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25 best Christmas fairs in Europe — let's get in the holiday spirit

26.11.2021
Kaisersberg for Christmas in Alsace
© Olesia Bilkei / Shutterstock

As soon as November arrives, European cities begin to prepare actively for Christmas. Store windows and house fronts are decorated with wreaths, garlands, and fir twigs, and in the evenings, thousands of lights illuminate the streets. In the squares, under the shade of Christmas trees, small pavilions with souvenirs, gifts, toys, and treats line up. The aromas of mulled wine, chocolate, caramel, and gingerbread are already in the air.

It is impossible not to be imbued with an atmosphere of magic where the fairy tale comes to life. So choose your itinerary, pack your suitcase, and set off on an unforgettable winter journey. The best Christmas fairs in Europe are waiting for those who are looking for holiday inspiration.

Manchester, United Kingdom

When: November 12 to December 22, 2021.

For 22 years, Manchester had been the British capital of Christmas. But in 2020, the pandemic made changes to the celebration. The world-famous Christmas fair had to be canceled. After a year-long break, the favorite event of citizens and tourists is back again but not at its usual spot at Albert Square but at Piccadilly Gardens, where the main shopping malls will be located. Fairgrounds will also be installed in Exchange Square, New Cathedral Street, St. Anne's Square, King Street, Market Street, and the Cathedral Gardens.

You can buy anything at the Manchester Fair, from Christmas souvenirs to delicacies from all over the world. Handmade jewelry, fabulous leather bags, Belgian crockery, amber ware — there's a gift to suit every taste.

But shopping becomes secondary as soon as you come across the pavilions with food. There you can try the famous fish and chips, steaks, pork rolls, sausages, and pancakes with different fillings. Christmas in the UK is not without ale, of which there are many varieties at the fair, as well as hot mulled wine and cider. And those with a sweet tooth won't be disappointed either with chocolate, waffles, gingerbread, cakes, cookies, and pastries on offer.

For the first time ever, Christmas mugs in 2021 will not have a date. They were designed for 2020 fair, which never happened. Two versions of the cups are available: a dark blue one for mulled wine and a white one for coffee and hot chocolate. They bear images of snowmen and Christmas toys and the inscriptions "Manchester Christmas Markets" and "Christmas is what you make it."

Christmas market near the town hall in Albert Square
Albert Square in Manchester © Steve Allen / Shutterstock
Christmas glass ball
Christmas in Manchester © Maryia Tsikhanava / Shutterstock
Christmas toy house
Christmas in Manchester © Anna Mente / Shutterstock
Christmas toys on the market
Christmas market near the town hall in the square in Manchester © Anna Mente / Shutterstock

Barcelona, Spain

When: November 26 to December 23, 2021.

One of the most famous Christmas fairs in Spain is Barcelona's Santa Llúcia. This year, it celebrates its 235th anniversary. Since 1786, its pavilions have been located in the same place, on Avinguda de la Catedral. The fair has never been canceled — not even the yellow fever epidemic in 1860 prevented it. And in 2020, the Christmas market also worked, although there were fewer stalls than usual.

This year, there are plans to open 175 stalls instead of 300, but the variety of goods will still be great. Traditionally, the fair is divided into several thematic sectors. One sector sells natural Christmas trees and various plants; the second is figurines for crèches; the third is clothing, decorations, decorative objects, and handmade accessories. Traditional New Year's Eve snacks include turrons (a dessert made of whipped egg whites and nuts), halva, marzipan figurines, churros (fried sticks made of custard dough), fruit in caramel.

During the fair, organizers have planned several concerts and a crèche exhibition.

Christmas and new year market with decorative ornaments
Christmas market in Barcelona © Miguel Zagran / Shutterstock
Christmas market near Sagrada Familia
Christmas market in Barcelona © BearFotos / Shutterstock
Various sweets in the market in Barcelona
Christmas market in Barcelona © Ksenija Toyechkina / Shutterstock

Dresden, Germany

When: November 22 to December 24, 2021.

The Striezelmarkt is the oldest Christmas market in Germany and will open for the 587th time on the Altmarkt. Its entertainment program includes many different activities for children and adults. More than 200 festively decorated stalls sell the traditional products for which Saxony is well known: pottery from Lausitz, lace from Plauen, handicrafts from the Ore Mountains, gingerbread from Pulsnitz, and Christmas stars from Herrnhut. Dresden's holiday symbol is the Pflaumentoffel (plum man). This chimney sweep figurine, made of prunes, is one of the children's favorite treats.

Traditionally, the world's largest Christmas pyramid (Weihnachtspyramide), listed in the Guinness Book of Records, will be set up at the fair. This holiday decoration is a wooden structure in the form of a merry-go-round, decorated with candles and carved figures. The height of the pyramid, made by masters of the Ore Mountains, is 14.61 m.

