Europe’s best Christmas markets that make for a magical festive break

Is it too early to start talking about Christmas ? Not if you want to secure an amazing trip to one of Europe’s most enchanting winter wonderlands.

Travel across the continent and you’ll discover a spectacular selection of Christmas markets , with beautifully decorated log cabins and inviting beer halls, where you can cosy up with a warming glass of mulled wine.

But Christmas markets aren’t all about beer and bratwurst; they’re also the perfect place to pick up handmade gifts, ornate decorations and tasty sweet treats for your seasonal hamper.

Here’s the best European Christmas markets, complete with jingle bells, mulled wine and gifts galore.

1. Munich, Germany

Along with Berlin and Cologne, Munich boasts one of the Continent’s best-loved Christmas markets.

Just the mention of the German city’s annual festive bash is enough to conjure up images of snow-topped lodges and glowing market stalls.

And if that doesn’t get you in the Christmas spirit, we guarantee the aroma of roasted nuts, grilled German sausages and spiced cider certainly will.

TOP TIP: It goes without saying that the price of a getaway can increase significantly during the school holidays. If you’re going with your loved one or a group of friends, book your trip during school term time.

Where can I get a cheap deal? British Airways have a special section on their site reserved for Christmas markets , where you can bag a two night stay for two people, including BA flights, from £141 per person.

2. Mt Pilatus‏, Switzerland

Europe’s highest Christmas market is also one of its cutest. Situated a shade under 7000 feet above sea level, it’s one of the world’s only markets where you can follow your shopping with a spot of snowboarding.

With a firm focus on handcrafted items, this is the perfect place to pick up all your stocking fillers. Get Mum a beeswax candle and your younger brother more handmade gingerbread than he can eat.

TOP TIP: Well known all around the world as one of the most beautiful places in the world, once all the Christmas shopping is done, you can enjoy scenic views all over the snowy Swiss Alps that will certainly get you in the mood for the big day.

Where can I get a cheap deal? Switzerland is rarely associated with cheap, so use Travelex , who find the easiest way to enjoy luxury for less. They also offer handy recommendations based on the things that really matter. For example – locations with the lowest Uber prices, or the places with the cheapest mid-range bottles of wine.

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3. Lille, France

A giant Ferris wheel is the centrepiece of Lille’s dazzling Christmas market, which takes place in the picturesque Place Rhiour town square.

The French city sums up the magic of Christmas, with rows and rows of fantastic stalls, where you’ll find everything from artworks to hand crafted wooden toys.

After deciding what to include in Santa’s sack, pay a visit to one of the many bars or eateries to enjoy authentic French cuisine – baked Camembert is a must – and a well-deserved glass of champagne.

TOP TIP: Flexibility is key when trying to secure a cheap Christmas holiday. Thursdays and Fridays are two of the most popular days to fly. If you can, travel during the mid-week.

Where can I get a cheap deal? You can get the Eurostar straight there and it will take just over an hour, with prices starting at £29 each way per adult.

4. Dubrovnik, Croatia

Croatia’s sun-soaked Dalmatian Coast may not seem like the most obvious destination for a trip to the Christmas markets, but the region certainly rises to the occasion during the winter months.

One of the best features of Dubrovnik’s Christmas markets is the fabulous decorations and displays, which illuminate the city’s historic landmarks and UNESCO World Heritage sites – even the city’s 13th century city walls get a makeover.

The market itself boasts a vast array of stalls and shops, specialising in handmade gifts, goodies and authentic Croatian food, like arancini and kontonjata (a sweet Christmas candy made with quince).

TOP TIP: Looking for a bargain break? Compare the cost of flying from your local airport with other UK airports; you’ll be surprised by the how much you could save.

Where can I get a cheap deal? Thomas Cook have a whole section solely dedicated to Christmas markets, offer great package deals to Dubrovnik, although if you’d rather book your flights and accommodation separately, EasyJet flies to the Croatian city for as little as £26.99.

5. Stockholm, Sweden

The UK’s haphazard climate means you can never predict a white Christmas. Fortunately, snow is almost guaranteed in the Swedish capital.

Stockholm’s Christmas markets are a must if you’re looking to add a little Scandinavian magic to your winter holiday; with traditional treats like Swedish meatballs and pear cider all on offer.

