Christmas in Europe
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Europe’s Most Christmassy Cities

Christmas in Europe is synonym with snow, time-honored traditions, Gothic churches with fabulous choirs, and charming medieval squares brought to life by colorful Christmas markets.

Some cities celebrate the holidays in grand style, others with peculiar customs and yuletide nostalgia aplenty, and some of them are simply at their finest during this time of the year.

Combining idyllic ancient architecture, fabulous festive fairs, and sweet winter scents that bring back childhood memories, a trip to one of these Christmas-perfect European cities will knock the Scrooge out of you.

Here they are: the best European cities to visit for Christmas!

Prague, Czech Republic

Prague Old Town during Christmas
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Prague, the Gothic fairytale of Europe, celebrates Christmas with glam and grandeur, its breathtaking architecture providing a truly dramatic backdrop for sipping scented mulled wine and getting lost in the Christmas shopping frenzy.

Winter in the Czech capital is crisp and chilly, but walking down its cobbled alleys that whisper about ghosts of a tumultuous past, along gorgeous Gothic buildings covered in fresh snow, is like stepping into a Christmas card.

Prague’s Christmas markets are among the most famous in Europe, providing an excellent opportunity to discover the traditions, cultural values, and delicious cuisine of this landlocked Central European country steeped in history. The biggest, oldest, and most impressive is the one set in the Old Town Square, at the foot of the Church of Our Lady before Týn. Nevertheless, those held in Wenceslas Square and Náměstí Míru are equally appealing.

Everywhere you look, cheerful, beautifully decorated wooden huts jam-packed with festive goodies sell everything from craft gift items and beautiful Christmas tree ornaments to typical Czech delicacies such as spit-roasted hams or Trdelník, a traditional hot sugar-coated pastry. The entire scene is animated by music, lights, animal stables, and nativity scenes.

After filling your shopping bag with all sorts of glistening decorations, warm up with a hot mug of mulled wine and a spin on the ice skating rink, or attend one of the fabulous concerts that take place in the city’s remarkable churches and halls during Christmas.

Really, is anyone still doubting that Prague is one of the best places to spend Christmas in Europe?

Vienna, Austria

Christmas in Vienna
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It’s hard to find a city that celebrates Christmas with such grace and elegance as Vienna. The sparkling, elegant Christmas markets, the legendary café culture, and the old-world charm on the streets give the city a magical appeal, while its imperial architecture – basked in twinkling lights – makes for a wonderful backdrop for a fun-filled winter break.

Indulge in glühwein, sausages, and freshly baked pastries at Vienna’s ubiquitous Christkindlmarkts; go ice skating on Rathausplatz; pay a visit to the Snow Globe Museum in the 17th District; and make sure you book a ticket at one of the legendary Christmas concerts which take place in the city’s sumptuous churches during this time of year. The most famous is Christmas in Vienna by the Vienna Boys Choir at Wiener Konzerthaus, but there’s a wealth of classical performances and chamber music events to choose from.

Cologne, Germany

Cologne Christmas market
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Also known as Köln, Cologne is famous for its spectacular cathedral, a Gothic masterpiece that dominates the city in more than one way.

From the end of November until New Year’s Eve, the largest city on the Rhine, which is also the birthplace of mulled wine, plays host to no less than 7 Christmas fairs, some of them uniquely themed, others authentic and steeped in tradition.

Regarded as some of the best Christmas markets in Germany, these winter attractions scattered all over Cologne are a wonderful opportunity to enter the magical atmosphere of Christmas and get familiar with the customs of this fascinating nation that gave birth to Christmas markets.

Strasbourg, France

Best city in France for Christmas
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Home to the oldest Christmas market in France, a magnificent Gothic cathedral, and a charming UNESCO-listed Old Town, the quaint Alsatian city near the border with Germany is a fantastic destination for your winter trip. You’ll definitely love the delightful Marchés de Noël set up across Strasbourg’s historic plazas and the elaborate displays that adorn the city’s half-timbered houses each year.

In the shadow of its mighty cathedral, you’ll find nearly 300 traditional wooden stalls packed with lovely Christmas tree ornaments, eye-catching Nativity figurines, and heartwarming seasonal specialties such as roasted chestnuts, bredele cookies, or vin chaud (mulled wine). The atmosphere comes alive with carol singing, Nativity plays, and glistening ice-skating rinks that you would hardly resist the temptation to jump on.

