Discover the Best Christmas Destinations in Europe: From Strasbourg to Zagreb, Unveiling the Enchanting Festive Charms
Looking to experience a fairytale-like holiday season? Look no further! We have curated a list of the best Christmas destinations in Europe that will transport you to a whimsical winter wonderland. From the charming streets of Strasbourg and the romantic canals of Venice to the enchanting Christmas markets of Berlin and the snowy landscapes of Lapland, prepare to be mesmerized by the festive spirit that radiates through these European gems. Whether you're seeking picturesque landscapes, cultural delights, or simply a dose of holiday cheer, these destinations have it all. Join us on this magical journey as we explore the top Christmas destinations that Europe has to offer.
Photo by AMzPhoto/Depositphotos.com
Strasbourg, France, is home to the oldest Christmas market in the country and offers a delightful winter experience. This charming Alsatian city, located near the German border, boasts a magnificent Gothic cathedral and a UNESCO-listed Old Town. The city's historic plazas are transformed into Marchés de Noël, where you can explore nearly 300 traditional wooden stalls. These stalls are filled with beautiful Christmas tree ornaments, eye-catching Nativity figurines, and delicious seasonal treats like roasted chestnuts, bredele cookies, and mulled wine. The market is also a hub of festive activities, including carol singing, Nativity plays, and ice-skating rinks.
Colmar, France, is a fairytale town that becomes even more enchanting during Christmas. With its five Christmas markets scattered throughout the town, Colmar creates a magical atmosphere. Visitors can enjoy life-size horse performances, foam "snow" falling from the sky, and nativity scenes featuring live animals. One of the unique features of Colmar's Christmas markets is the abundance of handcrafted items, providing a more authentic and local shopping experience. Additionally, Colmar's proximity to Strasbourg and the charming town of Riquewihr makes it a perfect destination for those seeking a truly festive experience.
Amiens, France, is a fantastic Christmas destination known for its amazing Christmas market food. During a visit to Amiens leading up to Christmas, you can explore the city's Christmas markets filled with family-friendly activities and a wide range of delicious food and drinks. Unlike some other markets dominated by mass-produced items, Amiens' Christmas market stalls offer unique and eco-friendly goods. The town itself is a charming French destination, featuring beautiful parkland and picturesque villages. The highlight of Amiens is its stunning Cathedral Basilica, where visitors can also enjoy breathtaking light shows projected onto the building's façade.
Picturesque street in the small, white-washed village of Mijas, decorated for Christmas in Spain's ... [ ] Andalusia.
Andalusia, Spain, is a hidden gem for Christmas travel. With its mild weather and fewer tourists during the holiday season, Andalusia offers a unique experience. The region showcases a combination of stunning natural landscapes, golden sandy beaches, historic cities with rich heritage, and vibrant celebrations, parades, and carnivals. From the architectural treasures left by the Islamic civilization, such as the Alcázar Palace, the Mezquita-Catedral of Córdoba, and the Alhambra in Granada, to the breathtaking cathedrals and palaces built during the catholic church and monarchy reign, Andalusia is a testament to the fusion of cultures and communities over time.
Spain is criminally overlooked during the Christmas season, but the southern European nation has some of the best local festivities you’ll experience.
While Madrid and Barcelona also offer excellent Christmas markets, Seville stands out as a must-visit destination. The mild December climate in Andalusia makes Seville an ideal place to celebrate Christmas. The city is known for its stunning Christmas light shows, which illuminate famous landmarks like the Plaza de España and the Archivo de Indias. The main shopping streets transform into dazzling displays of lights, while festive nativity scenes and Christmas concerts add to the joyful atmosphere. Seville also hosts lively Christmas parades leading up to Three Kings Day on January 5. Nearby, the city of Malaga offers equally impressive Christmas light shows in its Old Town.
By: Darek of DarekandGosia.com
An aerial view of the rolling hills and turquiose waters of Famara beach in Lanzarote, Canary islands. There are many great places to spend Christmas in Europe. However, for those who prefer warm weather, Spain should be your number one destination since there is no better way to celebrate the holidays than with Christmas in Lanzarote! The Canary Islands, including Lanzarote, boast one of the best climates in the world and offer a unique holiday experience year-round. Lanzarote is known for its dynamic volcanic landscapes and pristine beaches, making it an ideal destination for Christmas. Visitors can sail through the ocean, stroll along sandy beaches, or explore the amazing Timanfaya National Park. Other highlights include Papagayo Beach, Los Jameos del Agua, and the famous Charco de los Clicos.
