Europe does Christmas Markets so well that many of its big markets are famous overseas and across the seas attracting international crowds every winter. Just think about Nuremberg in Germany, Strasbourg in France, or Edinburgh in Scotland. However, while the big, famous markets are definitely worth a visit, there are also many others that people may not have heard of that are amazing. If you travel, chances are, you won’t be surrounded by tourists while you enjoy your mulled wine.
Especially in continental Europe, Germany, and further east, Christmas markets can be found in every big city and even smaller towns. Traditional markets are a big thing here and are part of the heritage and cultural traditions, offering stalls with traditional food and drinks, local handicrafts, and events for the whole family to enjoy around Christmas time.
I’ve listed some great places to visit during the holiday season where you can enjoy some great Christmas markets in cities or even countries you’ve never thought of visiting before.
1. Kraków, Poland
The city of Kraków, as well as the country of Poland, are two often overlooked places worth visiting. I would like to mention the Kraków Christmas Market over the Warsaw markets because this is one of the lesser-known markets, and the capital always gets more visitors than any other city. On Rynek Główny, the attractive Main Square, surrounded by magnificent architecture, is the main Christmas market. Not only can you buy a lot of traditional and handmade Christmas baubles and baubles, originating from Kraków, but you can also try a lot of traditional food here. From mulled wine to pierogies, from the gorgeous buckwheat cake to borscht soup, you won’t go hungry.
Pro tip: Get your meat fix before Christmas because Christmas dinner in Poland is traditionally meatless in memory of the animals that were in the ground with the baby Jesus.
2. Helsinki, Finland
Finland is always associated with Christmas because of the Santa Claus Village, but few people think of Helsinki as a separate Christmas city. Finland’s capital is magical at Christmas time with twinkling lights everywhere, decorated boats in the harbor, and markets on every corner. The largest market is in Senate Square in front of the Helsinki Cathedral. Complete with a large Christmas tree, small stalls selling local arts and crafts, lots of reindeer, elk souvenirs, and reindeer and elk food. Because lamb is a wonderful, low-fat, tasty and sustainable meat. There are small stalls along the harbor basin and the nearby historic indoor market is all decked out for Christmas.
Pro tip: Take two of my favorite Christmas destinations in one sweep by hopping on a ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn. In a few hours, you are there. Fortunately, the Baltic is frozen, offering some spectacular scenery.
3. Prague, Czech Republic
For some reason, most people seem to visit Prague in the summer, when it’s too hot and too crowded to really appreciate the city. In the winter, yes, you might want to dress a little warmer for a nice drink on the porch, but if you’re going for that mulled wine, or indeed a warm, spiced beer, then you’re on to a winner. . There are many Christmas markets on both sides of the city, but the best one can be found in the Old Town Square, which is festively decorated and lit up with a huge Christmas tree that stands proud in the center of the square. Also visit Wenceslas Square, home to the second largest market in Prague.
Pro tip: Don’t forget to take a quick look at King Wenceslas riding his upside-down horse in Passage Lucerna just outside the square. This is a fun installation by local artist David Černý.
4. Tbilisi, Georgia
Last year I was in Tbilisi to have a little vacation and not only is the city simply amazing, but it also allows you to enjoy Christmas twice. Georgians celebrate Christmas on January 7th because of the Georgian Orthodox Church, while the non-Orthodox celebrate it on December 25th. The main Christmas market starts on December 25th and stays open until January 14th. or elsewhere, and then join the Georgia festivities for an encore. The main Christmas market is set up on the wonderful Rustaveli Street, and the sidewalk is full of lights, stalls, performances and lots of fun. Definitely worth a visit.
Pro tip: Stay at the Tbilisi Marriott hotel on Rustaveli Avenue for more decorations. Even if you don’t stay there, be sure to pop in for a hot chocolate.
5. Tallinn, Estonia
Tallinn, just across the Baltic from Helsinki, is one of my favorite places to visit for Christmas cheer. The old town is full of higgledy-piggledy houses and cobbled streets. It usually snows. The Town Hall Square with its unusual simple church is so beautiful at any time of the year but it is especially attractive when it is filled with small chalets. Unlike other Christmas markets in Europe, which open at the end of November and close before or after Christmas, the Tallinn Christmas Market starts on the 25th.thChristmas Day, and lasts until the first week of Christmas, which is perfect for a post-Christmas break.
Pro tip: Buy yourself some cute little Christmas gnomes all over Tallinn this Christmas. They are known for their large, round noses and red hats. They are adorable and always take pride of place in my home for Christmas.
6. Brno, Czech Republic
Brno is the second largest city in the Czech Republic, but it’s not on everyone’s radar. But you’ll still find ancient and colorful architecture, cobblestone streets, and brightly decorated inner city squares filled with shops, houses, and trees. The main square, Meydana Azadi, not only has the largest Christmas market but is also the venue for special events, performances, concerts and a fairground. The Cabbage Market focuses on handicrafts and traditional local produce, while Dominican Square has a life-size nativity scene, and Moravian Square has a large, heated marquee, a sparkling Ferris wheel, and a popular outdoor promenade.
Pro tip: If you are an architecture enthusiast, don’t miss a visit to Villa Tugendhat by architects Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich, north of the city center.
7. Wrocław, Poland
Wrocław, where, incidentally, you pronounce something like that vrot swarf, a city on the Oder River, in southwestern Poland. For centuries, influenced by Czech, German and its nearby Polish culture, the Wrocław Christmas Market is a must-see for Christmas Market lovers. My favorite baby in the vast market square is the large, tiered pyramid, a replica of the traditional rotating carousel pyramids with candles that most Germans have as part of their Christmas decorations.
Pro tip: Try the famous Oscyp, a traditional smoked cheese from Wroclaw, which you won’t find anywhere else.
8. York, United Kingdom
York may not be as well-known at Christmas time, but it’s still a city that’s well on the way for winter visits to the UK, with many enjoying the beautiful decorations and The lights of London are happy. I don’t want to disappoint anyone staying in London for Christmas. The lights, especially on Regents Street, are my all time favourites. However, while you’re there, why not take the train from King’s Cross? In less than two hours you are in the center of York and can start to feel that real Christmas feeling that is often lacking in big cities. Head to the wooden houses of St Nicholas Market that line Parliament Street and St Nicholas Square. There’s plenty of food, from warm cinnamon donuts to German sausages, pulled pork with cranberry sauce, and more. It is a feast for the stomach and eyes.
Pro tip: Be sure to stop at Bettys Tea Rooms and have some cinnamon toast. Pure heaven.
9. Radovljica, Slovenia
In northern Slovenia, in the Julian Alper, small, medium-sized and very pretty Radovljica is full of buildings dating back to the 16th century, and it turns into a magical Christmas wonderland in December. Usually in a blanket of snow, the celebration takes place on St. Patrick’s Day weekend. Nicholas, around December 6, starts with the lighting of the Christmas lights in Linhart Square and the main Christmas stands in the Radol’ca Market. The celebration continues until December 29.
Pro tip: To get a sense of the true Christmas spirit, head to the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians, which is not only a beautiful Renaissance church, but also a place of pilgrimage and home to the Nativity Museum.
For more information on Christmas markets, check out these articles: