30 of the Best Places to have a Magical Christmas in Europe
Christmas is coming closer and closer and all around Europe Christmas events are popping up. But which are the best to celebrate Christmas in Europe? I’ve asked my fellow travel bloggers what they think are the best places for Christmas in Europe, and of course I’ve added my own favorites too. From Christmas Europe markets to festivals to events, there’s plenty to do to get in the Christmas spirit. So get ready for 30 Magical Christmas experiences.
Christmas in Europe
Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.
The last few years Amsterdam has hosted the Amsterdams Winterparadijs. A fun winter and Christmas event in the RAI in Amsterdam. It’s each year during Christmas break, so roughly from the middle of December to the beginning of January.
There’s something to do for every age at the Amsterdams Winterparadijs. From ice skating to meeting fairy tale figures to Après-ski. During the day families wander around enjoying snow fights, tube slides and the Ferris wheel. In the evening the music is turned up and people are partying at the music podium and gathering around the beer tables.
Other things to do are the Boomerang-Baan, Tube Jump, curling and ice racing. There’s a merry-go-round, a Coca-Cola Truck and a high merry-go-round. You can throw snowballs, roast marshmallows, watch a movie at the theatre and go to a performance at one the 2 theatres. Enjoy the silent Après-ski, karaoke and the VR-experience. Lastly there’s a maze, a Christmas market and you can go cross-country skiing.
You don’t need to leave the RAI for food, since you can get everything from poffertjes (a traditional Dutch food) to cheese fondue and pizza.
Ticket prices vary from €14.50 for the evening to €23.50 for the whole day and €58.75 or €36.25 for a passe-partout (a ticket for the whole period).
Contributed by Angela from Where Angie Wanders.
Christmas in Copenhagen is a wonderful time to enjoy Denmark’s capital city and as the nights get darker and winter arrives, it is the Christmas markets in Copenhagen that really steal the show.
The markets are free to enter and wandering through them is quite magical. This year they are open from 12th November to 22nd December 2021.
Christmas markets are scattered all across Copenhagen from the enchanting Tivoli Gardens and Hans Christian Anderson market, to the alternative crafters market at Freetown in Christiania. Each market has its own “vibe” and gifts and food all have a Nordic element to them.
Felt gnomes, ceramic Santa Claus, hand-knitted hats and scarves and beautiful Christmas baubles can be found all over the city and are great to buy as presents for loved ones.
Danish food ranging from Glogg, a delicious red wine and fruit drink and aebleskiver, a sweet spherical pastry, are very popular in Denmark at Christmas and can be found on most of the Christmas stalls.
Of course, Copenhagen is cold at Christmas and so plenty of layers with hats, scarves and waterproof walking shoes are a must. If you are lucky you will see snow, so be prepared and dress warmly to enjoy the magic of the festive season in Copenhagen.
Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.
Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany and is located in the North. This beautiful, green harbor city goes all out for Christmas, like a lot of Germany’s towns, with 15 different Christmas markets. It’s one of the best cities in Europe to visit, especially during Christmas time.
A Fairy tales Parade is on all 4 Saturdays during the advent period. It’s really a festive parade with historical coaches and people dressed up as Santa’s, angels, lebkuchemänner and reindeers. Shops and streets are illuminated and decorated, all adding to the Christmas spirit.
At St. Petri you’ll find a traditional Weihnachtsmarkt. Sankt Pauli, nicknamed Santa Pauli during Christmas time, has a not so traditional Christmas market. It’s a more ‘red light’ themed one, St. George has a Winterpride Christmas market and at Bergedorf is the oldest Christmas market in Hamburg. For a maritime themed Weihnachtsmarkt head over to Fleetinsel.
Be sure to drink glühwein or hot chocolate with rum at one of the stalls. You can keep the Hamburg Christmas mug as a souvenir or return it to get the deposit back. Don’t miss out on one of the German treats such as curry wurst, pretzels or chestnuts.
The Christmas markets are open from 11am till 9pm and happen from November 22nd or the 30th till December 23rd. Some continue after Christmas.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
Contributed by Andreea from Andoreia.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a small Bavarian town that looks straight out of a fairy tale, especially around Christmas. The shops here really take decorating seriously and you’ll literally feel like you’re visiting Santa’s workshops.
The town also has a Christmas Market which has been held since the 15th century. It is not big, but really charming and festive. The main attractions are Bratwurst (a type of German sausage made from veal, beef, or most commonly pork), gingerbread, and mulled wine, as well as locally crafted Christmas decorations.
The mulled wine is served in different mugs every year and they can be a lovely souvenir: when you buy the drink, you also need to pay a security deposit for the mug, which will act as a payment for it if you don’t return it.
