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 the city’s main square. Mulled wine, sizzling sausages and gingerbread cookies galore. We absolutely love spending the winter holidays in Europe and, in our extensive travels, we have discovered 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 decorated in lights or visit lesser-known places that are full of charm during the holidays.

Our list of the best places to visit in Europe in December includes a range of holiday destinations – and why we think they are the best European cities in winter!

Top Tip: Looking for guided Christmas tours in Europe? Although we have always planned our own Christmas market holidays, there are companies that offer organized tours for Christmas holidays in Europe. At the end of the post, 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!


16 Best Places To Spend Christmas in Europe

This list includes our top picks for the best places to visit in Europe in December. At the end of the article – in addition to providing information about organized trips – we provide our best tips for spending Christmas in Europe and answers to the most commonly asked questions.



Christmas lights decorate the city during Advent in Zagreb, Croatia

Many people don’t think of Croatia as a winter destination, but we think Zagreb – the capital city – 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 One of the Best European Christmas Destinations

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). Often overlooked by travelers in favor of more famous Christmas markets in Europe, Zagreb Advent is just as grand…and much more diverse. In December, we spent two full weeks sightseeing in Zagreb during the day and visiting the Advent fest in the evening…and we found something new and exciting each night.

The popular Christmas markets at the Advent festival are spread out all over the city – occupying squares, lanes and Zagreb parks. Each Zagreb market has its own theme; couples looking for romantic Christmas corners and families looking for kid-friendly activities can find exactly what they are looking for!

{Read more about Zagreb Advent in our post: Zagreb Christmas Market}



Festive Christmas Lights, Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona attracts hordes of tourists all summer long – so many don’t think of it as a place for where to go in Europe for Christmas. The seaside city is well-known for its extraordinary architecture (including several of Gaudi’s Modernism works), characteristic Barcelona Old Town and undeniably delicious Barcelona tapas. At Christmastime, the city’s best sights are draped in lights and residents partake in peculiar traditions.


Why Barcelona is One of the Best European Cities 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 be quite sunny. Couple the pleasant weather with significantly smaller crowds and the city is ideal for exploring Barcelona sights. Visitors can enjoy strolling down the festively decorated streets and perusing the Christmas markets.

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

{Discover more about how they celebrate in our article: Christmas in Barcelona}



Snowy night at Krakow Christmas Market

Krakow is a fascinating city! Filled with historic sights and a storied past, Krakow is gaining in popularity with tourists from around the world all year long. At the center of the UNESCO World Heritage listed Old Town is the 13th century Market Square, which is where the Krakow Christmas Market takes place.


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

Main Square Christmas Tree in Krakow, Poland

Stepping into the Krakow Christmas Market is like stepping back in time. Traditional Christmas huts cluster around the Cloth Hall, while a decorated 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 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 at the festival!) top our list for Polish food, we think the best treat at the holiday market is oscypek – smoked sheep milk cheese that is grilled over hot coals.

Lucky visitors, like us, will get to experience the Christmas fair with a light dusting of snow – a perfect compliment to steaming 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 post: 3-Day Krakow Itinerary}



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

Frankfurt – a major transportation hub and home of the European Central Bank – is one of the most modern cities in Germany. Some tourists claim the city lacks character, however, tucked below the soaring skyscrapers is the charismatic Frankfurt Old Town. And, keeping with tradition, the town puts on one of the best German Christmas markets in Europe.


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

Frankfurt Christmas Market in Romerberg Main Square in Frankfurt, Germany

For a quintessential Christmas celebration in Europe, there 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. Sausages sizzle over grills and Gluhwein is served piping hot in special market mugs.

However, the market isn’t confined to the main square – instead, the jolly festiveness is spread around the city in inconspicuous courtyards and on rooftops, too.

One of the reasons the Frankfurt festival 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 city year-round.

{Learn more in our post: 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 wine 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 One of the Most 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 lights. Paris Christmas markets are set up in squares around the city, with the largest Christmas fair taking place in the Tuileries Garden near the Louvre Museum. In addition to the 100 Swiss-style chalets selling trinkets and fare, the market features an ice-skating rink and carnival rides.

The Christmas spirit, however, is felt throughout Paris. The city shopping streets (like Rue Montorgueil) feature festive decorations and shops specializing is classic French Christmas fare. Paris shopping malls (like Galeries Lafayette) and secret shopping passages (like Galerie Vivienne) are not only the perfect place to pick up holiday presents, but they also put on dazzling holiday displays.

While Paris is one of the best Christmas locations in Europe, we love visiting Paris in December for one more reason: fewer tourists. There are, of course, still plenty of visitors, but lines to major attractions are shorter and accommodations cost less, as well.

