The Best Places To Spend Christmas in Europe by

The Best Places To Spend Christmas in Europe 2023

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Christmas in Europe is pure magic! Twinkling lights along quaint cobblestone lanes. A Christmas fair of traditional holiday huts in a stunning setting. Mulled wine, sizzling sausages and gingerbread cookies galore. We absolutely love spending the winter holidays in Europe and, in our extensive travels over the past decade, have discovered many of the Best European Christmas Destinations!


The Best Christmas Destinations in Europe

Travelers deciding where to spend Christmas in Europe have ample options. Visitors can plan a European Christmas vacation at a quintessential German Christmas market, go on a trip to top European cities that will be adorned in festive decorations or find those lesser-known places that are full of charm during the holiday season.

Our list of the Best Places To Visit in Europe in December includes a wide range of delightful destinations – along with the reasons why we think they are the Top European Cities in Winter.

Top Tip: Looking for guided Christmas tours in Europe? There are many exceptional organized tours for Christmas market holidays in Europe. At the end of the article, we highlight some of the highly-rated Xmas market trips and Christmas market weekend breaks in Europe.

Save, Pin or Bookmark our European Christmas Market Guide to plan your vacation to Europe!


18 Best Places To Spend Christmas in Europe

This list includes our top picks for the best places to visit in Europe in December. Later in this post, we share our honest travel tips for spending Christmas in Europe and answer the most commonly asked questions. Now, let’s reveal the Best Destinations in Europe for Christmas!



View of Zagreb during Advent and Christmas Market, Croatia

Many people don’t think of Croatia as a winter destination, but we know Zagreb is one of the best European cities for Christmas. Located inland from the country’s famous coastline, Zagreb is both historic and modern – and their Christmas market, called Zagreb Advent, is the city’s biggest event. 


Why Zagreb is the Best European Christmas Destination

View of Zagreb Advent in Zrinjevac Park, Croatia

The Zagreb Advent Festival won the title of ‘Best Christmas in Europe’ for three straight years (2016, 2017 and 2018). Despite this recognition, Advent in Zagreb is often overlooked by travelers in favor of more famous Christmas markets in Europe. Over the years, we’ve spent several weeks Sightseeing in Zagreb during the day and visiting the Advent Festival in the evening…finding something new and exciting each time.

Fountain for Advent Zagreb Christmas Market, Croatia

The popular Christmas markets at Advent Zagreb are spread out across the city – occupying large squares, narrow lanes and gorgeous Zagreb Parks. Each area has its own festive theme; couples seeking romantic Christmas corners and families searching for kid-friendly Xmas activities can all find exactly what they are looking for. From a marvelous ice skating rink to fantastic food to steaming mulled wine, Zagreb offers a magical Christmas experience for one and all!

{Read more in our complete guide to the Zagreb Christmas Market}



Festive Christmas Lights, Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona attracts hordes of tourists all summer long – so it may not spring to mind as where to go in Europe for Christmas. The sprawling seaside metropolis is well-known for its extraordinary architecture, characteristic Barcelona Old Town and undeniably delicious Barcelona Tapas. At Christmastime, the city’s greatest sights are draped in shimmering lights and residents partake in peculiar holiday traditions.


Why Barcelona is a Top European City to Visit in December

Mass in Barcelona at Christmas

One of the best things about Barcelona in December is the weather. Unlike other places to go in Europe for Christmas, Barcelona winters are mild and can actually be quite sunny. Couple the pleasant weather with significantly smaller crowds, it’s ideal for Exploring Barcelona Sights. Visitors can enjoy strolling down the festively decorated streets while perusing the Christmas market stalls and Nativity scenes.

Festive Barcelona Christmas Lights, Spain

Barcelona is also one of the best places in Europe for quirky Christmas traditions. We were thoroughly amused by the long-standing Barcelona Christmas customs of celebrating with Caga Tio, the smiling log that poos gifts for children, and the Caganer, the Nativity Crapper. 

Plus, the city hosts one of the most authentic Christmas Markets in Europe – right outside the Gothic Barcelona Cathedral. 

{Discover more about how to celebrate Christmas in Barcelona}



Snowy night at Krakow Christmas Market

Krakow is a fascinating city to visit any time of year. Filled with historic sights from a storied past, Krakow has gained popularity with tourists from around the world (and for good reason!). At the center of the UNESCO World Heritage listed Krakow Old Town is where the Christmas market takes place.


