My Humble List of The Best Christmas Markets in Europe

I had heard about the best Christmas markets in Europe for years but wanted to find out for myself what they were like. I had no idea what to expect. Now I know and I can share with you the best Christmas markets in Europe along the Rhine River.  I took a river cruise on the Viking River Cruise ship TOR to explore these magical places: Basel, Switzerland; Black Forrest, Breisach, Germany; Colmar, France; Strasbourg, France;  Heidelberg, Germany; Koblenz, Germany; and Cologne, Germany.

Best European Christmas Markets, Best Christmas Markets in Europe


Strasbourg, France Cathedral

Strasbourg, France Cathedral, Best Christmas Markets in Europe

Best Christmas Markets in Europe: Basel, Switzerland

Basel SwitzerlandOne of the quaintest markets I came across from the beginning day of the cruise. This one is small, yet honestly, after seeing a few of the other cities Christmas Markets, being small is a good thing! It has all the charm of the other bigger markets, yet is less crowded and has all the bells and whistles to make you fall in love with the best Christmas markets in Europe. It has candle making, glass firing and chestnuts roasting, the perfect combination of all things Christmas.

Basel, Switzerland Christmas Market

Best Christmas Markets in Europe,  Basel, Switzerland

Best Christmas Markets in Europe: The Black Forest near Breisach, Germany

Black Forrest, (Breisach, Germany) – These Christmas Markets are a bit more difficult to get to, as you have to drive up into the mountains to get to the Black Forrest. It is home to the famous makers of the original cuckoo clock circa 1630 and the black forest cake. It is quite a trip up there and once you have made it to the entryway, you will be sidetracked by the clocks and the cake, but if you persevere, you will find right at the entry into the Black Forrest the most down-to-earth Christmas Market on this whole journey. These markets are more rustic and in an outdoor setting, so button up, but they do have bonfires to keep you warm and rustic areas to drink glühwein.

Black Forrest, (Breisach, Germany Christmas Market

Best  Christmas Markets in Europe, Black Forrest (Breisach, Germany)

Best Christmas Markets in Europe: Colmar, France

Colmar, France – This is one of the most spectacular Christmas markets you will encounter on the tour. It is actually home to not one, but literally, five different Christmas markets spread all over the town, all within walking distance. Now get ready for busy, as hoards of people come here for these markets. Although it is fascinating, I found the crowds almost too overwhelming to really enjoy it, as I got caught up and crushed in the onslaught of people a few times. I found myself wanting to go to a side street with hardly any people just to take a break and a photograph. My travel writer friend Christa Thompson of Fairytale Traveler went when it wasn’t so busy, so read her article and see her amazing photographs.

Colmar, France Christmas Market

Colmar, France, Best Christmas Markets in Europe

What is glühwein (also known as hot mulled wine)?

Mix four quarts of red wine, one quart of white wine, one pint of brandy and one cup of sugar, 12 whole cloves with a bit of AllSpice with orange slices. Gently warm and then steep for an hour over low heat and serve with cinnamon sticks.

Basel, Switzerland Christmas Market

Basel, Switzerland Christmas Market

Best Christmas Markets in Europe: Strasbourg, France

Cologne, Germany Christmas Markets

Cologne, Germany Christmas Markets

Strasbourg, France – Honestly, one of my favorites, this multicultural city right on the border between France and Germany, does an amazing job of blending the two cultures and brings out one of the best Christmas markets in Europe, right at the foot of an overwhelming beautiful cathedral. Not only is it one of the best on the tour, but the city itself is decorated in full bloom in the magic that is Christmas on every street corner and building in town. You will also enjoy this city’s enchanting carousel by the cathedral, the hot glühwein, and orange chaud, but don’t forget the snowball treats.

Strasbourg, France Christmas Markets

Strasbourg, France, Best Christmas Markets in Europe

Best European Christmas Markets on the Rhine River

Schokokusse, Best Christmas Markets in Europe

Here they have Schokokusse, which is sold at the Christmas Markets in Strasbourg, France. They date back to the 1820’s in Germany. They are made from the foam of sweetened egg whites, or meringue. Although most people think they are marshmallows, they are not! Their consistency is fluffy, but not sticky or gooey. Today they are available in many different flavors.

Best Christmas Markets in Europe: Heidelberg, Germany

Heidelberg, Germany – For this German Christmas Market, we made our way to the Heidelberg Castle, before taking a tour of the castle, right out in front there is a small Christmas market, best if visited to see the castle.

Heidelberg, Germany Christmas Markets

Heidelberg, Germany Best Christmas Markets in Europe

Best Christmas Markets in Europe: Koblenz, Germany

Koblenz, Germany – This is a really nice and quaint Christmas Market that was not too crowded when we arrived in the afternoon. Although it is close to the church, it is not overpowered by a magnificent cathedral, but instead blends into the town perfectly. I thought this one had a lot of charm and is well worth a visit.

