Best Christmas Cities in Europe: Xmas Destinations

Best Christmas Cities in Europe: Xmas Destinations in 2024

You may be dreaming of snow-dusted streets or Christmas markets full of lights. Are you ready to experience the holiday magic? Have you planned a trip, maybe to another country? So pack your bags!

We’ll guide you through the top destinations for Christmas.

What Makes Christmas Cities a Place to Spend Holidays

Christmas brings a special magic. The festive season transforms everything into something more captivating. In Europe, Christmas excitement turns cities into real-life fairytales.

Picture the inviting aromas of warm wine and roasted almonds. Chilly December evenings will become warmer with the Christmas atmosphere. European cities like Strasbourg, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Cologne, and Tallinn come alive with festive cheer. If you visit any of them, you’ll find stunning decorations.

Best Cities to Spend Christmas in Europe

Let’s see what makes the cities in Europe for Christmas special during the holiday season.

London, United Kingdom

During the Christmas holidays, London becomes a winter wonderland, notably at Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland. For instance, the streets of Oxford and Regent sparkle with festive lights. What else? You can capture the holiday spirit by attending classic Christmas shows like “The Nutcracker” and concerts at the Royal Albert Hall. Also, you’ll explore the Southbank Centre Winter Market for unique gifts and traditional food. Don’t miss the Christmas Eve service at Westminster Abbey or the Boxing Day sales. It’ll be a true London holiday experience.

Munich, Germany

Munich shines with the Marienplatz Christmas Market, a magnificent tree, and live music. The Medieval and Pink Markets and the Tollwood Winter Festival are worth visiting. Enjoy Christmas concerts and the charming Christmas tram. Or, delve into history at the Christmas museum. Are you a fan of outdoor activities? Then the scenic Olympic Park in Muhich will be on your list. You can try ice skating and sledding in the scenic Olympic Park. But first, warm up with traditional gingerbread, stollen, and glühwein.

Rovaniemi, Finland

What’s more adventurous at Christmas than visiting Santa Claus Village? It’ll be a magical encounter with Santa and unique postcards. Moreover, you’ll also be able to witness the breathtaking Northern Lights and explore the rich Lappish culture. Ready for an Arctic experience? Enjoy Christmas festivities with winter activities.

Prague, Czech Republic

Prague has a rich history and diverse architecture. The city also provides a picturesque backdrop for Christmas. Explore its vibrant culture and art scene. Don’t forget to taste the traditional Czech cuisine and beers. You’ll miss a lot! Moreover, Prague’s green spaces and engaging activities make the city a perfect family destination.

Copenhagen, Denmark

Amusement parks in Copenhagen, like Tivoli Gardens, are a delight during Christmas. You can visit the royal palaces and explore the city’s sustainability efforts. In addition, enjoy traditional Danish cuisine and explore renowned museums.

Salzburg, Austria

A Christmas visit to Salzburg can be a reason to celebrate Mozart’s legacy in his birthplace. Music will be filling the air. For architectural marvels, remember to visit the Hohensalzburg Fortress and Salzburg Cathedral. Salzburg is full of cultural richness. You can visit the Sound of Music tour and the Salzburg Festival. However, the city is not over. Don’t miss the fun at the salt mines and Hellbrunn Palace.

Colmar, France

In Colmar, you can wander through Colmar’s picturesque old town and Little Venice. Also, it’s possible to discover art at the Unterlinden and Bartholdi Museums. You’ll find a blend of French and German cuisines in Colmar. For a festive atmosphere in the city, let’s visit the Christmas Market.

Vienna, Austria

We all know Vienna’s historical and cultural richness. Before going, you can imagine classical music concerts. Vienne can’t be Vienna without its art museum. Local cuisine and coffee culture are other factors to consider when enjoying Christmas in this city. You’ll feel the festive charm with the Christmas markets and New Year’s celebrations.

Tallinn, Estonia

Tallinn’s medieval Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tallinn is a beautiful city in Estonia and has a maritime history. You can visit the Seaplane Harbour. Furthermore, you can also enjoy the city’s modern and creative side. A nature lover will, for sure, appreciate the city’s green spaces and nearby islands. It’s an interesting city in Europe for a Christmas holiday.

Bruges, Belgium

Bruges is known as the “Venice of the North”. The canals and bridges are enchanting. You’ll get a glimpse into the city’s heritage by exploring market squares and towers. Christmas holidays create time for discovering art as well, especially when you’re in another country. You can visit the Groeninge Museum. Belgian chocolate and beer will complete your Bruges experience.

Planning a Christmas Vacation in Europe

When planning a Christmas vacation in Europe, ensure a hassle-free holiday. Let’s focus on several key points.