Wroclaw, Poland

Wroclaw during the winter holidays
Photo via Facebook/FotografiaDanielGrodzinski

During the winter holidays, Wroclaw, Poland’s 4th largest city, seduces visitors with a delightful Christmas market that dates back to the 16th century. The streets are adorned with bright decorations, the Old Town oozes energy and good vibes, and Christmas carols resound in the Rynek, a stunning candy-colored square whose Hungarian, German, and Italian influences evoke the city’s diversity.

Wroclaw was named the European Capital of Culture back in 2016, so expect to discover a city full of history and events, with a youthful vibe, unique architecture, and an impressive cultural life. Even so, tourists are fewer and prices cheaper than elsewhere in this list, which makes it one of the most enchanting Christmas destinations in Europe.

Tallinn, Estonia

Christmas in Tallinn

With a UNESCO-protected medieval Old Town that seems straight out of the pages of a children’s storybook, Tallinn is delightful throughout the year, but it is winter that gives it a unique character.

The Town Hall Square (Raekoja Plats), with its pastel-hued facades, old-world street lamps, and small wooden huts teeming with artisan goods, is a magical scene during the holidays, as is the lofty Christmas tree, which glimmers against a backdrop of freshly snow powdered rooftops in the heart of it all. The atmospheric Estonian capital is, in fact, the city of the first public Christmas tree – erected in the Town Hall Square in 1441.

Tallinn’s Christmas Market is one of Europe’s most enchanting and authentic, a delightfully nostalgic cluster of lantern-draped stalls selling everything from woolly hats and hand-carved wooden ornaments to hearty Estonian food and drink.

Further winter attractions include the outdoor ice-skating rink on Harju Street, the Christmas Village at the Estonian Open Air Museum, as well as a roster of quirky yuletide-themed events. Also, Tallinn is the homeland of marzipan, so if you have a sweet tooth, don’t miss the Kalev Marzipan Museum Room, where you can assemble your own delicious figurines.

Add snowy skiing trails, steamy saunas, and a maze of pretty cobblestoned streets lined with cozy cafés and idiosyncratic boutiques, and you have the perfect Christmas city.

Copenhagen, Denmark

Christmas in Copenhagen
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Christmas finds Copenhagen brimming with shining lights, festive spirit, and hyggelige cafés, where inventive design and legendary Danish coziness blend harmoniously to make your experience unique.

Adorned with Christmas markets and tasteful decorations, the entire city radiates a special kind of atmosphere. But no other place in town is wrapped up in Christmas magic like the world-famous Tivoli Gardens. Each year, the second oldest amusement park on the planet is transformed into a winter wonderland with spectacular Christmas light displays, exciting rides, and sweet little stalls selling all kinds of gifts and traditional goods.

Complement your Christmas in Copenhagen with a stroll along the beautifully decorated waterfront district of Nyhavn; visit the quirky Christiania Christmas Market; or take part in the Royal Copenhagen’s Christmas table tradition – a 50-year-old event featuring six designer Christmas tables, each with its own story and significance.

Rovaniemi, Lapland

Santa Claus Village
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With its otherworldly frosty landscapes, brightly lit trees, and elaborate ice sculptures, there’s no doubt Rovaniemi is one of the best European cities for Christmas. And the fact that Santa Claus himself lives only 8 km away only adds to its magical allure.

In addition to the postcard-perfect pink-hued mornings and the vibrant Santa Claus Village, which is clearly the city’s main draw, Rovaniemi offers visitors an eclectic array of museums and an even greater choice of winter activities – think exciting reindeer and husky rides, snowmobile safaris, and spectacular Northern Lights tours.

Nuremberg, Germany

Christkindlesmarkt, Nuremberg
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There’s no better time to visit Nuremberg than during the Christmas season, when the city turns into a genuine winter fairytale. Home to one of the oldest and most spectacular Christmas markets in Germany, hence the world, this picturesque medieval town in Bavaria welcomes its visitors with an extravaganza of Christmas goods, traditions, and activities.

The lavishly decorated stalls peppered around the city’s medieval squares offer everything from lebkuchen (the famous local gingerbread), old-fashioned wooden Ferris wheels, and glühwein booths to high-quality handmade arts and crafts such as candle chimes and foil-winged angels.

In addition to its fabled Christkindlesmarkt, Nuremberg has a long toy making tradition, and this can be best observed in the city’s Toy Museum.

London, England

Ice rink and Christmas tree in London
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Dazzling street illuminations, fabulous window displays, and tons of festive fun make London one of the best Christmas cities in Europe. It really couldn’t be otherwise!

