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Looking for the best places to spend Christmas in Europe? As a Christmas lover, each year I look forward to this remarkable season. There is just something magical about the lights, the spirit, and the people during Christmas time. While I’ve often spent Christmas in my dear New York City, the past several years I’ve celebrated Christmas in some of the best Christmas Destinations in Europe including Berlin, Munich, and Nuremberg in Germany, Salzburg, Austria, and Madrid, Spain. This is the reason I decided to ask other world travelers (travel bloggers/experts to be specific) to share with me “The Best places to spend Christmas in Europe.” Read on to find out why these are the best places to celebrate the Christmas holidays in Europe!
Table of Contents (skip directly to the info you're looking for)
- 1 What to pack for your winter holiday in Europe? – Christmas Breaks Europe
- 2 Where to stay in Europe during Christmas time
- 3 Best European Christmas Destinations: The Best places to spend Christmas in Europe!
- 3.1 Vienna during Christmas – AUSTRIA
- 3.2 Algarve during Christmas – PORTUGAL
- 3.3 Lyon during Christmas – FRANCE
- 3.4 Montreux during Christmas – SWITZERLAND
- 3.5 Budapest during Christmas – HUNGARY
- 3.6 DENMARK during Christmas
- 3.7 Madeira during Christmas – PORTUGAL
- 3.8 Paris during Christmas – FRANCE
- 3.9 Dordrecht during Christmas – THE NETHERLANDS
- 3.10 Hamburg during Christmas – GERMANY
- 3.11 Strasbourg during Christmas – FRANCE
- 3.12 Edinburg during Christmas – SCOTLAND
- 3.13 MALTA during Christmas
- 3.14 Rovaniemi during Christmas – FINLAND
- 3.15 Prague during Christmas – CZECH REPUBLIC
- 3.16 Val di Sole, Trentino during Christmas – NORTHERN ITALY
- 3.17 Krakow during Christmas – POLAND
- 3.18 London during Christmas – ENGLAND, U.K.
- 3.19 Kitzbühel during Christmas – AUSTRIA
- 3.20 Stockholm during Christmas – SWEDEN
- 3.21 Bruges during Christmas – BELGIUM
- 3.22 St. Petersburg during Christmas – RUSSIA
- 3.23 York during Christmas – ENGLAND, U.K.
- 3.24 Brussels during Christmas – BELGIUM
- 3.25 Oban during Christmas – SCOTLAND
- 3.26 Dresden during Christmas – GERMANY
- 3.27 Rome during Christmas – ITALY
- 3.28 Wiesbaden during Christmas – GERMANY
- 3.29 Reykjavik during Christmas – ICELAND
- 3.30 Bristol during Christmas – ENGLAND, U.K.
- 3.31 Erfurt during Christmas – GERMANY
- 3.32 Chisinau during Christmas – MOLDOVA
- 3.33 Cambridge during Christmas – ENGLAND, UK
- 4 The Best places I spent Christmas in Europe – Must see places in Europe in winter!
What to pack for your winter holiday in Europe? – Christmas Breaks Europe
Since you never know, minimally I would suggest for you to plan to pack the following items:
- A warm coat – Especially for the evening hours!
- A nice thick scarf or maybe even two – Scarves can serve many purposes, such as accessorizing your outfits, keeping your head, neck, and chest warm and for using as a sarong with a dress.
- Sweaters – I prefer to have a mix between the button-down ones to put over my clothes or ones with turtle necks to wear with a pair of jeans.
- Casual Loose T-shirt Dress – They are comfortable and easy to wear with leggings and boots.
- Base layers – tops, lighter sweaters, tights or leggings, thermals, etc…wearing these under your clothes can make all of the difference; and if it gets warmer, you can always remove a layer or two.
- A hat – It totally makes a difference when it gets really cold. Believe it or not, it really helps to keep your body warm when you cover your head. Or if you do not like hats, maybe bring earmuffs, wear a knit headband or consider wearing a hair wrap (great way to look stylish too).
- Gloves – Important to keep your hands warm.
- Always pack a nice dress or several. You never know how your plans can change in NYC. New York can be unpredictable and last-minute opportunities may land right in your lap. You might end up walking a red carpet or invited to a random event. You just never know so better to be prepared.
- A swimsuit – Believe or not, it can come handy if you are staying at a hotel with an indoor pool, or spa.
- Lip balm or a small vaseline – to keep your lips from drying and peeling due to the cooler temperatures.
- Sunscreen – Always needed to protect your skin, year-round.
Where to stay in Europe during Christmas time
Europe offers all kind of accommodations. You can find most of the big name hotel chains such as Ibis, Marriott, and more. If you are on a budget, you can also find hostels, or simply try to find an Airbnb accommodation. Keep in mind, that like in NYC, Europe (varies per country) is not the cheapest during the winter holidays, but you can always find deals if you book in advance.
Now let’s go straight to the Must see places in Europe in Winter – Your perfect Christmas holidays in Europe!
Best European Christmas Destinations: The Best places to spend Christmas in Europe!
Vienna during Christmas – AUSTRIA
Suggested by Kris, Nomad by Trade
We spent Christmas Day at the Viennese Christmas Market in front of the Vienna Rathaus. It was the perfect way to finish our European Christmas experience with its festive décor and fun atmosphere. We showed up hungry and were not disappointed as a stand serving enormous baked potatoes topped with different cheeses, meats, and vegetables filled us right up and there were plenty of stalls selling a variety of sweets for dessert. We hit several of the glühwein stands to keep warm and sample as many of the flavors as possible.
After we had spent a couple of hours browsing the stands and buying Christmas ornaments and other décor, we hit the skating rink. I’ve been to plenty of open skates over the years, and every single one of them has involved skating in circles around a rink until you get bored. The Vienna Christmas Market’s ice skating area was so much fun. There were twisting, turning pathways of ice looping around each other and even encircling a giant snowglobe that contained a replica of the beautiful Rathaus that overlooked the whole market. It was easily one of the best Christmases I’ve had!
Algarve during Christmas – PORTUGAL
Suggested by: James, Portugalist – the Portugal travel blog
A few years ago my parents moved to the Algarve in the South of Portugal, and I was able to celebrate Christmas in the Algarve. Christmas in Portugal, and in particular in the Algarve, is quite a unique experience particularly coming from Ireland where I had grown up.
Firstly, there’s the weather. A winter sun break is fantastic, but Christmas in the sunshine does take a bit of getting used to. It’s strange being able to shop for Christmas presents in little more than a t-shirt and fun, but equally strange, having Christmas dinner outside. I love it but now having celebrated Christmas in the Algarve with friends and family from back home, I realize it’s not for everyone.
It’s also fun trying having traditional Portuguese dishes for Christmas dinner instead of turkey. In Portugal, typical dishes include bacalhau (usually Bacalhãu de Consoada) or octopus. Desserts and sweet dishes are a big focus on the meal, particularly rabanadas, sonhos, and azevias do grão e amendõa.
