Christmas markets 2020: Which events are going ahead?


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(CNN) — There’s nothing quite like a festive market to bring out the Christmas spirit in people.

While these events can be traced back to Vienna — the city’s first recorded December market was in 1298 — the tradition has spread across the world over the centuries.

From Germany, to Switzerland, to New York, it’s difficult to find a coveted destination that doesn’t hold an impressive annual advent market.

In fact, some have grown so popular, they’ve become tourist attractions in their own right.

Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, some well-known festive markets will not be taking place this year.

Here’s our rundown of the 2020 Christmas markets that will be going ahead, as well as those that have been called off.

All information is correct as of November 9, 2020, but please do check before traveling.

Viennese Dream Christmas Market, Austria

Viennese Dream Christmas Market is one of the city’s oldest and most traditional events.

Lisi Niesner/Reuters

With reindeer rides, a giant ferris wheel and a classic nativity scene to marvel at, Vienna’s magical spectacle encapsulates the festive spirit fantastically.

Although there are around 20 Christmas markets in the Austrian capital to choose from, the Viennese Christmas Dream, held in front of City Hall, or Rathausplatz, is one of its oldest and most traditional events.

At the event, also known as Wiener Christkindlmarkt, you’ll find over 150 stalls offering up tasty treats like Austrian sausages and gingerbread cookies, along with homemade Christmas punch.

The famous Tree of Hearts, a giant maple tree decked out with hundreds of glittering hearts, is a hot favorite with visitors and a great photo opportunity.

Is it going ahead this year? Yes.

Viennese Dream Christmas Market will be taking place with a number of additional safety measures, such as mandatory face coverings for both visitors and employees (except while consuming food and drinks).
It was due to begin in mid-November, but the opening date is now unconfirmed due to a multi-week lockdown issued by the Austrian federal government that came into effect on November 2.

Basel Christmas Market, Switzerland

Basel Christmas Market consists of nearly 200 wooden stalls selling Christmas spices, decorations and candles.

Basel Christmas Market consists of nearly 200 wooden stalls selling Christmas spices, decorations and candles.

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It’s hard to find a destination that does Christmas better than Switzerland.

Most Swiss towns are pretty much taken over by festive markets at this time of year and the atmosphere is incredible. Basel Christmas Market is the biggest and arguably the best around.

Separated into two different sections at Barfusserplatz and Munsterplatz, it’s made up of nearly 200 fabulously decorated stalls selling Christmas spices, decorations and candles.

Families will particularly enjoy the Christmas fairytale forest at Munsterplatz thanks to activities such as gingerbread and candle decorating, a star workshop and a festive train.

Is it going ahead this year? Yes.

At the time of writing, Basel Christmas Market was still due to take place from November 26 to December 23, 2020.

Strasbourg Christmas Market, France

Dating back to 1570, Strasbourg Christmas Market lights up this French city annually.

Dating back to 1570, Strasbourg Christmas Market lights up this French city annually.

Frederick Florini/AFP/Getty Images

One of Europe’s oldest Christmas markets, Strasbourg began back in 1570, but it’s evolved considerably since then.

Spread over more than 10 locations, including a section of the UNESCO world heritage site of Grande Île, the hugely popular market lights up the city with thousands of twinkling Christmas lights and festive ornaments.

Each year an estimated two million people attend the market, which features around 300 wooden chalet stalls selling everything from decorations and presents to local Alsatian wine.

Place Klebe is probably its most popular spot thanks to the Great Christmas Tree on display, as well as the ice skating rink erected underneath.

But visitors will find plenty of magical sights while wandering through the city’s narrow alleyways and pretty squares.

Is it going ahead this year? No. While officials were keen for the event to take place this year, last month mayor Jeanne Barseghian confirmed that the famous market has been canceled due to the rise in Covid-19 case numbers in France. The entire country is now in lockdown for the second time.

Brussels Winter Wonders, Belgium

Brussels Winter Wonders is one of the biggest events in Belgium.

Brussels Winter Wonders is one of the biggest events in Belgium.

(Xinhua/Zheng Huansong via Getty Images

Brussels really comes to life at Christmas time thanks to Winter Wonders, which is more akin to a festival than a market.

