The twinkling lights, the scent of roasted chestnuts, and the sound of carolers singing in the streets – there’s something undeniably enchanting about spending Christmas in Europe. As winter blankets the continent, Europe’s cities and towns transform into holiday wonderlands, each offering its unique blend of festive traditions, culture, and charm.
Here are some of the best Christmas destinations in Europe that you can consider for your holiday trip.
You can check out our other round-up for the Top 10 Cheapest Destinations in Europe.
Vienna, Austria – A Symphony of Christmas Delights
A Symphony of Christmas Delights: Nestled along the Danube River, Vienna welcomes the holiday season with open arms. Its Christkindlmarkt, or Christmas market, at Rathausplatz, is a sight to behold. Adorned with sparkling lights and beautifully crafted stalls, it’s the perfect place to indulge in delicious Austrian pastries and shop for handcrafted gifts.
Visit the Schönbrunn Palace, which is often adorned with festive lights and decorations during Christmas. Inside, you can explore the Christmas Market at the Habsburg Palace, where you’ll find handmade crafts and culinary delights. Don’t miss trying traditional Austrian Christmas sweets like Maroni (roasted chestnuts), Lebkuchen (gingerbread), and Vanillekipferl (vanilla crescent cookies). You can also savor a cup of hot Glühwein (mulled wine) to warm up.
The Belvedere Palace hosts a charming Christmas market in its gardens, featuring artisanal goods and regional delicacies. The backdrop of the palace and its gardens adds to the enchanting ambiance.
If you’re lucky, you might catch a performance by the world-renowned Vienna Boys’ Choir at one of the city’s churches or concert halls.
Strasbourg, France – The Capital of Christmas
Known as the “Capital of Christmas,” Strasbourg in France is a fairy tale come to life. Its Christkindelsmärik in Place Broglie is one of the oldest Christmas markets in Europe, offering visitors a taste of Alsatian culture and traditions. Meander through the cobbled streets, admire the stunning Strasbourg Cathedral and savor some flammekueche (a local specialty) as you soak in the festive atmosphere.
Visit La Petite France: This picturesque neighborhood, with its half-timbered houses and canals, is especially charming when dusted with snow. It’s a great place for a winter stroll and to enjoy the city’s historic ambiance.
Consider taking day trips to nearby towns in the Alsace region, which also offer their own unique charm in winter. Colmar, for example, is known for its well-preserved medieval old town.
Rovaniemi, Finland – Meet Santa Claus in His Hometown
For those seeking a truly magical experience, Rovaniemi, Finland, is the ultimate Christmas destination. Rovaniemi is known for its stunning winter landscapes with snow-covered forests, frozen rivers, and pristine white expanses. It’s also the “Official Hometown of Santa Claus,” where you can meet the jolly man himself at Santa Claus Village.
You can visit Santa in his office, take photos with him, and even send postcards with a special Arctic Circle postmark. The Santa Claus Village is open year-round, but it’s especially magical during Christmas when it’s beautifully decorated with lights and festive decorations.
Rovaniemi experiences a snowy and cold winter during Christmas, making it the perfect destination for various winter activities. You can go dog sledding, snowmobiling, ice fishing, and even try your hand at ice swimming for a unique and invigorating experience.
Prague, Czech Republic – A Fairytale Christmas
Prague’s historic Old Town Square transforms into a winter wonderland during the holiday season. The towering Christmas tree and the beautifully decorated market stalls create an enchanting scene. Sip on hot mulled wine, explore the charming Old Town, and be sure to attend a classical music concert in one of Prague’s historic churches for a truly unforgettable Christmas in Europe.
Another iconic location, Wenceslas Square, hosts its own Christmas market, offering a variety of goods, food, and a festive atmosphere.
Enjoy a winter walk up Petrin Hill for panoramic views of Prague covered in snow (if you’re lucky). There’s a miniature Eiffel Tower at the top, and it’s a peaceful escape from the city’s hustle and bustle.
Cologne, Germany – Where the Scent of Gingerbread Fills the Air
Cologne boasts several enchanting Christmas markets, with the one at Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom) being the most iconic. The towering cathedral provides a stunning backdrop to the market’s festive lights and stalls. Sample traditional German treats like bratwurst and gingerbread cookies as you browse the unique crafts and gifts.
Another popular Christmas market in Cologne is the Alter Markt in the Old Town (Altstadt). It features a charming, nostalgic atmosphere with a carousel and a large Christmas tree.
Edinburgh, Scotland – A Hogmanay to Remember
While Edinburgh is renowned for its New Year’s celebrations, its Christmas market in Princes Street Gardens is equally delightful. The ice skating rink, the Big Wheel, and the stunning views of Edinburgh Castle create a festive atmosphere like no other. Warm up with a dram of Scotch whisky and savor traditional haggis to experience a Scottish Christmas.
Edinburgh’s high street, Princes Street, is lined with shops where you can find unique gifts and festive treats. Multrees Walk is home to luxury boutiques for a high-end shopping experience.
While not specifically Christmas, Edinburgh’s famous Hogmanay celebration is a must-see event during the holiday season. It includes a torchlight procession, a massive street party, and a spectacular fireworks display to ring in the New Year.
Valencia, Spain – A Mediterranean Christmas Fiesta
Valencia is a great choice if you prefer a warmer climate for your Christmas vacation.