The Perfect Guide to the 9 Best Christmas Cities in Europe

Europe is magical at Christmas time. Town squares come to life with Christmas markets, mulled wine, snow and hundreds of fairy lights.

If you have not visited the Europe at Christmas time is must be on your bucket list. You will never regret the decision to spend a Christmas in Europe.

There are many towns and cities to spend Christmas in Europe but here is a complete list of the best Christmas cities in Europe.

Pinterest Graphic for the Best Christmas Cities in Europe

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Best Christmas Cities in Germany

Berlin

Hannah, Get Lost Travel Blog

While there are lots of reasons to visit Berlin year-round, you can expect the most magical experience at Christmas.

The top thing to do in Berlin at Christmas is to soak up the atmosphere at the Christmas markets. They’re best enjoyed with a hot bratwurst or waffle and glühwein in hand! Browse the stalls and pick up unique souvenirs by local artisans. 

Berlin is also a great city for some last-minute Christmas shopping. KaDeWe (Kaufhaus Des Westens) department store has everything you might need under one roof from ornate Christmas decorations to Berlin fridge magnets!

Many of the top sights in Berlin are also much quieter than in the summer months. You can enjoy attractions such as the Brandenburg Gate, Berliner Fernsehturm, and Charlottenburg Palace with very few tourists.

For an early winter break without the crowds, visit Berlin during the last week in November. Most of the Christmas markets have started at this time, but tourists haven’t yet flooded the city. It is the ideal time to enjoy the Christmas atmosphere alongside the locals before the influx of festive visitors.

It is easy to get to Berlin. Many international flights arrive at Berlin Schönefeld Airport, which is a 40-minute taxi ride from the city centre. Alternatively, you can grab the S9 S-Bahn city train directly from the airport to Berlin in 45 minutes. If you’re already travelling within the continent, many international train services arrive at Berlin Central Station if you prefer a more scenic journey.

If you are looking for a comfortable hotel that won’t break the bank, you can’t go wrong with Park Plaza Wallstreet Berlin Mitte. It is located right in the center of the city, close to Museum Island, so you can reach all the top attractions in just a short walk. It is also close to the Alexanderplatz Christmas Market.

Cologne

Kat, World Wide Honeymoon

A wooden christmas market stall in front of colourful buildings

Christmas in Europe is a magical place in general. However, if you’re searching for several dreamy German Christmas markets each with its own personalities, treats, and decor, then a visit to Cologne for the Christmas markets is perfect. 

There are 7 main Christmas markets in Cologne and other smaller ones throughout the city to enjoy. Seriously, you turn a corner in downtown Cologne and you’ll happen upon another mystical market. 

One market that is always a favorite is the Alter Market or Heinzels Wintermaerchen. This gnome-themed market has it all: from gnome decor and even Christmas market mugs with a cheeky gnome on it to an ice rink where you can play ice stock curling! Just be sure to book a reservation in advance to play! This market is large with several food stands and even rides for the kiddos. 

A visit to the Village of Saint Nicholaus is a must, especially as the sun goes down to watch the light projections on the castle gate of Hahnentorburg. This chalet-themed market has a cozy feel and is lovely for walking around with a cup of mulled wine while listening to the music and watching the light display!

Heavenue is known as the gay Christmas market and they have everything from tasty food trucks to live music performances! And for a nautical-themed market, head to the Harbor Christmas market to see the giant wooden ship concession stand and taste some fried calamari! 

Of course, you can’t visit Cologne for Christmas and NOT see the Cologne Cathedral market! This is Cologne’s most iconic market with the towering cathedral in the background! There are over 150 stands selling anything from trinkets and ornaments to tasty German Christmas market treats. 

Plus, there is a giant tree in the middle and so many beautiful lights overhead that a stop here is necessary both in the morning when it is less crowded and in the evening to see it all lit up! 

There are some things to keep in mind while visiting the Cologne Christmas markets. Most notably, be sure to visit before Christmas as most markets close up shop around December 23. Also, to avoid crowds, going earlier in the day and mid-week helps, as well as going in late November/early December. 

