The Best Christmas in Europe

PLANNING THE BEST CHRISTMAS IN EUROPE?

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.

For more ideas on fabulous family Christmas destinations read our compilation here, as well as the best markets to visit at Christmas in Europe.

WHERE IS THE BEST CHRISTMAS IN EUROPE?

The Best Destinations For Christmas In Europe.

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.

SOLL, AUSTRIA.

Soll, Austria.

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.

By Erin – Love To Travel, Stay-Eat-Do.

INNSBRUCK, AUSTRIA.

Innsbruck at Christmas, Travelers Universe.

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.

By Laura from Travelers Universe.

SALZBURG, AUSTRIA.

Salzburg at Christmas, Journey of Doing.

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.

By Sara Miller at Journey of Doing.

ROVANIEMI, FINLAND.

Rovaniemi at Christmas, The Elusive Family.

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.

Northern lights tours, ice floating and ice fishing and numerous other activities are available in Rovaniemi

Rovaniemi is a very unique family experience and a once in a lifetime opportunity for experiencing a magical experience with your family.

Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travellers have to say about accommodation in Rovaniemi.

By Diana from The Elusive Family.

REYKJAVIK, ICELAND.

Reykjavik at Christmas, The Travelling Twins.

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.

For accommodation options in Reykjavik, there are tonnes of choices here. There are so many fabulous things to do in Reykjavik for families, including the very popular Golden Circle Full Day Tour.

Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travellers have to say about accommodation in Reykjavik.

By Ania from The Travelling Twins.

SWITZERLAND.

View over Lake Lucerne, Mt Pilatus, Expert World Travel.

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.

By Roger Timbrook from Expert World Travel.

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK.

Copenhagen at Christmas, Robe Trotting.

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.

By Derek Hartman from Robe Trotting.

FREIBURG, GERMANY.

Freiburg at Christmas, Hannah’s Happy Adventures.

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!

I’m in no doubt that you will love Freiburg just as much as I did. If Freiburg interests you check out the top 10 things to do in the city here. Where to stay in Freiburg? Budget: Black Forest Hostel; mid-range: City Hotel Freiburg; or, luxury: Novotel Freiburg Am Konzerthaus.

Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travellers have to say about accommodation in Freiburg.

By Hannah Golton from Hannah’s Happy Adventures.

BERLIN, GERMANY.

Berlin at Christmas, by Smita.

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.

By Smita Bhattacharya.

PARIS, FRANCE.

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.

Paris at Christmas

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.

By Clare from Epic Road Rides

LONDON, ENGLAND.

London at Christmas, Experiencing the Globe.

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.

By Coni from Experiencing the Globe.

TALLINN, ESTONIA

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. 

There are several accommodation choices in Tallinn and surrounds; be sure to read reviews for personal recommendations.

By Oksana & Max from Drink Tea & Travel.

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