The name of the fair came from the traditional Christmas cake, Stollen, which is called "streusel" in the region. This pastry has been an integral part of the holiday since 1617. Every year at the fair, a giant stollen is baked according to an old recipe and is available for all to enjoy.

Dresden at Christmas time
Dresden Christmas market © AlexMaster / Shutterstock
Dresden at Christmas time
Dresden Christmas market © AlexMaster / Shutterstock
Boy and girl at the German Christmas market
Dresden Christmas market © Irina Wilhauk / Shutterstock
Christmas market in Dresden
Dresden Christmas market © Ugis Riba / Shutterstock

Colmar, France

When: November 22 to December 29, 2021.

Colmar, often called the Venice of France, is famous for its half-timbered houses and the magical atmosphere of its Christmas markets. This year, there will be as many as six festive markets in the city, decorated in the form of fairy tale villages. The stalls are usually dominated by the goods of Alsatian producers, who are selected by criteria of quality and originality of products.

The French Christmas Fair at the Place des Dominicains is a great place to buy Christmas decor and gifts. In the pavilions at Place de l'Ancienne Douane, artisans and artists display their work. The market at Place Jeanne d'Arc recreates the atmosphere of an Alsatian village. Here you can taste traditional delicacies — foie gras, cheeses, meats, and wines.

In the quarter of Petite Venise (Little Venice) will open children's fair. There's mulled wine with apple juice, a merry-go-round, and a mailbox for Santa's letters. In the market in the building of the Old Customs House (Koïfhus), you can buy the products of local craftsmen — glassblowers, cabinetmakers, sculptors, potters. The sixth fair on Cathedral Square is a real paradise for gourmands. Nine professional chefs will prepare any dishes — from simple snacks to dainty desserts.

Christmas Market at Place des Dominicains
Christmas market in Colmar © cge2010 / Shutterstock
Christmas market for children in Colmar
Christmas market in Colmar © cge2010 / Shutterstock
Christmas market with gingerbread and decorations
Christmas market in Colmar © cge2010 / Shutterstock
Central street Grand Rue decorated and lit to celebrate Christmas
Christmas market in Colmar © Boris Stroujko / Shutterstock
Christmas balls in Alsace
Christmas market in Colmar © BTENERIFEANDO / Shutterstock

Budapest, Hungary

When: November 8 to January 1, 2022.

Hungary's most beautiful and world-famous Christmas fair in Budapest will reopen on Vörösmarty tér. Merchants, who were forced to sell their goods online in 2020, are happy to return to their usual format.

Traditionally, the best manufacturers are chosen to participate in the Karácsonyi vásár (Budapest Christmas Fair), which is considered one of the most beautiful in Europe. Therefore, there are sold goods of very high quality. The handicraft items made according to old technologies — toys, jewelry, clothes, leather bags, ceramics — are very popular among the citizens and tourists.

You need to get acquainted with its cuisine to join the traditions of the country. And there is no better place to do it than the Christmas market. Hungarian dishes are simple but very tasty and filling. The pork sausages, stuffed cabbage rolls, goose legs with cabbage, and goulash are cooked in huge pans. No fair goes without marzipan and paprika, which have long been symbols of Hungary.

The organizers of the Budapest Christmas Fair have planned many concerts in different genres — folk, rock, jazz, and blues. In the evenings, the Gerbeaud Café facade will become the stage for a festive light show.

Basilica of St. Stephen after sunset
Christmas market in Budapest © Calin Stan / Shutterstock
Various decorations and souvenirs at the Christmas market
Christmas market in Budapest © Gerain0812 / Shutterstock
Christmas decorations at the Christmas market in Budapest
Christmas market in Budapest © vitfoto / Shutterstock

Tallinn, Estonia

When: November 26 to January 2, 2022.

Tallinn's Christmas fair in 2020 was voted the best in Europe. Traditionally, it is held on Town Hall Square (Raekoja plats) in the Old Town. This year, there will be fewer pavilions than usual in order to ensure compliance with anti-epidemic requirements. The centerpiece of the Tallinn Fair will be the traditional Christmas tree. It will be decorated with 300 golden balls and 3.7 km of garlands.

Most of the goods on display in the stalls are made in Estonia. You can buy inexpensive knitwear with Christmas symbols (sweaters, scarves, vests, hats), Christmas toys, and art pottery at the Christmas market. Local producers offer traditional Estonian delicacies: blackcurrant bread, lamb knuckle, sausages, roast goose. There are also more exquisite dishes, like caviar and champagne. To get into the holiday spirit, you can treat yourself to some hot glög (mulled wine).

The Estonian Santa Claus will have his own house on the square, complete with a letterbox for wishes. Santa Claus will be holographic this year, which is the first time this technology has been used in Estonia. Cultural events will take place not only on the fairgrounds but also at numerous locations throughout the city.

