Where are the best European Christmas markets in 2023? From glittery Innsbruck to snow covered Tallin and sweet smelling Stuttgart, Alicia Miller picks 10 of Europe’s prettiest places to go shopping with kids.
Set under the soaring figure of Basel Minster, one of Switzerland’s largest Christmas markets draws in the crowds with its stately Münsterplatz Christmas tree: glittering with eye-catching ornaments from the old town’s Christmas shop Johann Wanner.
Grab a mulled wine and hot chocolate for little ones, then wander among the neat rows of stalls, glowing warm in the chilly night air; all the market classics are on offer here, from spiced gingerbread to handmade crafts. Then to crown it all off, scale the illuminated stairwell of St Martin’s Tower in late afternoon for a bird’s eye view over the sea of festive lights.
When: 23 November to 23 December 2023
How to get there: direct UK flights to Basel from 1 hour, 30 minutes
Visit Arras Christmas market in northern France on 6 December, and you’ll be met with a real treat: Santa Claus climbing down the landmark UNESCO-listed belfry.
But the appearance of the man in red is the only one festive highlight in the city’s majestic Grand Place market, lined theatrically in Flemish Baroque buildings. There’s a Ferris wheel for a joyful spin, and 140 market stalls, half of which are from the surrounding Hauts-de-France region. Local goodies to take home include chicory conserve, honey or cheese – plus the city’s signature sweet, crispy praline and chocolate ‘rats of Arras’.
When: 24 November to 30th December 2023
How to get there: London to Arras by Eurostar from 3 hours
For romantic appeal, it’s hard to beat the annual Christmas Market at the world’s largest open-air museum, Skansen, it’s been going since 1903.
Among historic buildings and rambling parkland, peruse the stalls lined in marzipan, ceramics and wool goods; preferably while munching on gooey waffles or ‘kolbollar’ charcoal buns. Children can visit a Christmas workshop to make a keepsake for the tree at home, and the whole family can join Christmas carols or festive folk music in the Bergsman farmstead.
When: 24 November to 17 December 2023: Winter Lights until 28 January 2024
How to get there: direct UK flights to Stockholm, 2 hours, 30 minutes
With a dramatic alpine backdrop, handsome medieval streets and the persistent aroma of savoury ‘kiachln’ donuts, Innsbruck is easily one of the best European Christmas markets.
For much of the year, the gilded Golden Roof in the old town is Innsbruck’s luminous highlight, but come the festive season it’s outshone by the neighbouring figure of a towering tree, laced in fairy lights. Tick off the stalls selling folk art here, then visit the few other Christmas markets dotting the colourful town centre. The dedicated Family Christmas Market at Marktplatz, with rides and ponies, is a surefire winner.
When: 15 November to 23 December 2023
How to get there: direct UK flights from London to Innsbruck take from two hours
With roots dating back to 1692, the city centre’s Stuttgart Weihnachtsmarkt is one of the longest-running and best European Christmas markets, serving up the kind of nostalgic ‘lebkuchen’, scented environs and holiday choir concerts of everyone’s dreams.
But arguably the city’s modern festive essential is the Christmas Garden, a two kilometre illuminated trail through the botanical garden, accompanied by music, ‘kӓsespӓtzle’ cheese pasta, and plenty of mulled wine for grown ups. Be sure to buy tickets in advance as it’s very popular.
When: 29 November to 23 December 2023
How to get there: direct UK flights to Stuttgart from 1 hour, 40 minutes
Looking for a Christmas Market a little bit closer to home? Cardiff hosts one of the UK’s standouts, with 30 years of tradition behind it and a rolling roster of 200 quality vendors selling everything from handmade jewellery to scented candles, fudge and baby blankets.
New artists and craftspeople are particularly encouraged to exhibit on the stalls, so you can be sure that any gifts you’re buying for nestling under the tree will be originals.
When: 9 November to 23 December 2023
Prague, Czech Republic
Spilling across two picture-perfect squares in Prague, the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square hosts some of the best European Christmas markets for those seeking a Twixmas break, as they don’t wrap up until early January.
Both squares feature towering trees harvested from Czech forests, music, decorations and bountiful food. Warm up in the frosty air with your pick of hot punch, sugar-dusted ‘trdelník’ cake, spit-roasted ham or a bowlful of creamy fish soup; it’s all the perfect fuel for holiday shopping.
When: 2 December 2023 to 6 January 2024
How to get there: direct UK flights to Prague from 2 hours
While weather is never guaranteed, Tallinn is one of the best European Christmas markets for snow as average December highs hover at 0°C.
When flakes tumble down across the Town Hall Square, they gather picturesquely on merchant stall roofs and along the branches of the central Christmas tree. Hop a ride on the light-fringed road train for a comfy tour of the festive scene and the surrounding photogenic medieval buildings.
When: 1 December 2023 to 7 January 2024
How to get there: direct UK flights to Tallinn from 2 hours, 45 minutes
Winter Wonders in Brussels is the Christmas market which pulls out all the stops with a two kilometre stretch of glowing fairy lights, gift-stuffed chalets, festive food stalls and fun attractions – for example, an illuminated seesaw has featured in the past.
Make your way from the Grand Place along the enticing line up, stopping off to buy Santa hats, deep-fried donuts ‘oliebollen’ and handmade gifts to unwrap on 25 December. Don’t forget to stock up on some proper Belgian chocolate, either.
When: 24 November to 31 December 2023
How to get there: direct UK flights to Brussels take from 1 hour
Milan does Christmas in style, with designer holiday trees dotted around the city centre and a lovely traditional market in the square by the iconic Duomo. But for those travelling with children in tow, it’s the Villaggio delle Meraviglie, the Milan Christmas Village, that steals the show. Themed rides, ice-skating shows, face-painting and visits to Santa Claus’s house to say hello are all part of the deal. If you’re an under-10, this is about as fun as a Christmas market can get.
When: 18 November 2023 to 7 January 2024
How to get there: direct UK flights to Milan from 2 hours
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