If you love Christmas almost as much as Buddy the elf (You know, Will Ferrel’s character from the movie Elf) then this is the post for you! So, grab a heaping jug full of egg nog and have a plate of Christmas cookies (preferably warm and fresh out of the oven) at the ready, because we’re about to swan dive into 23 of the best places to spend Christmas in Europe.
And trust me, these aren’t just any old European Christmas destinations. Oh, hell to the no! These are postcard perfect, idyllic AF places that are gonna make you want to do a celebratory Christmas jig as you take 20,000 uber-cute, Insta perfect photos that will leave your legions of social media followers dying of envy.
There are also a wealth of incredible, European locals on this list that are well off the beaten path. Unique cities and small towns that will get you away from the crowds and that will give you a real taste of authentic, European culture.
So, if you’re ready, then don your finest Santa-inspired apparel commadere a rogue reindeer, and carry a piping hot mug full of hot chocolate (with little marshmellows in it of course), because we’re about to get down and not-so-dirty with 23 of the best places to spend Christmas in Europe!
Yes Rudolf, it’s gonna be one swelerific ride. Yee-haw!
Also, just in case you’re wondering, yes. Me and my wicked awesome, travel blogger friends listed below have lived in and traveled to Europe more times than we can count. That’s why, I consider us experts on the best places to spend Christmas in Europe, And, duh, you should too.
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.
Best Places to Spend Christmas in Europe: Eastern Europe
1. Krakow, Poland
By: Jacquie of Flashpacking Family
With its medieval charm and traditional European Christmas market, Krakow, Poland is absolutely one of the best places to spend Christmas in Europe.
Krakow is also a small town. Therefore, it’s easy to get around on foot since all of the main sites (St Mary’s Basilica, The Cloth Market, and the Castle) are quite centrally located and within close proximity of one another. However, if you need it, Krakow also has a fantastic public transportation system.
And If you want to escape the brisk, winter chill that typically descends upon this city, then you could always enjoy a traditional horse-drawn carriage ride while sipping on a mug full of grzaniec (traditional polish mulled wine). Just snuggle into a cozy blanket and settle in for a romantic ride around town.
The Christmas market here is also a big draw for many people. It is held in Krakow’s main square, which is the largest medieval square in Europe and is dominated by the presence of the city’s iconic St Mary’s Basilica. It is here that you’ll find a wide range of Christmas themed gifts that will help you get into the Christmas spirit.
Plus, if you’re looking for somewhere to have a delicious breakfast before you begin a long day of sightseeing, then try Bistro Charlotte, which sits just off the main square. You can also enjoy some of the hearty, stick-to-your-ribs, traditional Polish food that’s on offer in the Christmas market for lunch.
2. Tallinn, Estonia
By Helena of Helena Bradbury
If you’re looking for the quintessential European Christmas experience, then look no further than Tallinn, Estonia. Just imagine great food, delicious drinks, a charming old town that looks like something straight out of a fairytale, Christmas activities galore, a snow-encrusted cityscape, and you have some idea of just how amazing Tallinn really is.
I mean, It didn’t win “Best Christmas Market of 2019” for nothing! Which is why, Tallinn is probably my favorite city to spend Christmas in. Not only does the entire city feel absolutely magical. but the Old Town is brimming over with picturesque terracotta turrets and fortress walls that are almost guaranteed to be dusted in snow.
You’ll find also find a variety of different Christmas-inspired activities to enjoy, including live concerts, folk dances, children’s choir performances, and more. But if you’re ever unsure of what to do next, then just have a look at the Christmas schedule that is posted in the Town Hall Square, right in front of the Christmas Market.
Plus, the Christmas Market itself is full of interesting vendors that sell everything from hot food to delicious glögi! You also won’t find your typical, mass-produced Christmas ornaments here since everything at the market is one-of-a-kind, with a special emphasis on local, Estonian culture.
And if you have time, you can also climb up Hellemann Tower or head up to the free, Kohtuotsa and Patkuli viewing platforms for exquisite, panoramic views of the beautiful, snow-capped city.
But, for a truly unique experience, visit Gingerbread Mania, an annual competition and exhibit where bakers and artists create unique sculptures that are made entirely out of gingerbread! Sadly though, you can’t eat any of these wonderful creations. However, you can stop by Pierres Chocolaterie (in Masters’ Courtyard) for a taste of some of the most incredible cakes in the city.
You can also escape the cold with a trip to Kompressor cafe, which serves some delicious coffee, as well as some decadent, wonderfully festive, but incredibly huge, pancakes.
However, for a slightly more authentic, local dining experience, you’ll want to head to the hip, alternative neighborhood of Telliskivi. Once here, you can sample local cuisine and fantastic crafts beers at F-Hoone, a trendy restaurant that sits inside a converted warehouse.
