Anyone else out there planning an uber-chic, Christmas in Europe itinerary and have exactly no idea where to go and where to find some of the best European Christmas destinations out there?
I mean, I’ve been to Europe countless times and have enjoyed many a Christmas vacation in Europe, especially the Christmas markets in Romania. And yet, I still have a hard time deciding where some of the best Christmas destinations in Europe are and how to savor the Christmas season.
However, this eternal plight of mine makes a lot more sense once you realize that I have a beyond difficult time deciding what to eat for dinner or what to watch on Netflix, let alone where to spend my very European Christmas vacation.
Which is why I, and a few of my expert travel blogger friends, have created this handy dandy list of the best European Christmas destinations on planet Earth.
You know, uber-fab, super snazzy, swelerific (Yes, I really do sound like I’m straight out of a 1950s era sitcom) places that will leave you thinking incredibly cliched things like, “Please sir, I want some more.”
So, Oliver Twist, eat your heart out! Because we’re about to swan dive into the pool of pure, travel awesomeness that is this post about all of the best European destinations for Christmas.
Dear wonderful, beautiful, and oh-so-amazing reader (Yup, I lay it on thick for my dozens of fans). Since I am incapable of making it rain money, there’s a high probability (like 99.999%) that this post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure for more information. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.
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Best European Christmas Destinations: Switzerland
1. Montreux on Lake Geneva, Switzerland
By: Maureen of So Many Places So Little Time
As far as Christmas ambiance goes, Montreux has it all! It’s a picture-perfect town that is nestled at the foot of the Alps and that is situated along the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland.
And during the Christmas season, the entire town is transformed into a fairytale wonderland that is home to Switzerland’s largest Christmas market. In total, this market features 170 exquisitely decorated stalls that sit along the lake promenade and sell a variety of different Christmas goodies that you’ll love.
So, if you’re looking for things to do in Montreux, stop by any evening you like and marvel at Santa Claus soaring above the lake on his flying sleigh. Or, head into the Loggers Village for some delicious mulled wine and freshly baked pizza. You can even take a ride on the Big Wheel which offers visitors magnificent views of Montreux and the surrounding Christmas lights.
Next, visit the nearby Elves’ Square, which features an interactive light display that illuminates a variety of fir trees that surrounded several giant reindeer – lights that are all powered by nearby bicycles. So, the more you pedal, the more impressive the light display becomes.
And if you have a bit of extra time, you can also stop by Chillon Castle, which is decked out in pine cones and holds an annual medieval festival, or take a ride on the scenic Santa Train, which winds its way up the nearby mountains to Les Rochers de Naye and concludes with a visit to Santa in his grotto on top of the mountain.
Yes, Christmas truly is a special time in Montreux, making this one of the best European Christmas destinations out there.
2. Zurich, Switzerland
By: Lauren of Pack and Paint
Zurich, Switzerland is one of the best European Christmas destinations out there. That’s because, during the holiday season, this city transforms into a winter wonderland that is brimming over with lights and decorations as far as the eye can see.
The city’s main train station even showcases an impressive Christmas tree that is adorned with Swarovski crystals. Yup, Zurich definitely knows how to celebrate Christmas!
So, if you decide to travel to this popular Swiss city during the holiday season, you’ll be left in total awe as you meander through the old town, drink mulled wine, and enjoy the enchanting buzz of the city.
However, some of the other amazing things to do in Zurich during Christmas include ice skating, shopping at one of the city’s many markets, and admiring some of the impressive views from atop the Lindenhof.
You also cannot leave Zurich without indulging in some delicious, local fondue – a warm, traditional, Swiss cheese dish that makes the perfect winter treat. And one of the best places to sample this tasty meal is Le Dezaley. It’s a cozy, highly-rated restaurant that sits in the city’s Old Town, uses a traditional, family recipe that always leaves diners craving more, and is known for its impeccable service. Therefore, definitely make a reservation before attempting to dine here.
Best European Christmas Destinations: United Kingdom
3. Comrie, Scotland
By: Katy of The Balkans and Beyond
Every year on December 31st, the small Scottish village of Comrie comes alive with lights and joyous celebrations for Hogmanay. And one of these amazing events is The Flambeaux, an ancient tradition that is thought to date all the way back to the Pagan times.
Initially, The Flambeaux was a Pagan fire cleansing ritual that was used to rid the town of bad spirits and bring in good luck for the upcoming year. That’s why, during this ritual, you’ll see ten birch poles that are topped with rags that are covered in tar. At the stroke of Midnight, these poles are then lit up with fire and paraded through the town, followed by a local pipe band and citizens in fancy attire.