A European Christmas is typically associated with winter weather, but Tenerife offers a different experience. With temperatures reaching highs of 18°C even in November, Tenerife provides a warm and festive setting. The Canary Islands, including Tenerife, have the best climate in Europe, making it an ideal escape from colder climates on the continent. Tenerife celebrates Christmas with beautiful light displays and decorations in town plazas, including a unique nativity scene made from sand at Las Canteras Beach. The city of Mount Teide offers perfect stargazing opportunities with its super-dark skies. Visitors can also explore the rich cultural heritage and stunning landscapes of the island, including Gran Canaria and Fuerteventura.
Dates: November 24 to December 31, 2023
Best for: Gourmet Christmas
Winter Wonders in Brussels is a magical Christmas event spread across Grand-Place, Bourse, Place Sainte-Catherine, and Marché aux Poissons. The city comes alive with ice skating rinks, ethereal music, light shows, a massive Christmas tree, and more than 200 snow-covered wooden chalets. The chalets offer a variety of delights, including toasty waffles, mulled wine, Belgian beers, and chocolates. Brussels provides a gourmet Christmas experience where visitors can indulge in delicious treats and immerse themselves in the festive spirit.
Ghent (Belgium), one of the most beautiful cities in Belgium
Ghent, Belgium, is one of the most beautiful cities in the country and an excellent choice for a December trip. This charming city offers a delightful Christmas experience, with its Christmas market featuring 150 wooden stalls selling handicrafts, mulled wine, and traditional regional dishes. Ghent's festive atmosphere and beautiful architecture make it a perfect destination for a memorable Christmas celebration.
Bruges, Belgium, is a picturesque city that resembles a fairytale during Christmas. The city's canals, gingerbread-like buildings, and elegant horse-drawn carriages create a truly magical atmosphere. The main square, Grote Markt, transforms into a winter wonderland with twinkling lights, an ice rink, and charming wooden chalets. These chalets are filled with festive souvenirs, ornaments, and delectable Belgian chocolate. Bruges is also known for its Ice Sculpture Festival, which features magnificent works by international artists and is one of Europe's best winter events.
Amsterdam, NetherlandsAmsterdam is a stunning destination to visit during the Christmas season. The city transforms into a magical wonderland as Christmas lights illuminate the canals, creating a sparkling spectacle. You'll find plenty of cozy restaurants, bars, and coffee shops (both serving coffee and other delights!) to warm up in as you explore the picturesque streets. Despite its popularity, Christmas is actually a quieter time for visitors, allowing you to take advantage of special hotel deals and avoid large crowds at the popular museums. While there are a few Christmas markets in the city, they tend to be overpriced tourist traps. Instead, I recommend ice-skating on the special rink outside the Rijksmuseum (a somewhat touristy but still festive activity), attending Christmas carol performances at the Concertgebouw, and indulging in Oliebollen (delicious deep-fried dried fruit doughballs). Another highlight of Christmas in Amsterdam is the Amsterdam Light Festival, featuring beautiful art installations on the canals. You can choose to explore these installations by taking a tour boat or simply wandering around the city. And, just like the locals, you can even hop on a bike to immerse yourself in the festive atmosphere!Where to Stay in AmsterdamFrom As the Bird Flies
Berlin, GermanyDates October 28, 2023, to January 1, 2024 Best for trendy Christmas gifts and tobogganingIf you're looking for a more modern take on Christmas traditions, Berlin is the place to be. The city is adorned with approximately 80 Christmas markets, each offering its own unique experience. Don't worry about trying to visit them all, it's not necessary. For a large-scale market, head to Spandau. For a visually stunning experience, Weihnachtszauber at Gendarmenmarkt square is your best bet. Here, you'll find a wide variety of arts and crafts. If you're in the mood for winter sports, Winter World at Potsdamer Platz is perfect. It offers activities such as tobogganing, curling, and ice-skating, with free lessons available for kids. For a quieter experience, I recommend visiting in the morning when it's less crowded. If you're interested, you can also check out the best Christmas markets in Germany and the UK for 2023.Skating at the Christmas market in Budapest (Getty Images)
Cologne (Germany), a Christmas market near the cathedralCologne, GermanyLet's now venture to the eastern part of Germany and explore the charming city of Cologne during Christmas. One of the highlights of this city is the spectacular Cologne Cathedral, a remarkable Gothic cathedral that has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also Germany's most visited monument. During the Christmas season, Cologne is home to seven Christmas markets spread throughout the city. One of the markets is located in Roncalliplatz, a square adjacent to the cathedral. With over 100 stalls and a magnificent Christmas tree, it's definitely worth a visit. Don't miss the opportunity to stroll through all the markets and try the local specialties. The Christmas Market in Cologne runs from November 23 to December 23.
