Strasbourg is situated on the border between France and Germany, sometimes confused as being in Germany; history shows there was a great battle between the countries to claim the region. Strasbourg is part of the beautiful Alsace region which is surrounded by the Vosges Mountains and the Rhine River. Strasbourg is just minutes from the west bank of the Rhine River.
By car it will take roughly 5 hours; by train, conveniently 1 hour 45 minutes. For obvious reasons, most people travel to Strasbourg from Paris using their very efficient public transport system, with Gare Strasbourg being centrally located. The heart of Strasbourg is a pedestrian hub, so if you have a car, you need to park outside the town and walk in.
Strasbourg is a remarkable city which boasts medieval history and a vibrant and colourful feel. There are so many things to do in and around Strasbourg. From the pedestrianised streets, great cafes, restaurants and bars, Strasbourg is truly alive!
For food and wine lovers, the area is known for their great local produce and vineyards. You can enjoy a self guided gourmet tour or a wine tour in the Alsace Wine Region.
Here is a list of things to do and see when you are in Strasbourg:
Wander La Petite France – admire the narrow lanes, canals and locks – simply stunning! Keep an eye out Grande Ile which is simply fairy tale-like with half-timbered houses.
Strasbourg and the Alsace Region is a great area to explore by foot, ride a bike, drive, take a tour or even get on a train. There are great day trip opportunities from Strasbourg. The options are bound to create the most memorable visit to Strasbourg for you.
There are fantastic bike tours available from Strasbourg and will vary in duration and activities, dependent on what you are looking for.
Do yourself a favour and explore beyond Strasbourg itself! The villages in the Alsace region are simply breathtaking and not to be missed. You can easily do this if you have a car, or if you prefer to be shown around, book a seat on an organised tour. The streets are cobble stoned, quaint little laneways, beautiful cafes to stop in for a coffee and patisserie.
Enjoy the rolling hills Colmar and the cobbled street town of Euguisheim, visit the walled village of Riquewihr and visit the 12th century fortress of High Koenigsbourg.
The Alsace Wine Region
If you enjoy a wine, be sure to explore the extensive and picturesque Alsace wine region. From Strasbourg you book a seat on a Alsation wine tasting tour with lunch – the perfect, hassle-free day out!
Stop in and sample the region’s characteristic white wines including Riesling. Popular villages to explore on the Alsace wine route are Mittelbergheim, Dambach-la-Ville, Ribeauvillé and Riquewihr.
Here is a list of some of the most popular vineyards and villages to visit:
If you can visit Strasbourg in December, you will have the opportunity to marvel at the world famous Christmas Markets in the Capitale de Noel – Strasbourg. Christmas in Europe is truly remarkable and known for the magic they produce at their Christmas markets; Strasbourg’s will not disappoint! The city is known to light up and ooze Christmas spirit for all ages.
Where To Stay In Strasbourg
Strasbourg is a beautiful city to stay in and you could certainly spend several days touring around the sites. The most highly sort after area to stay is within La Petite France and the pedestrianised area. The buildings in Strasbourg are so beautiful, you are bound to find somewhere completely magical and memorable for your stay in Strasbourg.
Nearby cities and villages to Strasbourg are also well worth consideration for lodging. There are beautiful smaller towns in the Alsace Region where you will find some lovely accommodation. These include:
Like most European cities, it is a good idea to do your research, look at a map and find the location that will work best for you. There is a great range of hotels and bed and breakfasts and you are always best to read hotel reviews from past guests.
This picture perfect village is nestled between two mountain ranges and therefore the weather in Strasbourg can be very mild and temperate. That said, Strasbourg experiences signficant rainfall throughout the year. In Winter, despite the chilly temperatures, you will pray for Strasbourg to snow and be covered by the white blanket.
Christmas in Europe is incomplete without visiting at least one Christmas market. Christmas markets in Europe are one of the greatest draw cards for visitors, near and far. Selecting which European city you will spend your Christmas in, will require research and consideration, as the choices are so great!
Fortunately, Christmas in Europe extends well before December 25th. This gives you great opportunities to enjoy the European Christmas atmosphere in multiple cities and/or countries in one festive season. Whether you’re travelling on your own, with friends or seeking a magical family Christmas; be sure to check out some of the top Christmas markets in Europe!
WHERE ARE THE BEST CHRISTMAS MARKETS IN EUROPE?
Lille is a gorgeous little town at the northern tip of France, near the border of Belgium. A lovely place to visit at any time of the year, however, during the festive season, it is a remarkable Europe Christmas destination.
Streets are lined with stalls, all lit up by beautiful Christmas coloured lights which create a magical atmosphere. The stalls have fantastic gift ideas and sell nativity figurines; as well as, local art, also from Russia, Poland and Canada.
Rug up for outdoor activities, including the ferris wheel which overlooks the market area. Enjoy the warm food and local delicacies, sip on mulled wine and immerse yourself in the Christmas spirit. The crepes were a particular favourite of mine, I think I lost count of actually how many I ate in a day!
The French town excels at putting on a great celebration and brings people from everywhere, including the United Kingdom! Due to the easy accessibility on the Eurostar, it is a popular city for the British to go and experience one of the best Christmas markets in Europe. This is exactly what I did, board a train from London and went to Lille, especially for the Christmas market, for the day! It was a big day out, but it was certainly well worth the journey!
You will absolutely not be disappointed if you choose to visit Lille during the Christmas period. There are many great accommodation options available in and around Lille.
Visiting a Christmas market in Germany is a must during the festive season. The Munich Christmas market offers an array of unique events, food and festivities. Running from November 23rd to December 24th the Munich Christmas market is perfect for families, couples and solo travellers.
There are Christmas markets scattered all over Munich, but the most popular are situated outside the Munich Rathaus. You’ll also find others at the Munich Residenz and the English Garden. Many of the stalls will feature handmade Christmas ornaments, the perfect souvenir from your trip!
