Twinkling Lights, Towering Trees: 10 European Christmas Markets to Visit with Family

Get ready for twinkly lights, warm drinks, hand-crafted gifts, and holiday spirit.
Traditional Christmas market in Germany (Photo: Envato)
Traditional Christmas market in Germany (Photo: Envato)

European Christmas markets are straight out of a holiday movie. Twinkling lights, towering trees and brightly colored ornaments dot little lanes where artisans sell their goods from peaked-roof stalls. With Christmas markets scattered all around Europe, no matter where you’re traveling this holiday season, there’s bound to be a cobblestone street nearby lined with vendors selling everything from mulled wine to handmade keepsakes. 

These seasonal wonderlands are the best Christmas markets in Europe to explore this year. Most are open from mid-November through late December (and in a few cases, into early January). These outdoor markets are Christmas Spirit Central, so bundle up, grab a warm drink, and get ready to embrace the festive season. 

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1. Budapest, Hungary

Advent Feast at the Basilica

View of the Basilica Christmas Market and surrounding buildings
The Basilica Christmas Market in Budapest has a festive mix of vendors and holiday fun (Photo: Basilica Christmas Market)

With more than 100 vendors lining its festive lanes each year, the Advent Feast at the Basilica Christmas market (November 17, 2023, through January 1, 2024) is an amazing destination for holiday trinkets and treasures to bring home with you. Along with the merry atmosphere, there’s a light show that’s projected on the facade of the Basilica, and an advent candle lighting ceremony each Sunday. 

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2. Basel, Switzerland

Basel Christmas Market

Christmas market in the old town center of Basel, Switzerland (Photo: M. Vinuesa)
Christmas market in the old town center of Basel, Switzerland (Photo: M. Vinuesa)

Basel, Switzerland, ranks among Europe’s most beautiful towns to visit during the holidays. In 2023, its Christmas market runs from November 23 through December 23, and it lights up Old Town with elaborate decorations and twinkling lights. Browse the vendor stalls, then check out the towering Christmas tree, which has ornaments from well-known decorator Johann Wanner. Complete your perfect European Christmas market trip with a glass of mulled wine sipped along the edge of the Rhine River, the perfect spot to take in the warm glow of the city. 

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3. Metz, France

Christmas Markets in Metz

night view from above of Christmas Market in Metz, France
The Metz Christmas Market has shopping, holiday snacks, and activities like a Ferris wheel and an ice skating rink (Photo: Photo © Ph.Gisselbrecht / Ville de Metz / Benoit Lapray / Inspire Metz)

France’s Metz shines with holiday spirit during its annual Christmas market, held this year from November 24 through December 30. You can stroll the lanes of peaked-roof “chalet” vendor stalls and feast your eyes on everything from cozy clothing to hand-made ornaments.

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Savor the flavors from food sellers offering warm drinks, chestnuts, and sweet treats. And then enjoy the market’s next-level offerings like a Ferris wheel ride in the Place d’Armes, a skate on the ice rink in the Place de la République, or a stroll after dark along the fairy-tale-inspired Sentier des Lanternes (lantern-lit path).

4. Craiova, Romania

Craiova Christmas Market

Twinkly lights overhead at Craiova Christmas Market in Romania
Craiova’s Christmas Market is tucked into different corners of the city (Photo: Shutterstock/OrangeNoire3)

Woven into spots around the Romanian city of Craiova, the Craiova Christmas Market (November 17, 2023, through January 2, 2024) has everything from concerts and food stands to an ice rink and creative workshops. To get from one part of the market to the other, simply follow the enchanting canopy of Christmas lights overhead.

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Between each section of the market you’ll find elaborately decorated Christmas trees inspired by the surroundings. This European Christmas market seems reinvent itself in new ways every year, but one thing that doesn’t change is its delightful cottages with their hand-painted and carved fairytale characters. 

5. Trier, Germany

Christmas Market in Trier

Dusk at the Trier Christmas Market in Germany with vendor stalls and people walking
The Trier Christmas Market gets royal with its annual Mulled Wine Queen (Photo: Werner Hardt)

For more than 40 years, the Christmas market in Trier, Germany, has been welcoming revelers with a warm drink and a festive atmosphere. In 2023, it will be held from November 24 through December 22. Here you can sip in the company of royalty—the market’s Mulled Wine Queen hangs out between the Cathedral and the Main Market, celebrating the region’s signature vintner hot mulled wine.

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Shop for souvenirs and holiday decorations at the large market’s 95 wooden chalet booths. Live musical performances and Christmas carol sing-alongs fill the air with holiday joy, and on select days Santa strolls the market handing out gifts to children.

6. Brussels, Belgium

Winter Wonders Christmas Market

Ferris Wheel and decorations at night at the Brussels Christmas Market Winter Wonders
Brussels’ Winter Wonders Christmas Market attracts over 2 million people each year (Photo: Brussels Major Events asbl)

Brussels has more than its share of Christmas markets, but in my opinion the very best one is the wildly popular Winter Wonders, a market and winter fest that attracts more than 2 million people every year. Two hundred chalet-style wooden stalls hold gift-ready treasures. For hand-made items made by craftspeople, keep an eye out for the little paw sign that reads “Quality Label.”