And if you’re looking for a nice hotel that is also a bit budget-friendly, then check out the 4-star, Hestia Hotel Ilmarine. Rooms here start at just $100 per night, overlook the sea, and are just a 10-minute walk away from Tallinn’s s old town.
3. Kyiv (Kiev), Ukraine
By: Derek and Mike of Robe Trotting
Kiev (Kyiv), Ukraine is one of the best places to spend Christmas in Europe. This is because much of the country is Orthodox Christian and uses an extended holiday calendar. Therefore, the holiday season in Ukraine doesn’t actually end until January 7th.
As a result, you can visit Kyiv well into the new year and still enjoy the city’s many, vibrant Christmas Markets. They’re full of eastern culture; light displays, traditional foods, and live music that will definitely get you into the holiday spirit. And one of the biggest and best markets in the entire city is at Kontraktova Square, also known as Contract Square. It’s beautiful to visit year-round and features a massive Ferris wheel that sparkles to life during the holiday season.
Now, once you’ve had your fill of Christmas markets, another one of the many amazing things to do in Kiev during the Christmas season is to go skiing. You also don’t need to travel far outside of the city center since there are several great ski areas in Kiev and in the surrounding areas of Ukraine.
Although, Protasiv Yar is probably the best place to ski in the city since the complex has slopes that both novice and advanced skiers can enjoy. It’s also a training facility for Olympic athletes, so you’ll definitely be in good hands while skiing in Protasiv Yar.
4. St. Peterburg, Russia
By: Kelli of The Vanabond Tales
As a Southern girl, I used to dream of a white Christmas. You know, cozied up next to a roaring fire, drinking mulled wine, (or hot cocoa) and looking at a stunning Christmas tree from the inside of a log cabin. Well, St. Petersburg did not have a log cabin, but it did have everything else I could have ever wanted
Because it really doesn’t get much more “winter wonderland” than Christmas in St. Petersburg. There’s snow as far as the eye can see, frigid temperatures, and holiday cheer just around every corner of the city. Christmas markets are also scattered throughout the city and lights twinkle to life along the facades of every building possible.
But, what really makes Christmas in St. Petersburg truly unique is the fact that the holiday is celebrated on January 7th and not December 25th. That’s because Russians follow the Julian calendar.
Also, no Christmas experience in St. Petersburg would be complete without attending The Nutcracker Ballet. An iconic performance that is basically St. Petersburg’s gift to Christmas. It was originally composed by Pyotr Tchaikovsky and was first performed at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg. So, if you have your heart set on attending a performance at the Mariinsky Theater, just be prepared to spend a pretty penny on tickets. Otherwise, you can always grab some slightly more budget-friendly tickets for a show at the Hermitage Theater.
Another fantastic, winter activity in St. Petersburg is ice skating. Rinks are routinely set up throughout the city, with my personal favorite being the ice rink by the sea.
Also, don’t forget to stop by the Hermitage. Sure, it’s not strictly a Christmas-related activity, but the Hermitage is the second-largest art museum in the world and a must-see while visiting St. Petersburg. Plus, it is a great place to go and warm up after enduring the frigid temperatures outside! Just be sure to book your tickets in advance so that you can avoid a long queue at the entrance.
5. Wroclaw, Poland
By: Karolina of Travel Poland Tours
The city of Wroclaw in Western Poland is one of the best places to spend Christmas in Europe. From mid-November to the end of December, Wroclaw becomes the stage for a magical Christmas celebration. It is also during this time of year that Wroclaw’s world-famous Christmas Market comes to life in Plac Solny and Rynek Square.
Home to one of the biggest Christmas markets in Europe, it is here that you will find a variety of gastronomic delights from Poland and all across the world. Also on display here are glittering lights that beautifully adorn the many food stalls of the Wroclaw Night Market – stalls that emit the aromatic fragrances of cinnamon, orange, chocolate, sausage,and more.
There are an assortment of other attractions and Christmas performances that should not be missed while in Wroclaw. Some of which incluse a three-story fairytale house with an observation deck on the top floor, a small illuminated clock tower, and a Fairytale Copse where children can join the adventures of Little Red Riding through a series of spellbinding audio and visual effects.
So, as you walk to the Christmas market hand in hand with your children, try spotting as many of Wroclaw’s dwarfs as you can. They make a good stand-in for the typical Christmas elves that you see immortalized throughout Western culture.
However, to truly get the most of Wroclaw’s Christmas Market, try to stay as close to all of the city’s major attractions as possible. That’s why one of the best hotels in the city is the Q Hotel Plus. It’s a short, 17-minute walk from Plac Solny and offers fantastic, vacation packages that start at just $70 per night. The hotel also has various Christmas packages that include a 2-night stay, 2 breakfast buffets, a Christmas Dinner, and a wonderful, Christmas movie for children.
