Christmas - Travel tips

These are the Christmas markets you can't miss

Photo by Chris Woolfrey

Christmas - Travel tips These are the Christmas markets you can't miss

If you're still looking for some rare, authentic festive cheer it's not too late: get yourself to Vienna, Zagreb ... or Hamburg's adult-only Christmas market?

Chris Woolfrey
Chris Woolfrey

Check out the where, why and what of some of the world's best Christmas markets. When you visit, book a room with TRVL to get the best hotel rates on the internet – and get paid a commission when you book.

1. Vienna, Austria: the oldest


Christmas outside Vienna's town hall. Photo by Website / pxhere




Christmas outside Vienna's town hall.

While most people associate Christmas markets with German cities, it's their Habsburg neighbors that make claim to holding the first one ever.

Dating to 1298, some 12 years before the first Christmas market in Germany (in Munich), Vienna was home to a 'December Market' that set the trend for the German cities to follow.

Today, Vienna has Christmas markets throughout the city center. Vienna Christmas World, on Rathausplatz, is right at the entrance to City Hall Square.

If ever you needed an excuse to visit the opulent, stately city of Freud, Klimpt, Mahler, and Strauss, the Christmas markets are it. Pick one, maybe two, and use them as your base for exploring the city's museums, architecture and - of course - food.

Top tip: Do as the Viennese do. Arguably the two most famous coffee houses in the city are Café Central and Café Landtmann; go to them, definitely, but only for coffee and dessert.

For hearty, delicious local food that's better and half the price, head to Reinthaler's Beisl.

If it's the 19th-century coffee house vibe you're after, go a little out of the very center of town to Café Sperl.

Visit Vienna.

2. Zagreb, Croatia: the people's choice


Head to Zagreb for the world's most highly rated Christmas market. Photo by Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons


350/10 mm

Head to Zagreb for the world's most highly rated Christmas market.

For the last couple of years, Advent in Zagreb has really gotten festive obsessives going. Here's the reason: the beautiful Croatian capital transforms during December into a city-wide Christmas fest.

Almost every night in December there's a performance at the central market; at the cathedral, you can watch a live nativity performance.

In the Grič tunnel, in the center of town, you'll find a colorful Charles Dickenesque display with a live choir. And even if Christmas isn't really your thing, you can check out Nikola Tesla - Mind from the Future, an art installation celebrating the great inventor's work.

Top tip: For food, check out Ribice. A simple bistro that's largely not known to tourists, it does excellent fish.

Visit Zagreb.

3. Dresden, Germany: the classic


Inside Dresden's Christmas markets. Photo by Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons


1040/100 mm

Inside Dresden's Christmas markets.

Not only the largest Christmas market in the world but also almost 600 years old. If you're looking for a typical market experience, head to Dresden.

The Streizelmarkt is the traditional centerpiece of Christmas in the city, famous for its insanely tall Christmas tree; there are ten other main Christmas markets in the city, so whatever takes your fancy, you'll find something in Dresden.

If Bratwurst is your bag, spend some time in Dresden this December. Don't forget to glug some Glühwein. 

Top tip: If you have the time, visit Meissen. 35 minutes by train from Dresden, Meissen is a wonderful old town that's famous for its porcelain.

Small and picturesque, Meissen is different enough from Dresden to be worth the trip but retains the same historical German charm.

Visit Dresden.

4. Montreal, Canada: the new kid


Look, I could give you another Christmas market photo. Or, you could look at this poutine. Photo by Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons


500/10 mm

Look, I could give you another Christmas market photo. Or, you could look at this poutine.

Montreal's Christmas market is just two years old and modeled after Europe's traditional markets. Held at the city's Place Des Arts, it might be the closest you'll get to a hipster Christmas fest (with the exception of St Pauli, perhaps - more below) and offers gut-busting French-Canadian food.

Delicious crepes. Gooey raclette. You name it.

Tu n'es pas francophile? No problem. You'll find your traditional German sausage too.

There's even BeaverTails, a stall from the city's beloved pastry makers. A wholewheat, hand-stretched slab of dough covered with all kinds of delicious toppings, you'll find this Montreal classic in Japan, South Korea, and Dubai these days. For the original, head to Montreal Christmas market.

Top tip: Spend some time in Mile End, maybe Montreal's trendiest neighborhood and considered one of the coolest in the world.

For the curious, head to Mile End's hipster hotspot for HELM Microbrasserie for beer and poutine.

If you don't know, poutine is the achingly French-Canadian delicacy of fries topped with cheese curds and gravy. Which, frankly, you have to try in order to understand.

Visit Montreal.

5. Hamburg, Germany: the bizarre

st pauli

Mad Santas at the St Pauli Xmas Run. Photo by Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

Mad Santas at the St Pauli Xmas Run.

This one is strictly 18+. Hamburg's neighborhood of St Pauli is world famous for doing things differently - just look at its football club - but its Christmas market might be its best symbol of the area's commitment to quirk.

Step inside St Pauli's adults-only 'pine forest' for strip shows, drinking, and late-into-the-night partying. You can pick up a few Christmas ornaments, too; be careful who you wrap them for.

Top tip: Bistrot Vienna, a not-so-German restaurant in the southern part of the neighborhood of Eimsbüttel, is one of the best in the city and not so well known to tourists.

Plus, a night at Bistrot Vienna gets you out of St Pauli, shows you a different side of the city, and puts you among some of Hamburg's trendiest spots.

Visit St Pauli.


Want more travel tips? Join TRVL for free, genuine travel advice.

TRVL Favorites

…from the TRVL community