While you could walk around to all of the markets, there is a train called the Cologne Christmas Market Express that stops at the Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market, Alter Market, Harbor Market, and Angel Market. It runs every 15 minutes starting from 10:15 am to 8:15 pm. 

Getting to Cologne is easy thanks to its nearby airport and the train station in the middle of town! And for a lovely stay in Cologne, the Hyatt Regency Cologne is just across the river from the Cologne Cathedral and has stunning views over the Rhine River and the cathedral itself! 

Cologne is definitely a dreamy place to spend Christmas in Europe!

Best Christmas Cities in Spain

Andalucía

Paulina, Paulina on the road

Christmas lights in Malaga, Spain

Christmas in Andalucia is nothing like other places. It is unique and different from anything you have experienced before. The Christmas season in Andalusia starts even later than in northern Europe and North America.

Christmas in Andalucia is unique because the season lasts for more than a month. You get to smell chestnuts roasting over the fire as November passes. It continues until the Three Kings arrive at local homes in January.

However, you will start to feel the kick-off of the Christmas season on Christmas Eve. The small shops and glammed-up commercial centers begin to decorate themselves at the beginning of December. The best thing is the Andalucian sweets, Christmas dinner with local delicacies, and family joy.

It is helpful to visit Andalucia to enjoy Christmas one month before the Eve. As the season lasts for over a month, you can enjoy all the traditions, regional food, and shops. Visiting in early December or the last week of November will allow you to explore the popular cities of Andalucia, among which the most famous Christmas celebrations happen in Malaga and Seville. If you get a chance, do not miss to explore the lights of Malaga and the Christmas market of Seville.

The best way to reach Andalucia is by taking a train from cities like Barcelona and Madrid. The trains from these cities drop passengers in Seville, Malaga, and Cordoba.

If you are celebrating Christmas in Andalucia, do not miss taking a picture with the traditional Christmas tree decoration. The decoration of Christmas trees in Andalucia has always been the Nativity Scene called Belen. A photograph with a tree decorated with little statues, rivers, houses, and animals can be your memory for the trip.

One of the best hotels to stay in Andalucia is Hotel Miramar. It has impressive customer ratings. If you’d rather stay out of Andalucia you will find plenty of places to stay in Malaga.

It would help if you go via personal car. You can travel to cities on one-day trips and explore most of Andalucian Christmas.  

Best Christmas Cities in Belgium

Bruges

Emma, Emma’s Roadmap

Christmas trees in the main square in Brugge, Belgium

Visiting Bruges around Christmas is a true pleasure. The city is magnificently decorated and you’re able to admire an enormous Christmas tree as well as countless cosy lights.

Every year, the city organizes a wonderful Christmas market from the end of November until the end of December where they sell all kinds of Christmas-themed food, crafts and gifts. This market is located on several major squares in the city and a must-see if you’re visiting around Christmas! 

In addition, you’ll also be able to enjoy a magnificent light show, called Wintergloed, where historical buildings all over the city are light up after dark. It’s also possible to go ice skating ecologically. Since a few years Bruges has replaced its traditional ice rink with artificial ice (and that’s necessary because it rarely freezes in Belgium in winter), which saves the environment lots of energy.

Bright blue lights lining the trees and the ground in Bruges

The best way to get to Bruges around Christmas is either by car or by train. The train station is a 10-minute walk from the historical center and you definitely don’t need a car to get around in Bruges! Although plenty of parking spots are available underground, it can get quite expensive to park your can for an extended time. There is also a direct connection by train from the airport of Zaventem to Bruges. Once arrived, you can either opt to go discover the city on foot or by bike!

Of course, besides the Christmas-themed attractions, there is a lot more to visit in this historical city. There’s a good reason why they call Bruges ‘Venice of the North’. Its many canals, medieval buildings and white swans create the most romantic atmosphere. So definitely look beyond the Christmas market and visit the rest of the city as well! 

If you’d like to stay the night, I recommend staying in B&B Canal Deluxe, but many other charming places can be found in the city for all budgets!

Best Christmas Cities in the Netherlands

Deventer

Cosette, KarsTravels

Christmas markets in Deventer

Deventer is a city in the Northeast of the Netherlands. On the weekend before Christmas, Deventer hosts the Dickens Festival each year, which is perfect to get into the Christmas spirit. On that weekend 950 actors and residents dress up as characters from a Dickens story.