Christmas is the perfect time to indulge, and the markets in Munich do not disappoint. You’ll find a variety of German dishes on every corner you turn, including bratwurst, schnitzel, and sweet treats like strudel. Don’t forget to stock up traditional German treats such as Lebkuchen and Spekulatius cookies.
Let’s not forget the drinks on offer too. German beer and Mulled wine or Gluhwein as it’s known in Germany, are a firm favourite among locals. And if you want an even more German experience, head to one of the many beer halls. My personal favourites are German Helles and Hefeweizen.
During your trip to Munich there is plenty to see and do away from the markets. You can explore further afield and take a day trip the famous fairytale castle of Neuschwanstein or explore the many palaces in Munich such as Munich Residenz. If you’re looking for a unique experience in Munich, book your trip to coincide with the Krampus Run – an event thats exclusive to the Bavarian and Swiss areas of Europe.
After spending a year living in Freiburg, Germany, I found its Christmas market to be my favourite across the whole of Germany and Europe. Freiburg is a small city located in Baden-Wurttemberg in south-west Germany. The traditional city holds its annual Christmas markets from November onwards, and the city comes alive at this time.
The Christmas markets flood the city centre from the cathedral square through the cobbled streets and into the town hall square. You’ll find European street food to die for! They sell traditional German foods including schnitzel, bratwurst and my personal favourite flammkuchen. This is a thin crispy ‘pizza’ with cream cheese and bacon on top. Don’t forget the German gingerbread and chocolate kisses – small marshmallow filled domes. So many options are available for presents from decorative baubles to small Christmas trees. The town hall square also has a small funfair for children and adults alike.
Winter is also the best time of year to visit Freiburg as there are so many things to do. Take the cable car up Schauinsland, Freiburg’s closest mountain. At the snowy top, there is a centre where you can hire a sledge. There is also a sledge lift to take you to the top. You can also head into the black forest where you can see frozen lakes and snow covered buildings. It’s also the perfect place to try the traditional black forest gateau!
If the German Christmas markets didn’t fill your stomach enough, I recommend visiting Martins Brau for a traditional schnitzel dinner and some German beer. Afterwards, visit Fierling to carry on your evening.
There are several accommodation choices in Freiburg and surrounds; be sure to read reviews for personal recommendations.
As one of the oldest Christmas markets not only in Germany but in Europe, Stuttgart’s Christmas market is spread out over dozens of acres and has nearly 300 stalls. With the festival lasting nearly a month over 3.5 million people visit Stuttgart’s Christmas market every year, and for good reason.
There are at least three different areas where the Christmas market stretches into downtown Stuttgart. In the area in front of the Old Palace, visitors can experience a kinderland, where small carousel rides and other carnival rides are available for children.
One of the most popular rides is the steam train ride, which takes parents and their children on a small locomotive that drives through a display of a miniature version of Stuttgart with decorated homes, festivities and people. Nearby there is an ice skating rink where small ride on penguins and dolphins are available for children who are not able to skate.
Stuttgart’s Christmas market also has a traditional Finnish market at the beginning of the festival season, where visitors can purchase Finnish food and memorabilia. One very interesting aspect of the market is a building near the Rathaus (town hall) which mirrors an advent calendar as the windows of the building are transformed into numbers to represent each day of Advent. The stalls of the vendors also get into the spirit of the holidays and have beautifully decorated rooftops, many twinkling in lights.
Among the hundreds of vendors, be sure to stop by the vendors selling traditional German gluhwein, which is a warm mulled wine, or flammkuchen a thin, crusty bread with a variety of toppings. Finally, be sure to walk among the displays presented in front of the Old Palace. Each year, the festival’s theme changes and the city has beautiful lighted displays that light up, several of which play themed music.
There are many great accommodation options available in and around Stuttgart.
After enjoying a few Christmas markets in the UK, I was delighted to visit two real German markets in Germany, two days in a row; Frankfurt first, then the Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg. The second being the highlight out of the two and according to my research, it is the most famous Christmas market in Germany.
Nuremberg is known as one of the most Christmassy places in the world and it delivered. I had two days to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the city as a whole, while on an epic InterRail adventure. The entire city was geared towards celebrating Christmas and was immaculately decorated with Christmas lights on all the thoroughfares.
The core area was located in the square near to Frauenkirche or Church of Our Lady, a fantastic building looking remarkable throughout the day or in the evening. The atmosphere extended into most streets inside the old city walls, with stalls selling all sorts of wares and tasty treats.
The festivities were focused down the hill from the magnificent Imperial Castle of Nuremberg, that overlooks the old town. As you head closer, the lights get more vibrant and the fragrances of Christmas stimulate your senses. Entering the main square was special – a stage, where traditional music was being played, from various countries including traditional songs and dance.
The aroma of food tickled the taste buds. For me, the gingerbread stalls were a massive draw and I kept on munching; as well as storing a few for a midnight snack!
When in Rome you should do as Romans do, so when in Nuremberg, Nuremberger sausages should be eaten in the traditional manner. They were served grilled with unique sausages in a roll – three specialities included, horseradish, sauerkraut or potato salad. To confess I didn’t have 3, I ended up having 9 throughout the day. I also obliged with local tradition, by hydrating with the locally brewed dark beers and festive warm drinks.
The best Christmassy experiences I enjoyed from many on my recent InterRail adventure with the puppy in tow.
Several Christmas markets are located in Sweden’s second city, but the largest Gothenburg Christmas market, is found in Liseberg Amusement Park. It regularly pulls in half a million visitors due to the huge selection of Christmas stalls, amusement rides and Swedish winter treats.
Based in Gothenburg, the worlds most sustainable city means the five million Christmas lights that decorate Liseberg throughout the festive period, are all run off wind power created by the theme park’s very own wind turbine. On top of that there isn’t any single use plastic in sight! Liseberg is open daily from noon until 11pm.