There’s also lampreia de natal, which is a lamprey fish made entirely from egg yolks. It’s an incredibly bizarre dish that’s apparently made for children, although Portuguese adults tend to love it just as much.
The Algarve usually has cheap flights during the winter months so, if you’re looking for somewhere different to spend Christmas, consider flying out and spending it there.
Lyon during Christmas – FRANCE
Suggested by: Nomadic Boys
Lyon is one of the best places we’ve celebrated Christmas in Europe. Sebastien is originally from there so we celebrated with his family. A visit to Lyon is in any case always a treat because it is famous for being the gourmet capital of France, with some of the best restaurants (called “bouchons” in Lyon) in the country. It also has some of the best meats, wines and cheeses we’ve ever tried. In addition, it is super easy getting from the airport to Lyon centre. A visit to Lyon during Christmas time is even more of a treat.
Lyon itself is a really pretty city to explore. The Old Town (called Vieux Lyon) is full of really cute narrow cobblestone streets and lots of bouchons. The Presqu’île neighbourhood of Lyon is always alive with atmosphere due to the large student population with many cafes, bars and restaurants.
The main highlight of Lyon, which it is most famous for is the “Fête des Lumières” festival that takes place during Christmas time in December. This is a 4-day festival, which is a celebration to the Virgin Mary who watched over the city and spared the Lyonnais from a serious plague in 1643. Therefore, this festival honors her and gives thanks to Marie (“Merci Marie”) for saving the city. This was done by placing a candle outside every window – a tradition which the residents still do today, which creates quite an extraordinary and warm atmosphere across the entire city. The Light Festival also has really dramatic light displays each evening on the main monuments. This is a nod to the Lumière Brothers, who are from Lyon and are recognized as pioneers in the movie industry for creating the first motion picture.
Montreux during Christmas – SWITZERLAND
Suggested by Sharon, Melbourne Family
Montreux, Switzerland is perfect for anyone wanting some Christmas spirit. Montreux doesn’t just have a pretty location on the banks of Lake Geneva, but also has a Christmas festival, Montreux Noel, in the month leading up to this date.
The centerpiece is their Christmas market. Located along the banks of the lake, this market seems to go on forever. There are many gifts as well as great food and drinks and carols playing through speakers. This market takes things a step further with an Elves Village with activities to learn and several times a night, Santa Claus himself flies over Lake Geneva in his sleigh. It can sound tacky but it’s well-executed and adds to the experience. There are also light shows nearby.
In addition to this, UNESCO listed Chillon Castle has medieval Christmas celebrations with much to learn about how Christmas used to be. There is also the option to take a cog train up Rochers-de-Naye. At 2,000 metres above sea level, there are great views over the lake and surroundings as well as from the train on the way up. There is also a good chance that there will be enough snow to ski. During the festival, the big red man himself is up here in his “house” and you can meet him and take a photo.
With all of this, Montreux is the best place to celebrate Christmas in Europe.
Budapest during Christmas – HUNGARY
Suggested by: Eniko, Travel Hacker Girl
Christmas in Budapest is a lovely experience. There are several Christmas markets in the capital city. The biggest and most popular is at Vörösmarty Square. It is not only one of the cutest, but also one of the most affordable markets in Europe. It has several stalls selling handcrafted products, which are perfect as gifts for your loved ones. You can also get to know the Hungarian culture a bit through the productions they have on the stage. There is often live music and traditional folklore dance.
If you want to try some tasty Hungarian dishes the market is the perfect place to do it. There are plenty of popular street food options, such as Lángos, a deep-fried bread topped with garlic, sour cream, and grated cheese. You should also try Chimney cake is perfect for dessert. It got the name for its shape. The crunchy, sugar-baked pastry resembles a chimney. It can be sprinkled with cinnamon, sugar, coconut or cocoa powder. Budapest Basilica Christmas Market is also worth a visit. It has a small ice rink set up for the Christmas season. Budapest is also famous for its thermal baths. It is a great feeling to sit outside and relax in the hot water. Rudas Baths even have a rooftop jacuzzi with a great view of the Danube River. It is a definite must for your winter trip to Budapest.
DENMARK during Christmas
Suggested by: Mary of A Mary Road
Denmark; I moved there when I was 21 and lived there for two years. Since I left Denmark, I’ve celebrated Christmas in three other countries but my favourite is still Denmark. It’s probably because of the white Christmas or the fact that I was surrounded by people who are not related to me but showed so much love and kindness during a time where I’m used to be around my family.
The Danish celebrate Christmas just like most countries. They have gifts under the tree, Christmas dinner, warm hugs over a bottle of great wine, and laughter everywhere. However, what I love most about their traditions is when everyone gets together, standing around the Christmas tree, holding each other’s hands, and go dancing and singing. The kids love it and, at the same time, it gives such warmth and comfort to everyone in the room. I’m not sure what the dancing around the tree actually means, but it makes me smile every time I remember it and makes me want to be in Denmark for that time of the year. If you are planning to celebrate Christmas outside your home country, reach out to your Danish friend and see if you can join their family – it’s such a fun and memorable experience!
You might also like: A 7 days in Denmark Itinerary
Madeira during Christmas – PORTUGAL
Suggested by: Edyta from Say Yes To Madeira
Two years ago I spent Christmas on Madeira Island, in Portugal, and I loved it. I cannot wait to be there again, this Christmas season. Madeira, and especially it’s the biggest city- Funchal – is a great place to spend Christmas. Streets, bridges, palm trees, houses are beautifully decorated with Christmas lights. Thanks to its location on the hills, the bay of Funchal looks beautiful and colourful during the holidays. Most of the decorations can be found around the Funchal Marina, in the Jardim Municipal park and on Avenida Arriaga street. You can find there, for example, a small Christmas Market and Santa Clause’s village, as well as many Christmas Cribs and food, stands serving traditional food. Multiple events are held in that period, such as the famous Market Night and a 6-kilometre city run through the beautifully decorated streets.
Madeira is simply a perfect mix of good weather and a wonderful Christmas spirit. It is a perfect place for those, who would like to escape the snow and low temperatures, but not the beautiful Christmas decorations, traditions and a great Christmas mood. Would you like to know more about Christmas and NYE in Madeira? I wrote a detailed post on my website.
Check out this post: Top Christmas Markets in Europe
Paris during Christmas – FRANCE
Suggested by: Grace from The Idyll
Paris is a wonderful city to visit at any time of year. But the French capital is particularly magical at Christmas. In December, the Avenue des Champs-Élysées glows with thousands of twinkling lights, patisseries fill up with festive treats, and glittering ice rinks pop up throughout the city. I love Christmas in Paris so much that I’ve celebrated the holidays there twice.
Christmas Day is a rare opportunity to explore Paris’ elegant streets without the crowds. Wander through the tranquil Jardin des Tuileries or Luxembourg gardens, browse the stalls at one of the city’s Christmas markets, or book ahead and take a romantic cruise along the Seine. You could spend a couple of hours in one of the museums that stay open on December 25th, such as Musée de Montmartre. Or climb the Eiffel Tower for sweeping views of Paris.
