Tuesday March 05, 2024

World's best Christmas markets for 2023 — Here's a list

From Germany to Switzerland to Singapore to New York, world's most major cities have a sizable yearly advent market

By Web Desk
November 27, 2023
Rockefeller Center in winter 2020. — AFP/File
Rockefeller Center in winter 2020. — AFP/File

Nothing makes people feel more cheerful than a market that celebrates Christmas — although Vienna is the origin of these celebrations—the city's first December market was documented in 1298—the custom has evolved throughout the ages to become a global phenomenon.

There isn't a popular travel destination—from Germany to Switzerland to Singapore to New York—that doesn't have a sizable yearly advent market.

Some have even become their own tourist attractions due to their immense popularity.

Here is a list of the best Christmas markets that are being held this year all across the world.

Wiener Christkindlmarkt, Austria

Vienna's beautiful show wonderfully captures the Christmas atmosphere, complete with rides on reindeer, a gigantic Ferris wheel, and a classic nativity scene to marvel at.

The Austrian capital boasts over 20 different Christmas markets, but the oldest and most established is the Wiener Christkindlmarkt, located on Rathausplatz.

The Viennese Dream Christmas Market, which takes place in front of City Hall, is a popular event that offers a 150-square-meter children's ice rink and a giant maple tree covered in hundreds of glittering hearts. The tree is a popular attraction for tourists and makes for a fantastic photo opportunity.

Numerous vendors are also serving up delectable fare, such as handmade Christmas punch and Austrian sausages and gingerbread cookies.

Basel Christmas Market, Switzerland

There isn't a place that does Christmas quite like Switzerland.

This time of year, festive markets almost take over most Swiss towns, creating an amazing atmosphere. However, Basel's Christmas Market is the largest and maybe the greatest in the world.

Divided into two distinct areas at Barfusserplatz and Munsterplatz, it consists of over 150 exquisitely adorned booths offering candles, ornaments, and spices for Christmas.

A star workshop, a festive train, and the Christmas fairytale forest at Munsterplatz are among the family-friendly attractions. Activities include creating candles and gingerbread houses.

In addition, visitors may enjoy wonderful views of the old town by strolling up St Martin's Tower stairway or sipping mulled wine at the 13-meter-tall Christmas pyramid on Barfusserplatz.

The Basel Christmas Market is set to debut on November 23 and continue until December 23.

Strasbourg Christmas Market, France

Strasbourg is one of the oldest Christmas markets in Europe, having opened in 1570, however much has changed since then.

The enormously popular market, which is spread over more than ten places, including a portion of the Grande Île UNESCO World Heritage Site, lights up the city with thousands of sparkling Christmas lights and festive ornaments.

The lively market, which attracts more than two million visitors annually, has hundreds of wooden chalet stalls offering everything from gifts and decorations to regional Alsatian wine.

Because of the Great Christmas Tree that is on display, Place Kleber is arguably the most visited location.

However, when meandering around the charming squares and little lanes of the city, tourists will be treated to a plethora of enchanting views.

The Christmas Market in Strasbourg is open from November 24 to December 24.

Brussels Winter Wonders, Belgium

Winter Wonders, more of a festival than a market, makes Brussels come to life throughout the Christmas season.

The yearly spectacular, which takes place over the Bourse, Place de la Monnaie, Grand Place, Place Sainte Catherine, and Marche aux Poissons, is one of Belgium's biggest and most well-liked festivals.

Activities include ice skating, a light and sound display, and fairground rides. Guests may also peruse over 200 chalets offering glühwein, Belgian beers, and waffles, and marvel at the massive Christmas tree placed in Grand Place.

The dates of Brussels Winter Wonders are November 24–December 31.

Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square Christmas markets, Prague, Czech Republic

Saying that Prague goes all out for Christmas would be understating the situation.

During the holidays, the capital of the Czech Republic is the epitome of a snowy paradise.

Although the city is full with markets, the two largest ones are Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square.

Fortunately, it's easy for attendees to visit both locations in one day as they are only a short stroll away.

