When to Visit Christmas Markets in Europe for a Magically Festive Vacation

After visiting over 50 European Christmas markets over 2 months, Caleb and I learned a lot, specifically when the best time to go is and when not to go. We learned the hard way, with some crappy experiences, that the best time to visit is in early December, early in the week, and NOT during the late part of the evening.

In this short guide, we’ll share everything you need to know to decide when to plan your Christmas vacation in Europe so that you can experience the markets at their most magical!

Let’s dive in, starting with a video we made of the markets at various times of the day so you can get a feel!

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The Best Month To Check Out The Markets

Because you are a couple with brains, you know that the Christmas markets are, wait for it, open around Christmas! However, that doesn’t mean “just in December.” The majority of the markets open in mid-November and typically end right around Christmas. Some of them do extend past Christmas, but we don’t recommend visiting them then if you are going for a true holiday season experience since it’s, you know, over and stuff.

If you have to pick between going to the markets in November or December, Caleb and I would tell you to pick early December for a few reasons:

  1. There are many cities in Europe where the markets don’t start until December, especially in the smaller towns that we think are way more worth visiting than the huge, famous markets.
Close-up of a hand holding a glass mug filled with steaming Glühwein at the Esslingen Christmas Market, with festive illustrations and market name on the cup

We started our Christmas market trip in mid-November and were pretty sad when we went to Finland and Estonia, and there were no markets to be seen. Some of the locals told us that many of the most beautiful markets do not open until the first weekend of December, so keep that in mind.

2. We say EARLY December because we found that the markets got significantly more “peopley” and crazy (not in a fun, festive way) the closer we got to Christmas. It also gets colder later in the month, meaning your need to pack a little differently!

We left Europe on December 22, and we much preferred our market visits during the earlier part of the month.

TAYLOR’S TIP: Look at the city’s website to find the opening day of the market and avoid that day at all costs. We were in Prague’s old town market for opening weekend, and we wanted to leave pretty immediately. While it was beautiful, it was crazy nuts.

An assortment of colorful Christmas decorations and ornaments on display at a festive market stall

The Best Days Of The Week

If you go to the markets on the weekdays vs the weekends, you will have a different experience. Caleb and I much preferred visiting the markets during Monday through Wednesday as everyone had been “marketed out” from the weekend. 

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There were fewer people, making for a less insane, way more romantic European experience. We could actually stop at the market stalls to see what was on sale instead of feeling like we were in a Nine Inch Nails mosh pit. We didn’t have to worry about how we would afford a skin graft when we got home because of all the people bumping into us and making us scald ourselves with mulled wine.

You think the last part is a joke, but you’ll see if you go on a weekend. 😏

A quaint Christmas market stall in Colmar brimming with Santa figures, wreaths, and an array of red and white decorations, with half-timbered facades in the background.

If you want a totally insane, can’t-move-around experience, then, by all means, go on the weekends. But you won’t see us, that is all I can say.

TAYLOR’S TIP: The best time to visit German Christmas markets is the same as all the other Christmas markets across Europe, so don’t worry too much about different guidelines for different countries! 

A bustling Christmas market street in Leipzig with people, festive lights, and a stall selling 'Bratwurst' and 'Feuerwurst' in the evening.

Best Time of Day

We found that Christmas markets usually open around 10 or 11 am, which means you get to drink mulled wine after you roll out of bed, and no one gives you a judgy side eye (Europe, we love you!) But * some* markets don’t open until mid-afternoon.

The best time to visit the markets really depends on the vibe you are looking for, and Caleb and I think that the best time is about an hour or so before sunset. The people haven’t come out in hordes (yet), and you’ll be already at the markets when all the pretty, twinkly lights come up.

One of our market tips is that we recommend avoiding the early morning hours (except to go get that glass of breakfast mulled wine in the name of holiday cheer, you know) because the markets feel a little “ghost town-ish.”

The afternoons are our second pick. They’re not very crowded, and you can really take time to look around. However, they do lack a little bit of “magic” as they are not lit up as much as night. The Christmas market food does make for a good lunch though!

Later in the evening is when the markets are at their most beautiful and lit up; however, we didn’t find it was worth the insane amount of people unless you go to markets in off-the-beaten-path smaller cities.  The bigger markets are some of the worst markets to visit during the evening!

Here’s What’s Next After Deciding When To Visit The Christmas Markets

Now that you know when to go, you need to start planning! We can help with our ultimate guide to how to plan a Christmas market trip!

So, when do you think you will visit?

Other Christmas Market Posts

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A couple embraces while watching the sunset behind the Crystal Palace in Madrid's Retiro Park, a moment of romance and tranquility by the reflective waters.

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