Christmas is one of the best times of the year to visit Europe for many reasons. Not only is the continent completely transformed into a winter wonderland, but each countryand city has its own unique culture and celebrations. However, trying to find the best European cities for Christmas can be a bit difficult due to the vast amount available to visit. If you’re looking for the best cities in Europe to spend Christmas, this article will help you with your journey. Below you’ll find some of the top European cities for Christmas to visit.
The Best European Cities to spend Christmas
London, United Kingdom
As the capital of England, London is not only spectacularly decked out for the holiday season, but filled with historical wonders as well. The city is packed with festive activities to do, like ice skating near the Tower of London and even Christmas markets. You’ll find that London has many unique Christmas markets you can visit, like the Leicester Christmas Market which is located in the heart of London and sells everything from freshly brewed mulled cider to hand-carved ornaments. This market also features a grotto where Santa resides to receive the Christmas wishes of children. Besides this, London also has a special Christmas movie showing with Cinema in the Snow. You can sit in a winter wonderland while watching classic Christmas films and sipping on a cup of hot chocolate.
If you’re looking for something a bit more history-inspired, you can visit Kensington Palace where you’ll be taken back in time to a Victorian Christmas. You can also stop by St. Paul’s Cathedral to listen to some classic carols echo through its historic halls.
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Paris is transformed into a magical place for the Christmas season. You’ll find plenty of Christmas markets here you can visit, like the one at Champs de Mars which is situated beneath the Eiffel Tower and sells many unique Parisian Christmas gifts you can buy. It also is home to an ice skating rink.
You can also stop by the Christmas market near the Notre Dame Cathedral. Situated right beneath this historic structure, this market is filled with traditional Christmas gifts and goodies you can buy. When you’re done shopping, you can step inside the Notre Dame Cathedral and listen to the choir singing carols. The cathedral also features various nativity scenes you can view. In addition to this, Parisfeatures festive light displays you can wander through located around the city. You can also travel to a local restaurant to try traditional Christmas dishes like oysters and a Yule log.
If you’re looking for a traditional Christmas setting to celebrate this holiday in, you’ll definitely want to check out Vienna. As Austria’s capital, Vienna offers plenty of things to do during the Christmas season. One is the many Christmas markets scattered around the city. These markets are located beneath historic buildings and in the middle of squares and offer many gifts you can buy. A popular market to visit in Vienna is the Viennese Christmas Market. Situated next to City Hall, the market is covered in decorative lights and freshly cut garlands. Besides selling goodies, the market also offers some classes you can take, like Christmas cookie baking and even candle making ones.
Another famous Christmas market to venture to in Vienna is the Christmas Village Belvedere Palace. This market sits in the shadow of this historic palace and is known for its 40 stalls that offer many unique gifts and culinary dishes you can try.
When you’re done shopping at a market, you can also try some other fun things Vienna has for the Christmas season. One is the twinkling chandeliers that hang over Graben and Kärntner Strasse. Vienna is also known for its chestnuts which you can try at one of the many chestnut stands located throughout the city. You can also stop by one of the nearby churches to hear carols being sung and see nativity scenes.
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is home to many Christmas markets, like the Christmas market in the Old Town Square. This market is one of the largest in Prague and is known for its delicious cinnamon rolls called Trdelník. You can grab one of these to eat while wandering around the stalls to buy handcrafted ornaments or try some other festive Christmas dishes. If you’re looking for something a bit out of the way, there is the Christmas market at Wenceslas Square. This quaint market is small but offers many of the same items sold in the larger markets.
You can also stop by the Prague Zoo which is one of the top zoos in the world. The zoo holds many Christmas events you can partake in, like bringing a gift for the animals or making Christmas cards.
Because the temperatures tend to be very cold during this time of the year, you can also step inside one of the many cafes in the city where you can grab a fresh cup of coffee and try some traditional Czech cookies while gazing out at the streets. Prague also offers many unique museums you can stop by like the National Gallery and Kampa Museum.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can try to go skiing on the nearby mountains. While on the top, you can get panoramic views of the city below decorated for the holidays.