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Since this is Brussels, sweet waffles and savory frites are required snacking. Stop to admire the glittering Christmas tree, the life-sized nativity scene, and the sound and light show on the facades of St. Catherine’s Church and the Viage. There’s also an ice skating rink, a Ferris wheel, and a carousel. The 2023 dates are November 24 through December 31.

7. Manchester, United Kingdom

Manchester Christmas Markets

night view of people shopping at Manchester's Christmas market in Albert Square
Albert Square is one of the most popular parts of Manchester’s citywide Christmas Market (Photo: Marketing Manchester)

Manchester is home to the U.K.’s largest Christmas market, and trumpets the title the “U.K.’s Capital of Christmas.” With over nine million visitors each year, the market continues to get bigger and better with each holiday season. This year’s holiday festivities kick off on November 10 and run through December 21, 2023.

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Browse the wares of more than 300 vendors spread out across 10 beautifully festooned sites in the city. And keep an eye out for those Santa sightings as you shop stalls selling everything from tweed hats to spiced rum. The scent of gingerbread, sparkly lights, and winter tipples set the scene for some true holiday magic.

8. Leipzig, Germany

Leipzig Christmas Market

Leipzig's Christmas Market looking out over the  Weihnachtsmarkt Marktplatz full of lights and vendor stalls at night
Leipzig’s Christmas Market dates back to 1458, and has more than 300 vendor stalls (Photo: Philipp Kirschner/Leipzig Travel)

From November 28 through December 23, 2023, you can join a centuries-long tradition with a visit to one of the oldest Christmas markets in Germany. The Leipzig Christmas market dates back to 1458, and each year it fills the historic city center with more than 300 vendor stalls. Kids will enjoy seeing Santa Claus at his office hours and letting him know they’ve been good this year.

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For a fun take-home treasure from this European Christmas market (the second-oldest in Germany), pick up the market’s signature souvenir: mulled wine mugs and children’s cups, which change each year for maximum collectability.

9. Paris, France

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Christmas market at jardin des Tuileries with vendor stalls and people walking
Paris’ Christmas market at Jardin des Tuileries is a Christmas-themed carnival with rides (and a Champagne bar) (Photo: Cédric Helsey/ParisInfo)

The City of Light truly comes alive during the holiday season at its Magic of Christmas market near the Louvre, held this year from November 18, 2023, to January 7, 2024. The joy of this festival is that it’s part market and part Christmas-themed carnival, so there’s something for everyone. Around the carnival are more than a dozen rides to delight the kids (and adults will enjoy the Champagne bar and roasted chestnuts).

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After you’ve shopped for gifts ranging from Christmas decorations to wooden toys, take a stroll along the Champs-Élysées, a five-minute walk away, to see the beautiful window displays and sparkly lights along the famous avenue. 

10. Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam Winter Paradise Christmas Market (Het Amsterdamse Winterparadijs)

It only runs from December 14 through December 30, 2023, but once the Het Amsterdamse Winterparadijs (“Amsterdam Winter Paradise”) Christmas market starts, it goes all-out as a major holiday shopping and entertainment event. Throughout the market, you’ll find a festive mix of live performances and beer tables.

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When you’re done with your shopping, try your hand at curling or skating on one of the market’s indoor or outdoor rinks. As night falls, get the entire family together to roast marshmallows over an open fire. 

Frequently Asked Questions about European Christmas Markets

When do Christmas markets start in Europe?

Each European Christmas market has its own timeline, but many start in early or mid-November. Most Christmas markets run through December, and a few remain open into January. If you’re interested in visiting one of these holiday markets, aim to spend a few hours in the late afternoon into the evening. That way, you’ll get the height of the action and be able to appreciate the glow of the lights as day turns to night.

What are the best things to buy at Christmas markets?

There are so many things to buy at European Christmas markets, but some of my favorites include ornaments (many of them handmade), local crafts, beautiful holiday decorations, and gifts like handmade stuffed animals, knitted gloves, and more.

And then there’s the food: Christmas markets are chock full of delicious things to eat! Arrive hungry and taste your way through warming drinks like mulled wine, cider, and hot chocolate. Holiday Euro-classics like roasted chestnuts mingle with place-specific delights like Belgian waffles in Belgium and stollen in Germany. Most markets have a wide range of international foods as well, and there’s always more to try.

What if I want to visit more than one Christmas market?

You should definitely do that. It’s not unusual at all to meet travelers who are making a vacation out of visiting multiple Christmas markets in one country or even more than one country. There are even companies that offer river cruises and European Christmas market tours to help you visit some of the favorites around Europe in a single trip.

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Megan duBois
Megan duBois is the Senior Theme Park Editor for FamilyVacationist. She's also a freelance journalist who covers theme parks, cruising, family travel, and wine tourism for outlets like Conde Nast Traveler, Business Insider, Forbes, Travel + Leisure, The Points Guy, and National Geographic. You can reach her via email at megand513 [at] gmail [dot] com.