Poland: Home of the Best European Christmas Markets

Every year, annual traditions take over Poland as buildings and houses are decked in decor while colorful and cobblestone streets are flooded with twinkling lights. Massive Christmas trees take over charming squares as horse drawn carriages become the town Uber. The fatty and fried oil smell of delicious pierogi dances through the air coupled with people using mulled wine as a source to stay warm, physically and mentally. The colorful buildings of famous and historical streets lead you through town during the day, at the same time becoming engulfed in Christmas illumination by night. Throw a little snow into the mix to create a real life snow-globe and winter wonderland masterpiece.
Prepared By:

Ryan Tingle

During the holiday season, countries across Europe are packed with must-visit Christmas markets. Often overlooked by neighboring destinations like Germany and Austria, Poland is home to five of the best European Christmas markets.

Wroclaw Christmas Market

Most people may think that the most colorful towns in Europe sit along the Mediterranean coast, but that isn’t necessarily the case. On the southwestern border of Poland, one of Europe’s best destinations sits quietly drenched in vibrant colors. Always a good place to visit any time of the year, Wrocław shines brightest during the holiday season.

Krakow is typically seen as the most popular Christmas Market in Poland (more on that later), but in my opinion and experience, the fairy tale atmosphere of Wrocław is even better. Maybe it’s the never ending Christmas stalls and vendors serving delicious Polish and holiday foods or perhaps its the colorful buildings covered in decorations that illuminate the town creating a beautiful atmosphere of positivity. Whatever the reason, Krakow has not only one of the best markets in Poland, but one of the best European Christmas markets in the world.

Wroclaw Poland Christmas Market
Wroclaw, Poland has one of the best European Christmas Markets

The market itself is huge and stretches across both sides of the Market Square, one of the largest on the continent. There are so many vendors and stalls that the market itself extends down two more streets, Oławska and Świdnicka. A smaller market takes place a few steps away in the Salt Square (Plac Solny), yet again another extremely colorful square. Here you will mostly find food and a gigantic bar, serving some excellent hot wine.

If you’re looking for one Christmas market in Europe to visit, Wrocław should be at the top of your list. The colorful and unique buildings only add to an already incredible winter fairytale scene. The festive vibes paired with the delicious smells of popular Polish cuisine and mulled wine will make you want to come back every winter.

Krakow Christmas Market

Imagine a cold wintry night illuminated by sparkling snowflakes strung across century-old buildings. Horse hooves clop along cobblestone streets as they transport pedestrians across the city. Church bells ring in the distance as a trumpeter serenades passerby. The aromas of hot wine, caramelized sugar and local delicacies dancing through the dense winter air help salivate your taste buds. A medieval landscape of castles, historic architecture and a market square dating back to the 13th century make Krakow one of the best places to visit during the holidays.

Krakow, Poland has one of the best Christmas Markets in Europe

Few places are better known for their Christmas markets than Krakow, which is annually dubbed one of the most popular Christmas markets in Europe each season. Regardless of the season, this Polish city is one of the best in all of Europe. During the holidays, the streets are decorated with various illuminations to portray the ultimate Christmas movie vibes. Shopping is a cultural experience as the famous local dragon, Smok Wawelski, can be found just about anywhere as a souvenir.

The famous and massive Market Square, Rynek Główny, is the annual home to Krakow’s incredible Christmas display. The impressive square dates back to the 13th century and is known as Europe’s largest medieval town square. On one side of the square is the renaissance-styled Cloth Hall (Sukiennice) and Town Hall Tower (Wieża ratuszowa), both dating back to the 16th century. On the opposite side, you will find the 11th century church of Saint Aldabert and the 14th century Gothic towers of Saint Mary’s Basicilica. If you didn’t catch it from all those different centuries just mentioned, this square is older than most.

Historically, Krarkow’s Market Square was the major venue where merchants and travelers would meet for business and trading purposes. During the winter months and especially in December, the merchandise would transition to holiday-themed items such as traditional holiday Polish foods or decorations. If you didn’t already know, the Polish celebrate Christmas with a twelve course dinner including fish, pierogi, soups, desserts and more. Finding all of those ingredients can be overwhelming, therefore Market Square was one of the best places to shop.

Polish sausages at the Christmas Market
Hot wine at the Christmas Market

Today, Krakow’s holiday vendors carry on providing visitors with traditional items for this special time of year. Market stalls are lined up down the center of the basilica side of the square while the opposite side near Cloth Hall plays host to concerts and different events. The food stalls are some of the biggest you will find anywhere, which makes it impossible to go hungry.

