I might be biased, but I think there are some magical places to celebrate Christmas in Europe.
As a huge city break fan, I love better than wandering around a traditional Christmas market, trying the different food and buying gifts. Combine it with visiting somewhere new and I couldn’t think of anything better!
But, here’s the problem. Europe is full of incredible destinations that seem to come alive during the winter months so how do you choose somewhere to go?
Well, to help you plan a Christmas to remember, I’m sharing the best 75 places to celebrate Christmas in Europe.
In this very long blog post, you will find places to celebrate Christmas in …
Austria | Belgium | Croatia | Czech Republic | Denmark | Estonia | Finland | France | Germany | Hungary | Iceland | Italy | Lithuania | Malta | Moldova | Netherlands | Poland | Portugal | Romania | Russia | Slovakia | Slovenia | Spain | Sweden | Switzerland | United Kingdom
Places To Celebrate Christmas In Europe
A landlocked country in Central Europe, Austria is one of the first countries I think of when I think about a winter holiday in Europe.
Featuring breathtaking mountains and towns that look like they’ve come straight out of a fairytale, I think these four destinations are some of the best places to celebrate Christmas in Europe:
Nestled in the Austrian Alps, Kitzbühel is the perfect place to visit during the winter. A picture-perfect ski resort, it’s ideal for those of you looking for snow and never gets too crowded. On top of the skiing, there’s a traditional market dotted around a cobbled square where you can enjoy some reibekuchen (potatoes with apple sauce) and Austrian punch. If you visit during December, you can also walk down a Christmas alley with 40 decorated fir trees and fall in love with the town’s walkable Advent Calendar. Each day a different themed window is opened, with every door intricately decorated!
Innsbruck is one of Europe’s most loved winter destinations, and it’s for good reason. Famous for the unrivalled winter sports facilities, it has hosted the Winter Olympics twice, in 1964 and 1976. The city is surrounded by picture-perfect snow-capped mountains and you’ll be able to enjoy the festive vibe in the Old Town Market. Alternatively, visit the more modern Christmas market at Maria-Theresia-Strasse or enjoy the family atmosphere at the Innsbruck Marketplatz Market.
Has anyone else grown up watching The Sound of Music at Christmas? If so, step straight into the film and visit Salzburg for Christmas, after all, it is the birthplace of “Silent Night”! Home to one of the oldest Christmas markets in the world, Salzburg Christkindlmarkt dates back to 1491 and is full of traditions. Make sure you check the culture programme before you visit as the city hosts over 90 events during the festive period including an exhibition of Christmas mangers and processions of Perchten in terrifying masks and costumes!
Austria’s capital city, Vienna brings Christmas magic to life. Said to be one of the most beautiful Christmas markets in Europe, the city has 20 official markets as well as lots of small neighbourhood ones. When you’re not trying out local delicacies, make sure you pay a visit to the Snow Globe Museum in the 17th District and book a ticket for one of the incredible Christmas concerts, the most famous being “Christmas in Vienna” by the Vienna Boys Choir.
Located in Western Europe, Belgium is bordered by the Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg and France, so it’s of no surprise that all of these countries have an influence in the Christmas markets!
Known for its medieval towns and mouth-watering chocolate, Belgium is also a diamond hotspot, with more than half of the world’s consumption of diamonds traded in Antwerp. No wonder it has some of the best places to celebrate Christmas in Europe!
Stunning all-year-round, I honestly couldn’t think of anywhere better to spend Christmas than Bruges. A UNESCO World Heritage town, it really comes alive with the festive cheer of the Christmas market. Set in the shadows of the 272ft tall Belfy of Bruge, the market is the perfect place for foodies to try delicious waffles and mouth-watering chocolate. After all, when in Bruges! Once you’ve finished sampling the local cuisine, you can go ice skating or even see the sights on a horse and carriage ride!
Belgium’s capital city, Brussels becomes a hub of seasonal activity with the annual Christmas markets. Known as the ‘Winter Wonders’, the huge market spreads out between Grand Place and Place Sainte-Catherine. After trying a shot of ‘jenever’, a traditional Belgian liquor made from juniper berries, see the UNESCO World Heritage Site Grand Place illuminated with a light and sound show. Don’t forget to finish your visit with a ride on the Ferris Wheel at Place Sainte-Catherine and enjoy the best views of the city.