As the setting of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, the capital is brimming with stunning skating rinks, Victorian-themed events, and magical carol concerts that will melt any Grinch’s heart.

Get into the holiday spirit at Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland; attend a memorable performance in glorious surroundings at St Paul’s Cathedral or the Royal Albert Hall; and pay a visit to the Kew Gardens in West London for lovely seasonal shopping, delicious treats, and some of the most spectacular Christmas lights you’ll ever see.

If Christmas shopping in London is your priority, you will be spoiled for choice in the city’s wonderfully creative fairs. The charming Christmas Market at Tate Modern is overflowing with handmade wooden toys, festooned gingerbread, and beautiful traditional decorations, while Hyper Japan at Tobacco Dock makes an excellent spot to buy unique, exotic gifts, feast on sushi and sake, and take part in all sorts of interesting workshops.

If you’re more into one-off design goods, head to Mile End’s Ecology Pavilion, where over 50 artists display their unique homemade creations, from homeware and ceramics to art, clothing, and jewelry.

Bruges, Belgium

Christmas decorations in Bruges

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more adorable city in Europe than Bruges, with its fairytale-like canals, buildings that look like they’ve been made of gingerbread, and elegant horse-drawn carriages that clip-clop down the medieval cobblestone streets.

Around Christmas, Grote Markt, the city’s main square, converts into a magical realm, trimmed with twinkling lights, a fabulous ice rink, and charming wooden chalets filled to the brim with souvenirs, festive ornaments, and divine Belgian chocolate.

December is also the month of Bruges’ Ice Sculpture Festival – one of Europe’s best winter events, which takes place each year in the square in front of the city’s train station and features marvelous works by international artists.

Paris, France

Cafe decorated with Christmas lights in Paris
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For a European Christmas vacation with a je ne sais quoi, head to the French capital, where mighty cathedrals resound with live carols, the smell of freshly baked croissants fills the air, and Christmas trees are as haute couture as the runaways.

If there’s one place comparable to NYC at Christmastime, it’s Paris. The City of Light shines even brighter in December, when brilliant decorations and millions of sparkling bulbs deck out its elegant boulevards and iconic monuments at nightfall. Once again, the 400 trees along the Avenue des Champs-Elysées will be strung with glistening red lights by illustrious lighting designers, over-the-top displays will grace the windows of grand department stores like Galeries Lafayette and Printemps Haussmann, and seasonal Marchés de Noel of pretty wooden chalets will pop up across every single quartier.

If you’re visiting Paris for Christmas with the little ones, don’t forget about Disneyland; with dazzling holiday decorations, colorful Christmas parades, and merry encounters with Santa, this is a wonderful once-in-a-lifetime experience for the entire family! Add gleaming ice-skating rinks and 19th-century carousels, inviting chocolateries, and an overdose of winter shows, and you might just have the best city in Europe for Christmas with kids.

What’s your favorite city in Europe to spend Christmas?

  1. Yes, we are celebrating our third Christmas season in Prague–and still loving the beauty and excitement.
    Cheers,

  2. Hi Miruna

    I agree with you on Prague which we visited in December 2012 but haven’t been to the others yet at Christmas.

    Cheers

    Brian

    1. Prague is indeed a Christmas city, but don’t hesitate to visit the other ones if you get the chance. They’re equally appealing during the winter holidays.

  3. Interesting and beautiful reading – thanks for the excellent descriptions; I really felt like I was there at each one of them!

  4. Assuming you have been to all these places, which one would you recommend the most?

    1. Hello Sammy,
      I would recommend different destinations to different persons, so let me know what exactly are you looking for (food, nightlife, shopping, family-friendly activities…) and I would be happy to make a suggestion.

      1. Hi Miruna! If I’m looking for food (christmas market style), family-friendly activities, and a little bit of shopping, where would you recommend?

      2. Hi! I would love and advice to which city to visit for more than a month! starting December 19 to January 31. I am 20 years old and traveling with my boyfriend. we would love some snow but also having things to do!

        1. Hi Lucia,

          I’m sure you’ll find plenty of things to do to keep you occupied in any of these destinations. I’d opt for big bustling cities like London, Vienna, Prague, or Copenhagen.

      3. Avatar Justine Bischofberger says:

        Hi Miruna. We have 3 boys aged 7, 8 & 12 and we are planning our first family trip to Europe. Where would you recommend we go with them over December/ January? Thanks!