For a special lunch or dinner on Christmas Day, options range from traditional brasseries to Michelin star hotel restaurants. Parisian brassieres often offer all-day festive menus, but you’ll need to reserve a table a few weeks in advance. There are also seasonal concerts in some of the city’s most spectacular churches, including Notre-Dame and Sainte Chapelle, so it’s worth checking ahead for tickets. Paris is a city steeped in culture and Christmas time is no exception.
Dordrecht during Christmas – THE NETHERLANDS
Suggested by Manon from Visiting the Dutch Countryside
One of the best destinations in Europe to celebrate Christmas is the beautiful city of Dordrecht, The Netherlands. Dordrecht is one of the many cities that barely have foreign visitors. The reason? People don’t know that this city exists. But imagine walking through a cobbled stoned city that is filled with gorgeous canal houses. And although you can find those kinds of cities all throughout The Netherlands, Dordrecht feels different. Maybe it’s the lack of foreign tourists? The cosy atmosphere? The majestic city? Or the lovely people? I think it’s a combination of all of them, but I know one thing makes celebrating Christmas even more special. And that is visiting one of the best restaurants in Dordrecht.
The restaurant/hotel Villa Augustus is one of the most special restaurants in Dordrecht. It opens 7 days a week from the early morning until the late evenings. The restaurant of Villa Augustus works with the best, local and organic products. And a lot of their products come from their own kitchen garden. All the vegetables, fruits and herbs go straight towards the kitchen after harvesting. You can walk through the kitchen garden, but there’s more to see. Village Augustus in Dordrecht has a big garden, an orchard, kitchen garden, an Italian garden and much more. The restaurant also has a big garden that you can walk through. Do stay on the paths that walk you through the gardens so you don’t destroy products.
Another Favorite: The perfect 3 days in Amsterdam Itinerary written by a local
Hamburg during Christmas – GERMANY
Suggested by Cate from International Desserts Blog
I’ve celebrated Christmas in several European cities but one of my all-time favorites is Hamburg, Germany. I lived with a German family there for a year in high school and returned a few years later to celebrate a second Christmas with them. In addition to the many things that make for a warm and cozy holiday celebration, e.g., great people, delicious food, and lots of laughter, there are so many things to love about Christmas in Hamburg. Sure, it’s cold and it gets dark early but you’ve also got Christmas markets to explore (and Glühwein to drink), lots of wonderful shops for finding the perfect Christmas gift, the beautiful city lights and holiday decorations, cozy cafes and bars, just to name a few. Germans don’t let cold weather or rain prevent them from spending time outside, so you’ll also find people taking long walks along the Elbe river or in one of the city’s many parks. Both times I was in Hamburg it snowed; one year I joined the public party on the frozen Alster lake in the middle of the city, and another year I went ice skating on a lake near my host family’s house just outside the city, and then sledding on some hiking trails. You’ll never be bored in Hamburg, even in the winter!
Strasbourg during Christmas – FRANCE
Suggested by Mei and Kerstin from Travel with Mei and Kerstin
We’ve travelled to many cities in the world for winter holidays, but our favourite place in Europe to celebrate Christmas is definitely Strasbourg. Located in Eastern France but only a few kilometres away from the German border, the capital of Alsace was a German city until the 17th century and again during WWI and WWII. Due to its unique position and history, Strasbourg is thus immersed in both French and German cultures. In terms of gastronomy, this city is a true food paradise! You get the French savour and the German quantity. When Christmas approaches, we love driving down to Strasbourg to feast on a delicious foie gras or escargots, as well as a succulent choucroute, Flammekueche or Baeckeoffe. May it be at Le Gruber, Zuem Strissel, or any other traditional Winstub in Strasbourg, Alsatian specialties are always a delight! However, food is not the only reason why we love celebrating Christmas in Strasbourg. This city also happens to be the home to the largest and oldest Christmas Market in France – and probably of Europe – dating back to 1570. Imagine strolling around more than 300 snow-covered wooden chalets scattered all over the city, while sipping on a cup of mulled wine and watching the charming half-timbered houses lit up with thousands of magical winter lights. As a matter of fact, Strasbourg is not only the capital of Alsace, but also the capital of Christmas!
Edinburg during Christmas – SCOTLAND
Suggested by: Inma Gregorio from A World to Travel
There are many reasons why Edinburgh is an excellent option to spend a different and very fun Christmas. From its Christmas markets that fill the center of the city with color and light, such as East Princess Street Gardens and George Street, and the ice skating rink around the St. Andrew’s Square, the spectacular attractions they are mounted on the occasion of these parties in George Street and surroundings; and the Hogmanay and Loony Dook celebrations during the last days of the year; Edinburgh should be a mandatory stop for all those in love with cold, white and unique Christmas.
Our favorite was undoubtedly Hogmanay (the Scottish term for New Year’s Eve), a great street party attended by up to 150,000 people from all over the world and which we had the opportunity to enjoy a few years ago. There are music groups that perform in various stages scattered around the city center and followed by a spectacular display of fireworks under the castle just before midnight. Unforgettable.
MALTA during Christmas
Suggested by Liza from Tripsget
Malta is an absolutely incredible Christmas destination, especially if you’re looking for something sunny and relatively warm. I’ve always heard the feedback from my friends and relatives that Malta isn’t the best destination for swimming in summer due to the scarcity of beaches on the island and it’s more of a sightseeing destination. That’s why I decided to visit Malta for Christmas back in 2017. And honestly, I was really impressed! I would definitely consider it to be the best destination to spend Christmas! In order to see Malta properly, you would probably need at least 5 full days, so that you can explore the main island, head to Gozo (a day trip from Malta to Gozo) and even hop on a ferry to Camino island to see the famous Blue Lagoon. Also, I would definitely recommend hiring a car, especially offseason, as it’s way easier to get around Malta by car. In Gozo, there are some really amazing places (e.g. caves) that you can’t reach by public transport, so renting a car would be basically the only option. And finally, the weather in Malta in winter is generally relatively warm. It could be rainy/windy, but we had luck with 5 days of sun and about 14-15 degrees Celsius, which is not bad at all (compared to cold and rainy London).
Rovaniemi during Christmas – FINLAND
Suggested by Diana from The Elusive Family
A beautiful city in the middle of the Finnish Lapland, Rovaniemi is a dream to visit during Christmas. Filled with beautiful decorations, multiple hideaways, accommodations, and hundreds of activities geared toward everyone from families, to couples and even single travelers, Rovaniemi is the number one place to visit during Christmas and the perfect holiday with children. Known as the official hometown of Santa Claus, Rovaniemi has the official world stamp of approval for the best Christmas destinations.