Known as the Gentse Winterfeesten, the Ghent Christmas market is an authentic affair that is less crowded than that in Brussels. The market has a nordic vibe with more than 150 wooden huts to explore. Enjoy the smell of pine as you wander around this Scandinavian-style Christmas village.
Bordering the Adriatic Sea, Croatia is at the edge of Central and Southeastern Europe. Becoming increasingly popular for summer getaways, it is equally as magical in the winter and has 2 of the best places to celebrate Christmas in Europe!
I actually visited Dubrovnik in October on the NCL Star and fell in love with the historic Old Town. It’s an amazing city to visit at any time of year, but during the festive season, you will be able to experience the magic of the Duovnik Christmas Fair. Held until the beginning of January, listen to the sounds of traditional Dubrovnik carols as you look at local handmade goods. You’ll also be able to try candied orange peels known as “arancini” and traditional Dubrovnik sweets such as “Kontonjata” which are made from quince cheese!
Voted the best Christmas market in Europe three times in a row, Zagreb is the perfect place to celebrate Christmas in Europe. See the huge Christmas tree in Ban Josip Jelačić Square be transformed by a light display and shop in the market in European Square. You’ll be able to sample traditional local food such as baked štrukle, a warm baked pastry dish with soft cheese. For those of you looking for a budget winter break, Zagreb gives plenty of value for money and is a great alternative to some of the more well-known Christmas markets.
Also known as Czechia, the Czech Republic is locating in Central Europe, bordering Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Poland.
A hilly landscape, it’s best known for stunning medieval cities and towns with breathtaking architecture such as its capital Prague. It’s also famous for hundreds of castles and being the home of the original Budweiser beer. No wonder, the Czech Republic has some of the best places to celebrate Christmas in Europe!
Inspired by the idea of a White Christmas, Brno’s Freedom Square is illuminated by 1000 small white lights. Aside from a traditional Christmas market and huge Christmas tree, you’ll also find a wooden nativity, Zoo Corner and even virtual reality workshops! Foodies will love visiting the Gourmet Christmas market that showcases the best of the cities successful restaurants in one place.
The market at Cesky Krumlov is much calmer than some of the larger ones in Europe but is still an excellent choice for a Christmas break. A UNESCO World Heritage town, visitors can pick up locally made goods and sample traditional food before checking out the different cultural events taking place during the holiday season. You can’t miss the Living Bethlehem which tells the biblical story and is narrated by local people through traditional music and dance.
One of the most famous Christmas markets in Europe, Prague is an amazing option for a winter city break. Every year the city is decorated with elements based on Czech traditions. Admire the golden angels and cherubs that hover above as you stand by the 22-metre tall Christmas tree and watch the light show that illuminates it every hour. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, make sure you visit the Christmas market and try Trdelník, a traditional hot sugar-coated pastry or Vánočka, a type of Christmas Bread.
When I think of Christmas, Scandinavia is never too far from my mind. Known as being one of the happiest countries in the world, Denmark is synonymous with the concept of hygge, the feeling of cosiness, wellness and contentment. It’s this lifestyle that makes its capital city one of the best places to celebrate Christmas in Europe.
Decorated in stunning Christmas decorations, Copenhagen has a special atmosphere during the Christmas holidays. Visitors will be able to shop in the quirky Christiania Christmas Market and admire the decorated waterfront district of Nyhavn. You’ll also be able to explore the second oldest amusement park in the world, Tivoli Gardens. After going on the rides, make sure you take part in the Royal Copenhagen’s Christmas table tradition, a 50-year old event that features six themed designer Christmas tables.
A Northern European country which borders the Baltic Sea, Estonia is a great choice for a winter city break.
Full of fairytale forests, beautiful lakes and magical castles, this former Soviet Union nation is one of the best places to celebrate Christmas in Europe.
Wandering through the cobbled medieval streets, it’s no wonder Tallinn’s old town is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site. It’s stunning! Christmas is a big thing in Tallinn and it was here that the world’s first public Christmas tree was erected in 1441. Go ice-skating on Harju Street, see the Christmas Village at the Estonian Open Air Museum and satisfy your sweet tooth at the Kalev Marzipan Museum room.
Known for its wilderness and wildlife, Finland is a winter wonderland. Bordering Sweden and Russia, it’s located in Northern Europe and is one of the few countries where you can see the magical Northern Lights. Unsurprisingly it has some incredible national parks and ski resorts making it one of the best places in Europe to celebrate Christmas.
