18 christmas destinations in Europe
Ready to discover the best destinations to go for Christmas? Let’s start!
1. Alsace (Francia), a classic place to visit during Christmas
Alsace had to be at the top of this list. This region of northeastern France is a true Christmas classic. The area’s main city, Strasbourg, has been named the capital of Christmas. The oldest and largest Christmas market in France is located in Alsace. It opened in 1570 and has more than 300 stalls.
Dates for Strasbourg Christmas Market: From November 26 to December 26. Not all stalls will be open on December 24, 25 and 26, so I recommend you go a bit prior.
The Christmas atmosphere will not be the only thing that impresses about Strasbourg. Its historic center was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988. The Strasbourg Cathedral dates to 1015 and is Gothic in style. It is one of the most impressive cathedrals I have ever seen. You’ll love it!
Another destination within Alsace worth visiting during Christmas (in fact at any time of the year) is Colmar, a small town that seems to be taken from a fairy tale. I visited Colmar during the summer but I don’t even want to imagine how magical it must be at Christmas.
Dates for Colmar Christmas Market: From November 26 to December 29.
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2. Lille (France), my favorite Christmas destination in Europe
Let’s stay in France but this time we are going to the northwest of the country, Lille, capital of the Upper France region. This proposed destination I hold dear to my heart because it’s where I studied abroad. I had the pleasure of living in Lille for several months, including December, the month in which the city is filled with lights, the smell of vin chaud and a magical atmosphere.
At the Christmas market, which takes place in Place Rihour, you can taste delicacies such as crêpes, gaufres, tartiflette and raclette. Another of the great attractions of spending Christmas in Lille is the huge 50 meter high Ferris wheel that is set up at the Grand Place. I highly recommend going up to enjoy the views of the city. It’s amazing!
Dates Lille Christmas Market: from the end of November, lasting one month (the exact dates have not yet been finalized).
Lille is a fairly small city and the historic center can be easily visited in one day. If you don’t have much time for your Christmas getaway, traveling to Lille can be a very good option.
3. Cologne (Germany), a Christmas market near the cathedral
Let’s now head to the east of Germany and talk about Cologne, a city that I have also had the pleasure of visiting at Christmas. This German city stands out especially for the Cologne Cathedral, an incredible Gothic cathedral of surprising dimensions declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996. It is the most visited monument in Germany.
At Christmas you will find up to seven Christmas markets scattered around the city. One of them takes place in Roncalliplatz, a square next to the cathedral. It has more than 100 stalls and a huge Christmas tree. Be sure to walk through all of them and try the specialties of the area.
Dates for Christmas Market in Cologne: From November 22 to December 23.
4. Prague (Czech Republic), discover the Old City iluminated
If Prague is already known for its beauty, I don’t even want to imagine how beautiful it must be at Christmas. Many agree that it is one of the best places to spend Christmas in Europe. It is probably because the incredible architecture of the historic center is added to the picturesque Christmas tree and the many Christmas stalls that flood the Old Town Square every December.
It is highly recommended to go up to the tower of the Old Town Hall in Prague to see the decorated city from above. The view will be especially beautiful at night. Don’t miss the flea market on Wenceslas Square either.
Dates for Prague Christmas Market: From November 27 to January 6.
5. Munich (Germany), visit its 14th century Christmas market
Let’s return to Germany, this time to Munich, one of the most beautiful cities in the country. If you haven’t been to Munich yet, December is a great time to visit. One of the great attractions is the Christkindlmarkt, held in Marienplatz, the central square in Munich. In this Christmas market, which dates back to the 14th century, you will find many craft stalls, glühwein (mulled wine), traditional dishes and sweets. The Christmas tree stands in the square as well.
Dates for Munich Christmas Market: From November 22 to December 24.
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6. London (United Kingdom), one of the best Christmas destinations in Europe
If London is an impressive city at any time of the year, imagine how beautiful it must be during Christmas. Celebrate Christmas like a true Londoner and go ice skating at Somerset House, see the incredible Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square or go shopping at Fortnum & Mason. Also, do not miss the lights of Oxford Street, Regent Street, Bond Street or Covent Garden.
