There’s undoubtedly something special about European Christmas markets. However, it’s even more special when you can experience the magic of the holidays IN Europe. Consider a trip across the pond during the winter season to celebrate with the locals and shop for unique gifts, soak in the atmosphere and get in the holiday spirit! 

Christmas markets in Europe begin in late November and wrap just before Christmas, so it’s entirely possible that you can enjoy a European Christmas Market and make it home in time for December 25. Who knows, maybe you will even bring some new traditions home to your family!

The first European Christmas markets date back to the Middle Ages. The purpose of these markets was for residents to stock up on necessities for the cold winter months. What started as merchants selling specialty food items turned into an epicenter for locals selling and buying treats and crafts. Eventually, the European Christmas Market that we know today was born! Due to the time these markets were open, it’s not surprising that many Europeans took the opportunity to not only stock up on necessities but to buy gifts for friends and family in time for the holidays.

The oldest running Christmas market dates back to 1434 and is still active today! Located in Dresden, Germany, Tenon Tours travelers can travel to this historical city to embrace the magical Christmas season in an exciting and traditional way. Other popular Christmas markets throughout Germany include Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt, Cologne, Hamburg, and most large cities. Small towns are known to have their own Christmas markets as well, and some even have more than one!

European Christmas Markets often take place within the center of a city. Apart from convenience, this location offers a picturesque setting as residents and visitors alike can peruse local goods within a historical town square. Combined with the bustle of the shoppers, perhaps some falling snow (and maybe even the Northern Lights), you have the perfect recipe for a magical atmosphere.

So, what can you expect while visiting these markets? We believe that the atmosphere in itself is worth traveling for, even if you have completed most (or all) of your Christmas shopping. The simple experience of sipping mulled red wine (known as Glühwein in Germany) or hot chocolate as you stroll through the vendor stalls decorated for the season is the ideal combination of excitement and ease. Each market features an array of locally-made items, ornaments, toys, and other wares. Try some of the baked goods and other traditional treats, both sweet and savory. With twinkling lights and glowing fires, laughter and music, the sights and sounds are sure to delight you. Additional activities such as fireworks, ice skating, performances, concerts, and cultural events often coincide with the markets.

Although Germany may be best known for, and home to, some of the oldest European Christmas Markets, they are not exclusive to Germany. In fact, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, England, Scotland, Ireland and the Nordic countries of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, all have Christmas market traditions. The possible combinations of countries and Christmas markets are virtually endless!

Of course, the Christmas spirit is alive and well in the Nordics – in fact, Santa Claus himself lives in Finland – and can offer a wide variety of winter activities. From dog sledding and skiing to sleeping in an ice or snow hotel and hunting for the Northern Lights, there is something to do for every family, couple or even solo traveler. Once such an experience takes you to the heart of Santa’s village in Rovaniemi, where you can meet his elves and reindeer. When combined with a trip to a specialty Christmas Market, there couldn’t be a better place to be during the holiday season!

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