Best Christmas markets in Central Europe for 2022
European cities begin to actively prepare for Christmas as soon as November comes. Windows and house facades are decorated with wreaths, garlands, and spruce branches, and in the evenings’ thousands of lights light up on the streets. On the squares, under the shadow of Christmas trees, small pavilions with souvenirs, gifts, toys, and treats are lined up. Aromas of mulled wine, chocolate, caramel, and gingerbread are already in the air.
When a fairy tale comes to life, it is impossible not to feel the atmosphere of magic. Therefore, choose a route, pack your suitcase and go on an unforgettable winter trip. The best Christmas markets in Europe await those looking for holiday inspiration.
What are the best Christmas Markets in Central Europe you can visit while renting a car in Prague?
1. Prague, Czech Republic 🇨🇿
📅 From November 26, 2022, to January 6, 2023
As your journey starts from Prague, we cannot miss our beautiful city on that list.
Prague Christmas markets are considered to be one of the most beautiful in the world. The most popular holiday market opens on the Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí), where the main Christmas tree of the city stands.
The stalls are dominated by goods of Czech craftsmen – Christmas balls, straw decorations, hand-woven blankets, crystal, and Moravian glass products.
The fair on the Old Town Square is famous for its variety of snacks and drinks. Grilled sausages (klobása), pancakes with berry sauce, garlic-cheese tortillas, and trdelnik, yeast dough buns baked on a wooden spit, are served here. You can also taste traditional Czech lemonades, cider, and mulled wine.
A stage is set up near the Christmas tree. Local and foreign folklore groups perform at the Christmas market every day, and entertainment programs for children and adults are held.
2. Bratislava, Slovakia 🇸🇰
🚗 328 km, 3 h 10 min
📅 From November 24 to December 23, 2022.
At the end of November, the historical center of Bratislava, the Old Town, is filled with the aromas of mulled wine and the sounds of carols. For many years, a Christmas market has been opened on the Main (Hlavné námestie) and Franciscan (Frantiskanske namestie) squares at this time.
Walking around the fairgrounds, it is impossible not to try the local delicacies. The signature dish is potato pancakes (lokshe) with goose liver. They are also served with other fillings – nuts, cheese, and chocolate. Worthy of attention are rolls with poppy seeds, strudel, roasted chestnuts, and potato pancakes. From drinks, beer is recommended – light Topvar or caramel Saris. If you want something stronger, you can order honey or plum brandy.
Slovak herbal liqueur Demänovka, hand-embroidered tablecloths, and dolls in national costumes are brought from the fair as souvenirs.
3. Vienna, Austria 🇦🇹
🚗 300 km, 3 h 50 min
📅 From November 19 to December 26, 2022.
In 2022, more than a dozen holiday markets will operate in the capital of Austria. It takes several days to get around all the Viennese Christmas markets. If there is not much time, it is better to immediately go to the Town Hall Square (Wiener Rathausplatz), where the most grandiose fair in the country, Wiener Christkindlmarkt, opens on November 19th.
By tradition, the entrance to the festive town is a large arch, decorated with stylized candles, Christmas balls, and garlands. Kiosks decorated with spruce branches and lights sell handmade toys, jewelry, ceramics, products of local craftsmen, and dishes. It is better to come here for holiday gifts – you will definitely find something original. And, of course, it is impossible to imagine a European Christmas market without festive treats. Wiener Christkindlmarkt offers the best sweets, traditional Austrian cuisine, and several types of hot punch.
Every year, an ice rink is poured on the Town Hall Square and rides for children work. The park hosts an exhibition of nativity scenes – 12 works of art illustrate biblical scenes. The romantic atmosphere of the fair is complemented by Herzerlbaum – a tree decorated with heart-shaped lanterns. A great view of the fairground opens from the Ferris wheel. And for those who want to take beautiful photos, they installed a huge photo frame into which the Vienna City Hall fits perfectly.
4. Salzburg, Austria 🇦🇹
🚗 374km, 4 h 30 min
📅 From November 17 to January 1, 2023.
On the old city square Residenzplatz, at the foot of the medieval Hohensalzburg castle, the Salzburg Christmas market – Christkindlmarkt – is open from November to January. This is the oldest holiday market in the country – its history dates back to the 17th century.
The trading town is divided into six thematic zones. Everything your heart desires is sold here – from toys and Christmas decorations to handicrafts by local craftsmen. The symbol of Christmas in Salzburg is the Nutcracker. These figurines are in almost every shop.
The smell of roasted almonds and baked apples waft throughout the square. It is impossible to leave here without drinking hot mulled wine or punch. Even children drink them – non-alcoholic options are made for them. Drinks are poured into ceramic mugs with Christmas symbols. The cup can be kept as a souvenir by paying a small amount.
The main Christmas tree of Salzburg rises above the shopping pavilions. Every year, a hundred-year-old tree is donated to the city by one of the communes, and schoolchildren make decorations. Specially designed “starry sky” lighting creates a unique festive atmosphere on the square. Drummers, pianists, a dance group, and the famous Lungau big band will perform on the big stage. Fireworks are planned for New Year’s Eve.
5. Berlin, Germany 🇩🇪
🚗 349 km, 3 h 55 min
📅 From November 21 to December 31, 2022.
At the end of November, the largest and most popular Christmas market, Weihnachtsmarkt am Gendarmenmarkt, opens in Berlin. In 2022, in connection with the reconstruction of Gendarmenmarkt Square, it moves to the neighboring Bebelplatz. You will need to pay a symbolic amount of €1 for entry. Children under 12 years old are admitted free of charge.
