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A Christmas market trip is truly magical. The feeling of awe and wonder that you may have had as a child around the holiday season comes springing back to life as you walk around the extravagant displays of the European Christmas markets and sample treats galore.
Chris and I have been lucky to have experienced Southeast Asia, summertime in Paris, and even an African safari, but nothing will ever match the magic of a Christmas market break in Europe. That’s how beautiful it is!
And while it would be amazing to spend an entire month galavanting across the markets in an epic Christmas market trip, for those short on time, we have an incredible 10 day Christmas market itinerary in central Europe that you’re going to want to use to plan your very own delightful getaway.
Table of Contents
- Why Central Europe for a Christmas in Europe Itinerary?
- Central European Christmas Market Trip Itinerary
- If You Have More Time on Your Christmas Market Trip
- Christmas Markets By Train: Getting There and Around During your Christmas Market Trip
- What to Pack for a Christmas Market Trip
- Tips for Your Christmas in Europe Itinerary
Why Central Europe for a Christmas in Europe Itinerary?
So many countries throughout Europe have their own winter markets, and as we had 2 weeks in Europe, we ended up starting our trip visiting friends in Belgium and did a quick trip to see Cologne’s Christmas markets in a day before exploring central Europe’s Christmas markets for the remainder of the trip.
We absolutely loved the central European Christmas markets because you can do the Christmas markets by train! All of the places in our itinerary were easily accessible via train, meaning you could spend a few days in each spot and quickly be off to the next destination rather than catching flights. Plus, travel by train in Europe in early winter is quite enchanting!
I also loved how affordable central Europe is compared to places like Germany, the UK, etc. So we were able to get some good deals and inexpensive food!
Also, after having lived in Europe for a bit and traveled there several times, Budapest and Prague (some of the destinations in this itinerary) are truly some of my favorite cities in Europe! So when you’re not exploring Christmas markets, there is still plenty to do during the day!
But overall, once you experience any European Christmas market trip, you’ll undoubtedly want to return to see even more. This itinerary is a great way to see several destinations in a short amount of time for a good taste of the Christmas markets in Europe. Because let’s be honest, you’ll want to come back for more!
Central European Christmas Market Trip Itinerary
Without further ado, it is time to explore the perfect Christmas market holiday in central Europe for the ultimate Christmas in Europe itinerary!
Days 1-4 of the Epic Christmas Market Trip: Budapest, Hungary
I love Budapest! After visiting three times, I love the counterculture of the ruin pubs, the dreamy Fisherman’s Bastion, and I definitely love their beautiful bathhouses to warm up on a chilly winter day.
So to kick off your Christmas markets by train itinerary, start off in Budapest! We also have a very detailed itinerary on how to spend 4 days in Budapest!
Best Christmas Markets in Budapest
Wandering around the Pest side of Budapest is where you’ll find a majority of the markets. Each is a delight with AMAZING food (see below) and light displays. Here are our favorites you’ll want to check out:
1. St. Stephen’s Basilica Christmas Market
This is definitely the most scenic Christmas market in Budapest, as St. Stephen’s Basilica commands the attention of every passerby! It is a beautiful cathedral to begin with, but as the sun sets during the holiday season, a laser projection on the church displays several scenes with snow, presents, and Christmas greetings all accompanied by Christmas music.
There is also a bright Christmas tree and plenty of decorated booths selling Hungarian treats and handcrafted goods. And if you want to go ice skating, this is the place!
2021 Estimated Christmas Market Dates: November 19-December 31, 2021.
Christmas Market Hours: Monday-Thursday 10 am-8 pm, and Friday-Sunday 10 am-10 pm. Holiday hours: 12/24-10 am-2 pm, 12/25 & 12/26- 10 am-6 pm, and 12/31- 10 am-3 am.
2. Vorosmarty Square Christmas Market
This popular square is another great spot for a charming Christmas market. There are booths lined up selling delicious Hungarian comfort foods as well as crafts. Also, there is live music to enjoy as you wander the stalls, making this a magical place to explore day or night!
