5 mins

The world’s 12 best Christmas markets (that aren’t in Germany)

Bright, festive and a lot of fun, these nine fabulous markets from around the world are proof that not all the best Christmas markets are in Germany...

Christmas in Tallinn (Shutterstock)

Please note: These Christmas markets may be affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We will bring you updates as soon as we have them.

1. Prague, Czech Republic

Prague at Christmas (Shutterstock)

Prague at Christmas (Shutterstock)

You won't find anyone gathering winter fuel in Prague's famous Wenceslas Square over the festive season - just thousands of people happily wandering around chocolate box stalls that sell trinkets, delicious treats and warming drinks in the town squares of one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

Czechs love their Vanocnitrh (Christmas markets), and for good reason. Large hams are roasted on spits, klobása (barbecued sausages) are served straight from the grill, and cakes and pastries, like trdelník (a hot sugar-coated pastry), are prepared in front of you.

Czech beers aren't too bad either. They're the perfect way to celebrate that Bohemian crystal trinket you picked up at a knock-down price.

Opening dates: 30 November 2019 to 6 January 2020

Check out the best Christmas markets in Eastern Europe

2. Birmingham, UK

Birmingham Christmas Market (VisitFrankfurt, Andreas Arnold)

Birmingham Christmas Market (VisitFrankfurt, Andreas Arnold)

With dozens of stalls selling gifts, jewellery, decorations and handmade toys, the Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas Market is the biggest in the UK and the largest outside Germany and Austria. It's authentic too, with the pretzels and gluhwein just as delicious as those on offer in Frankfurt and Munich.

Keep an ear out for Birmingham's famous singing moose, as he belts out Christmas favourites from the bandstand in front of Council House. Be sure to try one of the city's famous Baileys hot chocolates. One of these should be enough to warm you on the chilliest of nights...

Opening dates: 7 November to 23 December 2019

The 10 best UK Christmas markets

3. Sweden

Christmas in Sweden (Shutterstock)

Christmas in Sweden (Shutterstock)

The Swedes embrace Christmas with gusto. Advent candlesticks illuminate every window and Christmas markets pop up all over the city. There's the Design Christmas Market in Garnisonen, a botanical-themed Christmas market at Rosendal and a pop-up market in front of Drottningholm Castle, usually in the second week of the advent.

The most famous one is the traditional Christmas market held each year in Stortorget Square in the old town, Gamla Stan. The cobbled square is packed with little red stalls selling Swedish Christmas sweets, smoked sausages (reindeer and elk meat), glogg (mulled wine) and a range of Swedish handicrafts and decorative arts.  

For an even more traditional Swedish Christmas experience, head out to the Christmas markets in Skansen, a recreation of a traditional Swedish village on Djurgarden. Here, the treats are a little more rustic and served by people dressed in traditional costumes from days of yore.

Opening dates: 23 November to 23 December 2019

4. Vienna, Austria

Vienna Christmas Market (Dreamstime)

Vienna Christmas Market (Dreamstime)

Little wooden huts selling hot punch and roasted chestnuts pop up around Vienna in the run-up to Christmas, all leading you to the main event: Christkindlmarkt, on the main square in front of the City Hall.

Take a stroll between perfectly decorated trees in the city's main park and forgive yourself if you momentarily feel part of a real-life Christmas card. Keep an eye out for Herzerlbaum - the tree with hearts. When you find it, stop for a romantic moment under the illuminated hearts.

Opening dates: 16 November to 24 December 2019

5. Toronto, Canada

Toronto Christmas market (Dreamstime)

Toronto Christmas market (Dreamstime)

Held in the city's historic Distillery District, the Toronto Christmas Market combines the charm of a traditional European market with a few Canadian twists.

Listen to Bavarian brass bands and organists, watch folk dancers from Slovenia and Ukraine, and feast on poutine, a calorific fix of French fries, gravy and soft cheese curds. Invented in rural Quebec in the 1950s, the dish is one of Canada's guilty pleasures.

Kid's will love playing in the life-size gingerbread house, while their parents browse stalls selling Canadian beeswax candles, wooden toys and other traditional gifts. St Nicholas usually arrives on 5 December, as part of a spectacularly colourful procession.

Opening dates: 14 November to 22 December 2019

Here are Canada's best Christmas markets

6. Riga, Latvia

Riga Christmas Market (Dreamstime)

Riga Christmas Market (Dreamstime)

In the year 1510, when a guild of merchants from Riga decorated a fir tree with flowers in the to commemorate the birth of Christ, legend has it the Christmas tree was born. Riga's festive market, held in Dome Square in the old town, has featured decorated trees in honour of the tradition for over 500 years.

