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Europe

Best destinations for Christmas in Europe

Celebrate the holiday season in style and create lasting memories in Europe's winter wonderlands.

Luz Castro
Author
Luz Castro
Last time updated
20.11.23

Are you looking to embark on a December journey to experience a unique and enchanting Christmas atmosphere but not sure where to go? Within this article, you'll discover a handpicked collection of cities to explore the best European Christmas markets, as well as some northern destinations for those who adore intense cold and the charm of snow-covered landscapes.

Europe offers a plethora of ideal destinations to revel in the winter wonderland and festive celebrations. Before we immerse ourselves in the enchanting Christmas cities, let's explore crucial pre-trip considerations.

Plan your trip — papers and budget

The Schengen states have established agreements with several nations worldwide, allowing their citizens and residents to enter and move within this European area for up to 90 days without prior special authorization. To check if your country has such an agreement, you can refer to the list available on europa.eu.

If you do need a visa, you'll need to gather the following documents. We recommend consulting the europa.eu page for more details and, most importantly, check the specific visa requirements of the country where you plan to apply for the visa for precise information.

Here's a list of the documents you might need:

  • A passport with at least two empty pages, valid for at least 3 months beyond your planned departure from the Schengen territory;
  • A completed and signed visa application form;
  • A recent identity photograph conforming to ICAO standards;
  • A visa fee of 30-90 euros, to be paid when you submit your application;
  • Travel medical insurance providing coverage for emergency medical, hospitalization, and repatriation (including in case of death), with a minimum coverage of 30,000 euros;
  • Documents related to the purpose of your stay;
  • Evidence of means to support yourself during your stay and proof of accommodation.

How can I estimate the budget?

Budget planning is a crucial step when preparing for your Christmas holiday in Europe. Estimating your expenses can be complex due to various factors, but we can provide you with essential parameters to consider when creating your budget for exploring the best European cities at Christmas.

Destination
Accomodation
Transportation
Food and restaurants
Entertainment

Remember that your choices, such as destination, accommodation, and transportation, significantly impact your overall expenses. Plan wisely to make the most of your holiday while staying within your budget for a memorable and joyous Christmas trip in Europe.

Where to find the best Christmas markets — Cenral Europe

One of the quintessential Christmas activities is basking in the warmth of festive markets. These cozy hubs are a treasure trove of holiday decorations and lights. Inside, you'll discover food stalls offering mulled wine and regional sweets, as well as artisanal crafts and Christmas-themed goodies. That's why we've handpicked several renowned cities known for hosting some of the best European Christmas markets.

Christmas in Strasbourg

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Source: noel.alsace

Alsace rightfully claims the top spot on our list of the best places to spend Christmas in Europe. Nestled in the northeast of France, this region is a quintessential Christmas destination. At its heart lies Strasbourg, renowned as the "Capital of Christmas."

First market dates back to

year 1570

Current market has over

300 stalls

UNESCO World Heritage since

year 1988

Christmas Market dates in 2023
Mark your calendars for the Strasbourg Christmas Market in 2023, which runs from November 24th to December 24th.

Christmas in Colmar

Christmas in Europe destinations
Source: Pexels

Within Alsace, another must-visit destination during Christmas, and indeed any time of the year, is the enchanting town of Colmar. Like something out of a fairy tale, Colmar is one of the most beautiful Christmas towns in Europe. Colmar's cobbled streets host several Christmas markets. From the market at l'Ancienne Douane to the one nestled in the picturesque Petit Venise district, you'll encounter a treasure trove of crafts and festive goodies in an atmosphere brimming with holiday magic.

6 markets
are located in Colmar for you to visit during your Christmas trip in Europe
7 days
a week you can find something to do on Christmas markets during the season
Christmas Market dates in 2023
Circle the dates for the 2023 Colmar Christmas Market, running from November 24th to December 29th.

Cologne as winter destination

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Source: Pixabay

Our journey takes us east to Germany, where we arrive in Cologne, a must-visit Christmas town in Europe. This city is renowned for its awe-inspiring Gothic Cathedral, the most visited monument in Germany. During the Christmas season, Cologne boasts an impressive array of seven enchanting Christmas markets scattered throughout the city. One of the highlights is the market on Roncalliplatz, nestled next to the cathedral. It features many stalls and a massive Christmas tree, creating a festive wonderland. Be sure to explore them all and savor the regional specialties.

The number of festive markets

6 markets

Main market features over

100 stalls

UNESCO World Heritage since

year 1996

Christmas Market dates in 2023
Mark your calendar for the 2023 Cologne Christmas Market, which runs from November 23rd to December 23rd

Christmas in Luxembourg

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Source: Ville de Luxembourg

We now venture to a neighboring country, Luxembourg, where even though its Christmas market may not enjoy the same fame, it is equally enchanting. In Luxembourg City, the holiday season turns the city into a magical wonderland, aglow with a thousand lights. Several Christmas markets spring to life, offering hot wine, regional delicacies, and festive crafts.

However, the Christmas cheer isn't confined to the capital alone. Numerous Christmas markets, processions, nativity scenes, illuminated streets, adorned shops, concerts, and other events create a magical festive atmosphere throughout the entire country. Luxembourg is a petite nation, and you can drive from one end to the other in just few hours.

Rudolph, shall we go?

If you opt for public transportation, you won't spend a single cent, as public transport in the country is free. Therefore, if you add Luxembourg City to your list, it's easy to explore other Luxembourgish cities and discover the entire region's charm.

Winterlight Festival dates in 2023
Experience the magic of Luxembourg's Winterlights, transforming the heart of the city into a fairy-tale setting from November 24, 2023, to January 7, 2024.

