Christmas Markets arouse mixed feelings. Some love them and count the days down, waiting for the celebration of the most wonderful time of the year to start. The others hate Christmas Markets for cluttering the main squares of their cities with kitsch and crowds of tourists. We belong to the first group. Christmas Markets bring only good memories to our minds. After all, the longest (so far) road trip of our lives was initiated by the Christmas Markets magic.
Christmas Markets then and today
Three countries can be called the Christmas Markets specialists, and these are:
You can easily notice what connects them all: these are all German-speaking countries. Indeed, Christmas Markets are a Germanic tradition. They were first held already in the Middle Ages, and their initial purpose was to provide the products needed for Christmas preparations. At the beginning of the Christmas Markets history, priests were glad to have them near the church, so that they could encourage people to step in. Nowadays, Christmas Markets are being held all over Europe, but they don’t have much in common with religion anymore. Like any other Christmas tradition, Christmas Markets got commercialized, too. That being said, the variety of items for sale is huge. You can buy local produce, handicrafts, clothes, souvenirs, jewelry, and so on.
But one thing that links almost all the Christmas Markets is mulled wine. The mugs it is served in are redesign every year. They are the pride of each market, and they usually picture the landmarks of the city in a Christmas setting.
Christmas Markets in Europe: the ultimate guide
Over the past few years, we have visited many Christmas Markets all over the continent. Some of them more than once. Based on our experience, we prepared this condensed country-by-country guide, organized in alphabetical order. We will refurbish this list every year, adding new cities and editing the old ones, so that the information on the current markets is always up-to-date.
Christmas Markets in Austria
Let’s start big, with one of the Christmas Markets specialists. Austrian Christmas Markets are the absolute European top-notch. They are the reason we fell in love with this Alpine country. Most of the rankings will tell you the best Christmas Markets in Austria are those in Vienna, but our favorites are Innsbruck and Salzburg, mostly because of their scenic locations.
Innsbruck Christmas Markets
Innsbruck, the capital of the Tyrol region, lies in the Inn valley. High, snow-capped mountains surround the city. I bet you can already picture this stunning scenery. Now add some Christmas touch on top of all that. Sounds perfect, because it is perfect, indeed.
Since we are in a winter and Christmas wonderland, one Christmas Market is not enough. Thus, there are as many as four Christmas Markets in Innsbruck. The ones we loved the most are located in the Old Town and at Marktplatz. The latter is a real feast for all the senses. To start with, Marktplatz Christmas Market is settled by the river, and its background scenery consists of colorful houses with the mountains behind them. Secondly, the place is very cozy and humble, as it is dedicated to families. Finally, food.
Oh my goodness, the food. To clear up, we are cheese people. And it was at the Christmas Market in Innsbruck, when we got introduced to raclette. From then on, we have butterflies in our stomachs each time we get to taste it again. In case you don’t know, raclette is a semi-hard cheese produced of the Alpine cow milk. It is Swiss by origin, but it is well-known all around the Alps. On the Christmas Market in Innsbruck, it is served melted on the slice of crispy bread. This delicacy complemented with the mug of mulled wine takes you to heaven directly.
2019 Innsbruck Christmas Markets in The Old Town and at Marktplatz are opened daily from November 15th through December 23rd. Panorama Christmas Market on Hungerburg opened its doors on November 25th and will close them on December 23rd. Christmas Market on Maria-Theresien Straße will be operating the longest. It started on November 25th and will end on January 6th.
Linz Christmas Markets
Linz is the third-largest city in Austria, located about 200 km west of Vienna. It is somehow underrated when it comes to tourism, though. I guess it’s hard to compete with Alpine cities and towns. Nevertheless, it is quite appealing and definitely worthy of your visit during Christmas time.
There are two Christmas Markets in Linz. The first one is located on the main square. What I like about it are the stalls, with their modern look and the Christmas lights suspended in between them. This display of lights, both on the stalls and the Christmas tree, combined with the passing trams, is just marvelous. The other one of Linz Christmas Markets takes place in Linz Volksgarten. It is more traditional, with a typical Christmas pyramid.