For shoppers, there are two Christmas markets with a total of 80 stalls and shops, selling bespoke gifts and handicrafts as well as Swedish delicacies like cinnamon buns. With so much going on, including an ice skating ballet show, a traditional Christmas buffet, thirty roller coaster rides and attractions and of course Santa’s workshop, it’s easy to see why the Liseberg Christmas market is a favourite in Sweden.
There are three other Christmas markets in Gothenburg, the most traditional is found at Kronhuset, in one of the oldest preserved buildings in the city.
The most charming Christmas market is found in Haga, which is also home to the largest cinnamon rolls in Sweden, and the most modern Christmas market only runs for one weekend at the iconic Roda Sten Konsthall. The diversity of the Gothenburg Christmas markets make it a must for anyone visiting Sweden in December.
There are several accommodation choices in Gothenburg and surrounds; be sure to read reviews for personal recommendations.
If you are looking for not only one Christmas market, but ten at once, Manchester is where you want to be! Each year in November, the Christmas spirit grips the entire city. Filling the streets with bratwurst and mulled wine, that’s the promise of Manchester Christmas markets.
They are all located in the city centre, within 5 minutes of each other. Manchester Christmas markets are open for over 6 weeks which gives you plenty of time to go check them out!
The main market, on Albert Square, is where you will find the most stands and bars but more importantly, big Santa! The other markets are located on: Piccadilly Gardens, Market Street, Albert Square, Exchange Square, New Cathedral Street, King Street, St Ann’s Square and Cathedral Gardens.
You will find all sorts of foods, drinks and quirky Christmas gifts. I’d highly recommend you withdraw cash beforehand as most stands don’t take cards and the ATMs around the markets get very crowded.
Mancunians love their Christmas Markets and they generally get quite busy. But they are also the best place to experience a true Northern English experience. People are happy and friendly so just get yourself a delicious mulled wine and socialise!
If you want to have a bit more fun, head to the ice village on Cathedral Gardens. You will find a covered ice rink (perfect to skate under any weather condition), a cavern full of ice cultures and an ice tikki bar!
Manchester Christmas markets have it all and if you love all things Christmas, you will be in paradise. They just never get old!
There are many great accommodation options available in and around Manchester.
If you are looking for an authentic Christmas Market in Europe, you definitely should check out Bratislava’s Christmas Market at the Main Square (Hviezdoslavovo Square). Visitors are amazed by the picturesque location and the unique atmosphere in Bratislava.
During Christmas time, this Market is full of local specialities, delicious food and charming goodies. People come together for having some punch or mulled wine and enjoy the true atmosphere of a winter in Bratislava. Really delicious is here the Loksa, a salty pancake or the traditional Strudl, a crisp cake filled with apple and raisins. Also the mulled vine is here in Bratislava tasty – probably because it comes from local vineries nearby the city.
In addition to amazing food you will find plenty of home-made products and traditional souvenirs – perfect to bring home some souvenirs for your beloved.
Another highlight and for many a must-do is winter skating. Especially at the Main Square you will find a very well-prepared open-air ice rink. Not only kids, also adults love to turn some rounds in this incredibly beautiful atmosphere. Skates are available to hire, so you don’t have to bring your own ones.
In the evening, local artists – singers and dancers perform directly at this Christmas Market and make each visit to an extraordinary experience. Christmas Markets have had a long tradition in Bratislava and therefore a visit to Bratislava for Christmas is absolutely recommended.
There are several accommodation choices in Bratislava and surrounds; be sure to read reviews for personal recommendations.
Hands down, the most famous Christmas markets in Austria are definitely located in the three main tourist cities Vienna, Salzburg and Innsbruck. However, let’s not forget the more southern part of the country. In the second biggest city named Graz, you can find the magical Christmas spirit as well. There you can find not only one, but many small and gorgeous Christmas markets located all over the city.
One of the biggest and most famous ones is the one at the main square (“Hauptplatz”). Right in front of the city hall, this Christmas market features a huge Christmas tree, a lovely carousel and many different stalls offering sweets, mulled wine, teddy bears and hand-made decoration.
Another cool Christmas market is the “Aufsteirern” market which is located somewhere unusual. On the famous Schlossberg and far away from the city center there’s a former castle moat called “Kasematten”. During summer, this place is used as an open-air stage but in winter it transforms into a festively decorated Christmas market with countless stalls offering mulled wine, delicious food and also different types of crafts.
Last but not least, the oldest Christmas market can be found at a square called “Franziskanerplatz”. It’s mainly focused on rural tradition and that’s why you can mostly find many arts and crafts, so-called “Thüringer Christmas tree decorations” and products from areas called “Styrian GenussRegionen”. Don’t worry, of course many stalls offer something to eat and mulled wine as well! Also, if you’re craving something sweet, there’s a stall selling mouthwatering chimney cakes. Be prepared to wait for a while tho, the queue is usually very long.
There are many great accommodation options available in and around Graz, be sure to read reviews of personal experiences.
Galway City located on the west coast of Ireland, is arguably not only the coolest bigger city in Ireland, it also hosts the best Christmas market. When the days are getting shorter, the nights darker and the spirit of Christmas becomes visible, then the Galway Christmas market is the place to be.
The market on Eyre Square, right in the heart of the city, includes the incredibly fun 32 metres high Ferris wheel (here you have the best views of the city!), the very popular Après Ski Bar, Santa’s Grotto for kids of all ages and more than 50 international and Irish stalls with arts and crafts.
Besides these, there is lots of great entertainment with many different music acts (Galway is anyways the best city for street buskers in Ireland!) and delicious food (e.g. Czech chimney cakes, German Bratwurst and Glühwein, French crêpes, yummy Irish fudge and much more). One of the best things about Galway’s Christmas market is the possibility to saunter through the beautifully decorated cobbled streets with lively pubs and cozy restaurants.