Why Krakow is One of the Best Winter Holiday Destinations in Europe

Main Square Christmas Tree in Krakow, Poland

Walking into the Krakow Christmas Market is like stepping back in time. Traditional Christmas huts cluster around the Renaissance era Cloth Hall, while a soaring Christmas tree stands below the tower of St. Mary’s Basilica. Horse-and-carriages line the market perimeter and the sound of Christmas carols can be heard from the nearby St. Adalbert’s Church.

Vendors at the beautiful Christmas Market in Krakow sell sweet treats, traditional children’s toys and scrumptious fare. While sausages and pierogis (of which there are plenty) make our list of must-eat festive Polish food, we think the best savory snack at the Krakow Holiday Market is oscypek – smoked sheep milk cheese that is grilled over hot coals.

Woman grilling oscypek cheese at Krakow Christmas Market

Lucky visitors, like us, will get to experience the Krakow Christmas Fair with a light dusting of snow – a perfect compliment to mulled wine or a traditional Polish hot beer. The entire scene resembles a snow globe – which is why we think Krakow is one of the Best European Destinations for Christmas!

{Find out more about visiting Krakow in our 3-Day Krakow Itinerary}



Market stalls and Christmas Tree on Romerberg main square in Frankfurt, Germany

Frankfurt – a major transportation hub and financial center – is one of the most modern cities in Germany. Some will claim the city lacks character, however, tucked below the soaring skyscrapers is the charismatic Frankfurt Old Town. And, keeping with tradition, Frankfurt puts on one of the Best German Christmas Markets in Europe!


Why Frankfurt is one of the Top Places to Visit in Europe for Christmas

Main Square Frankfurt Christmas, Germany

For a quintessential Christmas celebration in Europe, there actually may be no better place than Frankfurt! The main town hall square, Romerberg, is chockablock with Christmas huts, which are watched over by a 100-foot-tall, giant Christmas tree. German sausages sizzle over grills and Gluhwein is served piping hot in special commemorative mugs.

Best Shopping Stalls, Frankfurt Christmas Market, Germany

However, this Christmas market isn’t confined to the main square – instead, the jolly festiveness is spread around in inconspicuous courtyards and on decorated rooftops. These unique European Christmas markets are absolutely fascinating to explore.

Another good reason Frankfurt is one of the best places to go in Europe for Christmas is the ease of getting there! There are heaps of international flights and long-distance trains to Frankfurt year-round.

{Essential Experiences at the Frankfurt Christmas Market}



Red Christmas Lights decorate trees on Champs Elysees leading to Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France

Iconic sights, world-renowned art, grand architecture and excellent gastronomy are just a few reasons why Paris, France is one of the most popular destinations in the world. The city is crammed with top attractions and quaint cafes, but curious travelers can easily get off the beaten path. While not often touted as one of the top European cities for Christmas, we absolutely love Paris in wintertime!


Why Paris is an Ideal Europe Destinations in December

Decorative advent wreath hangs in Notre Dame Cathedral at Christmastime in Paris, France

Oui, oui. Paris is always a good idea…especially for the holidays! The City of Light is particularly beautiful under the glow of twinkling Christmas trinkets. Paris Christmas markets are set up in parks and squares all around the city, with the largest Christmas fair taking place in the Tuileries Garden near the Louvre. In addition to the 100 Swiss-style chalets selling bric-a-brac and tasty fare, the market features an ice-skating rink and carnival rides.

Eiffel Tower and Christmas lights in Paris, France

The Christmas spirit, however, is felt all throughout Paris. Classic Parisian shopping streets, like Rue Montorgueil, feature festive decorations and shops specializing is classic French Christmas cuisine. Paris shopping malls, like Galeries Lafayette, and secret shopping passages, like Galerie Vivienne, are perfect places to pick up holiday presents while emersed in a joyous atmosphere.

While Paris is one of the best Christmas locations in Europe, we love visiting Paris in December for one more reason: fewer fellow tourists. You will, of course, still have plenty of company, but lines to major attractions are shorter and costs drop, as well.

{Read our complete guide to create an exciting Paris Itinerary}



Carnaby Street Modern Christmas Light Display, London, England, UK

London is home to some of the most famous landmarks in the world – Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and Tower Bridge, to name just a few! The contemporary city is both stylish and classic. Having celebrated the holidays in London several times, we know it’s a very special place to spend Christmas in Europe!