  5. Great article! I’m planning our first Christmas abroad and would love help deciding on a place for our family of five (10, 8, and 5 yrs). They all sound so lovely!

    1. Thank you, Shelley! I’m sure your kids would love Rovaniemi, the home of Santa Claus, but then again, they’re all charming , so it just depends on what you are looking for. Also, some of these cities are relatively close to each other, so you can visit more than just one. Personally, I would combine Prague and Vienna.

  6. Hi There Miruna,
    Thanks for your article. I live in Australia, where Christmas is HOT HOT HOT. I would love to visit 2-3 cities in Europe next year for Christmas, one of which will definitely be Ortisei. For lovers of food, beauty, Christmas atmosphere, shopping and visual beauty, which cities would you suggest for an Aussie? Looks like Prague and Vienna are at the top of the list?
    Thanks.

    1. Hi Lori,
      About one hour drive from Ortisei, in Bolzano, you’ll find one of Italy’s best Christmas markets, but if you still want to include other destinations into your itinerary, Prague and Vienna are both magnificent cities to combine fabulous culture and sightseeing with some festive Christmas shopping.

    2. Been to most of these place and I would also recommend Ljubljana.

  7. Avatar Edward Wang says:

    HI Miruna,
    As first time travelers to Europe for Christmas, I will be bringing my 9yo with me. If we have to pick one city, which place do you highly recommend? We really like food, medival sight seeing, coffee, and must important, old town feel. Seems like Prague is a great choice? If we have a week, do you think it is enough time to also see Vienna? We just want to relax, soak in the Christmas atmosphere and not rush. Thank you and Great Article!
    Kindest regards,
    Ed

    1. Hi Edward,
      I think Prague is an excellent choice and I’m sure you will manage to see both cities in one week.

  8. Hi Miruna,

    I loved your article. I seem to want to go to all those places now! Our 21 yr old daughter will be studying for a semester in Scotland. My husband and I plan to join her at the end of the semester and travel around Europe for about two weeks. We don’t know where to spend Christmas. We love sightseeing, food, festivals, the Christmas atmosphere and old European charm. What would you suggest? Do you know if restaurants and places are open on Christmas day or does everything shut down? Could you make any recommends? This is all new to us. We visited Europe for the first time last summer and we are very excited to be returning. Thanks so much!

    Regards,
    Ann

  9. Hi Ann,

    Except maybe for Rovaniemi, which doesn’t have that old European charm you are looking for, each destination in the list above would probably meet your expectations. Unfortunately, nearly everything shuts down for Christmas Eve, so make sure you check out which restaurants stay open and make dinner reservations in advance. Otherwise, you can spend the evening walking around or visiting the churches. Some Christmas Markets and ice skating rinks may still be open on Christmas Eve, but my advice would be to check out with the official tourism websites before planing your visit.

  10. If you arrive in any of these places after Christmas, like December 26 or 27, is all of Christmas stuff being taken down or does it stay up through the new year?

    1. Hi Ashley,

      I guess they will stay up through the New Year, but I’m not sure. You will probably have to do a little bit of research before planning your trip.

      1. I remember going to Vienna a few years ago. They took down the Christmas markets immediately after Christmas. We plan to go back this year. It really is beautiful and a wonderful place to spend Christmas.

  11. Lovely read, I’ve been searching for some insight into where to go at the beginning of December for a few nights away and this has helped a lot! Where would you personally recommend for a young couple, wanting to do it all really, markets, sightseeing during the day, nightlife. At the minute I can’t seem to decide between Prague, Munich, Cologne and Budapest! Any advice would be much appreciated please, you really seem to know what you’re talking about from your article!

    1. Hi Bethany,

      I’m really happy you found my post useful. I would definitely recommend Prague and any of the German cities mentioned.

    2. Budapest is so beautiful and you need minimum 4 days to just see the city and it’s beautiful architecture ♥️

  12. These all look lovely! If we are looking for a very Christmas-y feel which place would be best? Also would you recommend spending Christmas day in any one of those cities?
    I was also considering spending Christmas in Italy, any advice as to what those Christmas markets are like? Would I be better off going there or to Prague or Vienna or even Germany?
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Maddie,

      I honestly don’t know much about Christmas Markets in Italy. What I do know, however, is that the best of them are in Germany. Otherwise, I would recommend all the destinations you’ve mentioned.