2021 Estimated Christmas Market Dates: November 19-December 31, food stalls open through January 1.
Christmas Market Hours: Sunday-Thursday 10 am-8 pm (food stalls open until 9 pm), and Friday-Saturday 10 am-9 pm (food stalls open until 10 pm). Holiday hours: 12/24- 10 am-2 pm (food stalls open until 3 pm), 12/25-26- 12-6 pm (food stalls open at 10 am), 12/28-29- 10 am-7 pm (food stalls close at 8 pm). Food stall only hours after 12/29: 12/30- 10 am-10 pm, 12/31- 10 am-4 pm, and 1/1- 2-10 pm.
3. Deak Ferenc Street (Fashion Street) Christmas Market
You likely can’t visit Vorosmarty Square’s Christmas market without also passing through Deak Ferenc market as well, so combine the two for even more Christmas market fun!
This street is magical and lit up to the extreme from the vibrant Christmas tree in front of the Hotel Kempinski to the overhead twinkle lights. This area is the place to get loads of food and trinkets, like a beautiful Christmas ornament!
This place also bridges the two most famous Christmas markets in Budapest, Vorosmarty Square and St. Stephen’s Basilica, so you can hit up all three in one evening!
Dates and time are not specified, but generally follow the dates and times of Vorosmarty Square’s Christmas Market.
4. Great Market Hall Christmas Market at Fovam Square
This cute little market just beside the Great Market Hall is a must-visit. It is full of more tasty food, delightful trinkets, and far less crowded than the more popular Christmas markets!
They also have concerts on the weekends to enjoy!
2021 Christmas Market Dates: November until December 23, 2021.
Christmas Market Hours: Daily 10 am-8 pm.
5. Advent Fair in Obuda
Off-the-beaten-path (about 30 minutes from downtown Budapest on the Buda side) but well worth the visit is the Advent Fair in Obuda. This is popular amongst locals with many programs like puppet shows and concerts taking place on the weekends. Expect local fare, an ice skating rink, a nativity scene, and lots of crafts.
2021 Estimated Christmas Market Dates: November 26-December 23, 2021.
Christmas Market Hours: Monday-Thursday 2-9 pm, Friday-Sunday 10 am-10 pm.
Best Christmas Market Food in Budapest
There are some incredible signature Hungarian foods available throughout the Christmas markets, and you’d be remiss to not try them! They’re so good! We’re talking about piping hot tasty sausages and desserts that pair perfectly well with mulled wine!
- Hungarian Goulash is beef and veggie stew served in a bread bowl and easily their national dish.
- Langos is basically fried up dough topped with sour cream and a variety of other things including cheese, veggies, garlic, etc.
- Chimney Cake is dough wrapped on a spit and cooked over hot coals until it is crunchy on the outside and chewy and soft on the inside. It is typically served covered in cinnamon sugar, but you can get various nuts and cocoa on it too. It is fun to watch being made and seriously a thing of beauty to unwrap and eat while it’s super hot.
- Hungarian Sausage is amazing and can be spicy which I recommend.
- Stuffed Cabbage is a cabbage stuffed with pork and paprika and super tasty.
- Strudel is another great dessert with various flavors from apple to sour cherry.
- Mulled Wine is of course a must! Warm-up with this hot beverage made with mulling spices.
Things to do in Budapest:
While I go into full details on spending time in Budapest in this post, here are some highlights you’ll want to experience other than the Christmas markets:
- A morning stroll along Fisherman’s Bastion that overlooks the Danube and Parliament Building.
- Cross the Chain Bridge on foot for beautiful views of the Danube.
- Visit a bathhouse or two! We loved Rudas Baths for its rooftop hot tub, and their saunas, indoor baths, and the old traditional bath. Szechenyi Baths is also very popular but book ahead of time!
- Central Market Hall for souvenirs and fresh produce.
- Visit a ruin pub! We loved Szimpla Kert and Mazel Tov.
- Explore Dohany Street Synagogue, the largest synagogue in Europe.
- You MUST take a Danube cruise at night! It is stunning seeing everything lit up at night (including the Parliament building)! Book ahead of time to guarantee a spot!
- Explore Old Town including the Parliament Building (book tickets in advance) and St. Stephen’s Basilica
- Visit Hero’s Square and City Park.
- Take a day trip to the Etyek wine region.