Considered to be one of the top 10 Christmas markets in Europe, Helsinki is one of the best places to spend Christmas in Europe. Shop for locally made gifts at the Christmas Market at Senate Square before trying some traditional dishes in the food court. Finish the day by riding the beautiful old carousel or ice-skiing in Helsinki Ice Park.
Is there any better place to celebrate Christmas in Europe than in Lapland? Rovaniemi looks like it has come straight off the front of a Christmas Card so is it any surprise that Santa Claus lives only 8km away? In between reindeer and husky rides, snowmobile safaris and Northern Lights tours, take a trip to Santa Claus Village where you can visit the jolly old elf in his office. You’ll even be able to see an ice hotel, made entirely from snow and ice!
France is a country that really does have it all. Located in Western Europe, it has everything from Mediterranean beaches to world-class ski resorts. Known for fashion, food and incredible wine, it has some of the best places to celebrate Christmas in Europe, so many that I struggled to narrow it down to just a few!
Also known as “Little Venice”, this preserved 13th-century village is a hidden gem in France. Explore the maze of narrow streets lined with half-timbered houses and illuminated with twinkling Christmas lights. A great option for those looking to get away from the crowds, you’ll find traditional markets in all of the village’s squares.
The gourmet capital France, Lyon is an amazing choice for a winter foodie break. The Old Town, or Vieux Lyon, comes to life with the bustling cafes, bars and restaurants during the festive season. If you visit in December, make sure you experience the famous 4-day festival, “Fête des Lumières”. Celebrating the Virgin Mary who is said to have watched over the city and saved it from the plague in 1643, residents place a candle outside every window. There are also huge light displays every evening, creating an electric atmosphere.
If you love Christmas markets, you’ll be pleased to know there is one in all six of Metz’s main squares. Discover the perfect hand-crafted gifts for your friends and family in the Christmas pyramid before sampling locally-made gingerbread. After walking through the magical Sentiers des lanterns, have a ride on the merry-go-round or see the city from the Big Wheel.
Mulhouse has a strong industrial textile history and this takes centre stage during the Christmas festivities. Using decorations made from a unique fabric, beautiful lighting and lots of animations, the city has a cosy atmosphere all season. The unique fabric changes every year and you’ll be able to see everywhere from chalets to the Christmas Star.
Visiting Paris is always a good idea, but there is no better time to visit it than at Christmas. Known as The City of Light, it shines even brighter than usual thanks to the millions of lights illuminating the iconic monuments. Wander through the Christmas market, check out the elaborate window displays in the designer boutiques or even spend a few days at Disneyland Paris!
Just 45 minutes by TGV from Paris, Reims is an underrated Christmas destination in Europe. Located on the Parvis of the Cathedrale, 145 chalets showcase the best creators, food and drink the city has to offer. Once you’ve finished exploring, enjoy a glass of champagne on the big wheel or attend a carol concert at Notre-Dame Cathedral.
I think Germany has, without a doubt, some of the most popular and best places to celebrate Christmas in Europe. Situated in Western Europe, the country has a thriving art and nightlife scene, and is famous for events such as Oktoberfest. If you’re looking for a lively atmosphere with plenty of food and drink, Germany is the place to be.
Transformed by the lights and colours of Christmas, the seasonal celebrations of Aachen are a feast for your senses. The Aachen market is famous throughout Germany and the Christmas Market is no different. Take a ride on the carousel before trying traditional cakes and biscuits such as Domino Stones, Spekulatius and marzipan bread.
Germany’s capital city, Berlin is a cool and trendy city with a thriving nightlife that provides an amazing atmosphere come Christmas time. There are quite a few different markets in the city, but one of the best is Gendarmenmarkt. Enjoy live performances and see the famous Konzerthaus, The Deutscher Dom, Franzosischer Dom and Friedrich Schiller lit up with Christmas lights.
Also known as Köln, Cologne hosts one of the most famous Christmas markets in Germany. The birthplace of mulled wine, the city has no less than 7 Christmas fairs, each with their own unique character. Enjoy baked apples and cinnamon biscuits before taking a relaxing cruise on the Rhine.
Full of atmospheric features, Dusseldorf is one of the best places to celebrate Christmas in Europe. The Christmas Market is the perfect place to pick up unique and locally-made gifts before skating on the huge 1,700 square metre ice rink on Corneliusplatz. If you’re in need of some magic, make sure you visit the Fairy Tale Market which is sure to get you into the Christmas spirit.
