Few things embody the festive spirit quite like a good Christmas market. Whether you choose to wander through the stalls in search of the perfect gift for loved ones, or take to the food stalls to sample the warming local cuisine, odds are you’ll be filled to the brim with yuletide spirit.
We are lucky to be living in Europe, home to countless Christmas markets, crafts and cultures, all within reach by car or a short plane journey. With many of these destinations, there’s also a possibility of experiencing a bit of snow, something we rarely get the chance to see in Ireland.
Looking to offerings both at home and abroad, we’ve compiled a list of the best Christmas markets Europe has to offer, so that you can book that last minute holiday or make a mental note on your bucket list for future bouts of impulsive wanderlust.
This year the Budapest Christmas market takes place from November 10th to December 31st in Vörösmarty Square. Visitors can expect an abundance of food, drink, music and entertainment.
Make sure to try some of the local cuisine, especially lángos, a battered bread that tastes a bit like a doughnut. You can have any topping known to man on your lángos, including chocolate, ice-cream, fruit and even meat and vegetables.
Where to Stay: The Starlight Suiten Hotel, located less than 1km from the city centre, is currently offering rooms for €110 a night and the 3-star Magazine Hotel & Apartments, located steps from St. Stephen’s Basilica, has rooms for €70 per night in November.
With magnificent Vienna as your backdrop and an age-old tradition of Christmas markets, there are few people who would pass up a chance to visit this city during the festive season.
From seasonal treats to handcrafted goods, while away the hours at more than 20 markets in the city, with the Viennese Christmas Market being the highlight.
Located in front of city hall, this market boasts international choir performances, a special children’s area with cookie and candle-making classes and of course, all the stalls you could ever want.
This year, the market is open from November 18th to December 30th. You can fly from Dublin to Vienna with Aer Lingus.
Where to Stay: The 4-star Graben Hotel, located 200 metres from the city centre, is offering rooms from €177 per night, while the 3-star Pension Riedl, a 10-minute walk from the centre, has rooms from €89.
Spend Christmas in the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen for a truly magical festive season with the family. Let fairy lights guide you around about 60 market stalls in the amusement park’s gardens, with Christmas music filling the area as you browse decorations, knitted goods, crafts as well as food and drink.
The light shows are sure to enchant the oldest and youngest of visitors as they illuminate over the lake. The markets are open from November 18th to December 21st, with a special fireworks festival running from December 25th to 27th.
Those seeking a Danish experience this Christmas can fly from Dublin to Copenhagen with Ryanair.
Where to Stay: The 4-star First Copenhagen hotel, located 3.9km from the city centre, has rooms from €175 a night. Closer to the centre and Tivoli Gardens, you’ll find the 3-star Hotel Ansgar, with prices from €209 per night.
From November 10th to December 20th, Manchester city’s Albert Square will be transformed into a wonderful winter wonderland. The area just outside the town hall will act as the main hub for this year’s Christmas Markets.
Launched in 1999, the markets have grown to sprawl across the city and they attract millions of visitors each year. French and German-themed markets are among the multiple festive sites in the city.
The Manchester Christmas markets are a great option for Irish people as you can easily fly across the pond with both Aer Lingus and Ryanair. Aer Lingus operates flights from both Dublin and Cork, while Ryanair flies to the UK city from Dublin.
Where to Stay: The Doubletree By Hilton Manchester is offering rooms from €158 per night and the Britannia Manchester Hotel has rooms from €93 per night. Both hotels are within a short walking distance to the Christmas Markets on Albert Square.
Prague’s main Christmas markets are taking place this year in the city’s two beautiful and historic squares: Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square. Running from December 2nd to January 6th 2018, visitors can soak up Prague’s charm as they enjoy festive carols, handcrafted goods, hearty local cuisine and some steaming hot beverages.
The Christmas market at the majestic Prague Castle starts a week before the main markets so visitors arriving at the end of November will still be able to experience the charm of Prague’s markets.
The brightly lit Christmas tree in Old Town Square is a real highlight of the festive season, contrasting beautifully with the square’s magnificent architecture. Fly from Dublin to Prague with Aer Lingus and Ryanair.