Where to Stay in Budapest
There are ample Airbnbs all over Budapest, and we actually stayed in this one that was super charming in the heart of the Jewish Quarter or the 7th District. It had 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, which was perfect for our party of 6 including Chris’s parents, sister, and brother-in-law. It also had laundry and a kitchen.
Here are a few other options for hotels:
- Budget: Maverick City Lodge (hostel with private rooms). Read reviews on TripAdvisor and book here!
- Mid-Range: Continental Hotel Budapest. Read reviews on TripAdvisor and book here!
- Luxury: Aria Hotel Budapest. Read reviews on TripAdvisor and book here!
Days 5-7: Vienna, Austria + Bratislava, Slovakia Day Trip
Vienna, while it didn’t impress me the last time I visited in the summer, impressed me so much during the holiday season! Christmas markets in Vienna are everywhere and each one is more impressive than the next. Prepare to be awe-inspired as you wander around the various light displays and dreamy food booths and collect those delightful Christmas market mugs!
And, because it isn’t far and perfect for a day trip, Bratislava is a must to visit for their Christmas markets!
Top Christmas Markets in Vienna
It seems like there are Christmas markets splashed across the city here including every palace and town square. It is amazing just wandering around to visit as many as you possibly can! I’ll quickly recap our favorites here, but more details can be found in our Vienna in December post.
1. Vienna Christmas World on Rathausplatz
This is easily the most recognizable Christmas market in Vienna, as well as the largest. There is also a Tree of Hearts, rides for kids, an ice rink, and nativity scenes. You could spend hours exploring this giant Christmas market!
There is also a ton of food and crafts to choose from here!
2021 Christmas Market Dates: November 13-December 26, 2021.
Christmas Market Hours: Sunday-Thursday 11 am-9:30 pm, Friday and Saturday 11 am-10 pm, 12/24- 11 am-7 pm, and 12/25-26- 11 am-9:30 pm. The ice rink stays open until January 6.
2. Christmas Village & New Year’s Eve Trail on Maria-Theresien-Platz
Close to Rathausplatz is this other very popular Christmas market! There are several stalls here as well selling treats and trinkets. Plus the light displays between the fountains are lovely.
2021 Christmas Market Dates: November 17-December 26, 2021.
Christmas Market Hours: Sunday-Thursday 11 am-9 pm, Friday and Saturday 11 am-9:30 pm, 12/24- 11 am-4 pm, 12/25-26- 11 am-7 pm. The New Year’s Trail stays open until January 6th.
3. Am Hof Christmas Market
This was definitely my favorite of the Christmas markets in Vienna. It is much smaller than the first two and much less crowded. Plus they had some unique offerings like hot aperol spritzes and incredibly tasty food. The square was really cute and it was around the corner from our hotel so we went a few times.
2021 Christmas Market Dates: November 12-December 23, 2021.
Christmas Market Hours: Monday-Thursday 11 am-9 pm, Friday-Sunday and holidays 10 am-9 pm (food stalls open until 10 pm).
4. Altwiener Christmas Market (Freyung Christmas Market)
This cozy market is full of charm and has a farmer’s market! This also had a more local feel and was a lot of fun to explore.
2021 Christmas Market Dates: November 20-December 23, 2021.
Christmas Market Hours: Daily 10 am-9 pm.
5. Christmas Market on Stephansplatz
This market surrounds St. Stephen’s Cathedral and the views are incredible. The cathedral itself is all lit up at night and they serve their mulled wine in the cutest Santa boot! Definitely check out the mulled wine here.
2021 Christmas Market Dates: November 12-December 26, 2021.
Christmas Market Hours: Daily 11 am-9 pm, 12/24- 11 am-4 pm, 12/25-26- 11 am-7 pm.
6. Schonbrunn Christmas Market
This is a fun one to visit as it kind of kills two birds with one stone. First, you get to check out the amazingly stunning Schonbrunn Palace, and then you can enjoy snacks, drinks, and craft goods at the market in front of the palace.
2021 Christmas Market Dates: November 20-December 26, 2021.
Christmas Market Hours: Daily 10 am-9 pm, 12/24- 10 am-4 pm, 12/25-26- 10 am-6 pm. New Year’s Market stays open until January 2.
