December is a good time to fly to Europe. If you didn’t catch a deal on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, you can still catch some off-season dates before Christmas and New Year’s. That means cheap flights, less people, and affordable accommodation. (Also, has anyone noticed how strong the dollar is to the Euro right now?)
One of the best reasons to hit up Europe this month is the proliferation of Christmas markets across the continent. You’ll be able to gorge yourself on mulled wines, spicy cakes, fire roasted salmon, and an endless array of cured meats.
Below are some of our favorite Christmas markets around the continent that are worth the short daylight hours, cold weather, and a 6-9 hour flight across the Atlantic.
Innsbruck’s Christmas in the Mountains — Innsbruck, Austria
In every small village dotted through the valleys of the Austrian alps, you’ll find a Christkindlmarkt. They are joyous, festive affairs featuring plenty of mulled wine and the best spaetzle (think mac & cheese) that you’ll ever taste. Oh, and there’s also a pack of f*cking terrifying monsters called Krampus rampaging through the streets (mostly on Dec 7).
Innsbruck ups the Christkindl game dramatically with not one but six markts. The central market is right in the middle of the medieval town center, where crowds have been gathering to celebrate the season on the same cobbled streets for hundreds of years. Less than a mile away, the Market Square bazaar features a 46-foot-tall Christmas tree, bedecked with Swarovski crystals (the company is based just out of town and their trippy museum at the factory is an unexpected highlight).
If you go, try the winter punsch, the glüwein, and the aforementioned spaetzle — you’re sure to feel the holiday spirit warming you from the inside out.
Bath Christmas Market — Bath, England
Bath is the England of yore. It’s medieval. There are cathedrals. The pubs are quaint and full of black puddings and endless pints by the fire. You get the picture.
Bath’s Christmas Market is often cited as the best in all of Britain. Sprawling out from Abbey Churchyard, you’ll get all the Christmas-y aspects of the markets and still be in a country that speaks English. Sounds like a win.
Kerstmarkt — Brugge, Belgium
In Bruges was a great movie thanks, in no small part, to the beauty of the film’s baroque location. Brugge’s Kerstmarkt allows the Christmas reveler to explore the beauty of the city while enjoying all things Christmas and Belgian — like some of the best beer and waffles on earth.
Marché de Noël de Strasbourg — Strasbourg, France
Strasbourg straddles the border between France and Germany. In fact it’s often been a German city. The city is steeped in diverse history, stunning architecture, and the best bits of French and German cuisine.
It’s also known as France’s Christmas capital, making Strasbourg the perfect destination for a fabulously idyllic French noël.
Christkindlesmarkt — Nuremberg, Germany
Bavaria is a stunning state in southern Germany — smashing beer, postcard perfect villages, and glorious alps make it a primo destination for any traveler. Choosing a Christmas market in Bavaria is no easy task, so we went with Germany’s most respected and iconic market in the medieval old town of Nuremberg. Expect very large crowds. Luckily, the glühwein never stops flowing.
Kultur- und Weihnachtsmarkt Schloß Schönbrunn — Vienna, Austria
There are a lot of pros for visiting Austria: the alps, they invented schnitzel, Viennese cafe culture and the chocolate cake that comes with it. Also, it’s a lot more affordable than it’s neighbors.
Vienna’s Schloß Schönbrunn is a gorgeous architectural stop that sparkles when the massive Christmas market opens up. And if you get too cold wandering the schnitzel and mulled wine stands, you can always pop in the palace for a tour.
Staroměstské náměstí — Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is probably best known for its well-preserved cobbled streets and delicious beer. Old Town Square throws up an array of little brown huts that bring the full Czech Christmas experience of beer and pork to the country’s most beautiful city square. There are even blacksmiths working who’ll make you a completely one-of-a-kind Christmas gift to bring home.
Tivoli — Copenhagen, Denmark
If you’re a foodie, then Copenhagen is likely already near the top of your travel bucket list. But during the holiday season, it becomes a full-on culinary playground. Go to Tivoli, where they deck the halls like nobody’s business for a Danish Christmas extravaganza.
One thing’s for sure, the food and drink will be among the best in the world.
Vörösmarty tér Christmas Fair and Winter Festival — Budapest, Hungary
Hungary is a Magyar micro-culture surrounded by mostly Slavic nations — meaning the language, food, drink, and people are strikingly different than everyone around them. In Budapest during Christmas, this uniqueness is on full display at the Vörösmarty tér market where huge chunks of pork sit next to delightfully spicy and smokey sausages waiting to be washed down with copious amounts of Hungarian wine, or Tokaji.
Schloss Charlottenburg — Berlin, Germany
Germany is the land of Christmas markets. Every city, town, and village will have them. Most of the cities have a Christmas market in every neighborhood, meaning you can spend the day touring different markets getting ripped on mulled wine and fire-roasted ham.
Berlin has over a dozen great Christkindl Markts to choose from, but by far the most picturesque for your Instagram feed, and full of the best food is the market at Schloss Charlottenburg. Try the fire-roasted salmon on a baked potato and then wash it all down with a glühwein with a shot of Amaretto inside. Santa would be proud.