Festive Delights Across Europe by Train

Discover the enchantment of Europe’s Christmas markets on a festive train trip. Unlike airports, trains run constantly throughout the day and offer more room for stretching your legs.

From dazzling cities to charming villages, each market offers its own unique experience. Take Nuremberg’s Christkindlesmarkt, where stands sport candy cane striped tarpaulins and stalls are stocked with one-of-a-kind art and crafts.


If you’re looking to get into the Christmas spirit in Europe, Cologne is a great place to start. The city has six Christmas markets tucked into its picturesque streets. Each has a unique personality, and exploring them is a fun and memorable experience.

The main Christmas market is located right in front of Cologne Cathedral, and it’s an impressive site. It’s a massive web of lights and stalls, with the cathedral towering over you. There’s also a stage where people can stand and listen to music while sipping on gluhwein.

This is the most festive of all the markets, and it’s the best for buying traditional gifts like wood sculptures, blown glass, jewelry, children’s toys, and soap. If you’re not feeling shopping, there are plenty of places to grab a bite to eat or drink. From traditional roasted almonds, Dom Spekulasius, and Spaetzle & Reibekuchen to more contemporary wraps and sweet potato fries, there’s something for everyone here.

If your feet are getting tired from walking, you can take the Christmas Market Express dotto train to visit four of the markets (and the cathedral). The tickets cost EUR12 adult/EUR6 child for a full loop or EUR4 adult/EUR2 child for a partial route ride per person. It’s a fun way to avoid the hassle of finding parking in the city.


Located where the Rhine and Moselle rivers meet, Koblenz is a city of enchanting historic sites and beautiful sights. It is home to the romantic Christmas market at Altstadt, which delights visitors with festive lighting and delicious treats. Spring and summer bring open-air concerts, festivals, and other events that bathe the city in a cheerful atmosphere.

The winter markets are also a treat for the senses, with glistening fairy lights, pretty wooden stall chalets, and the aroma of roast almonds, cinnamon, and mulled wine. You can enjoy a wide range of culinary specialties at the Munzplatz market, which feels like a picturesque food festival. You’ll find apple pancakes, Baumstriezel, a vegetarian vegetable skillet, fresh potato chips, and more to delight the taste buds.

The other three winter markets in the city are equally charming and offer their own unique experiences. The Gorresplatz market is the youngest, having opened in 2017, and it’s surrounded by historic buildings that create a cozy atmosphere. You can buy confectionery, exquisite culinary products, wines from the region, and woolen decorative items. The Jesuitenplatz market offers a more lively atmosphere, and it’s also the location for the light and sound experience under Ehrenbreitstein Fortress. Here you’ll also find Herz Jesu Kirche, a UNESCO World Heritage Neo-Romanesque church that is one of the city’s most important landmarks.


Heidelberg is a gorgeous, quaint little town in southwest Germany with a massive history. It’s home to the oldest university in the country, so history buffs will be in heaven here. The town center is lovely, with old sandstone buildings all around.

It’s also a great place to walk, with scenic views of the Neckar River and the old castle. You can even climb up to the castle ruins for a breathtaking view of the town.

One of the best things to do in the area is the Christmas market in Heidelberg. It has a wide variety of holiday goods, from crafts to food and drinks. You can find gifts here for the whole family, or just grab a mug of mulled wine and some lebkuchen (sweet honey spice cookies) to enjoy while strolling.

The Nuremberg Christmas market is another highlight. It’s said to be the most atmospheric of all German markets, and it’s well worth a visit. You can buy everything from piping hot Nürnberg sausages to sweet, gingerbread-like cookies, and there are some fun seasonal items like the edible prune men.

It’s a great way to get in the holiday spirit and start shopping. You can also treat yourself to a glühwein or two and some piping hot bratwurst. This is the perfect way to end your trip and leave Germany with a feeling of holiday magic.


One of the most magical cities to visit during the holidays is Strasbourg, France, which is located on the German border. During Christmas, the city center transforms into a Christmas wonderland with twinkling lights and beautiful decorations. The streets and shops are filled with stalls selling everything from candles to ornaments to delicious treats. The Petite France district is especially photogenic with its quaint half-timbered houses, and you can leave your Christmas wishes for Santa at the letter box in the square.

The oldest and most famous of all the markets in Strasbourg is the Christkindelsmarik at Place Broglie, which is similar to a traditional German market. It features hundreds of stalls selling ornaments, nativity scene figurines, and other festive items, along with a range of arts and crafts. You’ll also find plenty of tasty treats, like pain d’epices and mulled wine.

Just a few blocks away is the Place Kleber Market, another popular market with a wide variety of stalls and a lovely backdrop of the cathedral. It’s also the site of the Christmas tree that is adorned each year with a new theme. For example, in 2018 the tree was covered with office stamps and mailboxes, while the 2019 tree featured old toys like spinning tops, rocking horses, and dolls.

Then there is the Grand Christmas Tree, a towering 105-foot (30.5-m)-tall evergreen that’s the star of the show. It’s a symbol of the city, and it’s lit up each day at 4 pm.


In the Austrian capital of Vienna, the Christmas Market in front of the city’s elaborate Rathaus is a highlight of wintertime. Stalls are draped in festive decorations, and the city’s streets are lined with lights and a merry-go-round. Roasted chestnuts and mulled wine (gluhwein) are popular at the market, along with apple strudel and thick slabs of sourdough-based Linzer torte with raspberry jam between almond biscuits.

Located just one stop from Berlin Hbf on a Regio train, Nuremberg’s Christkindlesmarkt is another top choice for a European train and Christmas markets holiday. It is a photogenic market with little wooden stands covered in candy cane striped tarpaulins. Pick up handmade arts and crafts, try some of the region’s famous gingerbread or munch on a delicious Weggla – a circular bun filled with three Nuremberg bratwurst sausages.

At the city’s old Freyung Market you can pick up handicrafts, glass ornaments and traditional mangers, while a brass band plays at the Rathausplatz market and in Schonbrunn Palace forecourt. Across town, Mozart and Strauss medleys fill concert halls and cafes, and the State Opera is a baroque wonder. It is the enduring Viennese Lebenskunst (“art of living”) that keeps this cosmopolitan metropolis pulsing.


The capital of Hungary is a delightful European city year-round, but it truly comes alive with festive cheer during Christmas Market season. Its three main markets abound with smaller rows of stalls sprinkled throughout the city, offering plenty of opportunities to find glöhwein-soaked holiday magic.

The most famous of the Budapest Christmas Markets is on Vorosmarty Square, a hub of commerce and entertainment that has been reimagined as a charming market with a tree adorned with lights and ornaments. The stalls here offer traditional crafts and other Yuletide treasures, including the opportunity to try some of Hungary’s most beloved sweets, such as tocsni. This treat is similar to a gnocchi, but made with potatoes rather than pasta and has an interesting taste thanks to the mix of spices that are added to it.

Another of the main markets in Budapest is at St. Stephen’s Basilica, with its more traditional offerings and a cosy atmosphere. The stalls here aren’t quite as big as those on Vorosmarty Square, but they’re still very aesthetically pleasing with the towering Basilica backdrop.

And if you want to combine your Christmas Markets with some retail therapy, head to Corvin Hutte, a newer market by the upscale Hotel Kempinski Corvinus. This market offers all the usual stalls and treats, but it’s also home to an ice skating rink and hosts a variety of different programs.

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