The festive season is coming in Europe and with it, the arrival of Christmas markets! If you’re planning a trip to one of our cities this winter, a Christmas market is the perfect place to experience some local holiday spirit. Magical by day or by night, wander among strings of twinkling lights, tiny wooden cabins displaying handmade gifts and wafts of smoke from stands serving local delights. Each of our cities has at least one market, and we’ve lined up our favourites across the continent…
We’re so excited to have launched Eating Europe in Strasbourg (including a Christmas market tour!), a city with a rich culinary tradition and self-proclaimed “Capital of Christmas”. In the winter season, visitors and locals alike flock to the Christkindelsmärik, one of the oldest Christmas markets in Europe and the oldest in France, dating from 1570.
Taking place in the Grand île, the city’s UNESCO world heritage old town, near the Cathedral and Place Kléber, it attracts around 2 million visitors annually. Sample bredeles, star-shaped biscuits, and pain d’epices, French ginger bread, along with a steaming mug of vin chaud (French mulled wine) to keep your hands and your heart warm!
Another Eating Europe launch took place this year in Naples with our Old Napoli Tasting Tour and Night Out in Naples, and this year during the festive season experience something different at the Via San Gregorio Armeno. Open all year round, this is a street in the city centre comprised of artisanal workshops that create the miniature figures that make up the Nativity scene.
Locals make an obligatory visit to this street every year to get everything they need for building their Neapolitan Nativity scene at home, and each workshop proudly displays its pieces made using techniques passed from generation to generation. However, among the traditional figures, you can also find some familiar faces that seem a little out of place… The master craftsmen at the Via San Gregorio Armeno keep things modern by fashioning the miniature likeness of celebrities to add a twist to the sacred scene, a mixture of tradition and humour that aptly reflects the Neapolitan personality!
The main Christmas market in Lisbon takes place at the stunning Eduardo VII Park, recognisable by its intricate hedge designs, and is called the Lisboa Wonderland. Here, an ice rink, giant snow globe and Ferris wheel all sit among the stalls selling artisanal gifts and local delicacies, including Portuguese winter favourite: roasted chestnuts.
Hyde Park’s epic Winter Wonderland has a reputation of being the best and biggest Christmas market in the UK. Much more than just stalls and snacks, here you can attend and participate in a huge variety of shows and activities.
Check out the ice sculpture workshop, the Comedy Club or head to one of the Alpine village at Bar Hütte, where you can grab a couple of glasses of mulled wine and sing a Christmas classic on the karaoke machines.
Prague’s old town plays host to two wonderful Christmas markets; one in Old Town Square and one in Wenceslas Square. Here you can sample traditional food such as spit-roasted ham, barbecued sausages and trdelník sugar pastries as well as honeyed wine and typical Czech beers.
These markets are truly family affairs, with a Nativity scene, an animal petting zoo and daily carol concerts from local schools. Every night the enormous Christmas tree is lit in hourly ceremonies, creating a magical festive atmosphere.
There are a variety of Christmas hotspots around Amsterdam starting in December. Starting at the big Christmas tree in Dam square decorated with no fewer than 40,000 energy-efficient fairy lights, next make your way to the market at Museumplein, where the ice rink is surrounded by wintry stalls. Then onto the Winter Plaza at Rembrandtplein where the surrounding restaurants serve traditional treats such as oliebollen dumplings, waffles and sausages.
Amsterdam’s famous Flower Market gets a Christmas makeover with hundreds of Christmas trees for sale and finally, the Amsterdam Light Festival, taking place from 28 November 2019 to 19 Januray 2020 sees the famous canals decorated with dazzling artworks from national and international artists.
The City of Light is even more romantic during the festive season, and Christmas markets in the French capital do not disappoint. At Eating Europe, we love the market at Place des Abbesses in Montmartre; while it is smaller than the rest, it is among the most charming thanks to its location in this iconic neighbourhood.
Just as fantastic is the market at Champs de Mars, right under the Eiffel Tower, meaning you can combine your gift shopping with a visit to the night-time light show. For something a little different, head to the Jipango Christmas market, hosted by the Franco-Japanese Association. Here you can find some unique Asian-inspired gifts and sample some Japanese food and teas.
Explore a mix of German and Italian cultures at Florence’s Christmas Market, when the German town of Heidelberg brings its 500-year-old market to the iconic Piazza Santa Croce, in the shadow of the breathtakingly beautiful Basilica. Cosy wooden huts drawn on both German and Italian traditions, offering up a whole host of festive delights, as well as great gift ideas make this a special market to visit.
In Rome, the classic Christmas market experience is in Piazza Navona, where you can find everything you need for a real festive day out, surrounded by some of Rome’s architectural wonders, like the Four Rivers Fountain. We advise also checking out Mercato Monti, a hip, independent market open year-round that doubles in size in December. Here you’ll find vintage and hand-made treasures to delight your friends and family from over 50 artists’ stands.
From traditional charm to wonderlands of epic proportions, the Christmas markets across our cities vary in style and type, but each one promises to deliver a day or night of festive joy. From unique gift ideas, to typical winter food and drink, delight in the cosy atmosphere and warm up during the colder days at one of Eating Europe’s pick of the best Christmas markets in Europe – the perfect way to add some magic to your city break!