Christmas markets in Italy and Germany, in Bolzano, Trento, Verona, Milan, Florence, Rome, Naples, Berlin, Nuremberg, Hamburg, Dresden, Cologne, Heidelberg, and many more
As Christmas gets closer, festive markets pop up all over Italy, offering high-quality gifts, decorations, excellent food, and wine. For many Italian cities, Christmas markets are a new tradition brought from Northern Europe, but some regions offer a more authentic experience. For example, the South Tyrol region next to the Austrian border boasts many historical and established Italian Christmas markets against the backdrop of breathtaking mountains.
Famous Italian Christmas markets run in major cities like Turin, Milan, Florence, and Verona. Florence Christmas market is centered around Piazza Santa Croce with a strong feel of German traditions. Christmas markets (Mercatini di Natale) in Milan are scattered across the city and offer a great program full of entertainment and Christmas shopping.
Bussolengo Christmas Village in the province of Verona, known as Il Villaggio Di Natale Flover, is not to be missed. This tradition began in 1996 and the area covers over 7,000 sq m of indoor space. The village impresses with the lavish Christmas decorations, hand-crafted goods, and seasonal foods, the best of which is the Xmas Burger. The most awaited of all events is the dinner with Santa Claus, usually held every Thursday and Friday between late November and mid-December.
Aosta Valley in northwest Italy, bordering France and Switzerland, hosts one of the most picturesque markets – the Marché Vert Noël. Over 50 chalets offer sweets and pastries from the region, as well as, ideas for unique gifts. The Aosta Christmas Market is also famous for handmade candles and soap, Christmas decorations, ceramics, and antique furniture. There is also clothing made from natural fabrics like wool and felt, the region is also known for its beautiful lace. This market takes place at the archaeological site of the Roman Theatre.
The town of Bolzano in Trentino-Alto Adige in South Tyrol, bordering Switzerland and Austria, hosts a Christmas Market famous all over Italy. With the picturesque snow-capped Rosengarten Dolomites surrounding the medieval town, it’s hard to imagine a better Christmas destination.
Bolzano Christmas Market (Bozner Christkindlmarkt) is brightly decorated with traditional garlands and lights. The scents of pine, roast chestnuts, and spices fill the streets. Held at Piazza Walther, Bolzano Christmas market offers handmade wood and glass gifts, ceramics, and seasonal treats.
Tyrol town of Trento is home to a magical Christmas Market with a cozy and festive atmosphere, unique gifts, and traditional foods. About 100 wooden chalets cover two medieval squares: Piazza Fiera and Piazza Cesare Battisti. Local craftsmanship will show their best products and gastronomy. Try delicious local specialties such as treccia mochèna pastry, polenta brustolada, canederli, and parampampoli.
The town of Pordenone in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region features a large Christmas market with concerts, shows, and games during the whole season. Check out the life-size nativity scene with hand-carved wooden statues and other attractions on Piazza XX Settembre and Corso Garibaldi in Pordenone.
The Christmas markets in Rome take place on different squares and near different attractions. Even though Rome doesn’t really know winter temperatures, with all the Christmas illuminations and Christmas decorations you will still get this special Christmas feeling in Rome. On some Christmas markets you can find vintage carousels and since most markets are located next to famous attractions there is a special atmosphere on Roman Christmas markets.
The Roman Christmas market at Piazza Navona is one of the most famous markets in Rome. You can find local sellers, toys, street musicians and artists, several nativity scenes and amusement rides. All that in front of Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers and the church Saint Agnes in Agone.
Naples is famous all over the world for its Nativity scenes, in particular San Gregorio Armeno Street is the way of the Neapolitan Presepe here are the workshops of the artisans of the Nativity, where they build the wonderful figurines that make up the Neapolitan cribs.
San Gregorio Armeno is in fact dedicated to Christmas at any time of the year, in fact the artisans always work on the preparation of the typical terracotta figurines and the huts of the cork cribs, but during the month of December the street becomes a real market that has Christmas as its theme, offering the best of itself in a truly suggestive atmosphere.
Another place to check out during the Christmas season is Como’s Città dei Balocchi (City of Toys) from late November until early January. For over a month the city transforms into a fabulous nativity town entertaining both kids and adults. Check out the Como Magic Light Festival, Christmas Market in Cavour Square and Plinio Street, Santa Claus’ Post Office, and, of course, the ice-skating rink. The main festivities traditionally begin on Christmas Eve with the arrival of Santa Claus in Piazza del Duomo. The last celebration takes place on Epiphany Day again in Piazza del Duomo when a mythical old lady Befana descends from a rooftop.
Christmas markets in Germany. From Nuremberg and Hamburg to Dresden and Cologne, the run-up to Christmas sees town squares all over Germany filled with festively decorated huts selling handcrafted goods and delicious food.
When people think of German Christmas markets, the one that stands out in terms of history, lore and tradition tends to be Nuremberg. Though its direct origins are murky, historians believe it began during the early 17th century. A key custom that marks its commencement is the parading of the holy cherub Christkind (‘Christ child’) – the traditional giver of gifts at Christmas time, played by a child in the city – through Nuremberg’s central square, the Hauptmarkt. The Christkindlesmarkt (‘Christ child market’) opens at the start of Advent and runs until Christmas Eve. The unique souvenirs on sale include specialities from the Franconian region, such as brandies, fruit jams and clothes made from local wool.
