Major cities and small towns alike light up all over European December, their Christmas markets a staple of community pride and festive fever. Though German-style Christmas markets are perhaps the best loved, one can find cosy, wooden Glühwein and Bratwurst stalls as far and wide as Scotland, Finland and even Spain! Since Covid-19 loves to ruin everything, many of Europe’s major Christmas markets won’t be running this year, including the vast majority across Germany. However, many others are soldiering on, and perhaps this is an opportunity for some of Europe’s lesser-known markets to shine a little brighter! In this list, we take a look at 8 markets still going ahead that we’re most excited about this year.
Dresden – Germany
Dresden Striezelmarkt is one of the few markets in Germany hoping to go ahead. While having to adapt majorly to Covid-19 restrictions, the council are hoping to still be able to put on an exciting festive schedule of stalls and events, having run for 585 years! Bursting with wooden shacks selling handicrafts and gifts, the Striezelmarkt is also particularly famous for selling delicious Dresden Stollen sweat treats, the word Striezel meaning pastry.
Barcelona – Spain
Though Spain might not be your first thought when it comes to winter Christmas markets, the Fira de Santa Llucia three-week fair is a major highlight on the Spanish seasonal calendar. Situated next to Barcelona cathedral, the market has all your usual gift and food stalls as well as nativity scene, parade and children’s events.
Vienna – Austria
Thankfully, one of the biggest and best Christmas markets in Europe is still planned to go ahead; the Christkindlmarkt by the Vienna Town Hall. With its dazzling, colourful lights and decorated trees, this market is a true wonderland, offering roast chestnut stalls, pastries and plenty of wine and punch. Opposite the fair is the Rathaus Park, full of light installations, fairground rides (potentially cancelled this year) and the famous Tree of Hearts.
Zagreb – Croatia
Somewhat off the beaten track, this market in Ban Jelacic Square is going full steam ahead and is expected to draw in eager festive lovers from all over Croatia. As traditional as you can get, this market is full of gingerbread stalls, mulled wine bars and, what may be a very strange, Covid-safe Santa’s grotto. If in Zagreb, don’t miss a visit to Zrinjevac Park, a park with beautiful views and various light and photo installations.
Oslo – Norway
This Winter Wonderland fair in Spikersuppa in Oslo will be smaller than usual but plans to bring just as much Christmas cheer. From handmade trinkets to delicious grills, bonfires, ice rinks and massive LED light installations, this market looks the part completely, and may very well be blanketed in a soft layer of snow, come December.
Basel – Switzerland
Bringing a Swiss twist to the Christmas market style, stands at this market in Basel are shaped like cosy wooden chalets, bustling with waffle stands, sausages, glühwein (mulled wine) and the oh-so-delicious Swiss raclette. If stuffing your face with mulled spices and cheese melted straight off the wheel sounds like heaven, this market is for you.
Whilst Scotland’s famous Edinburgh Christmas market has been cancelled, Aberdeen is hoping to pick up the reins, with a new indoor Christmas market. In full accordance with Covid regulations, this market will offer space for many struggling local businesses and showcase some of Scotland’s best crafts. Though it may not be a winter wonderland extravaganza, the initiative should bring a vital dose of Christmas cheer for locals in what has been a pretty gloomy holiday season.
Helsinki – Finland
Our final pick is in Helsinki, Finland. Another cosy Northern European Christmas market, this event in Senate Square is also planned to go ahead, whilst observing social distancing measures. One of the few to publish a thorough plan of its Covid measures and planning, this is sure to be a successful combination of seasonal cheer and safety. Over 100 traders are expected to join, bringing all the usual shopping, gifts, Finnish food and drink. The entire fair is also highly committed to environmental sustainability, recycling much of its waste and using renewable energy to power the stalls – go Helsinki!