There is nothing quite as merry and bright as a Christmas market. Featuring festive stalls that sell Christmas-y crafts, toasty treats, and warm drinks, wandering around a Christkindlmarkt is like walking in a winter wonderland, with cheer around every corner.
With roots in medieval Germany, this annual advent tradition is now popular in cities, towns, and villages around the world. To get you in the holiday spirit, we've picked out a selection of the best Christmas markets in the world, each of which makes a charming destination for the whole family.
Wiener Weihnachtstraum in Vienna, Austria
Every year, Wiener Rathausplatz, Vienna's town hall square, is transformed into Wiener Weihnachtstraum, or the “Viennese Christmas Dream.” In this traditional Austrian festival, visitors will find all the trimmings that have come to define Christmas markets, like handmade goodies and hot mulled wine, as well as an ice skating rink and even Christmas carolers.
What makes this market truly special, however, is its “dreamlike backdrop of the City Hall,” a luminous 19th-century Neo-Gothic landmark.
Wiener Weihnachtstraum will be open from November 19 until December 26, 2022.
Christmas Market at Old Town Square in Prague, Czech Republic
Prague's Christmas Market at Old Town Square is one of the capital city's most beloved traditions. Here, you'll find European market staples—including hand-carved wooden toys and hand-crafted glassware—as well as Czech specialties, from mulled mead, a hot honey drink, to trdelnik, a walnut cake baked on a spit. It's an ideal location for finding one-of-a-kind gifts.
This year, the market's nativity scene also hosts a miniature menagerie of animals, including sheep, a llama, and a donkey, which is particularly popular with little ones.
This fair will be open from November 24, 2022 until Epiphany (January 6, 2023).
The Christmas Market in the Place de la Cathédrale in Strasbourg, France
Paris may be the capital of France, but Strasbourg is the “capital of Christmas“—and for good reason. Starting in late November, the city's Christmas market in the Place de la Cathédrale warmly welcomes the holiday season with “300 wooden stalls, kilometers of fairy lights, the majestic Great Christmas Tree, dazzling shows and concerts, and an unforgettable Christmas celebration.”
Here, locals and tourists alike will enjoy tasting all sorts of sweets from the Alsace region, like bredele, a sugar-and-spice Christmas cookie, and hot wine.
This Christkindelsmärik opens on November 25 and closes on December 30, 2022.
The Cathedral Christmas Market in Cologne, Germany
Every December, the Cathedral Christmas Market pops up in Cologne's city center. Like other Christmas markets, vendors offers a range of regional specialties, from sausage to stollen, a German fruit cake.
This market also offers a picturesque view of the Cologne Cathedral, Northern Europe's largest Gothic church, as well as a program boasting 100 musical performances and other forms of festive entertainment.
This market is open from November 22 until December 23, 2022.
Tallinn Christmas Market, Estonia
Since 1441, Tallinn, Estonia, has adorned its Town Hall Square with a decorated tree. This makes it the first place in Europe to set up a Christmas tree—and the perfect place to have a Christmas market!
While the Christmas tree is the star of the show, this market has much more magic in store. In addition to local merchants who “offer Estonian Christmas cuisine, from black pudding and sour cabbage to gingerbread and hot Christmas drinks,” it also features another special guest: Jõuluvana, or Santa Claus!
And before you go, remember to take a tour of the local shops and pick up some artisan ornaments and hot chocolate.
The Tallinn Christmas Market opens on November 25, 2022, and closes on January 8, 2022.
Vörösmarty Square in Budapest, Hungary
If you venture into Budapest, Hungary, you will have a choice of beautiful Christmas markets to choose from. The oldest fair is centered in the historic downtown in Vörösmarty Square and features an extravagant, tall Christmas tree. Accompanying the festive decorations are numerous vendors selling yummy treats, like freshly baked horn cake and hot mulled wine.
In the distance, you will also have a gorgeous view of the snow-capped mountains, which will surely put you in the mood to jump on the ice skating rink in Városliget, near the Vajdahunyad Castle.
The Christmas fair in Vörösmarty Square will be open from November 18 to December 28, 2022.
The Christkindl Market in Chicago, Illinois
Finally, if you're American and believe that there's no place like home for the holidays, you'll be happy to know that this medieval tradition has made its way to the United States. Most of these fairs stay true to their Germanic roots, with Chicago's Christkindl Market even retaining the name.
Nestled in the Chicago Loop, this charming market puts a modern twist on the tradition. While its handcrafted nutcrackers, cuckoo clocks, and beer steins will transport you to age-old Europe, its beautiful business district setting will remind you that you're in one of America's most sensational cities.
This year, the Christkindl Market will be open from November 14 until Christmas Eve.