The market has a rustic charm, selling intricate woven baskets, painted silk and sheepskin clothing amongst the 19th-century wooden houses and Art Nouveau buildings of the Latvian capital. Keep warm with a mug of green tea, a slab of fiery gingerbread or some roasted almonds.

Opening dates: 1 December 2019 to 6 January 2020 

7. Piazza Santa Croce, Florence

Piazza Santa Croce at Christmas (Shutterstock)

Piazza Santa Croce at Christmas (Shutterstock)

Tucked away on one of Florence's most beautiful but lesser-known squares, the Christmas market in Piazza Santa Croce combines the best of German and Italian Christmas traditions. 

It may look like most other Christmas markets, but hidden amongst the Christmas decorations and German pretzels you'll find Tuscan festive snacks and national staples, like panettone, pandoro and panpepato.

There's also a traditional carousel that adds to the festive cheer.

Opening dates: end of November to end of December 2019

We think you'll love these 5 other Italian Christmas markets

8. Chicago, USA

Christkindlmarkt Entrance with Christkind (Christkindl)

Christkindlmarkt Entrance with Christkind (Christkindl)

The hundreds of candy-striped stalls that fill Daley Plaza make Chicago's German market the largest in the United States. Here you'll find hand-carved nativity scenes from Bethlehem, Ecuadorian ponchos, and cuckoo clocks from the Black Forest, as well as stalls selling Bavarian winter staples, like bratwurst with sauerkraut, potato pancakes, goulash and mugs of warming gluhwein. 

Once your Christmas shopping is done, head down to Chicago's Magnificent Mile where designer shops such as Tiffany & Co and Armani stage elaborate window displays and the streets are adorned with hundreds of illuminated Christmas trees.

Opening dates: 15 November to 24 December 2019

Here are more incredible Christmas attractions in the USA

9. Tivoli, Copenhagen

Tivoli fairground (Dreamstime)

Tivoli fairground (Dreamstime)

Copenhagen's magical Tivoli Gardens provides the perfect setting for one of the most beautiful Christmas markets in the world. The stalls are set amongst hundreds of Christmas trees and under thousands of twinkling fairy lights, while the garden's main lake is transformed into an outdoor ice rink where you can hire skates.

Make sure you try the Danish glogg, mulled wine mixed with liquor and spices. The delicious hot apple dumplings also make for a warming mid-shop snack.

Opening dates: 16 November 2019 to 5 January 2020

10. Budapest, Hungary

Budapest at Christmas (Shutterstock)

Budapest at Christmas (Shutterstock)

This winter wonderland is a haven for food lovers... Fresh bread is baked in clay ovens, traditional pastry makers work their magic on glazed delights, and goulash is gobbled by almost everyone. 

In the windows of Gerbeaud House – the most beautiful building in the main square – you’ll see the Budapest Advent Calender. Here, artists showcase their work and every day a new one is revealed in the count down to Christmas.

Opening dates: November to January

11. Venice, Italy

Venice, Italy at Christmas (Shutterstock)

Venice, Italy at Christmas (Shutterstock)

The Venice Christmas market is the perfect place for something a little different for your loved ones to unwrap on December 25th – from traditional carnival masks to Murano glass jewellery and marbled paper gifts.

One section of the market is dedicated to Italian foods. Look out for creamy almond-studded nougat, fruit-filled panettone from Verona, and delicacies made with white truffles from Alba. The vintage balsamic vinegars and fine olive oils are sure to go down well when you return home too...

Opening dates: December 2019

12. Tallinn, Estonia

Tallinn at Christmas (Shutterstock)

Tallinn at Christmas (Shutterstock)

It doesn’t get more fairytale than Tallinn during the Christmas season. The town square is lined with 15th-century buildings, and the underground candlelit bars are perfect for cosying down with a boozy hot chocolate.

Christmas shopping in Tallinn is delightfully quirky – think thick, knitted jumpers and scarves, Russian military fur hats, and lots of vodka. Handmade chocolates can also be found, as well as amber necklaces and bracelets.

Opening dates: 15 November 2019 to 7 January 2020

More Christmas getaways around the world:

The 9 greatest winter travel experiences

10 fantastic European cities for a winter break

5 UK walks that are even better in the winter

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