Booking Hotels in the Best Place in Europe for Christmas

  • Early booking is key: Popular European cities like Vienna, Prague, and Munich have many visitors during Christmas. To secure your ideal accommodation, it’s better to book in advance.
  • Location matters: Choose a hotel close to Christmas markets. Staying in the heart of the city will let you feel the festive atmosphere. It’ll also reduce the need for transformation.
  • Consider boutique hotels: It’s a more personalized experience. Boutique hotels often reflect the local culture. These smaller hotels can provide a cozier, more intimate Christmas feel, reflecting the holiday spirit.
  • Check for festive packages: Many hotels offer special Christmas packages with festive meals, market tours, or tickets to local events. You can have a more convenient stay thanks to these packages.
  • Read reviews: By checking guest reviews, you’ll get insights into the hotel’s Christmas offerings. Pay attention to comments about the festive atmosphere and customer service during the holiday season.
  • Amenities and services: If you want to have the Christmas holiday in mind, ensure your chosen hotel offers the amenities you need. A hotel with a good restaurant, spa, or cozy lounge can add comfort to your stay. Especially in colder weather, it might be even more essential.
  • Be budget-conscious: Accommodations in European cities can be pricey during peak seasons like Christmas. You can try balancing cost with comfort by exploring various options, including apartments or guesthouses.

Best Christmas Markets in Europe

Some of the cities in Europe are perfect for Christmas market visits. It doesn’t matter if you’re with your family, friends, or you’re a solo traveler. You’ll find the festive season inspiring.

Prague Christmas Market

In 2023, Prague’s Christmas markets will be open every day from December 2nd, 2023, to January 6th, 2024.

The primary markets in Prague are Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square. It’s only a five-minute walk. These markets are free to enter and are open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Here are some smaller Christmas markets in Prague:

  • Republic Square (Náměstí Republiky)
  • Na Kampě Square by Charles Bridge
  • Havel’s Market in the Old Town
  • Peace Square (Náměstí Míru)
  • Tyl Square (Tylovo náměstí)

Christmas markets are also known as ‘Vánoční trhy’ in the Czech Republic. Prague’s Christmas markets turn the city into a vibrant winter wonderland. It’s attracting both locals and tourists alike.

At the Prague Christmas Markets, you’ll find brightly lit wooden stalls filled with local crafts and many items for sale. However, these markets offer more than just shopping. They’re great places for tasting local cuisine and drinks.

When in Prague, indulge in sweet treats like spicy gingerbread (perníčky). Oh, then the hot, sweet pastry ‘trdelník’, we’re sure you’ll see everywhere.

Budapest Christmas Market

In 2023, the Budapest Christmas markets will include the esteemed Budapest Christmas Fair and Winter Festival. Visitors will explore both large and small markets. There are two main markets, and thousands of visitors come to enjoy spectacular displays.

For example, the Christmas Market on Vorosmarty Square has been a fixture in the city since 1998. These markets also showcase Hungary’s artistic heritage. They feature artisans, young and old. Glass blowing, knitting, wood carving, or pottery are among the creations by Hungarian artists.

There’s a reason why Budapest Christmas markets are unique. They have a commitment to preserving authentic Hungarian folk art and traditions.

Visiting these Xmas fairs in Budapest is an immersive cultural experience. Here, you can buy handmade gifts, savor mulled wines, and enjoy Hungarian pastries like the cylindrical ‘Kurtos kalacs’.

Copenhagen Christmas Market

The Christmas market is open from November 17th to December 31st, 2023, in Copenhagen.

Christmas at Tivoli Gardens is one of the best places to visit in the winter. This historic garden looks amazing with twinkling lights. You can also join in the Christmas tree lighting ceremony and the Lucia procession.

Tivoli is recognized as one of Denmark’s best and largest Christmas markets. In addition, a festive makeover for Christmas is extraordinary in Copenhagen. These markets, known locally as ‘Julemarkeder,’ enhance the festive atmosphere of Copenhagen.

Cologne Christmas Market

In 2023, the Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market will be open from November 23rd to December 23rd.

Cologne is Germany’s fourth-largest city. The Christmas Market in Cologne is situated in front of the iconic Cologne Cathedral at Roncalliplatz. The famous market attracts over 4 million visitors annually to its 150 stands.

In the city center or in more serene areas, you’ll also find more Christmas markets in Cologne. Each of the seven Christmas markets in Cologne is uniquely themed. The variations in the markets can be recognized in their decorations, merchandise, or some of the culinary offerings.

Zagreb Christmas Market

From December 2nd, 2023, to January 7th, 2024, Zagreb will host some of Europe’s most impressive Christmas markets.

Over 25 distinct Christmas markets are scattered across the city’s squares. Each market has its own theme, but they create a unified festive experience. You can explore outdoor entertainment and cultural events in the city.