Where to get serious winter vibes — Northern Europe

Now, let's journey north, far north. We've handpicked three cities for those seeking a snowy Christmas vacation in Europe or a direct visit to Santa Claus. We're talking about Rovaniemi in Finland, Bergen in Norway, and Reykjavik in Iceland. Get ready for a winter wonderland like no other!

Rovaniemi, Finland: Santa’s town

Christmas in Europe destinations
Source: Pixabay

Located in the Lapland region of Finland, Rovaniemi takes on a magical charm in December, as it's officially recognized as Santa Claus's hometown. Just outside this Finnish town, you'll find the Santa Claus Village, a theme park that brings you closer to Santa than ever before. It boasts various attractions, restaurants, cafes, and hotels. As you can imagine, you can also visit the official office of Santa Claus and meet the man himself.

What should you include to your to-do list
Visit Santa Claus
One of the elderly folks to visit over the holidays.
Write a letter
Good or bad you were, it doesn't matter.
Take a sleigh ride
With a north wind and a red nose.

Bergen, Norway: gingerbread city

image6.jpg
Source: Forbes

Bergen, a charming and enchanting city, becomes a magical wonderland during Christmas, offering an array of special activities. You simply can't miss Bergen's main Christmas market, the Julemarked. Make sure to visit Pepperkakebyen, the world's largest gingerbread cookie city, and take a leisurely stroll through Bryggen.

Must-have experiences in Norway
Cookie city
Gingerbread lovers will admire the looks and smells.
Fishing (ice too)
The best fish in Europe deserves a spot in agenda.
Julemarked
Aim for local production and traditional hand-made.

Reykjavik, Iceland

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Source: Pixabay

If you've ever dreamed of a white Christmas, Iceland is the place to be and ranks among the best places to visit in Europe in December. Roofs are continuously blanketed in snow, and the frosty, otherworldly landscapes create an unforgettable experience.

During Christmas, Reykjavik comes alive with festivities, lights, and Christmas markets. Icelandic traditions, a blend of pre-Christian customs, celebrations, and social gatherings, add a unique flair. One of the quirkiest traditions is that of the "Thirteen Yule Lads," the sons of the giantess Grýla and her husband Leppalúdi, who take the place of the beloved Santa Claus.

You activities in Reykjavik can include
Heated pools
Waterfalls and geysers of the Golden Circle infuse you with warmth and vitality.
Northern lights
During this season you have ample chances to marvel at the dancing Aurora Borealis.
Festive fun
Visit Christmas markets, ice skate and drink hot chocolate with the locals

Where to get magical experiences — Eastern Europe

In our final section, we'll explore equally enchanting cities in Eastern Europe, offering the undeniable advantage of more affordable costs for your memorable Christmas vacations in Europe.

Bled, Slovenia

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Source: Pixabay

Bled, a charming town nestled in Slovenia, is an enchanting destination year-round. However, in winter and during the Christmas season, its allure becomes truly irresistible. The iconic Bled Lake, with its church-crowned island, transforms into a winter fairytale postcard. And during the holiday season, you'll encounter Christmas markets brimming with artisanal delights from this picturesque Slovenian gem.

During Christmas (but not only) Slovenia has to offer you
Tranquility
Slovenia ranks among the world's most peaceful countries
Christmas markets
Like in many places, during festive season, you will find special markets
Natural attractions
Bled Lake is an iconic place, that turns into winter farytale at this time

Wroclaw, Poland

Christmas in Europe destinations
Source: Pixabay

Wroclaw, a Polish city, stands as one of the country's prime Christmas destinations. Its Christmas market, dating back to the 16th century, is located in the heart of the historic city center. The main market springs to life in The Market Square, with additional stalls dotting Plac Solny and the streets of Świdnicka and Oławska.

Prepare to be immersed in a truly magical atmosphere, as this market's theme is fairytales! Here, you'll discover Christmas crafts, and traditional cuisine, and, most importantly, don't forget to savor the pierogi.

Christmas Market dates in 2023
The Wroclaw Christmas Market at the Market Square welcomes visitors from November 24, 2023, to January 7, 2024, from 10:00 to 21:00.

Prague, Czech Republic

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Source: Pixabay

If Prague is already renowned for its beauty, its charm soars during the Christmas season. Many agree that it's one of the best places to be in Europe for this celebration. Perhaps it's the stunning architecture of the historic center, complemented by the picturesque Christmas tree and the numerous holiday stalls that grace the Old Town Square every December.

What to try during your Christmas trip in Prague?

We recommend ascending the tower of the Old Town Hall in Prague, offering a bird's-eye view of the beautifully adorned city. If you do this at night, the sight is especially breathtaking.

Christmas Market dates in 2023
Don't forget to explore the Christmas market at Wenceslas Square and the Prague Castle market. The Prague Christmas Market runs from December 2, 2023, to January 6, 2024.

Budapest, Hungary

Christmas in Europe destinations
Source: Pexels

If, despite all our recommendations, you're still wondering where to spend Christmas in Europe, take a look at Budapest, a city brimming with magic and romance during the holiday season. Its squares come alive with Christmas markets, trams are adorned with colorful lights, cafes don their finest attire, and the sound of "The Nutcracker" fills the local opera house.

Christmas Market dates in 2023
The main Christmas markets in Budapest are located in Vörösmarty Square and at St. Stephen's Basilica: the aroma of lángos, kürtőskalács, and hot wine fills the streets. Budapest's Christmas markets are open from November 17, 2023, to January 1, 2024.
faq

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What are the top European cities to visit for a magical Christmas experience?

What are the must-see Christmas markets in Europe?

How can I plan my budget for a Christmas trip to Europe?

We took photos from these sources: Pexels, Pixabay, Ville de Luxembourg website, noel.alsace, Numbeo, Forbes

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