Are you planning a Christmas vacation? Nice! It is a great way to relax and experience new things. If you go to the right place, of course. If you are still looking for ideas or maybe considering a next-year vacation, we want to help. We compiled a list of the best Christmas destinations in Europe with all their features. While there are definitely more nice places, the list might still give you some ideas!
Budapest, Hungary: best Christmas market 2022
What says Christmas spirit more than a Christmas market? You definitely want to walk there during the Christmas season. And Budapest is a great place for it. Forbes elected Budapest as the best Christmas market. It is a favorite both among Americans and British travelers. It is also considered safe in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic. You can check out the products by more than 100 artisans here and observe the light-show projected on the Basilica. And check out Budapest itself, of course!
Vilnius, Lithuania, for quiet, original Christmas destinations in Europe
Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, often features in the lists of the most beautiful and original Christmas trees. They are always a must-see: this year it is white, with mirrors, garlands, and huge snowflakes with complex patterns. Vilnius Old Town is also part of the UNESCO World Heritage list. There are also many parks and natural sights.
Also, Vilnius is not very crowded and pretty cheap, especially compared to other European capitals! If you want a calm, economical but beautiful Christmas vacation, this is your city.
Krakow, Poland, to step back in time
Would you like to step back in time? Then Krakow is one of the best Christmas destinations in Europe. It has a long past and many historic sites. Its 13th-century market square is on the UNESCO World Heritage list. And it’s where the Christmas market takes place too. You can hear Christmas carols and see horse carriages. Taste traditional Polish dishes such as pierogi and oscypek. Enjoy mulled wine and the Christmas spirit!
Grindelwald, Switzerland, a movie-like Christmas destination
This mountain village is so lovely that it just had to be used for numerous films. They include ‘The Golden Compass’ and ‘The Alps’; the mountains nearby were even used for ‘Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith‘. The village is always decorated nicely for Christmas. Of course, it has a holiday market with treats, mulled wine, and more. The hotels organize special Christmas dinners and lunches. And this is one of the best skiing resorts in Switzerland, so Grindelwald is a must if you are a skiing fan!
Rovaniemi, Finnish Lapland: home of Santa
Can you imagine Christmas without Santa Claus? Then what is a better Christmas destination than Santa‘s home? Rovaniemi, Lapland, is the official home of Santa and a great Christmas destination. Snow is guaranteed. And fun for all people of all ages! Children can enroll in Elf School, make gingerbread houses, meet Santa. There are husky-dog rides, reindeer safaris, stays in ice hotels and hot Finnish saunas, Northern lights, and more!
Zagreb, Croatia: exotic Christmas with a great market
You might not think that Zagreb on the Croatian coastline is a very winterish destination. After all, the temperature rarely falls below zero. And there is rarely snow. But there is a reason why it received the title of Best Christmas Market in three consecutive years (2016, 2017, 2018). The markets are all around the city, in parks, squares, and lanes. There are romantic corners for couples and many activities for kids. And Zagreb is just beautiful: it combines the modern and the historic.
Croatia is also among the best yachting destinations in South Europe. Check them out here!
Barcelona, Spain, for festivities without the cold
Some cannot imagine Christmas without snow. Others, however, cannot stand the cold and want to spend vacations warmly. Barcelona might be for you then! Besides, it’s not as crowded in winter compared to the summer. Barcelona has some great architecture, a beautiful old town and a great variety of food. Definitely try tapas!
Also consider Valencia. It has a perfect mix of the old and the new during holidays. You can reach it by train from Barcelona.
Strasbourg, France, with one of the oldest Christmas markets
France is a popular tourist destination for a reason. It is beautiful, interesting and has great food. And if you go during Christmas, we recommend Strasbourg. It is not only the seat of many European institutions: it also has one of the best Christmas markets. This market is the oldest one in France and dates back to 1570. It has more than 300 stalls and has been voted as the best Christmas market more than once. The market is by the iconic cathedral that is a must-see. You certainly will not regret visiting this city!
London, UK, Christmas destination for sights and festivities
London is a popular destination all year-round and certainly during Christmas too. There are so many things you can do! Go to ice skating rings in Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. Watch the Nutcracker ballet. Check out the enormous Christmas tree in Trafalgar square.
Unfortunately, London is really crowded. If you want to avoid the masses, consider Bath, Manchester, or Leeds. They all decorate extensively for Christmas, especially Bath. Or go to Edinburgh to experience Christmas with a Scottish feel!
Bruges, Belgium, for Christmas with a medieval feel
Bruges, a medieval-looking town in Belgium, is always a popular location but especially so during Christmas. The medieval houses that look like gingerbread houses light up almost magically, ensuring amazing sights. Try many delicious Belgian treats, such as waffles and hot chocolate. There are ice-sculpting competitions, skating, Christmas markets, and most importantly, the holiday spirit!
Everything you might want in Cologne, Germany
Germany can boast of many great Christmas destinations in Europe, including Dusseldorf, Trier, Leipzig, and others. However, we believe that Cologne is transformed the most by the holiday spirit. It is great for foodies as Cologne Christmas markets offer a great variety of savory items: mulled wine, cinnamon biscuits, baked apples, and so on. Also, consider boating in the Rhine, going to a concert at Cologne Philharmonic, or visiting numerous bars and pubs for great German beer!
Are you planning a trip to Germany? Learn about transportation in Germany.
Beautiful city and beautiful Christmas in Vienna, Austria
Vienna is often considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It has royal gardens and palaces, grandiose museums, and numerous ornate churches. The beauty is even more apparent during Christmas. And there is a Christmas market, of course! Some people also believe that Vienna has the oldest Christmas markets although no documents prove this. Either way, it definitely is top-notch.
We hope you now know more about the best Christmas destinations in Europe. Planning to travel in a rental car? Read our tips!