A hugely underrated Christmas destination, Munich has everything you need for the perfect Christmas break in Europe. The Christmas market is spectacular, but you’ll also be able to visit one of around 100 museums. Sports fans will love that the city is less than 2 hours away from the Alps and the fairytale castles are close too!
Dating back to the early 1600s, the Nuremberg Christmas Market is steeped in history. Hosted in the Main Square at the foot of the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), you can browse candy-striped stalls selling goods and food. If you’re on the search for last-minute gifts, I recommend traditional little “smoker” men, carved figures that hold smoking incense inside. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, warm up with gluhwein (mulled wine) and local Nuremberg sausages, eaten three in a roll!
A small medieval town that looks like a fairytale winter wonderland, Rothenburg makes for an incredible Christmas trip. The town has hosted a Christmas Market since the 15th Century and still closely follows traditional customs. Winding through the narrow streets, you’ll be able to see a wide variety of local gifts as well as enjoy the traditional Christmas pastries.
Following the 300-year-old tradition, Stuttgart Christmas Market is one of the oldest and largest in Europe. Ornately decorated, over 280 stalls compete to be named as the Christmas Market’s most beautiful stall. After you’ve admired the market, make sure you head to the town hall which is transformed into a giant Advent Calendar. Every day a “door” is opened, revealing part of the coat of arms of Stuttgart’s boroughs.
Although Wiesbaden is quieter than nearby Frankfurt Christmas Market, it provides an authentic experience. Taking place around the Schlossplatz between the Market Church and the City Hall. Enjoy roast almonds, crepes and bratwurst before attending one of the Christmas concerts performed in the square.
Hungary is spectacular at any time of year but truly sparkles during Christmas time. Often said to boast Eastern Europe’s finest cuisine, if you’re looking to have a food experience on your Christmas break, Hungary is one of the best places to celebrate Christmas in Europe.
There are multiple Christmas Markets in Budapest, but the biggest and most popular is in Vörösmarty Square. After watching traditional folklore dance, taste some Hungarian dishes such as Lángos, a deep-fried bread topped with garlic, sour cream and grated cheese and the Hungarian chimney cake. Relax in the famous thermal baths before enjoying the largest 3D Christmas Projections in Europe.
A country of extreme natural beauty, Iceland looks like a picture-postcard during winter. Whilst it might not be the cheapest option for a city break, the range of winter activities make it one of the best places to celebrate Christmas in Europe.
Although Reykjavik is a relatively small city, there is plenty to do during the festive season. Wander the Yule Town Christmas market on Ingolfstorg, watch the lighting of the Oslo Christmas tree and even experience the tradition of the Yuletide Lads. In this tradition, children leave a shoe on a window sill in the hope that 13 scruffy Santas will leave a gift for them if they are good for the 13 nights before Christmas Day. You might also be lucky enough to watch orcas in the village of Grundarfjordur or even see the Northern Lights.
Italy is one of my favourite countries and it is truly one of the best places to celebrate Christmas in Europe. Known for its stunning architecture and delicious food, it has everything you need for the perfect winter city break.
Considered the Italian capital of Christmas, Bolzano is the perfect place to spend Christmas in Italy. Originally called Christkindlmarkt, around 80 exhibitors showcase Christmas goods whilst the city is illuminated with hundreds of lights. If you’re looking to try local delicacies, make sure you try Zelten of Bolzano, a type of Christmas cake.
Govone may be a small village in the wine region of Piedmont, however, it is also host to one of the most important Christmas events in Italy, Magico Paese di Natale. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the village transforms into the magic kingdom of Santa Claus with a great Christmas market, street food and even a Magic Kingdom Wine Shop. However, the main attraction is the incredible musical show of Santa Claus, performed every day in the stunning Savoy Royal Castle of Govone.
Milan is a beautiful city at any time of year, but it becomes something really special during the festive season. A huge market is held around the breathtaking Duomo of Milan selling everything from Christmas decorations and nativity cribs to traditional gifts and food. Once you’ve finished shopping, pay a visit to the Church of Santa Maria Delle Grazie before enjoying some Panettone.
Rome has been considered the centre of Christianity for centuries so it is obviously one of the best places to celebrate Christmas in Europe. However, the city becomes surprisingly less crowded during this time so it’s a great time to visit the top attractions and museums. You might even be able to participate in the Christmas Mass guided by the Pope. The celebrations continue well into the new year with one of the most popular and oldest taking place in Piazza Navona. Celebrating Befana, an old pagan lady who resembles a witch, it is said that she rolls sweets and charcoal down the chimneys on the night between the 5th and 6th January for good and bad children.
