25 Best Places to Spend Christmas in Europe

November 5, 2020

by Rina Bernardo

Carousel on a christmas market in europe

Christmas is truly the most wonderful time of the year! And when it comes to this festive season, Europe is one of the best places to be. Christmas in Europe offers a breathtaking winter wonderland holiday with yuletide festivals, charming town squares lit up with twinkling lights, and trade fairs showcasing the best local products. Like the Christmas markets in Germany, Europe has festive Christkindlmarkt in every town and city where you can find the best gifts and most delicious treats.

If you’re planning a winter holiday, here are the best cities in Europe where you can spend Christmas!

 

How is Christmas in Europe?

 

Christmas market in Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Photo by Ross Sneddon on Unsplash

Christmas in Europe is a big celebration that usually lasts the whole month. The holiday celebrations start four Sundays before Christmas Eve, marking the start of the Advent season. Aside from Christmas Eve on December 24, the Feast of St. Nicholas on December 6 is also a big day, especially for children. On the evening of December 5, children leave their clean shoes or boots outside, hoping that Santa Claus (or St. Nicholas) will leave candies and other treats. Additionally, Midnight Mass is also an important event especially in countries like Spain, Italy, and England.

Every country may also have their own Christmas traditions, but one thing is for sure: they all celebrate the lively atmosphere of the Yuletide season.

 

Why Spend Christmas in Europe?

 

Carousel at a market in Frankfurt, Germany
Photo by cmophoto.net on Unsplash

Although Europe is a great destination to visit all-year-round, celebrating the holiday season here is a unique and memorable experience. You’ll get to explore the various Christmas markets, snack on delicious cookies and other local delicacies, and bask in the merry, winter wonderland atmosphere. The medieval town squares decorated with colorful lights and Christmas trees are a sight to behold and make you feel like you’re in a fairy tale. 

Not only is Christmas in Europe a feast for the eyes, but it is a feast for the senses as well. Smell the fragrant scent of cinnamon and nutmeg as you pass by stalls selling different local treats. Sip on a warm mug of eggnog or mulled wine, or taste delicious Christmas snacks like panettone, ginger cookies, and other traditional bites.

 

Best Places to Spend Christmas in Europe

1. Vienna, Austria

 

Various Christmas trinkets sold at a Christmas market in Vienna
Photo by alpenzoo on Pixabay

Don’t Miss: The Christmas market next to the Belvedere Palace, Weihnachtsdorf Schloss Belvedere
Temperature: 0.5° to 4.6°C to (32.9° to 40.3°F)
How to Get There: Vienna is only 17km away from Vienna International Airport via bus or train.

Every corner in Vienna turns into a picture-perfect winter getaway during Christmas. The town squares turn into bustling Christmas markets selling unique trinkets and must-try delicacies. Its medieval streets give it a magical charm, especially when illuminated by twinkling lights. Stroll around the city or take a hop-on hop-off bus tour and bask in its festive atmosphere. You can also visit the market and have a hot glass of Weihnachtspunsch, a traditional Christmas punch.

 

2. Prague, Czech Republic

 

Christmas tree at a market in Prague at night
Photo by maatcheck on Pixabay

Don’t Miss: Go on a walk around the Old Town and Wenceslas Square
Temperature: -3.3° to 2°C (26.1° to 35.6°F)
How to Get There: The Václav Havel Airport Prague is only 30 minutes away from Prague. You can take a bus or taxi to the city.

Czech Republic’s Gothic capital, Prague, is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places in the world. It also boasts some of the world’s best Christmas markets, including the Old Town Square Christmas Market and Wenceslas Square Christmas Market. Discover various Czech delicacies like trdelník (sugar-coated pastry) and svařák (warm red mulled wine). Prague’s splendid architecture highlighted by the twinkling lights makes it an unmissable holiday destination.

 

3. Budapest, Hungary

 

Customer checking out items sold at a Christmas market in Budapest
Photo by Jorge Franganillo on Flickr

Don’t Miss: Ice skating at the City Park Ice Rink, one of the largest and oldest skating rinks in Europe
Temperature: 0° to 4°C (32° to 39.2°F)
How to Get There: Budapest is 21km away from the Ferenc Liszt International Airport. The Keleti Train Station is about 10 minutes away from the city center.

Budapest is one of the best cities to visit for Christmas in Europe. The Advent Feast at the Basilica of Budapest attracts hundreds of locals and tourists, featuring delicious Hungarian and international food. When in Budapest in winter, get your ice skates and head to the City Park Ice Rink, and glide on the ice with the Vajdahunyad Castle in the background. In the evening, replenish your energy with a chimney cake and a glass of palinka.