It’ll feel like a movie scene to walk through Zagreb’s streets at Christmas time. The air is filled with joyous shouts of “Stretan Bozic” (Merry Christmas).

Berlin Christmas Market

From November 27th to December 26th, 2023, Berlin’s Christmas Winter Village at Alexanderplatz will be open. It’ll be graced by the magnificent Erzgebirge Christmas pyramid.

Christmas markets are a cherished tradition in Germany. Years ago, these markets served a practical purpose, providing essentials for the holiday season. Today, they’re more about festive enjoyment.

Berlin has approximately 80 Weihnachtsmärkte (Christmas markets) spread throughout the city. The diverse city of Berlin has it all. You can search for a nostalgic, eco-friendly, or urban Christmas market experience.

Berlin is home to around 80 Christmas markets. Most of the main markets are in the Mitte district, in the heart of Berlin.

Strasbourg Christmas Market

From November 24th to December 24th, 2023, the Strasbourg Christmas Market will be ready for celebrations. This market stands as one of Europe’s most historic. Boasting a history dating back to 1570, the Strasbourg Christmas Market is the oldest in France.

Strasbourg offers a journey for the senses. You’ll enjoy exploring the city’s inviting atmosphere. Wander among the 300 wooden chalets in the historic center. The market is spread across the town center, mainly around Cathedral Square and Place Broglie.

Christkindelsmärik Market is a bustling hub. Be ready for fresh pretzels, spaetzle, knack sausage, and crepes.

Vienna Christmas Markets

From November 11th to December 26th, 2023, Vienna invites you to embrace the festive season in the streets.

Vienna’s Christmas markets have a rich history dating back to the Middle Ages. From mid-November to Christmas, Vienna’s squares transform into enchanting markets. The City Hall Square Market offers gifts, decorations, crafts, and warm beverages. Plus, the Vienna Ice World offers ice skating and a tree of hearts.

Nearby markets are:

  • The Christmas Village on Maria-Theresien-Platz
  • The Christmas Village on the University Campus
  • The Old Viennese Christmas Market on Freyung
  • The Am Hof Christmas Market

Zurich Christmas Markets

In Zurich, you can find the city’s oldest market nestled in the Old Town. You can visit the contemporary “Wienachtsdorf” Christmas village on Sechseläutenplatz. You’ll probably come across a 15-meter (49-foot) Christmas tree at the Christkindlimarkt at Zurich Main Train Station.

The Christmas markets in Zurich and around Lake Zurich are uniquely inviting and diverse. Traveling to Zurich is an effortless journey. This Swiss city is a major transport hub. Zurich Airport, the nearest airport to this winter wonderland, hosts numerous major international airlines. It’s a 12-minute train ride from the city center.

Krakow Christmas Markets

This mesmerizing Polish city shines brightest in the winter season. The main square, Rynek Główny, hosts one of the liveliest markets. The Old Town is alone an architecture to adore. Plus, Christmas lighting—it’s a scene you can’t forget. When in Krakow, it’s impossible to resist the scent of Oscypek, Poland’s smoked cheese.

Krakow is an affordable city for a Christmas market break. Compared to some other European cities, it has lower hotel prices.

What to Pack for Celebrating Christmas in Europe

Layer up for the cold: European winters can be chilly and cold, especially in the northern regions. You’ll want thermal undergarments. They’ll definitely be essential for retaining body heat. It’s practical to add layers like turtlenecks, woolen sweaters, and cardigans.

A winter coat: A high-quality, insulated winter coat is your best supporter against the cold. Choose one that’s waterproof and windproof. Also, make sure it has a hood.

Comfortable footwear: After all the talk about cold in Europe at Christmas time, let’s all agree that waterproof boots are a must. For indoor events and activities, pack a pair of comfortable dress shoes or maybe elegant boots.

Accessories are essential: When it’s winter, favorite accessories become hats, scarves, and gloves for extra warmth. They also add a pop of color or pattern to your outfit. Try to choose wool or fleece materials.

Casual and formal attire: Pack for special events as well as for your Christmas holiday. Remember to wear casual and comfortable clothing.

European Christmas Tours

European Christmas tours are becoming popular in 2023. They provide a unique way to experience the holiday season’s beauty.

You can prefer European Christmas Tours to explore multiple iconic Christmas destinations. It’s about more than just sightseeing. From the sparkling lights of Paris to the traditional markets of Vienna, you’ll have a tour around Europe.

You can visit famous Christmas markets and attend live music performances. Eiffel Tower or the streets of Rome—you don’t have to choose a side. Enjoy both on the tour.