Once the march is complete, the town is officially cleansed and the poles are cast out over the Dalginross Bridge and into the River Earn. Locals and visitors alike then return to enjoy some outdoor ceilidh (Scottish dancing) in the village Square.
So, if you would like to be part of these beautifully unique celebrations, then be sure to book a room at the Royal Hotel since the outdoor ceilidh is held here and the torches are lit just outside the hotel. It is also a lovely boutique hotel that serves up a delicious, hearty highland breakfast as well as a fantastic, traditional steak pie for lunch.
However, to truly make the most of your evening:
- Arrive early since Comrie is a small village and Hogmanay is popular in Scotland.
- Wear warm, waterproof clothing since everything is outdoors and temperatures can get as low as -10C (14F).
- Sample some local spirits but don’t drive if you’re planning to drink. Scottish laws with regards to drinking and driving laws are very strict.
4. York, England
By: Sinead of Best in York Guide
The city of York in northern England is a perfect destination for a festive winter break since York at Christmas is truly magical.
This historic city hosts a six week long St Nicholas Fair, the highlight of which is an award-winning Christmas market. Over 100 wooden chalets make up this enchanting market and sell unique, locally made arts, crafts and local foods like Yorkshire wine, pies, cakes, and gin. Shoppers can also enjoy beautiful music from carol singers, choirs, and buskers as they meander through the vibrant shopping area.
Weary market-goers can then rest atop blanket-covered benches inside of Thor’s Tipi, an enormous canvas tipi serving craft ales, mulled wine and hot chocolate around an open fire.
York’s grand Victorian and Georgian buildings are also beautifully decorated and illuminated throughout this time of year, with many local, historic homes showcasing themed festive displays. The delectable window display at the 100-year-old, Betty’s Tea Rooms is also one of my favorites and should not be missed.
Additionally, you can attend a carol concert at York Minster, a stunning gothic cathedral that is home to the largest expanse of stained glass in the world.
And for impressive views of this festive city, you can stop by the medieval city walls (the longest city walls in England) or ascend Clifford’s Tower (It’s located in the city center and has features the remains of a Norman keep). You can also attend a raucous Christmas pantomime at one of the city’s three theatres.
Now, for a stunning hotel with a view, Dean’s Court Hotel is a perfect choice since it sits just opposite York Minster. Food lovers will also love sitting at a wooden pew at the medieval alehouse, The House of Trembling Madness.
5. Manchester, England
By: Pauline of Beeloved City
When it comes to spending Christmas in the UK, most people rush to London. And although the British capital does have loads to offer visitors, Manchester is the perfect place to go if you want to discover a smaller city.
Located in Northwest England. Manchester is a lively city that becomes a veritable winter wonderland throughout November and December. And one of the main attractions here is the city’s amazing Christmas markets. In total, there are nine different Christmas markets in Manchester that basically take over the city! and offer excited visitors things like mulled wine, German bratwurst, a visit with Santa, and more!
On the whole, Mancunians love to spend time at the Christmas markets since the atmosphere is always festive, with several German bars where you can sit and enjoy ample indoor or outdoor seating! So, whether you want mulled wine, mulled cider, hot chocolate, or beer, you will have no shortage of delicious drinks to choose from.
The city center is also fairly small and relatively easy to discover by foot, with the city’s main attractions being Piccadilly Gardens, the Printworks, Royal Exchange, St Peter square, Town Hall, and the Gay Village. And if you love Harry Potter and Hogwarts-like buildings, then head to the stunning, John Rylands library.
And when it comes to delicious food, the Northern Quarter is where you want to be. Because it is here that you’ll find plenty of restaurants and bars that serve just about every type of food imaginable. But, if you’re in the mood for typical English fare, then head to TROF (near Shudehill) for a delicious Sunday roast! While you’re in the area, you can also check out some of the mesmerizing street art murals that proliferate throughout this part of the city.
6. Belfast, Northern Ireland
By: Emer of Let’s Go Ireland
Belfast is easily one of the best European Christmas destinations out there since this place has so much to offer both indoors and outdoors. And one attraction that you shouldn’t miss is the Titanic Belfast. This museum, arguably the best in Northern Ireland, is located in the former Harland & Wolff shipyard where the RMS Titanic was constructed. It is also a highly interactive museum experience, during which you can learn more about the ill-fated story behind one of the most famous ships in history.