 

4. Amiens, France

 

Christmas lanterns sold at a market in Amiens
Photo by Blackout_Photography on Pixabay

Don’t Miss: The lights show in Amiens Cathedral
Temperature: 2° to 7°C (35.6° to 44.6°F)
How to Get There: Amiens is 115km away from Paris and is less than two hours away by train.

The quaint town of Amiens houses the largest Christmas market in northern France. From late November to the end of December, craftsmen from the country head to the city to sell handmade Christmas gifts and decorations. The Christmas market in the city is also one of the few eco-friendly markets in the country. With over 2 kilometers of stalls, you’re likely to find the perfect gift here!

 

5. Salzburg, Austria

 

Christmas bells and other ornaments sold at a market in Salzburg
Photo by Julian Hochgesang on Unsplash

Don’t Miss: Shopping and going on a food tour around the Cathedral Square Christmas Market
Temperature: -2.5° to 4°C (27.5° to 39.2°F)
How to Get There: From Salzburg Airport, Salzburg is about 10km away or a 13-minute drive. From Vienna, Salzburg is three hours away.

Step into a fairytale-like city at Salzburg, also known as the birthplace of Mozart. This Austrian city also houses one of the oldest Christmas markets in Europe and in the world, dating back to 1491. The Christmas market also offers various social and cultural programs like folk dances and concerts paying tribute to Mozart. Additionally, the city is also famous for its Krampus Run, a unique holiday tradition that you shouldn’t miss.

 

6. Basel, Switzerland

 

Basel Minster next to a giant Christmas tree
Photo by cge2010 on Adobe Stock

Don’t Miss: Tasting authentic Basler Läckerli, traditional spiced biscuits
Temperature: 1° to 6°C (33.8° to 42.8°F)
How to Get There: Basel is a 21-minute drive from the airport.

Explore the glowing streets of Basel during the holiday season and admire the beauty of its Old Town. Located in the heart of the city is the Basel Christmas Market, where over 160 vendors sell a variety of local and handmade products. Aside from its markets, you can also hop on a boat and enjoy a leisurely cruise along the Rhine River, viewing the city as it is illuminated by colorful lights.

 

7. Leipzig, Germany

 

Stalls at a Christmas market in Leipzig near the Old Town Hall
Photo by vlamus on Adobe Stock

Don’t Miss: The Ferris wheel at the Augustusplatz
Temperature: -1.2° to 3.6°C (29.8° to 38.5°F)
How to Get There: From Leipzig/Halle Airport, you can take the train, bus, towncar, or taxi to the city center. Travel time is about 30 minutes.

Leipzig takes pride in having one of the oldest and largest Christmas markets in Germany. With over 250 stalls decorated with festive lights, Leipzig’s Christmas markets offer the best of the city’s culinary and cultural delights. At Market Square, you will see various performances; while at the Augustusplatz, you can get on a Ferris wheel to see the city from 38 meters high. On the other hand, enjoy the nostalgic ambiance at the Christmas market in Naschmarkt and find vintage handmade items.

 

8. Dubrovnik, Croatia

 

Tourists and local exploring the Christmas Fair at Dubrovnik
Photo by ksfotodesign on Adobe Stock

Don’t Miss: The Christmas Fair near the Convent of St. Claire
Temperature: 7.8°C to 13.4° (46° to 56.1°F)
How to Get There: Dubrovnik is 21km away from Čilipi Airport. If you’re arriving at Zagreb Airport, Dubrovnik is a six-hour drive away.

Not only is Dubrovnik a must-visit for Game of Thrones fans, but it is also one of the best cities to spend Christmas in Europe. See the Christmas trees lined-up in the streets of Stradun, highlighted by the golden glow of the nearby buildings. At the Old Town, munch on Christmas cookies, candied almonds, and candied orange peels. Lastly, join the locals and sing along to the traditional Christmas carols!

 

9. Strasbourg, France

 

Picturesque streets of Alsace during Christmas
Photo by cge2010 on Adobe Stock

Don’t Miss: The oldest Christmas market in Europe, Christkindelsmärik
Temperature: 0.3° to 5.2°C (32.5° to 41.4°F)
How to Get There: From Strasbourg Airport, the city is a 15-minute drive away. On the other hand, if you’ll come from Paris, you can take a two-hour train ride.

