Nobody does festivities quite like European cities. As the holiday season approaches, the magic of Christmas comes alive in European cities like nowhere else. Therefore, it makes sense as to why so many Brits cross the channel each winter to embrace the Christmas spirit. At Stansted Express, we understand the draw of these charming destinations, and have created a list of our favourite festive European cities and their best Christmas markets, perfect for any last-minute festive getaways!
Christmas markets are one of Germany’s most beloved holiday traditions, and Berlin is no exception to this. Berlin, the capital of Germany, hosts over 80 Christmas markets across the city, catering to the needs of all its visitors. From authentic German markets to Scandinavian or Japanese Christmas markets, Berlin offers it all – making it a perfect haven for anyone seeking to start their holiday celebrations in style.
Cologne does not mess around when it comes to Christmas, with the House Elves’ Winter Fairytale Christmas Market being a prime example as to why Germany holds the title of the most festive country in Europe. Feel as if you have stepped into a fairytale as you explore one of Cologne’s most favoured festive markets. The market is dedicated to the Heinzelmännchen who, according to folklore in Cologne, are house elves that perform housework throughout the night. Immerse yourself in the magic of Christmas by exploring the stalls, and keep your eyes peeled as you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the Heinzelmännchen who are said to be regular visitors to the market!
Nuremberg is the location of one of the oldest, and arguably one of the best, Christmas markets in the world. Home to one of the oldest and most revered Christmas markets in the world, welcoming over 2 million visitors a year, Christkindlesmarkt has become a worldwide symbol of yuletide festivities. Is there a better way to feel the Christmas spirit than to wander the stalls, gaze at the traditional, handcrafted Christmas ornaments and enjoy the aroma of freshly-baked gingerbread treats?
Festive markets are an age-old tradition in Vienna, with the first December market, or Krippenmarkt, being held in Vienna in 1296. Vienna takes its festive markets very seriously, offering over 20 official festive markets across the city from mid-November to the end of December. Here is a selection of some of our favourite Christmas markets that Vienna has to offer.
Christmas Village Belvedere Palace
One of the most popular festive markets in Vienna, located in front of the picturesque Belvedere Palace. Offering more than 40 festive market stalls, visitors can browse the traditional, handcrafted goods and decorations whilst exploring the culinary delights of the market. Christmas Village Belvedere Palace has been coined one of the most romantic festive markets within the city.
Christmas Village Campus University of Vienna
Located on the University of Vienna’s campus, the Christmas village has been a fan favourite since 1999. The market has an estimated 50 stalls showcasing authentic Austrian culture through the craftsmanship of the locals. The Christmas village offers a tranquil atmosphere as you wander down the narrow lanes beautifully adorned in traditional Austrian decorations.
Prague, Czech Republic
Christmas markets are at the heart of the Czech Republic’s festive celebrations, with the Christmas market in Prague’s Old Town Square the biggest of its kind. The market is known for its beauty, with its picture-postcard scenery being admired as one of the most beautiful Christmas destinations and markets in the world. As well as traditional market stalls, visitors can watch live performances of folklore and traditional dancers perform on a large stage located in the centre of Old Town Square.
Budapest’s Advent Feast at the Basilica is growing to become one of Europe’s most favoured Christmas markets. Located in Szent István Square just in front of St. Stephen’s Basilica, the market attracts thousands of visitors a year. Guests can wander through the stalls, marvel at the 3D projections that illuminate the Basilica, and glide around the 9-metre-tall Christmas tree in the centre of the ice rink.
Zurich is the home to multiple Christmas markets that run throughout November to December. Zurich offers it all – if it’s a 49ft Swarovski Christmas tree you are looking for, then head to Christkindlimarkt at Zurich Main Train Station, but if you prefer your Christmas trees to be of a musical nature, head over to the Werdmühleplatz Christmas Market. Zurich offers visitors four main Christmas markets which are much larger in size and popularity, but also hosts smaller festive markets across the city.
Strasbourg is known as the French “capital of Christmas” due to its picturesque scenery and traditional decorations. Strasbourg’s Christmas market is one of the oldest festive markets in France, dating back to 1570. With over 300 stalls, Strasbourg market offers an unforgettable Christmas experience. Taste some of France’s festive cuisines such as bredeles (spiced biscuits in the shape of stars) and vin chaud (spiced mulled wine) whilst you wander the stalls in awe of the craftmanship of Alsatian culture.
Nestled in the Arctic Circle, it’s the official hometown of Santa Claus, making it a magical place for visitors of all ages. In Rovaniemi, you can meet Santa in his charming village, embark on thrilling reindeer or husky safaris through pristine snowscapes, and witness the mesmerising Northern Lights painting the sky. Rovaniemi embodies the true spirit of Christmas, ensuring a holiday filled with wonder, adventure, and unforgettable memories in a winter wonderland.
Offering an extraordinary Christmas experience like no other, Reykjavik is a captivating blend of winter wonderland charm and vibrant cultural traditions. Visit the renowned Christmas Village, indulge in festive culinary delights, and explore the unique Yule Lads folklore. The promise of seeing the Northern Lights makes Reykjavik a one-of-a-kind holiday adventure.
This charming city transforms into a festive wonderland, offering a unique blend of tradition and contemporary holiday spirit. The Christmas markets are brimming with handmade crafts and delectable treats; sip on warm Belgian chocolate or mulled wine as you explore the beautifully decorated stalls. The Ice Rink at Groenplaats and the magical Winter in Antwerp festival offer a truly memorable Christmas experience that’s perfect for families, couples, and solo travellers alike.
If you are looking for a festive getaway, Stansted Express has you covered, ensuring hassle-free transfers to Stansted Airport. With tickets starting from just £9.90, what’s the wait? Book your tickets now and explore the festivities of traditional Christmas markets across Europe. Your holiday season will never be the same!