Another place to include in your visit to London during Christmas is Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland. The famous park is filled with themed attractions, food stalls, Christmas markets and live music. You’ll have fun for sure! Other markets that you can visit are Real Food Christmas Market (in King’s Cross), Greenwich Market or the one held next to London Bridge.
7. Vienna (Austria), an amazing Christmas destination
Another European city with a lot of holiday spirit to travel to during Christmas is Vienna, Austria. The city’s main Christmas market, Christkindlmarkt, is held on Rathausplatz, the square where the town hall is located. At the food stalls you will find sausages, goulash soup, roasted almonds, caramelized apples, etc. You will also find handmade products such as candles and soaps. Artist exhibits also brighten the streets.
Dates for Vienna Christmas Market: From November 17 to December 26.
8. Black Forest (Germany), charming towns and incredible nature
Another place that offers a lot during Christmas is the Black Forest in Germany. A few years ago, I made a trip to this region in Germany and I loved it. If you want a destination that mixes charming towns and nature, I recommend you take this option into consideration. You will find Christmas markets in the main towns in the Black Forest. I recommend you go to the ones that are in the towns that I liked the most: Gengenbach, Baden-Baden and Freiburg.
Another Christmas market you shouldn’t miss is the one held at Ravenna Gorge, a famous bridge in the region. It’s such a dreamy place!
Dates Black Forest Christmas Market: from the end of November to the end of December.
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9. Rovaniemi (Finland), where Santa Clause is from
How would you like to celebrate Christmas where Santa Claus is from, among reindeer and snow? If that sounds like fun to you, I recommend going to Rovaniemi, the main city in the Lapland region of Finland. On the outskirts of this Finnish town you will find the Santa Claus Village, a theme park open every day of the year where you will feel closer than ever to Santa Claus. In it you will find different attractions, restaurants, cafes and hotels. You can also stay in Rovaniemi and go by bus to Santa Claus Village.
10. Budapest (Hungary), one of the most beautiful Christmas destinations in Europe
Let’s head to Budapest (Hungary), one of my great discoveries last year. Prior to visiting, I knew that Budapest had a reputation for being beautiful… But not that beautiful! I visited in the middle of summer. I don’t even want to imagine the charm that the city must have during the winter, especially during Christmas.
The main Christmas markets are located in Vörösmarty Square and in St. Stephen’s Basilica. You can try Hungarian delicacies such as lángos, sausages, kürtőskalács and other sweets. In addition, a light show is held in the basilica every night.
Another very typical thing to do in Budapest during Christmas is to go ice skating at the Budapest City Park, where one of the oldest and largest ice rinks in Europe is located.
11. Sofia (Bulgaria), an affordable Christmas destination in Europe
Are you looking for an affordable Christmas destinations in Europe? If so, another city to consider is Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. Perhaps you have never considered traveling to this city in Eastern Europe before, but even though I haven’t been there yet, I know several people who have been and have been pleasantly surprised. Every Christmas, in the City Garden, they place the Weihnachtsmarkt, a Christmas market in the purest German style. Apart from trying Bulgarian delicacies, you will also find theater plays and musical performances.
It is not one of the most typical Christmas destinations but I am sure it will surprise you.
12. Ghent (Belgium), one of the most beautiful cities in Belgium
Any city in Belgium is a great option to travel to in December. I recommend Ghent because, out of the Belgian cities I know (Brussels, Ghent and Bruges), it is the one I like the most. I thought it was a very charming city. During Christmas, it has to be incredibly beautiful. Its Christmas market has a total of 150 wooden stalls where they sell handicrafts, mulled wine, traditional regional dishes, etc.
Dates for Ghent Christmas Market: from December 9 to December 31.
13. Salzburg (Austria), surrounded by snowy peaks
Vienna was not going to be the only Austrian city to appear on this list of Christmas destinations in Europe. Salzburg also deserves a spot. This Austrian city is one of the most popular destinations within the country during this time of year. Part of its charm lies in the baroque architecture of the old town (declared a World Heritage Site) and in the mountains that surround the city.