{Find out more about visiting Paris in our complete guide to the best Paris Itineraries}



Illuminated Angels over Regent Street in London

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 old world…and we think London is a perfect place to spend Christmas in Europe.


Why London is one of the Best Places to Go in Europe 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 a traditional market on Leicester Square to the Holiday Street Food market on the 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 holiday event. Regent Street, the most famous London shopping street, features lavish shop window displays and one of the largest light installations in the city.

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 – both offer a complete line up of holiday events, including choir concerts and Christmas masses.

After a day of sightseeing in London, food market-hopping and holiday shopping, 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?!

{Read more about things to do in London at Christmas and our 3-Day London Itinerary on a Budget}



Market and tree at Rijksmuseum at Christmas, Amsterdam, Netherlands

We’ve visited the Netherlands several times over the years, but just once for Christmas in Amsterdam. The historic city has numerous sights – which can be seen on our Amsterdam self-guided walking tour, on bike or on a Amsterdam Canal Tour. Amsterdam’s iconic canals and unique culture are even more extraordinary at Christmastime. 


Why Amsterdam is One of our Favorite Places to Spend Christmas in Europe

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. Visitors 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 markets, most Amsterdam Christmas Markets are held for only one weekend. One of the biggest Christmas market in the Netherlands is in nearby Haarlem (but, unfortunately, we missed it, as it took place the weekend before we arrived). That said, there are a few season-long festivities, like the Amsterdam Christmas Market on Museumplein, the Dam Square Christmas Tree and Amsterdam Light Festival that illuminates the canals. 

One of the best things about spending Christmas in Amsterdam is the hearty, comfort Dutch Cuisine. Visitors can feast on traditional Dutch holiday treats – like Kruidnoten (ginger cookies), Oliebollen (holiday donuts) and – of course – Bisschopswijn (mulled wine) and 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 was when we were housesitting for the holidays in a village near Nijmegen. On that trip, we visited Christmas markets near Nijmegen (including one in Germany) and reveled in the festivities that are uniquely Dutch!

{Read all about spending Winter in Amsterdam: Christmas in Amsterdam – What You Need To Know}



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, Lisbon is timeless. For checklist travelers, the city can fall flat, but for those who like to wander, Lisbon is illustrious. Our very first visit to the city left us frustrated, but when we returned to Lisbon in December (and many times since), we were smitten!


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

Santa driving tram at Christmas in Lisbon, Portugal

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

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

That said, there is a fun Lisbon Christmas Market in Eduardo VII Park and simple decorations are featured in the main square, Praca do Comercio. Throughout the city visitors will find huts selling Lisbon’s favorite Christmas drink, Ginjinha. Pedestrian street Rua Augusta is lit up and street performers play holiday tunes. Visitors who keep an eye on the rattling Lisbon trams just might catch a glimpse of Santa Claus driving down the tracks!

{Read more 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 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 destination any time of year.


Why Budapest is One of the Best European Cities to Spend 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 concerts to epic New Year’s Eve bashes. In fact, it was voted as the Number One Christmas Market in 2022 by European Best Destinations.

As one of the best 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 Hungarian gifts, handmade crafts and heavenly holiday fare (our favorites are goulash soup and Langos topped with sour cream and cheese). And, both markets feature musical performances.

Don’t miss the top sights! Join a guide on a Budapest Xmas Tour! Get the Details here!

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, guests can ward off the chilly weather by immersing themselves in the outdoor hot springs at Szechenyi Baths.

{Read more about visiting Budapest in our 3-Day Budapest Itinerary}



Gluhwien Drinks, Christmas Market, Dusseldorf, Germany

Dusseldorf may not be considered by many a top European destination, but the underrated German city has a quite a few surprises in store for tourists. Known for the local beer – called Altbier – and the dizzying number of bars to drink it in, Dusseldorf is a fun weekend retreat. In addition to the beer drinking, the top Dusseldorf Things To Do include historic sites, classic eats, shopping and culture. 


Why Dusseldorf is One of the Best Places to Spend Christmas in Europe

Must Eat Flammkuchen, Christmas Market, Dusseldorf, Germany

The Dusseldorf Christmas Market is 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 market to the next by the glow of twinkling lights and the sounds of the season. Wandering the short distance between the markets is enhanced with a steaming cup of hot gluhwein in hand. 

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

Top activities at the Dusseldorf Christmas Market are shopping and ice skating – but we think one of the best things to do is ride the giant Ferris wheel. Passengers who take a whirl on the wheel are treated to 360-degree views that stretch over the Rhine River and festive market squares. 