The festival is held in the Bergkwartier area, the medieval part of Deventer. One weekend each year it’s a village from one of Dickens’ books. Every imaginable character is present: Scrooge, Oliver Twist and Queen Victoria. But also chimney sweeps, carol singers and orphans.

In the same weekend there are also 2 Christmas markets in Deventer. So after enjoying all the sketches, mimes, shows and songs, explore both Christmas markets. One is just outside the festival on the Brink, the other one is inside the Grote of Lebuinus church.

The festival is outdoors, so wear warm, comfortable clothes. Expect to wait one or two hours in line, to enter the single entrance to the festival. There’s no entrance fee. It can be cold and/or rainy, especially when having to wait that long. Also wear shoes which are suited to walk for a couple of hours.

The festival is reachable by car, bike and public transport. There are designated parking lots. The train station is nearby. A good place to stay overnight is Hotel Finch. Do book early, hotels tend to book up fast for the festival.

For photographing the Dickens Festival, expect it to be crowded. So taking pictures without others in it is nearly impossible

Best Christmas Cities in France

Colmar

Ingrid, Ingrid Zen Moments

Half timber houses in Colmar covered in Christmas lights

Colmar might be the most charming place to visit over Christmas, but also one of the most popular destinations in Alsace and France. This small colorful village is a stunning destination to visit throughout the year, but it turns even more magical once it puts on its Christmas magic decorations.

With a world-renowned Christmas Market torn out of fairy tale books, countless shows, and events organized throughout the month of December, a historic setting dating from the Middle Ages waiting to be discovered, and delicious food and wine locally produced, Colmar should make it on to your Christmas bucket list destinations.

Getting there is not hard no matter if you are traveling from France, Germany, or even Switzerland. Landing in Stuttgart or Zurich will place you roughly 2 hours away from the charming French village. If you plan a trip to Paris, you can take the speed train and be in Colmar in around 3 hours.

If you are looking for authentic accommodation that will set you steps away from the most important attractions in town, Hotel Le Marechal – Les Collectionneurs is the place you should go for. A small French boutique hotel luxuriously furnished with a terrace overlooking the canals. 

Paris

Lena, Salut From Paris

A view of the Notre Dame in Paris covered in snow

If you are visiting Paris in Winter, you definitely should not forget your winter coat and your umbrella! Especially not if you are traveling in December – it’s one of the wettest months of all!

One the bright side, this gives you even more reason to spend an excessive amount of time in the worlds most famous museum: The Louvre! It is no place to rush anyway – some say it would take 200 days to visit the Louvre if you’d admire each piece of art for 30 seconds! But even if it’s chilly outside, do take the time for a long stroll.

By the Louvre you find the beautiful Tuileries Garden. It’s one if the biggest gardens in Paris and was created by Catherine de Medici as her private domain. However, Paris luckily many indoor activities that are perfect for grey and cold winter days. Not far from the Louvre you can find shelter in one of the many the covered passages.

The most famous and arguable most beautiful is the Galerie Vivienne, a passage that is beautifully illuminated during Christmas by the way. If you are up for a break, stop by Danico. It’s an excellent Cocktail bar that made it on the Top 100 bars of the world list.

If you are visiting Paris during Christmas time, make sure to pass by the Galerie Lafayette. The beautiful art nouveau building with the magnificent glass dome is always worth a trip, but during the festive season, a giant Christmas tree is displayed right in the middle of the department store.

It’s a real highlight and everyone is curious of the theme – it changes every year! For the perfect Instagram photo take the stairs to the roof top of the Galerie Lafayette. The entrance is free and you are granted with a beautiful panoramic view over Paris, especially over the Opéra Garnier and the Eiffel Tower. 

While it’s very easy to find things to do in Paris, finding a good hotel can be a challenge. Hotel rooms in Paris are generally rather small, rarely come with air condition but are certainly taking a big chunk out of your travel budget. It’s almost impossible to find deals or special offers as there is basically no low season when it comes to Paris travel.