Rothenburg also has a Christmas museum which you can visit, called the German Christmas Museum. A ticket costs 5 euro for adults and 2 euro for children (6 to 11 years). Furthermore, they have group tickets (groups of more than 20 people) at 3,5 euros, family tickets (2 adults with children under 14 years old) at 11 euros, and reduced tickets (for senior citizens, students, disabled people) at 4 euro. The museum dubs as a shop as well and it’s a good place to buy a souvenir or a few decorations for your Christmas tree.
Rothenburg is also one of the best cities to visit in Germany.
Deventer, the Netherlands
Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.
Each year, Deventer, a city in the Northeast of the Netherlands, hosts the Dickens Festival. It’s held the weekend before Christmas. A perfect way to get that Christmas feeling, is visiting this festival. In the weekend Bergkwartier (the medieval part of Deventer) turns into a village from the books of Charles Dickens.
About 950 actors and residents play characters from one of the stories of Dickens. Meet Oliver Twist, Scrooge, chimney sweeps and carol singers. All through your visit the actors stay in character, providing a perfect atmosphere.
There’s no entrance fee for the festival. There is however a long waiting line, which can be up to 1 or 2 hours. You’ll be entertained while waiting by dressed-up actors who roam the line. Once inside (the festival is outdoors, but fenced off) you’re following a designated route through several streets.
At the same time Deventer also has two Christmas markets. One outside at the exit of the Dickens festival , the other inside a church. Christmas lights align the streets, giving a magical feeling, especially at night.
Dress up warmly, in comfy clothes and wear sturdy shoes, you have to wait in line a long time. It can be cold and/or rainy.
Contributed by Andreea from Andoreia.
There are several Christmas markets in Prague, but the most prominent is the one held in Old Town Square (Staromestske Namesti) and the one in Wenceslas Square (Vaclavske Namesti). You can easily visit both of them as they’re located only about a 5-minute walk from each other.
The Prague Christmas Markets consist of festive decorated wooden huts that sell local handicrafts and traditional Christmas sweets as well as grilled meats like Prague Ham or sausages. Mulled wine is also very sought after and people often use it to get warm as they enjoy the fair.
For a good view over the Christmas market in Old Town Square, I’d recommend climbing the Old Town Hall Tower. A ticket to the Old Town Hall ticket costs 250 CZK (reduced: 150 CZK, family: 600 CZK) and the fee includes entry to the Town Hall Tower, the historical halls, the Romanesque-Gothic underground, and the Chapel of the Virgin Mary.
Access to the tower is barrier-free: you can either climb the stairs or take the elevator. But be aware that there is a surcharge for the lift in the tower: 100 CZK for adults and 50 CZK for seniors over 65 years.
Contributed by Toti & Ale from Italian Trip Abroad.
Typically Southern Italy is not considered for winter holidays in Europe, however, it’s where the Christmas vibes are felt most in the country. Visiting southern Italy in winter is the perfect idea to skip the crowds of the high season, and Naples at Christmas is just the perfect destination. The city becomes even more beautiful with the lights, adorned with pine trees, stands selling goodies and a particular alley that is one of the most visited destinations for the period. San Gregorio Armeno is today well known around the world for its unique Christmas soul. The narrow alley is in the heart of the historic center of Naples, a maze of streets that tell you stories and legends about the Mediterranean city.
Naples is one of the major cities in Italy and very busy in winter, mostly by local tourists from all over the country. San Gregorio Armeno is the first location a tourist wants to see but is often so busy that you can’t walk along. The street features a religious scene, with the nativity scene makers opening their workshops showing the best handmade statues. You might have seen photos of the particular statues coming from the Neapolitan tradition, religious belief or world news.
To feel the vibes of Naples through the alleys you should visit the churches, the most incredible are the Duomo, the main church, and Cappella San Severo where is the Cristo Velato, “Veiled Christ”, a masterpiece by Giuseppe Sanmartino. Discover the unique food heritage, with the typical Pandoro, the world-famous pizza and its similar like fried pizza, calzone and others more. During Christmas, the other food to try is sweet retreat, rococo’ and struffoli.
Contributed by Mary from Be Right Back by Mary.
During the lead-up period to Christmas, the city of Dublin becomes magical. Streets are decorated with sparkling lights, stores’ shopping windows light up with incredible Christmas scenes and Christmas trees pop up in every corner. There are quite a few things to do in Dublin at Christmas.
One of the best Christmas visits is Dublin Castle. At Christmas, the Chapel hosts choir concerts of both traditional and modern Christmas carols. After the concert, you are invited for a private evening visit of the castle which is fully decorated for the season with Christmas trees, lights and nutcrackers. At the end of the visit, you are offered sweet treats and Champagne. The entrance fee is usually around €20 per person. It is recommended to dress up and dress warm as Dublin can get quite cold during this time of the year. After your visit, you can head over to famous Temple Bar to see the decorations and have a pint in a warm Christmas spirit!