If you want to get away from the Christmas hustle and bustle in Galway, then you are just a few minutes away from the seashore with its romantic boardwalk of Salthill. This beautiful walk stretches for more than a mile and offers fabulous views of Galway Bay. If you are lucky you will even catch a glimpse of the traditional boats of the city, the Galway Hookers. Definitely give Galway at Christmas time a try, it is really worth it!
There are several accommodation choices in Galway and surrounds; be sure to read reviews for personal recommendations.
Barcelona may not be your best bet when it comes to seeing a white Christmas, but its Christmas market beats out many others in Europe, especially when it comes to unusual traditions.
The Fira de Santa Llucia is a 200+ year old Christmas market located in the plaza outside a Gothic Cathedral, making it extremely atmospheric. Visitors are always amazed to see two of the more unusual Catalan Christmas traditions: the caganer and the caga tio.
A caganer is a small figurine of a defecating man (or nowadays, woman) placed in the Christmas nativity scene. There are various explanations as to why, but the most common is that it’s seen to “bring it down to earth.” Nowadays, they make caganers of celebrities and politicians, too, and there are hundreds for sale at the Christmas market.
The other unusual tradition you’ll encounter at the market is the “caga tio,” a log with a face drawn on (and usually wearing a Santa hat) that is at the center of kids’ Christmas festivities here. Rather than Santa, this log brings kids presents on Christmas Day. He’s usually covered in a blanket and the family gathers around, hitting him with sticks while singing a song asking him to defecate presents (yes, there’s a bit of a theme to these two traditions). Then the blanket is lifted and the gifts are revealed.
If you haven’t been put off your dinner, Barcelona’s a great foodie destination with lots of gluten–free and vegan options too, so head out for dinner after seeing the Christmas market.
Christmas in Prague is one of the busiest times of the year. There are thousands of people that are traveling to see local Christmas markets and not just from the Czech Republic. You can find here people from the whole world. Even though it might sound very crowded, there is a lot of good reasons for visiting Prague during Christmas time.
Prague has a lot of gorgeous historical buildings and seeing them decorated by snow and Christmas lights is something spectacular.
You can get classical Czech crafted gifts for your loved ones. You can find anything from little wooden dolls to homemade aromatic candles or even specially made glass decoration. On some of the stands that you will walk by, you will see how craftsmen work on their products right in front of your eyes, which kind of give a special medieval atmosphere.
At the same time, Prague Christmas markets have a great program. On a lot of stages, you would see people singing chorals and trying to entertain both adults and kids. For entertaining adults, there is a very yummy honey liqueur or mulled wine. While kids can actually see here some domestic animals like donkeys and sheep (sort of like it was in Bethelem, nothing wild).
So as you can see, Prague might be busy during the Christmas time, but for a very good reason. Local Christmas markets are filled with great potential gifts and magic for anyone big and small.
Are you looking for the best Christmas in Europe location for your family? Below we have a compilation of personal stories and recommendations, from experienced travellers from around the globe.
We have an additional list of the best destinations for Christmas in Europe here, as well as things to do at Christmas in Europe and the best markets to visit at Christmas in Europe. Be sure to do your research as Europe Christmas destinations options are truly endless. Every city has so much to offer!
EUROPE CHRISTMAS DESTINATIONS FOR FAMILIES.
FINNISH LAPLAND, FINLAND.
Lapland, in Northern Finland, is one of the most family-friendly Christmas destinations. There is nowhere better to get into the Christmas spirit, especially in December, than the home of Santa Claus himself. Santa even has an official hometown in Lapland, Rovaniemi.
As well as being the hometown of Father Christmas, Rovaniemi is very family friendly. Most of the centre of town is pedestrianised around Lordi Square and there are numerous hotels, AirBnB’s and restaurants to cater for families. Rovaniemi also has several family-friendly things to do in town including three museums and an Angry Birds park. Of the three museums, two are of interest for families with young kids.
Arktikum is the museum dedicated to the
Arctic Circle and the inhabitants of it, including indigenous people and
animals. There are lots of different areas with interactive section for kids.
Pilke, conveniently located beside Arktikum, is a museum dedicated to showing
people how intrinsically important the forests of the Arctic Circle are to the
people and animals. Again, there are plenty of interactive areas for kids, with
a lumberjack caterpillar for kids to climb up into.
A short bus ride out of town you’ll find two places to visit Santa Claus, Santa Park and the Santa Claus Village. Not only can you meet the big man himself, but there are lots of other things to do with kids in both places. There is plenty of things to do in Rovaniemi with kids.
Whether you are in Rovaniemi or visiting the wider Lapland area, most towns and resorts have the opportunity for families to meet Santa Claus. You can also enjoy meeting reindeer and huskies and going on safari rides with them. Kids can try their hand at snowmobiling, there are plenty of ski resorts in Lapland and older kids can also enjoy a Northern Lights hunt. Lapland is an amazing place to visit with kids and one of the most family-friendly European Christmas destinations.
Looking for a new location for your Christmas family vacation? Krakow has a lot to offer as it is one of the most family-friendly Christmas destinations in Europe. With a broad range of activities for all ages and great food and luxurious accommodation that can easily fit your budget, Krakow ticks all the boxes for a family holiday escape.
With family rooms and apartments starting at under 50USD a night, book early to get a room near the Old Town. The Sheraton Hotel, for example, would be one of the best places to stay with its amazing location at the base of Wawel Castle, making the logistics of visiting attractions easier with young ones in tow. You can also rent an apartment in the area for as low as $600 per week with the advantage of having a washing machine and a kitchen.
Designed to be kid-friendly, the city’s transportation system is reliable and equipped to handle strollers. Most of the restaurants in the city are also family-friendly and are equipped with facilities that will make every dining experience pleasurable for all members of the family, from special kids menus, children play area, and feeding and changing facilities. Massolit Books & Cafe, Oberza Sasaidow Restaurant, and Wierzynek Restaurant are among the most recommended restaurants for family.
