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 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.
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 fair, 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 until December 26, 2018.
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 glasswares—as well as Czech specialities, from mulled mead, a hot honey drink, to trdelnik, a walnut cake baked on a spit.
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 remain open until Epiphany (January 6, 2019).
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 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 closes on December 30, 2018.
The Cathedral Christmas Market in Cologne, Germany
Every December, the Cathedral Christmas Market pops up in Cologne's city center. Like other Christmas markets, this fair 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 until December 23, 2018.
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 so much more 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!
The Tallinn Christmas Market closes on January 7, 2019.
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 until Christmas Eve.