Festive market on the Town Hall Square
Tallinn Christmas market © dimbar76 / Shutterstock
At the Christmas market in Tallinn Town Hall Square
Tallinn Christmas market © Syda Productions / Shutterstock

Cologne, Germany

When: November 22 to December 22, 2021.

Cologne has several fairs for Christmas, but the biggest is on the square in front of the cathedral. The city's main Christmas tree is dressed up here, and 130 stalls and craftsmen's workshops are set up. Christmas carols can be heard from everywhere, and the aromas of mulled wine, apples in caramel, and gingerbread are wafting through the air.

One just can't resist shopping in such an atmosphere — Christmas decorations and toys, candle holders, leather and wooden items, glass figurines, and crockery. But the most important thing Germans come to the fair as a family is food and drink. The pavilions serve traditional dishes: hot sausages with cabbage, potato pancakes with apple puree, lard with herbs and garlic, a variety of meat delicacies, and desserts.

On a cold winter evening, it's nice to drink hot mulled wine. They pour it into ceramic Wimmeltasse mugs and glass cups at the Cologne Fair, for which a new design is developed each year. When you buy a drink, you pay a deposit of 3 euros for the mug. You can keep it as a souvenir instead of returning it.

The square in front of the cathedral has a stage on which performances are held every day. The program in 2021 has planned as many as 100 entertainment events. There is a large merry-go-round for children and puppet theater performances these days. On December 6, St. Nicholas will come to the fair with gifts.

In 2020, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were no fairs in Cologne. But a ceramic mug with a special design was produced for Christmas. It depicts the gingerbread cathedral of Cologne, the traditional kiss under the mistletoe, a Christmas choir, and Santa Claus flying in a sleigh. Many of the characters painted on the mug wear masks. You can order one at the fair's website, koelnerweihnachtsmarkt.com.

Christmas market near the Dome Church in Cologne
Christmas market in Cologne © Solarisys / Shutterstock
Gingerbread Hearts at the German Christmas Market
Christmas market in Cologne © Irina Wilhauk / Shutterstock
Christmas market carousel
Christmas market in Cologne © Ingus Kruklitis / Shutterstock
Main town square with decorated tree and lights
Christmas market in Cologne © Kite_rin / Shutterstock

Basle, Switzerland

When: November 25 to December 23, 2021.

The Basel Christmas Fair claims the title of the largest in Switzerland. One hundred sixty festively decorated pavilions are set up in the center of the Old Town. The market is divided into two parts. On the Barfüsserplatz, they sell Christmas toys, souvenirs, woodwork, and handicrafts. There's also the chance to sample some festive delicacies: fried sausages, waffles, gingerbread, and fondue. You can drink it all with fragrant mulled wine. The drink is poured into beautiful ceramic mugs with a special design that changes every year.

On Münsterplatz square before Christmas, a fairy tale forest appears. Here you should definitely go with children because the organizers are preparing a lot of fun for them. In the workshops, you can learn how to paint Christmas cakes or make Christmas decorations.

Christmas Market at Münsterplatz and Münster Cathedral
Basel Christmas market © cge2010 / Shutterstock
A Christmas tale on Barfusserplatz
Basel Christmas market © cge2010 / Shutterstock
Christmas market at Barfusserplatz
Basel Christmas market © cge2010 / Shutterstock

Brussels, Belgium

When: November 26 to January 2, 2022.

Brussels' main Christmas fair, the Winter Wonderland (Plaisirs d'Hiver), will delight residents and tourists for five weeks. The grand shopping village stretches for 1.5 km from Place Ste. Catherine to the Grand Place. Wandering around the 240 wooden kiosks, resembling gingerbread houses, should take hours. And if you want to sample all the Belgian capital's famous delicacies, even a whole day would not be enough.

The stalls are usually filled with a variety of goods. You can buy original Christmas decorations, garlands, lamps, housewares, and more at the fair. But most buyers gather around the booths with culinary delicacies — traditional holiday pastries, the famous Belgian waffles, French fries, and cheeses. Drink it all down with beer, mulled wine, hot chocolate, or vin chaud — heated wine.

A Ferris wheel, illuminated by 18,000 lights, towers above the Christmas Village. There's an ice rink in front of the Royal Opera House and a huge Christmas tree and nativity scene on the Grand Place. In the evenings, there are light shows where the facades of the houses surrounding the square are transformed into fairy-tale paintings.

Grand Place in Brussels
Christmas market in Brussels © MKavalenkau / Shutterstock
Handmade Wooden Christmas Decorations
Christmas market in Brussels © Kite_rin / Shutterstock
Ice skating at the site of St. Catherine at the Christmas market
Christmas market in Brussels © CRM / Shutterstock
Selling Christmas tree decorations at a traditional Christmas market
Christmas market in Brussels © Kite_rin / Shutterstock

Vienna, Austria

When: November 12 to December 26, 2021.

