Central Europe Christmas Markets Are Open!

By: Robin McGuire

Central Europe Christmas markets are here! If you haven’t seen the Christmas markets in Vienna, Bratislava or even in a little town like Piešťany, Slovakia you are really missing something.

I’m sure the UK has wonderful markets as well, but we think our Christmas markets are not to be beat. In every little village or city a celebration with varené víno (hot wine), klobasa (sausages) lokše (Slovak-type tortillas filled with jams or pate) and punc (punch) permeates the town square. People gather for eating, drinking and conversation plus some holiday shopping at the various kiosks woven throughout the streets.

It’s an easy, fast and cheap trip from the UK to Bratislava. Hop on a flight for £30-50 or check many flight times/dates with your favorite airline and spend a few days sampling the wonderful seasonal food and drink we have to offer in central Europe.  

You can visit one city or better yet, take a tour of central Europe markets; starting in Prague, then off to Vienna, a short trip to Bratislava and then a quick flight to Budapest. In 7 to 8 days you can see the best Christmas markets and shop ‘til you drop in some of the most beautiful and historic cities in Europe.

Or maybe travelling through little villages in one country and experiencing the local cuisine is more to your liking. Slovakia is one of the most scenic and culturally interesting countries in central Europe with 14 different UNESCO sites.

Start your Christmas market journey in Bratislava’s old town, nestled just below the memorable castle where Queen Sissi (Elizabeth), Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary in the 1800s, favored the castle as one of her homes. You’ll find the best markets starting at the ice rink near the Slovak National Theatre and moving along the Danube towards the center of town. Once you are in the center of old town, the two main squares are packed with shopping, food, drink and entertainment on the main stage. Bratislava has a mixture of historic and modern architecture fixed side-by-side with great eateries and pubs.

From Bratislava drive or take the train northwest about 1 hour to the spa town of Piešťany. Piešťany is a picturesque spa city on the River Vah where you can rest in thermal waters, take a sauna or mud bath and have a massage in between your shopping extravaganza. Piešťany has been a favorite destination of many Europeans for spa treatments and its lovely walks, parks and spa services at reasonable prices.

Continue your adventure in the central part of the country in Banská Bystrica, the most central part of Europe, surrounded by the Low Tatras and Kremnica Mountains. This former copper mining town takes you back to the Late Middle Ages and is home to Matej Bel University.  

Moving eastward go to Slovakia’s second-largest city, Košice, currently the European Capital of Culture with Marseille, France. The churches and cathedrals are not to be missed. The Christmas market weaves it’s way through the large walkways in the town square and has a quintessential European feel.

Not too far from Košice is the charming village of Levoča, a UNESCO heritage site since 2009. After perusing the markets, make sure you stop and visit the Master Pavel Museum and St. James Church. If you want to take a break from the Christmas markets, a 20 minute ride to Spiš Castle (Spišský hrad), another UNESCO heritage site, will definitely impress.  

Top your Slovak Christmas market trip off in the High Tatra Mountains near the Polish border. The mountains have been a winter destination for central and eastern Europeans for decades and are now finding their way onto western European travellers radar. The UNESCO national Biosphere Reserve borders the mountain range and of course, the skiing is some of the best you will find in Europe.

Whether you want to take in the top cities in central Europe or travel through Slovakia to the many quaint villages and towns, rich with historic significance, spending a Christmas market holiday here is sure to provide seasonal cheer.

Here's my Top Thee Central Europe Christmas Market List

1. Vienna, Austria: there are three major areas from Stephansdom around the Opernring to Maria Teresa Monument to Rathausplatz Park

2. Bratislava, Slovakia: start at the National Theatre and move towards St. Michael's

3. Piestany, Slovakia: try a small, quaint market in the little spa town just 45 minute drive northwest of Bratislava. Visit on a weekend, when there will be music and enjoy a sauna or massage.

About the author

Expat Blog ListingRobin McGuire is an American expat living in Slovakia. Blog description: My musings on travel and adventure for my new life as an ESL teacher in Central Europe
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Contest Comments » There are 3 comments

Kerri wrote 10 years ago:

Reading this blog made me wish that I was traveling with Robin through Central Europe!

Anita wrote 10 years ago:

Robin - This really makes me want to add European Christmas Markets to my bucket list!

Marian Gerlich wrote 10 years ago:

I live vicariously through Robin! I'm making a list of "Must See & Do" destinations strictly based on your blog!

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