Both 2019 Linz Christmas Markets operate daily from November 23rd until December 24th.
Salzburg Christmas Market
Salzburg is a picturesque city situated at the foot of the Alps. It is well-known worldwide as the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. If I were to make a ranking of the most beautiful cities I have been to, I would probably place Salzburg in my top 10. Hence, the local Christmas Markets just can’t go wrong.
It is the spectacular Old Town of Salzburg that hosts the Christmas Market. Located on two sides of the Salzburg Cathedral, at the Residence Square and Cathedral Square, with the Hohensalzburg Fortress towering over it, this Christmas Market is one of a kind. We were impressed and spent quite some time wandering around the numerous stalls. I don’t know if it’s any typical, but I remember eating a delicious stuffed potato on Salzburg Christmas Market. I would love to taste it again.
Salzburg Christmas Market 2019 began on November 21st and will be open each day until December 26th.
Vienna Christmas Markets
Vienna needs no introduction when it comes to Christmas Markets. It is a Christmas capital of Europe, and the Christmas Markets are everywhere. It is simply impossible to count them all, so I won’t even try. Instead, I will focus on the most recommended ones.
The most popular of Vienna Christmas Markets is most likely the one taking place at Rathausplatz. Unfortunately, as far as I remember, we never got to that one. Therefore, what I can say is that it looks nice in the pictures online. We did get to the Christmas Market at Stephansplatz, though, and it was totally amazing. The stalls’ appearance was very inventive and unconventional, and I loved it. There were also extraordinary crowds and that I didn’t love so much. But it doesn’t surprise me at all, as the St. Stephen’s Cathedral, around which the stalls are concentrated, is one of the main landmarks of Vienna.
Another one of Vienna’s Christmas Markets worthy of your visit is at Maria Theresien Platz, with Maria Theresa monument located in its heart. It is only a little bit calmer here than at Stephansplatz. The stalls’ design is different, more traditional. The absolute must-see is the Christmas Market in front of the Schönbrunn Palace. It is outside the city center, but it is worth the trip. The palace, illuminated by night, creates a magnificent background to your photos.
When it comes to the delicacies you should try on Christmas Markets in Vienna, we cannot recommend anything specific. But I am sure everybody will find something to their taste. The stalls are packed with a variety of specialties, from traditional Austrian dishes to Tornado Potatoes.
Vienna Christmas Markets 2019 have started in the second half of November. Most of them will be closed by the end of December, but some will stay open until January 6th. You can check the schedule of every one of them on this website.
Christmas Markets in the Czech Republic
If you have ever heard about a Christmas Market in the Czech Republic, it was most likely one in its capital city. Prague Christmas Markets (yes, there are a few of them, around the city center) are renown not only in the Czech Republic but also in the rest of Europe. Somehow, we still never got there. But that does not mean we haven’t visited a Czech Christmas Market.
Brno Christmas Market
Brno is the second-largest city in Czechia. Although it is not even remotely as spectacular as Prague, we have a special place in our hearts for it. I am pretty sure it was Brno, where we decided to transform our supposed-to-be direct drive from Poland to Spain into a spontaneous two-months long zigzagging around Europe. And the magic of Brno Christmas Market was probably one of the main factors which influenced the decision-making process. Therefore, if you are on the crossroads and don’t know which path to follow, we recommend visiting the Christmas Market in Brno. Let it change your life.
As for the delicacies you should try while visiting the Christmas Market in Brno, the first thing coming to my mind would be Bramboráky, the deep-fried potato pancakes. Being Polish, I feel obliged to mention this dish is equally popular in Poland, and I consider it national pride, but to my disappointment, Poles don’t serve them on Christmas Markets. Another thing worth trying on Brno Christmas Market would be mead, called Medovina in Czech. It is a honey-based liquor that can be drunk both cold and hot. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to taste it while in Brno, as we visited the Christmas Market early in the morning, but I did try it many times in Poland (again, neighboring countries have similar cuisine), and I am a big fan. Disclaimer: Javier tasted this alcoholic beverage once, the hot version to be more precise, and he does not share my enthusiasm.