Contributed by Ronja from Ronja Goes Abroad.
What better way to experience Christmas than visiting Santa Claus’ home? Santa Claus’ lives in Rovaniemi, Finland. And you can visit his village right on the arctic circle! The village is located just outside Rovaniemi and there are shuttle busses that will take you there if you don’t have your own vehicle.
Santa Claus’ Village is the perfect location for a Christmas lover. It’s a great destination both for adults and kids. The village is open all year round. There are many different things to do in the village. You can send a package or postcard right from Santa’s Post Office, visit one of the many gift shops, go on a reindeer sleigh ride, drink mulled wine or hot cocoa in a goathi (= a traditional Sami dwelling), and the most important thing, you can visit Santa Claus.
Make sure to visit the village both during daylight and evening. The best time to visit would be early morning or late evening. And obviously, the best time to visit would be November-December when the Christmas spirit is high! There is no entrance fee for walking around the village. Visiting Santa is also free.
If you want to stay close to the village, you can stay the night right at the site. There are cottages and glass igloos right next to the village. Do remember these are more expensive than staying in Rovaniemi city.
If you need more tips on what to do in Rovaniemi during winter check this article!
Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
Contributed by Eden from Rock a Little Travel.
There’s no better way to get in the holiday spirit than by visiting one of Europe’s many famous Christmas markets.
The Luxembourg Christmas Market, also known as the Winter Lights festival, is an annual holiday celebration featuring seasonal food and drinks, chalets selling goods from local boutiques, carnival rides, an ice skating rink, and live musical performances.
Luxembourg’s Winter Lights festival is a popular destination for both locals and visitors alike. There are multiple food and drink vendors selling everything from Currywurst to fresh pretzels. There is also a beer garden serving local beers and warm mulled wine. As you might imagine, the beer garden is a very popular place to be, especially on weekend nights.
For first time visitors, I recommend visiting the Winter Lights festival during the day to explore and do some shopping. Then, come back in the evening for dinner and drinks and to enjoy the live musical performances.
The Winter Lights festival is held in Luxembourg City, Luxembourg and this year’s festival will run from November 19, 2021, to January 2, 2022.
Admission to the market itself is free, though there are costs associated with some activities such as ice skating or the carnival rides. You’ll want to dress in layers during your visit, Luxembourg can be very chilly, especially in December.
Contributed by Karolina from Polish Foodies.
Christmas in Poland is truly magical! The celebration starts on December, 6th. This is when all the kids are getting gifts from Santa. Yes, that’s right! Santa Claus is coming early to Poland every year.
The kids are getting presents again on Christmas Eve. This time from Aniołek (Angel) or Gwiazdor (Star).
The most important time of Polish Christmas is Wigilia. It’s the official Christmas Eve supper that is supposed to start when the first star appears in the sky.
There are 12 Christmas dishes, each representing one month of the year. If you want to be lucky, you need to try them all. That won’t be difficult! Polish cuisine is absolutely delicious. You will love pierogi, borscht, and all the other Polish Christmas food!
Traditionally, after Wigilia, people are attending pasterka [midnight mass]. In the time between Christmas Eve and Ephiphany (January, 6th), you may expect kolędnicy knocking at your door.
Who are kolędnicy? They are neighbors, dressed up as Santa’s, devils, angels, or any other Christian characters. They will sign a carol for your as long as you give them some money.
Contributed by Moumita from Chasing the Long Road.
Edinburgh is an incredibly charming city at any time of the year. But when it comes to Christmas, the Scottish capital is like no other place in the world. Attending Christmas is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Edinburgh in winter. The festive celebration starts with the Light Night around mid-November every year, and it continues for about the next six weeks.
Princes Street Garden at the heart of Edinburgh New Town transforms into a winter wonderland. There you will have an array of festive chalets selling from traditional mouth-watering Christmas food like German Sausages, potato skewers, hot mulled wine, chimney cake, sugar nuts to classic Christmas items like wooden nutcrackers, ornaments, candles.
You can take part in many fun activities as well, like taking a spin on the Big Wheel and admiring the city skyline, putting on skates and spinning on the Alpine ice rink. Younger visitors would love the Christmas Tree Maze, Santa’s Grotto, Nativity Carol Concert. Rides and events are individually priced, but the markets are totally free to roam around to take in the festive spirit.