{Read more about this German Christmas celebration in our article, Dusseldorf Christmas Market!}



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 wintertime market meals is Prazska Sunka – ham that is roasted on a spit (which we were fortunate enough to try at a Prague market when we visited in February). The city’s famous sweet treat is Trdelnik, or Chimney Cake – and is a must-try at Prague markets. Of course, nothing goes better with Prague food than Czech beer! We recommend foregoing the well-known brands and seeking out local craft beer in Prague.

{Read about where to find amazing views of Prague in our post: 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 city 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 that 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 the residents held the first December Market. In the winter, nearly every square in Vienna is transformed into a Christmas fairyland.

See the best of the Vienna 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 to Vienna in our article: 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 villages of half-timbered houses and hillside vineyards. Although Strasbourg is the region’s largest city, it feels like a quiet village…with an enormous (and beautiful) church.


Why Strasbourg is One of the Top Places to Visit in Europe for Christmas

Academie de la Biere craft beer bar in Strasbourg, France

The Marche de Noel Strasbourg Christmas Market – 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 in our plans (we actually ended up in Krakow that year!). Instead, we visited Strasbourg in the Springtime – but even then, we learned more about the iconic Christmas Market.

Explore more of the region on a classic 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 Christmas Market stalls, the Strasbourg Christkindelsmarik promises to be a unique Christmas event.

{Learn more about visiting Strasbourg in our post: 7 Essential Strasbourg Experiences}



Ljubljana castle in snow

Ljubljana is a fairytale city, complete with a hill-topping castle and a meandering river. The pedestrian-only Ljubljana Old Town sits below the castle; the cobblestone lanes are lined with cafes, boutiques and magnificent architecture.


Why we think Ljubljana is One of the Best Christmas Holiday Destinations in Europe

Ljubljana, Slovenia covered in snow

The Ljubljana city center is postcard-perfect! We have seen Slovenia in every season – but have unfortunately not been there for the December Christmas event in Ljubljana.

The Ljubljana Festive Fair takes place in six of the city’s squares – and lights decorate the entire town center. In addition to the market squares, there are musical concerts, a St. Nicholas parade and a firework display to celebrate the New Year…and it’s all free!

{Discover more about Ljubljana in our post: 17 Ljubljana Sights}



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 visitors take in the historic sights, climb to scenic viewpoints and feast on classic Scottish food and drink. Edinburgh also serves as a great base for adventures to other nearby destinations, like thriving Glasgow, coastal Dunbar and the amazing Scottish Highlands.


Why Edinburgh is One of the Best Cities for Christmas in Europe

McEwan Hall, University of Edinburgh, Scotland

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

The city is known for its iconic festivals that take place throughout the year (the summertime Fringe Festival being the most popular), but the Edinburgh Christmas Festival is a celebration that truly shines.

The festive Christmas season is marked by a brightly lit holiday market in Princes Street Gardens, a classy Christmas Tree at The Dome (where you can sip hand crafted cocktails) and an outdoor ice-skating rink on George Street.

Plus, the top attractions – like the Edinburgh Castle, the Botanic Gardens and the Royal Boat Britannia – are all decked out for the holidays. With an abundance of jolliness, it’s clear to see why Edinburgh 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 best places to spend NYE in the world.

{Read more about visiting Edinburgh in our 3-Day Edinburgh Itinerary}



View of the Frauenkirche from the top of the Kreuzkirche in Dresden, Germany

Dresden is often passed over by tourists, but we think it is one of Europe’s best hidden gems. Although the city was completely destroyed during 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 One of the Best Places to Visit in Europe at Christmas

Best Sights 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, Neumarkt.

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

Regardless of which markets you attend – or if you go to all of them – eating Dresden Christmas Cake is a must. Dresden Stollen, as it’s called, is a dense, spiced fruit cake that originated in the city 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!

{Learn more about what to see in Dresden in our 3-Day Dresden Itinerary}


Christmas in Europe: Best Places Map

Use this link to Google Maps for an online, 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 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 Christmas in Europe tours. With a set itinerary – and sorted transportation – to some of the best Christmas villages in Europe, tour participants can sit back and enjoy the festivities.

There are organized Christmas Market trips by train and bus. The Europe Christmas Markets package deals are ideal for solo travelers, couples and groups of friends.

Multi-day trips range from 2 day getaways to 8-day trips. Popular country destinations include Christmas market tours in Germany, Austria and Hungary, but there are options for trips across the European continent. You will want to book it far in advance, as Europe Christmas Market Trips fill up fast! Find the Best Tours!


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, we highly recommend checking out a Christmas-themed river cruise.

Two of the popular Christmas cruises – that visit some of the best 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 you can leave the planning to someone else! 


Multi-City Trip: 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 fill up quickly!

