Forget 2020. Although, Covid or not, Christmas is here, the fun of fairs and markets is not with us this year and it’s impossible to ignore that, along with pine trees aromas, there’s coronavirus in the air.
Better to look ahead to presumably happier times and start planning the next Christmas vacation.
In an effort to spread a message of hope and encouragement and to help travelers with their vacation planning for next year, the European Best Destination organization(EBD) invited people from all over the world to vote for the Christmas markets of their dreams.
Over 100,000 travelers from 121 countries answered the question: “Where would you like to spend Christmas in Europe in 2021, (health situation permitting)?”
Some 66% of the voters are located in Europe and 34% from other countries, mainly the U.S., Canada, Australia and China.
Most of the Christmas markets and other traditional celebrations in Europe were cancelled this year due to the epidemic, with disastrous effects for most of the people and organizations involved.
The ‘must-see’ Christmas destinations in 2021
The winner for 2021 Best European Christmas Market was a surprise because it’s the first time that a Christmas market located in that country has won the title.
That market? Basel, Switzerland. Following it, the next 19 Christmas markets chosen by travelers for the title of ‘European Best Christmas Markets 2021’ are: Bath, Brussels, Bruges, Budapest, Dresden, Edinburgh, Govone, Madeira, Malaga, Manchester, Nuremberg, Poznan, Prague, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Tallinn, Tbilisi, Trier, Vienna and Vilnius.
Those destinations will be promoted throughout the year to millions of travelers and authorized to display the title “Best European Christmas Markets.”
1. Basel, Switzerland
Basel has a deep-rooted tradition as Switzerland’s most beautiful and largest Christmas city. Not only is the well-preserved Old Town radiant in the warm Christmas light with shops and facades glittering with a golden glow.
Around 100 tall pine trees line the streets guiding the visitor and Christmas markets are held not only on Barfüsserplatz, but also on Münsterplatz – one of the most beautiful squares in Basel.
Opening dates: November 25 to December 23, 2021
Saving Christmas Markets
According to EBD, Christmas markets originally developed in Germany and Alsace, France, and over the past 20 years have spread throughout Europe: “In addition to supporting artisans, confectioners and traders, they attract travelers with an ever-richer offer that can include concerts, decorations, cultural programs, ice rinks and shows.”
By attracting travelers during months with low occupancy rate (November, December, January), EBD explains, “they allow the development of jobs throughout the year and foster the sustainable development of tourism in Europe. These events help transform seasonal jobs into full-time jobs in hotels, restaurants, bakeries, events planning and other economic sectors.”
The increase in the Christmas offer also allows travelers to avoid saturating historic destinations and to explore new ones.
European Best Destinations is a travel website dedicated to promoting culture and tourism in Europe in partnership with more than 350 European tourist offices and the European Commission’s EDEN network dedicated to promote sustainable tourism.
2. Budapest, Hungary
This year again Budapest takes the silver medal on the podium of Best Christmas Markets in Europe.
For 2021, the city already prepares for an even more festive and dazzling Christmas celebration. Advent Feast at the Basilica in Budapest is the favorite Christmas market in Hungary but also for the third year in a row, one of the three favorites in Europe. The organizers of this event work hard every year to offer what is certainly one of the most beautiful Christmas markets in the world.
Opening dates: November 19, 2021, to January 2, 2022
3. Poznan, Poland
This is not only a favorite Christmas market in Poland but also a best Christmas city break in Europe. The Poznan Christmas Market will take visitors to a magic winter land of ice, snowflakes and Christmas attractions. Original arrangements decorate the Old Market Square and Plac Wolności (Freedom Square) during this magical time.
Wooden stalls, winter delicacies, Christmas gifts and an International Ice Sculpture Festival are part of the attractions.
Opening dates: November 27 to December 23, 2021 (projected dates).
4. Vienna, Austria
Like every year, Vienna is at the top of the list of best Christmas markets in Europe. Considered a safe destination for families, it’s also popular with lovers and has been awarded among the best romantic destinations in Europe as well as one the best destinations for a marriage proposal.
From mid-November to Christmas, Vienna’s prettiest squares transform into magical Christmas markets with the aroma of Christmas-baked food and hot punch in the air.