Even despite the pandemic, Vienna is not breaking its centuries-old tradition of Christmas fairs. This year, the Austrian capital will host more than a dozen festive markets. It takes a few days to get around them all. If you do not have much time, it is better to go directly to the Town Hall Square (Wiener Rathausplatz), where the most magnificent fair in the country, Wiener Weihnachtstraum, opens in mid-November.

Traditionally, a large arch decorated with stylized candles, Christmas balls, and garlands serves as the entrance to the holiday village. The 150 stalls, decorated with Christmas tree branches and lights, sell handmade toys, decorations, ceramics, products of local artisans, utensils. It is better to come here for New Year's gifts as you are sure to find something original. And, of course, you can't imagine a Christmas market without a festive feast. Wiener Weihnachtstraum offers the best sweets, traditional Austrian cuisine, and several kinds of hot punch.

Every year, there is an ice rink on Town Hall Square and attractions for children. There is an exhibition of nativity scenes in the park — 12 works of art illustrating biblical scenes. The Herzerlbaum, a tree decorated with heart-shaped lanterns, adds to the romantic atmosphere of the fair.

Stephansplatz Christmas market in Vienna
Vienna Christmas market © Ondrej Bucek / Shutterstock
Christmas market
Vienna Christmas market © Song_about_summer / Shutterstock
Christmas market in front of the Town Hall
Vienna Christmas market © Heracles Kritikos / Shutterstock
Christmas balls for sale at the fair
Vienna Christmas market © Anton Gvozdikov / Shutterstock

London, Great Britain

When: November 19 to January 3, 2022.

Winter Wonderland, London's brightest Christmas fair, returns to the British capital. Last year, the festivities were canceled due to the pandemic, but Winter Wonderland is back in Hyde Park this winter. As usual, the wooden chalets of the two holiday markets will offer a wide variety of merchandise, from Christmas tree decorations to decorative handicrafts.

This year, visitors to Winter Wonderland will experience more than 200 thrilling rides, ice sculpture workshops, circus performances, and the UK's largest outdoor ice skating rink. Winter Wonderland in London is famous for its excellent food choices, from traditional fish and chips to fried sausages. There are plenty of themed pubs offering a mug of mulled wine, hot chocolate, or something stronger.

Be sure to order a cocktail at Ice Bar, where all the furniture and glasses are made of ice, then warm up with a mug of ale or roast marshmallows over a campfire. And when it gets dark, take a ride on the Ferris wheel to see the city glittering with colorful lights.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, when you purchase tickets to the fair at https://winterwonderland.seetickets.com/winterwonderland, you must specify the time of your visit.

Christmas market at night
London Christmas market © Alexey Fedorenko / Shutterstock
Holiday Dried Fruit Hangers at a Kiosk at London Christmas Market
London Christmas market © Hannah Green Photography / Shutterstock
Hyde Park Christmas Market
London Christmas market © Alexey Fedorenko / Shutterstock

Krakow, Poland

When: November 26 to January 2, 2022.

For centuries, the Krakow Market Square (Rynek Główny) has been the site of a New Year's fair. The Coronavirus pandemic broke the tradition, which forced the city authorities to cancel the event in 2020. However, this time, the market will not close as usual on December 27 but will be open until January 2.

The Christmas market in Krakow attracts merchants from all over Poland, so there's no better place to buy gifts. Festively decorated pavilions offer original handmade souvenirs, wood, glass, pottery, stained glass, ceramics, and painted Christmas ornaments. There is no shortage of delicacies either. Here you can try grilled meat and sausages, traditional sheep cheese oscypek fried with cranberries, a variety of soups and pies made according to old Polish recipes. Those who are cold walking through the fair will be warmed up by the burning Galician mulled wine. Sweet lovers will enjoy caramelized nuts, chocolate, roasted chestnuts, marzipan, Christmas cookies, and gingerbread.

Wooden toys and decorations at the Christmas market in winter Krakow
Krakow Christmas market © travellifestyle / Shutterstock
Christmas market in Krakow at night
Krakow Christmas market © fotolupa / Shutterstock
Traditional street Polish cuisine
Oscypek - smoked goat cheese with sweet raspberry jam © Dana Creative Studio / Shutterstock
Main Market Square and Cloth Hall
Krakow Christmas market © Tomasz Mazon / Shutterstock

Prague, Czech Republic

When: November 27 to January 6, 2022.

After last year's interruption, Prague's Christmas market opens as well. Traditionally, it takes place at the Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí), where the main Christmas tree of the city stands. Every year, the organizer of the event, the company Taiko, holds a competition for its selection. The winner with the most beautiful tree receives 10,000 crowns.