Frankfurt, GermanyBy: Daniel and Ilona of Top Travel SightsThe vibrant Christmas market in the center of Frankfurt, Germany. Frankfurt, Germany is undoubtedly one of the top European destinations for Christmas. The city's long-standing Christmas market, mentioned in writing as early as 1393, is a bustling wonderland that should not be missed. Today, the market extends throughout the entire city center, and even the suburbs have their own smaller weekend markets in December. The main highlight of this enchanting market is the enormous Christmas tree located in front of Frankfurt City Hall. The market also features a merry-go-round and a stage for choral performances. Don't forget to try regional Christmas specialties such as mulled wine (known as Glühwein in German), hot apple wine infused with spices, and local cookies made with almonds and marzipan (known as Bethmännchen in German). And if you're looking for a unique souvenir, keep an eye out for Quetschemännchen, iconic figurines made from dried plums and nuts that were traditionally sent as gifts to someone special. Stay until the end of the article for recommendations on where to stay in Frankfurt.
Nuremberg, GermanyDates November 29 to December 24, 2023Best for eco-warriorsWhen it comes to sustainability, the Nuremberg Christmas market sets an excellent example. All mulled wine vendors use reusable cups, reducing waste from disposable containers. The market is also powered by regenerative energy from regional hydroelectric and photovoltaic power plants. The market's opening ceremony is led by the "Christkind," a curly-haired figure who invites everyone to embrace their inner child. The market is adorned with bright Christmas tree decorations, tinsel angels, wooden nutcrackers, and colorful stars, creating a whimsical atmosphere. Food lovers will be delighted by the aromas of grilled sausages, crackling pork, and mulled wine filling the air. The market offers a truly eco-friendly and festive experience.The Christmas market around Seville Cathedral (Alamy)
Füssen, GermanyBy: Rachel of Celt and KiwiNeuschwanstein Castle surrounded by snow near Füssen, Germany. Füssen is a charming town located at the end of Bavaria's Romantic Road. Its picturesque appearance resembles something out of a fairytale, which is further enhanced by its close proximity to Germany's iconic Neuschwanstein Castle, just a short 5-minute drive away. Visiting Füssen during the winter allows you to experience this famous castle without the overwhelming summer crowds. You won't find any big brand name stores here, but instead, you'll discover a plethora of locally-owned shops offering regional goods. During the holiday season, Füssen hosts its own Christmas Market in the monastery of St Mang courtyard. If you've already had your fill of traditional German cuisine in Munich, I recommend trying some delicious burgers at M34 Burger Bar. It's important to note that this quaint town has early closing times, usually around 6 pm, so it's worth staying in an alpine lodge with a cozy fireplace. And if you're lucky, you might wake up to a beautiful snowy landscape, just like our one-year-old daughter did during her first visit to Neuschwanstein Castle. For breathtaking views, take a ride on the Tegelberg cable car and visit the small ski resort in Tegelbergto. You can also relax at the nearby Kristall Therme thermal baths in Schwangau. If you time your visit for sunset, you'll be treated to a magnificent view of Neuschwanstein Castle against the backdrop of a setting sun. Don't forget to grab some Berlin souvenirs to pair with your experience in Füssen!
Innsbruck, AustriaBy: Deb of The Visa ProjectThe beautiful Christmas tree and expansive Christmas Market you’ll find in Innsbruck, Austria. If you're planning to spend Christmas in Europe and have Austria on your list, Innsbruck is a must-see destination. This picturesque Austrian city surprises visitors with its festive traditions. Start by marveling at the Swarovski crystal-adorned Christmas tree near the Golden Roof in the historic Old Town. As you explore, you'll be captivated by the colorful medieval facades that grace the city. Be sure to visit the Old Town Christmas Market, where you can warm up with a mug of Glühwein (mulled wine) while enjoying the festive atmosphere. Innsbruck is home to six different Christmas markets that begin in mid-November. However, the Panorama Christmas Market is not to be missed. Take the Hungerburgbahn funicular railway to Hungerburg Hill and be rewarded with breathtaking views of the city and surrounding mountains, along with delicious alpine treats. For a unique experience, hop on the vintage tram that operates on Fridays and Saturdays from December 1 to December 23. It's also worth exploring some of the city's beautiful landmarks, such as Ambras Castle, St. James' Cathedral, the Hofkirche, and the Imperial Palace. Don't forget to take a stroll along Maria-Theresien Strasse and enjoy a drink at one of the rooftop bars. If you're an outdoor enthusiast, consider a trip across the border to Germany and visit Zugspitze, the tallest mountain in Germany. And when it's time to rest, the Marmota Hostel comes highly recommended.
