Christmas time means shopping, and lots of it. Thankfully, the world’s best Christmas markets mean you do not need to spend ages trudging up and down shopping malls.
Instead, you can enjoy seasonal cheer, local treats, and live music and other entertainment, and usually in a location that is far more inspiring and festive than any mall could ever hope to be.
1. Strasbourg, France
The eastern French town of Strasbourg is undoubtedly one of the biggest and best Christmas markets in Europe. It’s not surprising, because the first one was held in 1570, so they have had plenty of time to get things perfect.
Every year sees approximately 300 stalls spread across 10 different locations. This means there is plenty of opportunity to stock up on gifts, decorations, local edible treats, and, of course, wine. Not to be missed is the Great Christmas Tree in Place Kleber. If you thought things were always bigger and better in America, you haven’t seen anything yet.
2. Prague, Czech Republic
Czech capital Prague boasts 2 yuletide markets that are well worth visiting. One is held in the picturesque Old Town Square, while the other takes place in New Town’s Wenceslas Square.
The atmosphere and vibe are different in each, but you will find similar things for sale. Expect plenty of gorgeous Bohemian trinkets and treasures, as well as delicious food and beer.
3. Barcelona, Spain
First held in 1786, the Fira de Santa Llúcia takes place in front of the magnificent Barcelona Cathedral, and runs for 3 weeks. It usually coincides with the start of Advent calendar at the end of November, and lasts until Christmas Eve, whereas many other markets continue until the feast of the Epiphany in the first week of January.
The market boasts hundreds of stalls offering jewellery, musical instruments, nativity sets and other seasonal decorations, and all sorts of handmade goodies that make the perfect presents as well as gorgeous stocking-fillers.
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4. Tallinn, Estonia
The Estonian capital of Tallinn is the site of another venerable old Christmas market. It is also the site of one of the continent’s oldest seasonal traditions; that of erecting a decorated tree. The very first one was set up in the square outside the town hall in 1441.
Apart from all the eating and shopping you can do, the event also gives you the chance to add a bit more culture to your life in the form of choral performances, dance shows, and poetry recitals. It even boasts a charming Winter Grotto.
5. Montreal, Canada
Inspired by the holiday markets of Europe, Montreal’s Grand Christmas Market, Canada, takes place from 1 to 24 December annually. It sees St Catherine Street turned into a makeshift yuletide village.
You can buy all sorts of handmade gifts and crafts, enjoy a fine selection of seasonal foods and drinks to warm body and soul, and soak up the holiday spirit. What’s more, if you have children, the event gives them the chance to meet Santa Claus and even visit his elves’ workshop.
6. New York, USA
There are plenty of Christmas markets to vie for your attention in the USA, but none is worthier of it than the Bank of America Winter Village. It takes place in Bryant Park, New York City every year, and boasts more than 100 stalls.
Rather than limiting themselves to American handicrafts, they offer a global experience, so you can buy gifts and goodies from around the world. Its location adds to the magic of the market, which is often visited by Santa and his elves as an added attraction for children.
7. Vienna, Austria
The Christmas market tradition in the Austrian capital of Vienna goes all the way back to 1298. The main event is the Viennese Market outside the city hall, which offers more than 150 stalls, although you can find another 20 or so markets in other parts of the city.
It offers exquisite shopping in a stunning setting, as well as a traditional nativity scene, an ice rink, and even reindeer rides for children.