Heading to Europe for Christmas but don’t know where to go? With so many cities to choose from, you can find yourself overwhelmed and clueless about where to spend the holidays.
Worry not, as this guide is the perfect companion for your travel planning. After reading this, you can book your flights and prepare your travel for an exciting holiday vacation.
Read on to discover the best European cities to visit at Christmas, what to do in these places, and where to go for the Christmas vacation of a lifetime!
The glowing city of Amsterdam in the Netherlands is best visited from November through January because of its mesmerizing buildings, bright bridges, and sparkling canals decorated in dozens of light installations for the Amsterdam Light Festival.
Displayed at the Canal Ring and Amstel River areas, the Amsterdam Light Festival showcases stunning light shows with light installations over bridges, across canals, and in intricate designs and patterns reflected on buildings.
You can also head to the historic Zwolle to marvel at the Netherlands Ice Sculpture Festival, where artists from all over the globe create their masterpieces and sculptures from ice and snow.
If you ever find yourself in the city of London during the holidays, you might be overwhelmed with the abundance of attractions that you can visit and enjoy. A canopy of lights forms over Mayfair, Sloan Square, Regent Street, Oxford Street, and other prominent shopping districts in the city.
Hyde Park transforms into the Winter Wonderland festival with decorated trees shining over the city’s largest outdoor skating rink. You can also listen to the songs of Christmas carolers, ride a ferris wheel, and shop to your heart’s delight at the city’s German Christmas market.
Transport yourself to 1284 as the Tower of London recreates scenes from the court of Edward I during its medieval Christmas. St. Paul Cathedral joins in the fun by hosting concerts and carol sing-alongs.
Besides the streets filled with vendors selling Christmas decorations and gifts, Zagreb’s celebration of Christmas is centered on art, music, entertainment, and food. From late November through January, Croatia’s capital city is sprawled with lights, making for many picturesque spots.
The iconic fountain in Ban Josip Jelačić Square becomes a light display, with a gorgeous Christmas tree decorated with bright lights. Lanterns light up the Zrinjevac Park, home to musical performances and pop-up stalls that sell art and handmade gifts.
You can also spend some time skating in the Ice Park on King Tomislav Square and enjoy live concerts as you skate. Head to the Strossmayer Promenade and indulge yourself at the four Christmas markets to be found in the area.
The city of Vienna in Austria prides itself in celebrating the holiday season with music and concerts. With its Baroque churches hosting concerts, Vienna becomes a musical city.
Stunning palaces in the city, like the Schönbrunn Palace, also hold concerts. Classical, chamber and choral music fills the halls of these palaces, with the most famous concert being Christmas in Vienna performed by the Vienna Boys Choir at the Wiener Konzerthaus.
Schönbrunn Palace also provides a majestic backdrop for handicraft and traditional decor markets. Meanwhile, the Belvedere Palace makes for a stunning visual treat with the reflections from the booths across the palace.
One cannot spend Christmas in Munich, Germany, without splurging at the many Christmas markets around the city. The largest is located at Marienplatz, below the ornate neo-Gothic style city hall. Here, you’ll be surrounded by gifts, decor, and brightly-decorated booths selling frosted gingerbread hearts.
Just a few streets away is the Kripperlmarkt, an area devoted to intricately crafted crèche scenes of the city’s people, animals, and buildings. You will also find hand-modeled figures and carved wooden figures which originated from the villages in Bavaria.
Take a break from the city lights and head to the Tollwood Cultural Festival for one evening and enjoy modern music and contemporary art, jewelry, fashion, decor, and other works of art from contemporary craftspeople and designers.
The city of Strasbourg is home to the oldest and best Christmas market in all of France – with an unparalleled setting. Half-timbered houses form the backdrop, with garlands of lights hanging in between. The market can be found along the river, surrounded by its famous medieval buildings.
The iconic Strasbourg Cathedral is the backdrop of the largest market in the city, where wooden huts sell handicrafts, food, and holiday ornaments. Be sure to grab a bite of the bredele cookies, the traditional Alsatian honey gingerbread, and the flammekueche, an Alsatian flatbread topped with cheese and onions.
You can also find crafts from neighboring European countries. Throughout the market, you’ll immerse yourself in groups of carolers, concertgoers, and nativity plays. Stop by the skating rink and enjoy a few minutes of skating, too!
Europe’s best-known Christmas market, and the first to be recognized as a major tourist attraction, is located in the city of Nuremberg, Germany. The market could pass as a movie set, with its large square surrounded by medieval buildings and a stunning cathedral covered in lights.
Be sure to grab a bite or two of the city’s most famous food offerings, the Nürnberger Lebkuchen and the Nuremberg Bratwurst. The Nürnberger Lebkuchen are gingerbread cookies filled with spices, while the Nuremberg Bratwurst is a sausage cooked over a sizzling grill and eaten inside a crusty bun.
Head to the Sister Cities Market and find pearls from China, nesting dolls from Russia, or crafts from Nicaragua. You can also tour the city in a horse-drawn carriage to complete your experience!
Tallinn is home to the Old Town, a UNESCO-protected heritage site that seems to be a village from a storybook come to life. While the city is great all year round, the Christmas season in this city is exceptionally delightful.
The Town Hall Square Christmas market paints a magical scene with its pastel-hued facades, bright street lamps, and small wooden huts. A Christmas tree towers above the market against a backdrop of snowy rooftops.
Tallinn’s Christmas market is known to be one of Europe’s most authentic and enchanting markets. Skate to your heart’s desire at the skating rink on Harju Street or create marzipan figurines at the Kalev Marzipan Museum Room.
Copenhagen shows its festive spirit during the holiday season with its shimmering lights, Christmas markets, and iconic hyggelige cafés, that radiate the well-known Danish coziness. Sample the Christmas coffee and grab a bite of the classics – gløgg, æbleskiver, and ris a la mande.
Head to the world-famous Tivoli Gardens, the second-oldest amusement park in the world, transformed into a magical winter wonderland with gorgeous light displays, fun rides, and stalls selling traditional goods and gifts.
Every year on the 13th of December, hundreds of kayaks covered in Christmas ornaments and decorations appear on the canals for the annual Saint Lucy’s parade. Feast your eyes on this merry gathering of kayakers for the ultimate Copenhagen Christmas!
Dubbed “The most romantic city in the world,” Paris can also be one of the merriest and coziest cities to spend the holidays in. The intimate ambiance and vibe of the city are perfect for the warm, festive season.
Likened to New York City during the Christmas season, Paris shines bright in December with 400 trees along Champs-Elysees decorated with red lights by lighting artists.
If you’re spending the holidays with the kids, visiting Disneyland Paris will be a dream come true for the little ones. Have the best Christmas in the best city and enjoy ice rinks, winter shows, chocolates, and a lot more!
Bruges hosts one of Europe’s best winter events, the Bruges Ice Sculpture Festival, which takes place in the square in front of the city’s train station. The festival showcases stunning artworks by international artists.
The city itself is beautiful when decorated for the Christmas season. Snap a photo of the picturesque city and immerse yourself in buildings that seem like they’re made out of gingerbread.
Head to Bruges’s main square and marvel at the twinkling lights, majestic ice rink, and cozy wooden chalets that sell souvenirs, ornaments, and world-famous Belgian chocolate.
European cities are indeed a wondrous and marvelous place to be during the holidays. With an abundance of decorations, world-class Christmas markets, stunning sites, and great food, you’ll surely be jolly during the happiest season on Earth!
Plan your trip to any of these cities and enjoy your holidays with everything Europe has to offer.