The Bolzano Christmas market is the biggest in Italy and worth a December visit! Here’s everything you should know before you go.
2023 update: Bolzano’s Christmas market will be open November 24 – January 6!
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The Bolzano Christmas markets are considered the best in Italy. Tucked in a picturesque mountain town in the Trentino-Alto Adige region of Italy, it’s a gorgeous place to visit all year, but Christmas market season is by far the best!
Italian Christmas markets
Italian Christmas markets are less common than those in Germany or Austria. You find them mostly in the north, where there’s historically some German/Austrian influence. Southern Italy doesn’t have big ones, although small towns throughout the country will decorate and have events!
Unlike German markets, the emphasis is definitely on food. It’s something like 70% food booths and 30% everything else. There will be small booths specializing in one dish, but also plenty of big outdoor bar areas meant for gathering with friends all evening long! Booths will also offer plated dishes like pasta, gnocchi, or risotto. In my experience, they tend to have a bit more seating than the average German Christmas market, probably to make eating pasta easier!
What to Know About Bolzano
Bolzano itself is nestled into a valley almost completely surrounded by mountains, so it’s a haven for hiking, outdoor fun, and epic views everywhere you look.
This part of Italy has switched nationalities a few times over the centuries, so most locals speak German as their first language! It’s truly impressive how nearly everyone is trilingual up here, as well as many speaking the regional language of ladin. For that reason, I’ll label places in this post in both German and Italian!
The Bolzano Christmas Market
Bolzano’s Christmas market is the biggest in Italy, so it’s definitely worth checking out! There are two major areas of the markets, so focus on those.
First up is the Piazza Walther/Waltherplatz. Sitting in the shadow of the cathedral, it’s hard to miss. Every year the massive tree goes up right in the center of the market, making it my favorite section of the market.
It has a great mix of food stalls and artisans selling their wares. They have anything from wooden toys for kids to leather goods to wool booties to handmade ornaments!
The other major market area is a five-minute walk away, in Parco della Stazione. This market focuses on artists selling their creations. Over here, these are mostly unique creations, not nearly-identical versions of something three stalls down. My favorite was a woman making jewelry out of flower petals encased in glass or enamel – the colors were incredible, and the jewelry was so delicately beautiful.
There’s also a carousel here for the kids, and a little more space to let them run around. Plus a bar stall for a glass of gluwein as you shop!
Italian Christmas Market Food
Because of the Austrian/Italian culture combo, the Bolzano Christmas Market has the best of both worlds!
The all-stars are all here: massive pretzels with sweet or salty toppings, more sausages than you can imagine, and of course mulled wine.
Strangely, mulled wine in Italy is called vin brule. Which is French for “burned wine.” Meanwhile, in France it’s called vin chaud; don’t ask me why we call it vin brule. You can also go with the tried and true German name, gluhwein. Either way, it’s served in specialty mugs that you can either take home or return for a few euros back.
There are also lots of local South Tyrol specialties like speck (the local version of cured ham, it’s delicious!) and cookies, like spitzbuben or walli. There are also vacuum-sealed meats & cheeses to take with you if you want a foodie souvenir!
One fun find I loved was the Italian version of raclette! Massive blocks of cheese are melted by a hot grill and scraped onto bread for a hot sandwich unlike anything you’ve ever tried!
Getting to Bolzano
Bolzano is reachable by train, making it a great jumping-off point to the Dolomites year-round. The city has connections up to smaller towns in the mountains, so some hiking is available without driving.
If you have the option to take a car, I’d recommend it. You can see so much and there’s plenty of hiking and skiing in the area you’ll want to try!
Staying overnight in Bolzano is an easy win because the market is especially magical at night.
For budget accommodation, I recommend Stay Cooper Hotel & Apartments: they offer comfortable beds and modern amenities right in the heart of town! They also offer parking discounts if you’re driving.
Where to Next?
If you’re planning a more extensive trip, I advise 2 days in Bolzano. That gives you enough time to explore the Christmas markets, meander the town, take the cable car up to Soprabolzano if you like, and do some hiking or skiing!
If you’re here and have time, I highly recommend heading to nearby Merano for their Christmas market as well. They’re smaller (both the town and the market), but the setting makes for cozy Christmas market perfection!
Another amazing add-on is to visit one of the spas in the area. There are a bunch of good ones, but one in particular that you’ll probably recognize from Instagram. I went and shared my experience as a regular person, including if I thought it was worth the price tag!