The Best Christmas Markets to Visit in 2021
The music and the lights and the smell of roasting nuts and glühwein. It's what Christmas markets are all about, and we've put together a list of your (and our) favourites in time for the season to start.
It's that time of year again…
Now most Christmas markets in Europe start around the last weekend of November, so by our calculations that gives you just enough time to get planning. But, which one are you visiting?
Bruges is magical all year round but the magic really peaks at Christmas, when the market springs up in Grote Markt, watched over by the iconic belfry tower and gabled buildings.
You'll find pretty, brightly lit stalls piled high with seasonal goodies, along with amusements, rides and even an ice rink. Plus think of all that Belgian chocolate and beer.
If you're after some food your best bet is to head to Stevinplein, where you can follow some familiar scents to stalls filled with frites, hot dogs and waffles for days.
Austria goes into lockdown on Monday November 22. Currently expected to last 20 days, the lockdown shouldn't interrupt your plans for 2022, but if you were planning to head out before Christmas you should check the impact on your trip.
High in the Alps in the Austrian Tyrol, Innsbruck is the classic Christmas you imagined as a kid.
Enchanting, medieval buildings crowned by the sparkling Golden Roof, and a festive market with 70 wooden stalls bursting with Christmas decorations, handicrafts and tempting food gifts. With the snow-dusted mountains as a constant backdrop.
For something to eat, pick up some Tyrolean kiachl. It's a kind of flat doughnut often topped with sauerkraut or cranberry jam – goes great with glühwein too.
Copenhagen boasts a choice of Christmas markets that spring up throughout the city. The oldest and largest of them is the one at Gavno Slot – it has 150 stalls, so you can probably polish off all your Christmas shopping in one visit!
Tivoli Gardens also hosts a magnificently magical market complete with twinkling lights and decorated with around 70,000 baubles on 1,000 Christmas trees. Plus Santa and his reindeer will be there.
There's even a Christmas market at the zoo, so you can make the most of the festive magic alongside the animals. Make sure to try the mulled glögg too – you can find it pretty much everywhere.
You don't have to go far to find a real winter wonderland, as Edinburgh has a pretty magical market which appears every festive season.
Find it in the heart of the city within the East Princes Street Gardens – now adorned with twinkling lights, colourful decorations and market stalls offering all sorts of treats.
Have a go on some of the fairground rides or simply grab a hot chocolate and absorb the festive atmosphere.
Bad Homburg, Germany
This settlement just outside of Frankfurt has a modest market which jostles around the town's castle. It's ideal if you're after something a bit more authentic and not as commercialised as the bigger cities.
Ice rinks, sparkling trees, plus plenty of beer, cockle-warming mulled wine and tasty stollen make this little town a real Christmas market contender.
Cologne has a collection of Christmas markets all within walking distance of each other. One of the most popular is at Roncalliplatz, where dozens of red-roofed market stalls gather around a lofty Christmas tree – all in the shadow of the city's mighty, twin-spired Gothic cathedral.
There's a choir here too, singing all your favourite carols and festive bops (Mariah, anyone?) and if you're feeling brave enough you can even scale the 533 steps to the top of the cathedral for jaw-dropping views over the city and its markets.
Don't forget to get a frosted stein filled with glühwein, fortified with amaretto, to take home as well.
York's medieval feel and the romantic higgledy-piggledy atmosphere of the iconic Shambles slot perfectly into the joyful, cozy, crazy and slightly chaotic magic of Christmas.
The charming independent shops here offer up anything from a classic Yorkshire flat cap to freshly baked cakes. Plus there's an entire globe's worth of street food, whether you fancy a festive Yorkshire pudding wrap or a 'traditional' Christmas burrito.
Make sure you have a go on the vintage carousel in Kings Square as well, followed by a stop in Thor's Tipi for a warming cup of something mulled and delicious.
Prague, Czech Republic
It's the home of Good King Wenceslas – does it really get any more festive than this? With two main markets, one in Wenceslas Square and one in Old Town Square, within 5 minutes of each other, there's plenty here to get you in the festive mood. Especially when the snow is so deep and crisp and even.
But one of the biggest attractions of the markets in Prague is the food – the true meaning of Christmas, really. They've got roast ham on spits, barbecued sausages, cheesy garlic flatbread, smoked dumplings, pancakes and spicy gingerbread.
If that makes you thirsty then opt for some honey wine, grogg or the perennial favourite pilsner.
Even better, the markets use completely biodegradable containers and all the food is locally sourced where possible. We love a green Christmas!
At the foot of the Bern Cathedral you'll find Bern Minster Christmas Market. Here you'll discover unique crafts lovingly made in Bern or the surrounding areas.
Then head over to Waisenhausplatz (Orphanage Square), home to around 50 stalls with souvenirs, decorations, food and drink. All nestled in this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
If it's food and drink you're after then be sure to head to Chalet Alpenland on Granary Square where you can enjoy flammkuchen, fondue and raclette, mulled wine and sweet treats.