While in Budapest for the Christmas holiday, you’ll definitely want to try a few things. One is relaxing in the thermal baths at Szechenyi Baths. These baths are some of the largest in all of Europe and located outdoors so you can sit in their warm waters while watching people shop around in the nearby Christmas markets. Another thing to do while here is listen to a concert. Budapest is well-known for its music and you can visit one of itsmany concert halls to listen to everything from traditional Hungarian folk music to classical music pieces.
Christmas markets are also plentiful in this city. One to definitely check out while here is the Budapest Basilica Christmas Fair which is known for its selection of handcrafted items. You’ll also find some tasty chimney cake here you can try. This traditional Hungarian Christmas dish is a crispy sweet bread made into a circular shape and fried, sometimes even grilled.
Budapest also offers many ice skating rinks you can enjoy like the ice rink in Budapest City Park. You can also buy a ticket to visit the Buda Castle so you can climb up to the top and get stunning views of the city below.
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Stockholm is a fantastic city to visit in Europe for many reasons. One is that it holds many distinctive Christmas markets you can visit. A unique market to venture to is The Royal Mews which is located in the royal family’s stable. You’ll be able to see the horses and other stable items inside while shopping for Christmas gifts and sipping on a piping hot cup of glögg, a mulled wine. Another popular market to try is the Farmers’ Christmas Market which sells locally grown organic fruits, vegetables, meats, and other edible items. There’s also the Stortorgets Julmarknad which is one of the oldest Christmas markets in Stockholm. Known for its bright red stalls, the market offers over 40 of them you can browse through to search for handcrafted gnomes, glass, fresh cookies, and knitted items.
Besides the markets, you can also see the living advent calendar on Gamla Stan. Each night, a new window on a building will open up with actors who sing carols or tell stories. This continues until Christmas day when all the windows on the building are opened up.
Another popular thing to do in Stockholm for Christmas is to see a Lucia performance. Young women with crowns of glowing candles stand together and sing the Lucia song in perfect harmony. It’s definitely a stunning sight to see.
Tallinn, Estonia’s capital, is a cozy little city to visit for Christmas. Located near the Baltic Sea, it’s filled with historic buildings and streets you can wander around. Tallinn also offers many Christmas markets you can visit. One market is the Tallinn Christmas Market which is located in the Town Hall Square. It has been held since 1441 and is known for its towering Christmas tree and offering of traditional Estonian dishes like black pudding. The market also has a merry-go-round you can ride.
Besides this Christmas market, you can also stop by one of the many medieval churches in the city to gaze at their stunning architecture and listen to choirs singing inside. You can even head over to the Estonian Open Air Museum where you can bake Christmas bread or learn to chop wood. Tallinn also has a Gingerbread Mania event where holiday sculptures are created out of this sweet treat.
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Brussels is a stunning destination to stop by for the Christmas season. The city has many Christmas markets you can wander around in, like the Winter Wonders one located near the Plaisirs d’Hiver. You can also visit Brussels’ oldest Christmas market, the Christmas Village in Liège, which hosts over 200 stalls and historic homes you can visit. You can grab some freshly made chocolate goodies from the stalls and even stop by the luge track located in the market.
Brussels also is home to a massive Ferris wheel. You can take a ride up to the top where you can get incredible panoramic views of the city below. When you’re done, you can stop by the Christmas Lights display which has a 360-degree exhibit of twinkling lights arranged in a way to help tell the story of the Palais de la Bourse. When you’re done exploring the city, you can grab a delicious cup of coffee at a nearby café.