Salzburg and the nearby villages offer a wide range of experiences during the Christmas season. The advent season in Mozart's city feels like stepping into a fairy tale. The magnificent fortress overlooking the city serves as a stunning backdrop for the numerous wooden huts scattered throughout. As you wander, you'll be enticed by the aromatic scents of mulled wine, punch, freshly baked apples, toasted almonds, and cotton candy. The Salzburg Christkindlmarkt at the Dom and Residenzplatz is one of the oldest Christmas markets in the world, dating back to the 15th century. But it's not just about food and drinks. The summery beer garden of Sternbräu transforms into a charming village of huts where you can shop for Christmas holiday decor and handcrafted gifts while sipping hot beer. For a unique experience, be sure to join one of the wild and slightly eerie Krampus parades. If you venture outside the city, visiting the Christmas Market in front of the world-famous Silent Night Chapel is a memorable experience. It's the birthplace of the beloved Christmas carol.
Prague has become increasingly popular over the last decade, and its allure is easily understood. The city's old-world charm is especially captivating during Christmas time. Prague boasts two renowned Christmas markets, and the entire city is festively adorned. More information about Prague can be found here.
Dates November 23 to December 23, 2023Best for wooden toys and foodie treats
Christmas in the Slovakian capital is a time of enchantment. Christmas trees adorned with fairy lights, traditional wooden toys, and exquisite Christmas decorations grace the market stalls. Foodie delights include pancakes, sausages, and cakes.
Christmas market stalls in the square of Cesky Krumlov in Bohemia (Alamy)
Budapest (Hungary), one of the most beautiful Christmas destinations in Europe
Best Christmas destinations
Let's travel to Budapest (Hungary), one of my remarkable discoveries last year. Prior to my visit, I was aware of Budapest's reputation for beauty, but I had no idea it was this stunning! I experienced it during the summer, and the thought of its winter charm, especially during Christmas, is awe-inspiring.
The main Christmas markets are located in Vörösmarty Square and St. Stephen’s Basilica. Hungarian delicacies such as lángos, sausages, kürtőskalács, and other sweets can be sampled here. Additionally, a nightly light show is held in the basilica.
Another popular activity in Budapest during Christmas is ice skating at Budapest City Park, home to one of the oldest and largest ice rinks in Europe.
Are you in search of an affordable Christmas destination in Europe? If so, consider Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. You may have never considered traveling to this Eastern European city before, but let me tell you, many people have been pleasantly surprised, even though I haven't been there personally. The City Garden hosts the Weihnachtsmarkt every Christmas, a Christmas market in true German style. Apart from trying Bulgarian delicacies, you can also enjoy theater plays and musical performances.
Sofia may not be the most conventional Christmas destination, but I guarantee it will leave you amazed.
Zakopane in December is an enchanting Christmas wonderland. The entire town feels like it's straight out of a Christmas fairytale, making it the perfect destination for the holiday season.
Zakopane is beautiful throughout the year, but there's something extra special about it during the festive season. As a popular winter vacation spot in Poland, Zakopane offers excellent opportunities for snow sports and family fun. In December, you'll find pop-up Christmas markets and a permanent market hall where you can shop for unique Christmas gifts and souvenirs.
Zakopane is situated at the base of the Tatra Mountains, providing plenty of opportunities for day trips. It's just a two-hour drive from Krakow. Don't miss the Funicular ride up Mount Gubałówka for breathtaking views and delicious traditional Polish cuisine.
Be sure to stay for the New Year's Eve celebrations, when the town center becomes a massive street party. Book a table in advance at one of the central restaurants, enjoy a cozy dinner and drinks, and witness the fireworks. Our white Christmas and New Year celebration in Zakopane is still one of our favorite holiday memories!
Last January, my husband surprised me with a trip to Warsaw to attend a ballet. It was his Christmas gift to me, and I was thrilled to explore this beautiful city. What surprised me even more was that Warsaw was still brimming with festive cheer a month after Christmas! Not only is Warsaw a perfect place to enjoy the holiday season's build-up, but it also offers remarkable celebrations.
In my opinion, Warsaw is an underrated city for a festive weekend getaway. It is not only a budget-friendly destination but also incredibly charming and traditional. Exploring Warsaw's Christmas markets should be at the top of your list. Throughout the city, you'll find pop-up markets of various sizes, offering food, drinks, activities, and cute wooden chalet stalls to explore. The largest market can be found at Warsaw's Castle Square.
In December, the city comes alive with the annual Warsaw Christmas Light Festival. The light installations are some of the most enchanting and festive I have ever seen, highlighting the city's dedication to creating a magical atmosphere.