However, If you would rather add more outdoor activities to your Belfast bucket list, then be sure to visit the Christmas Market. Located near City Hall, this place is spectacularly illuminated with lights and features a wealth of stalls that offer children’s entertainment, sell a variety of different foods, and that allow visitors to soak up the wonderful, seasonal atmosphere. As the weather in Ireland can be quite unpredictable, make sure to bring some waterproof gear and/or an umbrella with you as you stroll through the market.
Now, for anyone interested in literature, a walk through C. S. Lewis Square is a must. Because in this little park you’ll discover a variety of sculptures that are inspired by the characters found in the iconic, Narnia series. While you’re here, you can also stop by the Lamppost Cafe, which serves up a delicious lunch and is known for making one of the best scones in all of Belfast.
Another highlight of any trip to Belfast is a visit to the Crown Liquor Saloon. This is the perfect place to sit and relax after a long day of walking. Also be sure to sample a delightful beverage, like a Christmassy mulled wine, in this excellently preserved Victorian-style pub.
7. Rye, East Sussex, United Kingdom
By: Sarah of In Search of Sarah
Spending Christmas in Rye is like traveling into a Charles Dickens novel. Everywhere you turn you’ll find charming, cobblestone streets and store windows alight with festive holiday decorations. That’s why, you can’t help but feel enchanted by this tiny, medieval town.
Plus, Rye is a short 2-hour train ride away from London, making it the perfect day trip from London. But, if you want to extend your stay, you can always cozy up at one of the many charming Bed and Breakfasts in the area – including Jeakes House. Hayden’s, or numerous self-catering Airbnbs.
Additionally, the Mermaid Inn has a stunning, giant fireplace for you to curl up next to before dining in their on-site restaurant, which is frequented by many celebrities. Legend also dictates that the restaurant and hotel are actually haunted. So, who knows, you might catch a glimpse of the Ghost of Christmas Past while you’re here.
However, no trip to Rye would be complete without a stop at Knoops, a local, hot chocolatier that serves over twenty-one different. All of these fine chocolates are then carefully melted and served up fresh. Additionally, you can also visit Fletchers House for some of the best cream tea in town!
Next, stroll along the High Street and shop for an assortment of local treasures that include toys, art, clothing, jewelry, homemade crafts, and more. You can also visit the Market for some seasonal delights, like yule logs and shortbread, if you happen to be in Rye on a Thursday.
Afterward, enjoy some Christmas carols sung by parishioners of St Mary’s Cathedral, followed by some mulled wine and mince pies. And if weather permits, climb the bell tower for sweeping views of Rye and beyond! Because this is just one of the many amazing things you can do during the winter months in Rye!
8. Leeds, England
By: Cristina of My Little World of Travelling
Leeds is the perfect, cozy little city to visit during the Christmas season. Unlike bigger cities like London, Leeds is a bit smaller, a lot less crowded, and offers visitors plenty of things to do.
To start, you can explore the lovely German Christmas market that takes place in Millenium Square. There are beautifully decorated stalls here where you can buy a unique assortment of personalized gifts and Christmas decorations. While you’re here, you can also try some of the market’s famous Frankfurt hot dogs, in addition to Spanish churros, various Greek foods, and delicious mulled wine served in a traditional Christmas cup.
Apart from the Christmas market, you also can visit popular local shopping centers like Trinity and Victoria Leeds. They always have impressive decorations inside and are home to over 120 shops where you can do a bit of Christmas shopping. They also organize some lovely events too, like the annual lighting of Europe’s biggest Christmas Kissing Tree.
Additionally, you can also visit the nearby Harewood House, an impressive country house that hosts festive, holiday-themed concerts and live Christmas events, like a visit with Santa Clause.
And if you’re looking for a nice place to stay in Leeds, then you’ll be happy to know that the city has a variety of affordable hotels to choose from. So, If you want a reasonably priced hotel in the city center, then try Easyhotel. Otherwise, you can experience a slightly more luxurious stay at either Dakota Leeds or The Queens.
Best European Christmas Destinations: Germany
9. Frankfurt, Germany
By: Daniel and Ilona of Top Travel Sights
Frankfurt, Germany is absolutely one of the best European Christmas destinations. Because in the weeks leading up to Christmas, you can visit one of Germany’s oldest Christmas markets – a bustling holiday wonderland that was first mentioned in writing in 1393.
Today, the Christmas market now extends throughout the entire city center, with many Frankfurt suburbs now having their own, smaller, weekend Christmas markets throughout December.
However, the real highlight of this stunning market is the enormous Christmas tree that you’ll find sitting out in front of Frankfurt City Hall. You’ll also enjoy an on-site merry-go-round, as well as a stage for choral performances.