Krakow is one of those special places that is always a wonderful destination, but the winter scene is something to truly behold. If you’re looking for tradition, scenery, cold air and delicious foods, Krakow should be at the top of your list of Christmas markets in Poland.

Poznan Christmas Market

Vivid architecture, a large market square and a plenty to eat—what else could you want from a Christmas market? Poznan is known throughout Poland as one of the top destinations for a weekend city getaway, and its Christmas Market only adds to the popularity.

As the fifth largest city in Poland, Poznan is a happening place for business, academics and night life. The town is most famous for its Old Town district and Market Square, where you will find an abundance of colorful buildings wrapping around the Old Town Hall. Each building has been built with a different architectural style with an individual color scheme. Poznan was once a part of Germany, so it’s not uncommon to hear some German while walking through the streets.

The annual Christmas market is made up of two locations: Wolności Square and Old Town Square. You will find most of the food and drinks in Wolności, whereas the Old Town Market is better for the overall views and the iconic  Christmas tree. With two locales to choose from, there is something for everyone at the Poznan Christmas market.

Poznan, Poland Christmas Market

​The market at Wolności Square is perfect for families. While you can find a lot of hot wine, food and other drinks here, there are also a few amusement rides such as a ferris wheel. This market is much smaller than the one in the Old Town, so expect some conjestion on the weekends.

Alternatively, the Old Town Square is where you will find the Christmas tree located at the base of the Old Town Hall and Museum of the History of Poznan. This market is full of souvenirs, food, and open spaces to walk around. People visit this market to have a good time and enjoy the holidays. Expect a lot of drinking and frivolity, as many Germans and other Europeans visit to take advantage of the this Poznan’s relative affordability. For complete Christmas atmosphere immersion, find accommodation in or next to the Old Town Square.

Warsaw Christmas Market

The capital city of Warsaw annually hosts one of the best European Christmas markets of the season. Holiday decorations span across the city, but the main scene sits in the Old Town Square. You will find market stalls of artisan goods lined up along the buildings while most of the food vendors are found in Rynek Starego Miasta next to the ice rink. The Royal Way, probably the most famous street in Warsaw, is illuminated all season and leads you right into Old Town. The colorful buildings are decked out in holiday spirit as this popular walking strip is full of castles, culture and pierogi.

Pierogi, a traditional Polish food
The ice rink at the Warsaw Christmas market

You will find most of the food and hangout spots in Rynek Starego Miastawhich is just a few steps from away from the Royal Castle and surrounding square. Here you will not only find food and souvenirs but an ice skating rink. It can become pretty busy throughout December, but it is really cool to get up close and personal to Syrenka Warszawska, the mermaid of Warsaw. She’s one of the most iconic images and symbols of Warsaw. During the winter, she is the centerpiece of the holiday festivities. During the summer months you can enjoy a meal next to her, while in the winter she makes for a good skating partner.

This time of year in Warsaw can be very gloomy, dark, and cold, but the illuminations and decorations throughout the city light illuminate everything and create positive vibes. Walking the Royal Way and Nowy Swiat transport you to a holiday fairytale while enjoying a hot wine in the Old Town Square feels like a vintage Christmas celebration. Warsaw is a very casual market scene; nothing is overbearing or in your face. The most enjoyable thing to do here during the holidays is head into a cafe, grab a drink or two, eat some pierogi, and explore the city. Warsaw is a must-see city in Poland and it is even better during the holidays.

5. Torun Christmas Market

While other Christmas Markets throughout Poland are buzzing this time of year with big crowds, the small town of Torun is a nice change of pace. This well-kept secret sits along the Vistula River, presenting its visitors with beautiful, rustic architecture. This Polish gem plays a part in world history as it was once home to the famous astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus. If the history isn’t enough for you, piernik, known as “gingerbread” to us English speakers, has been the town delicacy since the 14th century.

Torun, Poland gingerbread

During the season of the Torun Christmas market, the cobblestone streets are filled with the scent of ginger and cinnamon, making it very difficult not to press your face against the window of each piernik shop you pass. It is nearly impossible to walk more than a block without finding the decorative cookies with countless bakeries lining the streets. Make sure to stop into as many shops as possible to taste some of the best gingerbread cookies you will ever eat.

The Christmas market itself is very small, but the scenery makes up for the lack of food and souvenirs. The towers surrounding the Market Square are gorgeous and the lights hung above the streets will guide you around with that special Christmas spirit. Torun is a beautiful town to explore, especially with some gingerbread in hand.

If you’re looking for some great Christmas scenery and the best gingerbread out there, Torun should be part of your European Christmas market adventure.

While each of these cities is deserving of a visit no matter the season, Poland is home to some of the best European Christmas markets. For a festive getaway, look no further than these spectacular places in Poland.

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