Brno Christmas Market 2019 is based in two locations, situated in a walking distance from one another: the Freedom Square (Náměstí Svobody) and the Dominican Square (Dominikánské Náměstí). It began on November 29th and will end on January 5th. Christmas Market in Brno will be closed on January 1st.
Christmas Markets in Estonia
Christmas Markets were not really a thing in Estonia for a long time. That, however, does not mean Estonia doesn’t celebrate Christmas at all. Actually, this small Baltic country boasts to have the longest tradition of publicly-displayed decorated Christmas tree. It was erected for the first time already in 1441. Nowadays, it stands proudly at the heart of the Christmas Market in Tallinn, the Estonian capital.
Tallinn Christmas Market
Christmas Market in Tallinn is called the best Christmas Market in Europe by many and has been internationally appreciated. It is settled in the most beautiful part of the Old Town, right at the Market Square. Thanks to its location, the Tallinn Christmas Market has a cozy and festive ambiance. When compared to other Christmas Markets in Europe, the one in Tallinn seems quite small, but it only makes it special. There is no need for splendor when the background is created by one of the best-preserved medieval town centers in the whole world! The Christmas tree, standing in front of the Town Hall, at the very center of the market, is modestly decorated and looks adorable. The lights, suspended between the stalls, make you feel like you’re in a fairytale, even on a rainy day.
The stalls on the Christmas Market in Tallinn offer handmade goods, like woolen blankets or alpaca hats, as well as ceramics and various Tallinn souvenirs. You can also try some local food, gingerbread and Christmas sweets. Mulled wine served on Tallinn Christmas Market can be enriched by Vana Tallinn liqueur – the Estonian national pride. To our disappointment, Tallinn does not take pride in its Christmas mugs, though. Unlike in other cities in Europe, the mulled wine is served in paper cups only.
Tallinn Christmas Market 2019 has begun on November 15th and will be open daily until January 7th, the Christmas Day of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Christmas Markets in Finland
Finland is a real winter wonderland. The motherland of Santa Claus, with free-roaming reindeer and northern lights. The country to be at this time of the year. While you can’t be sure there would be snow for Christmas anywhere in central Europe, you can bet Finland will be covered with a cold white fluff. But before you head up north to meet the Santa, stay for a while in the Finnish capital and enjoy the oldest Christmas Market in the country.
Helsinki Christmas Market
I cannot imagine a better location for a Christmas Market in Helsinki than the Senate Square. It is the most important, most beautiful and most frequented place in the city. When the Christmas Market opens, the magic happens. The blaze of lights, the smell of gingerbread, and the monumental Helsinki cathedral towering over the colorful stalls – this is a Finnish recipe for Christmas Market. And it really works. Even when the temperature falls below zero, it is warm on Senate Square. It might be the open fire or the crowds, but I have my own explanation. It’s the Christmas vibe.
The variety of products sold here is impressive. You can buy Christmas decorations, handicrafts, jewelry, or dry fish. When you order mulled wine (which is non-alcoholic but warming nevertheless), you have four colors of mugs to choose from. Food-wise, my absolute favorite is the Karelian pies. Helsinki Christmas Market was not the first time I tried them, as I often buy these pies in Finnish or Estonian supermarkets. But this time, I ate them freshly baked. Yes, it is worth paying five times the shop price.
Helsinki Christmas Market 2019 has opened on December 6th and will work until December 22nd. It is closed on Mondays.
Christmas Markets in France
The tradition of Christmas Markets in France dates back to the Middle Ages. Nowadays, Christmas Markets are held all around the country, including some small villages. When it comes to delicacies, mulled wine seems to be an obvious winner. We are in the wine country, after all.
It is no secret that the best of France Christmas Markets are in the region of Alsace. We were so excited when we finally got the chance to visit the biggest Alsace Christmas Markets in December 2018. I must admit they do not disappoint at all.