Strolling through its streets full of lights and Christmas markets will make you feel as if you were in a fairy tale. The main flea market in the city is held around the Salzburg Cathedral. It dates back to the fifteenth century.
Dates for Salzburg Christmas Market: from November 18 to December 26.
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14. Wroclaw (Poland), you’ll be in a fairy tale
Let’s talk about Poland, specifically, Wroclaw. This city in southwestern Poland is one of the country’s top Christmas destinations. Its Christmas market dates back to the 16th century and is held in the historic center of the city.
The main flea market is held in The Market Square. You will also find stalls on Plac Solny and on Świdnicka and Oławska streets. The theme of this market is fairy tales, so get ready to find a totally magical atmosphere. Don’t forget to try the pierogi!
Dates for Wroclaw Christmas Market: from November 19 to December 31.
15. Nuremberg (Germany), a more traditional approach to Christmas
Nuremberg is my fourth proposal within Germany. It shows that the German country is the clear winner in terms of Christmas spirit, right? In this city you will find one of the best Christmas markets in Europe. In it you will find more than 200 stalls where you can buy craft products, Christmas items, mulled wine, gingerbread, sausages, caramelized almonds, etc.
Dates for Nuremberg Christmas Market: from November 26 to December 24.
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16. Reykjavík (Iceland), spend Christmas surrounded by Aurora Borealis
How would you like to spend Christmas in Iceland? Sounds awesome to me. Reykjavík, despite being a less popular Christmas destination than other places in Europe, is still a safe bet. If you choose the capital of Iceland, you can not only enjoy the charming Christmas atmosphere, but also take some very interesting day trips around the city or go see the northern lights. The Christmas market is located in Ingólfur Square.
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17. Tallinn (Estonia), one of the most charming Christmas destinations in Europe
If you are looking for a unique European destination to visit during Christmas, Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, can be a great option. Its old town of medieval origin has a special charm, especially at this time of year, when it is full of lights, wooden stalls, snow-covered roofs and a beautiful Christmas tree in the Raekoja Plats (City Hall Square).
At the Christmas market, voted one of the best Christmas markets in Europe on several times, they sell many artisan products and culinary delights. In the city you will also find an ice rink where you can have a great time ice skating.
Dates for Tallinn Christmas Market: from November 26 to January 2.
18. Vigo (Galicia), an amazing Christmas destination in Spain
If you want to spend Christmas in Spain, a destination that has become very popular in recent years is Vigo. At this time of year, the Galician city turns into a light show. In and around Plaza Compostela you will find a giant Ferris wheel, a Christmas market, a carousel and an artificial snow slide, located in the Eugenio González de Haz gardens. There will also be tourist trains and ice skating rinks, among other attractions.
19. New York (United States), one of the best Christmas destinations in the world
Visiting New York City during Christmas is a dream for many people, including me. Despite having been to the city four times, I’ve never been during Christmas. A city as vibrant as New York has to be a real blast during this holiday. Some of the things you can’t miss are ice skating at Rockefeller Center or Bryant Park, strolling down 5th Avenue or seeing the Christmas lights in the Dyker Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn.
In the following places, in New York, you can find Christmas markets: Bryant Park, Grand Central Terminal, Union Square, Columbus Circle Holiday Market, Chelsea Market, Brooklyn Flea Market (Dumbo).
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20. Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), if you’re looking for a warm Christmas destination
If you can’t stand the cold and prefer a warmer Christmas destination, I suggest Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil. Without a doubt, it is the most unique and different destination that you will find on this list. Do not expect the typical Christmas celebrations, but a 100% tropical Christmas. Enjoy the heat on the city’s beaches, go Christmas shopping, try traditional food, visit the Lagoa Christmas tree. Don’t miss the Sugar Loaf and Christ the Redeemer viewpoints either!
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I hope that this article on the best Christmas destinations in Europe has been very useful for you in planning your trip during this time of year. If you have any doubts or questions, I encourage you to leave a comment or send me an email. Until next time, travelers!