Frankfurt is also the perfect place for trying regional Christmas specialties like mulled wine (or Glühwein in German), hot apple wine infused with spices, and local cookies made with almonds and marzipan (Bethmännchen in German).
And if you want to bring a Christmas souvenir from Frankfurt home with you, then you should look for Quetschemännchen. Back in the day, young men would make these iconic figurines out of dried plums and nuts and then send them to a girl they liked. If the girl didn’t return the gift, then they knew that they had a chance with her.
10. Stuttgart, Germany
Germany is popular for the Christmas festivities that are hosted across the country. No part of the country however can compare to the festivities that are celebrated in the Black Forest region.
Stuttgart in particular is home to one of the biggest Christmas markets in Germany. With hundreds of little cabins the area is filled with all things Christmas related. Think of food, decorations, hot chocolate and even Christmas themed goods.
Plus it also has loads of activities for the children which includes a large Ferris wheel. Mind you, it does get chilly so wrap up well before you take your ride.
One of the reasons why Stuttgart is one of the best European Christmas destinations is because you can head to other towns with Christmas markets which are very very close by. I’m talking about a 20 minute drive kind of close. Ludwigsburg with its Baroque Christmas market is a popular favorite.
Plus if you are interested, there are a couple of short train journeys that can help you explore the surrounding areas. The entire area is magical and definitely worth the trip which is why it is one of the best European Christmas destinations out there!
11. Bremen, Germany
By: Anca of Dream, Book, and Travel
A weekend in Bremen, the fairytale city in Northern Germany, is always a good idea, especially since you could easily take a quick day trip to other, amazing, German cities like Hamburg, Hannover, and Goettingen.
This is also particularly true during Christmas when Bremen comes alive with a festive, fairy tale atmosphere that is reminiscent of the famous Brother’s Grimm stories the originated here.One of Europe’s most magical Christmas Markets is also held here every December in the main square (a second Christmas market can also be found near the river Wesser). A beautiful place where you can say hello to the State Musicians statue, admire the stunning, gothic-style Town Hall (The Ratskeller in the basement of the town hall is also an excellent gourmet food venue that is home to the world’s most extensive collection of German wines) and marvel at the lovely Roland Statue (it represents free trade and has become a symbol of the city).
In fact, these two famous local landmarks are also designated, UNESCO World Heritage sites, and are surrounded by enchanting, medieval merchant houses as well as a local Cathedral.
Once you’re finished exploring the main square, take a walk through the old town and uncover other local, architectural treasures like Böttcherstraße (a medieval street that was restored in the 1900s to its former, expressionist style) and the Schnoor (a medieval neighborhood filled with narrow streets and unique charm). Along the way, you can also stop at some of Bremen’s fantastic, interactive museums, like the Übersee Museum and the Universum Science Center. If you want, you can even attend a concert in the Glocke, a venue with outstanding acoustics and lovely performances throughout the holiday season.
And since Bremen was a city of merchants and manufacturers, you’ll also find fantastic shopping opportunities here. So, whether you’re in search of chocolate, coffee, or beer, you’ll be able to find all this and more at local establishments like Beck’s Brewery, Lloyd Coffee, and Hachez Chocolate.
In terms of accommodations, the Radisson Blu and the Atlantic Grand Hotel both provide guests with outstanding services and are well located within the Bremen city center, with the Motel One or Ibis Hotel both providing excellent value for your money.
12. Nuremberg, Germany
By: Maria and Greg of Europe Up Close
Nuremberg is one of the best places to spend Christmas in Europe. It is the second-largest city in Bavaria and is full of history and charm. And one of the biggest highlights of any visit here is the iconic Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt, one of the most famous Christmas Markets in Germany.
it comes with a long history and was first mentioned in 1628, Therefore, it is a great place to observe some immortal, German Christmas traditions like the Nürnberger Christkind – A Christmas Angel with Golden hair that brings children presents on Christmas Eve. Yes, that’s right. German children don’t wait for Santa Claus on Christmas morning but instead, get their presents from Christkind the night before.
Now, aside from the main Christmas Market, you should also check out the Handwerkermarkt along the old city walls. There are several tiny, medieval huts where you can stop and buy local handicrafts – items that would make perfect souvenirs.
If you have time, you can also enjoy lovely panoramic views of the city from a local castle or visit the old NAZI Rally Grounds and associated museum. Once here, you’ll get insight into how the NAZI Party rose to power before the outbreak of WWII through a collection of intriguing, permanent exhibits like, “Fascination and Terror”.
And if you get hungry after all this exploring, be sure to order delicious, local foods like 3 im Weckla (3 small Bratwurst sausages with a crunchy bread roll and mustard) and Nürnberger Lebkuchen, a large soft Gingerbread cookie with nuts, chocolate, dried fruit, and spices.