Why London is the Best Place to Go for Christmas

Christmas decorations at 7 Dials in London

There are many Christmas Markets in England, but none quite compare to the London Christmas Markets. From the traditional scene on Leicester Square to the festive vibe at Southbank to the over-the-top Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, the Christmas Markets in London aim to please!

Shopping in London at Christmas is also a huge holiday event. Regent Street, the most famous London shopping street, features lavish shop window displays and one of the most impressive Christmas light installations anywhere!

Must See Regent St, London at Christmas

Need more reasons why London is one of the best Christmas destinations in Europe? The two most recognizable churches in London – Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral – offer a complete line up of holiday events, including choir concerts and Christmas masses.

After a day of sightseeing in London and food market-hopping, visitors can cozy up in a classic English pub with a pint of UK craft beer near a fireplace. Does it get any more Christmassy than that? We think not!

{See our guide to London at Christmas and start planning your London Itinerary}



Market and tree at Rijksmuseum at Christmas, Amsterdam, Netherlands

We’ve visited the Netherlands numerous times over the years, and Amsterdam twice for Christmas. The historic city offers countless sights, which can be conveniently seen on our Amsterdam Self-Guided Walking Tour, on bike or on a Amsterdam Canal Tour. Amsterdam’s iconic architecture is even more extraordinary at Christmastime. 


Why Amsterdam is One of our Favorite Places to Spend Christmas

Nine Streets, Shopping Street Christmas Lights, Amsterdam, Netherlands

What we love about Christmas in the Netherlands is the easy-going atmosphere, pop up weekend Christmas markets and classy decorations. Those who Plan A Trip to Amsterdam in December will certainly feel the festive vibe!

Unlike some Christmas cities in Europe that celebrate with month-long events, many Amsterdam Christmas Markets are held for only one weekend. One of the best Christmas markets in the Netherlands is in nearby Haarlem, but we haven’t managed to time our visits accordingly. That said, there are a few season-long festivities, like the popular Amsterdam Christmas Market on Museumplein, the impressive Dam Square Christmas Tree and the famous Amsterdam Light Festival along the canals. 

Classic Tree at Christmas In Amsterdam, Netherlands

One of the best things about spending Christmas in Amsterdam is the hearty Dutch Cuisine. Visitors can sample traditional Dutch holiday treats, like Kruidnoten (ginger cookies), Oliebollen (holiday donuts), and enjoy Bisschopswijn (mulled wine) along with amazing Amsterdam Craft Beer.

Amsterdam is not the only Dutch city to visit in December. In fact, the first time we celebrated Christmas in the Netherlands, we were housesitting for the holidays in the small village of Beek near the city of Nijmegen. On that trip, we visited Christmas markets near Nijmegen (including one in Germany) and reveled in the festivities that are uniquely Dutch!

{Find out what it’s really like to spend Christmas in Amsterdam}



Christmas tree on main square in Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon is a city that has soul. Spread over seven hills, Lisbon features classic architecture, unique neighborhoods and a distinct culture. Rooted in history, the Top Things To Do in Lisbon are timeless. For checklist travelers, the city can fall flat, but for those who like to wander, Lisbon is illustrious. Honestly, our very first visit to the city in summertime left us frustrated, but our second trip to Lisbon at Christmas completely captured our hearts.


Why Lisbon is One of the Best European Cities to Visit at Christmas

Santa driving tram at Christmas in Lisbon, Portugal

Compared to other Christmastime events in Europe, Lisbon at Christmas is an understated affair. Rather than popping up Christmas markets on every corner of the city, Lisbon ushers in the holiday spirit with just a few markets, many festive lights, ornate Nativity scenes and classic meals. Not to be missed are the choir concerts that take place in the most beautiful Lisbon Churches on the days leading up to Christmas.

Most Portuguese people are Catholic – and Christmas is celebrated with religious traditions, not commercial indulgences. The holidays in Portugal are a time to spend with family, friends, food and faith – all of which is reflected in the Christmas celebrations in Lisbon. Christmas dinner is a simple meal of bacalhau (cod), cabbage, eggs and potatoes. And, nearly everyone in Lisbon goes to midnight mass on Christmas Eve.

Festive holiday lights on Rua Augusta in Lisbon, Portugal

That said, there is the fun Wonderland Lisboa event at Eduardo VII Park, the Rossio Christmas Market in Baixa and festive decorations on Praca do Comercio. At some of the Best Lisbon Viewpoints visitors will find huts selling Portugal’s favorite Christmas drink, Ginjinha. Pedestrian only Rua Augusta is warmly lit up in the glow of Christmas stars and street performers play holiday tunes. Those who keep an eye on the rattling Lisbon trams just might catch a glimpse of Santa Claus driving down the tracks!

