Planning a trip to the Christmas Markets in Europe? Want to make sure you make the most of your visit? Here are our best tips for visiting European Christmas markets so you can feel ultra festive.
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Visiting Christmas Markets in Europe
Gah, I’m so jealous that you’re considering visiting a Christmas Market in Europe. These markets are some of the prettiest (and most fun!) events in the world. They’re full of stalls, lights, plenty of food (and drink!) and happy people.
Going to one of these markets always makes me feel Christmassy!
If you’re still trying to pick a Christmas Market to visit, why not try one of these biggest Christmas Markets in Europe!
European Christmas Markets tips
In this post, I’m going to share some essential tips we’ve learnt while visiting the best European Christmas Markets. Each market has its own style and atmosphere, but there are some generic tips which apply to all of the best Christmas markets in Europe to help you have the best experience.
So grab a mug of glühwein (that’s the warm, spiced mulled wine famous throughout Europe Christmas Markets) and start taking notes!
What do you wear to a Christmas Market in Europe?
Christmas in Europe is a big deal. Pretty much the whole month of December (and often part of November) includes festivities, visits to traditional markets and making of crafts.
European Christmas markets tend to happen in the weeks before Christmas… in December. Which means, for most of Europe, it’s COLD and probably snowy. And you want that.
Christmas markets in the sunshine are just not the same, even though I do love these 7 warm, winter destinations in Spain.
But the cold means you need to dress appropriately.
Basic European Christmas Market attire is:
- Warm coat
- Thick/ polo-neck jumper
- Snuggly warm scarf
- Hats and gloves are a must!
- Comfortable shoes/ boots- see below
- Bag- ideally a small rucksack or large tote for safely storing your purchases and souvenirs. Something with a secure zip is good- sadly, these places are full of pickpockets or opportunists.
It’s totally possible to look cute and warm… but go for warm first so that you can really enjoy your time at the market instead of freezing!
What shoes do you wear to a Christmas Market Europe?
No heels. Not now, not ever. NO-ONE is wearing them, I promise. If you have to wear them, at least make them wedged boots, but be careful not to slip in the snow.
I suggest flat boots or even walking shoes if you’re going super casual. Just make sure they’re waterproof (slush and melting snow gets in EVERYWHERE!)
Make sure the shoes are comfy– you’ll be spending several hours walking, standing up while you eat, drink and possibly dance – the German Christmas markets are particularly famous for dancing around the Christmas tree or old town square!
How long does a Christmas Market in Europe last?
European Christmas markets generally run from the late November until 23rd/24th December. Some markets can run until the beginning of January, but they are not so common.
Most Christmas markets in Europe are free to visit (although of course you’ll probably buy food/ drink/ trinkets while you’re there), but some, like Tivoli Gardens market & amusement park in Copenhagen or the Winter Wonderland in London, charge an entrance fee just to get in.
Make sure you research your chosen Europe Christmas Market carefully to see if you need tickets, as they can sell out quickly, especially on weekends.
Want to combine your trip to the Christmas markets with another activity? Why not bring/ hire a motorhome and experience ski camping/ motorhome skiing!
Can you buy food & drink at Christmas Markets Europe?
Absolutely! Honestly, the locals often use the markets more than the tourists, especially after work and especially in Germany. I spent a fantastic few days in Munich just before Christmas and it was a wonderful atmosphere with both locals and tourists joining in.
Most European Christmas Markets will have:
- many (many!) stalls selling beer (usually local brew)
- gluhwein or even hot-buttered rum (which is AMAZING)
- a non-alcoholic warm drink (often warm apple juice or hot chocolate)
- They will also provide water (you may have to pay)
- street food such as hotdogs (bratwurst sausages with various sauces/ fillings)
- cheese in many many forms
- crepes (thin pancakes with sweet or savoury fillings)
- Nuts- roasted nuts, salted nuts, caramelised and warm chestnuts!
- sweets / pick & mix
There will often be a covered seating area or two, but these get full very quickly, so expect to stand whilst you eat and drink.
Alternatively, don’t be scared to share tables. This is very common and a great way to meet people as you relax and take in the festivities around you.
TOP TIP– The glühwein often comes in collectable mugs in various shapes/ designs. There’s often a different souvenir design each year, and each market has their own style, so they make a lovely stocking filler/ gift/ memento.
If you’re in France (and especially at the Christmas markets in Paris, Strasbourg and Colmar) they will sell vin chaud instead of gluhwein- it’s basically the same thing.
Christmas markets are generally held in large towns and cities across Europe, so you will have a selection of restaurants, cafes, bars, beer halls and other eating places to enjoy as you wish.
What can you buy at European Christmas markets?
So. Many. Things.
That’s one of the things I love most about Christmas markets- they are all so different. However, all seem to have some form of:
- Christmas decorations, often wooden
- Christmas/ advent calendars
- Candles/ lights
- Personalised signs/ plaques/ toys- make wonderful gifts for children
- Delicious smelling strands of dried oranges, cinnamon, nutmeg and other spices. I LOVE these! Whether we’re living in the motorhome or the boat, they make everything smell amazing.
Each country has slightly different tastes and designs- that’s what makes it all so fun. Yes, the goods are expensive, but you don’t need to buy anything if you really don’t want to- just go and enjoy the atmosphere.
However, I defy anyone to not buy ANYTHING- there is just too much temptation!
Best Christmas Market Europe Tips- Cash is King
Some stalls will accept cards, but not always. Get a supply of the local European currency in cash (small notes/ coins are useful).
Remember, not all European countries use the Euro.
Do they speak English at European Christmas Markets?
You need to remember that you are visiting a foreign country, where they speak a different language. Learning simple terms such as ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘how much’ will go a long way to increase friendliness.
Don’t forget- they’re dealing with rude tourists day in, day out for 6 weeks straight!!
Having said that, most vendors will speak English, and even if they don’t, you will not be the first English speaker they have had to deal with.
Many signs are in picture form or English (especially on food stalls), so you can just point and say please, or try to pronounce it in an appalling accent and accept that they will laugh at you (kindly!)
If you really want to ensure they speak English, check out some of the best UK Christmas markets.
Are there things for kids to do?
Yes. Most European Christmas markets have some form of entertainment for kids, whether that’s a ferris wheel, carousel, Santa train or grotto, ice skating rinks (for the whole family) or crafts in the City Hall.
European Christmas Market Tips: Book in Advance if needed
Some of the attractions may be ticketed and can sell out VERY quickly. So, for the best Christmas in Europe, try to book your tickets in advance online.
Alternatively, head there first thing in the morning and book your tickets for later in the day, or ride while it’s quiet!
Some Christmas Markets in Europe put on musical concerts. These can be free or paid, so again, try to find out in advance and book tickets if you need to.
Where is the Biggest Christmas Market in Europe?
The biggest Christmas Market in Europe is in Nuremberg, Germany.
What is the best way to see the European Christmas Markets?
There are several ways to experience the Christmas Markets around Europe. You could:
- Do a self-drive road trip
- Take a coach tour
- Go on a Christmas Market River Cruise
- Plan a train trip
- Or fly in to the main cities for the weekend.
There are plenty of options for all schedules and budgets. Have a wonderful Christmas!
Other Posts you might find useful:
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Kat never planned to buy a motorhome. She also never planned to quit her job as an air traffic controller, go touring around Europe in said motorhome, start one of the UK’s largest motorhome travel websites… or get a cocker spaniel.
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