The Christmas Fair in Prague in 2019 was one of the five best in Europe and recognized as one of the most beautiful in the world. Its stalls are usually dominated by products of Czech artisans — Christmas tree balls, straw ornaments, hand-woven blankets, crystal and Moravian glassware.

The fair on Old Town Square is famous for its variety of snacks and drinks. It offers grilled sausages (klobása), pancakes with berry sauce, garlic and cheesecakes, and trdelník — bread rolls made of yeast dough baked on a wooden spit. You can also taste traditional Czech lemonades, cider, and mulled wine.

A stage is set up not far from the Christmas tree. At the Christmas fair, local and foreign folklore groups perform every day, and there are entertainment programs for children and adults.

For several years now, the Taiko team of chefs has been brewing a traditional Christmas fish soup, which they offer all visitors to the fair to try. About 1500 kg of various ingredients is used to prepare the dish: carps from Czech farms, carrots, celery, parsley, onions, flour, butter, and cream. To enhance the taste, cognac and caramel are added to the soup, and it is served with croutons fried in butter.

Christmas market in the old square Stare Mesto
Krakow Christmas market © cge2010 / Shutterstock
Wooden stalls with souvenirs at the Christmas market
Krakow Christmas market © Rostislav Glinsky / Shutterstock
Colorful Christmas decorations at the Christmas market in Trentino Alto Adige
Krakow Christmas market © Ekaterina Kondratova / Shutterstock
Top view of a traditional Christmas market in Old Town Square
Christmas market in Prague © Rostislav Glinsky / Shutterstock

Stockholm, Sweden

When: November 23 to December 23, 2021.

Four weeks before Christmas, Stockholm's oldest holiday fair opens at Stortorget in Stockholm's Old Town. Its history dates back to the XIV century, and Christmas events began to be held in 1837.

An indispensable attribute of the Stockholm fair is small red stalls selling Christmas decorations, ceramics, glassware, textiles, clothing, handmade toys, and souvenirs. In addition to the usual Christmas candy (gingerbread, cookies, waffles, chocolate, and marzipan), you can buy at the fair some traditional Swedish delicacies. For example, wild boar sausage, bear, moose or reindeer meat, dried cod, smorrebrod (fish sandwich). They also offer the most delicious glögg (hot red wine with almonds, dried fruits, and spices). The Santa Claus Brass Band lifts the guests' mood.

Beautiful snowy winter landscapes of Christmas holidays fair on the Great Square
Christmas market in Stockholm © Oleksiy Mark / Shutterstock
Selling traditional Christmas sweets at the Christmas market
Christmas market in Stockholm © Kite_rin / Shutterstock
Selling traditional Christmas sweets at the Christmas market
Christmas market in Stockholm © Kite_rin / Shutterstock
National Scandinavian toys - wooden toys
Christmas market in Stockholm © Villi-Vinki / Shutterstock

Strasbourg, France

When: November 19 to December 30, 2021.

Christkindelsmärik (the Market of the Child Jesus) is the Alsatian dialect for the traditional Christmas market in Strasbourg. It first opened in 1570 and is one of the oldest in Europe.

Strasbourg has the title of the capital of Christmas for a reason. The entire city is transformed into a huge holiday fair. The 300 pavilions occupy 12 squares. The main Christmas tree is installed at the Place Kleber, and the ice rink is filled. The main shopping aisles are located on Place Broglie and Place de la Cathedrale. The counters, as a rule, offer a traditional festive assortment: Christmas tree decorations, works of Alsatian craftsmen, authentic toys, crèches, Christmas treats, and drinks. At Place Benjamin-Zix, they sell handicrafts, and there are stalls of local producers offering cheeses, jams, honey, and wines at Place Grimmeissen.

There are pavilions selling national cuisine on Palace Square. Here you can try traditional Alsatian pies bredele and foie gras with local wine or vin chaud (mulled wine). And for dessert, you will be served buche de Noel (Christmas log) — a roll cake with soft curd cream.

In the Middle Ages, the fair was called Klausenmärik in honor of St. Nicholas, in whose name Christmas gifts were presented to children. But in 1570, when the Reformation began in Strasbourg, the preacher Johann Flinner opposed the cult of saints. The fair was renamed Christkindelsmärik, and children were told that gifts were brought by the baby Jesus.

Christmas decorations near the cathedral
Christmas market in Strasbourg © fotoliza / Shutterstock
Place des Meuniers Christmas Market at Capitale de Noel
Christmas market in Strasbourg © cge2010 / Shutterstock
People visit the oldest Christmas market in the world in the center of Strasbourg
Christmas market in Strasbourg © Hadrian / Shutterstock
Christmas market in Strasbourg, Alsace region
Christmas market in Strasbourg © agsaz / Shutterstock

Vilnius, Lithuania

When: December 1 to January 7, 2022.