In the center of the Old Town Square, you'll find an ice skating rink. Ice skating against the backdrop of pastel-colored Baroque buildings in the Old Town Square is a truly romantic experience. In fact, this square is home to the most Instagrammable spots in Warsaw. Grab a mug of mulled wine and immerse yourself in the beauty of this city during the festive season.
From All about RosaLilla
Dates December 2 to 23, 2023Best for festive romance and global delicacies
In the historical city center, Gdansk Christmas market transforms into a magical winter wonderland. Romance fills every corner, including a spot designated for lovers to kiss under the mistletoe, symbolizing a long life together. Visitors can enjoy elf parades, encounters with a talking moose, the Snow Queen, and singing carollers. The fairytale carousel offers a delightful experience. The market stalls offer original jewelry, ceramics, and upcycled clothes, including hats and knitwear. Delicacies from around the world, including traditional Polish cuisine like pierogi, Alsatian pancakes, Greek bougatsa, and Spanish churros, tempt food lovers. Warm up with hot chocolate, mulled beer, or aromatic mulled wine, also known as glogg.
Christmas market in Metz (Alamy)
High Tatras, Slovakia
By: Jiayi of The Dairy of a Nomad
The beautiful, snow-covered, mountain landscape of the High Tatras in Slovakia. One of the best European Christmas destinations are the High Tatras in Slovakia. This mountain range is situated at the border of southern Poland and northern Slovakia and is part of the Carpathian Mountains, the longest mountain range in Europe. It offers stunning natural landscapes and a charming winter wonderland atmosphere.
What makes the High Tatras an even more extraordinary destination during Christmas is the fact that it is not visited by many people, allowing you to fully appreciate this picturesque mountain region in serene tranquility. Most visitors to the High Tatras come from Slovakia, Poland, or Hungary, seeking thrilling activities such as skiing, hiking, and relaxing in indoor spa hotels.
The region boasts some of the finest hiking trails, including Kôprová Valley, Kriváň Peak, Mylnická-Furkotská Valleys, and Rysy Peak. Additionally, you can explore beautiful lakes such as Štrbské Pleso and Popradské Pleso, which provide breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains.
You can choose to stay in one of the lovely Airbnbs in Tatranska Lomnica or Stary Smokovec. For a more luxurious experience, consider the Grand Hotel Kempinski, where you can treat yourself to remarkable mountain views and spa treatments!
Rovaniemi is undeniably one of the best European cities for Christmas, with its awe-inspiring frosty landscapes, illuminated trees, and intricate ice sculptures. Adding to its magical allure is the fact that Santa Claus himself resides a mere 8 km away.
Apart from the picture-perfect pink-hued mornings and the lively Santa Claus Village, Rovaniemi offers visitors a rich selection of museums and a plethora of winter activities. Expect thrilling experiences like reindeer and husky rides, snowmobile safaris, and Northern Lights tours.
Dates November 17 to December 31, 2023 Best for ferris wheel rides and Christmas hygge
Copenhagen's markets pulsate with festive joy as Christmas trees, decorations, and lights adorn the city, creating a colorful tapestry of seasonal cheer. Wooden toy stalls, ceramics, decorations, and cozy knitwear can be found among the market stalls. While the city center is home to several markets, the Christmas market at Tivoli Gardens is Copenhagen's heart and soul (though some say Nyhavn steals the show). In the evening darkness, a Ferris wheel adds a touch of magic, while fairy lights draped on leafless trees create an enchanting ambiance. Adventurous visitors can enjoy ice skating on the rink. The aroma of caramelized almonds and the fragrance of cinnamon-infused mulled wine, known locally as glogg, will immerse you in the joy of Christmas markets.
Christmas market in Tallinn (Getty Images)
Dates December 1, 2023 to January 7, 2024Best for musical groups and dance troupes
Tallinn is renowned as one of the best Christmas markets in Europe. Its festive offering transforms the heart of the beautiful medieval town, with snow-dusted rooftops and cobblestones. Town Hall Square comes alive with over 60 wooden stalls selling handmade wreaths, local arts and crafts, sweets, honey, and sheepskin rugs. The atmosphere is animated by brass bands, bell ringers, and numerous dance troupes. Santa arrives at his winter grotto in an authentic reindeer sleigh to welcome children to the festivities before they enjoy a merry-go-round ride. Since 1441, Estonia's biggest Christmas tree has graced the town hall, making it one of the first trees displayed anywhere in Europe.
The Christmas market at Marché aux Poissons in Brussels (Alamy)
Riga is home to one of Europe's most historic old towns. Stepping into this Latvian capital, you'll find cobblestone streets lined with merchant guilds and townhouses dating back to the Middle Ages. Among this unique blend of art nouveau and communist-era architecture, Riga is gradually establishing itself as an alternative European city break destination. From December onwards, the city is adorned with Christmas lights and illuminations, creating a wondrous atmosphere.