{Read all about visiting Lisbon in our 3-Day Lisbon Itinerary}



Budapest Christmas Market vendor sells local fare

Budapest is a city that has a little bit of something for everyone: history, nature, monuments, culture, baths and many, many, oh so many bars. The two sides of the city – Buda and Pest – are fun to explore by day…and always entertaining at night. With iconic sights and a thriving Hungarian Craft Beer scene, Budapest is a top European destination any time of year.


Why Budapest is One of the Best Cities to See at Christmas

Christmas tree in Budapest, Hungary

Budapest is always lively, but it sparkles brightly in December. The city indulges visitors with Christmas festivities – from beautiful Christmas markets to holiday concerts to epic New Year’s Eve bashes. In fact, the Budapest Advent Basilica was voted the number one Christmas Market in 2019, 2021 and 2022 by European Best Destinations!

As one of the top European cities at Christmas, Budapest features multiple holiday events. The two biggest Budapest Christmas Markets are at Vorosmarty Square and in the plaza at St. Stephen’s Basilica. From wooden stalls, vendors sell traditional gifts, handmade crafts and heavenly holiday fare. Our favorite Hungarian winter dishes are Goulash and Langos topped with sour cream and cheese. 

Let a local lead the way on a festive Budapest Christmas Tour!

The Christmas fairs aren’t the only way to celebrate the season in Budapest. Visitors can attend the Budapest Nutcracker Ballet at the grand Opera House, ride the Christmas Light Tram and go ice skating in Budapest City Park. For a unique Hungarian winter experience, travelers can ward off the chilly weather by immersing themselves in the outdoor hot springs at Szechenyi Baths!

{Learn more in our 3-Day Budapest Itinerary}



Gluhwien Drinks, Christmas Market, Dusseldorf, Germany

Dusseldorf may not be considered by many as a top European destination, but the underrated German city has quite a few surprises in store for tourists. Known for their local beer – called Altbier – and the dizzying number of bars to drink it in, Dusseldorf is a fun weekend retreat. In addition to imbibing, popular Dusseldorf Things To Do include visiting historic sites, trying classic eats, shopping and during the holidays, attending the wonderful Christmas market!


Why Dusseldorf is a Great Place to Spend Christmas in Europe

Market during Christmas in Dusseldorf, Germany

The Dusseldorf Christmas Market is actually one of the best in Europe! The festivities are marked by seven distinct markets that dot the city – each featuring a different theme. Visitors are lured from one to the next by the glow of twinkling lights and the sounds of the season. Wandering the short distance between the merry zones is enhanced with a nip of the local liquor, Killepitsch.

Must Eat Flammkuchen, Christmas Market, Dusseldorf, Germany

Like all the best German Christmas markets, the savory holiday fare is an enticing element of the Dusseldorf holiday fair. Indulging in at least one sausage is a must, but we highly recommend tucking into a sour cream-slathered reibekuchen and an amazingly crispy flammkuchen!

Top activities at the Dusseldorf Christmas Market are ice skating and riding the giant Ferris wheel. Those who take a whirl are treated to 360-degree views that stretch over the Rhine River and brightly lit market squares. 

{Read more on this German Xmas Celebration in our Dusseldorf Christmas Market guide}



Best Viewpoint of Prague, CZ

Prague is a city that is as stunning up close as it is far away. Prague’s Gothic architecture in the preserved Old Town is something straight out of children’s fables. Taking in the sights – like the Prague Castle, Charles Bridge and famous Astronomical Clock – can easily take visitors back in time.


Why Prague is Ideal for European Christmas Market Breaks

Traditional ham for Christmas in Prague, Czech Republic

We think Prague is one of the most enchanting cities in Europe. We have not yet been in Prague for Christmas, but we can only imagine that the markets and holiday decorations take the city up one notch to absolutely captivating.

The holiday season is celebrated in Prague with two main Christmas markets – one on the Old Town Square and one in Wenceslas Square.

One of the most popular Prague wintertime market meals is Prazska Sunka – ham that is roasted on a spit – which we were able to try when we visited in February. The city’s most famous sweet treat is Trdelnik, or Chimney Cake – and is a must-try at Prague Christmas markets. Of course, nothing goes better with Czech food than Czech beer! We recommend foregoing the well-known brands and seek out Craft Beer in Prague.