An integral part of the Edinburgh Christmas Celebration is the Hogmanay – a three-day annual celebration from 30th December to New Year’s Day. Hogmanay includes Torchlight Procession (originated from an Old Norse tradition), spectacular fireworks display from Edinburgh Castle, Street Parties and the Loony Dook – where hundreds of people dip into the chilling cold water of the First of Forth in the north of Edinburgh.
Lastly, this time of the year is pretty cold in Edinburgh, and the temperature occasionally drops below zero degrees. So, pack enough warm coats, scarves, gloves when you visit Edinburgh during Christmas.
Pijnacker, the Netherlands
Contributed by Lotte from Gezondweekmenu.
A magical Christmas experience in a garden shop, really? Yes, really. One of the best Christmas activities in the Netherlands is visiting the Intratuin in Pijnacker. The admission is free and it runs from mid-October until Christmas. Best to visit on a weekday, since weekends tend to get crowded.
Intratuin is a home and gardening chain with several stores in the Netherlands. While all of them have a Christmas show, Pijnacker takes it up a notch (or twenty).
When you enter the store there is a magical land of gnomes, a tiny house where kids can play, lots of lights, and enchanting music. Going further and you’ll soon see a small train going around a circular track. Kids love steering the locomotive and circling around the Christmas tree in the middle.
Continue on your way and you’ll enter a winter wonderland of Christmas miniatures. Laid out in front of you is a huge Christmas village, with figurines the size of your thumbnail. There are miniature carousels, tiny houses, a train, tiny ‘humans’ skiing, sparkling lights and so much more.
Little kids can crawl below the Christmas village and enter a bubble in which they are completely surrounded by the fascinating miniature world.
But that’s not all. A little further down the ‘winkelroute’ kids can hop on an antique carousel, with an elephant, a monkey, and more. The merry jingle will entertain you at first but starts to get annoying after round 6 or 7.
When you’re hungry, Intratuin has a large restaurant where you can enjoy hot cocoa with whipped cream, a steaming bowl of soup, or a typical Dutch ‘broodje kroket’. And if that’s not enough: there is an indoor playground adjacent to the restaurant.
St. Wendel, Germany
Contributed by Morgan from Crave the Planet.
St. Wendel Christmas market is hands down the best and most interesting Christmas event in southwest Germany. It’s truly Christmas Magic with both a traditional and medieval market.
The market is free to enter and open from December 3rd to December 12th, 2021 and will require proof of vaccination, recovery, or testing to enter.
The traditional Christmas market has a giant wooden pyramid that spans the Old Town near St. Wendelinus Basilica. Get filled with Christmas cheer as you walk through 110 lovingly decorated huts offering handmade ornaments, delicious Glühwein and local crafts.
Be sure to explore down the alleys because you will find an entire “zwergen” or dwarf village with 30 different dwarf-filled sweet nativity scenes. Each extremely detailed scene will show dwarves in their homes, churches and gardens preparing for Christmas.
For more excitement wander with a steaming cup of your favorite glühwein or kinderpunsch to the Middle Age Market. You’ll find original gifts such as animal furs, blacksmith crafts, and Middle Ages style weapons. Enjoy the camels and snow tubing for extra fun.
Stay until 7:00 pm and your friends and family will marvel over the fire shows with women dancing with fire, Krampus fire shows, and dragons built from paper that breathe fire at the crowds of children and parents.
Parking can be found in an underground parking lot under the medieval market at the City Garage.
Contributed by Sinead from York with Kids.
The historic city of York is a magical place to visit at Christmas. The city center is festooned with lights and Christmas trees and York’s attractions, including the famous York Minster (the largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe), create themed events and festive window displays for visitors.
The highlight of Christmas in York is the six week long St Nicholas Fair which takes place across the city. Its centerpiece is the Christmas market with over 100 wooden chalets from which independent businesses sell locally made arts, crafts, food and drink. It is an ideal place to find a unique Christmas gift. Weary shoppers are entertained by festive buskers and brass bands and can take a warming rest in Thor’s Tipi, a huge canvas tipi erected specifically for the Christmas market. The tipi sells hot chocolate and the British favorite, mulled wine. The market is free to enter and runs from 10am until 6pm (8pm on weekends) from November 18th until December 23rd. Wrap up warm and wear comfortable shoes for a festive trip to York as the city’s cobbled and stone flagged pedestrianized streets are made for wandering!
Contributed by Paula from Paula Pins the Planet.
If you are looking for some great things to do around Christmas in Europe, Salzburg in Austria should be on the top of your bucket list. Here you can find some of the best Christmas Markets, plus plenty of winter activities to enjoy it doesn’t matter if you are traveling as a couple, or with the whole family. When visiting Salzburg you will experience charming streets and cozy cafes, and you can visit the iconic highlights including castles, and baroque buildings while surrounded by the Alps covered in snow immerses you in a fairy tale land.