Koblenz, Germany Christmas Market

Koblenz, Germany, Best  Christmas Markets in Europe

Best Christmas Markets in Europe: Cologne, Germany

Cologne, Germany – These Christmas markets were fabulous, I found quite a few. The one right at the base of the stunning cathedral was fantastic and I bought several things here. I was able to beat the crowds in the early morning, but of course, they eventually arrived and it did get crowded in no time. I love this Christmas market for the setting, to be able to look up at the overpowering cathedral made it simply majestic. However, a bit further up the street, the market was much more quaint and down-to-earth, which I also enjoyed with fewer crowds. Thmerry-go-rounds-rounds and beautiful Christmas decorations galore.

Cologne, Germany Christmas Markets

Cologne, Germany Best Christmas Markets in Europe

Best Christmas Markets in Europe: Zurich, Switzerland

Zurich, Switzerland –There are some great markets inside of the main train station surround the Swarovski’s famous crystal tree.  If you stroll along the Bahnhofstrasse, you will come across the Christmas market at Werdmühleplatz. Although it is one of the newest Christmas markets in Zurich, it is very charming due to its live singing tree. Oh, and I got to stay in a swanky library hotel!

Swarovski's Christmas Tree in Zurich, Switzerland

Swarovski’s Christmas Tree in Zurich, Switzerland


Live Singing Christmas Tree in Zurich, Switzerland

Live Singing Christmas Tree in Zurich, Switzerland

Best Christmas Markets in Europe

The Best Markets are:

In my humble opinion, my favorite Christmas markets on the Rhine River with Viking River Cruises were, in no particular order:

Basel, Strasbourg, Koblenz, and Cologne

Now Colmar was amazing, but the crowds kept me from rating it higher. It is a shame because it is such a gorgeous little town, but if you could be there when it is not prime time, it would be perfect as well.

Zurich, Switzerland Chocolate Shop

Zurich, Switzerland Chocolate Shop

Recommended Reading

Highlights of a Danube River Christmas Markets Cruise

What is a Viking River Cruise Really Like?

A Love Letter to Strasbourg, France for Christmas

Christmas Market Cruise – A Dream Come True

A Perfect Day Spent in Regensburg, Germany

The Black Forest, Germany’s Traditional Bollenhut Hat

Hansel and Gretel’s Black Forest near Breisach, Germany

My stay at a Swanky Library Hotel, Zurich, Switzerland at the end of a Viking River Cruise.

Disclosure: My Rhine Getaway aboard the Viking River TOR ship was courtesy of Viking River Cruises, but the magic that ensued was all my own.

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Best European Christmas Markets

Schokokusse in Strasbourg, France




  1. Lyn - A Hole in my Shoe December 22, 2014 at 7:05 am

    Thank you for sharing your best of the European Christmas markets, I have been waiting for this one since you started the cruise as we are doing a Rhine River cruise next year and your opinions will be highly considered in our selections.

    • Cacinda Maloney December 22, 2014 at 7:52 am

      Terrific! You will have a fabulous time! It was amazing!

  2. Haralee December 22, 2014 at 9:35 am

    Sounds wonderful. I have been to Colmar in the fall and I can see how it would lend itself to be a wonderland for Christmas Market. Leave it to Zurich for a Swarovski tree, fabulous!

    • Cacinda Maloney December 22, 2014 at 6:42 pm

      I know, right? (about Zurich and Swarovski!) I would like to visit Colmar when it is not so crowded.

  3. Rena McDaniel December 22, 2014 at 11:39 am

    Wonderful photos! Happy Holidays!

    • Cacinda Maloney December 22, 2014 at 8:15 pm

      And Merry Christmas right back at you!

  4. Kay Dougherty December 22, 2014 at 8:44 pm

    I loved my Viking Christmas market cruise too but would have loved to have seen some of the ones you did too! Nuremberg was the one that for me was too big and overwhelming but I loved Regensburg.

    • Cacinda Maloney December 23, 2014 at 12:02 am

      Next year we will switch and you do Rhine and I will do Danube!

  5. Hannah @ GettingStamped December 26, 2014 at 11:34 pm

    All those markets look amazing, we were hoping to be in Europe this year for Christmas but instead we are in Thailand. Sometime in the near future we hope to see some of those Christmas markets!

    • Cacinda Maloney December 27, 2014 at 9:19 am

      It was amazing and the first time I have seen Christmas Markets myself.

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  9. Regina Smith July 17, 2016 at 4:53 pm

    This was a great find for me. We are on the Viking Cruise on the Rhine during November this year. (2016) and will be using your list of Christmas Markets while we are there. So excited and thank you for your travel tips!!

    • Cacinda Maloney July 20, 2016 at 10:55 am

      Fantastic! I am hoping to go back again myself, this time down the Danube! Have fun!

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