Best Places to Spend Christmas in Europe: Western Europe
6. Malaga, Spain
By: Krista of Krista the Explorer
Malaga is probably not the first destination that comes to mind when thinking about some of the best places to spend Christmas in Europe. But, Malaga is one of my favorite winter, Spain holiday destinations since there are a lot of fantastic things to do in Malaga that will help you get you into the holiday spirit – even in the humid weather!
Because while most of us enjoy Christmas in December, people in Spain actually celebrate Three Kings Day on January 6th. They commemorate the day when the three wise men brought baby Jesus gifts by visiting children’s homes the evening of January 5th and leaving them presents – so basically a religious version of Santa!
However, one of the most amazing things about a trip to Malaga during the Christmas season are the incredible light displays that you’ll find here. They include a series of stunning, light and sound shows that are set up all along the main shopping street of Calle Larios.
Malaga also has a number of different Christmas markets that are scattered throughout the city center. So, if you don’t find the Christmas present of your dreams along Calle Larios then you can always go shopping at one of these fantastic Christmas markets instead.
Another key feature of any Christmas trip to Spain is the wealth of nativity scenes that you’ll see everywhere. As a result, you’ll find hundreds of them, in all different shapes and sizes, scattered all across the city.
And if you’re not sure where to eat in Malaga, then you’ll be delighted to know that the city is filled with a ton of incredible tapas restaurants. If you want, you can even join a fantastic walking tour that will take you to some of the.most popular restaurants in the city.
There are also plenty of rooftop bars in the Malaga that will give you incredible, panoramic views of the city. One of the best of which sits atop the Marriott Hotel, an iconic establishment that is also a popular place to stay in Malaga.
And if you’re yearning for a white Christmas, then you can always take a short two-hour drive to the Sierra Nevadas, where you’ll find plenty of ski resorts and snow-related activities for you to choose from!
7. Rotterdam, The Netherlands
By: Zoe of Together in Transit
Spending Christmas in Europe is always a fun experience. And if you’re looking for one of the best places to spend Christmas in Europe, then I highly recommend spending winter in the city of Rotterdam in the Netherlands.
Rotterdam has a large city center that is home to every type of shop imaginable, making this the perfect place to treat yourself or do a bit of last-minute Christmas shopping. There are also special events held here, as well as in neighboring areas like Delft and Dordrecht (which has the largest Christmas market in the Netherlands) including vintage markets, food tours at the Markthal, live theatrical performances, and Christmas light displays.
However, one of my favorite places to visit is Euromast Park, where a seasonal, winter wonderland is set up and features an ice rink, stalls selling gluhwein, festive live music, and plenty of comfy chairs where you can curl up with some warm blankets.
And for the ultimate, Christmas experience in Rotterdam, try staying at a modern high rise hotel, like the Nhow Rotterdam. During your stay, you can marvel at beautiful views of the city and enjoy a delicious burger from Diego’s burger bar. If you want, you could also book a table at the Euromast observation tower for a fancy, 5-course meal during the holiday season. Or, head over to Oude Haven for drinks next to a roaring fire.
8. Cadiz, Spain
By: Paulina of Visit Southern Spain
If you’re searching for a grand Christmas celebration in Europe then Cadiz, Spain is the place to be. Known for being the oldest city in Spain, I had the pleasure of spending Christmas there last year and cannot recommend it enough.
Trust me; the entire city felt wonderfully festive and was outfitted with elegant pine trees bedazzled with colorful lights, splendidly decorated bungalows, and lively Christmas markets that were tucked away in the city’s Old Town.
So, as you can clearly see, there are plenty of things to do in Cadiz throughout the Christmas season, like attending social-cultural events, visiting museums, enjoying exhibitions, etc. Furthermore, you can also stop by Costa de la Luz and marvel at the diverse musical performances here, along with some other traditional Christmas celebrations.
That’s why Cadix really is one of the best places to spend Christmas in Europe. Not only can you explore the city itself but you can also marvel at the impressive seashores, take in the exquisite medieval churches, taste traditional dishes at famous restaurants/bars, and so much more.
Just be sure to stay in one of the centrally located resorts or hotels in Cadiz’s Old Town for a convenient and delightful stay in one of the most amazing cities in Spain.
9. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
By: Ilse of Digital Travel Couple
Throughout the holiday season, Amsterdam turns into a magical, winter wonderland that is filled with colorful lights, Christmas trees, decorations, and scenic canals.
So, if you happen to be planning a 3 day Amsterdam itinerary for Christmas, then you’re in for a real treat since there are a lot of holiday-themed activities to indulge in around the city center.