Strasbourg is France’s Christmas Capital, mostly due to the 45-year old Christmas market. Other than that, its half-timbered houses adorned with various Christmas decorations are an Instagram-worthy scenery. Near the Strasbourg Cathedral, find hundreds of stalls filled with either quirky Christmas trinkets or seasonal delicacies like roasted chestnuts, Bredele (Christmas cookies), or mulled wine. In addition, you can also climb up the Strasbourg Cathedral and get a bird’s eye view of this charming city.

 

10. London, England

 

Double decker buses and taxis under the Christmas lights at Regent Street in London
Photo by lazyllama on Adobe Stock

Don’t Miss: The iconic Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree lighting ceremony
Temperature: 3° to 9°C (37° to 48°F)
How to Get There: London is one of the most accessible cities in the world. You can fly to either London’s City, Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, Stansted, or Southend airports and take a train or cab to the city center.

London is without a doubt one of the best places to go for Christmas in Europe. The whole city turns into a winter wonderland with plenty of opportunities for shopping and sightseeing. Hop on an open-top bus and marvel at the dazzling Christmas lights and Gregorian-style townhouses. For your shopping needs, head to the Christmas markets and fairs. Needless to say, there are so many things you can do in London during this season.

 

11. Copenhagen, Denmark

 

Christmas illuminations at Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen
Photo by VladAndrei on Adobe Stock

Don’t Miss: Stunning light displays, amusement park rides, and street food at the Tivoli Gardens
Temperature: 1° to 5°C (33.8° to 41°F)
How to Get There: Copenhagen is only 12 minutes away from Kastrup Airport. Additionally, Copenhagen Central Station is just 15 minutes away from the city center.

Celebrate Christmas in one of the world’s happiest countries, Denmark! Its capital city, Copenhagen, also takes the cake for being the best place to be during the Christmas season. Colorful lights surround the city and you’re sure to find a Christmas market at every corner. Feel the festive spirit as you stroll at the Tivoli Gardens and take photos of the amusement park rides covered in twinkling lights. Complete your Christmas experience and munch on local snacks like klejner (fried pastry twists) and pepernoot (spiced cookies).

 

12. Amsterdam, Netherlands

 

View of the canals in Amsterdam during Christmas season
Photo by Nataraj on Adobe Stock

Don’t Miss: A canal cruise overlooking the city’s festive decorations

Temperature: 1.7° to 6.7°C (35.1° to 44.1°F) 

How to Get There: Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is only 15-20 minutes away from the city center.

Aside from its romantic canals, Amsterdam is also a popular destination for Christmas in Europe. Unlike its neighboring countries, the Yuletide season in the Netherlands starts as early as November. The Museum Square turns into a picturesque Christmas village filled with stalls selling handmade gifts and local delicacies. Visit the Dam Square and see the giant Christmas tree while eating authentic stroopwafel and speculaas (spiced cookies).

 

13. Brussels, Belgium

 

Christmas fair in Brussels
Photo by Gary Bembridge on Flickr

Don’t Miss: The sound and light show at the Grote Markt
Temperature: 1.6° to 6.1°C (34.9° to 43°F)
How to Get There: From Brussels Airport, take the airport train to Brussels Central Station. The city center is only a few minutes walk from the station.

Located in the heart of Belgium, Brussels is one of the best places to spend Christmas in Europe. Its year-end event, the Winter Wonders, highlights the city’s centuries-old traditions and carnival-like attractions. At the Grote Markt, admire the towering Christmas tree and watch the alluring light show. Lastly, savor various Belgian treats like chocolate waffles and spiced cookies.

 

14. Madeira, Portugal

 

Streets of Funchal in Madeira adorned with Christmas decorations
Photo by anilah on Adobe Stock

Don’t Miss: The Christmas market at Avenida Arriaga for live performances, Christmas carols, and delicious food
Temperature: 15° to 20.7°C (59° to 69.3°F)
How to Get There: From Madeira Airport, the city center is 35km away or a 41-minute drive.

During the holiday season, the streets of Madeira are lit up with Christmas lights and various ornaments. Additionally, the season also brings out the various cultural and religious traditions in the city, such as the midnight mass (Misa de Gallo) and novenas, masses held nine days before Christmas. Witness the spectacular fireworks show and watch live performances from the local bands and folk groups.

 

15. Reykjavík, Iceland

 

Aerial view of Reykjavik Iceland during Christmas
Photo by Helena GH on Adobe Stock

Don’t Miss: Ice skating at Ingólfur Square
Temperature: -2° to 3°C (28.4° to 37°F)
How to Get There: Reykjavík is a 45-minute drive from Keflavik Airport. 