Christmas time in Salzburg begins with the opening of Christmas markets at the end of November, and the city holds the magical Christkindlmarket, one of the oldest Advent markets in the world. Besides the most popular Christmas Markets in Salzburg located at the Damplatz, you can also find other options to visit smaller Markets, such as the Advent Magic Heilbrunn and the Market on Mirabell Square, where you can experience the Salzburg delicacies, local handcraft, and try the traditional Glühwein, known as hot, spiced wine.
Winter in Salzburg is magical and a must place to visit. It is only 3 hours driving distance from Vienna, located on the border with Germany, at the foot of the Alps. Also, keep in mind that winter in Salzburg is cold! The average daytime temperatures are 3°C to 6°C (37°F to 43°F) and at night the temperatures range from -4°C to -2°C (25°F to 28°F).But don’t let the cold temperatures intimidate you. The city has a fairy tale setting during wintertime, with the snow capping the building and the Alps, and the festive, crisp, and chilly air.
Valkenburg, the Netherlands
Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.
Looking for a unique Christmas market? Visit the Valkenburg Christmas markets, they are held in caves. Valkenburg is a city close to Maastricht and in the South of the Netherlands. In this area marl has been removed from quarries for years. Which resulted in a series of caves with corridors.
In 4 different caves are Christmas markets with each having their own unique feature. Mergelrijk has a 30 meters long Christmas story in miniature on display. Gemeente grot is the oldest underground Christmas market in Europe and Fluweelengrot has the largest indoor Christmas event in the Netherlands. Wilhelmina grot hosts the Winter Wonderland with a cable lift and underground Christmas market.
Christmas markets isn’t the only thing Valkenburg has to offer. The down town area is illuminated and on Wednesday and Saturday there’s a Christmas Fairy tales Parade. Throughout the whole period you can also undertake a Route d’Amuse. Several self-guided walking routes that have stops at restaurants where you receive a ‘amuse bouche’.
The Christmas markets start in the middle of November and go on until the end of December or the first week of January. Winter Wonderland entrance is €8.00, Gemeente grot and Fluweelengrot are both €8.50, Mergelrijk is €12.50 and a Route d’Amuse will cost you €11.95.
Saturday and Sunday will be the busiest, the weekdays would be best for a visit. The temperature underground is always 12°C (54°F) and it’s always dry and you won’t get too cold. A unique souvenir to buy are candles and nativity scenes made out of marl.
French Alps, France
Contributed by Leyla from Offbeat France.
At the start of each year, mushers and their dogs line up somewhere in the French Alps – the location changes each year – to undertake a grueling 10-day dogsled race through the mountains, La Grande Odysseé.
The mushers come from all over the world to tackle this exciting but demanding course, cheered on by thousands of well-wishers who brave the freezing cold to show their support. Early in the morning, when the mushers are getting ready for the day, it is coldest outside but the dogs are happy and frisky: this is when they get checked by veterinarians for any injuries, and brushed by their owners, becoming energized for the day ahead.
Once that day is over, the mushers will be rewarded with delicious mountain fare, like tubs of cheese fondue or wheels of raclette, to warm them up after their day spent in the cold mountain air.
It’s the largest Alpine dogsled race anywhere, with some 50-60 mushers, 600 dogs and 1000 kilometers of trails, a fairy tale setting for those who love mountains, snow, dogs, and the exhilaration of a race attended by 50,000 spectators each year
Contributed by Bec from Explore Victoria Australia.
There are so many cities around the world that shine at Christmas time but there is one that takes it to the next level and that city is Warsaw, Poland.
Poland is not a country on many peoples radar but it is becoming a brilliant tourist destination welcoming an increasing number of international visitors every year. While it is absolutely wonderful in any season Warsaw truly dazzles and shines at Christmas.
The Warsaw streets are decorated every year at the end of November all the way through to Silvester (Polish New Year) with hundreds upon thousands of fairy lights.
Some are woven through the trees or dangling from the buildings. In other areas, you will find full installations of lights. Some take the shape of angels, some of books, buses and there’s even one that is a picture frame so you can have your picture taken in it.
The lights start in the Old Town area where many of the small Christmas Markets are and go all the way out to Wilanow Palace with its magnificent gardens absolutely glowing.
You will find many people wandering the old town and the streets that surround it taking in the larger light displays and there are plenty of families wandering as well looking for a jolly old man in a red suit who always manages to find a perfect place to sit for the children.
Best of all the lights are free for anyone wanting to visit Warsaw and spend the time walking the city to discover them.
Contributed by Mark from Wyld Family Travel.
