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From cobbled streets to mulled wine and festive fairs, it’s hard to resist the charm of Christmas in Europe. Christmas in this region of the world means you can experience time-honored traditions and soak up its infectious Christmas cheer by exploring charming holiday markets and medieval squares. This holiday season, pack your bags and festive spirit and enjoy a cheery holiday at one of these top destinations in Europe for Christmas.
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Prague is an enchanting fairytale city that celebrates Christmas in a big way. You’ll find plenty of European grandeur with its beautiful architecture, which serves as the most charming backdrop for an evening of sipping mulled wine and getting lost in the maze of Christmas shopping markets. Meander down its enchanting cobbled alleys and admire its Gothic buildings as you enter the market held in the Old Town Square, where you’ll find festive wooden huts selling goodies and craft items.
Cologne is a 2,000-year-old city nestled around the River Rhine in Germany that boasts plenty of Christmas charm, as it’s known for having one of the best Christmas markets in Germany. Famous for its spectacular Gothic cathedral that dominates the city, it appeals to holiday enthusiasts with its large market held in the cathedral square. Spend an evening sampling the regional specialties and festive pastries, then pick up toys, glass ornaments and wood carvings. Visit Angel’s Market, one of the city’s oldest, to browse the stalls and enjoy a cup of eggnog.
Located in France’s Alsace region, Strasbourg boasts the oldest Christmas market in the country and is well-known as a top Christmas town across the globe. It’s got everything you need for a charming holiday destination, from a beautiful Gothic cathedral to a UNESCO-listed Old Town and elaborate displays that adorn the city’s half-timbered houses. Head to the Main Square to see it packed full of wooden huts selling Nativity figurines and tree ornaments, then simply stroll through the picturesque cobbled streets to see traditional boutiques and restaurants serving hearty traditional meals.
Vienna is an alluring destination throughout the year with its legendary cafe culture and old-world charm, but during the holidays it shines bright with its array of elegant Christmas markets. Head to a Viennese Christkindlmarkts to smell the scent of sausages and hot chestnuts that mark the season. Alt Wiener Weihnachtsmarkt is a favorite for its handcrafted ceramics and toys, the Snow Globe Museum is a hit for all ages and the Rathausplatz is perfect for ice skating, while those looking for a dose of culture can snag tickets to a classical opera.
Tallin’s Christmas Market is said to be one of Europe’s most charming and authentic, as you’ll find a collection of stalls selling woolly hats and hand-carved wooden ornaments. One of Europe’s most underrated destinations, you can explore the UNESCO-protected medieval Old Town to soak up the fairytale atmosphere that is especially charming in the winter, then visit the Town Hall Square. Snap photos of the pastel-colored facades and old-world street lamps, then sit back and admire the towering Christmas tree sitting against a backdrop of fresh snow.
A colorful city throughout the year, Copenhagen boasts a festive atmosphere with its shining lights and hyggelige cafes. Soak up the scenery and explore the city’s Christmas markets, then visit the world-famous Tivoli Gardens. This famous amusement park transforms over the holidays into a winter wonderland full of light displays, rides and stalls selling traditional goods. After enjoying all the Christmas excitement, take a stroll along the waterfront district of Nyhavn or take part in Royal Copenhagen, a 50-year-old Christmas table tradition.
An exciting destination during the holidays, London is known for shining brightly during Christmastime. Walk down Oxford Street for any last-minute shopping, visit the ice rinks at Somerset House and the Natural History Museum, then visit Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland with its Bavarian-style village serving gluhwein. If you want to pick up handmade wooden toys and enjoy festive gingerbread, head to the Christmas Market at Tate Modern. Just make sure to drop by Harrods to see its Christmas lights and over-the-top window displays.
An adorable city with beautiful canals and buildings, Bruges is another fairytale-like city that will lure you in with the scent of freshly-baked waffles. Enjoy its festive ambiance during Christmas at the popular Grote Markt, which boasts vendors selling traditional Belgian goods such as handmade wooden toys, an ice skating rink and an endless array of chocolate. Climb up the Belfort Tower for stunning views of the city or attend the annual Ice Sculpture Festival to see beautiful pieces of work from international artists.
A picturesque medieval town in Bavaria, Nuremberg really comes to life at Christmas when one of the oldest and most dazzling Christmas markets in Germany opens. Explore the collection of colorfully decorated stalls dotted around the various medieval squares in Nuremberg and you’ll have the chance to pick up some of its famous gingerbread and old-fashioned wooden Ferris wheels, then stop by one of the gluhwein booths to refuel. If you want a unique present or souvenir, head to the city’s Toy Museum to learn more about the city’s connection with toy making.
Transforming into a beautiful winter wonderland at Christmastime, Stockholm offers you the chance to learn about Swedish Santa. You can also sample some of the region’s most beloved delicacies, such as traditional julbord, which is the Yuletide version of a smorgasbord. Make sure to put a trip to Stortorget Square on your itinerary, where you can find glogg, smoked reindeer and a variety of holiday handicrafts at the Old Town Market.
If you really want to go all out this Christmas, pack your warmest gear and head to Rovaniemi, Lapland to experience its otherworldly frosty landscapes. It’s hard to not get in the holiday spirit when you see its brightly lit trees and elaborate ice sculptures, and if you didn’t already know, Santa Claus lives just five miles away. Only adding to its magical allure, this postcard-perfect city has a vibrant Santa Claus Village and is great for winter activities like reindeer rides, snowmobile safaris and Northern Lights tours.