Top European Xmas Cities
Christmas in Europe is synonym with snow, time-honored traditions, Gothic churches with fabulous choirs, and charming medieval squares brought to life by colorful Xmas markets. Some cities celebrate the holidays in grand style, others with peculiar customs and yuletide nostalgia aplenty, and some of them are simply at their finest during this time of the year. Combining idyllic ancient architecture, fabulous festive fairs, and sweet winter scents that bring back childhood memories, a trip to one of these Christmas-perfect European cities will knock the Scrooge out of you. Here they are: the best European cities to visit for Christmas!
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague, the Gothic fairytale of Europe, celebrates Christmas with glam and grandeur, its breathtaking architecture providing a truly dramatic backdrop for sipping scented mulled wine and getting lost in the Christmas shopping frenzy. Winter in the Czech capital is crisp and chilly, but walking down its cobbled alleys that whisper about ghosts of a tumultuous past, along gorgeous Gothic buildings covered in fresh snow, is like stepping into a Christmas card.
Prague’s Christmas markets are among the most famous in Europe, providing an excellent opportunity to discover the traditions, cultural values, and delicious cuisine of this landlocked Central European country steeped in history. The biggest, oldest, and most impressive is the one set in the Old Town Square, at the foot of the Church of Our Lady before Týn. Nevertheless, those held in Wenceslas Square and Náměstí Míru are equally appealing. Everywhere you look, cheerful, beautifully decorated wooden huts jam-packed with festive goodies sell everything from craft gift items and beautiful Christmas tree ornaments to typical Czech delicacies such as spit-roasted hams or Trdelník, a traditional hot sugar-coated pastry. The entire scene is animated by music, lights, animal stables, and nativity scenes.
After filling your shopping bag with all sorts of glistening decorations, warm up with a hot mug of mulled wine and a spin on the ice skating rink, or attend one of the fabulous concerts that take place in the city’s remarkable churches and halls during Christmas. Really, is anyone still doubting that Prague is one of the best places to spend Christmas in Europe?
It’s hard to find a city that celebrates Christmas with such grace and elegance as Vienna. The sparkling, elegant Christmas markets, the legendary café culture, and the old-world charm on the streets give the city a magical appeal, while its imperial architecture, basked in twinkling lights, makes for a wonderful backdrop for a fun-filled winter break.
Indulge in glühwein, sausages, and freshly baked pastries at Vienna’s ubiquitous Christkindlmarkts; go ice skating on Rathausplatz; pay a visit to the Snow Globe Museum in the 17th District; and make sure you book a ticket at one of the legendary Christmas concerts which take place in the city’s sumptuous churches during this time of year. The most famous is Christmas in Vienna by the Vienna Boys Choir at Wiener Konzerthaus, but there’s a wealth of classical performances and chamber music events to choose from.
Where to Stay in Vienna
The Hotel Altstadt is a wonderful place, a refreshing source of Viennese joy of life, a refuge in which we can all relax among the beauties of the Austrian capital. It combines elegance, arts, design and lively atmosphere, all just in one place. Polished parquet floors, Belle Epoque antique furniture and en suite doors blend with the quirky creations of Annie Liebovits and Andy Warhol. In every room there is always a new concept and vision to discover. In short, a hotel that is captivating, artisanal, familiar and always so private.
Hotel Altstadt provides 61 rooms and suites and they are all different to each other: some lively and colorful, some calm and relaxing, others stylish and discreet. Each room is individually furnished and has its own design, ranging from a classic Viennese style to a contemporary modern touch.
Although the Hotel Altstadt does not have a restaurant, breakfast is exceptional as well. Enjoy it in the lounge with an array of buffet and menu items to choose from, including daily treats. During the afternoon tea, delicious cakes and baked pastries are offered to each guest. Hotel Altstadt is situated in a quiet area in the district of Spittelberg, in the 7th district of Vienna, definitely in the city centre, just 5-minute walk from the Museums Quartier and the famous Ringstraße.
Hotel Beethoven Vienna
Former brothel located in a district, at the time, infamous, Hotel Beethoven Vienna is now a charming boutique-hotel located in the heart of the cultural and nightlife of the Austrian capital, as well as in the lively and bohemian nest of the Naschmarkt, in a historical building dated of 1902, which has remained intact and original until today. At the Hotel Beethoven Vienna you wake up in design environments and with refined elegance. Through corridors with black damask walls illuminated with soft light you can reach the spacious and bright rooms, all renovated with love and furnished with taste and attention to detail, consistency and respect to the chosen theme, always linked to Viennese tradition and culture by the owner, Barbara Ludwig, originally from Vienna. And the soul of the Hotel Beethoven Vienna is undoubtedly Barbara, a true lover of design, fashion, art and all that is beauty.
