There are few experiences more wonderful than spending the holiday season in Europe. Take a stroll around the quaint old towns of European capitals, watch the snow-capped cathedrals, and drink mulled wine from small neighborhood bars.
Christmas markets originated in Europe, which explains why no place in the world can put on a Christmas market as Europe does. From late November until early January, Europe transforms its cities into magical fairy-tale lands of lights, freshly baked pastries, and Christmas decorations. Unfortunately, not unlike last year, many Christmas markets around Europe have been canceled this year due to the Covid pandemic. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy plenty of them!
We’ve put together a list of five European Christmas markets that are still running, along with an overview of the covid safety measures they are taking.
Bruges is a city in Northern Belgium known for its cobbled streets, canals, and medieval buildings. On any typical day during the year, Bruges is probably one of the most beautiful and romantic cities you can visit. Now add crisp white snow, an ice rink lit with fairy lights, mulled wine, and a freshly baked Belgium waffle to the equation, and you have Bruges Christmas Market.
The market spans the city, and you’ll need at least a couple of days to visit all the stalls comfortably. Expect to find local delicacies such as world-class chocolate, cheese, and Belgian beers. While you’re there, go on the Winter Glow walk, a 2.5 mile (4 kilometer) magically illuminated walk through the city.
When: From November 26th, 2021, to January 9th, 2022.
Corona Measures: This year, the market will be cordoned off, and visitors must wear a mask and show a Covid Safe Ticket to gain entrance.
Edinburgh’s Christmas market is considered one of the most remarkable Christmas markets in the UK. This year one of the most spectacular new ice rinks in the UK is set to open, and visitors can put on their skates and enjoy the ice while sipping on mulled Irn Bru (a Scottish soda), spiced cider or hot chocolate. Remember to buy your tickets for the ice skating ahead of your visit at the Edinburgh Christmas Market website.
The market is divided into three different areas: the traditional market in East Princes Street Gardens, Santa Land for the children in West Princes Street Garden, and the ice rink, food, and drink stalls at George Street. Expect to find a Christmas Tree Maze, bumper cars, Ferris wheel, carol concerts, light shows and much more.
When: From November 22nd, 2021, to January 4th, 2022.
Corona Measures: Visitors are asked to wear a face mask inside any venue, and payments will be contactless only.
Traveling to Edinburgh via London? Be sure to check out Where to Find the Best Christmas Lights in London.
Since the late ’90s, Hungary has taken up the habit of organizing different kinds of Christmas fairs. If you make it to Budapest in December, you can enjoy not one but two different markets within walking distance of each other. The market at Vorosmarty Square is tucked into the city center and is Budapest’s oldest Christmas market. You will find traditional Hungarian goods, food stalls, and Christmas concerts. The Basilica is an award-winning market that offers the usual handicrafts and delicacies, an ice rink surrounding a massive Christmas tree, a light projection onto the Basilica church itself, and traditional folk-dance shows.
When: November 19th, 2021, to December 31st, 2021
Corona Measures: Visitors must demonstrate a valid immunity certificate to enter the markets and the markets are offering cashless payment methods. Wearing a face mask is recommended but not mandatory.
Basel has a deep-rooted tradition for being the Christmas city of Switzerland. The medieval town is situated on the scenic river Rhine and is one of the most important cultural centers in Europe in relation to its size. The Christmas market in Basel is known as the biggest and most beautiful market in Switzerland and is nestled into the historic Old Town. More than 130 stalls offer traditional Swiss goods.
Indulge in genuine Basel Läckerli (a cousin to gingerbread), waffles, Swiss raclette, and grilled sausages. Get a unique view of the sea of light in the market by climbing the steps of the Basel Cathedral. And don’t miss drinking mulled wine at the Christmas pyramid on Münsterplass.
When: November 25th, 2021, to December 23rd, 2021.
Corona Measures: Visitors over age 16 must show a valid Swiss or EU Covid certificate to enter the market. Persons vaccinated elsewhere can apply for a Swiss vaccination pass.
Tie your Christmas fairytale together with a bow and take a trip through the Swiss Alps on a scenic train ride.
Croatia is the perfect blend of laid back Mediterranean charm and Central European sophistication. Every December, the historic capital of Zagreb hosts some of the most spectacular Christmas markets in Europe, which has led it to win the award for best Christmas market three years in a row.
More than 25 individual markets are spread throughout the city, each with its own theme and atmosphere, yet giving the feel of one all-encompassing market. Find regional cuisine and local delicacies like paprenjaci (gingerbread cookies) and vanillin kiflice (vanilla half-moons). Make sure to head up to the Strossmayer promenade along the city’s medieval walls for a spectacular view of the city.
When: November 27th, 2021, to January 7th, 2022.
Corona Measures: Visitors are advised to keep a distance of at least 2 meters from one another, wash hands regularly, and wear masks indoors.
Looking for more inspiration on how to ring in this holiday season? Here are Nine Holiday Traditions From Around the Globe.