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!
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 the year.
Christmas finds Copenhagen brimming with shining lights, festive spirit, and “hyggelige” cafes, where inventive design and legendary Danish coziness blend harmoniously to make your experience unique.
Peppered 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 lights 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 Christiana 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.
With its otherworldly frosty landscape, 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 lives only 8 km away clears up any doubt.
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.
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 (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.
Home to the oldest Christmas market in France, a magnificent Gothic cathedral, and a charming UNESCO-listed Old Town, the quaint Alsatian city 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 ice skating rinks that you would hardly resist the temptation to jump on.
Prague, the Gothic fairytale of Europe, celebrates Christmas with glam and grandeur, its breathtaking architecture providing a truly dramatic backdrop for savoring scented mulled wine, taking leisurely walks, 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, but those held in Wenceslas Square and Namesti Miru 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.
“What’s your favorite city to spend Christmas?”
This feature originally appeared in Travel Away.