Top 10 Christmas Markets in Europe
Yes, it’s that time of year again.
Before we know it, wooden chalets draped with fairy lights and groaning with gifts will be popping up all over the place, from Antwerp, to Barcelona to Warsaw.
With the dizzying choice of Christmas markets on offer, we thought it might be helpful to bring you our list of favourites, all of which (of course) are easily accessible by rail.
We’ve also given you some guide prices (for the places you can get to in one day) to help you make a decision, based on 3 nights in a 4* hotel with breakfast and return travel. Of course, you don’t have to pick just one.
Nor do you have to go straight there and back again. Especially for further afield destinations where you’ll have to break your journey en route.
Just give us a call on 020 3322 7741 or drop us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let us help you plan a festive break to remember.
Ghent / from £319 per person
This is a firm TMR favourite. Ghent’s medieval centre is the perfect location for a collection of over 100 market stalls that seemingly goes on forever. There are some genuinely unique gifts to be found as well as a choice of welcoming bars selling beers from local breweries and, of course, glühwein. Children of all ages will enjoy the ice rink and the ferris wheel. While you’re there, why not visit the castle, dating back to the 12th century. The museum of torture instruments in the castle may not be in keeping with the festive spirit, but the views over the fairy lights of the town from the battlements certainly will be.
Colmar / from £399 per person
What could be more Christmassy a setting than Colmar’s fairytale squares and narrow cobbled lanes lined with half-timbered houses? Christmas time in Alsace is a serious business and the already pretty town is lit up magically for the season. Each of Colmar’s six Christmas Markets is a separate mini-village with its own collection of stalls run by passionate craftsmen. There’s a series of events taking place throughout the market season as well as an ice-rink and a giant letterbox to post off letters to Father Christmas. They don’t have to be written in French. Visit our France Rail Holidays page for more inspiration.
Berlin / from £449 per person
Variety is the key element which sets Berlin apart from other Christmas market destinations. There are an astounding 70 different markets taking place at various times during advent across the German capital. There’s an ‘Eco-market’, a ‘rural’ market in the grounds of a 16th century manor house, a British market, a market just for children, a market just for dogs… the list goes on and on. Keep an eye on the calendar on the Visit Berlin website for these though. As some take place throughout the advent period, others for just one day. For more inspiration, visit our Berlin Rail Holidays page.
Cologne / from £429 per person
Cologne is the granddaddy of all European Christmas markets. If you are looking for the largest markets with the widest choice of stalls and the prettiest mulled wine mugs (which you can drink from and then purchase), this is definitely the one for you. There are seven markets dotted around the city centre. The largest is located in front of Cologne’s famous twin-spired cathedral, with 160 stalls. You can also watch glass-blowing, take a turn on the ice-rink or head down to the river and visit the chocolate museum (with free tastings). The perfect festive break. For more inspiration, visit our Germany Rail Holidays page.
Zurich / from £499 per person (3* superior hotel)
Choose from five different markets in Zurich, with one (in the main station) held indoors, so if it’s raining or snowing, you can still shop! Among the distinctive attractions of Zurich’s festive fare, are two very special Christmas trees. One is in the station; it stands 50 feet tall, and is decorated with around 7,000 Swarovski crystals. The other one is the Singing Christmas Tree! Different choirs from the region give daily concerts from this unique tree-shaped podium on the Werdmühleplatz. It’s well worth a visit! For more inspiration, visit our Switzerland Rail Holidays page.
Montreux / from £599 per person
Another fantastic setting wins this Christmas market its place in our top 10. Montreux’s market takes place along the shores of Lake Geneva with an unforgettable backdrop of distant French mountains. The beautiful Chateau de Chillon will also be getting in the festive spirit, with medieval entertainment and craft workshops. You can even take the train up one of the area’s rather smaller (but no less spectacular) mountains called the Rochers de Naye, where you can visit Father Christmas in his grotto. For more inspiration, visit our Switzerland Rail Holidays page.
Nuremberg / from £569 per person
This is one of the oldest Christmas fairs in Germany with documented evidence of an advent market here going back to 1628. The Christkind (a lady wearing an impressive crown and gold angel wings) traditionally appears on the balcony of the Church of Our Lady to open the holiday season. From then on, you can visit 180 different stalls spread across this Bavarian city’s attractive Old Town. There’s also a long list of events taking place across the city, which give it a very special Yuletide atmosphere. For more inspiration, visit our Bavaria Rail Holidays page.
Budapest / Try our Budapest City Break
If you want to travel a bit further afield and enjoy a full-length holiday incorporating a Christmas market, why not pay a visit to Budapest? Quite apart from the lovely surroundings, one of Budapest’s key attractions is that the markets here really focus on traditional and authentic Hungarian handicrafts and folk art rather than the kind of kitchy Christmas gifts you can find in any European market. The other big bonus is the opportunity to visit one of the city’s fabulous hot thermal baths – a magical experience in the winter time.
Stockholm / Try our Copenhagen and Stockholm holiday
Head north this year and you’re much more likely to have some snow – though of course, it’s still not guaranteed. However, you will definitely find some unique gifts in one of Stockholm’s famous julmarknader. There are nine markets to choose from in the city centre alone. The one in Gamla Stan (pictured) is the oldest in Sweden, with traditional chalets similar to the stalls that were here during Middle Ages. The Christmas markets at the Royal Stables along give you the chance for horse-riding, whilst the Christmas Market at the Beckman School of Design is full of one-off mementos you may want to keep for yourself.
Tallinn / Try our Riga to Tampere holiday
If you’re looking for a festive rail adventure this year, you’ll be rewarded with a truly fairytale setting in the Estonian capital. The Christmas tree in the main square has been erected there since 1441, making it the first public Christmas tree ever to be put on display in Europe. Local stall-holders will offer traditional Estonian Christmas cuisine, from black pudding and sour cabbage to gingerbread and hot Christmas drinks, as well as tempting handicrafts for Christmas stockings.