Revealed: The world’s finest 15 Christmas markets

Probably the most exciting Christmas markets… in the world: From Chicago to Croatia (via Chatsworth and Chester), the finest 15 festive shopping trips

  • Here’s our pick of 15 of the most exciting winter wonderlands, including three outstanding UK offerings
  • Germany is still ‘the beating heart of Christmas markets’ – head to Leipzig or Freiburg for yuletide charm 
  • Strasbourg’s festive fair is steeped in tradition, while they are a newer addition to the celebrations in Italy 

There’s nothing quite like browsing a Christmas market to spark that festive feeling. 

But with markets popping up everywhere, it’s hard to know which ones are really worth visiting. 

Here we showcase 15 of the most exciting, including three outstanding UK offerings.

Austrian allure: The main square in Salzburg, pictured above, with its snow-topped chalets selling festive treats 

LEIPZIG, Germany

Why is it special? With bargain flights, Leipzig is gaining a reputation among the young as the new Berlin, thanks to great bierkellers and posh hotels that don’t cost a fortune. The city hosts one of Germany’s oldest Christmas markets, all set against a Gothic backdrop. Music and art are part of the appeal too – Bach lived and worked here, and the Museum of Bildenden Kunste has works by German Expressionists, Munch and Cranach.

Don’t miss: Nativity scenes featuring real animals.

Fun starts: November 27.

Jingle bells: Lepizig hosts one of Germany’s oldest Christmas markets, all set against a Gothic backdrop

Stay: One-way flights cost from just £9 with Ryanair ( The Hotel Furstenhof ( has rooms from €145 a night – about £127.


Why is it special? The Swedes know how to celebrate Christmas, and stalls are dotted around the city. And at Skansen (a 15-minute tram ride from the centre) you’ll discover stalls selling tasteful Scandinavian crafts.

Don’t miss: Smoked reindeer and lussekatter – saffron buns.

Fun starts: November 22.

Stay: A four-night B&B break starts from £425pp, including flights, with Best Served Scandinavia (

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LUCERNE, Switzerland

Why is it special? Lakes, mountains and raclette – Lucerne does Christmas markets in a typically Swiss way. Mount Pilatus, reached by cogwheel railway, makes for a great side trip.

Don’t miss: A department store transformed into a giant advent calendar, with a new window opening each day.

Fun starts: November 29.

Stay: A two-night B&B break at the Hotel Des Alpes, with flights, starts at £440pp with Switzerland Travel Service (


Christkindlmarket takes over Daley Plaza, with stalls selling strudel and schnitzel. Pictured is a food stall in Chicago

Why is it special? The Midwest city has a strong German heritage and its Christkindlmarket takes over Daley Plaza, with stalls selling strudel and schnitzel.

Don’t miss: Cute heart-shaped souvenir mugs with ‘Ich liebe Christkindlmarket’ given away with any hot drink.

Fun starts: November 16.

Stay: A three-night break starts at £359pp with flights and room-only accommodation with Thomas Cook (


Why is it special? The city is seriously beautiful and, thanks to its proximity to ski slopes, it’s likely to have snow to enhance its charm. Tempering the sentimentality, Salzburg’s other speciality is Krampus parades, harking back to a diabolical figure who looked for bad children to punish.

Don’t miss: Mozart was born here and his status means there are festive choirs at every turn.

Fun starts: November 22.

Stay: A two-night break starts at £218pp, including flights and two nights at the Markus Sittikus hotel with British Airways (

ANTWERP, Belgium

Antwerp has Belgium’s best Christmas market, according to the Daily Mail’s Sarah Turner. Pictured is a stall selling Gluhwein 

Why is it special? With stalls snaking around its 16th Century cathedral, Antwerp gets my vote as Belgium’s best Christmas market. Antwerp has a strong fashion background too – head to Nationalestraat for designer outfits.

Don’t miss: The most delicious waffles – you’ll wonder what their secret is.

Fun starts: December 6.

Stay: A three-night break starts at £568pp, including B&B accommodation at the T’Sandt hotel and travel by Eurostar with Kirker (


Decorated: The medieval city of Freiburg has plenty of charm, especially during the festive season 

Why is it special? Germany is still the beating heart of Christmas markets, and the Black Forest has scenery and charm aplenty. Rail specialist Ffestiniog Travel offers a break that takes you into the heart of this medieval city.