Each floor of the hotel is dedicated to different themes like a personality of Vienna, an event, an era …6 floors, all different, with 47 different rooms, with styles ranging from Biedermeier to Art Nouveau, so beloved in Vienna. The 47 rooms absorb all the elegant and somewhat ironic charm of Vienna. They stand out among themselves and are thus able to satisfy the tastes of the every guests. Bright and recently renovated, all the rooms of Hotel Beethoven Vienna are equipped with every comfort with the aim to render any stay unforgettable. All the rooms on the sixth floor are inspired by personalities of Austrian history with combinations expressly conceived to guarantee originality, following the concept that these rooms express the essence of Vienna: a city to love, glitzy, original, often also a bit irreverent.
Worthy of note is the rich breakfast served in the mezzanine of the hotel with a very exclusive view of the Papageno gate of the Theater an der Wien, where Beethoven made his debut for the first time with his Fidelio. Guests can enjoy a beautiful outdoor patio, not only for breakfast. In the lounge of Hotel Beethoven Vienna, there are tea and coffee facilities 24 hours a day and close by the hotel, there are several restaurants and bars to suit all tastes and budgets.
Also known as Köln, Cologne is famous for its spectacular cathedral, a Gothic masterpiece that dominates the city in more than one way. From the end of November until New Year’s Eve, the largest city on the Rhine, which is also the birthplace of mulled wine, plays host to no less than 7 Christmas fairs, some of them uniquely themed, others authentic and steeped in tradition.
Regarded as some of the best Christmas markets in Germany, these winter attractions scattered all over Cologne are a wonderful opportunity to enter the magical atmosphere of Christmas and get familiar with the customs of this fascinating nation that gave birth to Christmas markets.
Home to the oldest Christmas market in France, a magnificent Gothic cathedral, and a charming UNESCO-listed Old Town, the quaint Alsatian city near the border with Germany is a fantastic destination for your winter trip. You’ll definitely love the delightful Marchés de Noël set up across Strasbourg’s historic plazas and the elaborate displays that adorn the city’s half-timbered houses each year.
In the shadow of its mighty cathedral, you’ll find nearly 300 traditional wooden stalls packed with lovely Christmas tree ornaments, eye-catching Nativity figurines, and heartwarming seasonal specialties such as roasted chestnuts, bredele cookies, or vin chaud (mulled wine). The atmosphere comes alive with carol singing, Nativity plays, and glistening ice-skating rinks that you would hardly resist the temptation to jump on.
During the winter holidays, Wroclaw, Poland’s 4th largest city, seduces visitors with a delightful Christmas market that dates back to the 16th century. The streets are adorned with bright decorations, the Old Town oozes energy and good vibes, and Christmas carols resound in the Rynek, a stunning candy-colored square whose Hungarian, German, and Italian influences evoke the city’s diversity.
Wroclaw was named the European Capital of Culture back in 2016, so expect to discover a city full of history and events, with a youthful vibe, unique architecture, and an impressive cultural life. Even so, tourists are fewer and prices cheaper than elsewhere in this list, which makes it one of the most enchanting Christmas destinations in Europe.
With a UNESCO-protected medieval Old Town that seems straight out of the pages of a children’s storybook, Tallinn is delightful throughout the year, but it is winter that gives it a unique character. The Town Hall Square (Raekoja Plats), with its pastel-hued facades, old-world street lamps, and small wooden huts teeming with artisan goods, is a magical scene during the holidays, as is the lofty Christmas tree, which glimmers against a backdrop of freshly snow powdered rooftops in the heart of it all. The atmospheric Estonian capital is, in fact, the city of the first public Christmas tree, erected in the Town Hall Square in 1441.