The annual extravaganza, which extends across the Bourse, Place de la Monnaie, Grand Place, Place Sainte Catherine and Marche aux Poissons, is one of Belgium’s biggest and most popular events.

A light and sound show, ice skating, and fairground rides are among the activities to enjoy, while visitors can also browse through 200 or so chalets serving glühwein, Belgian beers and waffles and stare in wonder at the enormous Christmas tree erected in Grand Place.

Is it going ahead this year? No.

Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square Christmas markets, Prague, Czech Republic

Prague has several festive markets, but the main events are those in Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square.

Prague has several festive markets, but the main events are those in Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square.

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To say Prague goes all out at Christmas is something of an understatement.

The Czech Republic capital is the very definition of a winter wonderland during the festive period.

While there’s no shortage of markets throughout the city, the main ones are found in Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square.

Thankfully these spots are only a few minutes’ walk apart, so revelers can easily visit both in a day.

Old Town Square provides endless entertainment in the form of live shows, dance performances and creative workshops, while Wenceslas Square is great for handmade gifts and locals treats like klobasa (Czech sausage) and mulled wine.

Is it going ahead this year? No.

Both markets have been canceled as a result of Covid-19.

“We are very sorry and it also affects our company. However, we respect the decision and offer the tree installation to the City of Prague for overhead costs.”

Fira de Santa Llúcia, Barcelona

Dating back to 1786, Fira de Santa Llucia has grown from a one-day event to commemorate the feast day of Santa Llucia, which falls on December 13, to a three-week fair.

Held right outside Barcelona Cathedral, the bustling market is separated into four different sections.

The first is nativity and figurines, where visitors can pick up nativity scene type decorations and figurines. Greenery and plants is packed with both natural and artificial trees and various types of plants.

The crafts section features handmade products and jewelry, while simbombes is designated for musical instruments.

There are also many festive activities like storytelling, a Christmas parade, and the caga tio, an enormous pinata-style Christmas log that spills out candy and gifts when beaten with a stick.

Is it going ahead this year? Yes.

I Mercati Natale, Piazza Santa Croce, Florence

Piazza Santa Croce provides a stunning setting for the annual market that's brought from Germany to Italy each year.

Piazza Santa Croce provides a stunning setting for the annual market that’s brought from Germany to Italy each year.

Massimiliano Donati/Awakening/Getty Images

There’s much to see at this enchanting market, but nothing can top the beautiful backdrop supplied by Santa Croce’s Franciscan Basilica.

Although this traditional fair is transported from Heidelberg, Germany to Florence every year, it’s a very Italian affair in many ways thanks to the scenery and the many Italian treats, such as panforte, for sale.

However, there’s certainly no shortage of gingerbread, strudel and traditional Heidelberg Lebkuchen cookies.

Those who take a walk to the nearby Piazza del Duomo will be treated to a magnificent nativity scene, as well as an impressive Christmas tree that’s lit up on December 8 for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Is it going ahead this year? Yes.

Organizers told CNN Travel that they are “working to be able to open” from November 27 to December 23, 2020.

Advent in Zagreb, Croatia

The Croatian capital is buzzing with activity at Christmas, and Advent in Zagreb is undoubtedly its stand-out event.

The Croatian capital is buzzing with activity at Christmas, and Advent in Zagreb is undoubtedly its stand-out event.

Antonio Bat/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

It’s easy to see why Zagreb was voted the “best Christmas market destination” in travel portal European Best Destinations’ online poll for three consecutive years.

The Croatian capital really goes to town during advent. Think live nativity scenes, ice sculpture carvings, outdoor gigs, pop-up bars and a Christmas tram complete with Santa and his elves.

Advent in Zagreb also has an area devoted to “fooling around” (or “fuliranje”) where you’ll find delighted revelers dancing in the street while eating street food and listening to live entertainment.

Is it going ahead this year? Unfortunately this is still unclear.

While Advent in Zagreb 2020 hasn’t been canceled as yet, and is currently scheduled to run from November 30 to January 7, officials have indicated that it may not go ahead.