One of the best-known Christmas Markets is the traditional “Vienna Magic of Advent,” which turns the City Hall Square into a shining fairytale land with Christmas gifts, tree decorations, candy and hot drinks as well as a carousel and craft Christmas workshops for kids. The trees of the surrounding City Hall park are festively decorated and radiate in a sea of lights.
Opening dates: From November 17 to December 25, 2021 (projected dates).
5. Brussels, Belgium
Winter Wonders is a favorite Christmas market in Belgium followed by Ghent, Antwerpen, Bruges and Liege. With around 2.5 million visitors, Winter Wonders is an event not to miss with Brussels done in its festive, brilliant costume.
Capital of Europe, Brussels for several years has been one of the Christmas capitals with Strasbourg, Budapest and Vienna. The teams in charge of this event set the bar higher every year to offer moments of pure magic to visitors.
Among the great classics: Sound and Light shows at the Grand-Place, a majestic tree, a life-sized manger, a skating rink, magical lights, many exhibitions and Christmas markets.
Opening dates: From November 26, 2021, to January 2, 2022 (projected dates).
6. Trier, Germany
It’s set on the medieval Main Market with the imposing backdrop of the Trier Cathedral.
The Trier Christmas Market is often described by travel organizers as being “romantic with wonderful ambience.” It offers a large selection of delicious specialties such as the “Original Moselle Vintner Mulled Wine” and festive arts and crafts.
Opening dates: From November 19 to December 22, 2021 (projected dates).
7. Dresden, Germany
One of the largest and most authentic Christmas markets in Germany, it’s ranked every year among the best Christmas Markets in Europe.
It was first mentioned in 1434 when it was held to provide the citizens of Dresden with the meat for the Christmas meal. Since then, it has become a massive event with more than 200 stalls attracting up to 3 million visitors from around the world.
Christmas tales also come to life in the city’s theaters, with museums hosting special exhibitions and boats bejeweled with lights gliding along the Elbe river.
Opening dates: From November 26 to December 24, 2021 (projected dates).
8. Madeira, Portugal
Considered the safest Christmas destination in Europe (during the Covid-19 pandemic), Madeira has also been awarded the title of “Sunniest Christmas Market in Europe” and “Best Winter Sun Destination.”
Madeira celebrates to the fullest the arrival of the Christmas season with a traditional Christmas market held om the Avenida Arriaga central walkways, in the heart of its capital, Funchal.
A variety of products are on display, including exotic flowers and fruits, traditional souvenirs, typical delicacies and seasonal drinks — all adding to the merriment in a welcoming ambience that includes Christmas Carols and performances by folklore groups.
Opening dates: From December 1, 2021, to January 6, 2022 (projected dates).
9. Tbilisi, Georgia
The Capital of Georgia is a must-see destination at any time of the year. Included among the Best European Destinations but also voted one the Safest Destinations in Europe during Covid-19.
In Tbilisi, Christmas markets are held almost in every corner, with stalls offering handicrafts, souvenirs, Christmas treats, Georgian candies, street food and mulled wine. The end-of-year festivities include theater shows, music performances, puppet theater and open-air movies for all ages.
Opening dates: From December 25, 2021, to January 14, 2022 (confirmed dates).
10. Manchester, United Kingdom
The Manchester Christmas Markets is among the largest, most original and – arguably – the best Christmas market in the U.K.
Started in 1999, the first Christmas market in the U.K. has grown every year since, now attracting more than nine million visitors to its 300 beautifully crafted stalls spread across 10 individual sites – each with its own distinctive character and offering international food, drinks and finely crafted Yuletide gifts.
Opening dates: From November 6 to December 22, 2021 (projected dates).
11. Govone, Italy
The Govone Christmas Market is the most beautiful in Italy. For the second consecutive year, it’s also been ranked among the most beautiful Christmas markets in Europe. “Magico Paese di Natale” takes place in the little village of Govone in the hills of Langhe-Roero, the wine region in Piedmont, a Unesco World Heritage Site.
This is one of the most picturesque Christmas events in Italy. In winter, the entire village of Govone turns itself into the magic kingdom of Santa Claus, with cultural and gastronomic attractions.
The Christmas market offers products from artisans selected from around Italy. Another unique experience is the special musical show of Santa Claus, hosted every day in the Royal Castle of Govone.