Tallinn’s Christmas Market is one of Europe’s most enchanting and authentic, a delightfully nostalgic cluster of lantern-draped stalls selling everything from woolly hats and hand-carved wooden ornaments to hearty Estonian food and drink. Further winter attractions include the outdoor ice-skating rink on Harju Street, the Christmas Village at the Estonian Open Air Museum, as well as a roster of quirky yuletide-themed events. Also, Tallinn is the homeland of marzipan, so if you have a sweet tooth, don’t miss the Kalev Marzipan Museum Room, where you can assemble your own delicious figurines. Add snowy skiing trails, steamy saunas, and a maze of pretty cobblestoned streets lined with cozy cafés and idiosyncratic boutiques, and you have the perfect Christmas city.
Christmas finds Copenhagen brimming with shining lights, festive spirit, and hyggelige cafés, where inventive design and legendary Danish coziness blend harmoniously to make your experience unique. Adorned with Christmas markets and tasteful decorations, the entire city radiates a special kind of atmosphere. But no other place in town is wrapped up in Christmas magic like the world-famous Tivoli Gardens. Each year, the second oldest amusement park on the planet is transformed into a winter wonderland with spectacular Christmas light displays, exciting rides, and sweet little stalls selling all kinds of gifts and traditional goods.
Complement your Christmas in Copenhagen with a stroll along the beautifully decorated waterfront district of Nyhavn; visit the quirky Christiania Christmas Market; or take part in the Royal Copenhagen’s Christmas table tradition, a 50-year-old event featuring six designer Christmas tables, each with its own story and significance.
Santa Claus Village
With its otherworldly frosty landscapes, brightly lit trees, and elaborate ice sculptures, there’s no doubt Rovaniemi is one of the best European cities for Christmas. And the fact that Santa Claus himself lives only 8 km away only adds to its magical allure.
In addition to the postcard-perfect pink-hued mornings and the vibrant Santa Claus Village, which is clearly the city’s main draw, Rovaniemi offers visitors an eclectic array of museums and an even greater choice of winter activities, think exciting reindeer and husky rides, snowmobile safaris, and spectacular Northern Lights tours.
There’s no better time to visit Nuremberg than during the Christmas season, when the city turns into a genuine winter fairytale. Home to one of the oldest and most spectacular Christmas markets in Germany, hence the world, this picturesque medieval town in Bavaria welcomes its visitors with an extravaganza of Christmas goods, traditions, and activities.
The lavishly decorated stalls peppered around the city’s medieval squares offer everything from lebkuchen (the famous local gingerbread), old-fashioned wooden Ferris wheels, and glühwein booths to high-quality handmade arts and crafts such as candle chimes and foil-winged angels. In addition to its fabled Christkindlesmarkt, Nuremberg has a long toy making tradition, and this can be best observed in the city’s Toy Museum.
Dazzling street illuminations, fabulous window displays, and tons of festive fun make London one of the best Christmas cities in Europe. It really couldn’t be otherwise! As the setting of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, the capital is brimming with stunning skating rinks, Victorian-themed events, and magical carol concerts that will melt any Grinch’s heart. Get into the holiday spirit at Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland; attend a memorable performance in glorious surroundings at St Paul’s Cathedral or the Royal Albert Hall; and pay a visit to the Kew Gardens in West London for lovely seasonal shopping, delicious treats, and some of the most spectacular Christmas lights you’ll ever see.
If Christmas shopping in London is your priority, you will be spoiled for choice in the city’s wonderfully creative fairs. The charming Christmas Market at Tate Modern is overflowing with handmade wooden toys, festooned gingerbread, and beautiful traditional decorations, while Hyper Japan at Tobacco Dock makes an excellent spot to buy unique, exotic gifts, feast on sushi and sake, and take part in all sorts of interesting workshops. If you’re more into one-off design goods, head to Mile End’s Ecology Pavilion, where over 50 artists display their unique homemade creations, from homeware and ceramics to art, clothing, and jewelry.
Where to Stay in London
The Athenauem Hotel & Residences
The Athenaeum Hotel & Residences is located in the post district of Mayfair and it is an exclusive family run five star hotel of London which boasts an elegant independent personality. The new look of this exciting property is by British agency Kinnersley Kent Design which perfectly combines the spirit of the area, from the spectacular architectural lobby and lounge with floor-to-ceiling windows that give the impact of being in Green Park that it is situated opposite.
The Athenaeum Hotel & Residences offers to its guests a captivating and elegant retreat close to Hyde Park, Piccadilly Circus, Regent Street, Buckingham Palace and all the facilities like boutiques, bars, restaurants, musuems and so on of Mayfair neighborhood. It offers 132 rooms, 12 suites, 18 residences and The Penthouse Suite which takes pride in its individuality. The Michelin brothers, Christ and Jeff Galvin overseen the food and beverage area of the hotel, from breakfast to afternoon tea, from lunch to dinner but also private dining experiences and last but not least the 24/7 In Room Dining.