Colmar Christmas Market
Colmar is our absolute favorite of all the Christmas Markets in Europe. This city is simply made to host Christmas Markets! I cannot imagine better scenery for Christmas celebrations than these beautiful half-timbered houses scattered around the Old Town, and the maze created by cobblestone streets and charming canals. When you visit Colmar in December, Christmas is literally everywhere.
As it was our first time in Colmar, we headed directly to the tourist information. And we encourage everybody to do so. You will be given a map with the best walking tour ever, with all the Christmas Markets marked. There are about 180 stalls in total, all blended into the city’s landscape. Although we have only seen Colmar in December, we still support the theory that it is the best month to be there. We got dazzled and felt like children again, all thanks to the Christmas Market in Colmar.
Colmar Christmas Market 2019 has started on November 22nd and will be open every day until December 29th.
Mulhouse Christmas Market
Although the Christmas Market in Mulhouse cannot compete with the one in Colmar, it is still worth paying a visit, once in Alsace. It is located at Place de la Réunion, the main square in the city. The famous Mulhouse Townhall, which is the most characteristic building on the square, is decorated with the Christmas fabric, produced locally. It turns out that Mulhouse is well-known for its textile industry. We recommend climbing the steep steps of the Town Hall to admire the Christmas Market in Mulhouse in all its glory. Another idea would be to take a ride on the Ferris wheel, which is an integrated part of the market.
Mulhouse Christmas Market 2019 opened on November 22nd and will last until December 29th. It will be, however, closed on December 25th.
Strasbourg Christmas Markets
When it comes to Strasbourg, the seat of the European Parliament, as well as other European institutions, there is always the question about safety. And the ambiance of the local Christmas Markets is not as carefree as in Colmar or Mulhouse. We visited Strasbourg at the beginning of December 2018. We felt relatively safe, seeing policemen thoroughly checking every person walking toward the Christmas Market. We also learned that most of the cars, except for those that have special permission, are not allowed in the city center. And despite the precautions, a few days later, the deadly terrorist attack happened on one of Strasbourg Christmas Markets. We don’t know how else could we prevent terrible things like this from happening, but avoiding public places and resigning from social life is definitely not a solution.
In total, there are more than ten Christmas Markets around Strasbourg. The absolute must-sees are those located on Place de la Cathédrale and Place Kléber. The latter has the tallest and most impressive Christmas tree I have ever seen. Place Gutenberg seems to have an annual tradition of hosting a guest country stalls. It was Finland in 2018, and it is Lebanon in 2019. The best delicacy we have tried in Strasbourg was a bretzel (an Alsatian version of a pretzel), sold directly after being taken from the oven, in a local bakery. That was the pretzel of my life. Alsatian bretzels are sold on the Christmas Market stalls, too.
Strasbourg Christmas Markets 2019 started on November 22nd and will be open daily until December 30th, excluding December 25th. From December 26th to December 30th, only some of the markets will stay open.
Christmas Markets in Germany
Christmas Markets are a big deal in Germany. Visiting them is an official Christmas tradition. The best one is said to be in Dresden. Unfortunately, we have only visited Winter Market in Dresden, as we were already too late for the Christmas one. But we did visit the markets in Berlin and Munich. They gave us the idea of how festive can it get.
Berlin Christmas Markets
According to VisitBerlin.de, there are more than 70 Christmas Markets in Germany’s capital city. On their site, you can organize them by the district. Obviously, it is impossible to visit all of them in one season. We didn’t even try. Instead, we only visited one Christmas Market in Berlin. By a total accident. The point is, we were driving all the way from Northern Norway to Poland for my best friend’s wedding. We stopped at the Alexanderplatz in Berlin to visit local shopping centers in search of a dress for me. And there it was. The Christmas Market.
Luckily, it turned out to be one of the best Christmas Markets in Berlin. With the biggest Christmas pyramid in Europe! There is also an ice-rink and plenty of stalls offering artisanal souvenirs and delicacies. As you can probably guess, the most popular food to try is Bratwurst.
