It’s December and, depending on where you are in the world, the decorations have gone up. Lights glimmer and sparkle, cutting through the cold nights, bringing the promise of warmth and good cheer. Christmas is only a few weeks away, and what better way to get into the festive spirit than by dropping by a Christmas market — the wooden stalls side-by-side touting artisanal gifts, the heady scent of mulled wine and spices wafting through the air, the infectious feeling of merriment that fills the atmosphere…
Feeling festive? Join us on a whistle-stop tour of ten of the very best Christmas markets from around the world.
The Advent Basilica
When: 17 November 2023–1 January 2024
Don’t miss: The light show projected onto the front of the Basilica – spectacular!
The Advent Basilica is held each year in the iconic square in front of Budapest’s spectacular St Stephen’s Basilica. It has been voted ‘Europe’s Best Christmas Market’ three times — and with good reason. From the beautiful, large Christmas tree bedecked with colourful lights at the head of the ice rink, to the rows of stalls selling traditional wares made by local craftsmen and designers, there is a true feeling of spontaneous festive joy all around. The air is filled with delicious smells coming from the city’s best food vendors, serving an array of Hungarian culinary delights like lángos, gingerbread, goulash and Palinka, a strong fruit brandy. There is also a programme of live events daily, adding a touch of magic to the already Christmassy atmosphere.
Riga Christmas Market
When: 3 December 2023–1 January 2024
Don’t miss: The Riga light trail, experience a winter wonderland walking through Opera Square, Bastejkalns, and Kronvalda Park, around the theme of fairy tales.
Starting on the first Sunday of Advent, the Riga Christmas market is a highlight of the festive season in the Latvian capital. Pretty lights illuminate Dome Square, as visitors walk between rows of stalls that line the snow-covered streets – a sight reminiscent of classic Christmas cards. The weekend programme features an amazing line-up of DJs, choirs, music ensembles and folk music performances, and for the children, a long-awaited visit to Santa’s house. Visitors can also sample local sweets and delicacies from the street food vendors while shopping for gifts from the myriad of Latvian artisans present.
Marché de Noël
When: 24 November–24 December 2023
Don’t miss: The advent village in Petite France for concerts and workshops.
The Marché de Noël in Strasbourg – fondly dubbed ‘the Capital of Christmas’ – is the oldest and most iconic in France. As the festive season approaches, the city sparkles to life with the help of thousands of lights, trees and decorations, making it the perfect backdrop for the Christmas market of dreams. Market stalls selling food and souvenirs line the Place de la Cathédrale, Strasbourg’s bustling main square, while the equally grand Place Kléber hosts the Grand Sapin, the 30-metre Christmas tree. The historical market or Christkindelsmärik at Place Broglie dates back to 1871 and offers all the best traditional market fare, like sausages, fresh pretzels and vin chaud. Other highlights include the small producers’ market at Place des Meuniers, the quainter market at Place du Temple-Neuf, and The Alsatian Delicacies Market at Place du Marché-des-Poissons.
The Bruges Christmas Market
When: 24 November 2023–7 January 2024
Don’t miss: Winter Glow, a light experience trail through the heart of Bruges.
The Bruges market is perhaps the dreamiest, most romantic of Belgium’s Christmas markets, set against the fairytale-like background of this magical city. The market is traditionally held at two locations, the first – and bigger of the two – on the main square known as the Grote Markt, and the second, smaller one, on Simon Stevinplein Square. Although there are many delightful food, drinks and gift stalls at both markets, the real attraction of Bruges at Christmas is walking through the city itself, all lit up and filled with festive cheer.
Marché de Noël et des traditions de Longueuil
When: 24 November–17 December 2023
Don’t miss: The chalet-style bar serving mulled wine while the snow falls outside.
This yearly event takes place in the suburban town of Longueuil, just outside of Montréal, and is considered Québec’s most authentic Christmas market. Celebrating a mixture of French–Canadian traditions and German folklore, the market features some of the province’s best artisans, festive treats and, of course, its very own Santa Claus.
The Union Square Holiday Market
New York City, USA
When: 16 November–24 December 2023
Don’t miss: Pick up unique gifts, treasures and treats from some of New York’s best makers and artists.
New York City is synonymous with Christmas, with some of the best-loved films of the season being set in its magical surroundings (Home Alone, anyone?). The city hosts numerous markets, from the famous Winter Village at Bryant Park to the more traditional Holiday Fair at Grand Central Station. The open-air market at Union Square (voted the top holiday market in America by Yelp in 2023) offers a curated selection of over 150 local small businesses selling clothing, unique holiday gifts and delicious food and drink stalls. The market is open seven days a week, opening up on Thanksgiving weekend.
The Ultimate Christmas Market
When: 3 December 2023
Don’t miss: Pony rides and other fun activities for children.
How about a Christmas market in the sunshine? With over 150 stalls taking over the city’s Entertainment Square, Sydney’s Ultimate Christmas Market is the one not to miss. This one-day-only event spotlights small businesses and local makers, bringing the local community together in a historic location for some mingling, shopping and festive fun. Market-goers can sample gourmet cuisine from all over the world, and browse the eclectic collection of stalls offering everything from fashion to homewares, art, craft, plants, photography, pet goods, toys, gifts and candles.
The Salzburg Christkindlmarkt
When: 23 November 2023–1 January 2024
Don’t miss: The sing-along choir, which is open to singers from the general public.
The Christmas market on Cathedral Square in Salzburg is one of the oldest Advent markets in the world, with origins dating back as far as 1491. Each year the city is suffused with the glow of Yuletide spirit, as the warm fairy lights go up and the traditional stalls move into the square, the delicious smells of mulled wine and hot punch wafting through the air. As well as the stalls, the market runs a daily programme of events, including readings, Krampus parades, guided tours and choral concerts.
The Gdańsk Christmas Market
When: 21 November–23 December 2023
Don’t miss: The traditional nutcrackers, official fair mascots dating back to the 18th century.
Considered one of ‘the most beautiful fairs in Europe’, the Gdańsk Christmas market creates a delightful winter wonderland like no other. What makes it so unique are its special attractions, including the mistletoe-lined ‘lover’s lane’, the Christmas windmill encircled by the Three Wise Men, and the dreamy Venetian carousel. Along with the delicious hot food vendors, mulled wine sellers and shopping stalls that line the busy streets, it is these cheerful amusements that make the Gdańsk Christmas market the perfect place to get you in the festive spirit.
When: 29 November–24 December 2023
Don’t miss: The historic Ferris wheel lifting you high into the air for a magical bird’s eye view of the market below.
2023 marks the 589th edition of the Dresden Striezelmarkt, the oldest Christmas market in Germany. Located in the Altmark area of the city, it boasts some of the ‘world’s largest’ attractions, including a 15-metre-tall step pyramid and walk-in candle arch. The market’s historical roots mean that it’s held onto much of its old-world charm, from the funfair rides to the fairytale forest with a children’s railway and traditional puppet theatre. There is also a bakery where, among other delights, Dresdner Christstollen is baked in a wood-fired oven, and a showcase of handicrafts from the nearby Ore Mountains.