Gingerbread and glühwein: The best Christmas markets in Europe this year

Christmas markets are great places for finding unique stocking fillers.
Christmas markets are great places for finding unique stocking fillers.   -  Copyright  Dar1930
By Rebecca Ann Hughes

With little wooden chalets strung with lights and steaming glühwein on tap, Christmas markets are brimming with yuletide cheer.

They originated in Germany in the late middle ages and are now a staple in many European cities.

Each country puts its own spin on the festive fairs, from stalls selling handcrafted knitwear in Austria to stylish contemporary jewellery in Finland.

Don’t miss out on the local produce like spicy sweet treats and roasted chestnuts either.

Relive ancient traditions in snowy Salzburg

In the shadow of snow-dusted Alps, festive markets take over the centre of Salzburg each year.

The market stalls crowding into the Austrian city’s main squares look straight out of a Christmas storybook.

Look out for quality gift ideas like hand-painted baubles and handmade knitwear. And sample some spicy gingerbread and schnapps as you go.

If the festive atmosphere inspires you to burst into Christmas song, you can join the singalong carols on Tuesdays.

There are also free daily concerts at 5pm in front of the cathedral.

Dates: November 17, 2022 to January 1, 2023

Take a spin round the ice rink in Budapest

Budapest’s Basilica market takes place in front of the monumental neoclassical church of St Stephen.

Every evening during advent, religious scenes and Christmas stories are projected onto the basilica’s facade.

While you wait for the spectacular light display, take a turn on the iceskating rink encircling a majestic Christmas tree.

Liam Mckay
Budapest’s Basilica market takes place in front of the monumental neoclassical church of St Stephen.Liam Mckay

There are also stalls galore with crafts like hand-painted Russian dolls and local foods like ‘flodni’ pastries filled with poppy, walnut, apple, and plum jam.

Dates: November 19, 2022 to January 1, 2023

Be inspired by illuminations in Bruges

Bruges truly shines in winter, especially around the Christmas period. The Flemish city sparkles with market stalls piled high with gifts and an ice rink strung with twinkling lights.

You also get two markets for one in the canal city, with stalls in both the Markt square and Simon Stevinplein.

Matt Seymour
Bruges truly shines in winter, especially around the Christmas period.Matt Seymour

Glug some glühwein for a bit of warmth and then head out to follow the enchanting Light Experience Trail that illuminates the city’s squares and monuments.

Dates: November 25, 2022 to January 8, 2023

Shop for stylish stocking gifts in Helsinki

By far the classiest Christmas market can be found in Finland’s capital. Stylish Nordic design is well represented at Helsinki’s festive fair.

Stalls sell typical handmade products like ‘himmeli’ ornaments - minimalist geometric mobiles - wooden toys, knitted wool socks and contemporary jewellery.

It’s perfect if you want to steer clear of stocking fillers that will likely be thrown away.

After an exhausting afternoon shopping, stop by a restaurant pop-up and sample their special seasonal offerings.

Dates: Thursday 1 - Thursday 22 December 2022

Glug some grog in Prague

With a backdrop of the 14th century spires of the Our Lady Before Tyn church and colourful Baroque buildings, Prague’s markets are magnificent.

This festive fair is one for the food-lovers. Warm up with sizzling grilled sausages, cheesy garlic flatbread and freshly made pancakes.

As per Czech tradition, ditch the glühwein and reach for a glass of grog - rum, hot water, sugar and lemon.

Drop by the Old Town Square to immerse yourself in a live nativity scene of sheep, goats and a donkey.

Dates: November 26, 2022 to January 6, 2023.

End the year in enchanting Edinburgh

The heart of Edinburgh transforms into a winter wonderland for the festive period.

Centred around Princes Street, you’ll find an ice rink, fairground rides, Santa’s grotto and an elves’ workshop.

Ross Sneddon
The heart of Edinburgh transforms into a winter wonderland for the festive period.Ross Sneddon

This market is worth waiting a little to visit as Edinburgh really impresses during its celebrations for the new year.

Known as Hogmanay in Scotland, the end of December sees an ethereal torchlight procession through the old town and a spectacular firework display on the 31st.

Make sure you join in the riotous traditional dancing at a ceilidh too.

Dates: November 19, 2022 to January 3, 2023