While every town now has a Christmas Market, there is a giant gulf between the best and the rest.
The best are genuine experiences – worth travelling to for their atmosphere, unique gifts, and tasty festive treats. The worst are a collection of stalls selling overpriced tat. With watery mulled wine served by grumpy staff the only consolation.
I’ve been lucky enough to see the best Christmas markets both in the UK and Europe. Recent highlights include Budapest, York, and Vienna.
This guide covers visiting Christmas Markets from two angles.
First, how to get the best experience from your Christmas Market trips. After that I picked three UK and three EU destinations (see if you agree).
My Top Reasons for Visiting Christmas Markets:
Let’s set those snobbish ideas of high culture aside. And instead get straight to the heart of why you should visit one of the best Christmas markets this year.
My top reason might be a surprise.
Your Christmas Market trip is likely to take you somewhere you have not visited. A fresh travel experience wins every time for me. Whether you choose the xmas fayres in Strasbourg, Cologne, or Bath – you’ll get the perfect opportunity to discover these famous cities.
Alongside the new travel opportunities, Christmas Markets bring the festive season to life. I like to go after dark. This is when the lights and decorations create a magical feeling that is impossible to recreate elsewhere. Add a mug (or two) of delicious mulled wine. Then enjoy a tasty seasonal bite. Complete the evening with a warming cup of flavoured hot chocolate. And you’ll have all the feelings of comfort and joy you need.
Unique Gifts from Local Artisans
Unique gifts are where the best Christmas markets and those tatty old wannabes’ start to separate.
Local businesses making unique gifts, artwork, or decorations head to the best markets. Go to the worst and you’ll find rubbish imported from Temu at 20x the list price. Supporting genuine local business is the perfect way to share the Christmas love.
Entertainment completes my list. When this is from local musicians, amateur choirs – or children’s groups – you’ll feel that yuletide joy right to your core!
Where to Find the Best Christmas Markets in the UK?
Bath Christmas Market:
Nobody does a Christmas Market like the historical Roman city of Bath. The setting is perfect, with stone buildings and history around every corner. Add more than 150 stalls, with food, art, and local artisan gifts. With the Roman Baths, museums, and the Abby – you’ll be glad you added Bath to your travel list.
Edinburgh Christmas Market:
This historical Scottish city has something that no other Christmas Market can offer – a Christmas Tree Maze! You’ll also find an ice-rink, and of course stalls selling gifts, artwork, and seasonal food. Edinburgh is worth a visit at any time of the year. See my separate guide on this page for more.
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland:
Christmas Market’s don’t get bigger than this event in the heart of London. Winter Wonderland includes an ice-rink. There are fairground rides, and a huge Ferris wheel to enjoy the spectacular lights. The most popular sessions can sell out – so booking your ticket in advance is popular. This is the perfect excuse to enjoy a trip to central London and shop until you drop!
Best Christmas Markets in Europe:
Cologne (Germany) Christmas Market:
This is the OG of Christmas Markets. It is the best destination in Europe to take in the festive atmosphere. Head for the famous Cologne Cathedral for a festive market experience which is unforgettable.
I learned something new today. That the Strasbourg Xmas Market is the ‘Capital of Christmas.’ This is the oldest market in Europe. It is also the most beautiful. This tradition keeps the quality high. You’ll also get to see the famous Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg.
Vienna Christmas Market (Austria):
A close-run race for my final spot for best European Christmas Market. I went with Vienna over Prague or Bruges, thanks to personal bias – a wonderful trip there recently. The mulled wine was first class, and the unique gift stalls a cut above what you’d find at many markets. Vienna is a wonderful city – and well worth a visit at any time of the year.
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