Wenceslas Square is a terrific place to get handcrafted goods and regional specialties like mulled wine and klobasa (Czech sausage), but Old Town Square offers countless entertainment options in the shape of live shows, dance performances, and creative workshops.

From December 2, 2024, until January 6, 2024, the markets will be open.

Fira de Santa Llucia, Barcelona

Fira de Santa Llucia, which dates back to 1786, has expanded from a one-day celebration honouring December 13—Santa Llucia's feast day—to a three-week fair.

Four distinct parts make up the lively market, which is located directly outside Barcelona Cathedral.

The first is nativity and figurines, where guests can purchase figurines and decorations resembling nativity scenes. There are a lot of different kinds of plants and trees, both real and artificial.

There includes a crafts part with jewellery and handcrafted goods, and a simbombes section with musical instruments.

Numerous other festive events include storytelling, a Christmas parade, and the caga tio, a massive Christmas log shaped like a pinata that breaks open to release presents and candies when struck with a stick.

The dates of Fira de Santa Llucia are November 24–December 23.

I Mercati Natale, Piazza Santa Croce, Florence

This charming market offers plenty to see, but nothing compares to the stunning setting provided by Santa Croce's Franciscan Basilica.

This classic fair is brought every year from Heidelberg, Germany to Florence, yet despite its German origins, the setting and the abundance of Italian delicacies, such as panforte, make it seem quite Italian.

Still, gingerbread, strudel, and classic Heidelberg Lebkuchen cookies are in plentiful supply.

A spectacular nativity scene and an outstanding Christmas tree, lit up in advance of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8, await visitors to the neighbouring Piazza del Duomo.

November 18 is the start date of I Mercati Natale, which ends on December 17.

Advent in Zagreb, Croatia

It's understandable why Zagreb was selected as the "best Christmas market destination" in an online survey conducted by travel website European Best Destinations for three years in a row.

Advent in Zagreb is a wonderful sight, comprised of about 25 Christmas markets strewn throughout the Croatian metropolis.

Imagine ice sculptures, pop-up bars, outdoor concerts, live nativity scenes, and a Christmas tram that features Santa and his elves.

Additionally, Advent in Zagreb features a "fooling around" (also known as "fuliranje") area where happy celebrants dance in the street, consume street food, and enjoy live entertainment.

The dates of Advent in Zagreb 2023 are set for December 2, 2023, to January 7, 2024.

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, London

One of the most eagerly awaited winter attractions in the UK capital is Hyde Park Winter Wonderland.

Started in 2005, the popular festival attraction draws massive crowds every year with its 200+ rides, which include the UK's largest outdoor skating rink, mulled wine stations, and a 70-meter-tall big wheel.

In addition, guests may witness a circus performance, participate in ice-sculpting classes, enjoy live music at the bustling Fire Pit bar and sample a variety of dishes from the Street Food Village.

November 17 is when Hyde Park Winter Wonderland is expected to debut, and it will stay open until January 1, 2024.

The Distillery Winter Village, Toronto

The Distillery Winter Village, formerly the Toronto Christmas Market, is a quaint and small-scale interpretation of a classic European holiday market.

Taking place in the historic Distillery District, it has a 50-foot Christmas tree, a gingerbread search, outdoor shopping chalets and food vendors, and Christmas carol sing-alongs.

From gourmet cuisine to homemade souvenirs and festive beverages, there are plenty of stalls for visitors to peruse.

From November 16 until the New Year, the Distillery Winter Village 2023 will be open every day (except from December 25).

Winter Village at Bryant Park, New York

Bryant Park in Manhattan is turned into a breathtaking winter paradise for the Winter Village every single year.

With more than 150 uniquely designed stalls and a 17,000-square-foot outdoor rink that is free to use if you bring your own skates, the well-known open-air market is a beautiful sight to behold.

Its eating hall and bar by the rink The Lodge offers a unique selection of restaurants in addition to a beer garden and cocktail lounge outside.

The Josephine Shaw Lowell Fountain, which is located outside of Winter Village, is particularly lovely in the winter when it frequently freezes over.

Bryant Park's Bank of America Winter Village began on October 27 and is expected to remain open until March 3, 2024.