Christmas is my favourite time of the year and Christmas in Europe – no matter which city you visit, is simply magical. That being said, I have asked expert travellers what their favourite European Christmas destination is and these are their favourites.
What follows is a guide to some of the best Christmas destinations in Europe, why you should plan your next trip here and a few bits of helpful information too!
I want to say a massive thank you to these amazing travellers and travel bloggers who have collaborated with Creative Travel Guide (that’s us!) in this post, I am now frantically trying to work out how I can visit all of these destinations on our Christmas trip home to the UK.
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Rhine Valley, Germany
The Upper Middle Rhine Valley in Germany (also known as the Rhine Gorge) is a brilliant place to visit around Christmas. This 65 km stretch is a UNESCO World Heritage site, with steep banks that are dotted with vineyards, attractive old towns and romantic castles.
During summer, cruise ships ply the waters, full of people enjoying the views. Around Christmas, it’s much quieter. Visit gems such as Rudesheim and you’ll find warm shops with carefully arranged Christmas shop windows and traditional markets where you can sip gluhwein, eat sticky stollen bread and buy beautifully crafted trinkets for your Christmas tree.
Clare from Epic road rides
Budget your trip
Hostel/budget hotel – €15 – €30
Midrange hotel – €45 – €60
Luxury hotel – €80+
Dinner for two – €20
Street vendor – €2 – €4
Beer – €4
Things to do: The Many Museums of Mainz, Worms Cathedral, Mannheim, The Palatinate Forest, River cruise.
Festive fun: Sunday brunch Christmas Cruise, Düsseldorf Christmas Market, Harbour Christmas Market (Cologne), Koblenz Christmas Market, historical Old Town in Rudesheim.
In my honest opinion, Milan looks like a paradise on Earth, especially in the magical time of Christmas! The Italian city where style is born with enigma, Christmas is celebrated with lights and love! Tall trees are erect right in the middle of the streets. They are connected with wires studded with thousands of Swarovski stars, garlands of lights and intricate ornaments.
Cafes are decked up with revamped menu where tea, hot chocolate and specially crafted cocktails find a place! Bagni Misteriosi of Milan turns into a fairytale land where ice skating is done. With a free entry and only 3 euro for skating, this is one major attraction of Milan. I also love the illuminated rooftop of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II during Christmas season. Reminds me that good times are coming as I get busy shopping for the loved ones!
Madhurima from Orange Wayfarer
Budget your trip
Hostel/budget hotel – €20
Midrange hotel – €35 – €50
Luxury hotel – €70+
Dinner for two – €40
Street vendor – €4 – €7
Beer – €3
Things to do: Sforzesco Castle, Duomo Cathedral, Museo del Novecento and eat!
Festive fun: Milan Christmas Markets, Swiss Alps Express, Christmas Afternoon Tea at The Four Seasons, Gae Aulenti Christmas Village and the Village of wonders at The Indro Montanelli Gardens of Porta Venezia.
Budget your trip
Hostel/budget hotel – €30
Midrange hotel – €40 – €85
Luxury hotel – €130+
Dinner for two – €30
Street vendor – €4+
Beer – €4
Things to do: Petite France, Notre Dame Cathedral, walk the canals, the Alsace food and Alsace houses. Note, the Strasbourg Pass can save you money on attractions.
Festive fun: Christmas markets, also known as Christkindelsmärik – these can be found in Place de la Cathédrale, Place Kléber, Place Gutenberg, Place Broglie and Place du Château.
Budget your trip
Hostel/budget hotel – €8
Midrange hotel – €20 – €40
Luxury hotel – €55+
Dinner for two – €10+
Street vendor – €1.50 – €3
Beer – €2
Things to do: Old Town, Walking tour of Bucharest (FREE), Food Hood Bucuresti and Arcul de Triumf.
Festive fun: Bucharest Christmas Market, Prahova Valley mountain resorts, the medieval city of Brasov and Santa’s Cottage.
Budget your trip
Hostel/budget hotel – €14 – €30
Midrange hotel – €50 – €70
Luxury hotel – €70+
Dinner for two – €15+
Street vendor – €3 – €8
Beer – €2
Things to do: St Peter’s Church, Freedom Monument, Riga Central Market, Riga Castle and Riga Cathedral.
Festive fun: Latvian National Opera and Ballet, ice skating in Riga’s Esplanade Park, Riga Christmas Markets (located in the Old Town and the Esplanade Park) and Livu Laukums Christmas Market.
Budapest market is not only one of the cutest in Europe, but also one of the most affordable. It is a great destination for a weekend getaway if you are on a budget. The most popular market in the city is at Vörösmarty Square. There are several stalls selling handmade products, which are perfect as gifts for your loved ones. Food stalls offer delicious Hungarian specialities including sausages, lángos and chimney cake. There are often performances as well when you can watch traditional Hungarian folklore dance. The whole city and even the trams are nicely decorated with lights, so you will definitely get into the Christmas spirit!
