With the holiday season right around the corner, if you are like us, you will be itching to get on the road and experience Christmas in another part of the world. From Christmas markets to hitting the alpine ski slopes, Europe is a haven of breathtaking destinations. The million dollar question you may be asking is where to spend Christmas in Europe this year should you decide to pay a visit there? The Christmas season frequently brings the best out of many locations around the world, even if the weather does not always cooperate.
If you follow Bing Crosby’s dream of enjoying the holiday festivities during a White Christmas, there are many parts of the world that may offer the perfect getaway. Or perhaps you are content taking a stroll around the idyllic Christmas markets while being serenaded by the sound of Christmas carols echoing around the village surroundings of a European mountain town. Whatever your preference, Europe has it all!
We want to share with you a collaboration of our best-recommended locations throughout Europe, both in terms of destinations we have experienced and experiences of some of our friends in the travel community.
Perhaps traveling during the Christmas season is not something you have considered before, but after reading this post maybe you will be inspired to visit somewhere a little more extravagant to celebrate all that Christmas cheer.
Gressoney Saint Jean, Italian Alps
Samantha from The Wandering Wanderluster suggests that the Italian Alps with the ‘fluffy snow’ and breathtaking scenery is the best place to spend Christmas. Let’s find out more!
What more could you want at Christmas than heaps of fluffy snow and spectacular mountain scenery to add to your festive cheer? One of my favorite places to spend Christmas or New Year is in the Italian Alps. To be more specific, I actually love Gressoney Saint Jean, a small alpine village in Aosta Valley.
As a big lover of winter, nothing makes me happier than to celebrate the festive period with my family and pair it with a snow adventure, an afternoon of ice-skating on the frozen lake or a romantic stroll through the snowy footpaths to a picturesque castle. Every year it is full of families and couples who seek the fresh mountain air, the community and festive spirit and the fantastic skiing in the area.
And I almost forgot…to warm you up there are tons of cafes that serve delicious hot chocolate. It may be cold outside, but the hot chocolate here is worth wrapping up and heading out into the cold for!
Follow Samantha at The Wandering Wanderluster
The theme of German-inspired destinations continues with Hamburg courtesy of Nic and Paul from the Roaming Renegades. Whether it’s the traditional Christmas markets or perhaps something uniquely different, Hamburg is certainly worth considering as a viable Christmas option.
The best place to celebrate Christmas has to be Hamburg in Germany. Not only is it a totally unique place to visit, being full of tradition and grand buildings but also bohemian and alternative. The markets here are some of the biggest and most diverse we have ever seen, the atmosphere these markets creates is what could only be described as magical.
Spending Christmas in Germany is to come home to many of the traditions we take for granted in the UK and USA; it is the most authentic Christmas you could ever have…plus, Hamburg is one of our all-time favorite cities! It’s lively, energetic and youthful when you want it to be, but also chilled out, reflective and easy going at the same time!
Follow Nic and Paul at the Roaming Renegades
Lille is a small city in Northeast France, only two hours away from Paris and less than an hour away from Belgium. It’s got the functionality of a big city with traditional architecture that reveals its position as a city on the border between two beautiful countries. It also has small town charm, which makes the Christmas market there such a treat!
Lille is easily accessible by train, and you can get to the market on foot. Christmastime there is a family event, and it’s rare to come across tourists from other countries. I was so excited to try the traditional
Christmas foods like Raclette, which is basically a small bowl of steamed potatoes smothered in cheese and mixed with bits of meat, and “vin chaud,” which is hot spiced wine. Both are winter staples in France and you can find them here for as little as 5 euro, and I promise both are delicious!
When you finish walking through the market, make sure you hop on the giant Ferris wheel for a panoramic view of the city!
Follow Francesca at One Girl:One World
Who doesn’t love England? A trip to the capital is a great experience at any time of the year, so trying to find a reason to visit London at Christmas is not particularly difficult.
When you see the amazing festivities that take place here every year, most notably the Winter Wonderland experience in Hyde Park, you will surely be convinced that London is a must-see for the Christmas celebrations.
We have experienced London on several occasions and just strolling around Knightsbridge taking in the beautiful window displays at Harrods is an eye-catching experience.
Listening to the old Christmas classics that are popular throughout England such as Wizzards “I Wish it Could Be Christmas Everyday” is a familiar sound as you explore London’s iconic neighborhoods and of course you will always find a Christmas souvenir in every other store.
The friendly nature of locals will ensure that you are welcomed in open arms and can always expect to hear a “Merry Christmas”, especially if you decide to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in England’s capital.
It’s all over right after Christmas Day? Not in England, because Boxing Day is when all the Christmas sales start in the stores so be sure to save a little cash to make the most of the good old British retail therapy!
Did you think that visiting Europe in Winter meant experiencing those frigid winter days? Think again because Anda Galffy from Travel Notes and Beyond shares her thoughts on Southern France, in particular the capital of the French Riviera – Nice!
If you want to enjoy Christmas in Europe but fear the dreadful winter chill, then Southern France may be your ideal destination. Nice is the capital of the French Riviera, an area that enjoys plenty of natural beauty and a mild Mediterranean climate.
Nice began building its reputation as a winter retreat around the 18th century when an increasing number English aristocrats began spending their winters there, hence the name of the city’s main seaside promenade, the Promenade des Anglais (‘the Walkway of the English’).
And if you are concerned that Nice may look a little abandoned in winter, fear not. The city is still vibrant and full of life even during the cold winter season. The cafés and the restaurants across the Promenade are filled with people sipping their drinks and contemplating the beautiful bay. Nice is really busy over Christmas, so there is no shortage of things to do.