While it is not the cheapest destination, it is designated as Santa’s hometown brings a lot of people to the city to partake in a multitude of holiday activities. Some of the most popular excursions include being pulled by huskies in the snow, going on reindeer rides through the forest, ice fishing in the middle of frozen Finnish lakes or even going to saunas. The city caters to tourists throughout the year and is specially prepared for tourists around Christmastime. Besides these activities, travelers can also find skiing opportunities nearby, snowshoeing, northern lights excursions, as well as trips to places like Ranua Zoo or Santa Park, an underground bunker where an ice bar, a dance show, and numerous other holiday activities await.
Rovaniemi also has the Santa Claus Village, one of the most popular accommodations in the city. Here you can find a Santa Post Office, a husky park, reindeer rides, and two versions of Santa’s in two different locations. There are also several shops and restaurants on-site as well. The Village has little cottages that are perfect for couples or families and makes the visit all the more enjoyable when visiting Rovaniemi.
Prague during Christmas – CZECH REPUBLIC
Suggested by Hannah from GettingStamped
One of the most magical places to take in the holiday spirit in Europe is the charming town of Prague. The capital of the Czech Republic is breathtaking any time of the year, but with the city draped in bows and lit up with thousands of lights, Prague is even more enchanting during the holiday season.
The main draw to Prague in December are the many Christmas Markets. All of the popular public spaces in the city are transformed old world Christmas markets filled with wooden toys and handcrafted ornaments – it’s everything you’d expect from a town that looks like this at Christmas time.
The whole city is decorated for the holidays, but nothing quite compares to the Old Town Square Christmas Market. Be sure to climb to the top of the Old Town Hall (which also holds the astronomical clock towards it base). From up here, you’ll get the best views of this magical market with colorful festive tents, a giant Christmas tree, and even the steam coming off of the fresh trundle cakes below.
Another reason to visit during this time of the year is the food. Gorge yourself in seasonal favorites which include everything from baked treats to hearty plates. Be on the lookout for Vánočka, or Christmas Bread in English to get a taste of a true holiday tradition in Prague.
Round out your trip to Prague for Christmas with a trip up to the world’s largest ancient castle (the Prague Castle) for – you guessed it another Christmas market. Besides the market, you’ll see holiday traditions taking place at the many religious building in the castle as well as some holiday-themed exhibits in this extensive complex.
If you visit Prague in December and somehow don’t walk away intoxicated with the Christmas spirit – your name may be Scrooge.
Val di Sole, Trentino during Christmas – NORTHERN ITALY
Suggested by Claudia from My Adventures Across The World
Val di Sole, in Trentino (northern Italy), is a fantastic place to spend Christmas in Europe. The gorgeous Dolomites are the backdrop of this beautiful valley which offers an incredible array of activities, whether you are looking for adventure sports or to relax.
Needless to say, Val di Sole is the perfect destination for a ski holiday, with a web of slopes that put together sum up to more than 100 km. There are slopes for all levels.
People who travel for food will be pleased to know that food in this part of the country is earthy, nutritious and simply delicious. Rifugi – scattered along the slopes – are excellent places to fuel up while skiing, providing a cozy, warm environment and strictly local food.
Those looking to relax will be happy to know that most hotels have their own spa. Even some rifugi do, and you may get from the slopes to a spa in a matter of minutes, and enjoy a hot tub while admiring the beautiful snow-capped mountains.
Finally, the Christmas atmosphere in Val di Sole is unique. The nicest village to experience it is Ossana, where hundreds of nativity scenes prepared in different styles and in different sizes are scattered around the village. If you happen to be there when it snows, you’ll be in for a real treat!
Krakow during Christmas – POLAND
Suggested by: Bridget from TheFlashpacker.net
With its perfectly preserved Old Town, rich history and low cost of living, Kraków is a great city to visit any time of year. However, at Christmas, it really is something special.
Rynek Glowny, Kraków’s geographical and spiritual beating heart, is taken over by the Christmas market. Pick up some souvenirs, including exquisitely decorated heart-shaped gingerbread or traditional, hand-painted glass baubles. Feast on delicious local food, including the famous pierogi, keeping the winter chill at bay with a glass of mulled wine.
Importantly, Kraków is open for business at Christmas. Let’s face it; you don’t want to arrive in a city to find that there is nowhere to eat and transport isn’t running. Although it is very quiet on Christmas Eve – this is when Polish people have their main Christmas celebration – there are enough restaurants open over the festive period to sate your hunger, and buses, trains and trams run throughout.
I joined an excellent free walking tour on the 25th December around the Old Town. As many of Kraków’s landmarks are close together this is the best way to explore its historic heart. As a bonus, there was Christmas snowfall and we managed to catch a performance by the Sicilian Choir in the city’s Franciscan Church. Spine-tingling stuff.
For a different perspective on Kraków, I explored Kazimierz, the old Jewish Quarter and Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory, immortalised in the 1993 film Schindler’s List. His former factory now houses an absorbing museum chronicling life in Kraków under the Nazi Occupation.
But you don’t need to confine yourself to Kraków. The Wieliczka salt mines and the former concentration camp of Auschwitz are easy day trips from the city. Although the latter is not exactly festive, it is an unforgettable experience.
London during Christmas – ENGLAND, U.K.
Suggested by Coni from ExperienceGlobe.com
The vibe you’ll experience in London during Christmas is one that’ll stay with you forever. Don’t expect snow but be prepared for magic!
Winter wonderland is the most Christmasy place on earth! Hyde park dresses up for the holidays in green and red, creating an enchanted place that will turn even the Grinch into a Christmas devotee. You’ll be treated with delicious food, beautiful decorations, fun and games, the United Kingdom’s biggest open-air ice rink, and you’ll even be able to wander around the extraordinary Ice Kingdom, with an ice bar to boot. No matter your age, you’ll love it!
If you’re looking for a less touristy place, follow the locals to Victoria Park’s Winterville. A bit outside the city center, it’s less crowded and just a charming. For foodies and for the ones looking for an original present, the spot is the Christmas Market of the South Bank. For shopping, there’s no better place in the world than Oxford street. The street itself is full of lights, and the store windows are works of art. Stroll around in the evening for a full /wow/ effect.
If you want to get into the festivities royal style, visit the palaces in London and around it -all of them dress up for the occasion. Hampton Court has an ice-skating rink just in front of the palace, giving you the perfect photo-op for a Christmas card (or Instagram post!).
For a more meaningful experience, attend mass at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
I’m not a religious person, but I spent a few hours before midnight handing coffee to people on the street waiting to get inside the church. I made new friends and I got to marvel at the choir singing in my favorite building in the city. It was the perfect way of spending Christmas in a foreign country!
Kitzbühel during Christmas – AUSTRIA
Suggested by Lee from Thetravelscribes.com
Beyond the larger, more well-known Christmas spots in Europe there is a little gem of a town, nestled in the Austrian Alps. Kitzbühel is one of our favorite places to spend the festive season, as it marries small-town charm with a killer ski resort as well as a fantastic roster of activities across most of December.
