Christmas Markets in Europe: How to Have the Best Trip Ever

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How to Get the Most Out of Your Christmas Market Trip in Europe

In Europe and around the world, Christmas Markets are an integral part of the holiday season. Full of food, drink, music, and decoration, they’re a great way to soak up all that wonderful Christmassy feeling.

Christmas markets are so popular that they cause increases in demand for hotels, Airbnbs, and weekend flights in December and even November. So book early to make sure you don’t miss out, and grab yourself a good deal before they all go!

If you haven’t used Airbnb before, use this link to get £25 towards your first stay! (Or the equivalent in your currency.) 

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What is a Christmas market?

Christmas markets in Europe date back centuries and so do their traditions. These festive markets will feature a combination of independent stalls and vendors, performers, and activities. Usually, the markets can be found in the main square of a town or city centre.

Some cities, like Vienna, will have one huge market, but others, like Budapest, have multiple smaller markets to explore. If you get lost just follow the smell of cinnamon, cloves, and waffles! 

The traditional wooden stalls have people selling anything from hand-crafted Christmas decorations and home-made infused oils and preserves, to adorable knitted mittens and hats. Often people will travel from all over the place to sell at Christmas markets, so there can be a real hybrid of goodies to discover. 

Mulled wine, or ‘Glühwein’, and Christmas go hand in hand, so it’s no surprise that they are a staple at any Christmas market around the world. It’s highly likely you’ll never be far away from a traditional German beer, some delicious Belgian waffles, or a mug of hot chocolate. 

Most Christmas markets in Europe will have all kinds of activities and entertainment going on. You might see carol singers, fairground rides, live bands, and the larger markets may even have ice-skating! Is there anything more Christmassy than that?!

There is so much to do at a Christmas market. Keep reading to find out about our favourite Christmas markets in Europe, and download our free check-list for squeezing the most out of your Christmas market trip.

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The History of Christmas Markets

We mentioned earlier that Christmas markets are centuries old, but would you believe that the first ever recorded Christmas market in Europe was in 1296?

In fact, the first recorded Christmas market was Vienna’s Dezembermarkt (December Market) where locals would stock up on supplies for the colder winter months. These winter markets eventually became what we know today as Christmas Markets. Centuries of tradition can be felt at any Christmas Market you visit in Europe.

Today, the magic of the European Christmas Market can be found all over the world. It’s not hard to find traditionally styled Christmas markets popping up in the US, UK and even Australia! 

Read more about the History of Christmas Markets here.

When do Christmas markets in Europe Start?

Christmas markets in Europe start anywhere between November and December, and finish before Christmas or carry on into the first week of January. Their start and finishing dates can vary, so make sure you’ve checked that the Christmas market you want to visit is open for your chosen dates. For example, Munich’s Christmas market doesn’t start until the 23rd of November (2020), whereas Vienna’s is open from the 14th.

Where Are the Best Christmas Markets in Europe? 

There are hundreds if not thousands of Christmas markets in Europe, all with a slightly different personality and style.

Innsbruck’s quaint Christmas markets have a backdrop of the snowy Alpes, sandwiched between traditional European housing with wooden beams. Copenhagen has the jaw-dropping Tivoli Gardens which transforms into a winter wonderland complete with light displays and mini villages. 

Thanks to the fantastic European train and coach network, it’s possible to spend a week, or two, visiting a different Christmas market in Europe every single day! If that doesn’t give you that Christmas feeling then nothing will!

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How To Get the Most Out of Your Christmas Market Trip 

So you’ve booked your travel to the Christmas market, you know how to get there from where you’re staying, but what else?

Stay warm and comfortable

It’s likely you’ll be spending a good few hours outside at the Christmas market, as there aren’t a lot of indoor spaces. Make sure you have warm clothes, including gloves, hats and scarves, and shoes that you will be comfortable walking and standing in for the whole time you’re there. 

Know where to find public toilets

Although Christmas markets will have public toilets, there may be queues and it’s better to be on the safe side. Download apps like ‘Toilet Finder’ or ‘Where is Public Toilet’ to find toilets close by to the Christmas market. 

Top Tip: Stay safe from pickpockets by keeping your belongings close by in Christmas market crowds.

Stay safe

Although European cities are generally safe, unfortunately, there is a problem with pick-pocketing in crowds. And there’s no busier place at Christmas time than a Christmas market. When you’re passing through a crowd or standing in an audience, keep your belongings close to you and know where they are at all times.

Don’t bring anything with you that you don’t need, for example, your passport. Keeping your change in a body pouch is a great way to not have to worry about pickpocketing as you move through the market.

Bring cash

This helps with staying safe from your credit card being pick-pocketed, but also some vendors may not have the technology to accept card payments. You also might get a bad deal on exchange rates when paying with your card in a different country. 

Have fun!

Christmas markets are a truly magical experience whether with family, friends or a partner. We’ve put together this checklist to make sure you get the full Christmas market experience on your trip.

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  • Warm your heart with a mulled wine
  • Go ice skating
  • Sing carols 
  • Defrost your hands on a hot chocolate
  • Eat a waffle, pancake, churro or doughnut
  • Try a new food you’ve never had 
  • Find a Christmas tree
  • Buy something handmade 
  • Buy a new bauble for your tree at home
  • Shuffle through a crowd
  • Find Santa!

Related Christmas Activity Articles:

Christmas Markets in Europe: How to Have the Best Trip Ever

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