Opening dates: From November 13 to December 19, 2021 (projected dates).
12. Vilnius, Lithuania
For four years running, Vilnius has been classed as the destination with the most beautiful Christmas tree in Europe as the whole city is decorated with picturesque Christmas decorations. Its authentic Christmas market located at the foot of the giant Christmas tree, is considered one of the most beautiful in the world.
The capital of Lithuania is considered a must-see, safe and authentic destination offering unique delicacies to sweeten winter evenings – gingerbreads, honey cakes, teas, home-made cheeses, colorful sweets and all sorts of pastries.
Opening dates: November 27, 2021, to January 3, 2022 (projected dates).
13. Tallinn, Estonia
Already awarded the title of the most beautiful Christmas market in Europe two years ago, Tallinn has become a must-see winter destination. The Tallinn Christmas Market delights with its coziness, historical location, centuries-old buildings and long traditions.
Every year, more than half a million people come to the Tallinn Christmas Market. High-quality handicraft, practical winter accessories, traditional crafts, delicious gingerbread and hearty Christmas roasts add to the festive Christmas spirit.
Opening dates: From November 14, 2021, to January 2, 2022 (projected dates).
14. Bruges, Belgium
The romantic city of Bruges with one of the most beautiful Christmas Markets in Europe annually entrances visitors during the winter season. From the end of November, the historic city center is transformed into a giant Christmas market.
The Bruges Christmas and winter markets will be located on the Markt and Simon Stevinplein, in the city center. There will be a wide range of stalls offering local food and drinks. Homemade hot chocolate, ice-cold jenever, spiced glühwein will grace Belgian beers, cheeses and hearty dishes.
Opening dates: From November 19, 2021, to January 2, 2022 (projected dates).
15. Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is one of the most romantic cities in Europe in the EBD listing.
The Christmas markets in Old Town Square in the city center are the biggest of its kind in the Czech Republic. Dozens of wooden stalls offering traditional Czech blown glass balls, products made of glass pearls or straw, hand-embroidered tablecloths, wooden toys and cookie cutters are among many other typical Christmas goods.
Mulled wine, gourmet specialties such as Czech Christmas cookies, hot roasted chestnuts, gingerbread biscuits and typical Czech grilled sausages and other skewered foods are there to tempt visitors of all ages.
Opening dates: November 27, 2021, to January 2, 2022 (projected dates).
16. Edinburgh, Scotland
World-renowned Edinburgh Christmas celebrations spread the festive cheer across the Scottish capital every year.
From mulled Irn Bru to vegan pigs in blankets and from Harry Potter-themed gifts to local handmade produce, the stunning Christmas Market in East Princes Street Gardens will appeal to any visitor.
Opening dates: November 14, 2021, to January 2, 2022 (projected dates).
17. Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
Opening dates: From November 28 to December 23, 2021 (projected dates).
18. Nuremberg, Germany
The Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt was first mentioned in 1628 and its roots probably go back to the time of Luther, when the tradition of giving children presents at Christmas evolved.
Traditional wares such as handmade Christmas decorations and culinary treats have been offered ever since in the 180 wooden stalls decorated with red and white canvas.
Opening dates: From November 26 to December 24, 2021 (projected dates).
19. Bath, United Kingdom
While Manchester is considered one of the U.K.’s largest Christmas markets, Bath is considered one of the finest. The 18-day extravaganza is the largest Christmas shopping event in the southwest and consists of more than 170 beautifully-decorated wooden chalets in the heart of Bath’s World Heritage Site.
More than 70% of stallholders are from Bath and the surrounding region, and 60% of goods available at the market are handmade in the U.K. Next year will mark the market’s 20th anniversary.
Opening dates: November 24, 2021, to January 2, 2022 (projected dates).
20. Malaga, Spain
Forget about the snow and the cold and instead of skating on a frozen lake, swim in the Mediterranean. The spirit of Christmas in Málaga is best shown by the city’s famous Christmas lights. Each year, hundreds of people wait in Larios Street for the switching on of the lights, marking the start of the Christmas season, a period during which residents and visitors enjoy daily light and music performances among other Spanish seasonal traditions.
Opening dates: November 26, 2021, to January 6, 2022 (projected dates).