Your Guide to Europe’s Best Christmas Markets

Find the most enchanting Christmas Markets in Europe!

For anyone who loves the holiday season, Europe’s best Christmas markets add special appeal to already beautiful destinations. Dating back to the 13th century, these festive markets in historic town squares offer seasonal entertainment, crafts, and flavors. They’ve spread across Europe, but the best Christmas markets are arguably still in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, where the tradition began. Let’s take a look at some of the best Christmas Markets in this region!

Munich, Germany

Munich is magical any day of the week, thanks to an exceedingly beautiful old city, and the astonishingly beautiful Nymphenburg Palace. A model of royal symmetry, this former summer palace is still home to the Duke of Bavaria. Luckily, he’s happy to share the spectacular grounds and richly decorated palace with visitors.

Nymphenburg Palace. Photo: Munchen Tourismus (Bernd Rommelt)

Nymphenburg Palace. Photo: Munchen Tourismus (Bernd Rommelt)

If Munich’s signature palace goes above and beyond, wait until you visit the city at Christmas. In any given year, more than twenty markets dot the city, each with their own special appeal. Marienplatz is the oldest market. Located in the heart of the city, the shopping and festivities spill from the square in front of St. Peter’s Church and down nearby streets.

Nearby, the Kripperlmarkt specializes in nativity scene accessories. You’ll find incredibly detailed manger scenes and pieces to take home, or simply admire as you sip from a mug of hot gluhwein.

Traditional treats await at the Christmas Market. Photo: Shutterstock

Traditional treats await at the Christmas Market. Photo: Shutterstock

Nuremburg, Germany

On any list of Europe’s best Christmas Markets, Nuremburg deserves a starring role. One of the oldest and most famous markets, Nuremburg’s traditional market includes their regional twist on gingerbread and local bratwurst. Handmade wooden ornaments, lovingly carved in the Black Forest, make enticing souvenirs for the tree back home. And don’t forget Zwetschgenmännla — good luck dolls made from dried fruits and nuts.

Traditionally, this market is opened each season by a Christmas Angel or Christkind and her court, atop a cathedral balcony. For a glimpse of Nuremburg’s Christmas Market and a little look behind the scenes at the Christkind herself, check out this video from German news outlet Deutsch Welle.

Salzburg, Austria

The Salzburg Christkindlmarket (literally: Christ Child Market) sits in a beautiful setting before the Baroque Cathedral of Salzburg. With regular musical performances and the dramatic Hohensalzburg Fortress rising above the city, this is an incredibly thematic place to browse handcrafted gifts, sip mulled wine and taste local specialties like sausage with cheese, baked apples, sweet roasted nuts and Christmas cakes like stollen. The city hosts several other markets, including one at the gates of Hohensalzburg, and Advent Magic at Hellbrunn Palace.

Salzburger Christkindlmarkt at the Cathedral Square with a view of the fortress. Photo: Salzburg Tourism

Salzburger Christkindlmarkt at the Cathedral Square with a view of the fortress. Photo: Salzburg Tourism

Vienna, Austria

Not to be outdone by Salzburg’s Baroque elegance, Vienna’s Christmas Market dials it up with an incredible backdrop. Against the gilded spires of Vienna’s magnificent City Hall, a Christmas Tree serves as the centerpiece to a market with roots dating back to 1298. In addition to the traditional marketplace with its nostalgic Christmas lights, baubles and singing choirs, a public rink offers ice-skating fun.

Europe's Best Christmas Markets: Vienna Christmas Market © Austrian National Tourist Office

Vienna Christmas Market © Austrian National Tourist Office

Dresden, Germany

The beautiful Baroque city of Dresden features the Striezelmarkt, Germany’s oldest Christmas Market. For nearly 600 years, it’s been celebrating the Advent season with delicious treats and wonderful shopping. The magnificent setting, in Dresden Altmarkt Square near the dome of Frauenkirche, is the perfect stage for holiday magic. Just take a look at everything this market has to offer!

Visiting Europe’s Best Christmas Markets

All of these Christmas Markets would be exciting enough on their own. But there’s so much to see in each of these magical cities and their surrounding countryside, a tour of Europe’s best Christmas Markets includes so much more than holiday shopping.

Enjoy additional treats like explorations of imperial palaces, quaint villages and European cities straight out of fairy tales. Our 8 Day Christmas Markets of Germany & Austria tour includes stays and tours of historic sites in Munich, Nuremburg, Salzburg and Vienna. Plus, there are additional outings to fabled locations like Obergammerau, where you can delight in traditional Bavarian country life, and Linderhof Palace, the beautiful summer palace of Mad King Ludwig. And enjoy cultural presentations, such as a Mozart and Strauss concert in their hometown of Vienna.

You’ll also find a 10 Day Christmas Markets of Germany tourwhich includes Berlin, Dresden, Nuremburg and Munich. This tour also visits historic landmarks like Berlin’s Checkpoint Charlie and Leipzig’s historic Christmas Market with more than 250 market stalls.

Or head into the Alps with our 9 Day Alpine Christmas Markets tour, which stretches from Munich into the Black Forest. You’ll visit the beautiful city of Innsbruck, set against a backdrop of craggy mountains, and the Principality of Liechtenstein, plus Strasbourg, France and Heidelberg.

Innsbruck's mountainous skyline. Photo: Shutterstock

Innsbruck’s mountainous skyline. Photo: Shutterstock

Europe’s best Christmas Markets are all within your reach. Discover the magic of the holiday season in Europe for yourself with Virgin Vacations!