By Tamara Hardingham-Gill, CNN
There’s nothing quite like a festive market to bring out the Christmas spirit in people.
While these events can be traced back to Vienna — the city’s first recorded December market was in 1298 — the tradition has spread across the world over the centuries.
From Germany, to Switzerland, to New York, it’s difficult to find a coveted destination that doesn’t hold an impressive annual advent market.
In fact, some have grown so popular, they’ve become tourist attractions in their own right.
Over the past few years, a number of well-known festive markets were forced to either scale back or cancel festivities all together due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the vast majority are returning for 2022.
Here’s our rundown of the some of the top Christmas markets around the world this year.
Wiener Christkindlmarkt, Austria
With reindeer rides, a giant Ferris wheel and a classic nativity scene to marvel at, Vienna’s magical spectacle encapsulates the festive spirit fantastically.
Although there are around 20 Christmas markets in the Austrian capital to choose from, Wiener Christkindlmarkt, held in front of City Hall, or Rathausplatz, is one of its oldest and most traditional events.
According to officials, the event, also known as Viennese Dream Christmas Market, will be more family friendly this year, with larger areas dedicated to younger visitors, including a 150-square-meter children’s ice rink. There will also be a strong sustainability focus.
The famous Tree of Hearts, a giant maple tree decked out with hundreds of glittering hearts, is a hot favorite with visitors and a great photo opportunity.
There are also over 150 stalls offering up tasty treats like Austrian sausages and gingerbread cookies, along with homemade Christmas punch.
Basel Christmas Market, Switzerland
It’s hard to find a destination that does Christmas better than Switzerland.
Most Swiss towns are pretty much taken over by festive markets at this time of year and the atmosphere is incredible. Basel Christmas Market is the biggest and arguably the best around.
Separated into two different sections at Barfusserplatz and Munsterplatz, it’s made up of nearly 200 fabulously decorated stalls selling Christmas spices, decorations and candles.
Families attractions include the Christmas fairytale forest at Munsterplatz with activities such as gingerbread and candle decorating, a star workshop and a festive train.
Strasbourg Christmas Market, France
One of Europe’s oldest Christmas markets, Strasbourg began back in 1570, but it’s evolved considerably since then.
Spread over more than 10 locations, including a section of the UNESCO world heritage site of Grande Île, the hugely popular market lights up the city with thousands of twinkling Christmas lights and festive ornaments.
Pre-Covid, an estimated two million people a year attended the market, which features hundreds of wooden chalet stalls selling everything from decorations and presents to local Alsatian wine.
Place Klebe is probably its most popular spot thanks to the Great Christmas Tree on display.
But visitors will find plenty of magical sights while wandering through the city’s narrow alleyways and pretty squares.
Brussels Winter Wonders, Belgium
Brussels really comes to life at Christmas time thanks to Winter Wonders, which is more akin to a festival than a market.
The annual extravaganza, which extends across the Bourse, Place de la Monnaie, Grand Place, Place Sainte Catherine and Marche aux Poissons, is one of Belgium’s biggest and most popular events.
A light and sound show, ice skating, and fairground rides are among the activities to enjoy, while visitors can also browse through 200 or so chalets serving glühwein, Belgian beers and waffles and stare in wonder at the enormous Christmas tree erected in Grand Place.
Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square Christmas markets, Prague, Czech Republic
To say Prague goes all out at Christmas is something of an understatement.
The Czech Republic capital is the very definition of a winter wonderland during the festive period.
While there’s no shortage of markets throughout the city, the main ones are found in Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square.
Thankfully these spots are only a few minutes’ walk apart, so revelers can easily visit both in a day.
Old Town Square provides endless entertainment in the form of live shows, dance performances and creative workshops, while Wenceslas Square is great for handmade gifts and locals treats like klobasa (Czech sausage) and mulled wine.
The markets will run from November 26 to January 6, 2023.
Fira de Santa Llucia, Barcelona
Dating back to 1786, Fira de Santa Llucia has grown from a one-day event to commemorate the feast day of Santa Llucia, which falls on December 13, to a three-week fair.