With a week or longer, we recommend visiting more than one city. Here are some Europe Christmas itinerary suggestions:


European Ski Resorts at Christmas Time

For travelers who want to go skiing for Christmas, Europe is 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 best place in Europe to spend Christmas.

St. Moritz in Switzerland is one of the best destinations in Europe for Christmas. Not only does the luxury alpine resort offer world class skiing, but it hosts a stylish 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 is a top destination for family fun – as it’s just a few miles from Santa Claus Village, one of the absolute best Christmas towns in Europe (at least according to kids, who love to see where Santa lives!).

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Top Tips for Christmas Trip to Europe & FAQs

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

Now that you are thinking of the best place to celebrate Christmas in Europe, we have a few tips for your trip – and answers to the most commonly asked questions!


When Does Europe Celebrate The Christmas Season?

Most European cities align Christmas celebrations according to the religious Advent calendar; but rather than end celebrations on Christmas Day, they continue 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, which is 12 days after Christmas Day.

That said, with the ever-growing popularity of Christmas fairs, many European cities celebrate from the last week of November through the first week of January. However, German Christmas markets usually close a couple of days before Christmas Day…and some of the Xmas markets in London begin as early as the second week of November. Before planning Christmas travel to Europe, it’s a good idea to check specific city Xmas market dates!


How Does Europe Celebrate Christmas?

In most European countries, 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, and every region has its own specialty.

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

Pro Tip: We think Christmas masses are especially beautiful, as they are usually accompanied by the local choir. Christmas Eve mass at the Notre Dame in Paris was especially memorable and we hope to return again after the refurbishment.


Where To Spend Christmas Day in Europe?

Christmas Day in Europe tends to be quiet in most places. Almost all shops, restaurants, Christmas fairs and attractions are closed. However, in some major tourist cities, some sights stay open (like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, which is open 365 days a year). 

As we are usually staying in an Airbnb apartment or housesitting over the holidays, we make sure to plan a dinner ahead of time. We like to partake in local traditions, so we learn what the typical Christmas meal is; then we gather the items at the market (but we have also ordered packaged meals from vendors, which makes it a lot easier!). Travelers who want to eat out on Christmas Day should make reservations in advance.

Learn more about how to Pet Sit Around the World!


What is The Weather Like in Europe For December?

Most of the European continent has cold winters – especially in countries like Germany, Austria and Switzerland. However, the winter weather is more temperate in places like Portugal, Spain, Italy and Croatia. London winters also tend to be mild.


Will there be Snow at Christmas in Europe?

Whether or not you will have a white Christmas in Europe depends on where you go! It is highly unlikely to have a snowy Christmas in Lisbon or Barcelona. On the other hand, some of the best places for a white Christmas in Europe are in Krakow or Frankfurt.


What to Buy at European Christmas Markets?

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 that represents the country – 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 (however, not all sausages are the same; make sure to try the typical local products). And, hot spiced wine is also prevalent, although, each region has their own twist on the classic holiday beverage.

Looking for the best travel gifts? Check out our list of 30 Useful Travel Gifts – or, if you are buying for someone who already has everything – find the perfect gift on our list of 65 Unique Travel Gifts!


How Expensive are European Christmas Destinations?

Due to the popularity of European Christmas markets, many Christmas 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, but places like Paris, Amsterdam and London are not as affected by the holiday markets. Booking hotels over the weekend are often more expensive.

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

We share a few 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 cities that regularly make Top 10 European NYE are: Berlin, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Budapest and Reykjavik.

We have watched the fireworks over the River Thames in London on NYE and we have rang in the New Year in Madrid.


Planning a Europe Christmas Vacation

We’ve shared our top tips for the best cities in Europe for Christmas – but deciding where to go is just the first step in planning a trip. You will also need to plan the essential details – like how to get there and where to stay.

We are offering a few tips that will help you plan your perfect trip, but you can find more of our top tips in our Guide to Planning a European Vacation

As you make your plans to visit the best Christmas towns in Europe, staying on top of the details is key! We recommend using a travel planner – like our Printable Travel Planner – where you can keep track of all the specifics!

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Finding the Best Flight for Christmas Destinations 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 the tips in our Guide to Finding Cheap Flights for our top tips – then start your search on Skyscanner.


Booking the Best Hotels in the Best Place in Europe for Christmas

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

We share more tips in our article, How To Find the Best Hotels for Cheap – and then start your search for the best accommodations on – like we do!


Start planning your trip to the Best 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: What do you think is the best place to spend Christmas in Europe? Do you have any tips for planning the best Christmas vacations in Europe? Give us your best advice in the comments below!


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Where To Spend Christmas in Europe by

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

  1. Sarahs Dad Jerry

    Your best product ever, Baby Girl! No ads. Made me want to see it all. Well done, very well done.

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