November 23 – December 23
Each year Cologne welcomes millions of visitors who come to enjoy it’s multiple Christmas markets scattered throughout the city and along the river. There is something for everyone- popular markets include the Harbor Market, Cathedral Market and Gay & Lesbian Market. During my visit I was totally wowed by the authentic handicrafts for sale throughout the festival, which explains why it’s a favorite for shoppers. (Christmas Market Map) Can’t make it? Check out this Live Web Cam!
London, England | November 23 – December 24
There are multiple markets throughout the city but the chalet-style stalls lining the riverfront between Waterloo and the London Eye, known as the Southbank Centre Christmas Market, takes the cake on charm. Also check out the full-on carnival happening in Hyde Park, complete with ice rink and ferris wheel, as well as the German-inspired market setup across from the Tate Modern. Got extra time in the city? Check out Expedia’s guide to London’s Hyde Park.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany | November 25 – December 23
Rothenburg’s Reiterlesmarkt is another personal favorite. Located on the cobbled streets of the picture-perfect village, it’s easily apparent that the holiday celebrations date back almost 500 years! With the petite village center, it’s best to visit Sun – Thurs to avoid crowds. Don’t miss: Kathe Wohlfahrt’s flagship store.
Vienna, Austria | November 14 – December 24
Traditions abound during the Christmas festivities in Vienna. Between the twinkling Rathauspark, celebrity readings of Christmas stories, and famous Advent carolers at City Hall, Vienna has a lot to offer holiday visitors. If it’s simply the markets you’re after then look no further than the most scenic spots in the city, including the grounds of the breathtaking Schoenbrunn Palace. Not quite ready for the holidays? Get into the spirit with Vienna’s Christmas Market teaser.
Brugge, Belgium | November 20 – January 3
This small canaled UNESCO town is a favorite for many, and while the christmas market is petite, it doesn’t lack in character. Take a spin on the ice rink in the town center below the towering belfry, cuddle up with a toasty mug of gluwein on the back of a horse drawn carriage, or tuck into a box of chocolates from one of the famous local chocolatiers. Don’t miss: a quick visit to nearby Minnewater.
Heidelberg, Germany | November 23 – December 22
My old hometown, Heidelberg’s Christmas Market is a true winner. Set in one of Europe’s largest pedestrian zones, five squares in the historic town center burst with holiday spirit and spices. ‘Europe’s most beautiful ice rink’ is set below the towering Heidelberg Castle, providing a one-of-a-kind holiday experience for all ages. More time? Check out my quick guide to Heidelberg.