From Brussels to Vienna, these historic markets specialize in handmade crafts, mulled drinks, and other holiday treats.
The Best Christmas Markets in Europe
Copenhagen celebrates Jul (as in "yuletide") with a Christmas crafts market and surfeit of light-bedecked Christmas trees in the city's famed historic amusement park, Tivoli Gardens. Nearly four miles of lights are artfully hung in patterns dictated by Tiffany's head designer, while hundres of strands are draped on the lakeside willows. Join the Danes in warding off the cold with æbleskiver (iced doughnuts with black currant jam) and glogg, a steaming hot mulled red wine laden with raisins, almonds, cinnamon sticks, and cloves—all of which are steeped in aquavit or schnapps. There's also a crafts market installed along a canal in the historic Nyhavn district; try to visit it between 5 and 6pm weekdays to catch the town crier.
Look For: Pixie-like nisser, tiny household elves that infest Denmark around Christmas clad in clogs, red shirts, and pointed red caps. More fickle than their cousin Santa, they might bring presents if you leave them bowls of porridge in the attic; if you forget, they'll visit all kinds of mischief instead.
Dates: Mid-Nov.–late Dec.; closed early Jan.
For More Info: visitcopenhagen.com
You haven’t experienced Christmas lights until you’ve seen nearly four miles of them artfully hung in patterns dictated by Tiffany’s head designer in Copenhagen’s famed historic amusement park, Tivoli Gardens—and that’s not counting the 1,800 strands dramatically draped on the lakeside willows. Copenhagen celebrates Jul (as in "yuletide") in high style, with its famed Christmas market the centerpiece. Stalls stocked with fine handmade crafts, including traditional figurines of clog-clad elves in pointy red caps, compete for space with vendors selling iced doughnuts slathered with black currant jam and hefty cups of gløgg, a steaming hot mulled red wine laden with raisins, almonds, cinnamon sticks, and cloves—all of which, for good measure, are steeped in aquavit or schnapps.
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Christmas in Europe is a time for elaborate pastries straight out of a medieval cookbook, for lyrical midnight masses in Gothic churches, and for the upholding of quirky local traditions—in many countries, Christmas just isn’t complete without mischievous pixies (Copenhagen), kindly witches (Rome), treacherous demons (Salzburg), or an 8,000-pound fruitcake (Dresden). However else Europeans celebrate the Yuletide season, Christmas still centers around an Advent market that, in most cases, has filled the square before the cathedral each December for hundreds upon hundreds of years. Many markets start on the Friday before Advent, which is four Sundays before Christmas Eve; most end on December 24, especially in Germanic countries, where Christmas Eve is set aside for trimming the tree at home. Others keep celebrating until Epiphany on January 6.