Some of which include:
- Visit the ICE village at Museumplein – In the heart of Museumplein, there is an ICE village with an enormous ice-skating rink pops up during the winter. So, stop by and enjoy ice skating, curling, and building ice sculptures in one of the most iconic parts of the city.
- Marvel at The Amsterdam Christmas tree in Dam Square – Head over to Dam Square and see a 65-foot tall Christmas tree that is adorned in almost two and a half miles of LED lights! The Royal Palace and 15th-century church ‘Nieuwe Kerk’ are also here and make the perfect backdrop to this amazing Christmas scene.
- Be amazed by the Amsterdam light festival – Each winter, Amsterdam hosts an annual light festival where you can see the technical brilliance and beauty of spectacular light sculptures that are created by both Dutch and international artists. This year, the festival will be held between November 26, 2020 and January 17, 2021, and can be seen either on foot, by boat, or by bike.
- Enjoy a day with the family at Winterparadijs – Each year, the huge RAI Amsterdam center transforms into a winter wonderland known as Winterparadijs. Packed with fun holiday activities for the entire family, RAI Winterparadijs is entirely indoors and is a great place to go and escape the cold, winter weather.
- Watch Christmas Classics at the Movies – Enjoy classic holiday films with the North Netherlands Symphony Orchestra playing in the background at the Dutch Concertgebouw. Ticket prices will vary though depending on the location of your seat.
- Drink gluhwein while enjoying Panoramic views of Amsterdam from Sky-high winter terrace – Located 85 meters in the air, the Sky High winter terrace sits on the roof of the Leonardo Hotel Rembrandtpark and offers visitors stellar, 360-degree views of Amsterdam. The modern, lounge-style decor of the hotel seamlessly intertwines with a series of beautiful Christmas decorations, creating the perfect place to end the day with a gluhwein or a warme chocolademelk (hot chocolate).
10. Basel, Switzerland
By: Anya of Unexpected Occurrence
Basel, Switzerland is one of the best places to spend Christmas in Europe since an almost magical Christmas market fills the city center with stalls selling everything from local crafts to ornaments to raclette! The weather in Basel is also quite mild throughout the winter, especially when compared to the rest of Switzerland. Therefore, you can easily spend time outside without getting too cold!
And if you do get a little chilly, you can always stop for a glass of gluhwein or hot chocolate at the Schoggi Peter Christmas stall or at Xocolatl, a cafe that is known for its insane selection of Swiss hot chocolates.
However, once you’ve had your fill of Christmas markets, be sure to take part in some of the many other things to do in Basel. Because between the wealth of world-renowned museums, nearby hiking trails, and divine restaurants, this city really does have it all.
Basel is also a centrally located, major Swiss city that is extremely accessible by train. Therefore, it is incredibly easy to take a day trip to various local ski areas or to venture into the Swiss Alps. You could also easily explore either France (both Comar and Strasbourg are a little over an hour away by train) and Germany since Basel is near the Swiss border with both countries.
11. Rovaniemi, Finland
By: Bradley of Dream Big, Travel Far
There is no better place in the world to celebrate Christmas than in Rovaniemi, the capital of Finnish Lapland, and the official home of Santa himself!
Every year, thousands of families flock to Rovaniemi at Christmas time to enjoy the endless array of wintery activities that are on offer here. We personally spent more than a week in Rovaniemi last Christmas, with the highlight of our trip being a visit to Santa Park.
Not only is there a large underground grotto here that is home to dozens of Santa’s elves, but you also get the opportunity to engage in a variety of different Christmas-inspired activities like decorating gingerbread cookies, meeting Santa, buying gifts, watching live Christmas shows and more.
Yes, I suppose they’re all meant for kids, but we loved the whole experience all the same; especially our visit to Elf School!
We were also fortunate enough to experience the opening Christmas ceremony, which usually takes place sometime in mid-November and is the time when Santa officially ushers in the start of the Christmas season to the world.
Plus, if you visit during this time of year, you are almost guaranteed to find snow on the ground, which makes e lovely backdrop for dog sled rides and reindeer spotting along the arctic tundra.
We were also fortunate enough to stay in the Arctic Treehouse Hotel and the nearby Arctic Snow Hotel & Glass Igloos, each of which offers visitors incredible views of the Northern Lights. And all from the warmth of your very own bed, I might add.
Plus, you can even take some unforgettable day trips to a local amethyst mine (where you can dig for amethysts) or visit some real live polar bears at the Ranua Wildlife Park.
So, if you’re searching for one of the best places to spend Christmas in Europe, then look no further than Rovaniemi, Finland.