During your stay, make sure to visit the Christmas Market with its line of wooden stalls that are filled with authentic Polish crafts, food, and drinks. Every single member of your family will fall in love with the quaint Christmas decorations, the delicious assortment of fudge, and the thick hot chocolate. To add some magic to the festive atmosphere, take a carriage ride around the Old Town. And, don’t forget to fill up on padja (open sandwiches) and grilled cheese.
Other places of interest that are open all year round are Wawel Castle with its dragon legends, the crypt of the Franciscan monastery with its mummified residents. The Groteska children’s theatre, where traditional wooden puppets portray well-known fairytales. To add to the fun, take your family to the Park Wodny Aqua Park which has a big collection of slides. For a bit of nature, head to Jordana Park, where you can take your children around the lake with rented paddle-boats and canoes.
The Portuguese Madeira Island is a perfect Christmas destination for an entire family. Weather in Madeira around Christmas and New Year’s Eve is very pleasant, on average around 20C.
If you are lucky, you will have a chance to enjoy the outdoor hotel pools, and for sure, you will come back home sunbathed. This makes Madeira a perfect destination for those in the Northern Hemisphere, who would like to escape the snow and cold…but not the great Christmas spirit!
Most of Portugal’s citizens are Christians, so Christmas is an important holiday. Kids and parents alike will enjoy strolling through beautifully decorated streets. TukTuk “Christmas Lights Watching” tours are also very popular. You will see many decorated Christmas trees, palm trees, Christmas ornaments. As well as tonnes of different Nativity Scenes in different styles.
Kids will love the Christmas Village built for them in one of Funchal’s main parks called Jardim Municipal. The city centre is full of Christmas installations, including a huge, 3 metre-tall Santa Claus. Shops and shopping malls also do not stay behind and kids will have the chance to talk to Santa there. In 2019, there was also a busy fair set up next to the Funchal Marina, with attractions for kids of all ages.
When you visit Madeira Island for Christmas, it’s worth staying New Year’s Eve, as Madeira is famous for its spectacular New Year’s shows. It used to hold the Guinness record for the “Greatest Fireworks Show in the World”. Madeira Island is a great idea for any time of the year, but December is definitely one of the most beautiful periods.
I spent one
of the best years of my life living in Baden-Wurttemberg. This stunning region
in south-west Germany is home to many beautiful mountains. One of the best
parts about them is they are completely accessible to families looking for a
great Christmas destination. Not only that, but the beautiful snow scenes in
winter means you can have that white Christmas you’ve been dreaming of.
I recommend spending some time within the Black Forest. Head to Feldberg ski resort for some family skiing. Lessons are available for beginners! Alternatively, there is a sledge park at the top of Schauinsland – accessible by cable car. Here you’ll find fun for all ages. There are also multiple castles for you to visit. I recommend Hohenzollern or Lichtenstein Castle. These are great for kids and adults alike. Furthermore, take a visit to Titisee Lake – see it frozen in winter and even go ice skating (dependent on ice thickness).
You can also explore the Christmas markets in either Stuttgart or Freiburg. Stuttgart’s are more extensive, while Freiburg’s are more local and traditional. Close to Freiburg you’ll also find Europa Park – Germany’s answer to Disneyland. While the water rides are closed in winter, there is still plenty to keep the family entertained for the day. There is also a reduced entrance rate during winter. These are just some of the great places to visit in Baden-Wurttemberg.
I highly advise staying in Freiburg. This gives you a good base for many activities. From Freiburg, it is very easy to access the Black Forest by public transport or by car. Alternatively, you could stay close to Stuttgart which has better transport connections with the rest of Germany and further afield.
After living in Amsterdam for seven years, and starting our family with two young boys here, it’s no surprise that I happen to think that Amsterdam is a great family-friendly destination all year round, but I definitely think it’s a special place to visit at Christmas.
Firstly, I recommend visiting Amsterdam at Christmas and/or New Year because it’s one of the quietest times of year to come here so visitors can avoid crowds and queues, and there are even some great hotel deals to take advantage of. But more than that, there’s just a very special atmosphere to Amsterdam at Christmas.
The canals are all lit up at night, Christmas lights and Christmas trees make the streets and houses glow warmly in the dark, and there are also a number of cosy Dutch traditions and foods that are special to this time of year which kids will love.
Oliebollen are huge round doughnut-like warm treats filled with dried fruits or apple chunks and they are served from mobile kiosks that are found all across Amsterdam un the festive season. While traditionally, oliebollen are eaten at midnight at New Year, they’re also the perfect stomach-warming treat after an evening canal cruise taking in the world-famous Amsterdam Light Show which is an annual festival that turns Amsterdam’s canals into an art gallery of illuminations created by renowned international artists.
Another great festive activity for the family is ice-skating on the rink that is temporarily located on Museumplein – but don’t worry, they’ll provide chairs for kids (and adults!) to push and balance with if it’s your first time.
Don’t think you have to come to Amsterdam at the end of December to soak up the atmosphere for kids. In Amsterdam festivities start early as Sinterklass, their version of Father Christmas or Santa, arrives on the evening of 6th December delivering presents to all the kids who have left their shoes out for him.
All across the city, you’ll see children in colourful caps and clothes, dressed up as Sint’s famous helpers, his Piets. This in turn means that once Christmas is here, there is less focus on gifts and more on being with family and loved ones, which is possibly my favourite thing about Christmas in Amsterdam.
There is so much to see and do in Amsterdam, be sure to check out this ultimate planning guide for Amsterdam before you travel!
Experiencing a European Christmas, is on the bucket list for so many of us based in the Southern Hemisphere. Who doesn’t want to experience the magic of a winter white Christmas and all of the Christmas in Europe traditions.
The Christmas markets in Europe are envied by the rest of the world; the winter based activities, the magic and the traditions are so well published. Below you will find first hand experiences for some of the best destinations in Europe for Christmas.
