Cover Bratislava Christmas Markets (Photo: Christmas Markets in Europe)

'Tis indeed one of the best seasons to visit Europe as the continent proudly boasts some of the best Christmas markets in the world for your quintessential gift and souvenir shopping fix

The merriest season is upon us and while the country has been through a whirlwind journey as we battled the global plague of coronavirus, we now have a reason to be hopeful again because the world and its countries are opening their borders once again through the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) scheme, making it possible to for us to travel this Christmas season.

Read more: Singapore and Malaysia to Launch New Vaccinated Travel Lane on November 29

As a season of gift-giving and jolly carolling, where better to travel to this Christmas than to the birthplace of modern Christmas traditions and celebrations?

Christmas markets were known to have started in Germany in the Late Middle Ages. In fact, one of the oldest—if not the oldest—in Dresden dates way back to 1434. You can now find them all over Europe in countries like Austria, France and Hungary, and you can plan your holiday around the times that these markets will be open for business.

So if you ever want to entrench yourself in rich Christmas history while exploring the quaint goodies these markets have in store for you, this list of best Christmas markets in Europe is for you.

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1. Cologne, Germany

What: Located outside the Cologne Cathedral, the Christmas markets in Cologne have long been favoured as the ultimate festive destination. Best known for having a variety of markets, this destination has everything you'd expect of a classic German spread: the glühwein, the crafts, the twinkling lights. It also hosts more than 100 stage performances throughout the festival, including Christmas swing music and gospel. After you've had your fill of tunes and food, you can head towards Hohe Strasse and Schildergasse, two of Cologne's well-known shopping areas, to walk off all that bratwurst and beer.

When: November 25 to December 22

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2. Salzburg, Austria

What: Known for its ever-popular Christmas carols and ancient traditions, this aesthetic hometown of Mozart and The Sound of Music comes to life during Christmas, with snow-sprinkled renditions of ‘Silent Night’—the carol was actually written and first performed nearby—and market stalls that look much as they did when they were first set up way back in the 15th century. The focus here is on quality over quantity, so you can expect to see hand-knitted socks rather than novelty candles for stocking fillers at this winter wonderland. You can even join the free daily concerts at 5pm in front of the cathedral, or belt out carols at the Tuesday sing-alongs (6pm to 8pm).

When: November 18 to December 26

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3. Budapest, Hungary

What: Known for its iconic ice rinks and Christmas illuminations, Budapest brings two Christmas markets to the celebration: Vorosmarty Square and Basilica. Vorosmarty Square is tucked right into the heart of the city and is Budapest’s oldest Christmas market. Here, you’ll find plenty of food stalls, handicraft shops and free concerts. Basilica offers all of the above, but with the slight edge: Christmas laser projections on the Basilica itself and an ice-skating rink that circles around a grand Christmas tree.

When: November 29 to January 2

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4. Zagreb, Croatia

What: If you're one that loves your Christmas treats and delicacies, Zagreb is the market for you. It has even been voted the best Christmas market in Europe by European Best Destinations three times in a row. But what exactly makes it so special? You can expect to be taken aback by the delicious food and drinks, live music, colour-popping illuminations and souvenir stalls packed to the rafters with decorations and stocking fillers.

When: November 29 to January 2

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5. Prague, Czech Republic

What: This postcard-worthy market boasts some of the best open-air concerts and the enactment of traditional nativity scenes. Immerse yourself into the local scene and grab a glass of grog—which is basically rum, water, lemon and sugar. Its magnificent setting sees the 14th-century twin spires of Our Lady Before Týn on one side and on the other, the city’s famous 15th-century astronomical clock is displayed. They also have presents on offer including frosted, hand-blown glass baubles. Yet the food is the main attraction here with its warm, fatty sausages just off the grill, fresh pancakes, garlic and-cheese flatbread, and they can all be topped off by a glug of svarák, the local, citrusy take on mulled wine.

When: November 27 to January 2

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6. Strasbourg, France

What: Immerse yourself in a winter wonderland of breathtaking storybook scenery and treat yourself to mind-blowing Christmas sweets at this French Christmas market, which is situated in the country's ‘Capital of Christmas’. The market undeniably looks like a real-life nativity scene during this time of the year and you’ll find 300 traditional market stalls crowding the city’s central squares, doing a strong line in hand-painted wooden Christmas decorations. Make sure to go to the Market of the Invincible Small Producers of Alsace for sausages and almondy, fruity, brioche-like kugelhopf.

When: November 19 to December 30

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7. Gothenburg, Sweden

What: Gothenburg's Christmas markets are the cool kids in town, with its chic vibes and mugs full of glögg. Liseberg, Sweden’s most popular amusement park, turns into one of the world’s classiest Christmas open-air markets this time of the year. You pay to enter, but you can stay until late as it is open from 4pm to 10pm and proceed to snack on smoked reindeer and drinking glögg—Scandinavian mulled wine. You can make the most of the free children’s entertainment that proves to be more impressive than corny, and you can even visit Santa in his wooden workshop, ride bumper cars, and don’t miss the glittering, half-hour ice show.

When: November 12 to December 22

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8. Bratislava, Slovakia

What: This Slovakian market is a thing of our childhood memories with its iconic wooden toys and treats. Fairy lights encompass the Christmas trees, while market stalls sell traditional wooden toys and handsome Christmas decorations. Treats include pancakes, sausages and luscious cakes. To combat the cold, plenty of stalls also sell warming mulled wine and punch, which take the chill off the evening. You can also work off the pancakes and sausages in the open air by spinning on an ice rink beneath the gleaming Christmas lights works wonders.

When: November 23 to December 23

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9. Copenhagen, Denmark

What: The H.C. Andersen market at Nytorv square is named after everybody's favourite and world-renowned Danish storyteller. The stalls are all named after Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales and decorated with thousands of Christmas lights for that seasonal spirit. You can taste, smell, and shop everything your Christmas heart desires here. You can also find Christmas decorations, gifts, jewellery, mulled wine and hot chocolate. The market provides a genuine nostalgia carousel for the kids, a Christmas caravan and of course Santa himself. In Santa's house, the younger family members can join Mrs Claus for some Christmas creativity and make their own decorations.

When: November 12 to December 22

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10. Tallinn, Estonia

What: Considered one of the best Christmas markets in Europe, Tallinn’s festive offering is a stunning affair, set in the heart of its beautiful, medieval town, where rooftops and cobblestones are dusted with snow. Town Hall Square has over 60 wooden stalls, selling handmade wreaths, local arts and crafts, sweets, honey, and sheepskin rugs, and it also hosts brass bands, bell ringers, and endless dance troupes. Santa is also a feature to welcome children to the festivities. Estonia’s biggest Christmas tree has been set up in front of the Town Hall each year since 1441, making it one of the very first to be displayed anywhere in Europe.

When: November 15 to January 7

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