Christmas markets are a quintessential holiday tradition in Europe. Countless cities, regardless of size, likely have at least one open-air bazaar that pops up sometime between mid-November and early December to sell holiday tchotchkes and treats.
These advent markets aren't a modern-day invention, either. They've been around for centuries. The first recorded instance dates back to 1298, when vendors in Vienna, Austria, obtained permission to run a December market. Over the next century, these cold-weather fairs increased in popularity, and by 1384 the first Christkindlmarkt opened in Germany.
Originally, the markets sold all of the practical things folks would need to make it through the long cold winters—meat, root vegetables, warm textiles, etc.—but eventually, they began focusing more on special, seasonal items, though the exact timeline of that shift is hard to pin down.
There are now 2,500 to 3,000 Christmas markets annually in Germany alone. In anticipation of these and the thousands of other Christmas markets around the world opening up, Stacker compiled a collection of 25 images showcasing some of the most beautiful Christmas markets out there. From historic bazaars to more modern markets, these festivals and their offerings are sure to put you in the holiday spirit.
The Old Town Square market is Prague's longest-running Christmas market. Nestled beneath the Church of Our Lady before Týn, the market runs from late November to Three Kings Day.
Dresden's Striezelmarkt opened for the 589th time in November 2023. The Christmas market, which was first held in 1434, attracts an estimated 3 million visitors each year.
A newer addition to the Christmas market scene, the Advent Fair at St. Stephen's Basilica in Budapest opened in 2011. Visitors can peruse hundreds of stalls selling handmade wares while admiring the architecture of one of the city's biggest houses of worship.
The Gendarmenmarkt Christmas market in Berlin attracts around 800,000 visitors each year. Because of construction, the market has moved to nearby Bebelplatz until 2024.
The Christmas market located in front of Munich's town hall is the largest in the German city. In this photo, a traditional Bavarian brass band dressed in lederhosen and dirndl plays during the festival's opening ceremony.
The Wiener Christkindlmarkt, arguably the most famous Christmas market in Vienna, has roots that date back to the 18th century. The 100-stall festival has only been in its current location in front of Town Hall since 1975 and reportedly sees more than 4 million visitors some years.
One of the oldest Christmas markets in all of France, Strasbourg's fete dates back to 1570. It's not just the Christkindelsmärik that's worth visiting either—the city has dubbed itself the Capital of Christmas and is considered one of the most decorated cities in Europe throughout December.
The Village de Noël at Champs-de-Mars has perhaps some of the best views of any European Christmas market. Stationed at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, the landmark's twinkling lights and holiday displays delight visitors while they enjoy locally sourced food and wine.
More than 150 stalls at the Nuremberg Christmas market sell goods like mulled wine and handmade holiday decorations. It dates back to the 16th century and is one of the world's oldest and most famous markets.
The Winter Wonderland market runs in Hyde Park for six weeks each year, from mid-November to early January. Revelers can enjoy amusement park-style rides, food stalls, and boutique shopping.
Arranged in front of the Trier Cathedral, Trier's Christmas market has an old-school feel to it. Visitors describe the festival, which has world-renowned mulled wine and historic puppet theater, as "romantic."
Arguably one of the biggest Christmas markets in Northern Germany, Rostock's festival has run every year since the Middle Ages. Today, the festival has over 3 kilometers of stands with vendors from at least five countries. Over a million guests shop at the market each year.
The Christmas Market at Cologne's Alter Markt is geared towards families. Complete with a carousel, Santa's grotto, a puppet theater, and toy stalls, the festival is rumored to be set up by Heinzelmännchen gnomes each year.
Traditional wooden stalls line the streets of Old Town during Krakow's annual Christmas market. The bazaar runs from the end of November through Epiphany on Jan. 6 each year.
Salzburg's Christmas bazaar, another one of the oldest advent markets in the world, dates back to the 15th century. The festival has been run in its modern form (from the first week of Advent through New Year's Day) since 1974 but still retains plenty of its older traditions.
In the historic city center of Siena is a medieval-style Christmas market that pops up in December. Over 150 bazaar stalls sell handmade holiday decorations and wares, as well as food and wine.
Tuomaan Markkinat is Helsinki's oldest and largest Christmas market. This bazaar closes before the big day (unlike many others on this list). Attendees can peruse nearly 90 vendor stalls under the shadow of the city's most historic buildings.
While many Christmas markets are content with shopping and food stalls, the Brussels holiday fair offers considerably more. Some of the festival's most prominent attractions are a sound and light show surrounding the centerpiece Christmas tree, an ice skating rink, a Ferris wheel, merry-go-rounds, and a curling rink.
Fodor's Travel Guide has ranked Toronto's Christmas market, located in its historic distillery district, as one of the best in the world. Alongside more typical offerings, 350 live music performances are scheduled for the season.
Union Square's holiday market opened in 1993 and is modeled loosely on Germany's Christkindlmarkts. Each year millions of visitors stop by to peruse more than 150 stands, whose vendors are all interviewed by organizers before being awarded a highly sought-after slot.
The largest Christmas market in Norway is seen from above in this picture from 2021. The market is held between Norwegian's parliament building and the National Theater.
Zagreb, Croatia, is home to more than 25 Christmas markets, making it feel like the whole city has gotten in the holiday spirit. Start with the one with an ice skating rink in King Tomislav Square and work your way through.
The Frankfurt Christmas market attracts up to 3 million visitors a year and takes place at the Römerberg and the Paulsplatz. More than 100 booths offer mulled wine, winter clothing, and children's rides.
The Erfurt Christmas market, set against the backdrop of St. Mary's Cathedral and the Church of St. Severus, gets more than 2 million visitors each year. With more than 200 stalls, the bazaar is also one of the country's largest.
The Annaberg-Buchholz Christmas market is set against the backdrop of St. Anne's Church in the historic district. It becomes a winter wonderland complete with an oversized Christmas pyramid, a giant Christmas tree, and elves. The pyramid, a unique feature, shows the story of the city, the local mining history, and Christmas.