The Christmas Fair in Vilnius is small but very atmospheric. It is located in two squares in the city center — Cathedral Square and Town Hall Square. In the 50 cozy wooden houses surrounding the Christmas tree on Cathedral Square, guests are offered traditional Lithuanian treats. You should certainly try the cepelinai — potato dumplings with meat or mushroom filling and šakotis pie made of egg dough. Original handmade souvenirs can be bought at the fair. Lithuania is famous for its amber and wooden handicrafts.

You can take a Christmas train to Town Hall Square, where the second holiday market is located. A small train runs daily between the two squares, passing along picturesque Pilies Street. Cathedral Square has an ice skating rink, a stage set up for concerts, and a large screen for three-dimensional shows.

Colorful and vibrant kiosk with Christmas tree decorations at the Christmas market in Vilnius
Christmas market in Vilnius © Roman Babakin / Shutterstock
Decorated Christmas tree on Cathedral Square and Cathedral Bell Tower at night
Christmas market in Vilnius © kavalenkava / shutterstock
Street lamp with a candle at the Christmas market at Gendarmenmarkt square in winter Vilnius
Christmas market in Vilnius © Roman Babakin / Shutterstock

Bruges, Belgium

When: November 26 to January 9, 2022.

At the end of November, Bruges tries on its Christmas decorations. More than 500 Christmas trees are set up on the streets, and thousands of lights are lit in the evening. The city opens the Winter Glow winter festival with a Christmas fair as an integral part of the event.

This year's stalls will traditionally be set up in two city squares, Market Square and Simon Stevin Square, as well as in 't Zand Square Park. The stalls in the small wooden chalets are usually filled with Christmas decorations, toys, souvenirs, and handmade glassware.

Take a ride in a carriage through the festively decorated streets and warm up with a cup of hot chocolate or a glass of the famous Belgian beer and French fries. Other gastronomic delights like cheeses, fried sausages, freshly baked pancakes or waffles, and, of course, hot vin chaud are also worth enjoying.

Market square of Bruges
Bruges Christmas market © Lukas Bischoff Photograph / Shutterstock
Christmas King Nutcracker
Bruges Christmas market © kavalenkava / Shutterstock
Christmas market in Bruges
Bruges Christmas market © kavalenkava / Shutterstock

Bratislava, Slovakia

When: November 23 to December 23, 2021.

At the end of November, the center of Bratislava, the Old Town, is filled with the aromas of mulled wine and the sounds of carols. For many years, the Christmas Fair has been held at Hlavné námestie (Main Square) and Frantiskanske namestie at this time. In 2020, the pandemic broke the tradition, but now the holiday is back in the city.

Walking around the fair grounds, it's impossible to resist tasting the local delicacies. The crowning dish is potato pancakes (lokshe) with goose liver. They are also served with other fillings — nuts, cheese, and chocolate. Roulade with poppy seeds, strudel, fried chestnuts, and potato pancakes also deserve attention. The recommended beers are lager Topvar or caramel Saris. If you want something stronger, you can order mead or slivovitz.

Slovak herbal liquor Demänovka, hand-embroidered tablecloths, and dolls in national costumes are brought as souvenirs from the fair.

View of the main square and the Christmas market
Christmas market in Bratislava © Rasto SK / Shutterstock
Combining shapes and flavors at the Bratislava Christmas market
Christmas market in Bratislava © iremt / Shutterstock
Christmas market on the main square of Bratislava
Christmas market in Bratislava © essevu / Shutterstock
Very strong special soapy aroma
Christmas market in Bratislava © Jan_S / Shutterstock

Copenhagen, Denmark

When: November 15 to January 3, 2022 — Nyhavn; November 12 to December 22 — Nytorv; November 13 to January 3, 2022 - Tivoli Park.

Copenhagen's main Christmas fair takes place not in the main square, as in other cities, but the old Tivoli Gardens amusement park. There are 15 Christmas trees glittering with lights, and the biggest one this year will be decorated with 3,000 Swarovski crystals. Wooden shopping pavilions stand among the themed locations. Here you can see a scaled-down copy of St. Basil's Cathedral and a real Japanese garden, and enjoy a fountain show to the music from the Nutcracker ballet.

After a walk in the fresh air, it's time to grab a bite to eat. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes offering Christmas pies, baked apples, and cinnamon popcorn. It's all perfectly paired with hot cocoa or mulled wine — glögg, as they call it in Denmark. The brewers are releasing several beers specially for Christmas, which you can also try at the fair.

Traditional Christmas markets also open in other places — on the Nyhavn waterfront and Nytorv Square. Here they sell popular souvenirs such as toy Christmas trees with trolls, figurines of housewives, and characters from Andersen's fairy tales.

