What’s the best time to visit Europe?
If you’ll ask this question, most people will say summers. But there’s something truly magical about snowy season. Europe gets a complete makeover in winters. Overcrowded and overpriced cities become refreshingly crowd-free and inexpensive. Moreover, Christmas and New Year Celebrations lend some seriously unforgettable experiences. Experiences that become conversation starters again and again in get-togethers, marriages, and any small or big gatherings. Despite the mercury touching sub-zero temperature, there’s something about Christmas that makes even locals gawk like tourists. Every tree, and storefront sparkles like a star. People are in a jolly mood. Honestly, if you can brave the cold, Christmas holidays are the best time to see Europe on
While there’s no place like home to celebrate Christmas, these five places are my absolute favourite places to spend Christmas holidays:
1. Lille, France
Paris is never a bad idea but Lille is even better Christmas destination. As the holiday season kicks in, the capital of the Hauts-de-France gets decked up in lights and
More than 900,000 visitors come to Lille’s Christmas Market every year to enjoy the magic of the “Grande Roue” at the heart of the Grand Place. In the Grand Place, a giant 18-meter tall fir, the 50-m high big Wheel, and its 36 nacelles dominate the Christmas decorations offering a beautiful panorama of the city. It’s the best time to relish the irresistible aroma of cinnamon and roasted chestnuts in the Place Rihour, where 80 decorated chalets welcome you with open arms 7 days a week for over a month.
What makes it special:
Lille’s privileged location in the heart of the Paris-London-Brussels triangle attracts tourists from all corners. With a great railway network, you can reach Lille in 1 hour from Paris, 2 hours from London, and just 35 minutes from Brussels.
2. Prague, Czech Republic
When your city is known as the ‘the Magic city’, you have a reputation to live up to. No city can wear the crown of a winter wonderland like Prague when a dusting of snow coats the ‘city of a hundred spires’.
Prague Christmas markets are legendary, thanks to Gothic backdrop and Czech treats. Even the most jaded traveler like me succumbed to the excellent mulled wine, barbecued sausages and fragrant
What makes it special?
The Czech treats and gothic architecture set Prague apart from the rest of European Christmas destinations. Moreover, the five-minute walking distance between the two biggest Christmas markets makes it more irresistible and convenient for visitors to stay outside.
3. Banska Bystrica, Slovakia
Many people would be clueless when asked to point Banska Bystrica on the map. And, that’s what attracted me to this pocket-size fairytale town of Central Slovakia. The atmosphere is very romantic, festive and cozy like home. You can feel the true sense of Christmas spirit wherever you go.
Folk dancers, actors, and musicians take the
What makes it special:
The town is just a snowball’s throw from Jasná, the best Slovakian Ski resort offering high-quality skiing at affordable prices. In the morning, the lovely Tatra Mountains could be your adventure playground and in the evening, Banska Bystrica could be your social ground.
4. Vienna, Austria
Few cities can look as beautiful as “the most livable city in the world” during Christmas. Following a vintage tradition of organizing Christmas market since 1298, today more than 25 Christmas markets are held on chocolate-box squares across the city.
The festive beauty of Vienna is swelled by a hot punch, mulled wine, roasted chestnuts and stalls selling local handicrafts and homemade goodies. Christkindlmarkt (in front of the City Hall) is the biggest Christmas market with the biggest Christmas tree.
What makes it special
The traditional Christmas markets with reindeer rides create a contrasting image with curling (winter sport) on the ice rink.
5. Zagreb, Croatia
Zagreb’s Christmas markets were once Croatia’s best-kept secret. But thanks to modern explorers, Zagreb’s advent scene has been discovered. The city is loved so much for the holiday celebrations that it has been voted as the “best Christmas market destination” by European Best Destinations for two years in a row.
Jelačić Square becomes the congregation point where a huge Christmas tree stands tall, the fountain is transformed into a light display and live music is played every day. King Tomislav Square remains abuzz with skaters, live ice sculptures are made, pop-up bars and street food stands serve lip-smacking food. There’s even an area dedicated to “fooling around” (
What makes it special
The Jolly Christmas Tram is tough to beat. Here kids (and big kids) zip through the city center along with Santa and his elves.
Besides the above 5 Christmas markets, these 10 Christmas destinations should also be on your list:
1. Cologne Christmas Market, Germany
Offers a lavish German spread consisting of the Glühwein, the crafts, the twinkling lights and entertainment of 100 performances against the backdrop of Cologne’s landmark cathedral
2. Dresden Striezelmarkt, Germany
The oldest and the biggest Chrismas market in Eastern Germany is all about celebrating the traditions. The highlight is a 45-feet high Christmas pyramid and the “Stollen” (buttery fruit cake) representing the entrance to the mines in the nearby Erzgebirge range.
Germany is all about celebrating the traditions. The highlight is a 45-feet high Christmas pyramid and the “Stollen” (buttery fruit cake) representing the entrance to the mines in the nearby Erzgebirge range.
3. Frankfurt Christmas Market, Birmingham, UK
4. Brussels Christmas Market, Belgium
Every year the Belgian capital transforms into a Winter Wonderland. The city puts together an impressive setup with 200 wooden chalets, a covered ice rink, a Ferris wheel, and a light and sound show projected onto the Grand-Place.
5. Strasbourg Christmas Market France
The heritage city of Eastern France is home to one of Europe’s oldest Christmas markets dating back to 1570. Today it has expanded to 10 locations and 300 stalls. It’s a great place to enjoy year-end festivities while sipping the local Alsatian wine and enjoying the decorations.
6. Tuomaan Markkinat, Helsinki, Finland
Finland never ceases to surprise – even during their Christmas celebrations. From playing bingo to win a vegan ham to watching a holiday outfit contest for dogs; Finns add a dose of quirkiness to their holidays. Not to forget the wood-heated unisex sauna set in the of the market in Senate Square
7. Budapest Christmas Market, Hungary
The extremely photogenic city of Budapest looks even more photogenic during Christmas time. St. Stephen’s Basilica, Hungary’s largest cathedral becomes the
8. Tallinn Christmas Market, Estonia
9. Ljubljana Christmas market, Slovenia
The pint-sized Slovenian capital is a charming place to spend Christmas. With
10. Brasov Christmas market, Romania
With its cobbled medieval streets, awe-inspiring Gothic architecture, and the dramatic Mt Tâmpa towering above, the gorgeous Transylvanian city is a perfect place to spend your winter holidays. Additionally, Poiana Brasov, Romania’s best and most exclusive ski resorts, is only 12 km away.
Have you ever visited any of the above 15 best Christmas destinations or took part in the 10 best New Year Celebrations around the world? If yes, I would love to hear your views. Please do share your feedback in the comment box below.