Where to Stay: Charles Bridge Palace Hotel, close to all major sites and Old Town Square, is offering rooms for €90 per night. For a taste of luxury, the 5-star Grand Mark Hotel, located a stone’s throw from Old Town Square, has rooms from €190 per night.
You can’t mention Christmas without considering Berlin among the must-visit Christmas markets in the world. In fact, Germany is so perfect at hosting Christmas markets, you’re likely going to have a great time wherever you visit, be it Dresden, Leipzig, Frankfurt or Cologne.
As for Berlin, expect mulled wine, traditional crafts and maybe even snow. If you ever need a break from all the festive cheer, you’ll be in one of Europe’s great cities with an endless supply of museums and cultural attractions.
Berlin should be very close to, if not on top of your Christmas market wish list, with most of the city’s markets running from November 27th to December 23rd. Fly to Berlin from Dublin this Christmas with Aer Lingus and Ryanair.
Where to Stay: The Amano Grand Central hotel, located 1.2km from the Reichstag Building in the city centre, has rooms from €89, while the luxury hotel Maritim proArte Hotel near Brandenburg Gate, has rooms from €107 per night.
If you’re not in a position to leave Ireland this Christmas, there are some great options closer to home. Keep reading for the best Christmas markets Ireland has to offer.
From November 17th to December 22nd, Eyre Square will play host to more than 50 wooden chalets as part of the Galway Continental Christmas Market.
This is the market’s eighth year, with plenty of activities and stalls for people of all ages, including the popular German Bier Keller, Santa’s Grotto and much more.
Food lovers will instantly be drawn to the Bratwurst, French pastries, crêpes and soothing glasses of mulled wine. For more information about Christmas in Galway, visit galwaytourism.ie.
Where to Stay: The Ardilaun Hotel is only 10 minutes walk from the city centre and has rooms from €54 per night. Also, The Meyrick Hotel overlooking Eyre Square has rooms from €89 per night.
The Belfast Christmas Market returns to Belfast City Hall this year, taking place from November 18th to December 23rd. This year’s market is gearing up to be the city’s best yet, with an abundance of crafts and gifts on offer, as well as a bustling Santa’s Grotto for the kids.
Visitors to the market will also get the opportunity to taste a wide array of local and international food and drink. For more information about Christmas in Belfast, visit visitbelfast.com.
Where to Stay: The 5-star Merchant Hotel in Belfast city centre has rooms from €247 per night, while Bullitt Hotel has rooms from €135 per night.
Visit Ireland’s oldest city this Christmas with Waterford’s Winterval festival. From November 17th to Deceber 23rd, the city transforms into a winter wonderland, with Christmas markets, an illuminating light show, an impressive ice rink and much more.
New this year is a giant Ferris wheel and some craft workshops. While there are many free experiences on offer, there are some ticketed events during the festival, including the anticipated Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs pantomime.
For more information about Christmas in Waterford, visit winterval.ie.
Where to Stay: Athenaeum House Hotel is just a 20-minute walk from the city centre and the 4-star hotel currently has rooms from €67 per night. The luxurious Waterford Castle Hotel, which also boasts its own Christmas fair, has rooms from €79 per night.
Christmas at Dublin’s CHQ on George’s Dock is the perfect way to kick-start your festive season. There are also a number of other markets around the city throughout the festive season, including the Dublin Flea Christmas Market, which takes place from December 7th to 10th.
However, the official dates for the rest of this year’s Dublin Christmas festivities have yet to be announced. Stay tuned for more information closer to December.
Where to Stay: There’s so much choice in Dublin, with The Westbury Hotel, located right in the heart of Grafton Street shopping district, offering rooms from €352 per night. The 5-star Merrion Hotel, also close to all amenities, is offering rooms from €270 per night.
Sarah has always had a great love of travel, food and photography. Following her journalism degree at DCU, she developed a passion for travel writing while living in Spain.
Sarah loves exploring new places and sampling the local cuisine. Working with TheTaste.ie combines her love of food and travel.