Four Historic Christmas Markets to Visit in Europe

Celebrate the yuletide spirit with some merrymaking at these seasonal attractions around the continent.

Photo courtesy of Prague City Tourism

1. Old Town Square

Prague, Czech Republic

Overlooked by medieval towers, this cobblestoned plaza in the historic heart of Prague plays home to the city’s biggest trh (Christmas market). Vendors sell all manner of Czech souvenirs — hand-painted marionettes, Bohemian glassware—alongside sweet treats such as Nutella balls and trdelník, a hot sugar-coated pastry best washed down with honey wine or mead. The city’s other big Christmas market, at Wenceslas Square, is just a brisk stroll away.

When: November 26 to January 6

More information here.

2. Rathausplatz

Vienna, Austria

The square in front of Vienna’s neo-Gothic city hall has hosted the annual Christkindlmarkt since 1975, though the market’s roots extend back to the 18th century. Expect stands selling roasted chestnuts, pretzels, and a spiced punch called weihnachtspunsch as well as the handiwork of artisans from Austria and neighboring countries. The park areas on either side feature ice-skating, illuminated trees, and more.

When: November 19 to December 26

More information here.

3. Cologne Cathedral

Cologne, Germany

Several outdoor markets dot this Rhineland city during the Christmas season. The most popular is held in the plaza fronting Cologne Cathedral, the largest Gothic church in northern Europe. Here, more than 100 tented booths arranged around a towering Christmas tree sell regional foods and trinkets; warm up with a cupful of glühwein (mulled wine spiced with cinnamon and vanilla) before attending an Advent performance at the nearby Cologne Philharmonic Concert Hall.

When: November 21 to December 23

More information here.

4. Tivoli Gardens

Copenhagen, Denmark

Not that you need any excuse to visit Copenhagen’s famed amusement park, but during jul, the Danish yuletide season, Tivoli hosts a Christmas market lit up by fairy lights and fireworks. Attractions include a 150-year-old double-decker carousel, a natural ice-skating rink, and performances of The Nutcracker. To keep warm during walks among the 70-odd stalls, sip on the Danish version of mulled wine, called glögg. It comes with a shot of liquor and is usually accompanied by æbleskiver, pan-fried cakes served with sugar and jam.

When: November 19 to December 31

More information here.

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