There are some magnificent parts of Europe you can visit for a white Christmas experience. It can be difficult to decide where to spend Christmas in Europe. Be inspired by these personal experiences – hopefully they will help you decide where to go to have the best Christmas in Europe.
While living in London in my earlier, pre-kids years, I was fortunate enough to spend my first Europe Christmas holidays in Austria. It truly was as awesome and as magical as I hoped it would be. I bought a 7 day ski package and stayed in a beautiful town called Soll, where we literally had the Austrian Alps at our doorstep.
The town was lit up at night, festive during the day and had an exquisite Christmas feel – it was perfect. The people were friendly, the local food was amazing and Soll boasts some of the best apre ski in Europe!
Snow did not fall on Christmas day, however, we had the best of both worlds – freshly fallen snow the day before and beautiful blue skies to ski the Austrian Alps – all day long!
Soll is just a short trip from Innsbruck another buzzing and magical town at Christmas, with so many unique opportunities, including tobogganing and a visit to the 1964 Winter Olympics bobsleigh run. You will also find some of the best Christmas markets in Austria, here.
There are so many beautiful hotel choices in Soll, surrounded by mountains, which in Winter will be covered in snow – absolutely glorious! I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending Soll, to have the best Christmas in Europe.
Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travelers have to say about accommodation in Soll, Austrian Alps.
Whenever I think of a white Christmas I’m taken back to Innsbruck, Austria. I don’t think I’ve seen so much snow in one place ever in my life! I’m convinced that Innsbruck is one of the best places to go for Christmas in Europe.
My husband and I arrived in Innsbruck on a cold December day. There was no snowflake in the air so we were slightly disappointed (although the city was charming regardless). When we woke up the next morning, however, Innsbruck was covered in a fluffy layer of snow. It was surreal!
We then took the cable car up the Nordkette and spent the whole day at 6,250ft playing in the snow and sipping hot chocolate while enjoying the views. It was the best Christmas present we could ask for!
Back in Innsbruck, we visited the markets (truly some of the top Christmas markets in Europe), walked under humongous Swarovski crystals, tried to spot all the fairy tale characters decorating the streets and warmed ourselves up with steaming cups of mulled wine.
Of course, eating is an important activity at any Christmas market, so we also took care to stuff our faces with delicacies like roasted chestnuts and hot doughnuts with Sauerkraut.
As for accommodation, I recommend you to find a hotel in the Innenstadt because you’ll be within walking distance of all the attractions, including the Nordkette Cable Car station. Bonus points if you book a room with views of the Alps (it shouldn’t be difficult!).
Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travellers have to say about accommodation in Innsbruck.
Nestled at the foot of the Alps is Salzburg, Austria. Whether you visit the chapel where Silent Night was first performed, take a sleigh ride, or visit the many Christkindlmarkts, there is no more magical place to have a white Christmas in Europe.
I recommend staying in the aldstadt (Hotel Goldgasse and Hotel Goldener Hirsh are my favorites!) to truly experience the magic of historic Salzburg. You easily will be able to explore the Christmas markets in Residenzplatz and Domplatz before taking the funicular up to Hohensalzburg Fortress for the beautiful views (and another Christmas market). When you come down the Moschburg, stop at St. Peter’s Abbey for the most serene sight in Salzburg’s old town.
By then you’ll be ready to warm up from the cold. Head to Getreidgasse, Salzburg’s famed shopping street and stop at Sporer to try traditional schnapps. If that’s not your style, Café Tomaselli is a short walk away and offers delicious coffee and cake.
If it’s too cold or too wet to take the bus to the Hellbrunn Palace and Christmas market, you can learn to make traditional Austrian Christmas cookies and apple strudel through this delicious hands-on cooking class. In addition to taking the leftovers home, you will also enjoy a delicious goulash soup for lunch. Other traditional restaurant recommendations are Zum Zirkelwirt and Gasthof Wilden Mann.
In the evenings you can take in a classical concert, join the ice skaters behind Residenzplatz, or continue your shopping at the Christmas markets. Salzburg is beautifully lit in the evenings; don’t forget to take a stroll through the romantic Christmas lights.
Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travellers have to say about accommodation in Salzburg.
Rovaniemi, known officially as the hometown of Santa Claus is one of the most unique Christmas experiences in the world. It sits in the middle of Finland in the region known as Lapland, and draws in thousands of visitors year-round.
In the winter there is an abundance of winter activities and things to see and do. Husky sledding is one such experience. Husky dogs pull visitors on a sleigh ride across the white snowy countryside for miles and show off their endurance and dedication. Husky riding is a family friendly activity and many tour operators provide this experience, ranging from 15 minutes to several hours.
Riding on a reindeer sleigh is another wonderful experience for families and this can happen on a reindeer farm, or out in the countryside. One great place to do reindeer sleighs for smaller family members is at Santa Claus Village.
Santa Claus Village is a top accommodation to stay at, as well as it has reindeer, huskies, and Santa’s on site. It is also very easy to book excursions in Lapland directly from the hotels.
When we went to Lapland with our kids our experience at Santa Claus Village was amazing and we were able to have a wonderful holiday, particularly since the Village accommodates families incredibly well.
In 2018 we visited Iceland in December and found ourselves in Reykjavik for seven weeks in the middle of last winter almost by accident. But that’s another story. What we experienced when we were there was the most lovely Christmas with children ever, contributing to one of the best Europe holidays in December.
We were house-sitting for a family who has kids roughly the same age as ours. The place was already decked out with everything but the tree before we arrived. We settled in, and fed the contents of a box of Christmas CDs into the stereo, and did some research about what to expect. No Santa Claus.
On our first foray into the centre of Reykjavik, we found a great illuminated model of a pussy cat – how sweet! The information panel located by its rather sharp claws told us that this is the cat that eats lazy children. Hmm.