Now, as far as hotels go, you can’t go wrong with one of the twelve rooms at the delightful, Hotel Elch. This stunning, half-timber home is conveniently located in the city center and offers guests a great combination of charm and luxury.
13. Fussen, Germany
By: Rachel of Celt and Kiwi
Füssen is a quaint little town that sits tucked away at the end of Bavaria’s Romantic Road. It looks like something that has sprung up out of the pages of a storybook — a feeling that is only enhanced by the fact that Germany’s iconic, fairytale castle, Neuschwanstein, is a short, 5-minute drive away.
Visiting Füssen during the winter also allows you to experience one of the most iconic castles in Europe, but without the intense, summer crowds.
Yet, in spite of the area’s overwhelming popularity, you definitely won’t find any big, brand name stores here. Instead, you’ll discover a wealth of locally-owned stores that are beautifully stocked with regional goods.
Throughout the holiday season, Füssen also has its very own little Christmas Market in the monastery of St Mang courtyard. But, if you’ve already visited Munich and eaten your weight in käsespätzle (German cheesy pasta that is to die for), then we recommend grabbing some burgers at M34 Burger Bar.
However, this sleepy town does close up at around 6 pm nightly. So, if you can, try and stay in an enchanting alpine lodge with an expansive fireplace that you can curl up next to. And If you’re lucky, you’ll wake up to a blanket of snow on the ground, just like our one-year-old daughter did during her first visit to Neuschwanstein Castle.
And for the most magical views in the area, take a ride on the Tegelberg cablecar. Once at the top, you’ll find a small ski resort in Tegelbergto where you can hit the slopes or relax in the nearby Kristall Therme thermal baths in Schwangau. If you can, time your visit for sunset so that you can at marvel at Neuschwanstein Castle with the sun setting in the background.
Best European Christmas Destinations: Austria
14. Innsbruck, Austria
By: Deb of The Visa Project
If you’re planning on spending Christmas in Europe, and Austria is on your list, then Innsbruck is a true must-see. See, while doing TEFL in Spain, I visited several of the best Christmas destinations in Europe. And this picturesque Austrian city took me by surprise with all that it had to offer.
You can start with the Swarovski crystal-adorned Christmas tree near the Golden Roof in the historic old town. Next, discover the wealth of colorful, medieval facades that proliferate throughout the area. And while you’re here, you also can’t miss the Old Town Christmas Market, where you can stop and try a mug of Glühwein (mulled wine) to help keep you warm.
Because believe it or not, Innsbruck actually has six different Christmas markets that begin popping up around mid-November. However, no trip to Innsbruck would be complete without a visit to the Panorama Christmas Market. Just take the Hungerburgbahn funicular railway up to Hungerburg Hill and enjoy breathtaking views of the city and surrounding mountains, as well as some delicious alpine treats.
Plus, this vintage tram is also decorated for the season and operates on Fridays and Saturdays between 3:30 pm and 7:00 pm from December 1 to December 23.
In addition to the tram, you can also explore some of the area’s most beautiful buildings, including Ambras Castle. St. James’ Cathedral, the Hofkirche, and the imperial palace. You can also go for a stroll along Maria-Theresien Strasse, and have a drink at one of the rooftop bars in the area.
Plus, if you love the great outdoors, you could hop across the border to Germany (it only about an hour’s drive away) and try visiting Zugspitze, the tallest mountain in Germany.
And if you’re looking for a place to stay, try the Marmota Hostel. I personally stayed here and would totally recommend it.
15. Salzburg, Austria
By: Alysa of Voyaging Herbivore
Known as the birthplace of the iconic Christmas song “Silent Night”, it’s not hard to embrace the spirit of the holiday season in the fairy tale city of Salzburg.
Walk through this charming, snow-covered wonderland and you’ll discover historic, snow-capped buildings, vibrant Christmas lights, and bustling streets that are filled with a festive atmosphere. Therefore, shoppers, photographers, and foodies alike will all find something to love about spending Christmas in Salzburg.
Sure, you’ll find markets galore throughout the summer. However, your options only expand exponentially during the winter, since the 2020 Christmas Market in Salzburg features 90 different events that include everything from mangers to parades to brass concerts – musical extravaganzas that would leave no less than Mozart himself in total awe.
Salzburg is also an incredibly walkable city that is quite accessible to the rest of Europe via train and plane. That’s why, to truly make the most of your trip, be sure to download these must-have apps for traveling so that you are fully prepared for the busy Christmas season in Europe.