The biggest of Berlin Christmas Markets 2019 have opened by the end of November. Most of them will finish operating by Boxing Day. The opening times of the smaller Christmas Markets in Berlin vary. Some are opened for one day only, the others will still operate in January. You can check the schedule of each of them on VisitBerlin.de.
Munich Christmas Market
Similar to Berlin, there are numerous Christmas Markets in Munich, although not as many as in the German capital. Unlike in Berlin, it is easy to name the most famous Christmas Market in Munich, though. And the winner is… the Christmas Market at Marienplatz. One of the oldest and most traditional Christmas Markets in Germany.
Marienplatz is Munich’s main square. Both Old and New City Halls are located there. What attracts the eyes of the crowds all year round, is the Rathaus-Glockenspiel clock mounted on one of the towers of the Munich New City Hall. Each day at 11 a.m. and 12 p.m., people gather to watch it performing a show created by 43 bells and 32 figures. During Christmas time, the tourists’ hearts are torn between the clock and the Christmas Market. Thus, the Marienplatz is a very busy place to be. Visiting it during Christmas time lets you understand Munich is not only about the Octoberfest. The Christmas Market is equally festive. Instead of a glass of beer, grab a mug of mulled wine in one hand, a German sausage in the other, and enjoy the Christmas ambiance. Don’t forget to take a look at the clock, though.
2019 Munich Christmas Market at Marienplatz has started on November 27th and will be opened daily, until Christmas Eve, on December 24th.
Christmas Markets in Liechtenstein
Liechtenstein is such a small country some don’t even know it exists, let alone its geographical location. If you look at the map of Europe, you will notice it is actually surrounded by the two countries famous for their Christmas markets: Austria and Switzerland. And Liechtenstein is not lacking behind when it comes to the Christmas celebration.
Vaduz Christmas Market
We have visited the Christmas Market in Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein, in 2015. Back then, it was relatively small. We can only remember a few stalls. The heart of the market was colorfully-illuminated ice-rink. We really liked the mug the mulled wine was served in, though. Until today, it is one of the most often used mugs in our kitchen.
It seems that the Christmas Market in Liechtenstein grew in size since we visited it. Vaduz Christmas Market 2019 will have about 100 stalls. Sadly, it will only be opened for one weekend in December, the 14th, and the 15th.
Christmas Markets in Norway
The tradition of Christmas Markets reached Scandinavia, too. We spent a few years of our lives in Norway, and we had an opportunity to observe the local Christmas traditions. Therefore, we can say, without a doubt, that Christmas Markets are not a big deal up north. The real deal are the Julebords. These are the colleagues’ get-togethers, organized by a company, with a lot of alcoholic beverages. Nevertheless, encouraged by the spectacular success of the markets in central Europe, some Norwegian cities and towns decided to give Christmas Markets a try. And I guess they don’t regret it.
Trondheim Christmas Market
There is one tiny problem when it comes to Norwegian Christmas Markets. They don’t last until the actual Christmas. As a result, although we were Trondheim’s full-time residents, we almost missed the local Christmas Market! We managed to get there on the very last weekend that it was operating. The weather wasn’t brilliant that day, but we still enjoyed our time.
Norwegians are quite pragmatic in general, and the Christmas Market in Trondheim is no exception for this rule. Hence, not only can you buy some handmade Christmas decorations there, you can buy a full-size Christmas tree, as well. The year we visited Trondheim Christmas Market, there was also a big tent with stalls serving some Norwegian Christmas delicacies. Naturally, there was mulled-wine, too. Open fires where you can warm yourself up were a nice touch.
2019 Trondheim Christmas Market takes place on the Market Square. It will operate from December 6th to 21st.
Christmas Markets in Poland
Christmas Markets in Poland became very popular over the past few years. You will see them in every big city as well as some smaller ones. They are not really a part of Polish tradition, so they will differ, depending on the region. The most notable example is the Christmas Market in Wrocław.
