If you’re considering a Christmas getaway in Europe, you’ve come to the right place! In this guide, I share 20 of the best European Christmas destinations and what you can expect by visiting.
With the holiday season upon us, there’s no better time to explore the diverse and charming destinations that adorn the European continent.
From quaint cobblestone streets adorned with twinkling lights to bustling markets filled with the aroma of mulled wine and gingerbread, Christmas in Europe is a magical time.
Whether you seek a traditional festive atmosphere or a unique winter wonderland adventure, this guide to the best European Christmas destinations is sure to inspire your holiday wanderlust.
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Northern Europe Christmas Destinations
When it comes to top-notch European Christmas destinations, Lapland, Finland, has got to top the list.
Winter in Lapland is a fairytale-like experience. Blanketed in pristine snow, cosied in atmospheric log cabins, and illuminated by the mesmerising Northern Lights (if you’re lucky).
The region also provides a plethora of festive activities, including husky sledging, reindeer sleigh rides, ice fishing, and snowmobiling through the breathtaking Arctic landscapes.
Not forgetting that Lapland is the official hometown of Santa Claus, making it an unbeatable spot for families seeking an unforgettable Christmas adventure.
Visiting Copenhagen during the holiday season is like stepping into a Christmas fairy-tale sprinkled with Nordic charm!
The best part of visiting Northern European cities like Copenhagen is that you’re likely to experience snow, making your visit all the more enchanting.
Tivoli Gardens steals the show in regard to the festivities. The iconic park transforms into a whimsical winter wonderland with a guaranteed magical Christmas atmosphere.
Other festive activities include the ice rink on the harbour front, indulging in festive local treats like warm æbleskiver and gløgg, and, if you dare, participating in the local ice swimming tradition.
The Nordic countries know how to do Christmas! With its medieval architecture and snow-covered streets, Tallinn feels like a Christmas card come to life.
While only a small city, there’s nothing subtle about the festivities in Tallinn. The Christmas market on Town Hall Square is considered one of the best in Europe, and the city’s UNESCO-listed streets make for a fairy-tale setting.
Not only that, Tallinn is often blanketed in snow during the winter months, creating a picturesque and festive atmosphere that’s perfect for Christmas.
Reykjavik, the capital city of Iceland, is an emerging European Christmas destination, enticing visitors with its unique blend of wintry charm and natural wonders.
As the holiday season approaches, Reykjavik transforms into a sparkling festive wonderland, while the city’s quaint and picturesque setting adds to the magical vibe.
To experience authentic Icelandic culture and traditions, take advantage of Reykjavik’s Christmas markets, where you can enjoy local crafts, seasonal treats, and handmade gifts.
Of course, the added possibility of witnessing the dancing Northern Lights makes Reykjavik an attractive destination for the holiday season.
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Western European Christmas Destinations
Strasbourg, often referred to as the “Capital of Christmas,” is an enchanting and magical destination to experience during the holiday season.
Nestled in the heart of Alsace, France, Strasbourg comes alive with a festive spirit, hosting the infamous Strasbourg Christmas Market, one of the oldest and most famous in Europe.
The best thing to do at this time of year is wander the streets adorned with dazzling lights while marvelling at the fairy-tale-like architecture of the city. You can pick up some traditional French Christmas gifts from the quaint local stores.
Adding to the festivities are atmospheric carol singers, and there’s even a nativity play that the little ones will love!
Vienna is undeniably one of Europe’s best Christmas destinations, dazzling visitors with its enchanting Yuletide magic.
This already beautiful city is amplified during the festive season, as historic palaces, elegant squares, and charming streets are adorned with lights and decorations.
Don’t miss Vienna’s Christmas markets such as the iconic Christkindlmarkt at Rathausplatz. One of Europe’s best Christmas markets it perfectly encapsulates the Austrian Christmas experience.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
If you’re looking for a unique European Christmas destination, you might consider adding Rothenburg ob der Tauber to your hotlist.