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If you dream of a Christmas in the sun, Sicily is a great option. Experience traditional Italian culture in quaint hill towns. Foodies will love trying locally-made cannoli, washing it down with award-winning red wine that is cheaper than apple juice!
Experience Venice without the crowds by spending Christmas in one of the most romantic cities in Europe. Illuminated with thousands of lights, even the gondoliers add decorations to their gondolas. Shop for stunning Murano glass Christmas ornaments, attend a classical concert and enjoy holiday aperitivo. Alternatively, visit in the middle of December to join in the annual Santa Claus run through Venice’s narrow streets!
Located in the Baltic region of Europe to the east of Sweden and Denmark, Lithuania is a great option for those looking for something a bit different. The only country in the world to have its own official scent, baroque architecture, vast forests and thousands of lakes make the country the perfect winter wonderland.
A hugely underrated Christmas destination, Vilnius is a great budget option. Wrap up warm and explore the International Christmas Charity Bazaar at Rotsue, check out the famous Wool House and admire the beautiful Cathedral Square Christmas Tree. You’ll love seeing the Old Town decorated for Christmas and will even be able to sample locally made honey cakes.
I have a love-hate relationship with cold winters so escaping to the sun is very tempting. However, the sun isn’t the only reason why Malta is one of the best places to celebrate Christmas in Europe. Known for its historic sites, it combines ancient ruins with natural beauty to create an unforgettable winter getaway.
What better way is there to celebrate Christmas than to sit in the sun with a cocktail in your hand? If you’re dreaming of Christmas on a beach but don’t want to travel too far, Valletta is for you. Take advantage of the mild weather (14-15 degrees Celsius) and visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Ggantija Temples, explore Gozo and even see the famous Blue Lagoon!
Moldova might not be the first country you think of when looking for a winter break, but its varied terrain, great vineyards and cultural heritage makes it one of the best places to celebrate Christmas in Europe if you’re travelling on a budget.
Moldova’s capital city, Chisinau is a must-visit for all Christmas lovers because you’ll actually get to celebrate it twice! Moldova celebrates both the Western Christmas celebrations and the Russian Orthodox church celebrations at the start of January. Try Izvar, the Moldovan version of mulled wine and Placinta, pastries filled with cherries, cheese or potatoes. You might also be able to take a day trip to some of Europe’s oldest and largest wine cellars such as Milesti Mici.
Known for its canals, tulip fields, windmills and cycling routes, you might think the Netherlands is best visited in Spring. However, it has some of the best places to celebrate Christmas in Europe, proving that it’s a great option for city breaks all year round.
It is always a lovely experience to walk along the canals in Amsterdam, but the experience becomes magical at Christmas. Illuminated with thousands of lights, see the Amsterdam Light Festival and the light sculptures designed by artists from around the world on a canal cruise. Alternatively, enjoy the traditional Christmas market at Museum Square before watching the Amsterdam Winter Parade.
Dordrecht is a hidden gem in Holland and one of the best places to celebrate Christmas in Europe. Much less crowded than other Christmas markets, enjoy over 200 stalls in the largest Christmas market in The Netherlands which is known for its cosy atmosphere. Covering a route of 2.5km, the market spreads across the historic city centre and surrounds landmarks such as the medieval Minister and Hollands longest shopping street, the Voorstaat.
One of the largest Christmas markets in the Netherlands, the Royal Christmas Fair in The Hague is not to be missed. Adorned with decorations and twinkling lights, you’ll be able to browse over 100 stalls all offering the best gifts the country has to offer. There is also a packed cultural programme planned including theatre groups and children’s choir so you will never be bored.
The oldest and largest subterranean Christmas market in Europe, Valkenburg is the centre of Dutch Christmas celebrations. Set in a labyrinth of passages of caves that lie underneath the town, visitors can see the residence of Santa Claus including his reindeer sleigh and a room full of presents. Back above ground, you’ll be able to watch the Christmas Parade will illuminated floats and costumed dancers. There’s also a culinary walking tour and the MergelRijk cave full of Christmas miniatures.
Located in Central Europe, Poland thrives during the Christmas celebrations. Known for its incredible hospitality, delicious food and cultural activities, it has everything you want for a winter city break.