We then discovered that our house would be visited on the thirteen nights before Christmas by as many trolls, the sons of a fearsome ogress. We had better learn each brother’s likes and habits and leave an appropriate gift for him, and so it went on. It turned out that the Yule Cat and Yule Lad myths are embedded into everything during December. Of course, our kids, and we bought into all of this.
As Christmas drew near, we met more and more friendly natives falling over themselves to explain to us what we had to do and eat and see. There is a free skating rink erected in the middle of the old town where we spent another delightful evening, soaking up the Christmas spirit.
We had a very cosy family Christmas enjoying these different traditions. We saw the Northern Lights at last, swam in geothermally heated water, and ate a delicious Christmas dinner of lamb. Then as the New Year broke, we sat in the middle of the most astonishing firework display we had ever witnessed.
We were in the middle of it simply because all our neighbours for miles in every direction had invested in what seemed like megatons of explosives and pyrotechnics. The show continued not for hours but days – that’s one of the strangest facts about Iceland – they spent the enormous amount of money every year on fireworks.
Want a different Christmas and an exhilarating new year? Go to Iceland and soak up the local traditions.
Switzerland is an absolutely stunning destination for a white Christmas, for oh so many reasons. First of all, it is filled with mountains, so that alone makes the experience that much more picturesque and dramatic. Even if the weather is not playing along and the snow in the cities is yet to fall, you can always head uphill and get yourself a truly white experience!
Some of the best Christmas destinations in Switzerland are actually the cities like Lucerne, Geneva and Zurich. Why? Because they are filled with wonderful Christmas lights on all the main streets, and, of course, fun Christmas markets. The markets are great because they have enticing stalls with wonderfully warm comfort food and handmade delights to buy as presents. Here are some accommodation options for these three popular cities: Lucerne, Geneva and Zurich.
Be on the lookout for Gluhwein, a hot spicey wine drink, and other warm cheesy offerings like Raclette, and Fondue – Swiss classics you should be sampling anyway. In Zurich, a giant Christmas tree is put up in the middle of their market too. But not just any old tree, it’s filled with Swarovski crystals, from head to toe! So, it’s worth making a detour to see that alone.
If you want to take things a step further and head up into the mountains, “White Christmas” takes on a whole new meaning. Everything is white, as far as the eye can see. And that also means you can partake in all sorts of snow and ice-related activities like ice skating, tobogganing and even skiing and snowboarding if you are so inclined.
Swiss mountain gems, such as, Zermatt, Saas Fee, Davos and Crans Montana are worth putting on your bucket list. After all, there is nothing better than having a white Christmas in the mountains surrounded by snow!
Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travellers have to say about accommodation in Switzerland.
I moved to Copenhagen a few years ago from Philadelphia. I’m looking forward to my fourth Christmas there this year. When it comes to the Christmas holiday, Copenhagen, Denmark is a fabulous and festive place to enjoy the Christmas season.
With warmer temperatures over the last few years, a Copenhagen white Christmas may be rare. However, when there is a dusting of snow in the city, it is remarkable. There are also adorable Christmas markets, gorgeous decorations all over the city and the Christmas magic of Tivoli Gardens.
The best area to stay and access all the Christmas majesty is Copenhagen’s Nyhavn neighborhood. Nyhavn is the name of the iconic Copenhagen harbor with pastel merchant houses and quaint cafes. There are many Airbnb and hotel options in the area. The streets here are crisscrossed with hanging lights and evergreen boughs. It’s also close to one of the best Christmas markets in Kongen’s Nytorv.
The Christmas market there is beautiful. You can walk around the vendors and shop for keepsakes while drinking glogg. It’s a famous Scandinavian winter-time drink – warm mulled wine with raisins and almonds stirred in. In Kongen’s Nytorv you’ll also see the Hotel D’Angleterre. It’s a gorgeous hotel where the facade is covered with LCD screens and turned into a Christmas advent calendar.
Another winter highlight is Copenhagen’s famous amusement park, Tivoli Gardens. It’s a must-see attraction any time of year, but it’s magical at Christmas. The decorations, light displays, and Christmas vendors make it a spectacular stop. There is also a fabulous Christmas cabaret each year at one of the theatres inside of Tivoli. This show is an annual holiday season tradition for locals and the only English-language feature of the year.
If you’re looking for a Christmas season winter getaway, consider Copenhagen. There’s no shortage of holiday fun and beauty. The Danes love Christmas. Even a workplace Christmas party is like nothing I’ve experienced outside of Denmark. You can see more about their Julefrokost (Christmas party) in this post about my biggest surprises after moving to Denmark.
Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travellers have to say about accommodation in Copenhagen.
Freiburg is a beautiful city nestled at the foot of the black forest. I was fortunate enough to spend a year living and working in Freiburg. I must say, I fell completely in love with the city.
Christmas was my favourite time of year. The city is regularly covered with a blanket of snow and the nearby mountains are transformed into a winter wonderland. Temperatures regularly reach lows of -10°C, so be sure to wrap up warm before heading out to explore.
While the German Christmas markets are on the smaller side, they offer a more authentic local feel and are significantly cheaper. Several markets are littered throughout the city centre. My personal favourite is the market centred around the Munster.
The cathedral provides the perfect backdrop for a festive Christmas evening. Enjoy a mulled wine with amaretto, or perhaps a scrummy bratwurst. The best place for German food in Freiburg is MartinsBrau. I spent many evenings here. I recommend ordering schnitzel with pan fried potatos and a mushroom sauce.
After exploring the city, It’s now time to enjoy the surrounding mountains. I recommend visiting Schauinsland. Take tram line two to Dorfstrasse, then switch to bus 21 which will take you to Schauinsland Tal-bahn. Take the cable car to the top to go sledging, skiing or hiking. Moreover, the restaurant at the top offers stunning views and a delicious marshmallow hot chocolate – exactly what you need after a day in the snow!