12. Cagliari, Italy
By: Claudia of Strictly Sardinia
Many people dream of having a white Christmas. But, if snow is not your thing and you’d rather spend Christmas in the sun, then Cagliari is one of the best places to spend Christmas in Europe.
See, not only is the capital of Sardinia easily accessible from many other European cities, via train or budget airlines, but December in Cagliari is also relatively warm. Therefore, you can expect an average temperature of between 15 and 18 degrees (between 59 and 64 degrees Fahrenheit) during the day, with peaks of 22 or even 25 on the warmest days (highs around 70 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit). So, perfect weather for long walks along Poetto, Cagliari’s main urban beach.
However, if you’re looking for a slightly more Christmassy atmosphere, then head to the historical center of town, where you’ll find the neighborhoods of Stampace, la Marina, and Villanova. It is here that you’ll discover beautifully decorated streets and Christmas markets selling all sorts of goods – from traditional toys to foods and sweets.
Other fantastic things to do in Cagliari (even in the winter) include visiting archeological sites and exploring museums since many of the area’s major attractions are open year-round. Except of course for Christmas, when locals spend the day with family, either at home or enjoying a massive meal at restaurants like Bombas, which serves the best gourmet burgers in town. You can also savor the best pizza in Cagliari at Framento or head to Kobutta for a slightly more refined dining experience. And yes, all three eateries will require advanced reservations.
Additionally, you definitely won’t find a shortage of good places to stay in Cagliari. So, if you have the budget for it and can afford a splurge, then opt for Villa Fanny, a boutique hotel that close to Corso Vittorio Emanuele II and that sits at the heart of Cagliari’s vibrant nightlife scene. Alternatively, you can always find a lovely Airbnb or holiday rental in Villanova ( I personally loved Appartamento San Giovanni) and enjoy the area’s wonderful, local charm.
13. Trier, Germany
By: Nisha and Vasu of www.lemonicks.com
If there’s one country that is extremely popular for its Christmas markets, it’s Germany. The entire country basically feels like one giant Christmas market since big and small towns alike come alive with the Christmas spirit.
But, if I had to choose one place to spend Christmas, it would probably be Trier, the oldest city in Germany. The main square, known locally as Hauptmarkt Square, has a charming, medieval feel to it with the imposing Trier cathedral in the background.
There are also a wealth of beautifully decorated wooden kiosks throughout the square that provide visitors with an enchanting, Christmas experience. Shops at this Christmas market also sell a variety of homemade products that include everything from wooden toys to candles to engraved glassware to ceramics.
While you’re here, your taste buds will also love sampling a variety of different treats including local wines, gingerbread, bratwurst, potato pancakes, fresh baked goods, and hot tea. All fo which can be savored while listening to local brass bands and watching live puppet shows.
Some other things to do in Trier include a visit to the Cathedral of Trier (a beautiful building with a well-maintained garden), a stop at a Roman entrance gate from the 2nd century, a trip to the Roman baths, as well as a stop at a Roman Amphitheatre that was built to hold up to 18,000 spectators.
Another popular local attraction is the Three Magi house. Believe it nor not, the building was actually created without a ground floor! So, definitely ask your guide to explain why before visiting other local museums, like the Karl Marx House.
And if you have some extra time, then you can always skip across the border to Luxembourg, which is just 15 Kilometers away from Trier.
14. Mürren, Switzerland
By: Cristina of Honest Travel Stories
Are you dreaming of a white Christmas? If so then there is no better place to go than the mountains. Because as an expat in Switzerland, I can tell you a little secret: you should definitely spend Christmas in Mürren this year!
“Why”, you may ask? Well, for a million reasons! To start, you can visit the most beautiful waterfall in Lauterbrunnen. Then, you can take a cable car ride to the top of the mountains. Finally, embark on a beautifully scenic train ride to Murren, during which you’ll ride along the side of a mountain and marvel at some of the highest peaks in Switzerland (Pro tip: Sit on the left side of the train so you can get the best views).
And at the end of this amazing trip, you’ll reach this picturesque place. A beautiful, car-free, Swiss town that is sure to take your breath away! It’s like a charming little fairytale village that comes complete with exquisite views of the Swiss Alps.
Plus, you can partake in plenty of winter activities as well, including hiking, sledding, skiing, and snowshoeing Just don’t expect to find cool clubs and lots of people here. Because Murren is essentially a quiet little place where you can go for a bit of peace and quiet.
Which is fine by me since I always thought of Christmas as a time where I could stay inside, sip on some wine, make some hot chocolate, and relax next to the fireplace with my loved ones while watching the snow gently fall outside.
15. Colmar, France
By: Lily of Imperfect Idealist
Colmar feels like something straight out of a fairytale with its pastel houses, picturesque canals, and festive Christmas markets.
