There’s a lot to love about Scandinavia’s relatively rural Christmas markets. Reindeer sleigh rides, roasted almonds, mulled wine (glogg or glögg, depending on which country you are visiting) and handmade gifts are just some of the highlights of a visit to the Christmas markets in the region.
However, what is rarely guaranteed is snow. While snow is quite possible in late November and December, much of the region sees more frequent snowfall from January through March. Low temperatures are likely, however, so dress warmly.
In general, every Scandinavian city will host at least one market. Some, especially the capital cities, will host several. However, some of the most memorable experiences can be enjoyed in much smaller towns throughout the region.
Covering them all in one article would be impossible, so below is a selection of the best, aimed at international visitors.
Christmas markets in Denmark
The first two markets featured here are inside attractions and therefore require tickets. On the plus side, the Christmas markets are just additions to a much broader cultural experience.
Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen: This is a must-see when visiting Copenhagen with kids. Many Copenhageners make it an annual tradition to visit Tivoli Gardens during the short Christmas season starting on November 18th.
The traditional adventure and pleasure garden puts on its winter clothes, opens the gates to Santa’s grotto and lets in the scent of cinnamon popcorn. All the usual amusement park rides also remain open for the season, with additional Christmas concerts and other special events.
Den Gamle By, Aarhus: Denmark’s second largest city is home to Den Gamle By, one of Scandinavia’s finest open-air museums. Cobbled lanes and a river are lined with historic buildings relocated from all over Denmark. Visit the museums during your stay, including Aarhus Story, the Danish Poster Museum and the Toy Museum. Not all are easy to find.
From the end of November, the museum arranges a lantern-lit walk through the old town with historical Christmas decorations, storytelling by elves, traditional Danish Christmas dinner and the Christmas shop.
Copenhagen: The Nyhavn Canal in the Danish capital, arguably the most photographed spot in Denmark, is transformed into a festive party venue ideal for tasting glogg. The nearby square Kongens Nytorv also has a market with even more stalls throughout Hojbro Plads is a popular spot with locals for after-work sausages, baked goods and gløgg.
Odense: The Hans Christian Andersen Christmas market takes place in the historic center of Odense on the first two weekends in December. Dedicated to the period in which the famous fairy tale author lived, the market offers authentic entertainment and shopping, including jewellery, knitwear and Christmas decorations.
Christmas markets in Norway
In December there is a Christmas market in every Norwegian city. The capital, Oslo, is home to several, but for the best festive experiences, you’ll need to travel elsewhere.
Roros: This tiny former copper mining town is one of the coldest places in central Norway. Unlike many other markets in the region, snow is almost guaranteed at one of the country’s most authentic Christmas markets.
Such is the festive atmosphere that many outdoor scenes from the Norwegian Netflix hit were filmed in the city home for christmas.
The market only lasts a few days in early December, yet people travel from all over Norway to enjoy the festive atmosphere of this UNESCO World Heritage site at its finest. Reindeer sleigh rides are popular with families.
Trondheim: Norway’s third largest city hosts one of the largest Christmas markets in the region in its main square, Torvet. Highlights are the big Ferris wheel and the huge Sami style lavvo where up to 500 people can enjoy live music, reindeer burgers and Gløgg by the open fire.
July i Winterland, Oslo: From the various markets in Oslo, July i Winterland is best known thanks to the ice rink, among other things. Rental skates are available. Open from mid-November, the market features a “starry sky” path with thousands of LED lights, traditional rides, and many stalls selling crafts and gifts.
Pepperkakebyen, Bergen: Bergen’s is not a Christmas market as such Pepperkakebyen is without a doubt a fantastic festive experience. Open from mid-November, the Gingerbread Town is being built by thousands of local school children, local businesses and volunteers.
If gingerbread is not your thing, Bergen also has a regular Christmas market stuck.
Christmas markets in Sweden
As the largest country in Scandinavia, Sweden has no shortage of Christmas markets in December. This is especially true for the capital Stockholm.
Skansen, Stockholm: Similar to some markets in Denmark, Skansen is a popular year-round attraction that gets the festive spirit going in December. The open-air museum unveils a traditional Christmas market on Fridays and weekends from November 26th to December 19th. Enjoy waffles, glögg and roasted almonds by the campfire before stocking up on candles, crafts and gifts.
Stotorget, Stockholm: The heart of Stockholm’s historic Gamla Stan district, the public square Stortorget is one of the most picturesque places in Scandinavia. Although the market is relatively compact, it’s packed with stalls selling everything from wooden toys to ceramics.
It’s a popular spot with locals for an after-work glögg before heading out into the evening.
Liseberg, Gothenburg: After Copenhagen’s Tivoli, Gothenburg’s Liseberg is perhaps the most famous amusement park in Scandinavia. During the Christmas season, Liseberg offers a large ice rink, festive concerts and many Christmas stands with food, drinks and gifts.
Gammelstad, Lulea: Sweden’s answer to Norway’s Røros Christmas market is in Gammelstad, a prime example of a traditional church town in northern Sweden. Every year on the first weekend in December, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is brought into the 150-year old Christmas spirit.
Exhibitors are carefully chosen to fit in with the historic atmosphere of the market, so you’re unlikely to find any hi-tech gadgets for sale.
Gustav Adolfs Torg, Malmo: When visiting Copenhagen, it’s easy to make a quick detour across the Oresund Bridge to visit another market in the Swedish city of Malmö. From the beginning of December Malmö’s large public square Gustav Adolf’s Gate hosts traditional rides, live music and stalls.
A word of warning. The market is only open from Thursday to Sunday on the last weekend in November and the first three weekends in December.