“Conditions and possibilities of holding certain events have changed significantly this year, even for those outdoors in the autumn and wintertime,” Martina Bienenfeld, director of the Zagreb Tourist Board said in a statement last month.

“We are working on measures and organization, and if it [the market takes place, we will respect and insist on all the guidelines that will be recommended.”

Christmas in Tivoli, Copenhagen, Denmark

This Danish amusement park and pleasure garden is even more alluring at Christmas time.

This Danish amusement park and pleasure garden is even more alluring at Christmas time.

Lindblom Stefan/Stella Pictures/Reuters

Rumored to be the inspiration behind Disneyland, this Danish amusement park and pleasure garden is a dazzling place to visit any time of year.

But you’ll struggle to find anywhere as enchanting as Tivoli Gardens during the festive period.

With over 500,000 fairy lights adorning the beautiful grounds, and everything from fairground rides to a traditional Pixie Band for entertainment, it’s a winter experience like no other.

The annual Lucia procession on December 13, where more than 100 girls process through the gardens carrying candles and singing to mark St. Lucia’s Day, is a particular highlight, along with the firework displays that take place between December 25 and 26, as well as New Year’s Eve.

Is it going ahead this year? Yes.

Christmas in Tivoli is still scheduled to take place from November 13 to January 3, 2020. The amusement park now has a number of new safety measures in place due to government guideline.

Face masks are now mandatory on some rides and all restaurants and cafés, while guests are not permitted to “sing or dance to the music” during live events.

Tallinn Christmas Market, Estonia

Tallinn Christmas Market is  the Estonian capital's central winter event.

Tallinn Christmas Market is the Estonian capital’s central winter event.

Ints Kalnins/Reuters

The Estonian capital’s annual affair is one of the more modern European Christmas markets.

Set inside Tallinn’s Town Hall Square, it’s packed full of stalls with traditional Estonian cuisine, artisan bread and handicrafts for sale.

On the entertainment front, there’s a huge carousel, a winter grotto, an open-air ice rink and a Santa who rolls up on a sleigh complete with reindeers.

Visitors are also treated to regular performances by dance troupes and choirs.

But as with many such markets, the Christmas tree is the main event. Tallinn’s tree has been displayed here since 1441.

Is it going ahead this year? No.

Skansen’s Christmas Market, Stockholm

Skansen -- a classic annual winter fair in Sweden.

Skansen — a classic annual winter fair in Sweden.

Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images

Stockholm isn’t exactly lacking when it comes to Christmas markets, but none are more traditional than Skansen.

Set on the island of Djurgarden in the world’s oldest open-air museum, it’s a wonderful exhibit of Swedish culture with some added yuletide magic.

The historical houses on display in the museum are decked out in colorful decorations for the occasion and all the tables inside are set up for Christmas dinner.

Visitors can make their own decorations at Christmas workshops, take part in regular craft demonstrations or join in with the dancing games around the tree at Bollnäs Square, Skansen’s main site.

Is it going ahead this year? No.

Skansen’s Christmas Market has been canceled this year due to Covid-19. A guided Christmas walk will be held instead.

Tuomaan Markkinat, Helsinki

This wonderfully Scandinavian Christmas market is held in Helsinki’s Senate Square, near the Emperor Alexander II statue.

Tuomaan Markkinat’s center piece is a vintage carousel, but the nearly 150 vendors selling traditional Christmas delicacies, glogi, Finland’s non-alcoholic take on mulled wine, and handicrafts are also a big draw.

Younger attendees can visit Santa Claus, who has his own wooden cabin here, and join festive activities like Christmas cookie decorating.

The market’s food court is particularly impressive, with big names such as award-winning plant-based restaurant Grön listed among the eateries.

Is it going ahead this year? Yes.

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Vörösmarty Square and St. Stephen’s Basilica Christmas Market, Budapest, Hungary

The Vörösmarty Square Christmas market is relatively new, dating back to 1998.

The Vörösmarty Square Christmas market is relatively new, dating back to 1998.

Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Budapest has two main festive markets — St. Stephen’s Basilica Christmas market and Vorosmarty Square Christmas market.

The former takes place in front of the famous basilica, where crowds gather to watch the regular 3D light shows that are projected onto its facade.