Plus, during the holiday season, nearly every building in the old town is covered in decorations – making you feel as though you’re walking through a life-size, gingerbread village.
However, unlike many other small towns in France, Colmar is easily accessible by train since it is located in the Alsace region of France, near the German border. As a result, this picturesque town is a mere 30-minute train ride from Strasbourg (also a popular Christmas destination).
You’ll also love that the Colmar Christmas market is held here annually, from the end of November until New Year’s Eve. It’s an enchanting market where you’ll find artisanal goods and crafts, as well as local wines, jewelry, art, candy, and a selection of delicious hot foods.
And if you’re looking for a traditional holiday drink, then one of my top Colmar France tips sample some vin chaud, or warm, mulled, red wine that is served with a variety of delicious spices (perfect for keeping you warm on a cold winter’s day). You’ll also find hot pretzels, la choucroute (sauerkraut and sausages), and other Alsatian specialties. However, if you’re vegan or vegetarian, not to worry because there are plenty of options for you too.
While you’re in Colmar, you’ll also want to visit La Petite Venise and Au Vieux Pignon for some incredible photo ops since La Petite Venise (Little Venice) features a wealth of quaint and colorful homes that are situated along a local canal.
In contrast, Au Vieux Pignon sits along a particularly picturesque cobblestone lane that is lined with charming local vendors, restaurants, and souvenir shops. And if you get hungry along the way, you can always stop by Au Croissant Doré with its cozy interior and lovely pink storefront – both of which make it a popular, Instagram hot spot in Colmar.
If you have time, you can also visit some of the surrounding fairytale villages in Alsace, such as Eguisheim, Riquewihr, and Ribeauvillé – places that are so quaint, that they actually became the inspiration for the town featured in the live-action, Disney remake of Beauty and the Beast.
16. Grindelwald, Switzerland
By: Carolyn of Holidays in Switzerland
If you’re looking for a fairytale location to spend Christmas in Europe, then look no further than the alpine town of Grindelwald, Switzerland.
Situated at the foot of the Eiger, one of the highest mountains in the Bernese Oberland, Grindelwald is a typical, Swiss, alpine town with chalet-lined streets.
Because the area is home to the largest ski resort in the Jungfrau Region, avid skiers flock to Grindelwald during the winter months to enjoy some fun on the slopes.
However, there are plenty of fun activities for non-skiers to enjoy too, such as sledding, snow tubing, snow-shoeing, and indoor/outdoor curling.
Visitors can also ride a cable car to Mount First, enjoy the amazing Cliff Walk there, check out the First Flyer zipline, explore Glacier Canyon, and hop aboard a train to the Jungfraujoch for spectacular views of the local mountains and glaciers.
And if you want to explore the town itself, then there are plenty of shops where you can purchase some last-minute Christmas gifts, as well as restaurants and cafes serving both Swiss and international cuisine.
Whilst most Swiss – and Europeans – enjoy their main Christmas meal on Christmas Eve, many of the larger hotels in Grindelwald do serve lunch on Christmas Day. Although, you will need to make a reservation well in advance if you’d like to guarantee yourself a table.
And if you’re searching for hotels in Grindelwald, then why not choose one with a heated infinity pool? Trust me, there’s nothing quite like soaking away your troubles in blissfully warm water while admiring the panoramas of snow-capped mountains all around you. Which is why, a stay at Hotel Spinne is a total must if you’re looking to spend this Christmas in Grindewald, Switzerland.
17. Edinburgh, Scotland
By: Nick and Ashley of Illness to Ultra
If you want to get into the Christmas spirit while in the UK, then head north to Edinburgh! The month of December is extremely chilly, but the trip will be well worth it once you’ve discovered all the fun and quirky ways you can celebrate the holiday season in Scotland.
Because snow or no snow, the city of Edinburgh comes alive with Christmas markets, lights, rides, and festive celebrations. So, take a stroll through the center of town and stop by the ice rink, Santa’s Grotto, and a traditional German-style Christmas market that is brimming over with all the Glühwein and Bratwurst you can eat.
But, If you’re looking for a more adult-friendly Christmas experience, then check out the Scottish Markets over on George Street. They feature a variety of traditional food and drinks as well as an assortment of local craft products.
And if you have a chance, try an authentic, Scottish, Irn-bru sausage. Sure, if you actually knew what an Irn-Bru is, you might be a bit horrified by the thought of it. But trust me, it’s worth trying. Also, don’t forget to walk down George Street and take a stroll beneath some of the best lights in the city.
Plus, If you happen to be in Edinburgh for New Year’s Eve, then you can’t miss Hogmanay. It’s a massive celebration that dates all the way back to the era of the Vikings. As you’d expect, there’s a lot of music and dancing. But, you’ll also experience some traditional customs too, like the Torch Light Procession, which comes complete with bagpipes and drums in tow.
