It’s that time of the year: next weekend, four weeks before Christmas Eve, Christmas markets all over Europe literally hit the light switch and open their gates for happy children and thirsty grown-ups. Here people shop for cheesy Christmas gifts, indulge in over-prized German import products and get tipsy on the sticky sweet hot bevs they call glögg, punsch or glühwein. I love strolling across those markets, mulled cider in one hand, a chocolate-coated apple in the other, but feel that some of them have just become too big.

Awesome Christmas Markets in Europe - Schoenbrunn, Vienna, Austria 2

via Weihnachtsmarkt.co.at, Foto Gerhard Fally

Coming from Vienna, I have grown up with fantastic Christmas markets at my doorstep and I know many of you dream of visiting Germany or Austria just to see a real traditional Christmas market. At this point, I have one piece of advice for you: instead of following the crowds to the biggest markets around Europe, focus on the smaller, less popular markets to find the “real” Christmas spirit. Here are 10 awesome Christmas markets in Europe far away from ferris wheels, over-prized import products from Germany and only half-full cups of mulled wine sold for full price.

1. Seefeld, Tyrol (Austria)

Awesome Christmas Markets in Europe - Seefeld, Tyrol, Austria via Seefeld.com

If you spend some time in the Tyrolean mountains this winter, make sure to visit the small village of Seefeld. It’s popular particularly with snowboarders, but there are slopes and adventures for every one here. The local Advent market (followed by a Christmas market around Christmas and New Year) is an atmospheric experience. The stalls selling local snacks and crafts look like log cabins, horn players play traditional holiday tunes and there are guided walking tours through the surrounding winter-wonderland. There is even an angel’s post office, where kids and not so grown-up grown-ups can send off their letters to Christkind, the traditional Austrian alternative to Santa Claus.

Open from 28 November to 6 January
Highlight: the great Krampus show on 7 December

2. Chur (Switzerland)

Awesome Christmas Markets in Europe - Chur, Switzerland via Chur Tourismus

Chur is a picture-book town in the eastern canton Graubünden of Switzerland. Its annual Christmas market is called Christkindlimarket and is located in the heart of town at Kornplatz. Surrounded by the medieval buildings of the old town the stalls offer Swiss delicacies – from chocolate to cheese raclette – and arts and crafts from all over the region. Chur is supposedly the oldest town in Switzerland and many buildings are listed as heritage sites of national significance.

Open from 3 to 21 December
Highlight: eating all the Swiss food

3. Česky Krumlov (Czech Republic)

Awesome Christmas Markets in Europe - Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic via Krumlov Tourismus

You have heard about Česky Krumlov before – last year Frankie visited the old medieval town and got all excited about Fotoatelier Seidel, one of the oldest working photography studios in the world. Another great thing about this town is that it looks like out of a Dr. Seuss film – particularly its colourful castle tower. No wonder, that this old Bohemian Christmas fair is one of the most special markets in Europe. Enjoy some of the heart-warming punch and traditional Christmas cookies celebrate Christmas with the Krumlov bears.

Open from 28 November to 6 January
Highlight: attend an advent-themed photo session at Fotoatelier Seidel

4. Skansen, Stockholm (Sweden)

Awesome Christmas Markets in Europe - Skansen, Stockholm, Sweden via Skansen

One of my favourite things to do in Stockholm is spending a day at Skansen Museum and Zoo and going back to the roots of Scandinavian culture. The outdoor museum also hosts an annual Christmas market which has been taking place since 1903 – imagine: 111 years of tradition! This one goes far beyond a mere market, as it also conveys the history of Swedish Christmas traditions. Visitors can try their hand at crafts in the Christmas workshops, learn how to dance around the tree and find out about regional Christmas recipes from all over Sweden.

