This content is not available in your region

Europe's best Christmas markets to visit in 2021 - and what to try once you're there

Christmas markets are a major attraction across Europe
Christmas markets are a major attraction across Europe   -   Copyright  Daniil Silantev
By Tim Gallagher

The sight of snow falling on wooden stalls is enough to raise the pulse of many a Christmas enthusiast, and luckily for those anticipating a bit of festive cheer the time for Christmas markets is just round the corner.

Many of us dream all year of when we’ll be able to sip a gluhwein and browse a display of freshly baked stollen; but with almost every major European city now boasting a market of their own, how do you know where to go?

Don’t fear as Euronews Culture has compiled a list of the best places to find Christmas cheer this December. From the Baltic coast to the Mediterranean, we’ve found the best places to enjoy yourself and get a real taste or tradition this festive season.

Poznan, Poland

The jewel of Poland’s western region, Poznan is home to a festive Christmas Market that spreads between the renaissance buildings of the city’s Old Market Square.

Between 29th November - 23rd December you’ll have the opportunity to experience Europe’s 3rd best Christmas market which boasts an ice sculpture festival and is home to the St Martin’s croissant.

As you stroll through the wooden stalls on a cold Polish evening, why not warm yourself up with a glass of hot wine or a shot of sweet fruit vodka? Traditional Polish dishes of Goulash and Pierogies will do the same job if you’re driving.

Madeira, Portugal

Fancy Christmas on a volcanic, subtropical archipelago? Then Madeira Christmas Market is worth a visit. However, temperatures at night - when the markets are at their best - do reach a cool 11C so make sure you take a coat.

There’s no better time than December to sample Madeira’s signature wine or sumptuous fruit liqueurs. You can enjoy these beverages as you admire the stunning Christmas lights in the walkways of Avenida in the heart of the Madeiran capital, Funchal.

Prague, Czech Republic

Prague is a magical city all year round but especially at Christmas. From the beginning of advent, the city comes alive with festive cheer and traditional charm.

The market stalls of Old Town Square are the perfect place to admire the signature Czech blown glass balls, and wooden curved toys that give the country its Christmas character.

As live music from a main stage reverberates across the medieval stone, you can admire the many golden angels and cherubs that will be on display. The angelic theme of this year’s Prague Christmas market is in keeping with the city’s year-round decor.

Vilnius, Lithuania

The first thing you need to do at Vilnius Christmas Markets is admire the stunningly unique Christmas tree, not that you’ll miss it. Once you’ve seen this luminous delight you’ll forget all about the freezing -5C temperatures.

Seriously though, if you are planning on enjoying a Baltic Christmas wrap up warm because it does get cold. You’ll need some layers as you climb up the Cathedral Belfry to get a stunning view of the city or take a trip on the Vilnius Christmas Train.

Situated in Cathedral Square and Vilnius Old Town this market is the perfect place to get a taste of Christmas in Europe’s last pagan nation.

Manchester, UK

Another option that isn’t for the faint-hearted weather-wise, the UK’s second city is home to a fantastic sprawl of festive fun.

Although it might rain while you’re there, Manchester's Christmas Markets are home to some of the country’s finest craftsmanship, and plenty of food and drink to keep you going as you tour the city streets.

Check out the craft beer bars that have started popping up all over the centre.

Málaga, Spain

Swap out ice skating for swimming in the Mediterranean with a visit to Málaga this Christmas. Ranked one of the sunniest Christmas markets, Málaga brings a Spanish flavour to all its festive traditions.

Enjoy some signature mantecados, marzipan or the wine flavoured pastries borrachuelos while you watch the annual procession of the three wise men.

A wintery Mediterranean sunset will be the perfect backdrop for you to drink a glass of cava as you admire the famously magical nativity scenes which are the town’s pride and joy.

Cologne, Germany

You can’t have a Christmas market list without at least one German city and we chose Cologne.

Nestled on the banks of the Rhine, the Harbour Christmas Market is known for its showy white booths and heartwarming entertainment.

Meanwhile, the Cathedral Christmas Market is a more colourful affair with festive red booths and lined by sparklingly lit Christmas trees.

Either of these is a great place to enjoy Christmas in the home nation of many of Europe’s festive traditions.

Trento, Italy

If you want to browse a Christmas market in the shadow of the alps then Trento is the place for you.

Found in Italy's far northern Trentino-Alto Adige region, the town plays host every year to 90 wooden huts selling traditional Italian crafts, food and drinks.

Experience what the Italians call Città del Natale, or Christmas town, as you wander the cobbled streets and enjoy some of the region's signature sheep’s cheese.

And although the area produces some truly zesty Pinot Grigio, Christmas is a time for other local varietals such as the flowery Müller Thurgau and the lychee-bomb that is Gewürztraminer.

Christkindesmäkir, Strasbourg, France

The oldest Christmas market in France, Strasbourg is a fairytale destination for December.

Home to sophisticated wooden chalets and an ice rink, the so-called ‘capital of Christmas’ is a must-visit for any market enthusiasts, or travellers wanting a seasonal infusion of fun.

The more discerning (and monied) amongst you will want to sample the foie gras on offer but there’s plenty of other delicious french food on offer, including the must-have carbohydrates; churros and brioche.

Tbilisi, Georgia

Our final option may seem a little out of the way but Tbilisi is becoming a must-visit destination for many travellers.

The Tbilisi Christmas market is an exclusive affair that is only on from December 25th - January 14th. January 7th, which is Christmas Day in Georgia, sees the famous Alilo march where different churches march through the town collecting sweets and food to be distributed to the poor.

Tbilisi is a fast up-and-coming city for visitors, so make sure you sneak in a visit to this Christmas market now before it gets overrun with festive sight-seers.

Don't forget that the Caucasus region is considered the birthplace of wine. Rkatsiteli is the most widely available grape in these parts but with these temperatures you might be better with a solid, heavy red like Saperavi, which will often give you notes of chocolate, liquorice and savoury spices.