{Savor the Christmas Atmosphere from above at the Best Prague Viewpoints}



Palace view from Schonbrunn Palace Gardens in Vienna, Austria

Vienna is, perhaps, one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The elegant area is adorned with grandiose museums, ornate churches, perfectly planned gardens and royal palaces. Vienna’s classy coffee houses are so much a part of the culture, they have been added to the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.


Why Vienna is One of the Top Christmas Destinations in Europe

Golden Johann Strauss Monument in Stadtpark in Vienna, Austria

The Vienna, Austria Christmas Market is legendary; the event dates to the Middle Ages when local residents held the very first December Market. In the winter, nearly every square in Vienna is transformed into a Christmas fairyland.

See all the best spots on a guided Vienna Xmas Tour!

The Vienna Christmas Market is another one we have yet to attend…but knowing how attractive the city is from previous visits, we can only imagine that it truly shines at Christmastime!

{Read our tips for an affordable trip with our Free Things To Do in Vienna}



Half-timbered houses on river in Petite France in Strasbourg, France

France’s Alsace region, which lies along the German border, is marked with idyllic towns of half-timbered houses and hillside vineyards. Although Strasbourg is the region’s largest city, it often feels like a magical village…with an enormous and beautiful church.


Why Strasbourg is a Top Place to Visit in Europe for Christmas

Academie de la Biere craft beer bar in Strasbourg, France

The Marche de Noel a Strasbourg – regularly touted as one of the best Christmas markets in the world – is what first tempted us to visit the city. However, it didn’t work into our plans and we actually ended up in Krakow that year! Instead, we visited Strasbourg in the Springtime – but even then, we heard all about this iconic Christmas Market.

Explore more of the region on a private Alsace Christmas Markets Tour!

Nicknamed the Capital of Christmas, Strasbourg claims one of the oldest and longest-running Christmas Markets in Europe. Featuring a radiant display of lights and more than 300 traditional stalls, the spectacular Strasbourg Christkindelsmarik promises to be an unforgettable Christmas event.

{Learn more with our Essential Strasbourg Experiences}



Ljubljana castle in snow

Ljubljana is a fairytale city, complete with dragons, a hill-topping castle and a meandering river. The pedestrian-only Ljubljana Old Town sits below the castle and beckons you in with undeniable charm. The cobblestone lanes of Ljubljana are lined with cafes, boutiques and draped in magnificent architecture. What could possibly make this scene more magical? An insanely beautiful European Christmas Market!


Why Ljubljana is a Top European Winter Holiday Destination

Ljubljana, Slovenia covered in snow

The Ljubljana city center is truly postcard-perfect. We have seen a lot of Slovenia in every season – but narrowly missed the December Christmas event in Ljubljana on more than one occasion! 

The Ljubljana Festive Fair takes place in multiple locations with loads of lights decorating the entire town center and dominating the main Prešeren Square. In addition to the Christmas markets, there are musical concerts, a St. Nicholas parade and a firework display to celebrate the New Year!

{Discover Top Ljubljana Sights and Fantastic Day Trips in Slovenia}



View up Cockburn St, Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh is a magical Medieval city with a grand main throughfare and lavish royal palace. The city bustles with tourists in the summer months as they take in the historic sights, climb to scenic viewpoints and feast on classic Scottish fair.

Edinburgh also serves as a great base for adventures to other destinations in Scotland, like thriving Glasgow, coastal Dunbar and the amazing Highlands. However, there are compelling reasons to visit Edinburgh in the wintertime, too!


Why Edinburgh is One of the Best Cities at Christmastime

McEwan Hall, University of Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh is a stunning sight; the Old Town and New Town are listed together as a World Heritage Site and they are even more beautiful draped in twinkling lights. However, the real reason Edinburgh is the perfect Christmas destination is for the holiday festivals.

Known for its iconic galas that take place throughout the year (the summertime Fringe being the most popular), the Edinburgh Christmas Festival is a celebration that truly shines on it’s own.

The festive season in Edinburgh is marked by a brightly lit holiday market in Princes Street Gardens, a classy Christmas Tree at The Dome and an outdoor ice-skating rink on George Street.

Plus, top attractions – like Edinburgh Castle, Botanic Gardens and Royal Boat Britannia – are all decked out for the holidays. With an abundance of jolliness, it’s clear to see why Edinburgh consistently ranks as one of the ‘Best Christmas Destinations Europe’!

