Europe's most unique and untraditional Christmas markets give the definition of holiday spirit a new meaning.
Beloved Christmas traditions were born in Europe, and cities and small towns across the continent come alive every year with the shimmer of tinseled Christmas trees and the twinkle of holiday lights. But there’s no tradition quite as special as Europe’s Christmas markets, where wooden huts serve mulled wine and local goodies from late November until the end of December. While popular Christmas markets like Cologne and Prague are undoubtedly magical, there’s something extra special about markets that break the mold and push boundaries. This list shares Europe’s most unique Christmas markets that put a special twist on a classic tradition.
Top Picks for You
Christmas Town Valkenburg
WHERE: Valkenburg, Netherlands
Christmas Town Valkenburg takes place in three historic caves deep underneath the city. It’s the largest underground Christmas market in Europe and has recently been voted one of the best in the Netherlands. As you wander through the caves, every nook and cranny is lit aglow with lights and set up with stalls selling Christmas favorites. On the surface, a charming Santa’s Village provides the classic Christmas market experience outside the caves. These marlstone caverns date back to the 11th or 12th century and are old mining paths that lead from Valkenburg’s once-standing castle. During WWII, they were used by locals and Americans as a hideout from German forces. This unique destination is located 2.5 hours south of Amsterdam.
From November 18, 2022 – January 8, 2023
Ravenna Gorge Christmas Market
WHERE: Breitnau, Germany
The Ravenna Gorge Christmas Market is a magical event that’s often regarded as one of the most beautiful Christmas markets in all of Europe. It’s nestled in a scenic gorge under a brick viaduct surrounded by Germany’s lush Black Forest. It becomes the epitome of a winter wonderland if you’re lucky enough to visit after a fresh snowfall. This region is so beautiful that many ride the train that passes over the arched bridge to catch a bird’s eye view of the scenic forest. The Ravenna Gorge Christmas Market is about a 40-minute shuttle ride from the Bavarian town of Freiburg im Breisgau. Tickets must be purchased online, including the round-trip shuttle between the market and Freiburg. It’s only open a handful of weekends before Christmas and sells out quickly.
Weekends from November 25 – December 18, 2022
St. Pauli Christmas Market
WHERE: Hamburg, Germany
The St. Pauli Christmas Market is an adults-only event in Hamburg cheekily dubbed the city’s “XXXmas Market.” This sexy market is held in Hamburg’s red-light district and has all the best parts of a traditional Christmas market with a touch of spice. Its mascot is even an adorably nude Santa. From the erotic gift options to the strip tent, it’s the place to go for those on the naughty list. The market also features an open-air art gallery, a stage with live music, and a cozy firepit. After you’ve enjoyed an evening of Christmas debauchery at the market, the bars in the neighborhood are home to some of the best nightlife in Hamburg.
From November 14 – December 23, 2022
Christmas Market on Mount Pilatus
WHERE: Luzern, Switzerland
Celebrate Christmas at an elevation of nearly 7,000 feet with a visit to the Christmas Market on Mount Pilatus. Earning the title of Europe’s highest Christmas market, this unique holiday experience treats visitors to Christmas cheer and incredible views of Lake Luzern and the snowcapped peaks of the Swiss Alps. Part of the excitement is getting to the market, and visitors can choose between riding the steep cogwheel train or taking the cable car from Luzern. Once at the top, visit traditional Christmas huts serving Swiss snacks like mulled wine, sausage, and Raclette cheese. This exciting event is only held one weekend yearly, so plan your visit in advance.
From November 18 – 20, 2022
Strasbourg, Capital of Christmas Christkindelsmärik
WHERE: Strasbourg, France
Nicknamed the “Capital of Christmas,” Strasbourg’s Christkindelsmärik is a quintessential Christmas destination. The market dates back to 1570 and is one of the oldest and largest in Europe. Come November, crowds stream through Strasbourg’s cobblestone streets to peruse the over 300 stalls offering all varieties of Christmas goodness. The market is also home to Europe’s tallest decorated Christmas tree, towering nearly 100 feet tall in Kléber Square. Strasbourg is a beautiful city near the German border, also known for its impressive gothic cathedral. There’s so much to see in Strasbourg that you could easily spend an entire weekend soaking up the Christmas magic.