18. London, England
By: Ting of My Travel Monkey
f you’ve ever seen classic, romantic comedies like Bridget Jones’ Diary and Love Actually, then you’ll notice sweeping shots of London dusted with snow as Christmas lights twinkle in the background and the streets come alive with holiday cheer.
And while London doesn’t typically have a white, snowy Christmas, it is a city that embraces this festive time of year. As a result, there are ton of different activities here that will help you get into the spirit of Christmas.
From the impressive light displays along Oxford Street and Regent Street to the magnificent Christmas window displays at Harrods and Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge, London really does come alive with vibrant, holiday decorations. So much so that you’ll even find a series of magnificent Christmas trees scattered throughout the city, nestled up next to iconic London landmarks like Covent Garden and Trafalgar Square.
Picturesque ice skating rinks also pop up in idyllic, London locations near The Tower of London, the Natural History Museum and Somerset House.
Although my favorite holiday destination in London is near Southbank. Just walk along the Thames from Borough Market to Waterloo and indulge in mulled wine, delicious street food, and festive activities that even include a miniature train ride for children. The Christmas markets here are also full of delightful smells and emit a fun and festive atmosphere that is only enhanced by the iconic, London Eye in the background.
19. Berlin, Germany
By: Marguerite of Berlin and Around
If you’re looking for a beautiful mix of holiday cheer and big-city bustle, then Berlin is definitely one of the best places to spend Christmas in Europe. Because as soon as the sun sets on November 30th and ushers in the month of December, the city’s major boulevards begin to sparkle. Christmas lights somehow magically appear on all the trees along Kurfürstendamm, West Berlin’s most famous shopping avenue.
So, take a quiet stroll through the city and grab a delicious hot chocolate at KuDamm’cafe along the way. Step back in time, with a cup of warm Glühwein (mulled wine) in hand, at Charlottenburg Castle’s courtyard – a charming area where you’ll find one of the city’s best Christmas markets,
Mingle with some of Berlin’s most sophisticated citizens at Gendarmenmarkt, a Christmas market that sits along the steps of Berlin’s stately concert hall. Or, relive some childhood magic at Alexanderplatz’s Christmas carnival, where you can hop on the Ferris wheel and take in the lights and sights from above.
However, a true celebration of the Christmas season in Berlin is not complete without a bit of ice skating. So, visit one of the many ice rinks that pop up throughout the city, like one of two that can be found at the Alexanderplatz Christmas market. And If you don’t have skates, that is fine because you can easily rent a pair onsite.
Finally, if you need to do a bit of last-minute Christmas shopping, then stop by the Mall of Berlin which is always elaborately decorated for the season. Because between the giant Santas, the ample amount of garland hung across all major passageways, and the small Glühwein stands everywhere, Berlin’s largest shopping center is a great place to pick up some Berlin souvenirs and infuse a bit of holiday spirit into any shopping experience.
20. Bruges, Belgium
By: Ella of Many More Maps
Situated in the Flanders region of Belgium, this postcard-perfect city draws in huge crowds of tourists all year long. But, even more so during the Christmas season, when snow is on the ground, cozy Christmas markets pop up everywhere, and when the famous Burg Square Christmas Tree twinkles to life with a neverending array of dazzling colors.
That’s why Bruges truly is one of the best places to spend Christmas in Europe. And although most visitors typically spend one day in Bruges, try to visit for at least two full days if you spend Christmas here.
This way, you can start your trip with a stroll through Grote Square. See, every December a vibrant Christmas market comes to life here, complete with vendors that sell mulled wine, gingerbread cookies, local trinkets, and any Christmas decorations you can imagine. And at the center of it all is an outdoor ice rink that is popular among locals and tourists alike.
However, no trip to Belgium would not be complete without sampling some Belgian chocolate. And luckily enough, there is a wealth of chocolate shops surrounding the square that serve up amazing treats. You can also visit a slightly quieter Christmas Market at Simon Stevin Square and stop by Burg Square to see the enormous Christmas tree there. It’s decked out in fairy lights and sits right in front of the picturesque Town Hall and Belfry Tower.
21. Vienna, Austria
By: Ashley of Impact Winder
If you happen to find yourself in Vienna, Austria, for Christmas then you are definitely in the right place. Because from ice skating in front of City Hall (Rathaus) to visiting the authentic Christmas markets at Belvedere Palace, there is something for everyone in this enchanting city.
And while there are several traditional, Austrian markets scattered throughout the city (the oldest in the world is said to be at Freyung), one of the most picturesque is at Schönbrunn Palace. It is beautifully lit up in the evening and provides visitors with wonderful photo opportunities.
