As the dark nights set in, nothing invokes the Yuletide spirit quite like a Christmas market. The tradition dates back over 600 years and, in the centuries since, they have become a quintessential component of the Christmas calendar, stretching well beyond their birthplace of Germany. The best markets feature tiny wooden chalets selling handcrafted gifts and festive trinkets, accompanied by the scent of mulled wine and hot chocolate and the hum of Christmas carols.
A travel site compiled a list of the most spectacular small Christmas fairs happening in Europe. Travelmag only included smaller markets with between 40 and 100 market stalls, and set a limit of one market per country. Their selection criteria prioritised the right combination of stalls selling both quality items and local or regional seasonal specialities, a picturesque setting, a variety of festive entertainment and reams of festive flair – think twinkling lights, cheering music, tastefully decorated lodges and spirit-stirring atmosphere. From Sibiu (Nagyszeben) to Stockholm, here are the most charming small Christmas markets guaranteed to deliver some much-needed festive cheer.
Travelmag Top 20 Christmas Market:
Bergen Christmas Market (Bergen, Norway)
Blenheim Palace Christmas Market (Woodstock, Oxfordshire, UK)
Bruges Christmas Market (Bruges, Belgium)
Cesky Krumlov Christmas Market (Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic)
Goslar Weihnachtsmarkt & Weihnachtswald (Goslar, Germany)
Hans Christian Anderson Christmas Market (Odense, Denmark)
Innsbruck Old Town Christmas Market (Innsbruck, Austria)
Krakow Christmas Market (Krakow, Poland)
Lille Christmas Market (Lille, France)
Maastricht Christmas Market (Maastricht, Germany)
Milan Piazza Duomo Christmas Market (Milan, Italy)
Navideno de la Artesania Market (Seville, Spain)
Riga Christmas Market (Riga, Latvia)
Sibiu Christmas Market (Sibiu, Romania)
Sternenmarkt (Bern, Switzerland)
Stortorget Julmarknad (Stockholm, Sweden)
Tampere Christmas Market (Tampere, Finland)
Tallinn Christmas Market (Tallinn, Estonia)
Wonderland Lisboa (Lisbon, Portugal)
Debrecen Advent (Debrecen, Hungary)
Hungary’s second-biggest city really comes alive at Christmas, with concerts, a Ferris wheel, and at least 90 snow-sprinkled market stalls set in front of the elegant Great Church. Apart from hand-made ceramics and stocking fillers, visitors can pick up more unusual festive wares, such as speciality crafts, carpets and textiles. The celebration kicks off with a procession from the Town Hall for the candle-lighting ceremony in front of the church and Christmas tree, followed by four weeks of revelry with a dizzying programme that includes stiltwalkers, rollerskating pianists, a Christmas “mini-city” surrounded by 24 tiny Christmas trees for kids, and performances from local artists. For a truly traditional festive experience, head to the 750-square-metre outdoor ice-skating rink.