Christmas holiday celebrations are a big deal in many European countries, and often not reserved for only Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. In certain countries, celebrations begin four Sundays prior ,starting with the beginning of the Advent to the Feast of St. Nicholas on December 6th, and continuing right up until Epiphany on January 6th. Whether you want to explore your roots or discover something new, certain cities in Europe can provide a fairytale, family atmosphere you’ll never forget.
If you’re dreaming of spending your Christmas in Europe, here are 8 cities to consider visiting.
Prague, Czech Republic
A winter wonderland awaits you in Prague, where the glorious architecture becomes a scene right out of a storybook. The city’s famous Christmas markets run for a full month, including Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square, offering spectacular holiday lights, music, live animals, and delicious food. The Gothic buildings dusted in snow, the scent of traditional Czech delicacies, and glistening decorations makes Prague feel like you’re stepping right into a Christmas card. Don’t forget to take in the annual performance of a Christmas tradition — The Nutcracker Ballet at the National Theater.
Grindelwald or Bern, Switzerland
With the beauty of the Swiss Alps as a backdrop to the quaint village of Grindelwald, you can’t help but get in the Christmas spirit. The town is adorned with towering Christmas trees and twinkling lights, and you can explore holiday markets with a mulled wine in your hand and holiday music in your heart.
The 800-year-old city of Bern is a wonderland of golden lights with fantastic Christmas markets to explore. Warm up in one of their cozy cafes after taking in a guided walk through the city. Discover the beauty of the Gothic Cathedral and Zytglogge (Clock Tower), or head to the slopes for some tobogganing fun.
Often referred to as “Little Venice,” the magic of Christmas is experienced by wandering narrow 13th-century, illuminated streets through town square markets. Each little village has its own quaint feel and architecture. You’ll find master craftsmen offering unique products, guided tours, wine tastings, and special performances. After exploring the town, savor the tastes of French delicacies and fine wine to end your day.
No list is complete without mentioning the unique enchantment of Tallinn, Estonia. Considered the first city to erect a public Christmas tree (in 1441), the Town Hall Square still beckons with nostalgic wooden huts filled with artisanal goodies and of course, a glorious Christmas tree glimmering over it all. Enjoy the outdoor ice rink, traditional cuisine, and holiday events — but don’t miss the Kalev Marzipan Museum Room, where you can assemble your own marzipan figurines. Tallinn is, after all, the homeland of marzipan!
From gingerbread-looking architecture to horse-drawn carriages on cobblestone streets, Christmas in the Grote Markt main square is akin to a magical fairytale every year. Festive lights, melt-in-your-mouth Belgian chocolate, and festive shopping are only a few things this adorable town has to offer. The famous Bruges Ice Sculpture Festival is one of the top European winter events tourists and locals alike enjoy, as well as the excellent ice rink and many other annual Christmas traditions.
The Christmas spirit is celebrated on every canal, street, and square in Amsterdam. Carol singers, street musicians, Dutch holiday treats, and Christmas markets await to delight all your holiday cravings. The famous Amsterdam light festival is a must-see event, where sculptures designed by artists from around the world light up the canals. Enjoy the best views of the art sculptures on a canal cruise, followed by a nice warm holiday drink.
Get in the holiday spirit in a city known for its holiday markets, including the famous Viennese Christmas Market at City Hall. The plaza will be abuzz with over 150 vendors selling everything from toys and Austrian delicacies to candles and hand-crafted holiday trinkets. Thousands of sparkling lights and the city’s beautiful architecture will inspire you, as will Christmas Mass at the Hofburg Chapel featuring the crystal-clear voices of the Vienna Boys Choir.
If you consider yourself a foodie, look no further than a holiday trip to Cologne. Offering everything from traditional sweets to the best in savory creations, the streets are filled with the aroma of freshly baked cinnamon apples and biscuits, mulled wine, and other German delicacies. Enjoy some of the best Christmas markets in Europe, take in a concert at the cologne Philharmonic, and enjoy a drink in one of Cologne’s festive pubs featuring local musicians.
No matter which location you choose, you are sure to come home with fantastic holiday memories. If you happen to bring home a few extra pounds as well, that’s okay. After all, it’s really about the love and joy you and your loved ones share just by being together. So Dream. Explore. Travel On.