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Seasonal Charm & Cheer: Central European Christmas Markets

If you’re planning on visiting Central Europe during the holidays, you’re in luck, because the region has some of the most marvellously picturesque Christmas markets in Europe. Some have been famous for ages and some are still relatively unknown, but each has a charm all its own and a welcoming, festive atmosphere.

Almost every city and town has its own version of the Christmas market, but here are our favorites of the region.

dresden.de
Just one of Dresden’s Christmas Markets

Bratislava

Bratislava at Christmas is a gorgeous destination, with markets on the city’s three main squares. You’ll find hearty local food and spirits, artisan craftsmen, concert and dance performances, and more than enough festive cheer to go around. The celebrations continue in the courtyard of the Old Town Hall, right in the heart of the city. You won’t just be looking at trinkets either, as the Association of the Guild of Historical crafts has some incredible creations on display. Authentic Christmas atmosphere and true local color — Bratislava’s Christmas markets tick all the boxes.

Budapest

The capital of Hungary has two impressive Christmas markets in equally gorgeous squares, Vorosmarty Square and the square in front of St. Stephen’s Basilica. Both run from the end of November to the end of December. The one in Vorosmarty Square is the oldest and most traditional Christmas market in Budapest, but both are safe bets, and close to one another, so why not experience one after the other? At both markets, you’ll find plenty of food and drink, as well as cultural programs like concerts and light shows, dancing, and of course Hungarian crafts and decorations that make excellent stocking stuffers.

Dresden

Dresden is famous for its Christmas markets, and for good reason. It has almost a dozen of them in various squares throughout the city, and the one known as Striezelmarkt might just be the oldest Christmas market in Germany, having started in the 15th century. Considering Germany’s role in the development of Christmas mythology, that’s really something special. These markets are gorgeous and charming, perfect for yuletide revellers old and young. Don’t miss the Christmas arch, where you’ll see candles and ornate figurines that represent the decorations on the area’s erstwhile mine entrances on the traditional last day of work before the holiday.

Krakow 

You’ll find Krakow’s Christmas market in the heart of the beautiful Old Town, on the square Rynek Glowny, one of the largest in Europe. Already a center of the city’s trade, during the holidays the square is absolutely bustling with Christmas spirit. You’ll find dozens of wooden stalls selling everything from ornaments to traditional Polish recipes and drinks like mulled wine and vodka. Local artisans show off their wares, blacksmiths stoke their fires, and singers and dancers of all ages, many from the city and surrounding towns, perform traditional song and dance. 

Munich

Munich’s Christmas market is charming. Dating back to “Nicholaus Markets” held during the 14th century, the market at the current location started in 1642. You’ll find it on Marienplatz, directly in front of the Town Hall in the city center. A huge twinkling Christmas tree towers over the stands of hearty food and warming drink, happy locals and visitors. Each evening at 5:30pm, Advent music is performed from the balcony of the Town Hall. Just around the corner on Neuhauser Strasse, you’ll find an impressively eclectic range of ornate manger scenes.

Prague

Prague’s main Christmas market is on the picturesque Old Town Square but in truth you’ll find Christmas markets on every major square throughout the city. Old Town Square is the most impressive, with numerous stands, a stage featuring a range of song and dance talents, a petting zoo, a viewing platform, and a towering Christmas tree with ornate light displays. If it sounds more like a party than a Christmas market, it is. The beer and mulled wine are flowing, and you’re certain to see more people enjoying themselves than shopping. For the first time in many years there will also be a Christmas market at Prague Castle, in the courtyard in front of St George’s Basilica.

Salzburg

Beginning in mid-November and concluding December 26, the Salzburg Christmas market is a sight to behold. In the stunning Cathedral Square, you’ll find traditional food and crafts as well as performances from some of Salzburg’s most beloved choirs and children’s groups. Brass concerts of Advent music are performed on Residence Square each Saturday at 6:30pm. Also on Saturdays between 3:30pm and 6:30pm are the “Christkind” processions of angels. Salzburg is gorgeous all year round, but at Christmas it takes on a special charm. You can find more information here.

Vienna

Vienna doesn’t do anything by half-steps, and their Christmas markets are no exception. The main market is in front of City Hall, a beautiful setting for holiday cheer. There are special Christmas cookie and candle-making stations on the first floor of City Hall, and free concerts on weekends. Belvedere Palace also hosts a Christmas village of its own. There’s more seasonal fun to be had at Maria Theresien Platz, between the Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Art. There are numerous other markets throughout the city, so be sure to check out the information page to learn more.

Touring Central Europe’s Christmas Markets

We can put together an itinerary that takes in as many of these Christmas market destinations as you’d like to visit, just let us know when and where and we’ll put a custom trip plan together for you.

Stephan Delbos
Stephan Delbos is an internationally published writer and editor. Born in the US, he has lived, worked and traveled in Europe for a decade. He's fond of oysters and arid martinis.

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