Often called one of Europe’s most beautiful Christmas fairs Gdansk has an electric atmosphere. New elements are added every year, with this year’s addition being a 5-metre tall gate shaped like an Advent candle bridge with a viewing point on top. There is also a huge public advent calendar, a mistletoe corner and Lucky the talking Moose! You’ll find incredible street food in The Square of Good Wishes including polish pierogi and traditional Gdansk wafers. The entire fair is in aid of the Hospice Foundation and the St Nicholas Basilica so you can spread some goodwill at the same time!
Krakow Christmas Market is world-famous and the perfect choice for those of you travelling on a budget. Pick up some souvenirs including intricately decorated heart-shaped gingerbread or traditional hand-painted glass baubles. You’ll also be able to try pierogi, plum cakes or Grzaniec Galicyjski, a traditional Polish mulled wine with cinnamon, cloves and other warming spices. You can’t miss the Krakow Christmas Cribs Content that is unlike anything you have ever seen before.
Regarded as one the best Christmas markets in Poland, Wroclaw market is held on the Rynek Marquet Square and on the Place Solny. Visitors will be able to explore a three-level fairytale house with an observation deck and a small tower with an illuminated clock. Inside you can warm yourself by the fire and see the market from a different perspective. The city also has a number of parades including the traditional Christmas parade with Santa Claus and the Wroclaw elves parade.
Winter breaks don’t always have to mean cold climates as some the best places to celebrate Christmas in Europe happen to be great winter sun destinations. If you’re looking to celebrate the season on the beach, you don’t have to look any further than Portugal – sun, sea and seasons greetings.
Ok, so I’m cheating here. The Algarve isn’t a town or city, but forgive me, it is Christmas after all. For those wanting a warmer Christmas, the Algarve is the perfect destination. Relatively cheap in the winter months, this is a great option for some winter sun on a budget. Feast on traditional food such as octopus and lampreia de natal, a lamprey fish made entirely from egg yolks!
I am absolutely obsessed with Madeira and could think of nothing better than celebrate Christmas there. The island has one of the best music and entertainment scenes in Europe and you will be able to enjoy the famous Market Night, huge fireworks displays, the Funchal Road Race and the Twelfth Night celebrations.
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Ringed by the Carpathian Mountains, Romania is located in southeastern Europe. Although it is mainly known for the forested region of Transylvania, the clifftop Bran Castle and the legend of Dracula, it’s much more than this. Extremely good value for money, it makes for a great budget winter break and has some of the best places to celebrate Christmas in Europe.
Romania’s capital city, Bucharest is known for its vibrant Old Town which truly performs during the festive season. Complete your Christmas shopping along Victoriei Street or in the Baneasa Shopping Mall before catching a Christmas Show at the National Bucharest Theatre. Afterwards, admire the lights on Magheru Boulevard before enjoying a snowy walk through Tineretului Park and finishing at the Bucharest Christmas Market at Universitatii Square.
Are you fascinated by Transylvania as much as me? If so, why not enjoy the Christmas festivities in Cluj Napoca?! A celebration for the whole family, the Christmas Fair is like walking into a fairy tale, set at the foot of the church of Saint Michael. Go ice skating around the statue of Matia Corvin, enjoy traditional music or even board Santa’s Tram and take a tour of the city.
When I think of Christmas, I always think of people in warm coats and fur muffs in front of the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood so spending Christmas in Russia would be an absolute dream come true. Spanning two continents, Russia is absolutely huge but the western section has some of the best places to celebrate Christmas in Europe.
Considered to be the cultural capital of Russia, St. Petersburg is the ultimate place to spend Christmas in Europe. Transforming into a magical wonderland in the snow, it has an incredible festival atmosphere that is sure to get you into the holiday spirit. Admire the snow-capped domes, go for a troika ride and drink spiced gluhwein. You’ll also be able to watch processions and concerts amongst other events such as ice hockey at the Ice Palace.
A landlocked country in Central Europe, Slovakia is known for its mountainous landscape and medieval castles. With hill-top towns and picture-postcard ski resorts, it’s no wonder it has some of the best places to celebrate Christmas in Europe.
Located at the main Square and Hviezdoslav Square, the Christmas market in Bratislava is full of traditional performances and authentic local food. Go ice skating on one of the many ice skating rinks or attend a concert, opera or ballet performance. When you’ve worked up an appetite, try Lokša, dense salty pancakes and Medovina, a sweet and hot drink considered to one of the oldest alcoholic drinks of the Slavs.