Held right outside Barcelona Cathedral, the bustling market is separated into four different sections.
The first is nativity and figurines, where visitors can pick up nativity scene type decorations and figurines. Greenery and plants is packed with both natural and artificial trees and various types of plants.
The crafts section features handmade products and jewelry, while simbombes is designated for musical instruments.
There are also many festive activities like storytelling, a Christmas parade, and the caga tio, an enormous pinata-style Christmas log that spills out candy and gifts when beaten with a stick.
I Mercati Natale, Piazza Santa Croce, Florence
There’s much to see at this enchanting market, but nothing can top the beautiful backdrop supplied by Santa Croce’s Franciscan Basilica.
Although this traditional fair is transported from Heidelberg, Germany to Florence every year, it’s a very Italian affair in many ways thanks to the scenery and the many Italian treats, such as panforte, for sale.
However, there’s certainly no shortage of gingerbread, strudel and traditional Heidelberg Lebkuchen cookies.
Those who take a walk to the nearby Piazza del Duomo will be treated to a magnificent nativity scene, as well as an impressive Christmas tree that’s lit up on December 8 for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
Advent in Zagreb, Croatia
It’s easy to see why Zagreb was voted the “best Christmas market destination” in travel portal European Best Destinations’ online poll for three consecutive years.
The Croatian capital really goes to town during advent. Think live nativity scenes, ice sculpture carvings, outdoor gigs, pop-up bars and a Christmas tram complete with Santa and his elves.
Advent in Zagreb also has an area devoted to “fooling around” (or “fuliranje”) where you’ll find delighted revelers dancing in the street while eating street food and listening to live entertainment. .
Christmas in Tivoli, Copenhagen, Denmark
Rumored to be the inspiration behind Disneyland, this Danish amusement park and pleasure garden is a dazzling place to visit any time of year.
But you’ll struggle to find anywhere as enchanting as Tivoli Gardens during the festive period.
With over 1,000 beautifully decorated Christmas trees adorning the beautiful grounds, and everything from fairground rides to a traditional Pixie Band for entertainment, it’s a winter experience like no other.
This year, the event will feature a red Christmas heart showcasing projected images of Christmas stories, while a huge Christmas tree is to be erected on the Tivoli Lake.
The annual Lucia procession on December 13, where more than 100 girls process through the gardens carrying candles and singing to mark St. Lucia’s Day, is a particular highlight, along with the firework displays that take place between December 25 and 26, as well as New Year’s Eve.
Christmas in Tivoli is taking place from November 19 to December 31. (The park will be closed on December 24).
Tallinn Christmas Market, Estonia
The Estonian capital’s annual affair is one of the more modern European Christmas markets.
Set inside Tallinn’s Town Hall Square, it’s packed full of stalls with traditional Estonian cuisine, artisan bread and handicrafts for sale.
On the entertainment front, there are carousels, a winter grotto and a Santa who rolls up on a sleigh complete with reindeer.
This year, a Christmas double-decker bus will be on hand to transport attendees to the old town, where at least 250 Christmas trees, as well as various light installations, are to be displayed.
Visitors are also treated to regular performances by dance troupes and choirs.
But as with many such markets, the Christmas tree is the main event. Tallinn’s tree has been displayed here since 1441.
Skansen’s Christmas Market, Stockholm
Stockholm isn’t exactly lacking when it comes to Christmas markets, but none are more traditional than Skansen.
Set on the island of Djurgarden in the world’s oldest open-air museum, it’s a wonderful exhibit of Swedish culture with some added yuletide magic.
The historical houses on display in the museum are decked out in colorful decorations for the occasion and all the tables inside are set up for Christmas dinner.
Visitors can make their own decorations at Christmas workshops, take part in regular craft demonstrations or join in with the dancing games around the tree at Bollnäs Square, Skansen’s main site.
Tuomaan Markkinat, Helsinki
This wonderfully Scandinavian Christmas market is held in Helsinki’s Senate Square, near the Emperor Alexander II statue.
