Like the English language, Christmas is pretty much universal. Even in places without winter, people are happy to prepare for this year-end festival – as early as the beginning of November!
In Europe, Christmas is never complete without bustling open-air markets to warm up the cold. Visiting a Christmas market in Europe is a sensory feast, especially if you’re touring the region during this festive period. Admire all that is to love, from dazzling, colourful Christmas lights and trees, to mouth-watering goodies and jovial yuletide carols brightening up the day. You wouldn’t want to give it a miss, even if you’re not one for colder climates.
These markets are usually held near to historic landmarks or on old town squares. In them, there are stalls selling the best local specialties, hot mulled wine or chocolate, handicraft, and decorations. Some even come with activities like ice skating and carnival rides.
If you happen to be the lucky few planning a trip to Europe this winter, here are five unmissable Christmas markets worth putting in your itinerary.
1. Frankfurt Christmas Market (Frankfurt, Germany)
Which German city has the best Christmas market? Well, that is definitely Frankfurt!
Frankfurt Christmas Market, or the Weihnachtsmarkt Frankfurt Römerberg, is the most popular German Christmas market in the world and one of Frankfurt's most sought-after attractions. It’s also one of the harder ones to miss if you’re in town – its majestic Christmas tree stands proudly on top of Römerberg, the city’s picturesque market square, every year.
Frankfurt Christmas Market is documented to have begun as far back as the 14th century, when theatrical plays were performed unannounced around Paulsplatz, a historic square on the North of Römerberg. This gradually evolved into a place for special events, a buzzing market space, and, by the 18th century, a full-fledged Christmas market with its now-iconic giant Christmas tree.
Today, the Frankfurt Christmas Market not only attracts thousands of local and foreign visitors, but it has also been exported to other cities such as Birmingham (which we’ll talk about more later) for others to indulge in a similar festive spirit.
Frankfurt Christmas Market is also the home to many German Christmas treats that are hard to find elsewhere. Some of the must-try here include Frankfurt Christmas cookies (made with Marzipan, powdered sugar, and flour), Gebrannte Mandeln (candied nuts in assorted flavours), Schaumkusse (chocolate-coated marshmallow), and Berliner (donut filled with hibiscus jelly).
If you’re in Munich, we advise you to plan your roadtrip down to Frankfurt just in time to experience Germany’s best Christmas market.
This year, the Frankfurt Christmas Market opens from 21 November to 22 December. It is open from 10am-9pm from Monday to Saturday and 11am to 9pm on Sunday. More information about the Christmas market can be found here.
Address: 60311 Frankfurt, Germany
How to get there: Either a two-minute walk from the Dom/Römer station on U4 and U5 Lines of the U-Bahn, or a breeazy minute walk from the Römer/Paulskirche station on Trams (Straßenbahn) routes 11 and 12.
2. Frankfurt Christmas Market (Brimingham, England)
Yes, that isn’t a typo: there is a Frankfurt Christmas Market in England too.
The Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas market began in 1997 – rumour has it that there were enough British visitors during Christmas in Frankfurt that the Germans decided to bring Frankfurt to them.
The market remains the largest German Christmas market outside of Germany. So, don’t be surprised by its range of German delis like freshly-baked pretzels, schnitzels (fried meat), bratwursts (grilled sausages), Stollen (traditional German Christmas cake), and weissbier (wheat beer).
And yet, food is not the only highlight here. Do look out for the market’s singing Christmas moose (nicknamed Chris Moose) opposite of the council house on Victoria Square that’s singing.
This Christmas market will be open from 3 November to 23 December, from 10am to 9pm daily. More information about the market can be found here.
Address: Victoria Square, Birmingham, United Kingdom B1 1BD
How to get there: It’s an easy one-minute walk from Birmingham New Street Railway Station.
3. Stortorget Christmas Market (Stockholm, Sweden)
This is an annual event that originated in the mediaeval period in Gamla Stan (the Old Town), the historic centre of Stockholm, Sweden.
Apart from a break in the years 1907-1914 (World War One) and 2020 (COVID-19 pandemic), the market has never stopped running since 1837, making it the oldest Christmas market in the country.
There are about 40 stalls set up in Stortorget, a large, picturesque square surrounded by iconic buildings and housing blocks in bright colours.
In terms of size, Stortorget is considered small compared to other Christmas markets in Stockholm. However, it’s often voted to be one of the must-go or best in Europe because of its cheerful, atmospheric vibe.
On top of all the old-fashioned Christmas sweets and treats, visitors will be able to find Swedish delicacies like cuts of elk, reindeer, and wild boar in this market.
It’s recommended to try Glögg, the Swedish version of mulled wine and pepparkaka (gingerbread). Handicraft tradition is strong in Sweden, so do find a chance to talk to the local craftsmen selling their hand-made Christmas décor, candles, jewellery, and knitted products.
Stortorget Christmas Market opens between 19 November and 23 December this year. It runs daily from 11am to 6pm. More information can be found on its website.
Address: Stortorget 2, 11129, Stockholm, Sweden
How to get there: Stortorget square is about an eight-minute walk from Gamla Stan Metro station on the Green and Red lines of Stockholm Metro.
4. Plaisirs d'Hiver (Brussels Winter Wonders, Belgium)
Recently, this Christmas market beat all its counterparts in Europe by being named “the best in the world” by travel website Big 7 Travel.
Considered the most massive and impressive in the country, Plaisirs d'Hiver or Brussels Winter Wonders comes with more than 200 stalls that intertwine the entire city centre and is visited by over 2.5 million visitors every year.