For many people wanting to experience the Christmas markets in Europe a trip to the Alsace in France is the top of their list of places to visit. Not only are the picturesque villages in the Alsace famous all year round for their beauty and fairytale atmosphere they are even more world-famous for their markets.
Towns in the Alsace in winter come alive from the last week in November to the week after Christmas with their quaint markets that draw crowds from all over thee worked to experience them. Most people will base themselves in the larger towns of Strasbourg and Colmar where the markets are spread out through many of the squares. Here you can find all of the usual Christmas fares with plenty of beautiful food to sample, Vin Chaud to keep you warm and souvenirs to take home with you so you don’t forget your amazing Alsace experience.
In the smaller towns in the Alsace is where you get a more traditional and personal experience of the Alsace Christmas Markets. Towns like Ribeauville, Eguisheim, Kaysersberg and Riquewihr come alive the nights their markets are held on. Locals and tourists alike come out to revel in the Christmas Spirit. It is definitely one thing you have to see and be a part of once in your life. The Alsace is a perfect region for road trips.
Contributed by Ali from Berlin Travel Tips.
Germany is the best place to go for Christmas markets. After all, the country pretty much invented them! And while there are tons of fantastic Christmas markets to choose from, the Dresden Christmas market, called the Striezelmarkt, is truly special.
Dresden’s Striezelmarkt is considered to be the oldest Christmas market in the world, and it dates back to 1434. This market also has quite an Erzebirge pyramid. That’s the tall wooden tower-like structure you’ll see at most German Christmas markets. The one in Dresden stands at 14.62 meters (almost 48 feet) tall and is the world’s largest.
This is a very traditional Christmas market with a wonderful festive vibe. Enjoy a mug of hot mulled wine, and taste some traditional Stollen, a type of bread similar to fruitcake. Even though you’ll find it throughout Germany, Stollen originally comes from Dresden, so this is the place to try it.
Though the Streizelmarkt is the most famous Christmas market in Dresden, there are several others within walking distance in the old town. If you spend a day in Dresden during the holiday season, you could easily go from one market to another and fill your day.
The Striezelmarkt is held in the old town in Altmarkt square from late November to right before Christmas Day. Entrance is free.
Contributed by Vicki from Vicki Viaja.
If you’re looking for crazy Christmas traditions around the world, you should definitely visit Catalonia. Because in this region in the north of Spain you can find some of the most bizarre Christmas traditions.
One of these weird Catalan Christmas traditions is the Cagatió. This is a pooping log that you can find all over Catalonia during the Christmas season. The cagatió is a pooping log. The trunk is painted at Christmas time and is covered with a blanket and a red cap. The Catalan children feed the wooden trunk with cookies and dried fruit the weeks before the Spanish Christmas. Then on Christmas Day, the children get to hit the log with a wooden stick, much like a piñata. Afterward, the parents pull out presents from under the blanket that the log has just “pooped out”. So if you visit Catalonia at Christmas time, you should definitely take one of these little cagatios as a souvenir.
In addition, you should not miss the beautiful Christmas markets of the regions in Catalonia during the holiday season. In these markets, you will find not only cagatios but also other festive decorations and delicious Catalan Christmas snacks, such as churros or castanyes (hot chestnuts). You can find well-decorated Christmas markets in many Catalan cities, e.g. in the small town Vic, and several in the Catalan capital Barcelona.
Zwolle, the Netherlands
Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.
Each year the city of Zwolle hosts the Nederlands Ijsbeelden Festival (Dutch Ice Sculpture Festival). The finest ice artists flock to Zwolle to carve out beautiful masterpieces in ice. They use 275.000 kilos of ice and the same amount of snow.
The theme differs each year. The theme this year would have been ‘What a Wonderful World’, but sadly has been canceled. Usually the festival is held from December to the beginning of March. Tickets cost €15.00 online, at the counter they’re €18.50. Kids 4 till 10 is €10.00 and €12.00. Below the age of 4 are for free. Open Tuesday till Sunday from 10am to 5pm.
Past themes of the festival have been ‘The Grimm fairy tales, ‘A Royal Festival’ and ‘World in Motion’. At the end of the ice sculpture tour is an ice bar and a restaurant. Enjoy a warm drink, split pea soup and Apfelstrudel here. The festival takes place in the Ijsselhallen Zwolle.
There’s always an ice slide in the festival, no matter what the theme is. Wear ski pants for the slide, since jeans won’t work. Wear warm clothes, since the hall with ice sculptures is freezing cold to keep the ice from melting.
Contributed by Linda from La Dolce Fit Vita.
I can’t think of any better way to spend the holiday season than to experience a magical winter wonderland. Where snowy landscapes and twinkle lights frame every moment, and where mulled wine and hot cocoa accompany you wherever you go. After looking long and hard, I finally found a place in real life that lives up to this exact picture… and get this, it’s in Italy!