This picturesque town is enchanting all year round, but the magic comes alive during the holidays. Think twinkling lights, festive decorations, and the aroma of mulled wine igniting all the senses.
The town’s timeless Christmas market, set against the backdrop of the stunning medieval architecture, dates back to the 15th century.
Here, you can immerse yourself in a magical winter wonderland, savouring seasonal treats, enjoying musical performances, and riding a horse-drawn carriage.
Of course, no list of European Christmas destinations would be complete without mentioning the UK capital and my home city, London.
Visiting London during the festive season is an unforgettable experience. You can feel the holiday spirit in the air as you walk the beautifully decorated streets and participate in the endless festivities.
Not to be missed is Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park—a Christmas market on steroids where you can enjoy many seasonal attractions. Both big kids and little kids will love it in equal measure.
London is also the perfect place to do your Christmas shopping. Check out the dazzling Christmas displays at department stores like Harrods and Selfridges and walk the illuminated streets of Covent Garden and Oxford Street.
With so much to see and do in this sprawling city, I recommend spending at least 3 or 4 days in London.
Famous for its medieval architecture and picturesque canals, Bruges during Christmas is pure magic! It is a charming winter wonderland to be enjoyed by everyone.
Expect its cobblestone streets and medieval architecture to be adorned with fairy lights while Christmas trees and festive markets occupy all corners of the city.
Bruges is a small city, so you won’t find large-scale attractions like in London or Berlin. However, those looking for a cosy and intimate atmosphere will not be disappointed.
When I think of fairy-tale cities, Edinburgh is one of the first that comes to mind, making it an excellent choice for a winter city break in Europe.
During the holidays, the city adorns mesmerising lights and decorations. The Christmas tree in front of the Scott Monument and the festive lights along the Royal Mile are particularly captivating.
You can also look forward to a realm of things to do over the holidays. Visit the famous Edinburgh Christmas Market, ice-skate in St Andrew Square, and enjoy various Christmas concerts and celebrations.
With its blend of festive markets, dazzling decorations, historic charm, and lively celebrations, it’s no wonder Edinburgh attracts visitors from all around the world at Christmas.
If you ask me, there’s no right or wrong time to visit Amsterdam. I’ve visited countless times during all of the seasons. Each time has been a unique and memorable adventure.
During Christmas, however, Amsterdam does embody a palpable magical vibe. The scent of warm stroopwafels and mulled wine fills the air while the city streets come alive with festive cheer.
Amsterdam Winter Paradise is just one of the atmospheric Christmas markets that take place, where you can enjoy ice skating, festive parties, and a giant ferris wheel overlooking the city.
Spend at least two days in Amsterdam if you do visit. And if you’re lucky, you might even experience Amsterdam’s cobbled streets dusted in snow.
Berlin, Germany, dons its festive crown during the holiday season, transforming into a winter wonderland that could put even Santa’s workshop to shame.
A trip to Berlin at Christmas means visiting the countless Christmas markets throughout the city. Over one hundred Christmas markets take place in Berlin every year!
Some of my favourites include the enchanting Charlottenburg Palace market, the Christmas Market on Gendarmenmarkt, and Potsdamer Platz, where you can ice-skate or brave the toboggan run.
There’s even an LGBTQ+ Christmas market in Schöneberg, a testament to the tolerant and welcoming attitude to gays, queers, trans, and lesbians in Berlin.
St. Moritz, Switzerland
If budget isn’t an issue for your European Christmas getaway, St. Moritz in the breathtaking Swiss Alps is certainly worth some consideration – especially if you love to ski!
Of course, the luxurious accommodations and world-class dining ensure an indulgent Christmas retreat. But at no cost of the magic!
St. Moritz town transforms into a festive paradise during the holiday season with vibrant Christmas markets and other fun festivities.
Eastern Europe Christmas Destinations
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is another city that doesn’t need Christmas in order for it to spellbind you, but the holidays do bring extra magic to its gorgeous medieval streets.