This is only scratching the surface of Christmas markets in Vienna during your Christmas market trip! There are at least 17 well-known markets in the area…again, you basically round a corner and find one. But if you’re short on time and have a couple of days, then these are the ones to hit up.
Best Christmas Markets in Bratislava
Bratislava is much smaller than Vienna, and while they definitely have a few markets, here are a couple of main ones to hit up during your day trip:
1. Main Square Christmas Market
With red and white striped huts and in a charming square in the middle of the old city, this is the best Christmas market in Bratislava. It also has the best food of pretty much all the Christmas markets. Cheesy, gooey things and even fun things like veggie gyoza make this a must-visit during a day trip there.
2021 Christmas Market Dates: November 29, 2021-January 5, 2022.
Christmas Market Hours: Daily 10 am-10 pm.
2. Hviezdoslav Square Christmas Market
Not too far from the main square is this beauty of a Christmas market. This place also has an ice rink, and a hut or two where if you donate some money to the Lion’s Club, they may just throw in some mulled wine and cookies for free!
2021 Christmas Market Dates: November 29, 2021-January 5, 2022.
Christmas Market Hours: Daily 10 am-10 pm.
Best Christmas Market Food in Vienna
When it comes to the things you should eat during your Christmas market trip in Vienna, here is what you can’t miss:
- Spaetzle (basically an egg noodle mac n cheese with fried onions)
- Raclette (melty cheese over crusty bread topped with onions)
- Roasted almonds
- Mulled wine
- Hot Aperol Spritz (so good trust me!)
Best Christmas Market Food in Bratislava:
This place brings it with tasty Christmas market food! Here are a few faves!
- Mulled wine
- Lokse (potato dough fried up and topped with savory or sweet toppings)
- Mastny Chlieb (bread covered with lard and topped with paprika and onions)
- Tea with rum
- Medovina (honey wine)
- Cheese covered fries
Things to do in Vienna:
Vienna is a big city with loads of things to do! Steeped in opulent architecture, classical music roots, and elaborate palaces, you will never run out of things to do during the day in Vienna.
- Watch the famed Lippizaner stallions at the Spanish Riding School (book tickets in advance– they sell out!).
- Explore palaces like the Schonbrunn Palace, Hofburg Palace, and Belvedere Palace. Be sure to purchase tickets for them in advance to avoid waiting in line! Here is where to book for the Schonbrunn, Hofburg, and Belvedere, respectively.
- Dive into cafe culture at unique and lovely cafes like Cafe Central and Cafe Demel.
- Take in some classical music at Musikverein.
- Wander inside of St. Stephen’s Cathedral.
- Eat and explore at Naschmarkt.
- Wander the streets of the Innere Stadt, Rathausplatz, and Kaerntner Strasse.
- And, of course, take a day trip to Bratislava to explore their magical Christmas markets!
Where to Stay in Vienna
Prices do increase a bit when you get to Vienna, so checking out Airbnb is always a good idea to find great deals in the city center. Here are some great hotel options too based on budget.
- Budget: Hotel Austria. Read reviews on TripAdvisor and book here!
- Mid-Range: Steigenberger Hotel Herrenhof Wien (where we stayed and super close to Christmas markets). Read reviews on TripAdvisor and book here!
- Luxury: Park Hyatt Vienna (literally in front of a Christmas market). Read reviews on TripAdvisor and book here!
Days 8-10 of Your Christmas Market Trip Through Central Europe: Prague, Czech Republic
I’m not saying that you should save the best for last, because, honestly, all of these cities are amazing and their markets are a dream, but Prague is stunning.
Cobblestone streets, a dreamy castle, the most iconic main square in Europe, and jaw-dropping Christmas markets make Prague a perfect place to visit during your Christmas markets by train itinerary.
I have a whole post dedicated to spending 2 full days in Prague, but here are some tips for the Christmas markets!
Top Prague Christmas Markets
Aside from checking out our post all about the best Christmas markets in Prague, here is a quick reference!
1. Old Town Square Christmas Market
This is hands down one of the most scenic Christmas markets I have ever seen! It is massive too with a giant Christmas tree, a stage for performers, tons of great food and drinks, and, of course, handcrafted goods.