  13. Hi Miruna,

    Great article! This has been really helpful for my holiday planning. My husband and I (both 28) are visiting Europe before we head to Reykjavik for New Years Eve (Dec 27 – Jan1). We currently have a one-way flight into Stockholm arriving Dec 22 (we got an awesome deal on Norwegian Air), but we can’t decide where we actually want to spend Christmas. A lot depends on how much intra-Europe flights cost. I am seriously leaning towards Prague, but I know we can save a little bit of money if we stay in Scandinavia and spend Christmas in Copenhagen. What would you choose between the two?

    1. Hi Amity,

      Prague is wonderful during Christmas, but I’m sure Copenhagen has plenty to offer, as well. If I were you, I would probably prefer to stay in Scandinavia and save some money for shopping :).

  14. Hi Miruna,

    I have been fortunate to stubble across your page whilst researching for a magical Christmas holiday for the family. My husband and I (late 30’s) and our two teenage children (17, 15) are looking to embark on our first European holiday. We are considering to travel from late November and return to Australia in early January.

    We have never experienced a white Christmas and would ideally like to. We are planning to explore Italy, Paris, Berlin, Nuremberg. However I am very unsure where to spend Christmas it’s self. It has been suggested to spend it in Switzerland. I have researched this and don’t know where exactly to stay in Switzerland. I have also read that Vienna or Prague could be a better option. I know that I would like to experience a lovely Christmas meal – whether it is Christmas Eve or Christmas Day with all the trimmings and the ambiance of Christmas has to offer. We would like to get caught up on the magic of Christmas. Thank you in advance.

    1. Hi Alana,

      Switzerland sounds great, but it’s quite expensive. If the budget allows you, the mountain resorts of Zermatt and St. Moritz are wonderful options. As for Vienna, Prague, or Nuremberg, they’re all gorgeous destinations to experience that European Christmas magic.

  15. All of these places look beautiful during Christmas. But I will be travelling alone. Which of these places is the most tourist-friendly and has the most activities which I can enjoy even when I’m alone?

    1. Hi Gervs,

      I honestly don’t know which of these cities are the safest, but if I’d have to guess, I’d probably say Copenhagen and Rovaniemi. Nordic countries are generally safer compared with the rest of Europe.

      Hope you’ll enjoy your Christmas trip.
      Miruna

  16. Hi Miranda,
    My good friend and I are looking to bring in the the new year in London. We will probably go all out, dress up and have a beautiful dinner followed by a night dancing. We were thinking about saving by flying from NYC into another country nearby on Christmas Day. Enjoying another country for about 2 days then jumping on a euro star to London to bring in the new year before heading back to the US Jan 3rd. What nearby cities would you recommend for 2 fun, outgoing, trendy ladies from NYC?

  17. Avatar Nicole Duggan says:

    Hi Miruna

    Like many comments – I an research Christmas. Also form Australia )(but currently living in Bangkok) we want and white Christmas. From your article Vienna, Prague, Copenhagen and Nuremburg sound perfect. We have 2.5 weeks – so will also be there for new Year. Which would you suggest. Its myself, hubby and 5 year old daughter. Thank you 🙂

  18. Avatar Rosalyn Jackwitz says:

    Hi Miruna, my husband and I are from Australia and looking to spend Christmas 2019 in Europe. Your article is very interesting and a good read but how do we choose what would suit us the most…. we would love to know your opinion on where to go. We want to stay amongst it all and are keen to see the Christmas markets. We like to sight see during the day and are happy to enjoy a couple of drinks at a pub in the evening with a live band etc. We would love to see snow if possible but don’t want to be in a place that has rainy weather that time of year. Where would you recommend we look at going? Thank you in advance.

    1. Hi Rosalyn,

      I’m sure you’ll find what are you looking for in any of these beautiful places. Regarding the weather, it should be snowy during Christmas, but who knows? Anyway, you can’t go wrong with Rovaniemi. Otherwise, for the best combination of Christmas magic, shopping and fun, Germany probably tops the list.

  19. Love the article! I want to go to all of them, but which city would you recommend for a 3 year old? He loves trains if that helps pick one over another 🙂

  20. Hi Miruna – thanks so much for this awesome article. I’m wondering if you have any thoughts on Budapest? We were planning on doing Budapest -> Vienna -> Prague (total 7 nights), but wondering if you would recommend we just do Vienna and Prague and skip Budapest?

    1. Hi Eric,

      I really don’t know how Budapest celebrates Christmas, but it certainly is an interesting city.

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