Nestled between Italy and Croatia, Slovenia is a mountainous country in Central Europe. Known for its ski resort and lakes, the whole country comes alive with a magical atmosphere making it one of the best places to celebrate Christmas in Europe.
Bled is known as one of the prettiest fairytale towns in Europe. Sat next Lake Bled, a glacial lake fed by hot springs, the town has a church-topped islet and a cliffside medieval castle to explore. It’s great in summer, but even better in winter when you can take part in activities such as skiing, skating and snowboarding. If you visit on 25th December you will also be able to watch the local tradition of the sunken bell of Slovenia. Every year, people gather around to water the luminous bell slowly sink into the lake celebrating an old legend.
Spain will always be one of my favourite countries in the world but did you know it has some of the best places to celebrate Christmas in Europe? Known for its beautiful beaches and spectacular sunshine, it might not be the first country you think to visit in winter, but it makes for the perfect winter city break.
I am absolutely obsessed with Barcelona and I’d love to live here one day. A thriving coastal city, Barcelona takes on a whole different vibe when it is decorated with Christmas lights. Check out the Christmas display at Corte Ingles on Plaza Catalunya before heading to the biggest Christmas market, the Fira de Santa Llúicia. It’s at this market that you’ll find cute looking logs with faces and hats on called Caga Tió, meaning the poo uncle. Children cover him in a blanket and feed him in the lead up to Christmas then, on Christmas Eve the log gets beaten until he releases the presents. There’s also a huge parade that takes place on the evening of the 5th January, with celebrations ending on 6th (King’s Day).
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I fell in love with The Canary Islands this year and, if you want warm weather at Christmas, there is no better place to visit in Europe. All of the islands make for a great winter sun break, but Gran Canaria is particularly good for Christmas. It’s easy to get to and you can usually get good deals from the UK too!
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If you want to visit a Christmas market with a difference, the one in Madrid is a good option. A huge antique, artworks and collectables fair is being held with over 12,000 items. You’ll find everything from vintage items from the 1960s to archaeological items. It’s the perfect place to shop for one-off gifts during the festive season.
Following the turning of the lights on Larios Street, which is always extremely popular, Malaga becomes a hub of festive activity. Showcasing the best of Spanish hospitality, you’ll be able to experience some traditional events including the procession of the Three Wise Men of the Orient which sees the men give more than a million sweets from the floats as well as toys and gifts. When you’re not taking part in events, try some local delicacies including mantecados (a type of shortbread), turrón (nougat), and borrachuelos (Malaga wine-flavoured fried pastries).
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Palma de Majorca
Another great option for a warm Christmas, Palma de Majorca combines the best of Spanish island life with festive cheer. Around 10 degrees warmer than other European cities, you’ll be able to wander the market without the cold winter chill. If you are heading to Palma, make sure you visit Palma Cathedral for its incredible Midnight Mass which is guaranteed to get you into the spirit of Christmas.
Known for its incredible culture and world-class gastronomy, Seville is one of the best places in Europe to celebrate Christmas. Blessed with warm weather, you’ll be able to walk around the market and listen to choirs, known as campanilleros. Thousand of people visit here during the holidays and one the highlights are the many Nativity Scenes scattered through the city.
With vast forests, glaciated mountains and endless lakes, Sweden transforms into a wonderland in the winter. Known for its Scandi lifestyle and of course, ABBA, it has some of the best places to celebrate Christmas in Europe.
Located far in the north, there is a good chance you’ll get to experience a white Christmas if you visit Stockholm. Built on 14 islands, join the locals and go ice skating on the frozen waterways before exploring the Christmas market in Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s Old Town. Meatballs and gingerbread are the top foods to try and watching the Christmas show with Richard Soderberg is a must.
Chances are, if you’re thinking of the best places to celebrate Christmas in Europe, Switzerland won’t be too far from your mind. Known for the high peaks of the alps, beautiful lakes and picture-perfect villages, it’s everything you could want for Christmas in the snow.
Often named as one of Switzerland’s most beautiful and largest Christmas cities, Basel is the perfect choice for a winter break. During the festive season, the streets are lined with around a hundred tall pine trees, illuminating the well-preserved Old Town. Located in the centre of the city, the Basel Christmas Market features over 160 traders and you’ll be able to admire the huge Christmas tree with ornaments made by the famous decorator Johann Wanner. Make sure you find time to try some of the culinary delights on offer including Basel Läckerli (a type of gingerbread) and Swiss raclette.