A highlight of the festivities is the various Christmas markets, the most popular being on the old town square. The iconic landmark transforms into a whimsical winter wonderland with all kinds of festive delights, including a gigantic tree that twinkles high in the sky.
Elsewhere in the city, the Christmas joy is prevalent. Soak in the festive atmosphere, sample local seasonal treats, enjoy the carollers on Charles Bridge, and raise a glass with the locals.
Another European city that’s often overlooked, Budapest is a wonderful choice for a magical Christmas getaway.
In fact, we spent 4 days in Budapest over the holidays a couple of years ago. We absolutely fell in love with the romance and beauty of the city, enhanced by the festive illuminations.
Check out the iconic Christmas markets, like the one at Vörösmarty Square and the Budapest Basilica, for an array of traditional Hungarian crafts, seasonal treats, and mulled wine.
I also highly recommend a boat tour on the Danube River at this time of year. To witness the city lights reflecting on the water is a mesmerising experience.
Visiting Dubrovnik during the festive season is like stepping into a winter wonderland with a Mediterranean twist!
The weather will be cool, there’s no doubt about that. But you can look forward to the city’s ancient walls donned in twinkling lights and vibrant festivities taking place all over the city.
There’s also plenty of festive fun going on for the little ones, making it an ideal choice for those with young children. Read all about the Dubrovnik Winter Festival here.
All of this, combined with the Adriatic Sea shimmering in the background, makes Dubrovnik one of Europe’s most unusual Christmas destinations.
Krakow in Poland is another unassuming European city worth considering for your Christmas escape. Krakow offers an array of Polish holiday delicacies and unique Christmas traditions.
The Main Market Square is the centre point of the celebrations, hosting a bustling Christmas market. Here, you can sip on warm, spiced beverages and sample traditional Polish treats like pierogi.
Also not to be missed is the dazzling display of lights at the Cloth Hall and the grandeur of Wawel Castle. You can also take an enchanting tour of the city sights on a horse-drawn carriage.
Kraków is a must-see at any time of year, but as a Christmas destination, the city rivals many of the popular spots on this list.
Known as one of Europe’s greenest capitals, Ljubljana is a delightful Christmas destination that’s often overlooked.
The Slovenian capital looks like something straight out of a storybook. Pair that with twinkling lights and Christmas markets, and you’re in for quite the treat.
Regardless of the Christmas celebrations, Winter in Ljubljana is a magical time. Especially when the quaint cobbled streets and enchanting architecture get a sprinkling of snow.
Oh, and while you’re here, I highly suggest experiencing Lake Bled in Winter. It’s one of the most beautiful scenes we’ve ever witnessed in all our years of travel.
Southern Europe Christmas Destinations
Not all of us are searching for a winter wonderland when planning a Christmas holiday in Europe. If that’s you, you might consider Barcelona for your holiday adventure.
While it’s a warmer Christmas experience in Barcelona, you’ll still find lots of festive things to see and do.
You won’t want to miss the Christmas markets, such as the Fira de Santa Llúcia and the Fira de Reis, where you can find traditional Catalan crafts, ornaments, and delightful treats.
The mild Mediterranean climate also allows for open-air festivities, such as vibrant parades, joyous carolers, and energetic street performers.
The Dolomites, Italy
Italy doesn’t often come to mind when you think of European Christmas destinations. However, perhaps it will when you’ve heard what the Dolomites has to offer.
The Dolomites should be on everybody’s bucket list regardless of the time of year. But imagine a festive road trip. Driving through the mountains, visiting charming Christmas markets in each and every town.
Families with young children might especially like this option since it’s very likely that there will be plenty of snow for the little ones to play in.
Watch These Christmas Traditions From Around The World
Enjoy your European Christmas Getaway!
So there you have it: 20 magical European Christmas destinations that make for an unforgettable festive getaway! I hope wherever you go, you have the most fantastic time!
If you have any questions or feel that we’ve missed anything, get in touch! You can reach us in the comments section below.
Merry Christmas and Happy Travels!