Wrocław Christmas Market
Wrocław is one of the biggest cities in Western Poland. It is worth visiting all year round, but the biggest crowds of visitors seem to arrive there in December, because of the Christmas Market. Booking a hotel during this time may seem miraculous. Trust me. I know something about it.
Wrocław Christmas Market is probably the oldest Christmas Market in Poland, as its tradition dates back to the XVI century. Since the city lies in close vicinity to Germany and used to be its integral part, the local Christmas Market is based on German tradition. I visited it every single year when I was a student at the University of Wrocław. Hence, I had a chance to see its evolution and growth from one year to another. The stalls present on Christmas Market in Wrocław transformed from pure German (selling ginger hearts with “Ich liebe dich” engraved) into an interesting blend of German tradition and Polish culture. Nowadays, although I don’t live in Poland anymore, I still do my best to visit Wrocław Christmas Market, at least every few years. And every time I come back, it seems a bit less familiar.
Christmas Market in Wrocław is located on the main square, called Rynek in Polish, with two legs on Świdnicka and Oławska streets, and on the Salt Square. Among the biggest attractions are:
- The Christmas pyramid, designed in Germany, usually placed in front of the town hall (which makes a perfect background for the pictures),
- The Christmas Tree, which is an integral part of the Wrocław Christmas Market, and its first illumination is one of the main events (in 2019 it will take place on 6th December, at 18:00),
- Bajkowy Lasek, which translates to “The Fairytale Forest” – a magical place for children, with worldwide known fairytales played by automated puppetries.
Among the delicacies one must try on Wrocław Christmas Market are the roasted chestnuts and oscypek – the traditional cheese from Polish Tatra mountains, grilled and served with cranberry jam. I am drooling just thinking about it. Christmas Market in Wrocław boasts to have one of the most beautiful mulled wine mugs, in boot shape.
Wrocław Christmas Market 2019 started on November 22nd and will last until December 31st. It will be closed on Christmas Day, on December 25th.
Christmas Markets in Spain
I bet you are surprised we even mention Spain in this compilation. And you are right to some extent. Spain and Christmas Markets are not really the best match. A country warm throughout the year just doesn’t go with the mulled wine. Thus, don’t go searching for a mug to your collection. But if you open your eyes wide enough, you may spot some Christmas Markets in Spain.
Ávila Christmas Market
Ávila, Javier’s birthplace, is the city where we lived together for over a year. That year we spent Christmas in Spain, too. As we already got used to visiting Christmas Markets, we explored some Spanish cities in search of them. Ávila’s Christmas Market consisted of two stalls on Plaza Mercado Chico, that remained closed most of the time. If you were lucky to see them operating, you could buy churros and hot chocolate. On one hand, it is nice that Spain sticks to national traditions and customs, and doesn’t adapt Christmas Markets in their German form, just because they got so popular somewhere else. On the other hand, I am pretty sure globalization will reach Spain one day, as well.
Coming back to Ávila, although the local Christmas Market may not be impressive, the city’s Christmas decorations are amusing. There are colorful lights, Christmas trees, and nativity scenes everywhere. Similar to other European cities, during Christmas time, you can buy roasted chestnuts from a street stall, too.
Madrid Christmas Market
Unlike Ávila, Madrid boasts the real Christmas Market, organized the Spanish way. It is located at Plaza Mayor, the central square in the capital. At first glance, it does look like any Christmas Market somewhere in the Alps. But as you come closer, you will see it is totally different. There are almost none stalls offering food. You will probably still find churros, though. Instead, the stalls are full of Christmas decorations, clothes, accessories, and figurines for a DIY nativity scene. In the evenings, Plaza Mayor gets super crowded, but only then you can really feel Christmas, as all the buildings around light up.
2019 Madrid Christmas Market at Plaza Mayor started on November 23rd and will be open until New Year’s Eve. There are some smaller Christmas Markets held around the city, as well.
