The Best White Christmas in Europe

Soll, Austria.

Are you dreaming of having the best white Christmas in Europe? I know we are!

Experiencing a European White 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 white Christmas, the lights, the snow, the markets, the beauty.

Soll, Austria for The Best White Christmas in Europe. Recommended by me (Love To Travel, Stay-Eat-Do)!

While living in London in my earlier, pre-kids years, I was fortunate enough to have my first European white Christmas; and, 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 the apres-ski was fun! 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 (read more below) another buzzing and magical town at Christmas, with so many unique opportunities, including tobogganing and a visit to the 1964 Winter Olympics bobsleigh run.

There are some magnificent parts of Europe you can visit for a white Christmas experience. Be inspired by these fabulous contributions on where to spend your first or perhaps your next European White Christmas – I know we will need to have many European Christmas trips to be able to have all of the experiences on our bucket list!

Innsbruck, Austria for The Best White Christmas in Europe. Recommended by Laura from Travelers Universe.

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! 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 best 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!).

Salzburg, Austria for The Best White Christmas in Europe. Recommended by Sara Miller at Journey of Doing.

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 spend 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.

Rovaniemi, Finland for The Best White Christmas in Europe. Recommended by Diana from The Elusive Family.

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 hotel.  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 fishing, ice floating 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.

Reykjavik, Iceland for The Best White Christmas in Europe. Recommended by Ania from The Travelling Twins.

Reykjavik at Christmas, The Travelling Twins.

Last year 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. 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 for The Best White Christmas in Europe. Recommended by Roger Timbrook from Expert World Travel.

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 now in the cities is yet to fall, you can always head uphill and get yourself a truly white experience!

Some of the best places to go during the Christmas period 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. 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. Oh, and Zurich itself, the financial capital of the county, puts up a giant Christmas tree 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.

And 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. Such Swiss mountain gems as Zermatt, Saas Fee, Davos and Crans Montana are worth spending putting on your bucket list. After all, there is nothing better than having a white Christmas in the mountains surrounded by snow!

Copenhagen, Denmark for The Best White Christmas in Europe. Recommended by Derek Hartman from Robe Trotting.

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.

Freiburg, Germany for The Best White Christmas in Europe. Recommended by Hannah Golton from Hannah’s Happy Adventures.

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.

Berlin, Germany for The Best White Christmas in Europe. Recommended by Smita Bhattacharya.

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 it 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, I swear. 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.

London, England for The Best White Christmas in Europe. Recommended by Coni from Experiencing the Globe.

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 Christmas-y 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 all you want is great food and maybe to get a present or two, your place is 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!

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