In addition, there are over 150 stalls with vendors selling sweet treats, wine and arts and crafts.

Aside from the fantastic Hungarian foods that line its stalls — langos and chimney cake are particular standouts, its main highlight is probably a giant advent calendar that reveals a new window display on a daily basis from December 1 to 23.

Is it going ahead this year? No.

In October, organizers announced that the event had been called due to Covid-19. The Budapest Festival and Tourism Center (BFTK), has since launched a campaign to support the 120 or so Hungarian craftspeople who were due to sell their products at the annual fair.

Christkindlesmarkt and Gendarmenmarkt, Germany

Christkindlesmarkt has been around since the 16th century, drawing in close to two million people every year.

Christkindlesmarkt has been around since the 16th century, drawing in close to two million people every year.

Daniel Karmann/picture alliance/ via Getty Images

Open-air winter street markets have long been associated with Germany, and the European country is home to some of the oldest and most visited festive markets.

Capital city Berlin has around 80 to choose from, but Gendarmenmark is perhaps its most renowned.

Positioned between the Franzosischer Dom and Deutscher Dom, it’s a maze of wooden huts with Bratwurst, mulled wine and ginger bread for sale, along with unique Christmas gifts.

At night, visitors can enjoy nightly concerts with dance and musical performances.

Over in Nuremberg, Bavaria’s second-largest city, the famous Christkindlesmarkt has been around since the 16th century.

During the Christmas period, around 180 stands are erected in the city’s central market square and the whole area is abuzz with activity.

The market draws in around two million people every year and is undoubtedly one of Nuremberg’s annual highlights.

Are they going ahead this year? No.

Sadly both events have been canceled this year. Helmut Russ, organizer for Berlin’s Gendarmenmarkt, described the historic market as “a cultural institution,” while expressing his disappointment that it will not be held in 2020.

“It’s incredibly painful to have to do this, because the Christmas market is also a cultural institution,” he said in a statement. “During dark times, it brings a bit of warmth and light into the city and into people’s hearts.”

Meanwhile Nuremberg’s mayor Marcus König released a statement announcing Christkindlesmarkt’s cancellation last month.

“This decision is very difficult for us,” it read. “After much deliberation, and in order to protect the population, we have come to the conclusion that the Christmas market will not take place this year.”

Toronto Christmas Market, Toronto

The Christmas tree lighting at Toronto's annual festive market.

The Christmas tree lighting at Toronto’s annual festive market.

Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Held in the historic Distillery District, Toronto Christmas Market serves as a rather charming take on the traditional European festive market.

One of the largest festive markets in North America, it features a Santa’s Grotto, a gigantic light tunnel, fairground rides, a 50-foot Christmas tree, as well as beer gardens.

Visitors will be able to find everything from artisanal food, one-off gifts and festive cocktails at the numerous stalls here.

There are also regular musical performances from brass bands as well as Christmas carolers.

Is it going ahead this year? No.

Toronto Christmas Market 2020 has been called off by officials, who state that the crowds it attracts “are just too large for safe physical distancing.” However, the Distillery District will be open for holiday shopping.

Winter Village at Bryant Park, New York

Manhattan's winter wonderland takes place in Bryant Park.

Manhattan’s winter wonderland takes place in Bryant Park.

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Each and every year, Manhattan’s Bryant Park is transformed into a magnificent wonderland for the Winter Village.

The renowned open-air market is a wonderful sight to behold, with over 100 custom-designed kiosks and a 17,000-square-foot outdoor rink that’s free to use provided you have your own skates.

Its food hall The Lodge provides an eclectic mix of eateries, along with an outdoor beer garden and a cocktail bar.

Outside the Winter Village, the Josephine Shaw Lowell Fountain is at its most beautiful during winter time, when it regularly freezes over.

Is it going ahead this year? Yes.

The Winter Village is scheduled to run from October 30, 2020 to March 7, 2021, but the event has been scaled down considerably, with fewer vendors and wider walkways.

The elaborate tree lighting ceremony has also been called off and visitors will need to book ice skating sessions and rentals in advance.

Information correct at the time of publishing.

Joe Minihane also contributed to this article.

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