Nativity scenes in Spain
As we’re talking about Spain, I think I should mention the nativity scenes. They may be present in every other country I write about in this article. But Spain takes nativity scenes to a completely new level. They are in every church, on the main squares of the cities, even town halls build their own. And, by a nativity scene, I don’t mean just Virgin Mary, baby Jesus, Joseph, and some animals. Spanish nativity scenes picture various episodes of Jesus’ life. I am not good in religious stuff, so instead of naming all those events, I will only say there is much more to it than the Three Wise Men.
The tradition of building nativity scenes is rooted in society. Almost every household creates its own. That is why you can buy these figurines at the Christmas Market in Madrid. The nativity scenes vary depending on which region of Spain are you in. The most characteristic are probably the Catalonian caganers. A caganer is a figurine which… poops! It is designed squatting, with the pants down, and the poop coming out of… you know what. Very literal. And funny, at the same time. The pooping figurines are traditionally peasants, but, nowadays, you can also by a caganer figurine depicting somebody famous. Angela Merkel, for instance.
Every year, all the shops specializing in Christmas figurines take part in an informal competition for the best-selling caganer of a celebrity. The famous singers, actors, or politicians, turned into pooping figurines, are those who did something remarkable over the past 12 months. Something rather remarkably wrong than right, obviously. Later on, the TV news announces the best-sellers of a year. Another famous nativity scene worth mentioning is the one in El Escorial, near Madrid. During Christmas time, the whole town acts as a background to a humongous nativity scene, consisting of life-size figures. They are not very meticulous, but the effect is cool.
Christmas Markets in Switzerland
Although most of the Swiss Christmas Markets don’t have a history as long as those in Austria or Germany, Switzerland is still considered one of the best Christmas destinations in Europe. But visiting Christmas Markets wasn’t our top priority when we decided to drive through Switzerland in December. It was the first time in this Alpine country for both of us, so we were focused on the general sightseeing. As we primarily visited the cities, we saw a lot of Christmas Markets, too. It was inevitable.
First and foremost, we would officially like to grant Switzerland the title of the most expensive mulled wine of all the Christmas Markets in Europe. Congratulations! Secondly, we want to point out that Christmas Markets are completely different when you compare those in the German-speaking part of Switzerland to these in the French-speaking one. Thus, if you really want to get the idea of how do Christmas Markets look like in one of the richest countries in the world, visit one in each part.
Bern Christmas Markets
Bern is one of the biggest cities in Switzerland. Even though there is no official capital, it is Bern that is the de-facto capital of the country. Therefore, one Christmas Market in the city wouldn’t be sufficient. There are not as many of them as there are in Vienna or Berlin, but Berne is way less populated than these two.
The one Christmas Market in Bern I remember as if we were there yesterday, is located on Waisenhausplatz. It is also the biggest and the oldest one in the city. There are about 50 stalls, offering Christmas souvenirs, food, and, you guessed it, mulled-wine. Waisenhausplatz lies right in the heart of Bern, so it is very easy to find.
2019 Bern Christmas Markets started at the end of November. Depending on the location, they will end either on Christmas Eve or soon after Christmas.
Geneva Christmas Market
A few years ago, when we were in Geneva, the local Christmas Market was held by the Geneva Lake, near the city’s Old Town. We immediately noticed how different it was compared to the Christmas Markets in Zurich or Bern. And by different, I mean more French. It is the French-speaking canton, after all. The thing I remember the most is the thin pancakes sold on every other stall. They were delicious.
It looks like the location of the Geneva Christmas Market has changed for good after our visit. It isn’t organized near the lake anymore, but at Parc des Bastions, in front of the University. 2019 Christmas Market in Geneva starts on December 4th and ends on New Year’s Eve. It will be closed on December 25th.
Lausanne Christmas Market
I’m gonna be honest here. I don’t remember any specific Christmas Market in Lausanne. As we were strolling through the city, we noticed some groups of stalls here and there. But I wouldn’t go as far as calling them a legit Christmas Market. And then, as I was browsing the Lausanne tourism website, I realized that things have changed since our visit to the city.