Pro Tip: Travelers may also want to stick around for the multi-day New Year Hogmanay Festival. The wild celebrations make Edinburgh one of the Amazing Places to Spend NYE!

{Get everything you need to know in our Edinburgh Itinerary}



Winter View in Dresden, Germany

Dresden is often passed over, but we think it is one of Europe’s hidden gems. Although the city was sadly destroyed and the end of World War II, it was painstakingly pieced back together to its original splendor. The sights in the historic center can be toured in a single day, but we highly recommend spending a few days in Dresden and navigating your way to nearby castles, vineyards and towns.


Why Dresden is a Great Place to Visit in Europe at Christmas

Christmas Market in Dresden, Germany

Dresden is an absolute delight during the holiday season. Not only does the city host one of the largest Christmas markets in Germany, but many claim that it’s the oldest Christmas market in the world (tracing back to the year 1434).

The highlight of visiting Dresden in December is the Striezelmarkt Christmas Market, which takes place in Altmarkt Square – but it is only one of several holiday season markets in the city. Shoppers can find traditional and unique wares at the markets on Prager Strasse, Frauenkirche, and Neumarkt.

The Augustus Market in Neustadt offers a cheerful place to stroll, and couples can cozy up at the Romantic Christmas Market.

Piece of Stollen, Dresden Christmas, Germany

Regardless of which markets you attend, eating Dresden Christmas Cake is a must. Dresden Stollen, as it’s called, is a dense, spiced fruit cake that originated sometime in the 1400s…and it’s delicious!

With the multitude of markets, copious amounts of gluhwein and legendary cake, it’s easy to see why many people rank Dresden as the Best European City for Christmas!

{Find additional details in our 3-Day Dresden Itinerary}



Bath UK Christmas Tree at the Bath Christmas Market, England, UK

Bath, a UNESCO World Heritage City, is remarkable from every vantage point. Marked with elegant architecture and surrounded by rolling green hills, Bath is quintessentially English. The top tourist attraction is the ancient Roman Bathing Complex – but there are actually many incredible things to do in Bath, UK.

Bath is within easy reach of London – and it’s well connected to Bristol, Stonehenge and the Cotswolds, too.


Why Bath is a Best in Europe Christmas Destination

Shoppers at The Corridor, Bath, England, UK

When we heard a fellow traveler touting that Bath was the best Christmas destination in Europe, we had to go see for ourselves. Rather than just spending a day in Bath, we settled in for three full weeks. During our stay, we completely fell for the area – and were absolutely enamored by the Bath Christmas Market.

The Christmas Market in Bath is hosted in the city center, with huts situated around the famous Bath Abbey and stretching out down cobblestone lanes in all directions. Vendors at the market sell unique goods and handmade wares – and many locals visit to shop for exceptional Christmas gifts.

Stalls at the Christmas Market, Bath, England, UK

The old Bath city center is decorated in dazzling lights and a towering tree stands between the Roman Baths and the Abbey. It is as Merry as Christmas can get!

While the Bath Christmas Market alone is enough to entice travelers to visit, there is one more reason we think it is one of the best Christmas places in Europe: Thermal Baths. Before spending an evening at the holiday market in brisk weather, visitors can soak in one of the iconic hot thermal baths. Not a bad way to spend Christmas, right?

{Read our complete guide to the Top Things To Do in Bath, UK}



Duomo View from Piazzale Michelangelo, Florence, Italy

Florence, Italy is an absolutely magnificent European city. Home of The Renaissance, The David and a dizzying number of gelato shops, it’s easy to understand why visitors swoon. Situated in the heart of Tuscany, Florence makes an ideal base for exploring other destinations in the region – like stunning Siena, historic San Gimignano, lovely Lucca and the world-famous Leaning Tower in Pisa.


Why Florence is One of the Prime Places for Christmas

Visit Santa Crocce Church, Florence, Italy in 3 Days

Florence is also an ideal winter destination – especially for travelers who like mild weather and avoiding crowds. It rarely gets cold enough to snow and the long lines to enter museums and attractions practically disappear during the winter months.

Florence – and it’s many churches – are festooned in lights, garland and other festive décor during the holiday season.

Another reason why Florence is the best place to spend winter in Europe is the city’s signature holiday market: Weihnachtsmarkt Santa Croce. The German-style Christmas fair – complete with bratwursts, pretzels and Bavarian beer – occupies the Santa Croce Piazza in front of the beautiful basilica.