Combine your visit to Stockholm with a tour of the city’s best sights and attractions, including the Nobel Museum, the Riddarholm Church and the fantastic ABBA museum, a tribute to four of the nation’s biggest stars.

TOP TIP: Make the most of your hand baggage allowance to avoid paying extra for additional bags. Most airlines often allow you to carry a small suitcase or cabin bag with you.

Where can I get a cheap deal? Get there with Ryanair , who fly direct for as little as £9.99 if you travel on the right weekday. We’ve just found ones ourselves for the end of November.

6. Madrid, Spain

Looking for something a little different? Why not put a bit of a Spanish twist on your Christmas markets holiday with a trip to Madrid.

Spain’s bustling capital is a great choice for a winter holiday; it’s also relatively mild considering the time of year. The city is transformed during Christmas time, with impressive displays and plenty of festive sparkle.

Madrid is a fantastic choice for foodies, with a delectable selection of Spanish cuisine, mulled wine and Spanish lagers. Swap the turkey for chorizo, and the Christmas pudding for tasty churros.

TOP TIP: Aside from the Christmas markets, Madrid is packed full of must-see attractions and places of interest, including the iconic Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, the home of Real Madrid. You can often save money on your ticket by booking in advance.

Where can I get a cheap deal? Easyjet fly to Madrid for as little as £26.49, with flight prices staying pretty much the same no matter which UK airport you fly from.

7. Berlin, Germany

The hip German capital will be hosting some 60 Christmas markets across the city so you’re sure to find some cracking festive pressies.

Don’t miss Winter World on Potsdamer Platz in the city centre which will be transformed into a vast winter wonderland with Europe’s biggest toboggan run.

And its the perfect place to find authentic mulled wine and hearty bratwurst along with other seasonal treats at the Christmas Market at Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church.

Where can I get a cheap deal? British Airways offer flights – including 23kg of luggage – from £51 each way , or flights plus two nights in a hotel from £137 per person.

8. Verona, Italy

Every year, from the middle of November until January, the Italian city is illuminated by hundreds of lights as it plays host to a big Christmas market offering hand-made decorations and German specialities, along with regional food.

And you should head to the Arena di Verona for a truly stunning spectacle of over 400 nativity scenes displayed against a backdrop of lights and music.

Where can I get a cheap deal? Citalia are the go-to place for holidays to Italy, and you can get flights and 3 nights at a bed and breakfast there from £349 per person . The site also lets you know local landmarks, good places to eat, facilities and local events going on near your chosen holiday destination.

9. Three countries Christmas Market Tour

If you can’t choose just one – why not do three? Compare the lights, sounds and smells of Christmas Markets across three different countries: Belgium’s oldest and largest Christmas market, Liège; joyful Aachen in Germany and Valkenburg’s unique cave grotto markets in the Netherlands.

Where can I get a cheap deal? Raildiscoveries plan the whole 4 day trip for you for £395 per person so you can just sit back, relax and enjoy as much mulled wine and bratwurst as you can possibly consume.

10. Christmas Cruise

Forget those frustrating baggage restrictions and hop on board a boat for your Christmas market festivities – And you can start your Christmas shopping in the on board duty-free store where the currency is in sterling.

The Christmas markets of Bruges, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Hamburg are the stuff of festive dreams, and all are accessible via a cruise, meaning that you can bring home as many unique hand-crafted goodies as you can manage to carry back on board.

Where can I get a cheap deal? P&O cruises have a selection of different Christmas market cruises available, with their prices including accommodation, dining, entertainment and all the on-board facilities such as pool and gym.

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11. Paris, France

Mix chic shopping in the French capital with visits to its magical Christmas markets selling traditional produced and arts and crafts.

With over 350 wooden chalets, the market at La Defense (metro Grande Arche de la Defense) is the biggest one, while Champs-Elysees claims to host the city’s most beautiful one.

And for traditional French Christmas sweet treats head to the market at the foot of Montparnesse Tower.

Where can I get a cheap deal? Go to Paris via Eurostar on a two-night weekend break with Superbreak , starting at £151 per person.

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12. Innsbruck, Austria

From the middle of November until January, the Tirolean capital’s Old Town market is a truly festive sight.

Surrounded by medieval houses, Christmas tree lights twinkle beneath the city’s famous Golden Roof with the snow-dusted Nordkette mountains as a seasonal backdrop you can browse round more than 60 stalls displaying wooden toys and hand-carved nativity scenes.