Trust me, having everything organized and in one place will be worth its weight in gold. Because as beautiful as the holiday season is, it can be challenging to try to use your cold fingers and your phone to navigate your way through Salzburg and back to your hotel. Especially after a few drinks in a brand new city.
You’ll also be happy to know that Salzburg has a wealth of centrally located accommodations that include delightful hostels, stunning boutique hotels, and charming Airbnbs that are suitable for any budget.
Best European Christmas Destinations: Spain
16. Lanzarote, Spain
By: Darek of DarekandGosia.com
There are many great places to spend Christmas in Europe. However, for those who prefer warm weather, Spain should be your number one destination since there is no better way to celebrate the holidays than with Christmas in Lanzarote!
See, the Canary Islands are home to one of the best climates in the world and make for a unique holiday destination at any time of year. All of the islands are also extremely different from one another and make for the perfect, weekend getaway.
In particular, Lanzarote is probably the most famous of the Canary Islands and will provide visitors with unforgettable experiences that feature dynamic volcanic landscapes and exquisite, pristine beaches.
So, feel free to spend Christmas day sailing through the ocean, walking along a sandy beach, or visiting the amazing Timanfaya National Park. Plus, if you have time, you can also experience other fantastic parts of the island, including Papagayo Beach, Los Jameos del Agua, and the famous Charco de los Clicos.
17. Seville, Spain
By: Linn of Brainy Backpackers
Seville in southern Spain is one of the best places to spend Christmas in Europe. Day time temperatures are pleasant, though you should bring a jacket and a scarf. There are also a lot of cute Christmas markets just waiting to be explored both in and around the city center near the cathedral and Plaza Nueva. Many small stands here sell warm, grilled chestnuts, which make the perfect snack while you walk around the city.
Although, there are a lot of other activities that you can add to your Seville itinerary, besides Christmas markets. Because this enchanting city is home to some of the most significant structures in Andalusia, like the Alcazar, Giralda, and Seville Cathedral. Magnificent structures that sit within the heart of the city and that are just a short walk away from the Christmas Market. If you want, you can also visit the largest park in the city, which sits right by Plaza de España, one of the most famous landmarks in Seville.
However, if you want to celebrate Christmas like the Spanish traditionally do, then you’ll have to wait until January 6th. That’s when they celebrate Reyes or the day when the three kings brought gifts to the newborn baby Jesus. This is also the day when Spanish children receive their Christmas presents from the three kings and not Santa Claus.
This is also a day when the streets fill up with fun parades where the three kings throw sweets to children eagerly watching the festivities. That’s why this is a truly unique experience that you should definitely make space for if you plan to spend Christmas in Seville.
More of the Best European Christmas Destinations
18. Brussels, Belgium
By: Eden of Rock a Little Travel
One of my favorite European Christmas destinations is Brussels, Belgium. Each year, the city hosts an annual Winter Wonders celebration that features an enchanting Christmas Market where visitors can eat, drink, and shop their way around the city
The event is held annually from late November through early January and includes carnival rides, a light/music show at the historic Grand Place, and an outdoor ice skating rink. The event also features over 200 chalets selling unique Christmas gifts, mulled wine, Belgian beer, and some of the best waffles in Brussels.
Besides the Christmas Market and Winter Wonders celebration, a festive mood spreads throughout the city that includes vibrant lights, exquisite decorations, and charming holiday music. Even the city’s famous Mannekin Pis statue is dressed up for the occasion and sports a Santa Claus costume complete with a white beard and red cap.
And if you’re a first time visitor to the city, then I highly recommend a stop at Delirium Cafe to sample some of Belgium’s most loved export, Belgian beer. They offer an impressive selection of over 2,000 draft and bottled beers from around the world. Therefore, finding something you like should not be a problem. Because even if you’re not a beer enthusiast, they also have a wide array of spirits and ciders on offer here as well.
Also, if you’re looking for a place to stay near all of the action, I highly recommend the Brussels Marriott Hotel Grand Place. It’s a moderately priced, upscale hotel that is just a stone’s throw away from all of the city’s major Christmas festivities and the Grand Place itself.
19. High Tatras, Slovakia
By: Jiayi of The Dairy of a Nomad
One of the best European Christmas destinations are the High Tatras in Slovakia. This mountain range is situated at the border of southern Poland and northern Slovakia. It is also part of the longest mountain range in Europe, the Carpathian Mountains, and is the perfect place to enjoy stunning natural landscapes and charming, winter wonderland vibes.