Oh, and you can spot the Prague Astronomical Clock and the iconic Church of Our Lady Before Tyn here.
2021 Christmas Market Dates: November 27, 2021-January 2, 2022.
Christmas Market Hours: Daily 10 am-10 pm. Food stalls close at midnight.
2. Wenceslas Square Christmas Market
Close to the Old Town Square is Wenceslas Square, which is home to another great Christmas market. There are a lot of hand-crafted toys and merchandise here as well as glassware and treats.
Plus, they light the tree each evening at 5 pm, which is a delight to see.
2021 Christmas Market Dates: November 27, 2021-January 2, 2022.
Christmas Market Hours: Daily 10 am-10 pm (food stalls close at midnight).
3. Prague Castle Christmas Market
While exploring the labyrinth of the Prague Castle complex, you’ll definitely want to visit the Christmas market here as well. Full of great gift ideas and even more Czech drinks and treats, you can warm up with a glass of mulled wine in between exploring the various alleyways, churches, and castle rooms at Prague Castle!
2021 Christmas Market Dates: November 25, 2021-January 2, 2022.
Christmas Market Hours: Monday-Thursday 9 am-6 pm, Friday-Saturday 9 am-7 pm.
4. Tyl’s Square Christmas Market
I’ll be honest in that we just happened upon this one after having a delightful lunch at Etnosvet, a vegan and vegetarian restaurant our Prague Food Tour guide recommended. As it is off the main drag for tourists, this more local market instantly charmed us!
This tiny market has a lot of local goodies, treats, and great Christmas decorations.
2021 Christmas Market Dates: November 27-January 2, 2022.
Christmas Market Hours: Daily 10 am-7 pm.
5. Christmas at Lesser Town next to Charles Bridge
This tiny market is located right next to Charles Bridge. You’ll spot the stands where you can take the stairs down to Lesser Town instead of continuing on the bridge. Many people overlook this tiny market, but it is worth a stop for some delicious food and mulled wine.
I don’t know the exact hours and dates, but it is likely the same as these other markets (i.e. month of December and opens around 10 am and closes around 6 or 7 pm).
Best Food at the Prague Christmas Markets
There are some great food options at the Christmas markets, and here are a few to check out during your time there:
- Prague Ham is tasty and is roasted on a spit
- Klobasa sausages
- Trdelnik (very similar to the chimney cake)
- Honey wine
- Mulled wine
- Becherovka (a digestif that literally tastes like Christmas with a secret recipe)
- Palacinky (a crepe that can be savory or sweet)
- Moravian cake (kind of like coffee cake)
Things to do in Prague
Here are some highlights you don’t want to miss during your Christmas market in Europe itinerary in Prague:
- Explore Old Town Square.
- Watch the Astronomical Clock.
- Take a tour of the Jewish Quarter.
- Wander along Charles Bridge.
- Visit a Beer Spa.
- Drink like a local at Lokal.
- Visit Prague Castle.
- Take photos at the Lennon Wall.
- Check out this amazing food tour of Prague.
Where to Stay in Prague
Prague is another affordable city to explore. You can even snag an Airbnb for like $50 a night! Check out some great Prague Airbnbs and reserve in advance to get the best locations.
For hotel options, here are our faves:
- Budget: Hotel Grand Praha. Read reviews on TripAdvisor and book here!
- Mid-Range: Hotel Pod Vezi. This is where we stayed and right next to Charles Bridge. This was an incredible hotel and the attention to detail was divine. Read reviews on TripAdvisor and book here!
- Luxury: Hotel Kings Court. Read reviews on TripAdvisor and book here!
If You Have More Time on Your Christmas Market Trip
I know that this looks like an incredible trip, and if you have 10 days for a Christmas market itinerary, I highly recommend coming to central Europe and visiting the best Christmas markets here!
But if you’re lucky and have even more time, I recommend checking out some other places in Europe for Christmas markets. Chris and I had two weeks to explore Europe and ended up visiting Bruges for a day, Antwerp, and spent a day doing a Christmas Crawl in Cologne.