From November 25 – December 24, 2022
Royal Winter Magic in Hohenzollern Castle
WHERE: Bisingen, Germany
Held in the famed Hohenzollern Castle, Royal Winter Magic is a Christmas fairytale come to life. This hilltop castle sits 2,800 feet high and was once the residence of Prussian princes. Today, it’s a popular landmark in Germany that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors annually. And during the holiday season, the castle transforms into one of the most unique places to enjoy the yuletide spirit. You can wander inside the castle, its courtyard, and the surrounding grounds with your ticket. The castle hosts a royal feast (reservations required) and rents out private heated huts with mulled wine and treats included. Hohenzollern Castle is about an hour from Stuttgart, and entry to this Christmas event requires advanced booking online.
From November 25, 2022 – January 8, 2023
Mosel Wine and Christmas Market
WHERE: Traben-Trarbach, Germany
Situated in Germany’s romantic Mosel Valley, the Mosel Wine and Christmas Market is a holiday event for wine lovers. Set up in a network of 16th-century wine cellars, local vendors sell their wares beneath arched stone corridors that measure over 300 feet long. Outside the cellars, market-goers can skate on the city’s ice rink while taking in pretty Mosel River views. Traben-Trarbach was once one of the most important wine trading towns in Europe, after Bordeaux, France, and is famous for its locally grown Rieslings and other Mosel wines. Not far from Traben-Trarbach, lies another charming Mosel town: Bernkastel-Kues, which also hosts a wonderful Christmas market spread through its meandering cobblestone streets and askew half-timbered homes.
From November 18, 2022 – January 1st, 2023 (closed Christmas week)
Christkindlimarkt at Zurich Central Station
WHERE: Zurich, Switzerland
The Christkindlmarkt in Zurich Central Station is one of Europe’s largest indoor Christmas markets. It hosts about 140 stalls where shoppers can conveniently nosh on Christmas market specialties on arrival or departure from Zurich. In the center of the market stands a 50-foot Christmas tree that glitters with more than 7,000 crystals. It’s possible to take in the sweeping views of the festivities from the station’s two viewing platforms, which can be rented for private events. The market is held in the station’s Haupthalle, or the main hall, which dates back to 1871. This part of the station was originally where the train tracks ran and feature towering ceilings and beautifully arched windows. The Christkindlmarkt in Zurich Central Station is in the city’s heart and offers a spirited respite from the cold.
From November 24 – December 24, 2022
WinterPride Christmas Market
WHERE: Hamburg, Germany
Another unique Christmas market in Hamburg is WinterPride, a holiday event dedicated to the LGBTQ+ community. This market is held in St. Georg, an area of the city best known for its art galleries, hip restaurant scene, and lesbian and gay bars. On weekdays, WinterPride functions as a traditional Christmas market that supports local LGBTQ initiatives. But when the weekend comes along, local DJs come on stage, and a wild dance party ensues. Groups can book cozy cabins at the market to enjoy a more private experience, including mulled wine and snacks.
From November 21 – December 30, 2022
Colmar’s The Magic of Christmas Markets
WHERE: Colmar, France
Tucked in the idyllic Alsace region, experience The Magic of Christmas Markets in an area of France that’s said to have inspired Beauty and the Beast. Colmar is located along the German border and is best known for cobblestone streets and colorful half-timber buildings that perfectly complement the intricate Christmas decorations put up for the holidays. This charming Christmas event features six markets spread across the village and can be found in places like Colmar’s Place Jeanne D’Arc and Petite Venise. Entrance to Colmar’s various markets is free. Colmar is less than an hour south of Strasbourg, making it possible to see two of Europe’s most unique Christmas markets in a weekend.
From November 24 – December 29, 2022