With all the museums, shops, art galleries and an opera house there is a lot to keep you busy, besides sipping vin chaud and watching people pass. And if you get bored of spending your days in Nice, there are lots of great places to visit along the coast. Just think about it: the fancy Monaco is just a stone’s throw away from Nice!
Follow Anda Galffy at Travel Notes and Beyond
Christmas wouldn’t be the same without taking in the beautiful Christmas markets in Germany, and thanks to Clemens Sehi from Anekdotique, we can now see why Nuremberg is such a great option to sample fine German markets and cuisine.
The city of Nuremberg in Franconia, South Germany probably is the most famous Christmas spots of the country. Mostly because of one big event: the original Christkindlesmarkt that is one of most beautiful German Christmas markets and probably the most famous one.
Every December the whole Franconian city is almost bursting with Christmas spirit. With 180 traditional red and white decorated wooden stalls, with bright lights garlands everywhere and an old carousel that moves so elated while you can hear the bells of the old stagecoach from afar.
Go there for some hot mulled wine, for delicious Elisen-Gingerbread and the one and only Nuremberg roast sausages.
Follow Clemens at Anekdotique
John Roberts from In The Loop Travel also shared his experiences in Nuremberg…if you are not convinced by now to visit Germany, you should be!
Christmas markets throughout Europe exude the truest sense of the holiday spirit, bringing a sense of warmth and joy to travelers regardless of religious persuasion. And Nuremberg, Germany, features one of the most festive markets in the world.
Join the crowds roaming the square, shopping for hand-crafted gifts and filling their bellies with warm gluhwein and delicious sausages and sweets. This year, the Nuremberg Christmas market runs from November 27 to Christmas Eve.
Follow John Roberts at In The Loop Travel
After the tragic events that recently took place in Paris, many people around the world may be skeptical about traveling to this beautiful city. But after our trip to the French capital in 2013, we want to share why we believe this city should still be at the top of your radar.
Paris is such a breathtaking city on a number of fronts. From the historic architectural brilliance of Notre Dame to the quaint, idyllic side streets in many of the Parisian arrondissements, this is a city that should be visited at any time of the year.
We love the sense of elegance and sophistication that is emitted throughout the city yet at the same time a welcoming feel by everyone as you enjoy lunch in one of those picturesque cafes.
But Christmas is a time when Paris really shines. The markets along the Avenue des Champs-
Perhaps an Italian celebration in the heart of Rome is more appealing? Lyn Lindfield from The Travelling Lindfields shares her thoughts on why Rome is a perfect getaway this Christmas.
You don’t have to be Catholic to appreciate Rome at Christmas time. History and tradition permeate the air as you visit the sights, wander through the Christmas markets (they seem to pop up everywhere), admire the beautifully lit up streets and join in the frenzy of pre-Christmas shopping.
On Christmas Day, there is nothing in the world quite like joining the crowds in St Peter’s Square to receive the Pope’s blessing. Head to Vatican City in the late morning and mix with locals and travelers from across the world to hear the Pope’s message and feel the spirit of Christmas in a way you have probably never felt it before.
Follow Lyn at The Travelling Lindfields
Europe is a popular spot for many tourists all year round, but thanks to Stefan and Sebastien from The Nomadic Boys, we are now able to learn a little more about one of the lesser-known countries – Estonia. Let’s find out why they enjoyed Tallinn so much and why Christmas here is a picture-perfect fairytale experience!
We spent one Christmas in Tallinn – the very picturesque capital city of Estonia.
The old town of Tallinn was made a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage in 1997 because unlike any other capital city in Europe, it has managed to wholly preserve its medieval structure and is nicknamed “the medieval pearl of Europe”.
The cobblestone streets are all originals, which along with the medieval churches, grandiose merchant houses, barns and warehouses, date back as far as the 11th century.
And, going in December time when it’s all covered in snow makes it that little bit more special, like something from a fairytale. It’s that perfect ideal Christmas image you dream of.
Follow Stefan and Sebastien at The Nomadic Boys
With so many European destinations to choose from, it is difficult to choose where to visit at Christmas. Thanks to Mate Begonja from Chasing the Donkey, perhaps you will consider heading over to Zagreb, Croatia.
Christmas in Zagreb is a magical time of year. This city has an amazing Christmas spirit and Zagreb celebrates Advent for the entire month of December and part of January. In preparation for Advent, the city is transformed into a winter wonderland ready to spread Christmas cheer to the masses.
Stages and performances spaces are erected in all the major squares and parks in Zagreb where daily performances are held. These vary from musical to theatrical performances. The city is also beautifully decorated in lights with the highlight being the tree lined Zrinjevac Park.
Christmas markets line all the streets surrounding Ban Jelacic square where you can buy street food, Christmassy souvenirs and of course, mulled wine. Oh and I should mention there is even a live nativity scene.
If you ever in Croatia for the Christmas holidays, head to Zagreb where you will experience a wonderful Christmas.
Follow Mate and Sarah at Chasing the Donkey
If you are not inspired to travel after reading this amazing list of European destinations for Christmas…well you should probably just stay at home curled up in front of the fire. That’s perfectly fine, but you will be missing out on an opportunity to experience a myriad of cultures and awesome festivities that only the locals in these destinations know how to celebrate.
Whether you are looking for an alpine skiing adventure or a Christmas market extravaganza, hopefully there is something here to inspire you to find where to spend Christmas in Europe this year and in the future.
We would like to thank all of our contributors from around the world for sharing such magical experiences. I know that we are inspired to keep traveling and look forward to spending Christmas in many of these gorgeous spots in the near future!
Don’t worry…there is more!! If Europe doesn’t tickle your traveling tastebuds, perhaps USA or the rest of the world will. Keep an eye out for our upcoming post on the Best Places to Spend Christmas That Are Not in Europe.