Santa Claus' house opens in the Tivoli Garden before Christmas, waiting for children to visit. He will write down anything the child wants as a gift and wish them a Merry Christmas. But you can only visit Santa until December 24. As stated on the park's website, on that day, he flies to Greenland and will not return to Copenhagen until the New Year.

Christmas market in the center of Copenhagen
Copenhagen Christmas market © RPBaiao / Shutterstock
Christmas market in Tivoli Gardens
Copenhagen Christmas market © footageclips / Shutterstock
Entry to the Christmas market in central Copenhagen
Copenhagen Christmas market © RPBaiao / Shutterstock

Salzburg, Austria

When: November 18 to December 26, 2021.

The Christkindlmarkt Christmas fair in Salzburg opens in mid-November on the picturesque Residenzplatz, at the foot of the medieval castle Hohensalzburg. This is the oldest holiday market in the country. Its history dates back to the XVII century.

The market town of 95 stalls is divided into six thematic zones. They sell here everything you may want — from toys and Christmas decorations to handicrafts of local artisans. The symbol of Christmas in Salzburg is the Nutcracker. These figurines are in almost every shop.

All over the square, the smell of roasted almonds and baked apples wafts. It's impossible to leave here without drinking hot mulled wine or punch. Even children drink them — they make non-alcoholic versions for them. The drinks are poured into ceramic mugs with Christmas symbols. For a small fee, you can keep the cup as a souvenir.

The main Christmas tree of Salzburg towers above the commercial pavilions. Each year, the centennial tree is given to the city by one of the communes, and schoolchildren make the decorations.

Traditional Christmas market in front of Salzburg Cathedral
Salzburg Christmas market © mapman / Shutterstock
Christmas decorations at Christkindlmarkt Christmas market
Salzburg Christmas market © cge2010 / Shutterstock
Traditional handmade Christmas tree decorations at the Christmas market
Salzburg Christmas market © Izabela23 / Shutterstock

Berlin, Germany

When: November 22 to December 31, 2021.

The good news is that the Christmas fairs in Berlin will be open again. But they will not be available to everyone. You have to show a certificate of vaccination or a document of experiencing COVID-19 in order to get to the festivities. There will be several dozen Christmas markets in the city, but the largest and most popular will open at the end of November on Gendarmenmarkt square (Weihnachtsmarkt am Gendarmenmarkt).

Admission to the Christmas market in Berlin is paid. Every evening, there are various concerts and shows and working skating rink, which is considered one of the largest in Europe. In addition to the market stalls, there are tents of artisans on the square, where you can watch their work: woodcarving, making belts, and clothes. Graphic artists, sculptors, and photographers also put their works up for sale.

The Weihnachtsmarkt am Gendarmenmarkt is the best place to taste traditional German holiday dishes: beef rolls with cabbage and mushroom sauce, venison stew, and stewed goose knuckles. The meal should not end without Christmas stollen — a fragrant cake with nuts, candied fruits, and dried fruits.

Another popular tourist attraction is the fair at the Red Town Hall (Rotes Rathaus), which will be held from November 22 to January 2. Its symbol is a 50-meter Ferris wheel with holiday illumination.

Deutscher Dom and Konzerthaus in Berlin
Berlin Christmas market © S.Borisov / Shutterstock
Christmas market Gendarmenmarkt
Berlin Christmas market © Sina Ettmer Photography / Shutterstock
Night Christmas market at Gendarmenmarkt in Winter Berlin
Berlin Christmas market © Roman Babakin / Shutterstock

Gdansk, Poland

When: November 19 to December 24, 2021.

Like many other European cities, Gdańsk decided not to hold a fair in 2020. But not wanting to deprive the citizens of the magic of Christmas, the organizers moved the holiday market to an online format. Now it returns to its traditional place, Targ Węglowy Square. The organizers promise grandiose illuminations, new locations, and attractions for children.

The main range of merchandise at the fair features handicrafts of local artisans and artists and gourmet delicacies of various world cuisines. Once again, there will be a parade of elves and fairy tale characters. There will be a Christmas tree in Santa's corner, which children will decorate with homemade toys. They have ordered a Venetian merry-go-round just for a holiday in Italy.

You can buy souvenirs at the factory of Santa Claus gifts — the traditional mulled wine mugs, postcards, Christmas socks with the image of the symbol of the fair, the Nutcracker. Santa's helpers will beautifully package all purchases.

Illuminated Christmas market in the old town of Gdansk
Christmas market in Gdansk © Patryk Kosmider / Shutterstock
Glass Christmas tree decorations at the Christmas market
Christmas market in Gdansk © Roman Babakin / Shutterstock
Christmas tree and decorations in the old town of Gdansk
Christmas market in Gdansk © Patryk Kosmider / Shutterstock

Frankfurt, Germany

When: November 22 to December 22, 2021.

