They’re always set in these quaint little towns where everybody gathers together for the annual Christmas fair and everyone pitches in to make something for the market. I crave that feeling of coziness and community, wanting to drink hot cocoa or apple cider in the snow while perusing the stalls at the market.
Alas — I live in Los Angeles. There’s no hope for snow or even a cozy winter chill. And the closest we have to holiday markets are the capitalist hellscapes of Disney and Universal. Even annual holiday events around the United States like the Union Square Market in New York City are more frustrating than fun.
But if you, like me, are craving a holiday market — and, fine, the allure of romance promised by the Hallmark Christmas movie machine — don’t lose hope. They do exist … but most of them are in Europe. European holiday markets have become wintertime holiday destinations for a reason. I’m not an American who likes to overly romanticize Europe… but in the winter, it’s especially difficult to resist the magic of historic cities and charming towns covered in Christmas-y decor.
But why are these markets such a big deal? The most famous European markets have become heralded for a reason. They’re beacons of coziness and craftsmanship, inviting you to go meandering through stalls to find trinkets and treasures. They’re like stepping into a real-life holiday card. These markets are a centuries-old tradition. And they make you want to be part of it. From mid-November to late December, towns across the continent transform into magical havens, offering everything from handmade crafts to mouthwatering treats.
So live out your Hallmark dreams and head to Europe for the holiday adventure of your life. Whether you book a last-minute trip in December or start planning for Yule tides to come, here are the spots to add to your hit lists:
1. Strasbourg, France - Marché de Noël:
Cannes might be the summer hotspot (that you know from Sofia Richie’s wedding), but Strasbourg is where you want to be in the winter. Known as the "Capital of Christmas," Strasbourg brings the A-game with over 300 stalls. The Cathedral backdrop and the Great Christmas Tree make it the quintessential holiday postcard. Get ready to feast your eyes on handcrafted ornaments, Alsace wines, and gingerbread galore.
2. Vienna, Austria - Christkindlmarkt:
One of the most gorgeous cities in Europe, Vienna's Christmas market is elegantly personified. This city is full of impressive palaces, classical music, and stalls showcasing traditional crafts. You'll want to try the Austrian treats like roasted chestnuts and the iconic Sachertorte at the Hotel Sacher. Oh, and the sparkling lights dancing on the Rathaus? Pure magic.
3. Nuremberg, Germany - Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt:
German markets are known for being raucous delights and Nuremberg's market is one of the oldest around. Dating all the way back to the 16th century, it is a beacon of medieval charm, with its old-fashioned carousel and the world-famous Nuremberg sausages that transport you back in time. Grab a mug of glühwein and embrace the historic vibes.
4. Copenhagen, Denmark - Tivoli Gardens Christmas Market:
Copenhagen is one of the coolest cities in Europe. Home of Scandi-cool brand, Ganni and the best street style on the internet, I imagine attending this Christmas market in a Ganni mohair sweater and an Acne Studios scarf — a girl can dream. Tivoli Gardens, the second-oldest amusement park in the world, goes full-on winter wonderland during Christmas. With over 60 stalls, ice-skating rinks, and dazzling light displays, it's like Santa's personal playground. Don't miss the Danish æbleskiver – fluffy pancake balls dusted with powdered sugar!
5. Budapest, Hungary - Budapest Christmas Fair:
Budapest turns into a fairytale with its Christmas Fair at Vörösmarty Square. Wooden stalls showcase Hungarian crafts, and the scent of chimney cakes wafts through the air. Take a soak in the city's famous thermal baths afterward - the perfect winter combo!