One of the many reasons why the High Tatras is an incredibly dreamy destination is that very few people actually visit this place for Christmas, allowing you to savor this amazing mountain region in relative peace and quiet. In fact, almost all of the visitors to the High Tatras are from Slovakia, Poland, or Hungary. They come here to partake in a wealth of exciting activities like skiing, hiking, and relaxing in indoor, spa hotels.
In fact, some of the best hiking trails in the region are Kôprová Valley, Kriváň Peak, Mylnická-Furkotská Valleys, and Rysy Peak. However, there are also plenty of beautiful lakes in the area, including Štrbské Pleso and Popradské Pleso. Once here, you can marvel at gorgeous views of the nearby mountains, which sit behind the lake and make a truly unforgettable sight!
You can also stay at one of the many lovely Airbnbs in the towns of either Tatranska Lomnica or Stary Smokovec. And for slightly more upscale accommodations, consider a stay at the Grand Hotel Kempinski for incredible mountain views and luxury spa treatments!
20. Dublin, Ireland
By: Krystianna of Volumes and Voyages
There is no better place to spend Christmas in Europe than Dublin! There are just so many fun holiday festivals held here, including a local Christmas market that is referred to as the Dublin Flea Market. There are also other, fantastic Christmas experiences in the area like the Dun Laoghaire Christmas Festival, the Christmas Market at Smithfield, and the Inreda Christmas Fair. Talk about options!
Ice skating is also a popular past time in Dublin during Christmas. That’s why there is no shortage of ice skating rinks that pop up throughout the city, like the popular Dundrum’s ice skating rink, as well as the rinks at Blanchardstown and Swords.
Still not convinced? Well, then you can also visit the Guinness Storehouse during Christmastime (feel free to get your skip-the-line tickets right now)! The best views of Dublin are from the Gravity Bar on the top floor.
And every December, the Dublin Zoo also hosts a Christmas event that is fun for all ages. A new and exciting theme is chosen every year and provides you with the perfect opportunity to hear stories and eat amazing food.
When booking accommodations, be sure to stay somewhere downtown, like The Fitzsimons Hotel. It’s an excellent, high-quality hotel that is located right near Temple Bar. In fact, it’s only a short 2-minute walk from the famous pub.
You can also grab some delicious food to help warm yourself up at either The Old Mill or Quay’s. Both restaurants are affordable and are conveniently located in the center of the city. Bison Bar & BBQ is also another great place to grab some dinner, while Queen of Tarts is probably the single best breakfast place in Dublin.
21. Abisko, Sweden
By: Andrea of Our Beautahful World
Andrea standing in front of the Northern Lights in Abisko, Sweden.
For a Christmas to remember, consider spending your holiday in the small town of Abisko, Sweden. Although this may be a place you’ve never heard of, it is actually one of the best places in the world for viewing the Northern Lights. This is because of the unique microclimate found within the town of Abisko and the fact that it is shielded from weather by the mountains in neighboring Norway.
Some other cold-weather activities that you can enjoy while in Abisko include viewing the Northern Lights, dogsledding, learning more about the local reindeer population, and skiing.
However, because this a small Swedish town, the hotel choices here are a bit limited. However, the neighboring town of Kiruna is home to the world-famous ICEHOTEL which would provide an incredibly unique (and incredibly cold!) hotel experience.
Now, if you plan to see the Northern Lights while you’re here, I would suggest spending several nights in Abisko so that you have plenty of opportunities to see them.
Additionally, consider joining a tour group, like Lights Over Lapland, to help you scout out the best Northern Lights viewing locations. Group leaders will also be on hand to give detailed instructions on how to best capture the beauty of the Northern Lights with your camera. Appropriate cold-weather gear is a must though since you are in the Arctic Circle and will be standing outside rather than actively hiking or skiing.
Yes, Abisko, Sweden is easily one of the best European Christmas destinations out there and you will never forget your special holiday spent under the aurora (You can also use this handy Norway travel guide to visit Sweden’s nearby neighbor).
22. Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
By: Evelina of Ev Being
Luxembourg city looks like a true fairytale during the holiday season. You’ll marvel at the Christmas decorations, take romantic strolls through Grund neighborhood, enjoy the city’s exquisitely decorated Christmas trees, explore some of the vibrant Christmas markets, and observe the dazzling lights of the Winterlights Festival – an event that is held annually between November 20th and January 3rd.
So, If you love Christmas almost as much as I do, then be sure to visit some of the delightful Christmas markets in Luxembourg city. It is here that you’ll find all sorts of festive treats and delicious food.
However, for the best selection of gifts and souvenirs, be sure to stop by the market at Place de la Constitution for a wealth of glass ornaments and snow globes. You can even ride the 32-meter tall Ferris wheel, drink cider, and sip on some decadent hot chocolate.