One of the largest towns in the Dolomites, Bolzano hosts one of the coziest Christmas Markets in Europe. And as it just so happens to be located in some of the most mesmerizing mountains in the world, you can also get in your winter sports for the year. That’s right… you can pair Christmas caroling with skiing.
Bolzano is also home to one of the largest Loacker facilities, and as such, wafers are the city’s bread and butter. You will find countless spots around the city to try hundreds of different types of chocolate or customize your own hot cocoa.
As you peruse the festive streets of the city you will come to find that the Christmas market has a very homey feel. The city has always been known for its woodcarvings and as you visit the different stalls you will get to meet in person the very craftsmen behind all the beautiful ornaments and nativity scenes. It’s truly a great way into the local culture. Don’t leave Bolzano without a beautiful wooden souvenir!
This year (2021) the market will be running from November 26th to January 6th and has no admission charge. If chestnuts, reindeer and sports are your jam, this Christmas give yourself a trip to Bolzano!
Contributed by Clotilde from A Princess Travelling with Twins.
Ice skating, an activity practiced for several centuries on the frozen rivers and lakes of Northern Europe, became a much more accessible sport less than 150 years ago when the first artificial ice rink was opened. Nowadays there are ice rinks in many locations, but certainly few as impressive as the one at the National History Museum in London. Christmas 2021, after 16 years, will be the last time that an ice rink will be created in the garden in front of the majestic museum. If you are visiting London do not miss the opportunity to whizz around the ice surrounded by fairy lights.
This ice rink, open from the end of October, will remain open until January 16, 2022. While offering various sessions, it is very popular and it is absolutely recommended to book in advance especially for weekends from the end of November.
Children under the age of 12 can skate with adults, and cute penguins can also be rented for support. Prices vary, starting at £12.65 for adults and £8.80 for children during off peak hours, and going up to £17.05 and £10.45. Definitely not a cheap activity, but there are also various family packages that help to keep the price down.
Contributed by Emilie from Love Life Abroad.
When it comes to Christmas in Europe, the first things that come to mind are Eastern Europe and its Christmas markets: Prague, Vienna, Berlin, Strasbourg. But, Paris, the ville lumière, has everything to compete with those other European Christmas Markets.
Paris hosts a few different Christmas markets all around town, from Hotel-de-Ville to Quartier Montmartre. All the Christmas Markets are free of charge for entry and have a variety of kiosks for gifts and food. They usually run from mid/late November to the end of December.
It can get chilly and raining in Paris in November and December, so make sure to be dressed appropriately: hat, gloves good jacket and warm boots. Plus, while some Christmas markets are open during the daytime, it’s more magical to go when it’s dark. The Christmas decoration and lights are at their best and it’s the perfect time to stay warm with a traditional French hot wine called Mulled wine.
Which Paris Christmas market should you go to? If you are as big a Christmas market fan as we are, the answer would be: Go to all of them! But if you are only visiting a few days, those two should be on your list:
- La Magie de Noël (“The Magic of Christmas”) in Tuileries Garden: It’s the biggest one in Paris in a magical environment. It’s half a Christmas market, half a winter Carnival, so a lot to do and see.
- La Défense Christmas Market is also a big market, but it also gives you the opportunity to explore the La Défense district with a beautiful view of the La Défense Grande Arche.
Contributed by Lori from Italy Foodies.
With so many Christmas traditions in Europe, you’ll have many choices as to where to celebrate the holidays. But if you’re looking for a touch of Italy with your European holiday, Florence, Italy should be high on your list.
Starting with the Festival of Lights on December 8th, these festive markets brighten the city and are especially magical in the evening.
At the heart of the Christmas celebration in Florence is the Piazza del Duomo with the magnificent Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. Often there are several large Christmas trees beautifully decorated and a wonderful life-size terra cotta Nativity scene.
At this time of year traditional Christmas markets steal the show and Florence is no exception. The largest and best in the city is staged in the Piazza Santa Croce, with Christmas trees and small brightly lit wooden holiday houses lining the piazza.
Try some of the seasonal Italian Christmas foods like Tuscan panforte and wash it down with some holiday cheer. You’ll also find local artisans selling their wares and traditional Christmas ornaments to hang on your tree at home — they make perfect souvenirs and holiday gifts!
Contributed by Adam from As Adam Goes.
One of Europe’s hidden gems during the Christmas period is the beautiful Latvian capital, Riga. Year by year, the city is becoming more popular among winter breakers seeking their festive fix.
The north-eastern European city may be small, but it’s not short of Christmas markets as the city has a total of 3: – 1. Doma laukums square 2. Līvu laukums square and 3. Esplenāde Park. Each has its own magic touch and is open from November 30th, 2021 to January 8th, 2022.
