Christmas in Europe is synonym with snow, time-honored traditions, Gothic churches with fabulous choirs, and charming medieval squares brought to life by colorful Christmas stalls.
Some cities celebrate Christmas in grand style, others with peculiar customs and yuletide nostalgia aplenty, and some of them are simply at their finest during this time of the year. Check them out and get in the holiday spirit!
7. Vienna, Austria
It’s hard to find a city that celebrates Christmas with such grace and elegance like Vienna. The sparkling, elegant Christmas markets, the café culture, and the old-world charm on the streets give the city a magical appeal, while its imperial architecture — basked in twinkling lights — makes for a wonderful backdrop for a fun-filled winter break.
Indulge in glühwein, sausages, and freshly baked pastries at Vienna’s ubiquitous Christkindlmarkts; go ice skating on Rathausplatz; pay a visit to the Snow Globe Museum in the 17th District; or attend one of the legendary Christmas concerts held in the city’s sumptuous churches during this time of year.
6. Copenhagen, Denmark
Christmas finds Copenhagen brimming with shining lights, festive spirit, and hyggelige cafés, where inventive design and legendary Danish coziness blend harmoniously to make your experience unique.
Adorned with Christmas markets and tasteful decorations, the entire city radiates a special kind of atmosphere. But no other place in town is wrapped up in Christmas magic like the world-famous Tivoli Gardens. Each year, the second oldest amusement park on the planet is transformed into a winter wonderland with spectacular Christmas light displays, exciting rides, and sweet little stalls selling all kinds of gifts and traditional goods.
Complement your Christmas in Copenhagen with a stroll along the beautifully decorated waterfront district of Nyhavn; visit the quirky Christiania Christmas Market; or take part in the Royal Copenhagen’s Christmas table tradition – a 50-year-old event featuring six designer Christmas tables, each with its own story and significance.
5. Rovaniemi, Lapland
With its otherworldly frosty landscapes, brightly lit Christmas trees, and elaborate ice sculptures, there’s no doubt Rovaniemi is the most christmassy place on Earth. And the fact that Santa Claus himself lives only 8 km away only adds to the city’s magical allure.
In addition to the postcard-perfect pink-hued mornings and the vibrant Santa Claus Village — which is clearly the city’s main draw — Rovaniemi offers visitors an eclectic array of museums and an even greater choice of winter activities, including exciting reindeer and husky rides, snowmobile safaris, and spectacular Northern Lights tours.
4. Nuremberg, Germany
There’s no better time to visit Nuremberg than during the Christmas season, when the city turns into a genuine winter fairytale. Home to one of the oldest and most spectacular Christmas markets in Germany, hence the world, this picturesque medieval town in Bavaria welcomes its visitors with an extravaganza of Christmas goods, traditions, and activities.
The lavishly decorated stalls peppered around the city’s medieval squares offer everything from toys, lebkuchen (the famous local gingerbread), old-fashioned wooden Ferris wheels, and glühwein booths to high-quality handmade arts and crafts such as candle chimes and foil-winged angels.
In addition to its fabled Christkindlesmarkt, Nuremberg has a long toy making tradition, and this can be best observed in the city’s Toy Museum.
3. Strasbourg, France
Home to the oldest Christmas market in France, a magnificent Gothic cathedral, and a charming UNESCO-listed Old Town, the quaint city of Strasbourg near the border with Germany is a fantastic destination for your winter trip. You’ll definitely love the delightful Marchés de Noël set up across Strasbourg’s historical plazas and the elaborate displays that adorn the city’s half-timbered houses each year.
In the shadow of its mighty cathedral, you’ll find nearly 300 traditional wooden stalls packed with lovely Christmas tree ornaments, eye-catching Nativity figurines, and heartwarming seasonal specialties such as roasted chestnuts, bredele cookies, or vin chaud (mulled wine). The atmosphere comes alive with carol singing, Nativity plays, and glistening ice skating rinks that you would hardly resist the temptation to jump on.
2. Prague, Czech Republic
Prague, the Gothic fairytale of Europe, celebrates Christmas with glam and grandeur, its breathtaking architecture providing a truly dramatic backdrop for sipping scented mulled wine, taking a sightseeing tour, or getting lost in the Christmas shopping frenzy.
The biggest, oldest, and most impressive Christmas market in Prague is the one set in the Old Town Square, at the foot of the Church of Our Lady before Týn. Nevertheless, those held in Wenceslas Square and Náměstí Míru are equally appealing.
The cheerful, beautifully decorated wooden huts of Prague Christmas Market are jam-packed with all sorts of festive goodies, from craft gift items and beautiful Christmas tree ornaments to typical Czech delicacies such as spit roasted hams or Trdelník, a traditional hot sugar coated pastry. The entire scene is animated by music, lights, animal stables, and nativity scenes.
1. London, England
Dazzling street illuminations, fabulous window displays, and tons of festive fun make London one of the best Christmas cities in Europe. It really couldn’t be otherwise!
As the setting of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, the capital is brimming with stunning skating rinks, Victorian themed events, and magical carol concerts that will melt any Grinch’s heart.
Get into the holiday spirit at Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland; attend a memorable performance in glorious surroundings at St Paul’s Cathedral or the Royal Albert Hall; and pay a visit to the Kew Gardens in West London for lovely seasonal shopping, delicious treats, and some of the most spectacular Christmas lights you’ll ever see.
If Christmas shopping in London is your priority, you will be spoiled for choice in the city’s wonderfully creative fairs. The charming Christmas Market at Tate Modern is overflowing with handmade wooden toys, festooned gingerbread, and beautiful traditional decorations, while Hyper Japan at Tobacco Dock makes an excellent spot to buy unique, exotic gifts, feast on sushi and sake, and take part in all sorts of interesting workshops.
If you’re more into one-off design goods, head to Mile End’s Ecology Pavilion, where over 50 artists display their unique homemade creations, from homeware and ceramics to art, clothing, and jewelry.
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