Christmas is traditionally a time spent at home with the people that are closest to your heart. But if you have the means (and your family isn’t too upset!), why not consider spending the festive season abroad? Europe offers some of the most magical Christmas experiences in the world, with cities all across the continent transforming into winter wonderlands full of Christmas cheer. Here are some of the best Christmas destinations in Europe – ones that will have you feeling as though you’re a kid all over again!
Home to one of the oldest and most spectacular Christmas markets in the world, the Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt is world-famous and is unrivalled in its beauty, atmosphere and traditions. Most of the wares sold here are made by traditional, regional manufacturers and browsing the lavishly decorated stalls with their twinkling lights with the aromas of gingerbread and mulled wine gently wafting make Nuremberg one of the most festive places to spend Christmas. Nuremberg also has a long toy making history, which makes it a great place to buy some stocking-fillers!
For one of the most magical Christmas experiences possible, head to Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland and official hometown of Santa Claus. Here, against the backdrop of a winter wonderland full of sparkling lights, you can visit Santa Claus Village, make gingerbread cookies with Mrs Claus, drop into the Santa Claus post office manned by happy elves, enrol in Elf School, or go on a reindeer sleigh ride — any Christmas lover’s dream!
With its grand, imperial architecture, Vienna is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and it becomes even more majestic in the wintertime when the city is blanketed in soft snow. All corners of the city are lavishly decorated in the lead up to Christmas. In addition to browsing the exquisite Christmas markets, don’t miss a classical Christmas concert, a visit to the cosy Viennese coffee houses as well as a visit to the Snow Globe Museum.
Prague is a favoured place to spend Christmas in Europe, as this season reveals the city at its romantic best. Book tickets to see the ballet or opera and browse the Christmas market in the Old Town Square against the backdrop of some of the most impressive gothic and baroque architecture in Europe. Be sure to sample a trdelnik, a traditional, sugary Czech pastry too.
Located in northern Norway, a Christmas spent in Trømso is about as close to the North Pole (or Arctic Circle) as you’ll get! The polar nights that blanket the city in darkness over the winter months make it one of the best places to base yourself if you’re hoping to spot the Northern Lights – the most magical of all Christmas experiences!
The Netherlands celebrates the tradition of Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas), the patron saint of children and the main figure of the Dutch holiday season, who makes a grand entrance into the country by boat on November 15. Amsterdam’s canal houses are strung with twinkling lights in the lead up to Christmas, adding even more magic to a city that already seems too beautiful to be real.
The quaint town of Strasbourg, located near Germany’s border, has a long Christmas tradition and is home to France’s oldest Christmas market, which dates back to 1570. Beautifully festive, the market is made up of over 300 wooden stalls selling wooden toys, Christmas tree ornaments, roasted chestnuts and vin chaud (mulled wine). The Old Town is UNESCO-listed and the half-timbered houses provide a fairy tale backdrop for the festive season.
London is rich with Christmas traditions that make it a truly special place to spend the holiday. Ice rinks pop up at iconic landmarks all over town and the city glitters under a spectacular show of Christmas lights. Be sure to leave room for some Christmas pudding for dessert, a tradition that dates back to medieval times. Even Scrooge would appreciate London’s Christmas cheer!
Paris’ nickname, the ‘City of Lights’, rings truer now than ever before. The sparkling display of Christmas lights and the glittering Eiffel Tower reinforce the message that love and light will forever triumph. Browsing the animated window displays at the Galeries Lafayette, ice-skating at the L’Hôtel de Ville , or attending midnight mass at the Notre Dame Cathedral are just a few of the many lovely ways to spend Christmas in the city of love.
For a traditional, wintery Christmas, you can’t go past Salzburg in Austria. Being the birthplace of Mozart, one of the highlights of a Christmas in Salzburg is the impressive classical concerts that play all across the city in the leadup to Christmas. The Christkindlmarkt in front of the Salzburg cathedral is one of the most romantic and oldest in Europe and the backdrop of the magnificent architecture gives the whole place a fairy tale feel.
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