Some of the most beautiful cities in the world truly come alive as European winter approaches. Consider the impressive Christmas market in Museumplein in Amsterdam and the light festivals along the canals, the world-renowned Christmas markets of Edinburgh, or the cottage-core gingerbread charm of the Colmar markets in Alsace. For an unforgettable, dazzling Christmas experience and to discover the true meaning of festive, follow our list of top Christmas markets in Europe!
Every year, the Museumplein markets are held in the Museum Quarter of downtown Amsterdam. The festive atmosphere just calls for hot drinks and huddles around one of the many fire pits of the Ice Village. Once you’ve warmed up, order poffertjes and peruse chalets selling handmade wreaths and baubles. You can also skate on an outdoor rink in front of the Rijksmuseum, spectacularly decorated with fairy lights. The rest of the city glows just as bright, thanks to the annual Amsterdam Light Festival which hosts canal cruises to view the many light sculptures, snowball fights, tubing and cross-country skiing between Christmas trees.
Long-favoured as a festive destination, Cologne has several Christmas markets, but if you can only make it to one make sure you get to the Weihnachtsmarkt am Dom. Set beneath the city's iconic Gothic-style cathedral, 150 wooden stalls sell sweets, meats and trinkets around a central Christmas tree that sits under a canopy of Christmas lights. The scene creates a beautiful market atmosphere with a variety of stalls that are second to none.
We all know Switzerland is a winter wonderland, but it also happens to host some of the best Christmas markets in all of Europe. Basel in particular has been one of the most voted Christmas markets throughout the past decade. The quaint town glows each holiday season from thousands of twinkling lights lining two squares - Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz - and spotlighting rustic wooden chalets. You'll find a wide array of culinary wonders from authentic Basel Lackerli (a local twist on gingerbread), to hot punch, festive fondue and rib-sticking raclette to beat the winter chill. This is a market we recommend for foodies and fairy light enthusiasts alike.
With its timbered cottage houses and canal-lined streets, Colmar is basically a fairy tale come to life year-round. Add some twinkling lights, an ice skating rink and an early-1900's carousel and you have yourself one of the most charming Christmas markets in all of Europe. Each market offers its own version of holiday cheer, from nativity scenes to children's choirs, so be prepared for some serious stall-hopping.
One of the prettiest cities on the planet shines in the winter months as Christmas markets and Hogmanay celebrations come together. Adjacent to the Scottish National Gallery, the annual market turns Edinburgh's sprawling East Princes St. Gardens into a 'Santa Land' with a Christmas tree maze, oval ice rink, elves' workshop and special performances. After dark, take it all in from atop the Edinburgh Eye or head to the Royal Botanic Gardens to sip spiced cider. If you can only visit once, make sure to go towards the end of December to join in the Hogmanay street party and fireworks celebrations on 31 December.