First up – the skiing. Kitzbühel is not the best place for beginners since there aren’t too many slopes fit for novices. However, it’s an ideal ski getaway considering some of the picturesque skiing in the region, and since it doesn’t get crowded as some of the resorts in France or Switzerland. There’s nothing like downing a “skiwasser” (ski water – essentially water with delicious cordial) or a Jagermeister, with the impressive Alps laid out before you.
Next, the Christmas market! We know there are heaps of Christmas markets dotted across Europe but Kitzbuhel’s market has its own charm. Think cobbled streets, a small central square but a warm, inviting market that offers everything from reibekuchen (potato fritters with apple sauce) to delicious Austrian punch. The town’s inhabitants are also particularly friendly, as you rub shoulders with them on a wintry night out.
The town is also perfect for families over the Christmas season, as it offers fantastic activities geared towards kids. The usual tobogganing and kid’s ski lessons are available but what sets the town apart is it’s walkable Advent calendar. Every night before Christmas, a different window is opened in the town, themed for the day and featuring incredible artistry! There are also campfire nights for kids, storytelling at the museum and a Christmas ‘alley’ with 40 fir trees decorated for the season.
Stockholm during Christmas – SWEDEN
Suggested by: Dhara from It’s Not About the Miles
You’d normally want to visit Sweden’s capital when the days are long because there are so many things to do in Stockholm that you’ll want to maximize your time in the city. But the exception is at Christmas, which is a fabulous time to visit!
First, although Stockholm is located far in the north, the winters here are less harsh than you’d imagine. But if you like white Christmases, you stand a good chance in Stockholm. With icicles clinging to trees, Stockholm is a beautiful sight if you’re there just after a snowfall. And if the waterways are already frozen, you can go skating, as the locals do!
One of the best parts of visiting Europe in winter is getting to visit Christmas markets. Stockholm has a number of charming markets to visit: the one in Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s Old Town, is, of course, a must. It’s located on Stortorget, the main square. The other must-visit is the market at Skansen, Stockholm’s open-air museum.
At the Christmas markets, you can sample glögg, which is mulled wine, or Christmas sweet treats like gingerbread. And you can buy some souvenirs to take home: there are beautiful local arts and crafts on display in the market stalls.
Stockholm has a number of world-class shopping streets, and they are a blast to browse around Christmas. With lights and decorations everywhere and a festive spirit on the streets, wandering becomes even more of a joy. With concerts and Christmas carols, there are many events if you want to join in the fun.
If you are a foodie, you must have the traditional Christmas dinner when in Stockholm in December. Meatballs are a must, and so is gingerbread! There are lots of restaurants that offer the julbord, the Christmas feast.
So if you’re thinking about a European destination for Christmas, consider Stockholm: you will find much to savor in Sweden’s capital!
Bruges during Christmas – BELGIUM
Suggested by: Marie from Alifewithoutborders.org
With a relatively mild winter climate and lack of tourist crowds, Bruges is one of the best cities to visit in Europe for Christmas. Located in the West Flanders region of Belgium, Bruges is a medieval delight. With its ornate, gothic architecture, pretty canals and walkways, cozy carriage rides and of course, mouth-watering chocolates, you really don’t want to miss Bruges during winter.
Whilst the UNESCO World Heritage town is gorgeous at any time of the year, Bruges really puts on a show at Christmas. Set in the historic Markt Square in the heart of the city, the Bruges Christmas markets boast gorgeous wooden chalets offering traditional hot red wine, homemade handicrafts, Christmas decorations and more. The food stands will have you drooling with a range of local fare and of course, plenty of hot spiced wine to help keep you warm.
Enjoy skating at the adorable ice-rink set in the shadow of the imposing Belfry of Bruges. Stroll along the streets to get your fill of hand-made chocolates or take an old-time horse and carriage ride along Bruges’ pretty cobblestone streets. Take a scenic boat trip through the winding maze of charming canals before warming up with one of Bruges’ specialty hot chocolates in a cozy café. Climb the Belfry of Bruges for stunning 360-degree views over the city centre before gazing at the swans on the Lake of Love. Round off your visit by enjoying a superb Belgian beer by a roaring open fire.
St. Petersburg during Christmas – RUSSIA
Suggested by: Rai from A Rai of Light
Considered the cultural capital of the country, it has a long history, dating back to the early 1700s and has gained a multitude of artistic and architectural treasures. What makes this imperial city even more special during Christmas is the wonderful festive atmosphere experienced at this time of the year. The city is beautiful in the snow as locals prepare to celebrate the festive season. Think spiced gluhwein, troika rides, and snow-capped domes.
If Christmas markets are what you’re after, the best amongst the dozen across the city, are the Fair on Ostrovsky Square and Pionerskaya square. Complemented by processions and concerts, it is a wonderful Russian celebration. There are also plenty of cultural events, outdoor activities, and things to do in St. Petersburg. From skiing at Tsarskoye Selo to Ice Hockey at the Ice Palace to sledging at Victory Park.
No visit to the city is complete without a stop at the Mariinsky theatre, the Hermitage Museum and the Winter Palace, housing one of the world’s largest collection of historic items. If it’s too cold to be outside, there’s still a lot to keep you busy indoors, which may or may not involve a warming shot of vodka.
York during Christmas – ENGLAND, U.K.
Suggested by: Sinead Camplin from Map Made Memories
The historic city of York in the north of England is a perfect location for a Christmas break. The compact city is festive for the whole month of December with lots of Christmas themed things to do and see. The pedestrianised city centre hosts a large, convivial, outdoor Christmas market with over one hundred little wooden cabins selling handmade local crafts, food, and drink. The six-week market has previously been voted the ‘Best Christmas Market in The UK.’
Don’t miss a side trip to the cobbled Shambles, a short atmospheric street voted the ‘Best Street in Britain’ and said to be the inspiration for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter novels. A huge canvas Tipi – complete with sheepskin lined benches and a roaring open fire – is a popular city-centre Christmas attraction to grab a warming mulled wine or mince pie after Christmas shopping. The compact city streets are lined with hanging lights and a giant Christmas tree is erected outside the Georgian era Lord Mayor’s House.
York’s most iconic building, the stunning gothic York Minster, offers festive services throughout advent in the run-up to Christmas Day. The twice held ‘Nine Lessons and Carols’ is a York residents ‘ Christmas must-do’ and the free to enter services are packed to standing room only. After a day spent buying Christmas presents or taking in one of Yorks many attractions – such as the medieval walls or the world-famous Jorvik Viking Centre – visit one of the city’s three theatres to enjoy a traditional British pantomime. Plus, given its northern location, you may even be lucky enough to experience a white Christmas during your stay in York!
Brussels during Christmas – BELGIUM
Suggested by Sophie from Bittenbythebug.be
Brussels is a great place to be during the festive season, as the entire city twinkles with beautiful Christmas lights and beautifully decorated shop displays, which create a magical atmosphere. The most popular thing to do of course is visiting the annual Brussels Christmas market called Winter Wonders, which spreads out between Grand Place and Place Sainte-Catherine. It’s the opportunity to sample some beautiful hand-made souvenirs, try some local hearty food and warm up with a cup of glühwein. Some stalls even serve a similar hot beverage containing beer (it tastes better than it sounds). Alternatively, you can also try a shot of ‘jenever’, which is a traditional Belgian liquor made from juniper berries. It’s available in countless different flavors, but chocolate, cactus and vanilla definitely stand out!