In addition to trade tents, craftsmen’s tents will be set up on the square, where you can watch their work: woodcarving, making belts, and clothes. Also, graphic artists, sculptors, and photographers will put up their works for sale. The guests will be entertained by acrobats, angels on stilts, choirs, and music and dance groups.
Weihnachtsmarkt am Gendarmenmarkt is one of the best places to taste traditional German holiday dishes: beef roll with cabbage and mushroom sauce, venison stew, and goose leg stew. The end of the meal should definitely be a Christmas stollen – a fragrant cupcake with nuts, candied fruits, and dried fruits.
6. Dresden, Germany 🇩🇪
🚗 147 km, 1 h 40 min
📅 From November 23 to December 24, 2022.
Striezelmarkt is the oldest Christmas market in Germany, which will open for the 588th time on the Altmarkt square. Her program includes concerts, charity events, theatrical performances, and meetings with Santa Claus. Before Christmas, the city will host several festivals: Dresdner Pfefferkuchenfest, Dresdner Adventskalenderfest, Fest der weihnachtlichen Klänge, Dresdner Pyramidenfest.
More than 200 festively decorated stalls will sell goods for which Saxony is famous: earthenware from Lausitz, lace from Plauen, handicrafts from the Ore Mountains, gingerbread from Pulsnitz, and Christmas stars from Herrnhut. The festive symbol of Dresden is Pflaumentoffel (plum man). This chimney sweep figurine made from prunes is one of the favorite treats for kids.
According to tradition, the world’s largest Christmas pyramid (Weihnachtspyramide), listed in the Guinness Book of Records, will be installed at the Dresden Christmas Market. This festive decoration is a wooden structure in the form of a carousel, which is decorated with candles and carvings. The height of the pyramid, made by the masters of the Ore Mountains, is 14.61 m. Another attraction of the Striezelmarkt is the world’s largest Christmas arch with candles (Schwibbogen).
7. Gdansk, Poland 🇵🇱
🚗 740 km, 8 h 10 min
📅 From November 18 to December 23, 2022.
Gdańsk’s main Christmas market will reopen on Targ Węglowy Square, behind the Great Armoury. In 2022, it will be divided into several thematic zones. A Christmas tree and a Venetian carousel will be installed in St. Nicholas Corner. A snow slide will appear in Santa’s Corner, as well as kiosks with hot chocolate, gingerbread, and fruit. At the Moose Corner, at the gift fair, you can buy handicrafts. In the Joyful Corner, guests will be offered festive delicacies and hot mulled wine. In addition, a huge food court will open at the fair, where you can taste snacks and drinks from all over Europe.
For the first time, a five-meter advent calendar decorated with candles will be installed at the Gdansk Christmas Market. Every day one of its windows will open, showing another surprise. The program of festive events will begin with the Winter Parade on November 20. Santa’s Parade will take place on December 8th. On this day, the fair will be visited by St. Nicholas, angels, snowmen, and elves.
8. Cologne, Germany 🇩🇪
🚗 690 km, 7 h 15 min
📅 From November 17 to December 23, 2022.
By Christmas, several fairs open in Cologne, but the most grandiose – Weihnachtsmarkt am Kölner Dom – takes place on the square in front of the Cathedral. Here the main Christmas tree of the city is decorated, and 130 trade pavilions and craftsmen’s workshops are installed. Christmas carols are heard everywhere, and the aroma of mulled wine, caramelized apples and gingerbread is in the air. Weihnachtsmarkt am Kölner Dom is a popular stop on several European Christmas market river cruises.
In such an atmosphere, it is simply impossible to resist shopping. Vendors vying with each other offer their goods: Christmas decorations and toys, candlesticks, leather and wood products, glass figurines, and dishes. But the most important thing for which the Germans come to the fair with their whole families is food and drinks. Traditional dishes are prepared in pavilions: hot sausages with cabbage, potato pancakes with apple puree, lard with herbs and garlic, various meat delicacies, and desserts.
On a cold winter evening, it is very pleasant to drink hot mulled wine. At local Christmas markets, it is poured into Wimmeltasse ceramic mugs and glass cups, which are redesigned each year. When buying a drink for a mug, a deposit of 3 euros is paid. You don’t have to return it, but keep it as a souvenir.
9. Budapest, Hungary 🇭🇺
🚗 525 km, 5 h 7 min
📅 Vörösmarty Classic Xmas – from November 18 to December 31, 2022,
📅 Advent Basilika – from November 18 to January 1, 2023.
In 2022, residents and visitors of Budapest will have the opportunity to visit two festive markets. Advent Basilika, twice recognized as the most beautiful Christmas market in Europe, will open on November 18 at St. Stephen’s Square. A 12-meter Christmas tree has already been installed here, a skating rink has been flooded and photo zones have been set up. A nativity scene and a huge Christmas wreath will be placed in front of the basilica, candles on which will be lit on Sundays. In the fair pavilions, guests will find a large selection of traditional festive dishes – venison stew, real Swiss raclette, lamb shank, goulash soup in bread, smoked pork, and beef tenderloin sandwiches. Hungarian craftsmen will offer customers unique handicrafts, and blacksmiths will demonstrate their art to the audience. One of the features of Advent Basilika is a three-dimensional light show, the screen for which will be the walls of St. Stephen’s Basilica.
The traditional fair on Vörösmarty Square in 2022 received a new name – Vörösmarty Classic Xmas. Its main attraction will be a large Christmas tree, which will be projected onto the Harisnyaház building. The monument to the Hungarian poet Mihaly Vörösmarty will receive an original festive outfit. The famous Lion Fountain (Oroszlános-kút) will also be redesigned. In the pavilions, it will be possible to buy not only gastronomic delicacies but also original handicrafts. And especially for children, a miniature Christmas train will be launched at the fair.