Note: There is no entry fee for any of the Christmas markets. Riga is cold during the Christmas period. Don’t be shocked if you see some snow fall, as the temperatures can drop as low as 4 degrees Celsius. It’s probably best to wrap up with some thermals, a jacket, and some mittens. Oh, and don’t forget your woolly hat. To avoid the crowds, the best time to visit Riga is at the start of December or the start of January. There will be fewer people visiting during these times as it tends to get busier the closer it gets to Christmas.
Contributed by Alice from Adventures of Alice.
Brussels Christmas Market or Winter Wonders is undoubtedly one of the best markets in Europe to visit during the Christmas period.
The Grand Place, a traditional landmark and the heart of Brussels is lit up with beautiful lights. It’s also decorated with traditional crafts. The Grand Place also displays an amazing light and sound show and has a beautifully decorated Christmas tree that has over 130 presents beneath it for visitors who donate money, or bring a gift worth donating themselves!
There are over 200 chalets at the Christmas Market, with multiple stalls, each selling various different things including arts and crafts, paintings, food, mulled wine and even handmade toys. There’s also fairground attractions which include a Ferris wheel, merry-go-rounds and more.
This year, the event will run from 26th November 2021 – 2nd January 2022 from 12pm-10pm. The event itself is free to go to, however, you might want to bring some spending money as there will probably be a lot for you to buy!
Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.
Düsseldorf is a city in Western Germany, not that far from the Dutch border. Dotted around the city center are 6 different Christmas markets. Chestnut trees are illuminated. These trees lead you to the next Weihnachtsmarkt.
All the Christmas markets are on squares and through Christmas decorations they’re connected. Each market has its own unique theme. The one on Heinrich-Heine Platz is in Jugendstil style. Since it has a lot of cast iron angels, it’s nickname is the Angelsmarket. Marktplatz has stalls in the same historical style as the surrounding buildings, and the old skills take center stage at the market. Stadtbrucken is nicknamed the starsmarket, because of the beautiful illuminations. At Flinger Strasse the stalls resemble the craftworkmen houses in Düsselfdorf.
Gustaf Grundgens Platz has an ice skating rink and the Shadowplatz has a puppet theatre for the little ones. It also has the most delicious bites and drinks.
The Christmas markets at Düsseldorf have been voted the best in Germany. The markets are opened daily from 11am till 8pm. On Saturday and Sunday till 9pm.
Christmas in Europe can be truly Magical
That’s a wrap on all the fabulous places that Europe has to offer to come into the Christmas spirit. From an Alpine dogsled race to Christmas markets to an Ice sculpture festival, it’s all there. Here are the best Christmas markets in Germany for further Christmas reading.
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So many beautiful places to visit around Christmas, I got a lot of inspiration myself for future travels. I have my eyes set in particular on the towns in Alsace. And Santa’s Village sounds like a childhood dream come true.
So many great places to spend Christmas. Which to choose?
Christmas in Alsace is the best 😉
Although I wouldn’t mind visiting Edinburgh at Christmas too… it looks amazing.
I would love to visit each of those places someday… They all look so festive!
When I lived in Europe, I absolutely loved the German Christmas markets. Great article.
This is a great list! I love how it even includes a few places I’ve never heard of. I’ll be in Dublin and London a few days before Christmas this year so I’m excited to see all the Christmas stuff there 🙂
Wish I could be in Europe for Christmas! Magical places indeed.
Got completely swept away reading your post! I really hope things are looking better by 2022 because I need to start hiting these amazing markets. Thank you for the inspiration.
So inspiring! I hope to be visiting this time next year.
Oh, I miss Christmas markets so much! Thank you for this roundup. It let me dream. Heidelberg, Germany is my fav market so far, but I haven’t seen many of the ones on your list. I need to get back overseas and start exploring!
This is an amazing list. So happy to see Catalonia. We loved our time at the Christmas markets in Barcelona. So many to add to our list.
The Jetset Boyz
A long weekend in Vienna the weekend before Christmas has become a Jetset Boyz annual event. Vienna’s prettiest squares transform into magical Christmas markets. The aroma of Christmas baking & hot punch sets the mood in the run-up to Christmas. Make sure you try Weihnachtspunsch! 😋
We usually stay at the Hilton Vienna Plaza because it’s so close to the fabulous Christmas market at the Rathaus and about five other markets. With so many markets dotted across the city – anywhere between 15 and 20 – you’re absolutely spoilt for choice and you’ll feel like a kiddy in a sweet shop!
So, if you’ve never been to Vienna in December why not make a plan?
I think I just need to move to Europe so that I can experience all of these places.