Tuomaan Markkinat’s center piece is a vintage carousel, but the countless vendors selling traditional Christmas delicacies, glogi, Finland’s non-alcoholic take on mulled wine, and handicrafts are also a big draw.
Younger attendees can visit Santa Claus, who has his own wooden cabin here, and join festive activities like Christmas cookie decorating.
The market’s food court is particularly impressive, with a host of top eateries to choose from.
Vörösmarty Square and St. Stephen’s Basilica Christmas Market, Budapest, Hungary
Budapest has two main festive markets — St. Stephen’s Basilica Christmas market and Vorosmarty Square Christmas market.
The former takes place in front of the famous basilica, where crowds gather to watch the regular 3D light shows that are projected onto its facade.
In addition, there are over 150 stalls with vendors selling sweet treats, wine and arts and crafts.
Meanwhile, Vorosmarty Square market is positioned in the heart of the city and attracts over 800,000 visitors annually.
Its main highlight is usually a giant advent calendar that reveals a new window display on a daily basis from December 1 to 23, although the fantastic Hungarian foods that line its stalls — langos and chimney cake are also particular standouts.
The market is usually organized by the city. However, this year it will be put together by the same company that organizes the St. Stephen’s Basilica, so there’s a chance that there will be some changes.
The Vorosmarty Square market is set to run from November 18 and is due to close on January 1, 2023 at 5 a.m.
Christkindlesmarkt and Gendarmenmarkt, Germany
Open-air winter street markets have long been associated with Germany, and the European country is home to some of the oldest and most visited festive markets.
Capital city Berlin has around 80 to choose from, but Gendarmenmark is perhaps its most renowned.
Positioned between the Franzosischer Dom and Deutscher Dom, it’s a maze of wooden huts with Bratwurst, mulled wine and ginger bread for sale, along with unique Christmas gifts.
At night, visitors can enjoy nightly concerts with dance and musical performances.
Over in Nuremberg, Bavaria’s second-largest city, the famous Christkindlesmarkt has been around since the 16th century.
During the Christmas period, around 180 stands are erected in the city’s central market square and the whole area is abuzz with activity.
The market usually draws in around two million people every year and is undoubtedly one of Nuremberg’s annual highlights.
Gendarmenmark begins on November 21 and is set to close on December 31.
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, London
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland is one of the most highly anticipated winter events in the UK capital.
The festive favorite, which began in 2005, brings in huge crowds every year thanks to its 200-plus rides, including a 70-meter-high big wheel, mulled wine stations and an outdoor skating rink, which happens to be the largest in the UK.
Visitors can also take part in ice sculpting workshops, watch a circus troupe, listen to live music at the lively Fire Pit bar, or tuck into some of the many foods on offer at the Street Food Village.
The “Wham! Last Christmas experience,” an immersive experience that lets visitors “step inside” the music video for the iconic Christmas song by then-duo George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley, is among the new additions to the event this year, along with a 45-meter ice slide.
The Distillery Winter Village, Toronto
Formerly known as the Toronto Christmas Market, the Distillery Winter Village is an intimate and charming take on the traditional European festive market.
Held in the historic Distillery District, it features outdoor shopping cabins and food vendors, Christmas carol sing-a-longs, a gingerbread hunt and a 50-foot Christmas tree.
Visitors will be able to find everything from artisanal food, handcrafted gifts and festive drinks at the numerous stalls here.
Winter Village at Bryant Park, New York
Each and every year, Manhattan’s Bryant Park is transformed into a magnificent wonderland for the Winter Village.
The renowned open-air market is a wonderful sight to behold, with over 150 custom-designed kiosks and a 17,000-square-foot outdoor rink that’s free to use provided you have your own skates.
Its rink side bar and food hall The Lodge provides an eclectic mix of eateries, along with an outdoor beer garden and a cocktail bar.
Outside the Winter Village, the Josephine Shaw Lowell Fountain is at its most beautiful during winter time, when it regularly freezes over.
The Winter Village opened on October 28 and is scheduled to run until March 5, 2023.
Information correct at the time of publishing.
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Joe Minihane also contributed to this article.