Berlin at Christmas time is bone-chillingly cold, but I believe, also the best time to visit. The Christmas markets in Germany are quite something else. Nothing else compares; the best place to start enjoying Christmas, is in Berlin.
Start with a free Sandeman tour of the city to get your orientation. Enjoy the sights of Brandenburg Tor, Checkpoint Charlie, Alexanderplatz, and the famously quirky, 1.3 km long East Side Gallery.
Stay or visit the Kreuzberg neighborhood. Kreuzberg, formerly a part of West Berlin, has transformed from being one of the poorest quarters in the late 1970s to one of the city’s cultural hot spots today. It is home to a large migrant population and also to the city’s hippest clubs and restaurants.
Eat at Curry 66 (on Grünberger Str. 66) along your way—best currywurst ever. Or go to the Currywurst museum for a tutorial on the invention of the city’s favorite dish and learn about its evolution over the years.
Finally, the best part of the trip, the reason you came. Go to WeihnachtsZauber Gendarmenmarkt, arguably the best Christmas market in Berlin. It’s a party at these Christmas markets. They charge €1 or €2 to get in, and inside the revelry is infectious, especially after a glass or two of Glühwein or Eierpunsch, the glasses which you can keep as a souvenir.
Then pick up currywurst or bratwurst and watch a choir perform on stage or a group of people dance madly or buy a locally handmade goodie from the stores which look like straight out of a fairy tale. That’s a white Christmas you’re never going to forget.
Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travellers have to say accommodation in Berlin.
Twenty-Nineteen, was the first year we spent Christmas in Paris. We moved here from the UK, in August 2019 and so didn’t really know what to expect – but any expectations we did have were far surpassed.
Paris is one of the world’s most beautiful cities at any time of year. But at Christmas, it really comes into its own. The streets are full of glorious, sophisticated lights and the shop windows are beautifully arranged. The grand magasins on Boulevard Haussman are particularly magnificent, but the decorations certainly don’t start and finish there. The shopkeepers of Paris know about style and you can expect beautifully adorned windows all around the city.
One of Paris’ Christmas traditions that we particularly enjoyed, were the pop up ice rinks. Last year there was a free rink on the top of the famous Galeries Lafayette department store. It may have been quite small and not real ice, but it did mean you could take in the Christmas windows, gawp at the incredible Christmas tree inside the shop as well as skate with a view of the Eiffel Tower on the rooftop!
Paris also has many Christmas markets, that spring up all over the city. For example, there’s a huge market at La Defense, one in the Tuileries gardens and also along the Seine embankment. Sceptics would say they’re a bit commercial, but with all the fantastic food and mulled wine on offer, it’s difficult not to get into the Christmas spirit. If you prefer less stalls and less people, many of Paris’s arrondissements have smaller, more local markets too and it’s a wonderful experience to wander through Paris and come across one of these.
We loved our first Christmas in Paris and would certainly recommend a visit at this time of year.
There are endless accommodation options in Paris; find the best deal, compare prices and read what other travellers have to say about accommodation in Paris.
When you think of a white Christmas in Europe, London doesn’t come to mind because usually there’s no snow, but let me tell you, it absolutely makes up for it with decorations and vibe. Winter Wonderland is the most Christmasy place on earth!
Hyde Park dresses up for the holidays in green and red, creating a magical place that will turn even the Grinch into a Christmas fan. There you’ll find delicious food, beautiful ornaments, fun games, the UK’s biggest open-air ice rink, and you’ll be able to visit the jaw-dropping Ice Kingdom that features an ice bar. Fun for kids and adults alike!
If you want to get into the celebrations without going over the top, head to Victoria Park’s Winterville. A bit outside the city centre, you’ll find less tourists and just as much charm. If you want great food and maybe to get a present or two, head to the Christmas Market of the South Bank.
For shopping, go to Oxford street. The street itself is full of lights, and the store windows are works of art. Visit in the evening for a full ‘wow’ effect.
If you want to get into the festivities Royal style, visit the palaces in London and around it. Hampton Court has an ice-skating rink just in front of the palace, giving you the perfect photo opportunity for a Christmas card (or Instagram post!).
For a more meaningful experience, attend mass at St. Paul’s Cathedral. I’m not religious at all, but I spent a few hours before midnight handing coffee to people on the street waiting to get inside the church, and I got to marvel at the incredible choir singing in my favourite building in London. It’s a perfect way to spend Christmas in a foreign city!
While you could spend years in London and not see everything, with a 5-day itinerary, you will get to see the main highlights and a bit more. There are endless accommodation options in London, which makes it incredibly difficult to choose the best place to stay. A top tip, would be to stay somewhere in walking distance to a train or underground line, that way, you are never too far from all of the action.
Tallinn, Estonia may not be on every traveler’s wish list, but the ones that choose to visit this unique destination are in for a surprise! Tallinn offers a perfect combination of Scandinavian cool, medieval charm, and Eastern European hospitality. It is a great destination for an eco-conscious traveler, especially during the Christmas season!
We chose to visit Tallinn over Christmas; while the weather was cold and the daylight almost non-existent, we found the city to be VERY charming nonetheless. Christmas lights, markets, cozy little restaurants and bars scattered all over the city kept our spirits high throughout our visit.
The Old Town is a UNESCO site where most of the action takes place. The town is small but is really well preserved, oozing with medieval charm and offering plenty of adorable nooks and crannies to explore during your visit. Peruse the Masters Courtyard – a quiet area of Old Town with cafes and small shops where artisans showcase their finest handiwork. It’s a great place to pick up holiday gifts! Then head to the Christmas Market which is located in Raekoja Square. A huge Christmas Tree is erected each year and you’ll find vendors selling mulled wine, holiday treats, and activities galore.
The list of things to do in Europe are endless and let’s face it, the best things in life aren’t things; they are truly magical and memorable experiences – Europe does all things Christmas incredibly well!
The Best Activities for Kids in Europe at Christmas
Finland – things to do in Rovaniemi this Christmas
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