The holiday season in Europe is a time when the continent dons its festive attire and becomes a winter wonderland. The air is crisp, the streets are adorned with twinkling lights, and the aroma of freshly baked gingerbread wafts through the air.
It’s a magical time when Europe comes alive with the spirit of Christmas, and you can’t help but be enchanted.
In this article, we’re going to embark on a journey through the 10 best places to visit in Europe during Christmas. But this won’t be your typical travel guide – it’s a heartfelt invitation to experience the joy, warmth, and charm of Christmas in Europe through my own personal lens.
So, whether you’re a seasoned traveler or someone dreaming of a European holiday, come with me as we explore these enchanting destinations where Christmas is a time for making unforgettable memories and feeling like a kid again.
Best Places to Visit in Europe During Christmas
1. Strasbourg, France
Strasbourg, often referred to as the “Capital of Christmas,” is a fairytale destination during the holiday season. This charming city, located in the Alsace region of France, comes alive with festive spirit, transforming into a winter wonderland.
The heart of Strasbourg’s Christmas celebrations is its famous Christmas market, Christkindelsmärik, which dates back to 1570 and is one of the oldest in Europe.
The historic city center is adorned with thousands of twinkling lights, colorful decorations, and intricately designed wooden stalls selling handmade ornaments, crafts, and delectable Alsatian treats like gingerbread and mulled wine.
The centerpiece is the towering Christmas tree at Place Kléber, adding to the enchanting atmosphere. Strasbourg’s blend of French and German traditions, combined with its festive ambiance, makes it a magical Christmas destination.
2. Vienna, Austria
Vienna, the capital of Austria, is renowned for its classical music, imperial history, and grand architecture, and it becomes even more captivating during the Christmas season.
The city’s Christmas markets, or “Christkindlmärkte,” are legendary and offer a delightful experience. The largest and most famous is the Vienna Christmas World at Rathausplatz, set against the backdrop of the magnificent Vienna City Hall.
Visitors can stroll through rows of beautifully adorned stalls, savor traditional Austrian pastries, and enjoy the aroma of roasted chestnuts and mulled wine. The city’s historic palaces, including Schönbrunn and Belvedere, are adorned with festive lights, and their courtyards often host enchanting Christmas markets as well.
Don’t miss the Vienna Boys’ Choir Christmas concerts or a classical music performance at one of the city’s renowned venues, making Vienna a city that truly embodies the magic of Christmas.
3. Prague, Czech Republic
Prague, with its historic Old Town Square and fairy tale-like architecture, is a captivating destination year-round, but it takes on a special charm during the Christmas season. The city’s Christmas markets, particularly the one in the Old Town Square, are a highlight.
The square is adorned with a towering Christmas tree, and the surrounding stalls offer handcrafted gifts, traditional Czech foods like trdelník (a sweet pastry), and warm drinks like svařák (mulled wine). The beautifully lit Charles Bridge and Prague Castle create a picturesque backdrop for the city’s festive celebrations.
Make sure you take a scenic stroll along the Vltava River or attend a classical music concert to enjoy the holiday spirit. Prague’s historic ambiance and rich culture make it an enchanting destination for a European Christmas getaway.
4. Tallinn, Estonia
Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, is a hidden gem among European Christmas destinations. Its charming medieval Old Town transforms into a winter wonderland during the holiday season. The heart of the city’s festivities is the Tallinn Christmas Market, set in the picturesque Town Hall Square.
Make sure you go explore this magical market filled with traditional Estonian handicrafts, holiday treats like gingerbread cookies and mulled wine, and a beautifully decorated Christmas tree.
The medieval architecture of the Old Town is adorned with twinkling lights, creating a fairytale-like atmosphere. Don’t miss the opportunity to sample sauerkraut and blood sausage, Estonian holiday specialties. Tallinn’s cozy, historical ambiance and unique Christmas traditions make it a perfect destination for a festive escape.
5. Bruges, Belgium
Bruges, often referred to as the “Venice of the North,” is known for its picturesque canals, medieval architecture, and chocolate shops. During Christmas, Bruges transforms into a storybook destination with its charming Christmas markets.