All the guests can get benefit of Spa facilities and gym. The latter provides strength training equipment and cardio machines to name a few. There’s also relaxation areas within the REN Spa. Children are so welcome at The Athenaeum Hotel & Residences because there’s a Children’s Concierge and many of the fully-serviced residences were designed with families in mind. Last but not least the Living Wall is a captivating vertical garden that goes from the street level to the 10th floor Penthouse.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more adorable city in Europe than Bruges, with its fairytale-like canals, buildings that look like they’ve been made of gingerbread, and elegant horse-drawn carriages that clip-clop down the medieval cobblestone streets. Around Christmas, Grote Markt, the city’s main square, converts into a magical realm, trimmed with twinkling lights, a fabulous ice rink, and charming wooden chalets filled to the brim with souvenirs, festive ornaments, and divine Belgian chocolate.
December is also the month of Bruges’ Ice Sculpture Festival, one of Europe’s best winter events, which takes place each year in the square in front of the city’s train station and features marvelous works by international artists.
For a European Christmas vacation with a je ne sais quoi, head to the French capital, where mighty cathedrals resound with live carols, the smell of freshly baked croissants fills the air, and Christmas trees are as haute couture as the runaways. If there’s one place comparable to NYC at Christmastime, it’s Paris. The City of Light shines even brighter in December, when brilliant decorations and millions of sparkling bulbs deck out its elegant boulevards and iconic monuments at nightfall. Once again, the 400 trees along the Avenue des Champs-Elysées will be strung with glistening red lights by illustrious lighting designers, over-the-top displays will grace the windows of grand department stores like Galeries Lafayette and Printemps Haussmann, and seasonal Marchés de Noel of pretty wooden chalets will pop up across every single quartier.
If you’re visiting Paris for Christmas with the little ones, don’t forget about Disneyland; with dazzling holiday decorations, colorful Christmas parades, and merry encounters with Santa, this is a wonderful once-in-a-lifetime experience for the entire family! Add gleaming ice-skating rinks and 19th-century carousels, inviting chocolateries, and an overdose of winter shows, and you might just have the best city in Europe for Christmas with kids.
Where to Stay in Paris
The Hôtel Napoléon Paris is a fabulous boutique hotel with a wonderful view of the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe and with a beautiful love story to tell. The Hôtel Napoléon is a wedding gift made by Alexander Pavlovich Kliaguine to his beloved wife, married on 1920 and the hotel is still owned by the Kliaguine family. The Hôtel Napoléon finds a perfect balance between old-world grandeur and modern luxury and comfort. The most popular thing about this hotel is undoubtedly the location, as you are away from the hustle and bustle of the Champs Elysées, but enjoy an exceptional view of the Eiffel Tower as well as the Arc de Triomphe.
With 39 rooms and 57 suites, the Hôtel Napoléon Paris certainly has an intimate atmosphere. Each room is elegantly decorated with a neutral color palette that emulates the Art Deco period of the 1920s, with velvet curtains and French fabrics, but that looks at nowadays, thanks to the present of cutting-edge technologies. The decor of this charming hotel refers to one of the most opulent periods in France, that of the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. With its choice of cozy rooms, splendid suites or large communication rooms, the Hôtel Napoléon is perfect for everyone, for families, solo travelers or couples looking for an escape to Paris, a city renowned for its romance.
It is not so common for Paris hotels to have their own restaurant but in the case of Hôtel Napoléon Paris, Le Bivouac will surprise you. Le Bivouac, which is both Lounge Bar & Restaurant, offers traditional French cuisine inspired with local produce in season and chef Olivier Legentil offers a different menu each season. The Hôtel Napoléon is also focused to fitness and well-being. There’s a well-equipped gym available for all the guests that can get fit enjoying a gorgeous view over Paris. Furthermore, an exclusive selection of treatments and massages with the exclusive use of only natural products are proposed on the 7th floor, in a really urban oasis of calm and relax. For all those who are looking for a perfect place for a conference or a meeting, the hotel has meeting spaces for a total size of 400 square meters. Among these, 4 meetings rooms enjoy natural light and an outdoor patio for any kind of events.