For a unique Christmas celebration, head to Reykjavík, home of the 13 Yuletide Lads. These 13 holiday trolls are their local version of Santa Claus, visiting houses 13 nights before Christmas to leave presents and small gifts to children. Visit the Reykjavik City Hall for the annual Winter Woods Wonderland and see the sculptures and decorations. If you’re lucky, you might get a chance to see the brilliant aurora borealis on top of the vibrant Christmas lights in the city!

 

16. Cologne, Germany

 

Christmas market next to the Cologne Cathedral at night
Photo by Mapics on Adobe Stock

Don’t Miss: The Christmas markets, regarded as the best in Europe
Temperature: 0.4° to 5.9°C (32.7° to 42.6°F)
How to Get There: Cologne is 14 minutes away from the airport. You can take the train from the airport that connects to the Cologne Central Station. Alternatively, you can take a bus from neighboring cities in Germany and Austria.

Cologne is one of the best places to spend Christmas in Europe and you can find the best Christmas markets in the city. Attracting more than 4 million visitors every year, the Yuletide season in Cologne is an event you shouldn’t miss. Explore the markets and fill up your senses with the delicious aroma of cinnamon biscuits, roasted chestnuts, and fresh waffles. Don’t miss the concerts at the Kölner Philharmonie and live music at the different bars and pubs.

 

17. Rovaniemi, Finland

 

Santa Claus Office in Santa Claus Village, Rovaniemi
Photo by Roman Babakin on Adobe Stock

Don’t Miss: Husky safaris and snowshoeing
Temperature: -12.5° to -6.4°C (9.5° to 20.5°F)
How to Get There: Rovaniemi is only a 10-minute drive from Rovaniemi Airport. The Rovaniemi Railway Station is also located next to the city center.

Head to Rovaniemi, home of Santa Claus! Experience a true White Christmas at the capital of Lapland. At the Santa Village, get a chance to meet the man himself, Santa Claus. Enjoy other fun activities in Rovaniemi like snowshoeing, snowmobile safaris, and tours of the Northern Lights. Explore the city and admire its intricate ice sculptures and colorful trees as you snack on traditional delicacies like bread cheese and Christmas cookies.

 

18. Wroclaw, Poland

 

Wroclaw town center with pastel-colored buildings and Christmas tree
Photo by Reiseuhu on Unsplash

Don’t Miss: Christmas performances and parades at the Rynek Square
Temperature: -3° to 4°C (26.6° to 39.2°F)
How to Get There: Wroclaw is a 26-minute drive from Copernicus Airport Wrocław.

Although not as popular as Warsaw, Wroclaw is still one of the best places to celebrate Christmas in Europe. It also offers the same fairytale-like charm of other major cities at a cheaper price. Listen to Christmas carols at the Rynek, the city’s town square as you pass by stalls offering various goods. Take photos of the colorful buildings adorned with Christmas decorations in Plac Solny.

 

19. Tallinn, Estonia

 

Christmas market in Tallinn
Photo by Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar on Flickr

Don’t Miss: The famous Tallinn Christmas Tree, said to be the first in the world
Temperature: -4.2° to 0.3°C (24.4° to 32.5°F)
How to Get There: The city is only a short 10-minute drive from Tallinn Airport. Meanwhile, the nearest train station is the Baltic Station.

With its picture-perfect old town and cobblestone-laden streets, Tallinn is a perfect Christmas destination. The UNESCO-protected Old Town is a location straight out of a children’s storybook, with pastel-colored buildings and cozy wooden huts. Enjoy a hot mug of mulled wine at one of the Christmas markets and purchase hand-carved ornaments for your home. Lastly, don’t miss the famous Christmas tree, first erected way back in 1441.

 

20. Innsbruck, Austria

 

Giant Christmas tree in Innsbruck old town
Photo by Felipe Tofani on Flickr

Don’t Miss: Food tour across the different Christmas markets
Temperature: -4.2° to 3.7°C (24.4° to 38.7°F)
How to Get There: From Innsbruck Airport, the city center is only a 15-minute drive away. You can also fly, take a bus, and take a train from Vienna to Innsbruck.

Innsbruck is a famous Christmas destination, thanks to its snow-capped mountains and colorful buildings. This Austrian city is also home to six Christmas markets with almost 200 stalls selling a variety of items. Four weeks before Christmas, you’ll find the city buzzing with tourists and locals heading to these markets for food, drinks, and shopping. Find ornate decorations made from hand-blown glass, wooden toys, and snacks like pastries and spiced biscuits.