Given the bitterly cold weather of the Baltics, Riga exudes a true wintry spirit. Visit the castle for fairytale winter vibes, and then head to Riga Central Market, the largest market hall in Europe, to warm up with some traditional Latvian dishes like pelmeni and potato pancakes.
The Old Riga Christmas Market runs from late November until the New Year, and smaller markets and pop-up events are held in various squares and districts throughout the festive season.
Location: Skansen Open-Air Museum in Stockholm, Sweden
Why we love it: For a truly traditional experience, visit this open-air museum on Djurgarden Island in the center of Stockholm. The historic homes and farmsteads are exquisitely decorated. Indulge in smoked turkey and sugared almonds at the market, or participate in traditional dances around the festive tree at Bollnäs Square and create your own Christmas decorations in the workshop. And if that hasn't put you in the holiday spirit yet, don't miss the candlelit Lucia procession on December 13.
Novi Sad, Serbia
The first and oldest Christmas Market in Serbia
By: Krystianna of Volumes and Voyages
The beautiful assortment of Christmas decorations that you'll find outside of Dublin's Temple Bar. Dublin is the perfect place to spend Christmas in Europe! There are numerous fun holiday festivals held here, including the Dublin Flea Market, a local Christmas market. You can also enjoy other fantastic Christmas experiences in the area, such as the Dun Laoghaire Christmas Festival, the Christmas Market at Smithfield, and the Inreda Christmas Fair. There are plenty of options to choose from!
Ice skating is also a popular activity in Dublin during Christmas. You'll find several ice skating rinks throughout the city, including the popular Dundrum's ice skating rink, as well as the rinks at Blanchardstown and Swords.
If you're still not convinced, you can also visit the Guinness Storehouse during Christmastime. Don't forget to get your skip-the-line tickets for the best views of Dublin from the Gravity Bar on the top floor.
Every December, the Dublin Zoo hosts a Christmas event that is fun for all ages. They choose a new and exciting theme each year, offering the perfect opportunity to listen to stories and enjoy amazing food.
When booking accommodations, it's recommended to stay somewhere downtown, like The Fitzsimons Hotel. This excellent, high-quality hotel is conveniently located near Temple Bar, just a short 2-minute walk from the famous pub.
For delicious food, you can try The Old Mill or Quay's, both affordable restaurants located in the center of the city. Bison Bar & BBQ is also a great place for dinner, while Queen of Tarts is known for offering the best breakfast in Dublin.
Belfast is a relatively quiet city compared to other big names in Europe. However, this works to its advantage, as Northern Ireland's capital has made great progress from its troubled past. Wintertime is always special in Belfast, especially in the run-up to Christmas when the city's bars come alive with a unique local festive charm.
Two great areas to explore are the traditional pubs of the Cathedral Quarter, popular among Belfast's reveling city workers, and the Botanic Area, which is more popular with students.
There's something for everyone during Christmas in Belfast, including the Belfast Christmas Market. This market takes over the grounds of the iconic City Hall building in the city center. You can also enjoy the lights and decorations in Victoria Square and surrounding shopping streets. Belfast is a scenic and atmospheric city to explore, especially near the Lagan Riverside.
It's Sometimes Sunny in Bangor
Dates November 24, 2023 to January 6, 2024Best for mountain magic
In northern Italy's Alps, the pretty spa town of Merano is reminiscent of Austria rather than Italy. Its Christmas market is located along the Passirio river, with snow-capped mountains serving as a backdrop. Here, you can find homemade crafts, gifts, toys, and accessories. The market is accompanied by festive choirs and bands, creating a delightful atmosphere. Don't miss the daily passeggiata along the river, where you can warm up with mulled wine and indulge in Sudtirol cakes and apple strudel.
While Venice may not have a massive Christmas market or elaborate decorations, spending Christmas in The Floating City is a truly magical experience. The crowds are not as intense as during the peak summer season, allowing you to explore the city in a completely different way.
Venice's location on the sea prevents it from getting too cold, so you can comfortably wear your Christmas sweater without needing heavy snow gear. You can dine at quaint Venetian restaurants, such as Corte Sconta, for a fantastic fish feast. Attend a Christmas concert at one of the city's many churches, marvel at Murano's beautiful glass Christmas tree, and experience midnight mass at Basilica di San Marco. Enjoy a canal-side spritz without having to fight for a table.
For a special Christmas Day treat, it's recommended to visit Harry's Bar and savor a Bellini. Although it may be pricey, it's worth it to sip a cocktail alongside Venice's elite at this venerable institution. By the end of your trip, you'll wonder why anyone visits Venice during the summer, wanting to keep the city's Christmastime magic a secret.