I am happy to inform you, that, for two years now, Lausanne boasts a real Christmas Market. 2019 Bô Noël Christmas Market in Lausanne has started on November 20th and will last until the last day of December.
Lucerne Christmas Market
Lucerne, located just a stone-throw from Zurich, is undeniably one of the most adorable cities in Switzerland. Its picturesque medieval bridges attract tourists not only from Europe but from the whole world. As we were walking down the Old Town, we passed by thousands of travelers, predominantly Chinese. It is hard to tell whether it was the Christmas Market, that was the main reason for their visit to the city, though. Turning one’s eyes away from all those beautiful buildings is not that easy.
Nonetheless, the Christmas Market in Lucerne deserves some attention. It is definitely the most colorful of all the markets we have visited in Switzerland. There are the advent lights, decorative stalls, and carousels full of children. Follow their laughter to find the Christmas Market, which takes place at Franziskanerplatz.
2019 Lucerne Christmas Market on Franziskanerplatz starts on December 5th and will be open daily until December 22nd. There are also some smaller events, taking place over the city.
Thun Christmas Market
While Lucerne is one of the most appealing cities in Switzerland, Thun, on the other hand, is among the most beautiful towns. It was recommended to us by my Swiss friend, and we continue the recommendation chain and encourage everybody to visit Thun once in Switzerland. Its location by the lake adds an extra pinch of charm to the whole picture, especially in the mornings, when the lake is shrouded in fog. When in Thun, take your time and climb all the way to the Thun Castle, which provides the best view over the town. If you schedule your visit in December, go to the local Christmas Market to admire the view over the castle.
Christmas Market in Thun is small in size but big in heart. It has everything a Christmas Market might need: a lot of handicrafts, some snacks, and the mulled wine. And the quaint atmosphere on top of all that. If I were to choose my favorite Christmas Market in Switzerland, Thun would tie with Lucerne.
2019 Thun Christmas Market takes place at Weisenhausplatz. It starts on December 11th and ends on December 22nd.
Zurich Christmas Markets
I am pretty sure we missed out big time when it comes to Christmas Markets in Zurich. We arrived in the city on the very morning and started the sightseeing walking tour directly. We did pass by some Christmas Market stalls, but they were all closed, as it was too early. We visited the train station, too, but somehow didn’t notice one of the largest indoor Christmas Markets in Europe. Obviously, something went wrong. Therefore, I will not share my feelings about the tiny bit of the Zurich Christmas Markets offer we experienced, as it’s irrelevant. Zurich is definitely a good Christmas destination. You only need to combine traditional sightseeing with seasonal attractions.
2019 Zurich Christmas Markets started on November 21st and will all end on December 23rd, except for the one on the Main Railway Station, which will last one day longer.
Visiting Christmas Markets in Europe with a dog
Ever since we adopted Fabio, the best dog in the world, he travels with us everywhere. Inevitably, over the past 3 years, he has visited a number of Christmas Markets in Europe. As far as we are concerned, dogs are allowed at most of them.* All in all, it is an open-air market, taking place in public areas. So it is up to you whether you want your dog to accompany you, or not.
What you should take into consideration is your furry friend’s ability to cope with the crowds. Fabio is small, so we would often carry him to prevent our pooch from being trampled on. He doesn’t panic and feels comfortable, both being carried and walking if conditions are favorable. If your dog, unlike Fabio, fears crowds, you better not take the poor animal to the Christmas Market. If you have no choice, because, for instance, you are on a road trip, visit the markets at the earliest possible hour, as the majority of people schedule their visit in the evening.
*I read that Christmas Market in Alexanderplatz in Berlin doesn’t accept dogs, except for the guide ones. Fabio was not even born yet when we were visiting this Christmas Market, so it is hard for us to verify this information, as we were not looking for the no-dog signs. Let us know in the comments if you can confirm this rule. In case you know of any other Christmas Market in Europe that bans dogs, please, let us know, too. We will consider preparing a list to warn the dog-owners.