The tours often cover Prague, Nuremberg, and Strasbourg. Also, cities like London and Paris add a metropolitan flair to the traditional holiday experience.

Shorter tours may focus on a specific region, like the German Christmas markets. The longer tours, on the other hand, might take you across several countries.

Best Christmas River Cruises in Europe

These cruises offer a serene journey through Europe’s heart, with the spirit of Christmas.

Here’s what’s waiting for you on river cruises:

  • Cruising along Europe’s iconic rivers
  • Europe’s winter landscapes
  • Festive-themed meals, decorations, and entertainment
  • Famous Christmas markets
  • Guided tours of historic sites

These cruises usually range from 7 to 15 days. On average, a 7-day cruise can cost between $1,500 and $3,000 per person.

Christmas river cruises are great for families, offering a relaxed way to travel with children. Many cruise lines cater to families with special activities.

Let’s discover the top Christmas river cruises in Europe.

The Rhine Christmas Markets Cruise

Duration: 8 days
Average Price: $2,000 per person
Cities: Cologne, Strasbourg, Basel

Danube Christmas Cruise

Duration: 10 days
Average Price: $2,500 per person
Cities: Vienna, Budapest, Nuremberg

Seine Christmas Cruise

Duration: 7 days
Average Price: $1,800 per person
Cities: Paris, Rouen, Honfleur

Rhône Winter Cruise

Duration: 7 days
Average Price: $1,700 per person
Cities: Lyon, Avignon, Arles

Tips for a European Trip During the Christmas Holiday

Whether you’re a solo adventurer or traveling with family, these practical tips will help you.

  • Secure your flights, accommodations, and any special event tickets.
  • Have backup plans for indoor activities like museums or theaters.
  • Check out the public transport systems that are often easier than driving.
  • Keep an eye on your belongings in crowded markets and tourist spots.

Checklist for Your Christmas Holiday in Europe

  • Valid passports and visas (if required)
  • Travel insurance documents
  • Printouts or digital copies of flight or train tickets
  • Confirmation of hotel or rental bookings
  • Warm clothing
  • Comfortable and waterproof footwear
  • Universal travel adaptors and chargers
  • A basic first-aid kit
  • Hand sanitizers and masks (if required)
  • Local currency for initial expenses
  • Credit or debit cards
  • Smartphone with a good camera
  • Portable power banks
  • Pre-booked event tickets (if any)
  • Basic phrases in the local language

The Wrap-Up

It makes no difference whether you’re traveling with a group of buddies or by yourself. European cities provide a joyous and exciting holiday season. Perhaps Prague or Vienne were on your list of potential vacation spots. Or maybe you were a student there and spent a day there. Christmas is one of the best times to arrange a vacation to Europe.

Let’s take this article as a guide and plan the journey. Happy Holidays!

Frequently Asked Questions

Which five cities have the best Christmas markets in Europe?

These are the top five cities with the best Christmas markets in Europe:

  • Prague, Check Republic
  • Budapest, Hungary
  • Cologne, Germany
  • Zagreb, Croatia
  • Berlin, Germany

When's the best time to plan a European Christmas market trip?

Late November through December. Most markets begin in late November and run until Christmas Eve or a little after. Let’s plan your vacation for the holiday season and spend Christmas in Europe.

How is the weather in Europe at Christmas time?

Northern and Eastern Europe are generally cold, often below freezing. On the other hand, Southern Europe is milder but still chilly.

Does it snow during Christmas in Europe?

It’ll more likely snow during Christmas in Northern and Eastern Europe, like Finland and Poland. However, snow is less common in Western Europe in the holiday season.

Which city in Europe is famous for Santa Claus?

Rovaniemi in Finland is renowned as Santa Claus’s home. The city offers a magical Christmas experience. It makes Finland one of the best Christmas destinations in Europe. Let’s get ready to meet Santa Claus.

What is the most American-looking city in Europe?

Rotterdam in the Netherlands resembles many American cities. It’s also known for its modern architecture and diverse culture

Where is the best Christmas village in Europe?

Rothenburg ob der Tauber in Germany is often considered the best Christmas village. known for its medieval architecture and festive decorations. You can experience the Christmas magic in Germany.

Which cities in Europe are known for their Christmas markets?

Prague (Czech Republic), Tallinn (Estonia), and Bruges (Belgium) are some of the famous Christmas markets in Europe. There will be Christmas lights and Christmas carols. You may spend time strolling around the illuminated streets while sipping your mulled wine. In these markets, you can also do your Christmas shopping.

What is the largest Christmas market in Europe?

The largest Christmas market and one of the most well known is the Vienna Christmas World on Rathausplatz, near the Rathaus, Vienna's historic city hall. Get ready for hot chocolate and twinkling lights at the Vienna Christmas market.

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