Illuminated Christmas trees stand in the city’s best squares – including Piazzale Michelangelo, Piazza di San Firenze and Piazza del Duomo (where there is also a life-size Nativity scene). In Piazza da Basso visitors can enjoy plenty of holiday fun at the Ice Village, where there is a skating rink and Ferris wheel. Buon Natale!

{Use our detailed itinerary for Spending 3 Days in Florence}


Christmas in Europe: Best Places Map

Use this link to Google for an interactive version of our map marked with our top picks for the best places in Europe to visit during Christmas. 

Christmas in Europe Map of Destinations by


More Europe Best Christmas Destinations

Main Christmas Market, Cologne, Germany

We’ve shared our list of the best cities for Christmas in Europe, but if you are still trying to decide where to celebrate Christmas in Europe, we have a few more ideas. 


Christmas Market Tours Europe

If planning all the details of where to go for Christmas in Europe is proving to be too stressful, consider joining one of the organized European Christmas Tours. With a set itinerary – and included transportation – to some of the best Christmas villages in Europe, you can sit back and enjoy the festivities!

There are organized Christmas Market trips by train and bus. Europe Christmas Market package deals are tailored to solo travelers, couples, families or groups of friends.

Multi-day jaunts range from 2 day getaways to 8-day trips. Popular destinations include Christmas market tours in Germany, Austria and Hungary, but there are options for excursions across the European continent. You will want to book these far in advance, as the premier Europe Christmas Market Tours fill up fast. Start your search today!


River Cruise Trips to Christmas Markets in Europe

Cruising through Europe on a riverboat is one of the best ways to experience the continent. We took a European river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest in the autumn – and had an absolute blast! If you are looking for the Best European Christmas Vacations that include everything, we highly recommend checking out a Christmas-themed river cruise.

Two of the popular Christmas cruises – that visit some of the finest Christmas cities in Europe – are a Rhine River Cruise (destinations include Strasbourg, Cologne and Amsterdam) and the Danube River Cruise (with stops in Germany, Austria and Hungary). 

River cruise passengers get to attend major Christmas events in Europe and visit some of the most popular German Christmas markets – and leave all the planning to someone else! 


Create Your Own Christmas in Europe Itinerary

If traveling in a group is not your style, you can create your own itinerary to the best European Christmas cities. Travel by bus or train to multiple Christmas fairs in Europe. We recommend booking accommodations in advance – as hotels in many Christmas market cities also fill up quickly!

Here are our recommended multi-city Europe Christmas Itinerary suggestions:


European Ski Resorts at Christmas Time

For travelers who want to go skiing for Christmas, Europe is also a top destination. In fact, if you are simply looking for a place that is guaranteed to have snow during the holidays, then a ski resort might be the perfect place in Europe to spend Christmas for you!

St. Moritz, Switzerland is a luxury destination in Europe for Christmas. Not only does the alpine resort offer world class skiing, but it hosts a posh Christmas market.

The Italian Dolomites are another one of the best places to visit in Europe during Christmas. Numerous ski resorts are nestled in the mountains and the small villages host quaint and charming markets.

The Ounasvaara Ski Resort in Rovaniemi, Finland is a top destination for festive family fun – as it’s not far from Santa Claus Village, one of the absolute best Christmas towns in Europe!

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Top Tips For Christmas Trip to Europe & FAQs

Sarah and Kris of at Frankfurt Christmas Market in Frankfurt, Germany

Once you pick your best place to celebrate Christmas in Europe, we have a few travel tips and answers to the most commonly asked questions.


When Does Europe Celebrate The Christmas Season?

Most European countries align Christmas celebrations according to the religious Advent calendar; but continue on until the Epiphany.

Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and ends on Christmas Day. The Epiphany, also known as Three Kings’ Day, is celebrated on January 6, twelve days after Christmas.

That said, with the ever-growing popularity of Christmas fairs, many European cities start to celebrate the last week of November. However, German Christmas markets usually close before Christmas Day, yet some of the Xmas markets in London begin as early as the second week of November. Before planning Christmas travel to Europe, it’s essential to check the dates!


How Does Europe Celebrate Christmas Day?

Christmas Day is an official holiday and people generally celebrate at home with family. Almost all Europe Christmas celebrations are highlighted by a big meal; but it can be lunch or dinner, on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

In predominately Catholic countries – like Italy, Portugal, Croatia and Spain – families to go Christmas mass together, usually midnight on Christmas Eve.

Pro Tip: We think European Christmas masses are especially beautiful, as they are often accompanied by the local choir. Christmas Eve mass at Notre Dame in Paris was especially memorable and we look forward to returning after the refurbishment.


