Europe's Christmas markets 2021: what's open and how to visit

Traditional christmas market in the historic center of Frankfurt, Germany
Germany has over 2000 Christmas markets held in town and cities including Frankfurt ©S Borisov/Shutterstock

Beloved for glühwein, artisan vendors, and the ability to deliver holiday spirit at a seemingly fairytale level, many European cities are ready for a festive return of their enchanting Christmas markets after the pandemic forced many to close—or majorly scale back—in 2020.

Not every market is back for 2021. Austria's markets are closing temporarily as the country goes into full lockdown until December 13. Berlin’s Charlottenberg Palace announced earlier this year it would not be able to host its marker under the current local COVID-19 health safety guidelines. Munich had planned to bring back its Christmas market in Marienplatz, however this week officials announced the market would be cancelled due to rising case numbers. With infections soaring across Europe, it's possible more could follow in the coming weeks.

But right now many are planning to reopen their stands for the 2021 holiday season albeit with enhanced safety measures like reducing the number of stalls and requiring proof of vaccination. Some will require masks.

Here are a few of the popular European Christmas markets currently scheduled to open and their COVID-19 safety requirements for entry.

Basel, Switzerland

Christmas decorations giltter against the charming architecture of Basel's Old Town, transforming the city on the Rhine into the largest Christmas market in Switzerland. Both Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz host markets with rustic chalets of artisans as well as culinary treats like Swiss Raclette and Läckerli (gingerbread).

The markets will open November 25 and close on December 23. The opening ceremony in Münsterplatz has been cancelled for 2021.

Visitors over the age of 16 must present a valid Swiss or EU COVID certificate with a QR code as well as an official ID. Those from outside the EU who have recovered from COVID-19 or been vaccinated with an EMA-approved vaccine will need a Swiss COVID-19 certificate. You can apply online and it will cost 30 CHF ($32 USD).

WeihnachtsZauber Gendarmenmarkt
Christmas market at Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin seen from French Cathedral ©Thomas Kurmeier/Getty Images

Berlin, Germany

Several of Berlin's popular Christmas markets are preparing to open for 2021 though these will operate under Berlin's expanded 2-G rules. Those rules require people to be vaccinated or show they have recovered from the virus to enter places like restaurants, galleries, and theaters. The most recent rules eliminated the option for event organizers to allow unvaccinated people over age 18 to show a negative COVID-19 test to enter.

Plan to bring proof of your vaccination status or recovery from the virus. Most markets are allowing children under the age of 12 to enter with proof of a negative COVID-19 test.

Berlin's markets that are planning to open include:

  • Potsdamer Platz’s Winterwelt, with its toboggan hill for those who'd like to get in a little faux sledding, has traditionally been one of the earliest markets to open. Centrally located in Potsdamer Platz and not far from the Mall of Berlin, it opened on October 29 and will close on January 2.
  • The whimsical Gendarmenmarkt Christmas Market is tucked between the architectural beauty of the Französischer Dom and Deutscher Dom. It opens on November 22 and closes on December 31. This market charges one euro per person entry.
  • Alexanderplatz Christmas Market, which also hosts a fairground of rides, an ice skating rink as well as traditional artisan stalls, opens November 22 through December 26.
  • The market surrounding Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church located on Berlin's renowned Kurfürstendamm street opens November 22 through January 2, 2022.

Bruges, Belgium

Against the backdrop of cobblestone streets and canals of its medieval center, thousands of twinkling lights and more than 500 Christmas trees will transform 41 streets of Bruges into a winter fairy-tale as part of its 2021 Winter Glow festivities. From November 26 through January 9, 2022, you'll find ice skating, a winter bar and three Christmas markets located at Market Square, Simon Steven Square and Zand Square.

In Bruges, outdoor events with more than 400 people require a COVID Safe ticket. EU visitors can use their own vaccination certificates in place of a COVID Safe ticket but visitors from outside the region need to follow this application process. That ticket provides proof you are either fully vaccinated against the virus, have recovered from it within the past six months or have tested negative for COVID-19. 