Berlin’s many Christmas markets are as diverse as the city itself. Many diverge from the traditional to champion multiculturalism or environmental sustainability, such as the Christmas edition of the Green Market vegan lifestyle event. While markets like the famed Gendarmentmarkt deserve an honourable mention, a favourite among locals is the Lucia Christmas Market that is presented at the Kulturbrauerei in the eastern district of Prenzlauer Berg. Here, visitors can enjoy a fusion of German traditions and Scandinavian influences: Nordic flags wave from the stalls, traditional songs sound across the market square and vendors prepare traditional foods, including elk bratwurst.
Cologne’s most famous Christmas market stands in front of the city’s cathedral. Cologne’s most famous Christmas Market is situated at the foot of the city’s most prominent landmark and UNESCO World Heritage site, the Gothic Cathedral. The festival centres around an enormous Christmas tree decorated with lights, red ribbons and ornaments. Sip on some Glühwein while browsing the market’s stands as live-music acts perform Christmas tunes, before sampling some Currywurst or South Tyrolian ham.
Most of the markets on this list have historic origins, but for the most part, the cities surrounding them have been modernised. For a truly immersive experience, head to Rothenburg ob der Tauber in Bavaria, a quaint village where you feel as if you are stepping back in time.
This picturesque place draws tourists every year during the Christmas season, as the gabled roofs and cobblestone streets are dusted with snow and illuminated by twinkling Christmas lights. The entire town takes on a festive spirit as residents decorate their windows with garlands. Be sure to try Rothenburg’s trademark Schneeballbiscuit, a kind of fried dough covered in powdered sugar or melted chocolate.
Those interested in a more traditional Christmas market experience should head to Stuttgart, where the city’s five major squares are transformed each year to bring visitors a taste of some of the country’s longest-standing Christmas bazaars.
Some even say that Stuttgart itself is a Christmas city, thanks to its cobblestone streets and myriad historic buildings. The main market worth visiting is the one situated in front of the striking Old Palace, known as Wintertraum Markt. Munch on roasted chestnuts and Lebkuchen as you get lost in a sea of wooden chalets adorned with festive decorations.
Römerberg is one of Germany’s oldest Christmas markets. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, hundreds of wooden huts move to the historic old town squares surrounding Frankfurt’s Römerberg. The market stalls are set in the midst of the area’s timber-framed houses, contrasting with the glitzy high-rises of the financial district in the background.
As one of Germany’s oldest Christmas markets, with records suggesting it dates back as far as 1393, the market at Römerberg is a sure-fire was to enjoy some traditional goodies and Christmas spirit. Handmade trinkets and crafts make for fantastic souvenirs and gifts, and the local culinary specials – from hot apple wine to Bethmännchen marzipan cookies – will give you the full Franconian experience.
Leipzig Christmas market. More than 300 exhibitors set up shop on Leipzig’s market square each year. Just an hour west of Dresden and its famous Striezelmarkt, visitors are discovering Leipzig’s lesser-known Old Town Christmas market. More than 300 exhibitors set up shop on the market square and in the nearby streets and transform the city centre with lights and evergreen garlands. Vendors in the Old Town offer a mix of traditional German handicrafts and food, while Augustusplatz is where the Christmas flair goes international with Finnish products, Swiss cheese and South Tyrolian decor. The musical entertainment on stage is just as varied, and younger guests can explore the fairy-tale forest or meet Santa Claus.
The Heidelberg Christmas market is one of the most romantic you’ll find in Germany. Heidelberg enchants visitors year-round with its quaint Old Town, picturesque river views and the imposing ruins of a 13th-century castle towering over the city. Towards the end of November, the market squares fill with wooden huts and stalls illuminated by twinkling lights. The Heidelberg Christmas market is one of the most romantic you’ll find in Germany, and your afternoon is best spent shopping for handcrafted gifts, souvenirs and decor, indulging in Glühwein and going for a spin on the Karlsplatz ice rink.
In Heidelberg you will feel like you are in a Christmas fairytale: the Heidelberg Christmas Market with its 130 stalls is one of the most beautiful markets in Germany! Combine – gladly together with your professional, friendly and even Christmas-loving guide – the visit of the Advent performances with a stroll through the old town, and let yourself be explained the numerous sights.
Christmas markets spring up across Hamburg in November and December, encompassing a wide range of themes. The main Christmas market, Weihnachtsmarkt, takes place around a colossal Christmas tree next to the City Hall. While Weihnachtsmarkt has a feel akin to the traditional Christmas markets found in town squares throughout Germany, Hamburg’s central Mönckebergbrunnen shopping district transforms into a magical Christmas forest to host the Winterwald (‘winter forest’) market. If you’re looking for a Christmas market experience with a difference, Hamburg also hosts a range of smaller themed markets, including the Saint Pauli festival – the world’s first erotic Christmas market.
The spa city of Aachen, set close to Germany’s border with Belgium and the Netherlands, turns into a winter wonderland in the run-up to Christmas. The quaint streets and squares surrounding the City Hall and cathedral are decked out with coloured lights and around 120 stalls, selling everything from mulled wine to handmade wooden toys. Kids will love the festive carousel, while friends back home will enjoy an authentic souvenir of Aachener Printen – a type of Lebkuchen local to Aachen, made with caramelised sugar and spices.
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