Several times a day, a light and sound show will illuminate Grand Place. Whereas this square in the heart of Brussels is already amazingly beautiful and listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, the light and sound show underlines its architectural beauty even more. The Christmas market on Place Sainte-Catherine is dominated by a large Ferris wheel. Take a spin and enjoy the impressive view over the center of Brussels. And finally, walk on to Place de la Monnaie where a large ice rink will bring lots of excitement and entertainment!
Oban during Christmas – SCOTLAND
Suggested by: Kat from Wandering Bird
If you’re looking for somewhere in Europe to enjoy a laid-back Christmas, look no further than Oban in Scotland. We spent Christmas there a few years ago and loved it so much we came back as part of our EPIC Scotland road trip!
I’ll be honest, Christmas in Oban is quiet. There are no crazy flashing lights, although the town is beautifully decorated. You won’t find loud parties, late-night shopping or drunken carol singers. But for us, that was the whole appeal.
What you WILL find are some of the most welcoming people we have EVER met in all our years touring Europe in a motorhome. Seriously, they were so friendly we almost didn’t want to leave! We spent a couple of evenings in the local pub, enjoying music, chatter and a fantastic atmosphere, sharing stories with all sorts of great people.
But for us, the best thing about Oban at Christmas were the views- both during the day but especially at night. During the day, you can see for miles over the surrounding lochs and the nearby islands. But at night, you’ll see stars like you’ve never seen before, especially if you normally live in a city like we did.
I think this was the trip which sparked our travel bug- the time we realised that if we escaped our ‘normal’ we could find something spectacular. I remember sitting there, wrapped under a blanket, sipping hot chocolate on Christmas Eve (yep, it really did feel like my very own rom-com!) and just staring transfixed at the sky above me. It was magical.
The weather can be hit or miss in December, so dress appropriately. We were content to curl in front of the fire, play games and take the opportunity to relax.
For the more active, there are plenty of hikes into the nearby hills, limitless wildlife to spot (including puffins, seals, sea-birds and dolphins) and of course a trip to nearby Loch Ness to see if YOU will be the one to see the elusive monster. It’s also a great time to visit some of the nearby distilleries- whiskey and winter are perfect companions!
Dresden during Christmas – GERMANY
Suggested by Alexander from Destinavo.com
Dresden is one of the ultimate Christmas destinations in the world, and it has the oldest Christmas market in Germany, which attracts thousands of visitors every year. The Dresden Christmas Market is also known as Striezelmarkt, and it was held for the first time already back in 1434.
Since then it has been held annually for 584 years in a row, and this year in 2019 will be the 585 times that Striezelmarkt takes place in the main square of the historic town center in Dresden. Some hundred vendors and stalls selling decorations, handicrafts as well as german sausages and glühwein will be here every day from November to the day before Christmas.
In addition to the Striezelmarkt, Dresden also has some smaller Christmas markets which have an even more local feel to them. There are still many locals gathering in the main square at Striezelmarkt, but there are almost no tourists at all in the smaller Christmas markets.
If you want to do something else than just strolling around Christmas markets, there are actually a lot of things to do in Dresden, and it’s an important historic city. Frauenkirche, Dresden Castle, and Zwinger, as well as the Opera House (Semperoper), are some of the most famous buildings in the city.
You can visit Dresden at any time of the year and have a great experience, but the real transformation is made during Christmas when the whole city is decorated and enters the holiday bubble. There’s also the chance of getting snow, which will further add to the spirit.
Rome during Christmas – ITALY
Suggested by Annalisa from Travelconnectexperience.net
Christmas is the most important festivity in Italy, and the capital city Rome, which has been considered for centuries the center of Christianity, becomes even more lively during the last two weeks of the year. This is a very special period for Rome, because thousands of Italians who usually live in the city but were born in other regions of Italy, go back to their hometowns to celebrate the holidays with family. The amount of foreign travelers decreases as well, making it much easier to explore museums and monuments, and to find accommodation These are crucial days for shopping, as every Italian wants to do his part and put cute packets under the Christmas tree for kids and adults to enjoy.
The main shopping streets are lit up with Christmas decorations and shops are open until 4 PMholiday of the 24th of December: this is your chance to join the enthusiast locals in the holiday purchases along Via Del Corso, Via Frattina, Via Ottaviano, and Via Cola di Rienzo, to name the most beaten shopping arteries in the city center. On your way to the shops, you’ll also see huge Christmas trees in two of the most beautiful squares in Rome: Piazza San Pietro and Piazza Venezia.
If you’re observant, you could also participate in the Christmas Mass guided by Pope Francesco in person inside Saint Peter’s Cathedral, free of toll, on the 24th, 25th, and 31st of December. Christmas markets abound in the historical center and in the residential districts. The most popular one, and also the oldest, is the one in Piazza Navona, that celebrates the figure of the “Befana”, an old lady of pagan origins who resembles a witch and is said to roll sweets and charcoal down the chimneys on the night between the 5th and the 6th of January for good and bad kids. To know further about the Christmas holidays in Rome, visit the article “Rome in winter”.
Wiesbaden during Christmas – GERMANY
Suggested by: Carolin from Breathing Travel
Wiesbaden might not be the obvious choice to visit around Christmas, however, if you are looking for a smaller town to have a more local Christmas market experience, the capital city of Hessen will not disappoint! Wiesbaden is one of the oldest spa towns in Europe, sitting on hot mineral-rich springs.
The town boasts with beautiful architecture and squares, an English-style landscaped garden dating back to 1852, the neo-Gothic Market Church and the neoclassic Kurhaus, which are all interesting places to visit in summer as well as winter.
The Christmas markets take place annually around the Schlossplatz which is between the Market Church and City Hall. Mulled wine is a must! Try a selection of crepes, roasted almonds, bratwurst or feast on many other delicious treats while wandering the markets.
Wiesbaden Christmas market is less touristy then Frankfurt for example and has more of and artisan-feel to it and you will love the beautifully decorated rustic market stalls with warm twinkling lights. Christmas concerts are held at the stage right on the square as well as in the nearby Market Church and an ice rink is usually set up a few hundred meters walk from here. You could truly spend a while here walking around and soaking up the atmosphere, smells and sounds.
Best of all? You can reach the Wiesbaden Christmas market with a short 40-minute train from the Frankfurt city centre. Otherwise, there are plenty of good hotels to stay in the city centre of Wiesbaden to be close to the markets. Try Hotel Nassauer Hof if you want to splurge or Town Hotel if you are on a budget.
Reykjavik during Christmas – ICELAND
Suggested by Ania from The Travelling Twins
We visited Iceland in December without knowing much about Iceland and its traditions.