A good hotel is the Hotel Daunou Opéra. It’s perfectly located between the Louvre and the Opéra Garnier and great base for exploring Paris. If you are looking for something really special for your Christmas trip, I suggest you book a hotel with Eiffel Tower views.

Best Christmas Cities in England

Manchester

Helen, Helen on her holidays

A giant santa sitting on top of a large chair in the middle of Christmas markets in Manchester

Manchester in north west England is a fantastic place to visit at Christmas and is particularly good for avid shoppers.

From late November, Manchester’s Christmas markets are set up throughout the city centre, with the largest one in Albert Square, outside the town hall. You can also find markets along Market Street (Manchester’s main shopping street) and outside Manchester Cathedral, where there’s also an ice rink. The markets are conveniently close to Manchester’s excellent shopping, so you can enjoy

If you’re looking for something a little different, Manchester has you covered. At Hatch, a food and shopping market set in shipping containers off Oxford Road, they have a different magical winter theme every year.

Don’t miss the Vegan Christmas Market at Victoria Baths, a beautiful Edwardian former swimming pool, which also hosts Christmas movie screenings. Shoppers looking for unique gifts should check out the Craft and Design Centre in the Northern Quarter, where artists and makers sell their covetable pieces.

For fun and festive food and drink, head to Escape to Freight Island. Set in Manchester’s old Mayfield railway station, Winter Island is the UKs largest fully outdoor, heated winter wonderland with Christmassy food for every taste.

Another popular Manchester Christmas activity is a trip to Lightopia at Heaton Park. On the outskirts of Manchester yet easily accessible from the city centre by tram, the Lightopia light festival is great fun for everyone and offers lots of photography opportunities.

There have been lots of great hotel openings in Manchester recently. The Dakota Hotel is a particular favourite, with luxurious rooms, great food and a convenient location between Piccadilly Station, the lively Northern Quarter and buzzing Ancoats. 

London

Kerry, VeggTravel | Travel Inspiration, Ideas & Advice 

Christmas lights on Oxford Street in London

London is one of the best places to spend Christmas in Europe for several reasons. Firstly, the whole city is decorated beautifully with festive trimmings and decorations adorning the streets.

The iconic landmarks and attractions such as the London Bridge, light up the sky creating a majestic winter ambiance.

Covent Garden’s pretty cobbled streets are particularly enchanting and is home to London’s biggest Christmas tree.

Oxford Street, a famous shopping street in London has several enormous Christmas trees and the city is alive with people hunting for last minute Christmas gifts.

Be sure to check out Harrods, London’s famous elite shopping center as it has a whole floor dedicated to Christmas gifts and decorations. Tourists visit London just to shop at Harrods alone and be seen to walk the street with an exclusive Harrods carrier bag. 

Another major attraction in London at Christmas time is WinterWonderland. Christmas markets, fairground rides, stalls, an ice bar and even a circus are just a few of the surprises that await you in Winter Wonderland.

Entrance is free but it gets extremely busy, particularly at night and at weekends. So, get there early or on a week day if you want to avoid the crowds. You can also experience pop up Christmas markets and winter themed bars in the Southwark area of London, which is right next to the Tower bridge. 

London is also a hot spot for theatre lovers and Christmas time invites special performances and pantomimes. Head to the theatre district for a variety of captivating shows.
However you spend your time in London at Christmas, it will be truly magical.

Have you visited Europe in Christmas? Which do you think are the best Christmas cities in Europe?

Fiona xoxo

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Flights: To find the best flights I always search on Google Flights or Skyscanner. For even cheaper flights, fly mid week and pack in a carry on!

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Tours: While I prefer to travel independently, I do love doing some tours once I’m in a destination. It is a great way to find out history, hidden gems, taste local food and get a local insight into your destination. I always use Viator to book my tours.

Train Travel: If you are planning on taking the train in Europe, I cannot recommend the Eurail enough! Check out The Ultimate Guide to the Eurail Pass to find out why

Car Hire: Planning an epic road trip across the US or through Europe, or anywhere! Check out Europcar, they are my go to for car hire all over the world!

Luggage Storage: Some times when we are travelling our check in and check out times don’t match with our departure times so we have to put our luggage into storage. Stasher Luggage Storage is the biggest Luggage Storage Network across the UK, France and Germany

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