Bratislava has many things you can experience while in the city for Christmas. While a bit smaller compared to other markets around Europe, they offer many Christmas markets which each have their own unique experience for guests. A popular one to explore is the Christmas market in Main Square where you can find handcrafted items. You can climb up the nearby Old Town Hall to look down at the market below you. There’s also a Christmas market in Hviezdoslav’s Square which is located next to the National Theater and features an ice skating rink. You can skate around on the rink or try some fresh potato pancakes or poppy seed strudel from one of the stalls. Other great Christmas activities to try are listening to local choirs sing carols, skate on local ice rinks that are decorated with garlands and Christmas trees, or take a quiet stroll along the Danube River.
Moscow is filled with things to do and see during the holiday season. There’s Gorky Park, for instance, where you can walk around and view various pieces of artwork. You’ll also find some creative ice sculptures here as well. The Stanislavsky Theater is also a great place to spend some time while in Moscow. While here, you can watch a few performances of various plays, including the famous The Nutcracker. Russia’s capital also has plenty of Christmas markets you can browse through, like the Red Square Christmas Market. Situated right beneath St. Basil’s Cathedral it offers over 45 stalls filled with interesting things you can buy, including traditional Russian Christmas food like pancakes with caviar.
Another unique thing to do while in Moscow is to take a cruise down the Moscow River. Because this time of the year is often cold, the river freezes. The boat will have a special ice-breaking feature so you can take a nice cruise down the frozen river while enjoying dinner.
Berlin is famous for its Christmas markets, and it’s easy to see why. It has numerous markets scattered around that sell many creative items you can buy. One market is at Spandau which features over 200 stalls. This market is a very traditional one and focuses on cultural aspects making it perfect for those who want to experience an authentic German Christmas. There’s also the Berliner Weihnachtszeit which is situated in the middle of a square near historic buildings and known for its mulled wine. If you’re into art, you can stop by the Advent Artist Station which is a Christmas market dedicated solely to artwork.
Berlin also has a few other things you can do for the Christmas season. You can travel over to the famous Berlin Botanical Gardens where the plants are lit up with lights at night. There’s also an ice skating rink and ice sculptures here you can enjoy. In addition to this, you can stop by a German bakery to try traditional German Christmas food like spritz cookies, stollen, and sausage.
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As Denmark’s capital city, Copenhagen is truly transformed into a winter wonderland for the holidays. Besides its exquisite natural landscape which is often coated in fresh layers of snow, there are plenty of things to see and experience when visiting this city. The Christmas markets are numerous here and one of the most popular to visit is the one at the Tivoli Gardens. While there’s an entrance fee to enter, this market is packed with things to do. You’ll find Santa here, as well as rides and stalls you can shop at. The gardens are decorated in traditional Nordic Christmas décor so it will be a unique experience.
Copenhagen is also known for the Royal Copenhagen Christmas Tables display which is where artists decorate tables in Christmas attire. You can also stop by the magnificent Hotel d’Angleterre where you can enjoy its famous white mulled wine with marzipan snowballs. You’ll also find plenty of ice skating rinks around the city, saunas you can relax in, and even some Julefrokost celebrations you can join so you can try some traditional Danish Christmas dishes.
This Polish city is known worldwide for its preserved medieval structures. These structures serve as the background of many Christmas markets in the city, like the Krakow Christmas Market. Located in the Main Market Square, this market is filled with fragrant wooden stalls that sell various local goodies, like oscypek, a smoked cheese, and the Polish almond roll which is made from fresh almonds. The market also is the host of the Nativity Crib Contest where locals decorate nativity scenes for the chance to have their scene displayed in a local museum.
Krakow is also home to many concerts and you can listen to professional musicians play classic Christmas carols. You can also take a sleigh ride through the nearby forest where you’ll be treated to a warm bonfire and meal before heading back to the city. The city also has a few ice skating rinks, both outdoor and indoor, you can skate around on.
Europe is filled with incredible destinations for the Christmas season. The cities above are some of the best European cities to visit for Christmas thanks to their rich history and numerous activities. You’ll definitely feel the Christmas spirit while visiting and it will certainly be a trip you’ll never forget.