Open from 30 November to 6 January
Highlight: attend the Lucia procession on 13 December

5. Durbuy (Belgium)

Awesome Christmas Markets in Europe - Durbuy, Belgium via Durbuy Village

Durbuy is a small town in Belgium, only 1,5 hours drive from Brussels. For some time it called itself the smallest town in the world, due to its official “town” status but very small population – however this title is long history. Today Durbuy is known for its medieval stone buildings, narrow cobbled lanes and of course the Christmas market. There are special illuminations constructed all around the old town and a massive Christmas tree erected on the main square.

Open from 30 November to 5 January
Highlight: the illumination of 1,000 candles on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve

6. Schönbrunn, Vienna (Austria)

Awesome Christmas Markets in Europe - Schoenbrunn, Vienna, Austria via Weihnachtsmarkt.co.at, Foto Husar

Welcome to Vienna, city of Christmas markets! Indeed Vienna is one of the most popular cities for Europe travellers every winter. Most will head to the huge Christmas market below the City Hall at Rathausplatz, which is the oldest in the city. I however, prefer the market in front of the royal summer palace Schönbrunn and its beautifully illuminated Christmas tree. There are less stalls here than at Rathausplatz, and the merchants sell handcrafted presents from Austria and neighbouring countries. My favourite thing to do is to get a cup of mulled wine and a plate of Spiralkartoffel, fried potatoes cut in spirals.

Open from 22 November to 1 January
Highlight: shop for an original Viennese snow globe

7. Wroclaw (Poland)

Awesome Christmas Markets in Europe - Wroclaw, Poland 2 via Jarmark

Wroclaw may not be the biggest town in Poland, but it is definitely one of the most beautiful. Its Christmas market gives you the opportunity to eat sweets from all around Europe – chocolate houses, roasted nuts, different pancakes and gingerbread; there is even a Swiss Chocolate Workshop. Around the stalls you can’t only buy hand-crafted objects, you can also see how they are made and get them customised; for example hand-painted glass balls or horseshoes as a lucky charm. Make sure to stop by the Wroclaw Christmas Dwarf and tap his hat three times, and all your wishes will come true!

Open from 21 November to 22 December
Highlight: an 8 meter-high windmill

8. Rouen (France)

Awesome Christmas Markets in Europe - Rouen, France via Frenchmoments.eu

During Advent the Normand city of Rouen offers various events all around town, from Christmas concerts to shows for children. The annual Christmas market is called Rouen givrée, which means “Frosted Rouen”. The 70 stalls of the marché de noël, selling traditional Christmas ornaments and local produce are erected in front of the cathedral on Place de la Cathédrale but there are also two ice-skating rinks and a vintage merry-go-round.

Open from 29 November to 4 January
Highlight: ice-skating in front of the city hall on Place de l’Hôtel de Ville

9. Reiterlesmarkt, Rothenburg ob der Tauber (Germany)

Awesome Christmas Markets in Europe - Reiterlesmarkt, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany via Rothenburg Tourismus

If you haven’t added this little town to your German itinerary yet, let me give you a reason: Rothenburg ob der Tauber, the village with the weirdest name ever, is home to Germany’s one and only Christmas Museum. But of course, the best reason to visit in winter time is the Christmas market, Reiterlesmarkt, in the picture-book old town. The stalls are put up in the narrow lanes and square around the city hall and offer everything from authentic German handcrafts to white mulled wine.

Open from 28 November to 23 December
Highlight: climb the city hall tower and enjoy the view from above

10. Røros (Norway)

awesome christmas markets in europe - roros, norway 2 via Destination Røros

Røros is an old mining town in Central Norway, which I told you about just recently. Every year, on the first weekend of December the town hosts a traditional Christmas market, the Julemarked Røros. The stalls are located in the historical setting of Bergmannsgata and Kjerkgata. As it lasts only for three days, the programme is rich and filled with activities for everybody. Snow is almost guaranteed and so is the perfect Christmas atmosphere.

Open from 5 to 7 December
Highlight: go on a tour through winter-wonderland with a horse-drawn sleigh

 

Do you have a favourite Christmas market off the beaten track? Tell us about it down in the comments – would be great to share travel ideas for the upcoming season!