Christmas is coming to town and so it’s time to start planning your Christmas holiday. If traveling to European destinations at Christmas sounds like a dream, you will fall in love with these towns and villages around Europe. This list includes everything from bigger cities with fancy Christmas markets to the hometown of Santa Claus. Keep reading and pick out your favorite destinations!
Vienna is often called the magical Christmas town and home of Christmas markets in Europe. Many tourists and couples seeking romantic holiday travel to Vienna every Christmas. Often these trips include high-quality dinners, concerts and of course walks around the traditional Christmas markets. There is a lot of people, but it doesn’t stop the city having village-like homely atmosphere. You can find colorful lights, beautiful decorations, and several Christmas markets all around the city. We recommend walking around after dark because the town lights up beautifully and allow you to enjoy the magical atmosphere.
The Wiener Christkindlmarkt am Rathausplatz is the most popular market in the city and you shouldn’t skip it for any reason. It’s small village inside of Vienna. Walking between small wooden huts, traditional crafts and delicious smells will take you to Christmas wonderland. You can also try ice skating in their ice rinks or play in Christmas themed kids’ floor in City Hall. However, there is many Christmas markets around Vienna. The most popular ones have expensive basic products while you can find something unique from the smaller local Christmas markets. Test both types of markets to get the full Christmas village travel experience.
This beautiful UNESCO World Heritage site hides between the Alps and gives you possibility to spend a peaceful Christmas in a village with a population of only about 800 citizens. Hallstatt is a real magical Christmas village looking like straight from a fairytale. Breathtaking nature, toy-like houses, and history of small hidden village. What else would you need from a unique Christmas holiday? Oh, except magical snow! We can’t promise that there will be snow during Christmas but it’s not impossible. Also, you can always spend time in close-by ski resort accessible by free.
The weekends before Christmas there is more people and tourists but closer to Christmas Hallstatt will be more peaceful one when compared to the bigger cities like Vienna. Hallstatt’s Christmas market may not be the biggest but offers a true small village atmosphere and interesting local products. Those who want to experience a lively Austrian Christmas can first go to Vienna and then continue to Hallstatt from there. It takes only 3/1/2 to 4 hours by train from Vienna. There are many Christmas towns in Austria because they are world-famous market organizers and Christmas parties.
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague gives Christmas a traditional eastern European vibe. The Christmas markets offers hot drinks, colorful lights and wonderful decorations. There are several Christmas markets around the city, but the Old Town Square’s market is the biggest and most popular one. We recommend visiting several different markets to experience the whole Prague Christmas town atmosphere. Travel to Czech Republic if you still have some gift shopping to do because they offer everything you would need for Christmas presents.
Magical Christmas isn’t just for humans and that’s why one of the most popular things to see in Prague is the stable at Old Town Square. You can pet some sheep, donkeys and other animals. Kids love this but even adults will get all warm-hearted after seeing the animals.
About two million locals and tourists visit Nuremberg’s Christmas markets every year making it one of the most popular Christmas villages you should visit in Europe. The market only accepts real crafters and they don’t want to sell normal tourist souvenirs like many other European markets. Like in most German Christmas markets, you have to try the local gingerbread to get in the Christmas vibe. The sellers literally compete who has the most beautiful stand and so all 200 stands truly will charm you.
Nuremberg has its own tradition of Santa Claus and it is seen everywhere. In this part of Europe as well as in Austria and other European countries, Santa doesn’t bring kids presents, the gifts are brought by the small infant named the Christkind (Christ child). Every year the Christkind opens the local Christmas market named Christkindlmarkt and thousands of people come to see the opening show every year. After walking around the market and old town, you can rest while taking a tour in a horse carriage that will take you around the beautifully decorated city center.
The city of Strasbourg calls itself the capital of Christmas. Traveling there proves their point quickly as you can truly experience the Christmas vibe, colorful lights and happy locals. Around the town you can find differently themed markets that take you to the wonderland of Christmas. There are concerts, events and other activities through November and December. Everyone from kids to couples will find something to enjoy.
