10 magical European Christmas markets for 2023

Nov 10 2023
European Christmas Market in 2023

The European Christmas Market ball is on! If the simple idea of cinnamon mulled wine, Christmas lights and a cappella Santa singing delights you, here is a Nightgoes selection of 10 must-visit Christmas markets you might discover in 2023.

Of course, they’re all accessible by night train. If you don’t have enough weekends left this year, keep this article under wraps for next year… 

Here are 10 magical Christmas markets that we highly recommend: 

  • The most romantic: Prague (Czech Republic), from 2nd December 2023 to 6th January 2024
  • The most magical: Mons (Belgium), from 2nd to 31st December 2023
  • The most unusual: Valkenburg (Netherlands), from 17th November 2023 to 7th January 2024
  • The most musical: Saltzburg (Austria), from 23rd November 2023 to 1st January 2024
  • The most arty: Berlin (Germany), from 27th November to 26th December 2023
  • The most historic: Strasbourg (France), from 24th November to 24th December 2023
  • The most retro: Gothenburg (Sweden), from 18th November to 20th December 2023
  • The most artisanal: Wrocław (Poland), from 24th November 2023 to 7th January 2024
  • The most elegant: Merano (Italy), from 24th November 2023 to 1rst of January 2024
  • The most confidential: Ljubljana (Slovenia), from 1st December 2023 to 2nd January 2024

1. The most romantic European Christmas Market: Prague (Czech Republic)

The city of a hundred steeples sometimes dresses up in white for Christmas: it’s even more romantic! From the largest market in Old Town Square to the smaller, more confidential markets in many of Prague’s squares, you’re sure to have a wonderful time. Baubles, wooden cots or vánočkas (woven Christmas cakes) and even Czech mulled wine (svařák): there’s plenty to enjoy in the open air. And don’t forget to try the famous Tredelnik, a puff pastry biscuit filled with chocolate, whipped cream, ice cream, etc. Yummy!

You’ll also find vibrant Czech crafts: beautiful wooden or terracotta puppets from Czech theatre, wooden toys, Bohemian crystal or jewellery made from garnet, a stone whose deposits are located not far away. 

2. The most unusual one: Valkenburg (Netherlands)

This is one of Europe’s oldest and most unique Christmas markets, just 1.5 hour from Brussels and Cologne. At the foot of the Cauberg hill lies a labyrinth of caves and underground galleries, the remains of marl mining since the Roman Empire. In this atypical labyrinth, visit a troglodyte space with a cosy atmosphere, where dozens of stalls offer craft products and delicious things to munch on. 

As you wander around, you’ll come across life-size polar bears, superb charcoal drawings and scultptures carved into the rock. They make this a magical cave all year round. The market is famous for its splendid nativity scenes and the light shows outside in the streets of this Limburg town.

3. The most musical European Christmas Market: Saltzburg (Austria)

Music, Maestro! Music lovers will love this Christmas market in Mozart’s birthplace, where Joseph Mohr also wrote Silent Night over 100 years ago. It’s right in keeping with the Christmas theme! So it’s hardly surprising that choirs, orchestras and readings are taking to the market squares in a tightly packed programme. You may also book candlelit concerts

In a different but just as picturesque vein, don’t miss the famous Krampus race around 6 December, where characters in scary masks carved from wood and dressed up scare off the dark spirits of winter. A tradition that is both terrifying and reassuring?

4. The artiest one: Berlin (Germany)

Berlin, a city that David Bowie described as “cultural extravaganza” doesn’t disappoint when it comes to its Christmas market, which is held in every one of its many huge districts. The town council is planning a packed programme of artistic events, including concerts, ballets in all styles of dance, acrobatics and street art (with a fire-eater never far away). The stalls feature a wide range of craftspeople, including glassblowers, ceramists and woodcarvers, to name but three. 

As Berlin is also the European capital of street art, it’s easy to stray from the markets with your glühwein (spiced mulled wine) in hand to admire the latest frescoes by Berlin and international artists. Prost (Cheers)!

5. The most historic European Christmas Market: Strasbourg (France)

Dubbed France’s “Christmas Capital”, Strasbourg (and its cousin Colmar) live up to their promises. 

In a charming setting of colourful half-timbered houses with a Germanic influence, warm garlands and even famous Baccarat chandeliers, at the foot of what was Europe’s tallest cathedral for almost 50 years, the Strasbourg market brings together Christmas lovers from all over the world. 

Take a stroll around the cathedral square and discover the stalls of the cute little OFF market, which brings together the best of the craftsmen. Enjoy sauerkraut, spätzle or flammekueche with Munster in one of the inns (Winstub) in the centre. And end your evening in the enchanting, winding streets of Little France, with its canals and numerous bridges.