Don’t miss: Honing your skills in a candlelit craft workshop.

Fun starts: November 22.

Stay: A four-night trip starts from £890pp, including all travel and B&B accommodation, with Ffestiniog Travel (


Gifts galore: Sarah recommends you try the pizza-like flammekueche while you browse the stalls in Strasbourg

Why is it special? Strasbourg has had a Christmas market since 1570. Place de Marche aux Poissons has most of the food stalls – do try the pizza-like flammekueche.

Don’t miss: Vintage finds in Place Grimmeissen.

Fun starts: November 24.

Stay: A three-night break starts from £275pp, including flights and room-only accommodation at the Maison Rouge Hotel with Easyjet Holidays (

AARHUS, Denmark

Why is it special? Heading to Aarhus means you can dig out that moth-eaten Afghan coat and rock your way to a 1970s Christmas. Den Gamle Bay is an open-air museum themed around different historical periods (you can also revisit the 1920s and 1880s), while at the Tivoli Friheden you’ll discover some tasteful fairground rides and sculptural braziers.

Don’t miss: Buying the traditional Danish Madam Bla coffee pot and homemade schnapps.

Fun starts: November 17.

Stay: Flights with Easyjet cost from £23 one-way ( Rooms at Hotel Scandic The Mayor start at £95 a night, including breakfast (


Why is it special? This tiny country is at the crossroads of Europe, so you can easily make excursions to France and Germany. On an escorted trip starting on November 29, you’ll be able to explore the markets at Place d’Armes and Place de Paris, followed by trips to Trier in Germany with its Roman remains, and Metz in France.

Don’t miss: Street food such as gromperekichelcher – potato cakes.

Fun starts: November 22.

Stay: A four-night break starts from £695pp, including all travel and mixed board accommodation at the Novotel Luxembourg Kirchberg with Great Rail Journeys (


Why is it special? Christmas markets are a more recent addition in Italy but the Sicilian city of Palermo has plenty of Catholic fervour and nativity scenes. The Fiera di Natale runs from mid-November and combines Christmas decorations and food, including torrone and candied fruit. However, if you can restrain yourself until December 16, Piazza Unita d’Italia becomes a showcase for local artists and craft workers.

Don’t miss: Cribs of all shapes and sizes – it’s the thing to buy here.

Fun starts: Today.

Stay: A three-night break starts from £488pp, including flights and B&B accommodation at the Hotel Villa Igiea with Citalia (

ZAGREB, Croatia

Why is it special? There are annual awards for Christmas markets and Zagreb grabbed first place last year. Croatia’s hipster capital has a large student population and offers festive value. Ban Josip Jelacic Square and European Square are two of the main spots at which to gather and Zrinjevac Park blends local food specialities with live music performances.

Don’t miss: Foodies will love baked strukle – a warm pastry dish with soft cheese.

Fun starts: December 2.

Stay: A two-night break starts from £326pp, including flights and room-only accommodation at the Westin with British Airways (


Here in the UK, the Christmas market powerhouses are Birmingham, which takes the German bratwurst and gingerbread approach, and Bath, with an ice rink, Victorian carousel and Santa’s grotto. But why not check out these emerging markets too?

CHATSWORTH, Derbyshire

Why is it special? Probably the UK’s most visually stunning Christmas market. At the ancestral pile of the Duke of Devonshire, a blend of aristocracy and seasonal goodwill is in place from mid-November. The food and gifts are of a high standard and the house has twilight sessions with carol singers and mince pies.

Fun starts: November 16.

Stay: The Devonshire Arms (, owned by the estate, is a short drive away. Rooms start at £177, including breakfast.


 Why is it special? The half-timbered buildings come alive with a series of stalls spread out through the city. Food is a particularly strong draw and includes Welsh cheese-makers and delicious charcuterie.

Fun starts: November 16.

Stay: Room-only stays at the Pied Bull ( cost from £74.


Why is it special? Aberdeen is twinned with Stavanger in Norway, and has the giant Christmas tree to prove it. The market will double in size this year, and the ancient Marischal College quad will have food stalls aplenty.

Fun starts: November 23.

Stay: B&B at the Atholl Hotel in Aberdeen ( costs from £65.

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