And as we learn, there are lots of them, especially connected to Christmas. Icelanders don’t have Santa – instead, they have 13 Yule lads who bring presents every day from 12th of December till Christmas Day. To get the gift you don’t really need to be good – you need to leave a shoe on the window sill and some bribe for Yule Lad. Different each day. One of the lads likes skyr – Icelandic yoghurt (Skyr Gobbler), other likes to lick pots clean (Pot Licker), other steels the sausage (Sausage Sweaper). If you leave whatever Yule desires, you can count on finding present in your shoe. And if you haven’t been good on Christmas Eve, you will get eaten by the Yule cats. So if you good Reykjavik is a perfect place to visit in Christmas
Another good reason is the possibility to see the northern lights. Northern lights are on the sky all the time, but only when it is dark, you can see them. And nights in Iceland in winter are long. And if you spent the night chasing for northern lights, you can then sleep until 11 in the morning and still wake up before sunset. Late Sunrise is probably the reason why pubs in Reykjavik are the busiest around 3 am.
If you like fireworks, Reykjavik is your place. They are crazy here about the fireworks. In the UK you can have a maximum 5kg of fireworks – I saw Icelanders buying fireworks by boxes which were at least 10-15 kg each. They love fireworks. Maybe tradition comes from lightning the long nights. Whatever the reason is – it is fun to watch them. If you are thinking about visiting Iceland and Reykjavik – Christmas is a good time to do so.
Bristol during Christmas – ENGLAND, U.K.
Suggested by: Nabiha from Versesbyavoyager.com
Bristol in the south-west of the UK is a wonderful, lively city. The city is beautiful all year round, however during the Christmas season, some locations in the city become even prettier. This is mainly because the south-west of the UK is warmer as compared to the rest of the UK and there is very little snowfall, making it easier to enjoy the outdoor locations. Millennium square in the city hosts a wonderful ice skating rink which is the largest in the south-western of the region. This is one of the must-visit locations in the city during the winter season.
There is a Winter Wonderland in Bristol during winter which is a fun-packed place to visit for the kids. Clifton Bridge is the suspension bridge in the city and a walk up the bridge presents spectacular views of the city around and during winters, a beautiful sunset can be witnessed from this bridge.
Another must-visit location in Bristol is the Cabot Tower which is a 105ft tower situated in Brandon Park. A walk up the tower offers incredible views of the city during the Christmas season. The harbourside in the city hosts an excellent Christmas market with a beautiful harbour in the backdrop. During the Christmas season, many events are held in this area and it is very lively. People from the rest of the South West of the UK often visit Bristol to enjoy these events at the Bristol harbourside. Bristol is a two-hour train journey from London and is quite easy to visit.
Erfurt during Christmas – GERMANY
Suggested by: Scott from 4degreesofdestination.com
Erfurt is a picturesque city and the capital of the German state of Thuringia. Every time we return to Germany to visit family we plan a day trip here whether summer or winter. Its city centre has cobbled stone streets, trams for easy transportation and a diverse range of well-maintained architecture making this city a winter wonderland around Christmas time. If this doesn’t draw you in then their Christmas Market will.
Erfurt’s Weihnachtsmarkt is described as one of the best Christmas Markets in Germany and it’s easy to see why. The majority of the market takes place in Domplatz and it has the two churches of Erfurt Cathedral and St. Severus as its stunning backdrop.
At the entrance to the market, you are greeted by the traditional Erzgebirge Christmas pyramid which has 30 life-size wooden figures. Once inside there are streets with wooden huts which sell everything from local handicrafts to Christmas ornaments. These huts also offer local treats and if the smell doesn’t get you the taste certainly will. Christmas stollen, the famous Rostbratwurst (my favourite), gingerbread hearts, roasted almonds are just some of the delights along with a delicious mug of mulled wine. There’s an enormous Christmas tree decorated with candles, nativity scene, Christmas floral exhibition and an enchanted forest. You can spend hours walking around lost in its Christmas charm, it’s even more magical if you happen to be in the markets when it’s snowing.
For our kids they love the amusement park, you can buy tickets at the kiosk or pay at the ride itself. While the Ferris wheel is always a favourite you can’t go past the dodgem cars and the thrill rides. There is a ride here for everyone. Erfurt’s Weihnachtsmarkt really is the perfect place to feel the Christmas spirit.
Chisinau during Christmas – MOLDOVA
Suggested by: Ellis from Backpackadventures.org
If you love Christmas so much that you want to celebrate it twice you should visit Chisinau. Moldova has both the Western Christmas celebrations and those of the Russian Orthodox church at the beginning of January. The Christmas holidays, therefore, last much longer in Moldova than elsewhere in Europe.
Chisinau’s Christmas fair runs well into January until the Russian orthodox Christmas and new years are over. You will find the usual stuff you see in most European Christmas markets, but the local food makes it something unique. Moldova is famous for its wine and you can try Izvar. The Moldovan version of mulled wine. Or try placinta. Pastries filled with cherries, cheese or potatoes.
The city is at its best during Christmas, but it is also a good time to see the countryside. If you are lucky you get to see children going door to door to sing Christmas songs. This is how Christmas is traditionally celebrated in rural Moldova.
There are interesting day trips to some of Europe’s oldest and largest wine cellars. Milesti Mici has over 200 kilometers of wine storage and Cricova around 120. If you haven’t already tried Moldovan wine in Chisinau this is the best place to do so. Other day trips include beautiful orthodox monasteries like Orheiul Vechi.
For a European capital, Chisinau is extremely budget-friendly. While in other places prices go up during Christmas this is not necessarily the case in Chisinau. The costs for food and accommodation are very low making it a perfect destination to spend Christmas in Europe.
Cambridge during Christmas – ENGLAND, UK
Suggested by: Josh & Sarah from Veggie Vagabonds
To me, Christmas is all about chilly weather, traditional festivities, great food, cosy pubs and frosty mornings. If you want to experience all of these things in a traditional UK setting this winter then Cambridge is the perfect place.
It’s a winter destination that really has something to offer everyone. If you’re a history buff then you can marvel at the Cambridge University buildings, some dating back to 1301 and take a tour through the grounds. With 31 famous colleges dotted throughout the city; the architecture and grounds will blow your mind, especially on a frosty morning.
During the festive period, they become particularly alive with traditional choir services and performances. A chance to experience Evensong at King’s College Chapel is not to be missed, just remember to get there early, it’s free but there are limited spaces.
I recommend every visitor to go punting in Cambridge, it’s a quintessential part of the culture and a great way to experience university and local life. These classic wooden boats are pushed along the River Cam, right through the heart of the city, and can take you past world-famous landmarks like Trinity College, The Bridge Of Sighs and the Wren Library. If you get the chance to do this on a snowy day, with a flask of mulled wine, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more festive feeling!