Strasbourg’s Christmas has about 300 sellers and so it’s one of the biggest in Europe. It also happens to be one of the oldest markets. Christkindelmärik market has been held since 1570 and it has long traditions. You can admire local craftsmen creating amazing artefacts. There are also specialized Christmas markets for charities and food. The OFF Market is an alternative choice for those wanting something different. In addition, there is several other themed markets.
Valkenburg is a village of 17000 citizens in Netherlands and a popular destination amongst holiday tourists. It has one of the oldest indoor Christmas markets in Europe. Walk around the large labyrinth-like markets full of products, gift ideas and delicious food. If you wander long enough in the caves, you may even find Santa Claus with his reindeers. Check out the local products and traditional Christmas foods every traveler should taste in Netherlands. You have to pay an entrance fee to access these underground Christmas markets but you will get a lot more than just shopping opportunities. They will tell you about the caves and there are many statues of Santa and his friends.
In addition to the cave markets, Valkenburg has also other things making it the perfect Christmas village to visit in Europe. Christmas Fairytales Parade happens twice weekly during November and December. Route D’Amuse is one of the most popular activities in the tow, where you can enjoy delicious amuses at several renowned catering places. You will get to walk around the Christmas village, see the Fairytale forest and visit Santa’s village and Santa’s gift factory..
Christmas doesn’t always have to be about markets, activities, and places full of tourists. Norway’s Tromso is excellent alternative Christmas travel destination. You can enjoy its magical village atmosphere by watching the natural Christmas lights aka northern lights or Aurora Borealis. Just go outside when it’s dark (it is dark almost around the clock in the winter in Tromso) and look to the sky and you can admire the magic of the multicoloured natural show. If you are dreaming of a white Christmas, well this is guaranteed that you will have one in Tromso.
Tromso also has Christmas markets and several events before the holiday itself. The music scene is lively and, so you should see at least one Christmas concert. Those who can afford it and are adventurous, can book a Christmas cruise to see the fjords. No matter if you choose a cruise or if you rather stay in a resort, you will experience unique Norwegian Christmas traditions. There are many traditions in Scandinavia that differ from the rest of Europe and the world.
The one true magical Christmas village in Europe can be found from Rovaniemi in Finland. This Santa Claus Village is the homeplace of Santa Claus himself. Every year countless amounts of kids and adults visit Santa to tell him their wishes before Christmas. You can speak with Santa and even take photo with him. Afterwards go and meet the elves. There are possibilities to do crafts, write gift letters or shop Santa Claus products. The village itself looks like a fairytale.
Santa Claus Village is easily accessible from Rovaniemi center by bus. In addition of meeting Santa you can also try traditional Finnish winter sports and play in snow castle. Go skating, skiing or hill sledding. You will see everyone from kids to adults having fun because your age doesn’t matter in Santa’s own village. Everyone is like kid there. Just before Christmas the village area is full of tourists and locals who want to get their piece of winter fun but you can also visit outside of the Christmas season. They also offer husky ride or opportunity to meet real Santa’s reindeers. We can’t promise that Rudolph will be there, but other reindeers will keep you busy.
Huge Christmas markets are often seen more as middle European thing but that is not the case. The northern parts of Europe have at least as many charming small villages full of Christmas atmosphere. Although being the largest city of Estonia, Tallinn also has many Christmas markets and due to its northern location, Tallinn gets more snow than most of the cities with markets mentioned above. And even when there is no snow, the colorful buildings of the old town make sure that everyone has a good time. Like any other Christmas market, Tallinn has small wooden stalls, music, colorful lights, and beautiful decorations. It’s just not only the market areas but whole Old Town is light up to fit the atmosphere of a Christmas village.
The most important part of Tallinn’s Christmas is the Christmas tree standing on the Town Hall Square. There are events every evening and if you want to have more of the Christmas spirit, you can visit The Estonia Open Air Museum, which offers special Christmas programs with events, crafts, traditional foods, and a lot more.
Of course there are many more Christmas markets to visit all around Europe but as I cannot list them all, I tried to compile the best known ones and as Christmas is just around the corner, planning early is a good way to ensure a pleasant holiday vacation. Some of the destinations mentioned on this list are really popular and may sell out on advantage. But even last-minute bookers can plan Christmas visits with our list. You just have to pick out which magical village you want to visit and combine them according to your destinations.