Watch out for fairytale figures such as Little Red Riding Hood and Sleeping Beauty and other fairytale figures from the stores of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson adorning the alleyways.

Where can I get a cheap deal? British Airways fly to Innsbruck for around £50 each way this time of year, including baggage, while easyJet ‘s prices start from £26.49.

13. Bruges, Belgium

With its medieval buildings and quaint cobbled streets, the fairytale setting of this UNESCO World Heritage Site is sure to get you into the seasonal spirit. Bruges’s wonderful chocolate shops are a great excuse to stock up on prezzies as well as treating yourself.

Take a turn round the ice rink then stop off for waffles with hot chocolate while enjoying the street entertainment and fairground attractions.

Where can I get a cheap deal? has flights to Bruges from £25pp.

14. Prague, Czech Republic

It’s fitting Wenceslas Square, named after the Czech patron saint, is home to one of the two key Christmas markets. It’s just a five-minute walk to the other.

Refresh yourself with a glass or two of mulled wine or a Czech beer. Suitably fortified, join in with carol singing around the giant Christmas trees.

Where to find a cheap deal: offers Christmas market breaks from £89pp.

15. Strasbourg, France

The capital of the Alsace region is home to France’s oldest Christmas market.

From the last week of November to the end of December the city is the self-proclaimed capital of Christmas. With more than 300 chalets, it’s one of Europe’s biggest markets.

Where to find a cheap deal: Leger has coach holidays from £259pp including trips to Strasbourg.

16. Harz Mountains, Germany

Ride from Wernigerode on the Brocken Railway steam train through snowy forests to high in the Harz Mountains.

Then visit Quedlinburg, a UNESCO site with some of Germany’s best preserved medieval buildings. In Goslar, another World Heritage site, the old half-timbered houses are a stunning market backdrop.

Where to find a cheap deal: Great Rail Journeys ’ Harz Mountain Christmas Markets tour starts at £895pp for six nights’ B&B in Wernigerode’s four-star HKK Hotel, three dinners, train ride and town tours. Click here for the full information or call 0800 240 4470.

17. Valkenburg, Holland

For seasonal shopping with a difference, go deep in the Dutch town of Valkenburg at Europe’s largest underground Christmas market.

From mid-November to December 23, the long galleries of Gemeentegrot (town cave) will be filled with stalls displaying festive gifts and goodies. The charming town also has a Christmas parade on Wednesday and Saturday.

18. Salzburg

Austria’s alpine scenery is the perfect setting for festive markets. And if the Sound of Music is your default Christmas soundtrack you’ll be thrilled to learn that Salzburg, home of the Von Trapp family, is on the itinerary of a Leger Christmas Markets tour.

The historic city has two markets, one at the 17th century cathedral and one at stately square Residenzplatz. At Innsbruck, “capital of the Tyrol”, browse 70 stalls in the heart of the Old Town, overlooked by the city’s glittering 16th century Golden Roof.

Then visit the market of Bavaria’s capital Munich on the Marienplatz with the ornate Rathaus-Glockenspeil.

THE DEAL: Leger Holidays offers the seven-day Festive Salzburg, Munich & Innsbruck Christmas Markets tour from £449pp including breakfast, four evening meals, excursions and coach travel. Click here for the full details or call 01709 787 463.

19. France Cruise

Soak up the atmosphere of la fete noel on this new no-fly cruise from Titan, visiting two Christmas markets. Sailing from London Tilbury, Magellan’s first stop will be Normandy’s capital, Rouen, where you can trawl 70 chalets by medieval buildings.

A visit to the 4th century Gothic Notre Dame Cathedral is a must.

The market at the pretty little port Honfleur is a more intimate affair by the marina where you can pick up local goodies such as Calvados brandy and cheeses.

Where to find a cheap deal Fares for the four-day cruise start at £269pp, including meals, Captain’s Cocktail Party, daytime activities with Titan Travel . Click here for the full details or call 0800 988 5873.

20. Ireland

Ireland has a wide selection of Christmas markets including events in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick.

While Galway Continental Market, now in its eighth year, offers 50 stalls and amusement rides, the Limerick Milk Market hosts competitions, choirs and promotions.

Find out more on the Ireland Christmas markets .

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