Where To Spend Christmas Day in Europe?

Christmas Day in Europe tends to be very quiet. Almost all shops, restaurants, Christmas fairs and attractions are closed. However, some major tourist sights stay open, like the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

As we are usually staying in an Airbnb or housesitting over the holidays, we make sure to plan Christmas dinner ahead of time. We like to partake in local traditions, so we learn what the typical holiday meal is; then gather those items ahead of time. Those who want to dine out on Christmas Day should make reservations in advance.

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What is The Weather Like in Europe For December?

Most of the European continent has cold winters – especially in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. However, the weather is more temperate in places like Portugal, Spain, Italy and Croatia. London winters tend to be fairly mild, but usually with a chance of rain.


Will there be Snow at Christmas in Europe?

Whether or not you will have a White Christmas in Europe depends largely on where you go. It is highly unlikely to have a snowy Christmas in Lisbon or Barcelona. From our list, the most likely places for snow on Christmas in Europe are in Ljubljana, Prague or Vienna.


What to Buy at European Christmas Markets?

The cities on our list of Best Christmas European Destinations all have one thing in common: Spectacular Christmas Markets! One thing many holiday travelers wonder is: What do you buy?

Although many of the wares at the various European Christmas markets are the same, each place is known for certain items specific to the region. In Ljubljana, mittens and hats are top products for sale. In Frankfurt, traditional wooden toys are popular items to buy. Almost every fair has a unique Christmas ornament or figurine – like the Licitar Hearts in Zagreb or the Caganer in Barcelona.

Of course, visiting any Christmas market is not complete without trying the local fare. Sausages are popular at almost every European Christmas market, but make sure to try the local style. Hot spiced wine is also prevalent, although, each region has their own twist on the classic holiday beverage.

Peruse our guides to Unique Travel Presents and Useful Travel Gifts!


How Expensive are European Christmas Destinations?

Due to the increased popularity of European Christmas markets, many cities in Europe experience a surge in pricing around the holidays. Accommodations can be just as expensive as the busy summer months – and many places book up by October.

Lodging in Frankfurt and Vienna can be very expensive during December. Booking hotels over the weekend are often more expensive than weekday stays.

That all said, there are some cheap European Christmas destinations – or relatively less expensive. Our top picks for cheap Christmas market breaks are Zagreb, Lisbon, Krakow and Budapest.

We share more tips on finding accommodations and general advice for Europe Travel at Christmas time below. 


Where is The Best Place For New Year’s in Europe?

New Year’s Eve is a big celebration in most major cities in Europe. The destinations that regularly make Top 10 European NYE are: Berlin, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Budapest and Reykjavik.

We have watched the midnight fireworks over the River Thames in London on NYE and rang in the New Year in Madrid embarrassingly early!


Planning a Europe Christmas Vacation

We’ve shared our leading tips for the foremost cities in Europe for Christmas – so deciding where to go is now up to you! You will also need to sort the essential details – like how to get there and where to stay.

We have offered advice that will help you plan your perfect trip, but get all our top pointers in our Guide To Planning a European Vacation

Staying on top of the details for your plans to visit the best Christmas towns in Europe is key! We recommend using our Printable Travel Planner to keep track of all the specifics.

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Finding Flights for Christmas Destinations in Europe

Most of the destinations on our list of the Best European cities to visit for Christmas are fairly easy to get to – either by plane or train.

Finding affordable airfare during the busy Christmas travel season can be trying…but not impossible! Use our Guide to Finding Cheap Flights – then start your search on Skyscanner.


Booking Hotels in the Best Place in Europe for Christmas

Finding accommodations in popular European cities to visit during Christmas can be a tricky task. Hotels book up quickly and prices for rooms in the places with the most popular markets skyrocket. It’s ideal to secure lodging as early as possible (before October is suggested).

Read our tricks for Finding the Best Hotels for Cheap – then start your search on – like we do!


Start planning your trip to Terrific Places in Europe to Spend Christmas! Search for the lowest airfares, the best accommodations and fun things to do…then start packing!  Want more travel planning tips? Head over to our Travel Planning Page for more information and tips on traveling – and for country-specific information, take a look at our Travel Guides Page!


We Want To Know: Do you have any tips for planning the best Christmas vacations in Europe? Give us your advice in the comments below!


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2 thoughts on “The Best Places To Spend Christmas in Europe 2023

  1. Sarahs Dad Jerry

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