Eniko from Travel Hacker Girl
Vienna is absolutely magical at Christmas as the city is covered with decorations and several Christmas markets spring up throughout the city. My favourite is the Viennese Christmas Market at the Rathaus thanks to its gorgeous setting, delicious food, and unique ice skating area. Kids will love the skating and small carnival rides at the market and adults will love the traditional gluhwein or other flavors of hot alcoholic beverages. It’s especially gorgeous at night when the twinkling lights are at their best, so bundle up and brave the cold for the perfect Christmas experience.
Kris from Nomad by Trade
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Belfast is a compact and easy city to navigate and is just ideal for the perfect seasonal weekend away. During Christmas times the highlight of the city would be the Belfast Christmas Market, set beneath the rather magnificent backdrop of Belfast City Hall, and the central landmarks of the city. And while the Christmas Market is perfect for a night out, in the heated beer tents, with mulled wine, the many traditional Belfast pubs are definitely a must for any visit to the city. And the cobbled streets of Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter make the perfect start here.
Allan from It’s Sometimes Sunny in Bangor
The compact medieval city of Ghent sparkles with all things Christmassy during the winter months for the annual Gentse Winterfeesten. This is a Winter Festival with pretty light displays, traditional festive markets selling both local and international foods as well as craft treats, an ice-rink under the City Pavillion, an ice grotto to meet Santa, thrilling fairground rides and a giant Ferris wheel affording panoramic views of the city and beyond.
Take a visit to Gravesteen during the festival and you will see rooms of the medieval castle, which showcases weaponry and torture devices, transformed into a Winter Wonderland with balloons on the ceiling, piles of presents and snow scenes. As you walk around the city centre, pick up a hot chocolate or waffle from a street stall to warm you up. You will smell the waffles before you see them!
Jenny from TraveLynnFamilly
Madeira Island is a very popular destination for Christmas and New Year season. Each year many, mostly European tourists, come to Madeira to escape the cold winter and enjoy the good weather, delicious Christmas dishes, beautiful decorations and special events occurring all around the island. They usually stay until after the New Year, to watch the amazing firework show, which in the past brought Madeira the Guinness World Records title of “Greatest Fireworks Show in the World”. If you like Christmas with sun instead of snow, check my recent post Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Madeira and be sure to book your cruise or plane tickets in advance.
Edyta from Say Yes to Maderia
In the countdown to Christmas, I love embracing all the festive festivities in home city. Edinburgh is enchanting at any time of year, but the festive season brings an extra sprinkling of magic. Running for six weeks from mid-November, ‘Edinburgh’s Christmas’ sees the city come alive with Christmas Markets, twinkling lights, ice-skating, street-food, carol singers, festive shows and fairground rides; you can hear screams from the Star Flyer at quite a distance! It’s no surprise visitors come from all over the world to experience it. You’ll find me sipping mulled wine at the markets, or laughing at the legendary pantomime at the Kings Theatre. There’s no place like home.
Kay from The Chaotic Scot
Have you heard of Vieste? No, then what about Apulia? Glad to get your attention. See, I don’t like cold winters and Southern Italy is the perfect place to escape to a warmer climate.
Home to the longest stretch of beach in Italy, aptly named Lungomare, Vieste enjoys a mild climate during winter and looks gorgeous. There isn’t a lot to do here during winter, though, but if you are lucky you may be able to watch the live nativity scene in the Old Town. It doesn’t happen yearly though.
During summer, Vieste is a popular resort on the Adriatic Coast.
Cris from LooknWalk
The town of Aachen, in northwest Germany close to the borders with Belgium and the Netherlands, is one of the most atmospheric destinations in Europe at Christmas. Its Christmas market, held each year from late November until just before Christmas, is a traditional blend of wooden huts, festive lights and mulled wine a-plenty, as well as local specialities such as gingerbread, marzipan bread and potato fritters. The city’s cathedral is beautiful at this time of year; small but magnificent, it is the burial place of the emperor Charlemagne. With beautiful architecture, history and festive spirit, Aachen is well worth a visit in the run-up to the holidays.
Jill from Reading The Book Travel
WOW, these are some awesome choices for Christmas in Europe! Europe is so magical during the Christmas period, especially when you head to a market and it starts to snow – like a real-life Hallmark movie!
Anyway, before I go and watch Love Actually for the millionth time, I wanted to say another massive thank you to all these wonderful writers who contributed to this post – if you like the sound of any of these places, make sure you check the bloggers out, they have some great content about Europe to help you plan your next trip.