Afterward, visit the Christmas market at Place Guillaume II. Once here, you can drink some mulled wine, do a little ice skating, and sample some local delicacies like sausages and various kinds of wursts.
Finally, explore the festive stalls and Christmas chalets at Place d’Armes market. Live concerts are also held here, as is the lovely Christmas tree Light Show.
23. Riquewihr (Alsace), France
By: Ophelie of Limitless Secrets
The Alsace region is the best place to celebrate the holidays in France! And while you can visit the famous cities of Colmar and Strasbourg, but you should also stop by the picturesque village of Riquewihr!
Nestled atop a hill that is surrounded by vineyards, Riquewihr has a charming Old Town that is filled with cobblestone streets and stunning, rainbow-hued homes. That’s why this charming town is easily one of the most beautiful villages in France! So much so that Disney actually used Riquewihr as inspiration when designing the fairytale village featured in, “Beauty and the Beast”.
So, if you decide to visit Riquewihr for the holiday season, then you can enjoy a lovely little Christmas market that is located in place Fernand Reyer and that sits alone Esplanade des Remparts. You can also check out La Guinguette de Noël, a private Christmas market that is situated on a historic, winemaker’s property in the heart of Riquewihr.
Additionally, the main street of this French town will be brimming over with Christmas spirit since all of the homes in the area will be well-decorated, Christmas music will be playing in the background, and you’ll be able to sample traditional Alsatian food around every corner!
Some of my favorite places to stay in Riquewihr include:
• Best Western Hotel & SPA Le Schoenenbourg (2A Rue de la Piscine in Riquewihr).
• Le Chemin du Meunier (5 Chemin de la Daensch, Riquewihr, Riquewihr)
• Logis Hotel Le Parc & Spa (6 Rue Du Parc, Saint-Hippolyte, Ribeauville)
Some delicious restaurants you might want to try are:
• Au Relais de Riquewihr: a traditional Alsatian restaurant serving local food (6 Rue du Général de Gaulle in Riquewihr).
• La Grappe d’Or: great traditional Alsatian food in a charming restaurant (1 rue des Ecuries in Riquewihr).
• La Table du Gourmet – Restaurant Jean Luc BRENDEL: a gastronomic restaurant with one Michelin Star ( 5 Rue de la 1ère Armée in Riquewihr).
24. Strasbourg France
Situated at the side of the Rhine river, Strasbourg is scenic to say the least. It is the kind of city that you would expect on a Christmas card or postcard. Think of half timbered houses with Christmas decorations strategically placed. Plus it usually has a white Christmas if you are into that kind of thing which quite frankly most of us love!
Strasbourg is also famous for its Notre Dame Cathedral. A Gothic structure that is the landmark for locating the yearly Christmas markets.
Here you are bound to find all kinds of local delicacies and Christmas sweets. Plus like all Christmas markets in Europe, you will see stalls selling handicrafts and ornaments.
To add to the festivities, you will hear carolers singing and can even catch the nativity play should you be there at the right time. The kids love it! The adults have loads to occupy their time. It is a win-win situation all round and a perfect family friendly destination.
25. Rotterdam, The Netherlands
By: Zoe of Together in Transit
Christmas in Europe is always a fun experience, which I recommend spending the festive holiday season in the city of Rotterdam in the Netherlands.
Rotterdam has a large city center that is filled with every type of shop you can imagine, perfect for Christmas shopping or treating yourself to something extra special.
There are also a ton of special events that take place here, as well as in neighboring cities like Delft and Dordrecht (which is home to the largest Christmas market in the Netherlands). Special things to do in Rotterdam include shopping for antiques, doing a food tour of the Markthal, watching live theatre shows, and seeing the holiday lights get turned on in the city!
Although, my favorite place to go is Euromast Park, where a wintery ice rink is set up every year. It always has this cozy Christmas vibe about it since there is gluhwein, festive live music, and plenty of chairs with blankets for you to sit in.
If you can, try and stay at a modern high rise hotel, like Nhow Rotterdam, so that you can experience some of the many hidden gems in Rotterdam and enjoy beautiful skyline views of the city. This hotel is also well located, so you can easily visit every type of restaurant imaginable. However, as a delicious suggestion, try Diego’s for the best burger bar in the city!
And for a fabulous, fancy, 5 course Christmas dinner, book a table at the Euromast observation tower. Or, head to the Oude Haven for delicious drinks next to a roaring fire. Just be sure to make reservations well in advance so that you don’t miss out on all of this glorious, holiday cheer.