As the capital of Christendom, Rome is a bustling city during Christmas. As summer heat fades away and colder temperatures set in, Rome quickly transforms into a festive wonderland. The city comes alive with events, markets, and decorations, creating a lively and rich atmosphere. In addition to the many things to do in Rome, visitors can enjoy a wide range of seasonal activities that enhance the Yuletide spirit.
The main streets and piazzas in the city center are adorned with lights and decorations, and shops showcase alluring and colorful displays. Beautiful Christmas trees can be found in various areas, such as the central Piazza Venezia, in front of the Colosseum, and in Saint Peter's Square, where they stand tall next to picturesque nativity scenes. Every church in Rome showcases a nativity scene, offering visitors the opportunity to experience a local presepe, whether at a famous landmark or a lesser-known worship place.
Christmas markets populate the main squares across the city. Don't miss the market in Piazza Mazzini, where you can find clothes, accessories, and regional foods, or the historic market in Piazza Navona, which children will love for its sweets, candies, toys, and games.
From Chasing the Unexpected
Location: Piazza del Popolo, Largo Martellotta, Largo Trevisani, and Largo Pietra Ficcata in Alberobello, Puglia, Italy
Why we love it: Alberobello is famous for its mid-14th century "trulli," conical white houses typical of southern Italy. These unique structures take center stage at the Christmas Market Under the Trulli. Throughout December, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is illuminated with bright stars, moons, and snowflakes projected on the historic limestone walls. As you wander through the cobbled streets of this tiny town, you can admire the glimmering display, savor cod fritters and pettole (sweet fried doughnuts), and wash it all down with a glug of vincotto. Don't miss the "living nativity" scene in the days after Christmas; it's recommended to book in advance!
Where to stay: Le Corti del Casale (1 mile away)
Dates: November 24 to December 30, 2023Best for: otherworldly illuminations
Nothing captures the spirit of the festive season quite like the incredible illuminations of the Metz Christmas market. Warm yourself up with traditional features such as the open-air ice rink and the merry-go-round. Explore the enchanting Sentiers des Lanternes, where elves and dolls light up the stunning fair. Don't miss the big wheel next to the cathedral and indulge in some of the tastiest gingerbread available.
The Christmas market in Rynek Glowny, Krakow (Alamy)
Dates November 17, 2023 to January 6, 2024Best for a cultural Christmas
Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Edinburgh truly shines during the winter months with its Christmas markets and Hogmanay celebrations. You'll find Santa's Grotto, an oval ice rink, fairground rides like the 60m-high Star Flyer, an elves' workshop hidden within the Christmas Tree Maze, and stalls selling wooden toys, Harry Potter-themed gifts, and mulled Irn Bru. Enjoy special projections, performances, and artworks that showcase local talent. A bar crawl under the fairy lights of George Street and a visit to the Scottish National Gallery to contemplate winter scenes are highly recommended. After dark, head to the Royal Botanic Garden to sip spiced cider and admire the Christmas illuminations. If you can, visit at the end of December for the Hogmanay street party and a stunning fireworks display on December 31. Don't miss the ceilidh and concert in Princes Street Gardens on New Year's Eve.
The Christmas market in Gdansk (Getty Images)
Edinburgh is a glorious and wintry affair during Christmas. If you can withstand the cold weather, you're in for a festive getaway like no other. London offers one of the best Christmas vacations in Europe.
The Scottish capital is magical at any time, but seeing the church spires, Edinburgh Castle, and the Royal Mile adorned in festive attire is truly special. The city's light shows and Christmas trees beautifully illuminate the dark nights. Indulge in a wee dram of whisky or a warm pint of ale as you explore the bustling Christmas markets, try hymns inside the Greyfriars Kirk or St. Giles Cathedral, and appreciate the stunning architecture.
If the cold becomes too much, you can spend your vacation indoors, visiting the National Museum of Scotland, sampling local tipples at the Scotch Whisky Experience, or touring the stately rooms of Holyrood Palace. If you're lucky enough to catch some sunshine, hike up Arthur's Seat, an extinct volcano that offers breathtaking views of the city.
Stick around after Christmas, and the real fun begins. Scots celebrate Hogmanay over the New Year, and Edinburgh hosts epic fireworks displays, concerts, and countdowns to welcome the new year. Don't miss the ceilidh and concert in Princes Street Gardens on New Year's Eve.
London is one of the best places to visit in Europe during winter, with its festive lights adorning every street. If you want a classic and traditional British Christmas experience, London won't disappoint. The city offers countless festive activities, bustling Christmas markets, and tasty treats that will make you never want to leave. The author's family was fortunate enough to spend the entire month of December in this beautiful city, and they believe it's the best place to celebrate Christmas.