Also, while you’re here, don’t miss out on some of the fantastic, Christmas delicacies that are served in the markets, including roasted chestnuts and Weihnachtspunsch (or Christmas punch). And if you can bare the cold, then be sure to check out some of the stunning Christmas lights in Rathauspark, along Kartnerstrasse. You can also explore Graben and Kohlmarkt and walk all the way to Hofburg Palace.
Now, for a classically Viennese Christmas experience, be sure to attend the Advent Concert Series, especially the “Strauss and Mozart” performances in December. There are also other advent concert series in Stephansdom and Peterskirche that are well worth a listen.
Although, if you prefer a more modern musical performance, then you can always visit Museumsquartier for live, DJ concerts, coplete with light shows, that are held under a dreamy, winter canopy.
Before you leave though, don’t forget to check out Ice World, an enormous ice skating rink that has pre-heated ice skates available for rent. Trust me, this is not your average ice skating rink. You’ll also want to make a reservation at Figlmüller so that you can dine at one of the most famous schnitzel restaurants in the country.
22. Munich, Germany
By: Izzy and Phil of The Gap Decaders
Christmas in Munich is a special time of year.
Located in Germany’s Black Forest region, Munich is a typical Bavarian city and s a great place to enjoy a nice, European winter city break. That’s why, it’s not really all that surprising that the city comes alive with twinkling fairy lights, boisterous Christmas carols, and beautiful music. And iff you’re lucky, you might even find a light dusting of snow on the ground too!
However, the real highlight of any Christmas trip to Munich is a visit to the Münchner Christkindlmarkt, which is held annually in Marienplatz. The market dates back to 1642 and is located in the heart of the altstadt (old town). It also features a 100 meter tall, traditional Christmas tree that is adorned in lights, with traditional wooden huts tucked beneath it that sell gluhwein, hot chocolate, stollen, gingerbread, and roasted chestnuts. You can also shop here for delightful, hand-crafted Christmas gifts like jewelry, wooden toys, ornaments, and more.
If you have time, you can also visit the Tollwood Winter Festival, which is held in the same place as Oktoberfest. Here you’ll find live music, light installations, art workshops, theatrical performances, and acrobatics, as well as traditional Christmas fare, stalls, and rides.
Next, try ice skating on Karlplatz square or visit any one of a handful of other Christmas markets in the city.
Finally, unwind at a classic Bavarian concert where you can listen to beautiful holiday music before devouring a traditional, Bavarian feast filled with schnitzel, bratwurst, and that most German of all accompaniments, mayonnaise!
23. Funchal, Madeira (Portugal)
By: Alex of Earth O Sea
If you’re searching for one of the best places to spend Christmas in Europe, then you should definitely consider visiting Madeira and its capital of Funchal. Here, the Portuguese are known for sticking to their traditions. So, you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised by the diverse array of festivities that occur in the city.
All of the celebrations start at the beginning of December when the Christmas lights are turned on and the streets are decked out in Christmas ornaments and decorations of every variety.
One of these such streets is Arriaga street, where evening concerts are held and feature local folk groups and children’s choirs There’s even a Children’s Christmas Village here where children of all ages can stop and have some fun.
To further celebrate the birth of Christ, locals install nativity scenes, locally known as “lapinhas”, throughout the city. These “lapinhas” can be seen everywhere and are richly decorated with an assortment of fruits and fresh flowers.
Additionally, masses of Childbirth are also heled between the16th and 24th of December. These Masses are accompanied by songs celebrating the Virgin Mary and the birth of Christ. They start at dawn in the city center and end in a local churchyard where the faithful sing Christmas songs to show their devotion. Afterwards, on the 24th of December, there is a special Rooster Mass that is celebrated right after Christmas dinner.
Madeira is also no stranger to Christmas markets – the most famous of which is at Avenida Arriaga. Commonly referred to as the Madeiran Christmas market, it typically takes place on the 23rd of December and features vendors that sell everything from food to drinks to souvenirs. and more. However, some culinary classic that you absolutely must try include honey cake, Bolo do Rei (King’s cake), Pão de Ló (Sponge cake), Rabanadas (French toast made with wine) and Madeiran wine!
But, if you want a more formal, dining experience, then try O Portao restaurant. They serve some of the best and most authentic, Portuguese food in all of Funcha and are known for their delicious, Christmas dinners.
Insert two overly enthusiastic thumbs up here because this just about concludes this epic post.
Because in my humble opinion, it’s a pretty dang detailed list of 23 of the best places to spend Christmas in Europe.
So tell me, how many of these beyond magical places have you been to? And where do you think you’ll spend this Christmas season?
Oh and if you found this post even a little bit useful, then definitely pin this now so that you can read it again later!