The main market is located in the city’s Grote Markt (Market Square) and features beautifully decorated wooden stalls offering Belgian chocolates, lace, crafts, and festive food.
During this time of the year, couples usually prefer to take a romantic horse-drawn carriage ride through the cobblestone streets, enjoy ice skating in the historic center, and marvel at the stunning medieval architecture, which is lit up for the season.
The town’s elegant buildings reflect in the calm waters of the canals, creating a magical atmosphere that’s perfect for immersing yourself in the holiday spirit.
6. Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a charming medieval town in Bavaria, Germany, is often described as the quintessential Christmas town. The town’s Christmas market, known as the “Reiterlesmarkt,” transports you back in time with its traditional atmosphere.
Stroll through the cobbled streets adorned with festive decorations and discover stalls selling handcrafted ornaments, toys, and delectable German treats like bratwurst and roasted almonds.
The town’s iconic medieval architecture, such as the medieval city walls and half-timbered houses, provides a magical backdrop. One of the highlights is the “Käthe Wohlfahrt” Christmas store, which offers an incredible selection of holiday decorations and gifts. Rothenburg’s commitment to preserving its historical charm and traditions makes it an unforgettable Christmas destination.
7. Stockholm, Sweden
Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, comes alive with festive cheer during the holiday season. The city’s Christmas markets, such as the one in Gamla Stan (the Old Town), offer a wide array of handicrafts, Swedish delicacies, and warm beverages.
The market in Stortorget Square features a grand Christmas tree as its centerpiece, surrounded by colorful stalls.
Go and enjoy ice skating in Kungsträdgården Park, explore the beautifully lit streets, and take a scenic boat tour through the archipelago. Stockholm’s rich history and unique blend of modernity and tradition create a captivating Christmas experience in a city surrounded by water and illuminated by the warm glow of holiday lights.
8. Edinburgh, Scotland
Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, is known for its historic charm and vibrant cultural scene, and it truly shines during the Christmas season. The city’s Christmas celebrations are marked by the Edinburgh Christmas Market, located in East Princes Street Gardens.
Visitors can wander through the market’s stalls, which offer an array of festive goods, traditional Scottish treats, and unique gifts. Edinburgh Castle provides a stunning backdrop with its majestic presence on Castle Rock, especially when illuminated at night.
Don’t miss the Royal Mile, where you can enjoy street performances and explore charming shops. The highlight of Edinburgh’s Christmas festivities is the Hogmanay celebration, a massive New Year’s Eve party that includes fireworks, live music, and a torchlight procession, making it a wonderful destination to ring in the New Year.
9. Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona, a city known for its distinctive architecture and vibrant culture, offers a unique Christmas experience that combines Catalan traditions with a Mediterranean flair. The heart of the city’s holiday celebrations is the Fira de Santa Llúcia, a lively Christmas market held in front of the Barcelona Cathedral.
Tourists can shop for nativity scene figures, traditional Catalan Christmas decorations, and enjoy live music and dance performances. The city’s iconic landmarks, such as Sagrada Família and Park Güell, are illuminated for the season, creating a magical atmosphere.
Barcelona also has its own version of the Epiphany celebration called “La Cavalcada de Reis,” where the Three Wise Men parade through the city distributing gifts. The mild Mediterranean climate adds to the allure of celebrating Christmas in Barcelona.
10. Copenhagen, Denmark
Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, embraces the holiday season with a sense of hygge (coziness) that makes it a charming Christmas destination. The city’s Tivoli Gardens, one of the world’s oldest amusement parks, transforms into a winter wonderland during December.
Visit the park’s festive lights, indulge in Danish pastries, and enjoy thrilling rides and attractions. Copenhagen’s Nyhavn Harbor is beautifully adorned with colorful lights and Christmas decorations, making it a picturesque spot to explore.
The city’s historic city center is also home to several Christmas markets offering unique Danish crafts and delicious seasonal treats.
A must-try is the traditional Danish Christmas lunch, “julefrokost,” featuring an array of smørrebrød (open-faced sandwiches) and schnapps. Copenhagen’s blend of Scandinavian charm and festive spirit creates a warm and welcoming atmosphere for holiday travelers.