In the run-up to the big day, the city centre comes alive with lights, events and festivities. Christmas markets pop up all over town, with food, drink, arts and independent craftwork and it’s also one of the best times to experience UK pubs. There’s no better time to visit than on a chilly December afternoon. Hang your coat up, try some of the local ales and warm up with some home-cooked food – perfect
The Best places I spent Christmas in Europe – Must see places in Europe in winter!
Salzburg during Christmas – AUSTRIA
One of the best places that I got to celebrate Christmas in Europe was in Salzburg, Austria. As a latina that was living in Linz, Austria, I totally enjoyed the different Christmas traditions of Austrians and, of course, the lovely Christmas Markets. While on the 25th most places are closed in Austria, you can still find the Residenz and Cathedral Square Christmas Market open (it is actually open until December 26th). There are other Christmas Markets as the one at the Mirabell Square, inside the Mirabell Palace (a Unesco World Heritage Site), which is only open until the 24th and closes on that day by 3:00pm. I got to enjoy both markets in Salzburg and to also eat beef goulash with knoedel (bread dumpling). It was just a quick 45-minute car ride from Linz into Salzburg. And one of my favorite things was making a pit stop by the lake Mondsee (means Moonsee in English), and enjoyed the picturesque view. Mondsee is on the way to Salzburg from Linz. It is such a beautiful place to just take a moment and take in the views.
While in Salzburg, I also got to walk around the Mozart plaza and see Mozart’s birthplace. In the Christmas Markets, you can find unique gifts, artisan crafts, traditional Austrian food (such as different kinds of sausages), fish, stuffed chicken, and other appetizers, such as cheese and meat plates, etc. There are also lots of sweets, such as roasted almonds, Christmas cookies, Bauernkrapfen (a fried dough (or for me, sort of like a donut) with jelly or powdered sugar on top), and of course Glühwein (mulled wine) and craft beers for those beer lovers. I also totally love the views from the Hohensalzburg Fortress. There is a Christmas market there as well, but it ends on December 23rd. Salzburg is a magical winter holiday destination, especially at Christmas time!
Berlin during Christmas – GERMANY
Berlin is such a cool, funky and trendy city. I also got to live there for some time and totally love the international community, having met so many digital nomads like myself. I enjoyed so much spending Christmas there because of the feeling of community and my new friends. There are so many expat events, especially potlucks where we each bring dishes from our country to celebrate the holidays.
There are also many wonderful Christmas Markets in Berlin. I recommend going with friends so that you can share and try different food and drinks. I got to visit most of them with my ex-roommate and also with other people that I connected with through groups I belonged to in meetup.com (groups for expats, writers, foodies, etc. – you name it!). One of my favorite Christmas Markets in Berlin has to be Gendarmenmarkt. It is such a beautiful square, surrounded by amazing architecture. As you look around, you will see the famous Konzerthaus, The Deutscher Dom (German Church), Franzosischer Dom (French Church) and, in the middle of the square, stands a statue of Germany’s renowned poet, Friedrich Schiller. I totally loved how everything looked so lit up and cute when they put up the Christmas Market. It just feels cozy and festive there. I also enjoyed eating all of the German traditional food and, of course, as a wine lover, I loved the Glühwein (mulled wine). Plus, they have some cool personalized gifts, artwork, artisans and amazing local fashion and accessories designers. As a fashionista, I fell in love with so many things; it’s a great place to shop! Christmas is a special time of the year to visit Berlin.
Another Favorite: Berlin Insider Tips: Visiting Berlin, Germany for the first time!
Madrid during Christmas – SPAIN
Last year, I got to spend Christmas in Madrid. A great place to be, even though it was quite cold and windy on the 25th and 26th. I had an amazing 24th where I went to Christmas Markets inside Plaza Mayor, went sightseeing around with a local friend and much more.
The food in Spain is always awesome. I went for tapas, wine and, of course, started my day with churros with chocolate and amazing coffee.
One of the highlights was spending Christmas Eve with the friends of my local friend. They were all from different parts of Latin America and some Spanish as well. We had a blast with amazing food, latin music, and there’s nothing like the hospitality of Latin American people. As a Latina, sometimes I miss that welcoming spirit. Madrid fulfilled that since it is a very international city as well, especially with people from Spanish speaking countries (my first language). Just like having a little piece of home, even if only for one evening.
Hope that you are feeling inspired!
I hope that this list of locations by top travel bloggers gives you some food for thought and inspires you to plan your next Christmas getaway to Europe. For us, these are some of the best places to spend Christmas in Europe, all must see places, especially during the Winter season.
What are your favorite places to celebrate Christmas in Europe? Did we miss your favorite one? Share your experience by commenting below; maybe you’ll inspire our next winter holiday getaway.
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Traveling to Europe for the winter holidays?
Everything you need to know before you go: Essential Travel Items to pack for Europe
IMPORTANT: Don’t forget to buy travel insurance whenever you travel since it is essential! I am a fan of World Nomads for short-term trips. Best to protect yourself from any possible injury, sickness and theft abroad.
- Pick up the Best of Europe Travel Guide by Rick Steves.
- Photos are critical for capturing moments, documenting memories and can make the most precious gifts! And since you’ll probably be snapping tons of them during your getaway, I would suggest getting a good quality mirrorless camera. It is not heavy to carry around, takes amazing pictures and, because it’s wifi enabled, I can send the photos straight to my mobile phone. The one that I personally use is: Sony Alpha 6000 Mirrorless Camera. The portraits lens that comes with the camera is amazing but, since I take so many photos for work, I also bought an additional lens – the 18-105mm.
- Pick up the Best of Europe Travel Guide by Rick Steves.
- I also recommend an action camera like the Go Pro Hero 6. Good for adventure travel, action shots, water sports shots and more.
- Weather can be unpredictable in almost every destination.This is why I always carry with me a small, lightweight umbrella and a raincoat.
- I always keep a big scarf in my bag, since it is helpful when it gets cooler in the evening, and it’s also a great accessory for my outfits, as a cover up especially when you need to go inside a spiritual or religious place. You never know! One of my favorite is an infinity scarf by Waypoint Goods, which has a secret Hidden Zipper pocket. You can hide money, your passport and any other valuables.
- I love to have a few sets of small earrings, because sometimes they tend to get lost.
- I always bring extra hair ties, pins and clips, in case the weather gets crazy, I can always pick up my hair.
- I prefer cross body travel bags. They are convenient, easy to access, transition well from day to night, as well as keeping you better protected from theft. I really like this one from Bagallini or this one from Lo and Sons.
- Waterproof boots – These are good regardless the weather.
- Comfortable walking sandals – For days with good weather.
- Earbuds – Perfect for listening to music during different stages of the trip.
- If you are a girl who loves make-up like myself, I totally recommend the Urban Decay Born to Run palette. It is what I always carry with me during my travels.
- For those of us who love answering emails, working or reading on the go: I cannot travel without my Amazon Fire Tablet HD 8. I have so many books on it from my kindle unlimited and it really keeps me entertained while on the go. Plus, it’s convenient for me to answer some emails and get some work done.