For more information about Christmas in London, you can check out this article.
By: Sinead of Best in York Guide
Experience the vibrant Christmas decorations found in York, England. The city of York in northern England is an ideal destination for a festive winter break as York at Christmas is truly magical.
This historic city hosts a six-week-long St Nicholas Fair, with the highlight being an award-winning Christmas market.
Over 100 wooden chalets make up this enchanting market, selling unique, locally made arts, crafts, and local foods such as Yorkshire wine, pies, cakes, and gin. Shoppers can also enjoy beautiful music from carol singers, choirs, and buskers as they explore the vibrant shopping area.
Weary market-goers can find respite atop blanket-covered benches inside Thor’s Tipi, an enormous canvas tipi serving craft ales, mulled wine, and hot chocolate around an open fire.
York's grand Victorian and Georgian buildings are also beautifully decorated and illuminated during this time of year, with many local, historic homes showcasing themed festive displays. Don't miss the delectable window display at the 100-year-old Betty's Tea Rooms.
Additionally, you can attend a carol concert at York Minster, a stunning gothic cathedral that is home to the largest expanse of stained glass in the world.
For impressive views of this festive city, make sure to visit the medieval city walls (the longest city walls in England) or ascend Clifford's Tower, which features the remains of a Norman keep and is located in the city center. You can also enjoy a raucous Christmas pantomime at one of the city's three theaters.
Now, if you're looking for a stunning hotel with a view, consider staying at Dean's Court Hotel, which sits just opposite York Minster. Food lovers will also enjoy sitting at a wooden pew at the medieval alehouse, The House of Trembling Madness.
Take me there
Are you inspired to visit a Christmas Market but have yet to book your trip? Here are the best Christmas city breaks from Jet2 Holidays and BA Holidays, as well as the best Christmas market tours from our trusted partners.
Did you know that you can go to Ireland and stay in a castle over Christmas? It's pretty magical! Check out Ashford Castle, Kildare Castle, and Adare Manor, among many others.
People skating on the city skating rink in Zagreb, Croatia. Zagreb has been declared the best European Christmas destination three times in a row.
gettyAlong with Strasbourg, Croatia's capital, Zagreb, has been repeatedly named the Best Christmas holiday destination in Europe by European Best Destinations.
"Zagreb is the only destination awarded the title of Best Christmas Market in Europe three consecutive times," according to EBD.
Zagreb's "magical offer" includes a renowned ice skating rink on King Tomislav Square, food and drink kiosks that fill the cooler evening air with spicy aromas, music, and art exhibits.
This year's Advent includes a rich program of indoor and outdoor concerts and exhibitions that will run from now through January 7.
Travelers seeking the best Christmas destinations in Europe are spoiled for choice with a wide array of enchanting cities and towns to explore. From the picturesque streets of Strasbourg and Colmar in France, to the vibrant markets of Brussels and Bruges in Belgium, and the fairytale-like architecture of Amsterdam and Prague, there is something for everyone. Whether it's the festive cheer of Berlin's Christmas markets or the magical atmosphere of Rovaniemi in Lapland, Europe's Christmas destinations are sure to leave visitors with unforgettable memories. So pack your bags, embrace the holiday spirit, and let these destinations transport you to a winter wonderland unlike any other.
The Best Destinations for Halloween: From Colonial Williamsburg to Venice, Unforgettable Halloween Experiences Await 2023-11-23 03:00:20
Discover the top Halloween destinations that will send shivers down your spine! From the historical charm of Colonial Williamsburg to the haunting beauty of Venice, prepare for an unforgettable Halloween experience.
Top Travel Destinations During COVID: Budget-friendly Airfare to Explore Spectacular International Hotspots 2023-11-23 03:00:05
Discover incredible budget-friendly international travel destinations during COVID. Explore the wonders of spectacular hotspots with affordable airfare. Plan your dream trip today!
Exploring the Ultimate August Travel Destinations: Unveiling the Best Places to Visit in Europe, Asia, Oceania, and Beyond! 2023-11-23 03:00:02
Discover the must-visit August travel destinations across Europe, Asia, Oceania, and more! Uncover the hidden gems and top places to explore, ensuring an unforgettable and adventurous journey abroad. Start planning your ultimate summer escape now!
Exploring Enchanting Autumn Escapes: Unveiling the Best Travel Destinations in October 2023-11-23 02:57:21
Unveiling the best travel destinations in October, embark on an enchanting autumn escape as we delve into the most captivating spots. From vibrant fall foliage to charming cultural experiences, discover the top destinations to embrace the beauty of this season. Plan your perfect October getaway now!