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7 Best European Christmas markets

15 April 2024

Welcome to the most wonderful time of the year! It's the Christmas season, and if you're looking for some festive cheer and unique gifts, then you're in luck. Europe is home to some of the best Christmas markets in the world, where you can experience traditional foods, festive lights, and some serious shopping.

But, with so many great Christmas markets breaks, it can be hard to decide. So, if you're unsure which city break is going to get you belting out Silent Night and hanging up your tinsel, I've listed the 7 best Christmas markets in Europe, that you might not have considered, to help you choose the best break for you. So, grab your mulled wine and let's get started!


Cologne is home to an impressive collection of architecture and landmarks, from the towering spires of the Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral) to the modern marvel that is the KölnTriangle. But perhaps the most impressive sight of all is the Hohenzollern Bridge, which spans the Rhine River and is adorned with thousands of padlocks left by couples as a symbol of their love. During the Christmas season, the bridge is lit up with colourful lights that bounce off the river below, creating a magical atmosphere.

When it comes to Christmas markets, there are several to choose from, but the largest one located in front of the city's famous cathedral is the real treat. The market has over 160 stalls selling crafts, gifts, and food. And the food, trust me, is incredible. Anyone who visits should try the traditional German sausages and delicious gingerbread. But the real fun begins when you hit the ice skating rink enjoying the twinkling Christmas lights and the giant Christmas tree.

Visit Cologne on our Christmas Markets of the Rhine tour.


Strasbourg's Christmas market is like stepping into a fairytale with a side of hot mulled wine. This market is the ultimate winter wonderland that's perfect for any Christmas lover. With over 300 wooden chalets, endless Christmas decorations, and an enormous Christmas tree, it's hard not to feel the holiday spirit.

You'll be surrounded by the sweet scent of gingerbread, roasted chestnuts, and local Alsatian specialities like Flammekueche. But don't forget to bundle up, because Strasbourg's winter can be as chilly as a snowman's embrace. Make sure to warm up with a hot cup of spiced wine or try some hot chocolate with marshmallows, because let's be honest, you can't have too much chocolate at Christmas.

And if you need some gift ideas, the market has plenty of unique handcrafted decorations and gifts to choose from, so you can find the perfect present for your loved ones. Just be careful not to get lost in the crowds of Christmas elves and reindeer!

Visit Strasbourg on our Classic Glacier Express at Christmas tour.


Just around the corner from Cologne, and often overlooked, is the city of Bonn. But those who take the time to visit Bonn during the Christmas season uncover something magical. The city's Christmas market is a true hidden gem, featuring dozens of market stalls selling everything from handcrafted gifts to delicious treats like stollen and Lebkuchen.

But beyond the market, Bonn has plenty of other charms to offer. The city is home to the grand Beethovenhalle concert hall, which is named in honour of Bonn's most famous son. For music lovers the Beethoven-Haus museum, which is dedicated to the life and work of the legendary composer, is a must.

Visit Bonn on our Christmas Markets of the Rhine tour.


Nuremberg's Christkindlesmarkt is the epitome of festive charm with its traditional wooden stalls, Christmas carolers, and the famous Christkind, a young girl with curly golden hair who serves as the official ambassador of the market.

The stunningly decorated stalls offer unique gifts and mouth-watering food and drinks. The best treat to try here is the Lebkuchen, a traditional gingerbread cookie, and Nuremberg's famous Rostbratwurst, a grilled sausage that pairs perfectly with a cold beer.

But be prepared to brave the crowds, as this market is one of the most popular in Germany, attracting more than two million visitors each year. It's worth it though, as the atmosphere is electric and the experience unforgettable.

Visit Nuremberg on our Bavarian Christmas Markets tour.


Rüdesheim's Christmas markets are a winter wonderland where even the Grinch would feel his heart grow three sizes. The moment you step foot into this quaint German town, you're transported into a magical world of twinkling lights, festive cheer, and the smell of sizzling bratwursts wafting through the air.

Located in the heart of the Rhine Valley, Rüdesheim is a picturesque German town surrounded by vineyards that yield the renowned dry white wine of the region. The charming half-timbered medieval houses and narrow cobbled streets are even more beautiful during the Christmas season when the town brims with festive spirit.

With over 120 stalls selling everything from handcrafted ornaments to steaming mugs of glühwein (mulled wine), it's no wonder this market draws in visitors from all over the world. And I can't forget about the Rüdesheim coffee - a delicious concoction of coffee, brandy, and whipped cream that's guaranteed to warm your Christmas spirit.

Visit Rüdesheim on our Christmas Markets of the Rhine tour.


Rothenburg, a charming medieval town in Germany, hosts one of the most enchanting Christmas markets in Europe. You'll find it nestled in the town square, surrounded by towering buildings and a giant Christmas tree decorated with ornaments from around the world.

What sets Rothenburg's market apart from the rest is the attention to detail and the sheer amount of Christmas cheer packed into every bend and corner. You'll find carollers singing traditional German songs, children ice skating on a small rink, and even a live nativity scene complete with real animals. And if you're lucky, you might even spot the town's own Christmas angel, a local woman who dresses up in a flowing white gown and wings to spread joy and goodwill throughout the market.

But the best part of Rothenburg's Christmas market is the sense of community. Locals and visitors alike gather together to share in the festive spirit, bonding over a shared love of all things merry and bright. Whether you're snacking on a warm pretzel or browsing the stalls for the perfect gift, there's a palpable sense of joy and camaraderie.

Visit Rothenburg on our Bavarian Christmas Markets tour.

Salisbury, Wiltshire

For a city break closer to home, look no further than Salisbury, in the heart of England's countryside. The city's ancient streets are transformed into a festive paradise, with twinkling lights, fragrant aromas, and plenty of yuletide cheer. Salisbury's Christmas market is spread throughout its historic centre, from the iconic Salisbury Cathedral to the charming streets lined with timber-framed buildings.

Make sure to visit the market in the shadow of the magnificent Salisbury Cathedral, where you can admire the stunning medieval architecture while browsing for festive treasures. And don't miss the opportunity to indulge in local delights like mince pies, traditional British fudge, and mulled wine, sure to warm your spirits on a chilly winter's day.

Visit Salisbury on our, Wonder Wiltshire Christmas tour.


For more inspiration, see our full range of Escorted Christmas Markets Tours and Festive Rail Holidays.