In addition to all the food and season-specific crafts and decorations, Winter Wonders also has a merry-go-round, ice rink, pedal car rides and ferris wheels to keep energy levels high even under particularly cold weather.
Some unique activities that one can look forward to include its 360° sound and light show at the Grand Palace, which is staged every evening, as well as concerts, performances, and cultural events that take place during this period.
Winter Wonders is not just a festive celebration, but it’s also a great gateway to understand and immerse yourself in the city of Brussels.
Plaisirs d'Hive opens between 25 November 2022 and 3 January 2023. It runs from 12 noon to 10pm everyday except 24 December and 31 December, when it will be open from 12 noon to 6pm. More information can be found on its official website.
Address: Carr de l'Europe, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
How to get there: It’s a one-minute walk away from the Brussels Central Station, which is connected to Line 1 and Line 5 on the city’s metro.
5. Prague Castle Christmas Market (Prague, Czech Republic)
As stalls are spread around the majestic, fairy-tale Prague castle, there’s no doubt that Prague Christmas market probably has one of the most magnificent views.
Honestly, the market is a better fit for food than festivity. From trdelník (a kind of hot sugared pastry) to grog (rum mixed with hot water, sugar and lemon), klobása (grilled sausages), and rybí polévka, (a kind of Czech Christmas fish soup that’s being cooked in a cauldron), it’s very easy to lure the glutton in anyone.
If you’re not just looking for food; there’s also a wide range of handicraft, ornaments, winter wear, ceramics, and dolls and figurines dressed in traditional costumes that are great as souvenirs to bring home.
As the centrepiece of the entire market, the Christmas tree is specially and stringently selected from dozens of regions around the Czech Republic.
This year, the tree is adorned with energy-efficient LED light bulbs to remind locals and visitors the importance of saving energy as the rocketing energy cost is looming over Europe this winter.
Likewise, lights in the Christmas market will be turned off after midnight. So, do arrive early!
Cross the river and walk to the Old Town Square (about 18 minutes’ walk from Prague Castle) and walk further south to Wenceslas Square (about 12 minutes’ walk from Old Town Square), there are two other sizeable Christmas markets on these two squares, in case you find one is not enough.
The Christmas market at Prague Castle takes place between 23 November 2022 and 1 January 2023. It opens from 9am to 6pm every Monday to Thursday and 9am to 7pm on Friday and weekends. More information about the market can be found here.
Address: náměstí U Svatého Jiří, Praha 1, Česká republika
How to get there: Most visitors will travel to Prague Castle on Tram No. 22, alight at Pražský hrad stop and enter Prague Castle through its North entrance. If you are travelling by metro, the Malostranská station on Line A is about 10 minutes’ walk away.
Tips on visiting Christmas markets in Europe
Layer up: During the winter season, the sun sets relatively early in most parts of Europe (usually around 3-4pm) and temperature can drop quite dramatically thereafter. So, it’s best to keep warm with proper clothing while visiting a Christmas market, especially in the evening.
Plan your navigation: Some of these Christmas markets are massive in size – they may not have definite start and end points, so it’s very easy to find yourself, unknowingly, wandering from one end of the city to the other end. Understandably, you can get lost if you are visiting for the first time. If you’re travelling with friends and families, feel free to use a local landmark (e.g., a metro station exits, entrance of a museum) as your meeting point. Of course, keep your handphone powered up at all times in case of emergencies – having a handy powerbank on you is advisable.
Look out for public amenities: Though rare, some of these Christmas markets do have public toilets. There are also medical points and police patrols around if you need extra help.
Pay in cash: Payments-wise, it’s best to bring some loose cash. Stall vendors are usually small business owners or artists who only accept cash. As always, keep an eye out for pickpockets or street scammers (generally, these can be people who approach you to sign petitions or surveys, and they ask for personal information, or illegal vendors hosting gambling sessions). Consider investing in anti-theft wallets or sturdy crossbody and sling bags you can carry close to your body beneath your winter outerwear.
Ask for permission before photographing: Also, many of their hand-made designs and products are one-of-its-kind, so the artists or creators in Europe would greatly appreciate it if you ask for permission before taking photos of their merchandise.
Now you have had a glimpse of the most enchanting Christmas markets in Europe, don’t they make you want to hop on a plane now and visit right away? And this is only part of the entire list. The Strasbourg Christmas Market in France is the oldest of the country, a spectacular place to visit if you’re travelling to Europe, whether directly from Singapore or from London via train. Speaking of London, there are plenty of Christmas markets to explore in the city too!
Begin planning your trip for next Christmas and feed the wanderlust in you!
For more updates on Changi Airport, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok, Twitter, Telegram and YouTube. You can also sign up for a Changi Account and have the latest news and articles delivered right to your inbox.
Shop before you fly!
Shop 30 days in advance and up to 12 hours before your flight in the comfort of your own home. Plus, enjoy tax- and duty-free prices and online-exclusive offers. Shop now at iShopChangi!
Be rewarded when you shop at Changi!
Leap into a world of exclusive privileges as a Changi Rewards member. Enjoy GST-absorption for your purchases at participating outlets in the public areas of the airport and more. Sign up for the FREE membership here.
WiFi routers, travel insurance, attraction tickets and more!
Specially curated to meet your travelling needs, Changi Recommends offers an extensive range of travel necessities such as WiFi routers, travel insurance and more to help you get ready for your holiday. Shop now at Changi Recommends!