If you’re dreaming of a white Christmas, nowhere is better than spending it in Bern. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bern’s streets provide the perfect setting for the Christmas Markets. At the market, you’ll be able to find regional crafts and baked goods, all in the shadow of the Cathedral. Explore the decorated arcades, known as Lauben or the Old Town’s underground cellar shops and restaurants before making your own Fondue at Platzhirsch.
Lit up by thousands of lights, the whole of Lake Geneva seems to slow during Christmas time. Shops and stalls line the streets at Genève Marché International de Noel which has an atmosphere like no other. Wander down Rue du Marche and Rue de Rive before visiting some of the many international exhibitors for the best food from around the world.
Searching for a town that looks like the front of a Christmas card? A trip to Grindelwald is for you! One of the prettiest villages in Europe, it has been featured in countless films including The Golden Compass, with the surrounding mountains shown in Star Wars: Episode II – Revenge of the Sith. With stunning decorations lining the streets, it has a cosy, romantic vibe and you can even get a train to the ‘Top of Europe’!
With themed areas around the city centre, Lausanne is a great place to celebrate Christmas in Europe. Explore the historic alleys lined with shops or spend time in Bô Noël which overlooks the city and the lake. Depending on when you visit Lausanne you might also be able to take part in the annual festival lights which features plenty of activities to help you give you that festive feeling.
Located on the banks of Lake Geneva, the Christmas festival at Montreux, known as Montreux Noel, is a must if you are are in Switzerland over the holiday period. There are lots of activities organised including light shows and medieval Christmas celebrations at the UNESCO listed Chillon Castle. Explore the seemingly endless Christmas Markets located on the banks of the lake and even wander into an Eleves Village to see Santa Claus fly over Lake Geneva in his sleigh!
Known as “The City of Stars” during the Advent season, St Gallen comes alive with 700 twinkling stars. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, you’ll be able to see a huge Christmas tree in the Abbey, decorated with 18,000 lights, before browsing over 70 huts and stands that make up the Christmas Market. Make sure you find time to experience the Chlausritt, a parade through the city that features angels, Santa’s helpers and, of course, Father Christmas himself.
So, I may be a *little* biased, but I honestly think the UK has some of the best places to celebrate Christmas in Europe. Combining European markets with UK traditions, you’re bound to find somewhere that is the perfect place for you.
One of the most popular events in the UK, Bath is home to a huge 18-day Christmas shopping extravaganza. Featuring 170 wooden chalets in the heart of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, over 70% of the stallholders are from the local area, with 60% of the goods being made in the UK!
I’m just going to come out and say it: I am obsessed with Edinburgh. From the historic streets of it’s Old Town to the shopper’s paradise in the New Town, it has everything you need for a memorable Christmas break in the UK. In the lead up to Christmas you’ll find a vibrant Christmas Market in Princess Street Gardens, but if you can, stay in the city for NYE and experience one of the biggest NYE parties in the world, Hogmanay.
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With glittering department stores and the magical Winter Wonderland, you can’t go wrong by visiting London this Christmas. You’ll find a huge Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square and Covent Garden, but head to Hyde Park and have fun at the fair in Winter Wonderland. Once you’ve finished make sure you go skating at the National History Museum or Somerset House, where you might even spot a few celebs on the ice!
As a Mancunian, I had to include Manchester in my list of the best places to celebrate Christmas in Europe. Hosting the original and biggest Christmas Market in the UK, the whole city comes alive with seasonal cheer in the winter. Browse over 300 beautiful crafted stalls before visiting the Ice Village and admiring the many breathtaking ice sculptures on display.
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York is another one of my favourite places in the UK and I actually spent my birthday there this year. A stunning, historic city, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped foot into ‘A Christmas Carol’ when you shop on the Shambles which has been voted ‘the Best Street in Britain’! Warm yourself by the fire in a huge canvas tipi before admiring the stunning York Minster during a festive service, with the ‘Nine Lessons and Carols’ being a locals must-do!
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And we made it!
Now you know 75 best places to celebrate Christmas in Europe the only thing left to do is to choose one!
Have you visited any of the places I’ve mentioned? Where is your favourite place to celebrate Christmas in Europe? Let me know in the comments below!
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