 

21. Rothenburg, Germany

 

Medieval streets of Rothenburg ob der tauber on Christmas
Photo by stockphoto-graf on Adobe Stock

Don’t Miss: A trip to the German Christmas Museum
Temperature: -1° to 3°C (30.2° to 37°F)
How to Get There: The closest airports to Rothenburg are Nuremberg Airport and Stuttgart Airport. From there, the drive to the city center takes more or less two hours.

The medieval town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber turns into a fairytale-like wonderland during Christmas in Europe. Its unspoiled beauty makes it a must-visit for anyone who wants a picture-perfect setting to celebrate the festive season. Explore the Christmas markets and taste a local specialty, schneeball (shortcrust pastry), and mulled wine. Bask in the gleeful atmosphere as you listen to the music from the bands and watch different programs at the town square. 

 

22. Colmar, France

 

Iconic buildings of Colmar decorated with Christmas lights
Photo by Jorge Franganillo on Flickr

Don’t Miss: The postcard-perfect views of half-timbered houses illuminated by Christmas lights
Temperature: 5.5° to 9.2°C (41.9° to 48.6°F)
How to Get There: The nearest airport to Colmar is Strasbourg Airport, which is an hour away by train. Other nearby airports include Stuttgart Airport, Basel Airport, and Zurich Airport.

Colmar is a romantic city in the Alsace region with a pleasant blend of half-timbered houses and Venice’s iconic waterways. In the chilly days of December, the city becomes even more breathtaking as different lights illuminate its streets and town squares. Shop for souvenirs and gifts at the Christmas markets. Additionally, join the holiday festivities such as wine tastings, toy exhibitions, concerts, and folk performances.

 

23. Milan, Italy

 

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan
Photo by Ralf Steinberger on Flickr

Don’t Miss: The giant Christmas tree lighting ceremony near the Piazza del Duomo
Temperature: 0.1° to 6.4°C (32.2° to 43.5°F)
How to Get There: The closest airport to Milan is Linate Airport. Other nearby airports include Malpensa Airport and Il Caravaggio International Airport.

Aside from being the fashion capital of the world, Milan is also a popular destination for Christmas in Europe. Attend a Christmas concert at the majestic Teatro alla Scala or watch a musical at the National Theater CheBanca. Lace up your skates and go skating at one of the seven skating rinks around the city. Lastly, go to the markets and shop for souvenirs, Christmas gifts for family, friends, and even for yourself!

 

24. Nuremberg, Germany

 

Christmas market in Nuremberg at night
Photo by blende12 on Pixabay

Don’t Miss: A stagecoach ride around the lavishly decorated Old Town
Temperature: -1.8° to 3.5°C (28.8° to 38.3°F)
How to Get There: Nuremberg is a 10-minute trip from Nuremberg Airport by train. In addition, you can fly from nearby airports in Munich and Frankfurt then take a train to get to Nuremberg.

Attracting two million visitors in four weeks, the Christmas markets in Nuremberg are one of the things you shouldn’t miss when in Europe during the festive season. The stalls around the city’s historic center offer almost anything and everything Christmas-related: from local gingerbread cookies, wooden Ferris Wheels, and mulled wine. Also famous for its toy-making tradition, you can find different kinds of handmade toys and figurines at the Nuremberg Toy Museum.

 

25. Bruges, Belgium

 

Colorful buildings in Bruges decorated for Christmas
Photo by Nicole Baster on Unsplash

Don’t Miss: The Bruges Ice Sculpture Festival
Temperature: 2° to 7°C (35.6° to 44.6°F)
How to Get There: From Bruges Airport, you can take a taxi or train to get to the city center. 

Although Bruges is a stunning destination all-year-round, spending Christmas in the city is a memorable experience. Starting in November, the city center turns into a giant Christmas market teeming with local products and gifts, perfect for last-minute shopping. Walk around the cobblestone-laden streets as you take photos of the ethereal scenery. At the end of the day, go skating and reward yourself with a warm cup of hot chocolate.

‘Tis the Season to Be Jolly!

Filled with Christmas markets, medieval villages, and picturesque town squares, Europe is the perfect destination to celebrate the festive season. Aside from appreciating its postcard-perfect scenery, you’ll also learn more about every country’s traditions. Head to Germany and explore its Christmas markets, France for its breathtaking decorations, and Norway for a chance to see the majestic Northern Lights. 

Regardless of the city you’ll visit, Christmas in Europe is, indeed, a wonderful experience.