After the pandemic put a damper on holiday cheer last year, picturesque Christmas markets are once again bringing their twinkling lights and bubbling cauldrons of glühwein to the ancient streets and squares of Europe. Here are the most scenic winter wonderlands where tourists and locals alike can shop for artisanal toys and ornaments and munch on roasted chestnuts and spiced cookies.
Vienna claims to have hosted Europe’s first December market all the way back in 1298. That bazaar has evolved into the extravagantly decorated Christmas Dream and Market, which lights up the central Rathausplatz. Aside from the shopping, free activities abound, including cookie-baking and candle-making classes for kids. Don’t leave without sampling vanillekipferl, vanilla-flavored crescent biscuits that pair with weihnachtspunsch, a rum-spiked holiday punch.Book Your Flight to Austria
Nuremberg’s Gothic Frauenkirche church looms over the city’s Christkindlesmarkt, which has been celebrating the season since the mid–16th century. Booths offer handcrafted creations, from toys and puzzles to stationery and wrapping paper, while visitors with an appetite can indulge in the city’s legendary bratwurst and lebkuchen (spiced gingerbread). Be sure to bring home a Nuremberg Prune Man, dried-fruit figurines made to resemble everyone from lowly chimney sweeps to global soccer stars. The Christkindlesmarkt is also considered the most sustainable market of its kind in Europe: The entire enterprise is powered by a regenerative energy system that utilizes nearby hydroelectric plants.Book Your Flight to Germany
Charming Christmas markets appear in all parts of the Boot, from the southern coast of Sicily to the cobbled streets of Rome to the cosmopolitan alleys of Milan. Perhaps the most unique is the three-day Santa Maria Maggiore Market (December 9–11 this year), in the Piedmont region’s Vigezzo Valley. Here, visitors can peek into the workshops of local artisans, who hand- sculpt the miniature houses and toys sold there. Hungry? Try a stinchéet, a crepe doused in Alpine butter and served with Ossola wine and cured meats.Book Your Flight to Italy
The German-speaking cities of Switzerland boast the best Christmas markets, where free-flowing fondue and raclette are the stars of many pop-up holiday huts. The Basel market at Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz, with its 100 lit Christmas trees, is often considered the prettiest, but it has stiff competition in St. Gallen, where 700 stars cast their light on the old town, many of them around the UNESCO- listed Abbey of St. Gall.Book Your Flight to Switzerland
At the St. Nicholas Fair, in the medieval city of York, alpine chalets line Parliament Street and St. Sampson’s Square, selling stocking stuffers and souvenirs, including woolen jumpers, Yorkshire flat caps, and mince pies. Take a ride on the vintage carousel in King’s Square before enjoying afternoon tea in one of York’s famous cafés.Book Your Flight to the United Kingdom