6. The most retro one: Gothenburg (Sweden)

If we say Christmas carols, ice skating and caramelised almond cones in a warm, retro atmosphere, are you in? 

In Gothenburg, in the west of Sweden, you’ll discover a typical and charming market, with lots of different atmospheres. From the small Bältespännarparken park with its open-air skating rink to the lively Haga district or Gunnebo Castle, a magnificent manor house surrounded by bucolic gardens or the Liseberg amusement park, there’s something for everyone. 

Snack on Lussekatter, homemade saffron rolls, or a gigantic cinnamon bun in the cobbled streets of the Haga district. Glögg, the spicy Swedish mulled wine, and Pepparkakor (ginger cakes) are available everywhere to keep you warm. Those with a sweet tooth can try the Smörgåsbord buffet, which is specific to the Christmas period and includes marinated herring, salmon and potato gratin with anchovies. 

7. The most artisanal European Christmas Market: Wrocław (Poland)

We assure you the Wrocław market is under-priced. Still relatively untouristy, it is absolutely charming and overflowing with high-quality artisanal nuggets. 

The city was German from the 18th century until the end of the Second World War. It still has Bohemian, Prussian and Austrian architectural influences. It also has a strong Christmas tradition, rooted in the 16th century and the fervent Catholic faith of the Polish people.

Little gourmets, we see you! Don’t leave without trying the gingerbread (Piernik), unleavened Christmas cakes (Oplatek) and a smoked cheese straight from the Polish mountains (Oscypek). Mulled wine is served in little booties, giving this beverage a kinship with Father Christmas.

8. The most elegant one: Merano (Italy)

Merano, in South Tyrol, is home to a small but adorable Christmas market. Here you can sample some of the best Swiss and Italian specialities: Speck, the famous apple and cinnamon strudel, or Canederli, dumplings made with egg, onion and speck. 

The market has quite a medieval vibe, thanks to the historic centre with its magnificent old stones and its many craftsmen: blacksmiths, sculptors, glassmakers, etc.) And don’t forget to try the beverages of the time, such as cinnamon “snow milk” and honeyed wine.

For the little ones, the “Club Stellina” entertainment programme includes, among other initiatives, a long train journey and a carriage ride to the post office, where children can drop off their letters to Father Christmas. 

And, just next door in the Tyrol, there’s the chance to ski or simply enjoy the snowy season.

9. The most picturesque European Christmas Market: Porvoo (Finland)

A small medieval town 30 minutes from Helsinki, Porvoo is home to a charming Christmas market that will make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Its perfectly preserved wooden houses, riverside huts and cobbled streets are all decked out in lights for the occasion. Add a little snow and the enchantment begins. Here, old-fashioned snow scooters, or Potkukelkka, are still a mode of transport in winter. The locals ski and skate on the frozen river and lakes.

Two very different markets coexist: the one on the old market square is the more traditional. You really go back in time and get a real sense of authenticity and even a bit of antiques. You’ll find crafts and Finnish sweets. The second is the Art Factory, which is more contemporary, with lots of design objects, as Porvoo is an artistic city. 

Don’t miss the concerts in the (tiny) cathedral. Everything here is on a human scale. It’s the perfect market for those who want to visit a village that hasn’t lost its soul, far from the globalised hustle and bustle of Roviameni, Santa’s village, a year-round attraction.

10. The most confidential one, Ljubljana (Slovenia) 

A touch of Austria or Switzerland? The capital of Slovenia is nicknamed the “Little Switzerland of the Balkans”. Around the square in front of the Franciscan church and along the river Ljubljanica, the trees are illuminated and decorated with garlands and magical stars. 

This is the backdrop for a Christmas market, which is still a relatively small-scale affair. The colours are white, blue and red, like the flag of this young republic established in 1991. Local artist Zmago Modic created the Christmas decorations. In recent years, his son Urban Modic has created new, original and shimmering decorations. It’s just right: not too much, not too little. 

The city organises numerous cultural events and a magnificent fireworks display on New Year’s Eve. All in all, it’s a magical time of year in Slovenia.

Also not to be missed are the tourist boat trips on the river Ljubljanica.

* * *

Now you have 10 great destinations to visit for this Christmas season, we hope to hear from your night train adventures to do so!

Nightgoes provides its user with a comprehensive map of all European night trains. It will soon be easy to book them, all in one place.


Latest Articles

Paris to Berlin Night Train Service Set to Launch

Rugby on Rails: A Journey to the World Cup

4 Dreamy Destinations to Extend Your Summer

Follow us


Request access to the Bêta version​

Add your email in the field below to join Nightgoes waiting listand get access to the platform.

Do you already have an account ? Sign-in