Some other places I recommend checking out include some markets in western Europe like Germany (Munich, Nuremberg, Rothenberg au Tabor, Frankfurt, etc.), France (Colmar and Strasbourg), and Belgium (Antwerp, Brussels, and Bruges).
If you want to explore eastern Europe, be sure to check out Tallinn, Estonia, Riga, Latvia, and Lviv, Ukraine.
And if you have more time and want to stick to Central Europe, be sure to check out the Christmas markets in Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic, Salzburg, Hallstatt, and Innsbruck in Austria, Ljubljana, Slovenia, Zagreb, Croatia, and Krakow, Poland.
Christmas Markets By Train: Getting There and Around During your Christmas Market Trip
When it comes to getting there for your Central European Christmas market itinerary, flying is likely your best bet if coming from outside of the area.
We always check Skyscanner for the best flight deals, as well as use miles and points when we can. As we went during the off-season for American Airlines, we got a steal at 45,000 miles per person on a round-trip flight to Europe.
While we flew on points to and from Europe, we ended up flying from Dusseldorf to Budapest to start our 10 day Central Europe Christmas market itinerary. For this flight, we checked for discount airlines on Skyscanner and found a great deal!
After that, we just took the train everywhere we needed to go. I recommend checking The Trainline for timetables as well as tickets and booking in advance to reserve your seat. Train tickets were really inexpensive and the best way to get around in central Europe.
What to Pack for a Christmas Market Trip
When it comes to packing for your Christmas market trip, there is one thing you need to know: pack layers…lots of layers. It’ll likely be chilly at best and really cold at worst, and as these markets are outdoors, you’ll want to be prepared.
I highly recommend this The Northface jacket that is super toasty and warm (I’ve been wearing it in Cleveland every winter as well as our Christmas market trip)! Chris has a thick, wool peacoat that keeps him cozy.
Be sure to also have a warm pair of gloves, earmuffs, and a scarf handy too!
I ended up packing these fantastic and comfortable boots that went with all of my outfits, thick wool socks or fuzzy socks, some cute jeans and trousers to layer over some tights underneath on really cold days, and these adorable sweaters that I ended up buying a couple of to mix and match!
It was only a bit chilly during our time in Budapest and Vienna but got very cold during our time in Prague. Seriously, I cannot stress the benefits of thick, wool socks and packing a lot of warm clothes!
For taking great photos of the markets, we mostly just used our iPhones and this fantastic tripod to take photos of the two of us!
And to charge all of your things, you’ll need an outlet adapter. This one is great, lightweight, and can charge many things at once!
Tips for Your Christmas in Europe Itinerary
Before you hop on the plane to enjoy this magical European Christmas market itinerary, here are some key things to know:
- Not all Christmas markets are open on Christmas. Many are open from late November until just before Christmas, meaning if you want to enjoy the magic, you’ll likely want to go when they’re all open before Christmas.
- Don’t forget about New Year’s! If you do plan to be in town in December and want to stick around for New Year’s, many cities like Vienna have a lot of great New Year’s festivities.
- St. Nicholas Day is a big deal and a fun time to visit. While the day is on December 6 each year, the night before is when you’ll spot people dressed as either angels or devils symbolizing good or evil. There will also be people dressed up as St. Nicholas (kind of like Santa). They’ll ask children if they’ve been good this year, and if they say, “yes,” then they’ll recite a poem or sing a song for a treat. If they haven’t been good then the devil supposedly takes off with them in his sack or they’ll get coal or potatoes instead of candy. This basically never happens and most kids get treats. We witnessed this in Prague and it was a lot of fun.
- When is the best time to visit? I would say when they open around late November and early December. It gets more crowded the closer you get to Christmas. We visited around early December last year and it was the perfect time to go! Also, many markets are most crowded in the evenings and on weekends, so visiting during the week and daytime is great too.
- Travel insurance is a great idea. Whether you get your luggage lost or get sick on vacation, travel insurance is a must. We don’t travel internationally without it. World Nomads is our go-to travel insurance all over the world.
The Christmas markets in Europe are a true dream come true to visit. With so many great places to visit in Central Europe that are easily accessible via train, I highly recommend this 10 day Christmas market trip itinerary!
Would you visit the Christmas markets? Which are your favorites?
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