When winter rolls in, everyone in Europe waits in anticipation for the Christmas markets to begin. Luckily for us, Christmas markets originated in Germany and there are a plethora of markets to get you into the Holiday spirit. I’ve made a list of my top four Christmas markets in Europe with a ton of information on each!
There’s always something to celebrate in Germany, and the Christmas season brings the most magical celebrations with Christmas markets in every German town. The German Weihnachtsmarkt, or Christmas market, is something everyone needs to experience at least once. If you’re lucky enough to enjoy them, you won’t be able to spend the Advent season any other way.
Christmas Markets are the perfect place to meet friends and colleagues after work, sip on hot glühwein or mulled wine, shop for Christmas gifts, grab a brat, crepes, roasted chestnuts, or some Schwäbisch food, and soak up the Christmas cheer. You might even get lucky and catch some carolers singing ‘Stille Nacht’ like I did one evening. It’s impossible to not smile while you’re there!
Sometimes I have to pinch myself living in Stuttgart. Pick any random weekend to visit and you’re likely to stumble upon some sort of festival (just ask my parents!) and Christmas time is no exception. Stuttgart always makes the short list of must-visit Christmas Markets in Europe because not only is it one of the oldest and largest in Germany, there’s something else that makes it unique. Every vendor decorates their hut rooftop with evergreen branches and Christmas decorations, be it angels, nutcrackers, Santa (called Weihnachtsmann or ‘the Christmas man’ in German, it always makes me smile!), gingerbread men, or more. Usually the roof will correlate to what the stand sells. I really love this part about the Stuttgart Christmas Market. It truly is a fairytale, and we get to live it every day.
Esslingen’s Christmas and Medieval Market
Esslingen is a medieval town a 20 minute train ride from Stuttgart and one of our favorite towns in the area. Their Christmas and Medieval Market is famous and fabulous. The marktplatz holds the traditional Christmas Market, but if you walk towards the Rathaus, it transforms into a medieval market with fire shows, wooden hot tubs, and fun medieval games for kids to play.
Ribeauvillé, France Marche de Nöel Médiéval
Ribeauvillé puts on our favorite Chrsitmas market, ever. It only runs the first two weekends in December so the entire town goes all out for it. Book your hotels a year in advance if you want to stay the night. Expect three wise men leading their camels through the crowds down the Grand Rue, or a shepherd and his sheep, or a man with a herd of ducklings (tell me, where else does this happen?!).
Also expect medieval jousting, a huge roaring mechanical dragon, and seriously cool medieval fire battles. There are surprises around every corner and the whole day is filled with excitement. To me, they get the magical Christmas feeling just right. Add in escargots and oysters on the half shell to your normal Christmas market fare, and I never want to leave.
Vienna, Austria Weihnachtsmarkt
There’s a few Christmas Markets in Vienna but we spent our time at the gorgeous market in front of the Rathaus (town hall). The market is traditional and beautiful. We spent a weekend here and did the Christmas market Saturday, and spent the rest of our time in Vienna’s cafes. The cafe culture in Vienna is seriously next level. We topped off the weekend with a night at the Vienna State Opera. It was a the most perfect weekend, and Vienna is easy to get to from Stuttgart!
Christmas is such a magical time in Europe! What’s your favorite Christmas Market? I feel so lucky to live in a beautiful city that has so much to offer and one of the best Christmas markets around. Merry Christmas to you and yours!