The Frankfurter Weihnachtsmarkt, whose history dates back to 1393, is one of the oldest Christmas fairs in Germany. It is traditionally located on Römerberg Square and several neighboring streets. One of the most beautiful Christmas markets in the country is visited by about three million people a year.

The market town consists of 200 pavilions with stalls bursting with goods. The fair is famous for its handmade craftsmanship. Masters from the Ore Mountains offer Christmas decorations, candles, ceramics, puppets, and nutcrackers, which are the symbol of Christmas in many German cities. There are several merry-go-rounds for children, and on December 6, they can meet St. Nicholas.

The New Year's fair has long been a place for the townspeople to meet and hang out with friends. In the numerous cafes, in addition to the traditional fried sausages, fire punch Feuerzangenbowle, and mulled wine, you can taste sweets that are made only for Christmas. These are the Frankfurter Brenten and the marzipan cookies with almonds Bethmännchen, which Goethe loved very much.

In the past, only traders from Frankfurt were allowed to go to the fair — outsiders were not welcome. Local artisans offered a variety of handmade goods, among which were toys. Most of all, children liked the wooden horses, carriages, and rocking horses. The excellent artistry and high quality of the products contributed to a new tradition — parents began to buy toys for their children only at the Christmas fair.

Traditional Christmas market in the historic center of Frankfurt
Frankfurt Christmas market © S.Borisov / Shutterstock
Glass souvenir at the Frankfurt Christmas market
Frankfurt Christmas market © Adellyne / Shutterstock
Traditional (since 1393) Christmas market in the historic center of Frankfurt am Main
Frankfurt Christmas market © Moskwa / Shutterstock

Bolzano, Italy

When: November 26 to January 6, 2022.

One of the most beautiful Christmas fairs in Italy takes place in Bolzano. This city is located in the north of the country, near the border with Austria, in the region of South Tyrol. Italian traditions here are mixed with German ones, which gives the holiday market a special flavor.

Wooden market pavilions are lined up on Piazza Walther under the canopy of a 28-meter Christmas tree. At 5 PM on November 25th, 1,300 lights will be turned on to celebrate the holiday.

At the tents, shoppers buzz with excitement as they offer their wares. There are mostly handicrafts of local artisans — glass and wood Christmas decorations, wood and ceramic crafts, souvenirs with Christmas symbols. There are also many tasting stands at the market, where Tyrolean wines and other drinks — schnapps, beer, mulled wine — are on display.

Traditional local food is also of interest. They are inexpensive but very hearty — just what you need on a cold evening. We recommend trying speck — dried and smoked pork with spices and canederli — bread balls with ham and cheese boiled in broth. For dessert, there is apple strudel or pretzel, which can be sweet or salty.

Vipiteno Christmas market
Bolzano Christmas market © Ekaterina Kondratova / Shutterstock
Christmas decorations in Bolzano
Bolzano Christmas market © pixelshop / Shutterstock
Vipiteno Christmas market
Bolzano Christmas market © Ekaterina Kondratova / Shutterstock
Children play in a small train in Bolzano's traditional Christmas markets
Bolzano Christmas market © Simone Padovani / Shutterstock

Moscow, Red Square

When: November 29 to March 13, 2022.

The traditional GUM-Fair in Moscow is as large as the best Christmas markets in Europe. Wooden houses are set up on Red Square opposite the Kremlin at the end of November, where there is a lively trade of various souvenirs and gifts. In memory of visiting the ancient capital, you can buy Zhostovo painting trays, hand-painted Christmas balls, knitted mittens, felt boots, Matryoshka dolls, Pavlovo Posad and Orenburg scarves.

The festive merry-go-round with carved wooden horses and other attractions are waiting for children. Theatrical performances with the participation of Santa Claus, the Snow Maiden, and heroes of folk tales are held every day on the Red Square.

You can't stay hungry at the Moscow Fair. You can find traditional Russian dishes and drinks everywhere. The vendors offer hot cabbage soup, dumplings, pies, fried meat, and fish. There are pancakes for every taste and with different fillings — caviar, salmon, ground meat, berries, cottage cheese. You can warm yourself with a glass of hot tea, mead, or sbiten.

The skating rink, which opens on Red Square, is no less popular than the fair. This year, it will be possible to visit it for free for the first four times. On Saturdays, workshops with world hockey and figure skating champions are planned.

People at the Christmas market in Red Square
Red Square © Alexander Tolstykh / Shutterstock
Christmas market on Red Square
Red Square © FOTOGRIN / Shutterstock
People at the Christmas market in Red Square
Red Square © Alexander Tolstykh / Shutterstock