Copenhagen, Denmark

Sipping on Gløgg surrounded by thousands of twinkling lights, you'll feel what the Danish mean when they use the word "hygge" to describe the the feeling of being cozy, well and content against the crisp winter air.

The 175 year old Tivoli Gardens amusement park, glowing with twinkling lights and starry projections, will host its Christmas Market from November 19 through January 2. In order to enter, you'll need to purchase a ticket as well as show a Corona Pass (or your official vaccination certificate). Children under the age of 15 are exempt from showing a Corona pass.

Meanwhile, the enchanting Kongens Nytorv Christmas market sits at the cobblestone square with the equestrian statue of King Christian V near Charlottenborg Palace. The market opens November 12 and closes on December 22 and is free to ender.

Edinburgh, Scotland

With Edinburgh Castle as a backdrop, Edinburgh Christmas is one of the UK's most beloved holiday traditions. It hosts attractions like amusement rides and ice skating rink along with the Christmas Market in East Princes Street Gardens.

The market opens on November 20 and closes January 4, 2022. If you're planning to do some of the activities like ice skating, visiting Santa’s Grotto, or riding the ferris wheel, you can purchase tickets through the Edinburgh’s Christmas website. Masks are required in indoor locations like Santa's Grotto. Organizers also have sensory kits with a fidget toy, earplugs, water bottle, stress reliever and ear defenders available for adults and children who may need additional assistance to enjoy the festivities.

Christmas in Innsbruck, Austria
Austria's Christmas markets are open under 2G rules © Flavio Vallenari / Getty Images

Nuremberg, Germany

Germany's oldest and arguably most well-known market, the Nuremberg Christmas market has canceled its market for 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions issued by the state of Bavaria. It had been scheduled to open November 26 through December 24 after canceling in 2020

Prague, Czech Republic

Located in the heart of Prague, the Christmas Market in Prague's Old Town Square and nearby Wenceslas Square are both scheduled to open November 27 through January 6, 2022. The market organizers have not issued requirements for entry, but according to the Czech Tourism Authority, the country does require FFP2/KN 95 grade masks when indoors and proof of vaccination, recovery from COVID-19 within the past 180 days, or a negative COVID-19 test to enter many venues and public events.

shutterstockRF_112562405.jpg
Prague Old Town Square, Czech Republic, the setting for the annual festive market © Shutterstock

Poznań, Poland

Poznań's Christmas Market, consistently considered the best in Poland and among the top in Europe, opens in Plac Wolności on November 20 and closes December 26. Though you'll find its market a wonderous Christmas experience throughout the season, full of charm, the second weekend in December is when it really sparkles as it holds its famous Ice Sculpting Festival. Ice sculptors from 12 different countries will decend on Poznań from December 10-12 to compete to create awe-inspiring frozen works of art.

Strasbourg, France

France’s oldest Christmas market, Strasbourg prides itself on transforming into the "capital of Christmas." After scaling back in 2020, more than 300 stalls will open from November 26 through December 26. Masks will be required throughout the market, but if the COVID situation deteriorates in the city and cases reach above 200 per 100,000 people, the market will require France’s health pass which shows proof of vaccination, recovery from the virus, or a negative COVID-19 test.

Vienna, Austria

The Vienna Dream Christmas Market located at Rathausplatz, consistently voted among the most beautiful markets in Europe, opened on November 12 but will close on November 22 as Austria goes into a full nationwide lockdown. The market is expected to reopen when lockdown is scheduled to end on December 13 (if the COVID situation improves) and run until December 26. To visit, you’ll need to show proof of vaccination or recovery from COVID-19. Adults can no longer show proof of a negative COVID-19 test to enter.

The rules are different for kids. Children aged six to 11 years old must show proof of vaccination, recovery from COVID-19, or a negative COVID-19 test. That can either be a PCR test administered within 72 hours or an antigen test within 48 hours. Teens aged 12-15 must show proof of vaccination, recovery from COVID-19, or a negative PCR test administered within the 48 hours prior.

This article was first published on November 19, 2021 and updated on November 23, 2021

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