There’s no place in the world where the magic of Christmas is more prevalent than in Europe. Awash with choices for every kind of traveler from charming towns, to enamoring mountainside villages, to glitzy cities, Christmas really brings out the best in Europe. If you’re looking to spend a memorable Christmas this year, here are a few of our favorite choices.
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The Best Places to Visit in Europe During Christmas Time
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Dubbed the hometown of Santa Claus, Christmas doesn’t get more authentic or momentous than this Nordic getaway. The star of Rovaniemi is the Santa Claus Village where you can not only cross the Arctic Circle but meet Santa Claus any day of the year. Enjoy husky and reindeer rides (the flying kind are strictly reserved for Santa unfortunately), take in the beauty of Lapland on snowmobile tours, relish a romantic night or two in an igloo hotel, savor rugged but delicious Lappish cuisine, catch the unique Northern lights and don’t forget to send holiday greetings and gifts back home from Santa Claus’ Main Post Office.
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There’s a good reason why Zagreb’s annual Advent event was voted best 'Christmas Market in Europe' three times in a row. With twinkling lights, festive displays, mouthwatering food, drinks, live music, ice skating, and more, the city simply comes alive during Christmas time. Head to Ban Jelačić Square where all the action and Christmas magic is at. Follow that up with a visit to Zrinjevac where wooden cabins make for a rather charming Christmas set up. Shop, eat local specialties, and drink mulled wine to your heart’s content. Enjoy the cultural events and ice skating at Tomislavac Square and last but not least, don’t miss 'Fuliranje', one of Zagreb’s best Christmas markets with exceptional music, food and entertainment.
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Bern makes for a picture-perfect Christmas with its snowy mountain peaks, twinkling golden lights, and the quaint Old Town, which usually gets a coating of snow in the winter. With delightful Christmas markets, boutique stores, lovely little cafes, and pedestrian only streets that are perfect for lazy strolls, this 800 year old city has it all. Those with a passion for adventure can also head to the many nearby ski resorts for some winter fun including skiing, tobogganing and snowboarding. You can also gasp at Karl Neuhaus’s ice palaces, some of which are 49 feet high, not too far from Bern.
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Amsterdam is beautiful at any time of the year but the Dutch really know how to step it up when it comes to Christmas. Grab a bike and cycle around like a local, taking in all the wonderful lights, art installations and decorations. Visit the quirky Amsterdam Light Festival which is truly one of a kind. Of course, there is no dearth of Christmas markets where you can shop, drink, and enjoy 'Olieballen' and 'Appelbeignets', traditional Dutch deep fried sweets, to your heart’s content. Leidesplein and Museumplein also flaunt two beautiful ice-skating rinks that add to the festive spirit.
Another way to see the city is by taking a boat cruise across its many quaint canals. When you’re ready to move on from Amsterdam, take a short train ride to nearby Leiden to experience the 'Floating Christmas Market' in all its glory.
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Vienna is a crowd favorite Christmas destination and for good reason. Not only is it one of Europe’s most beautiful capitals but the people here also take Christmas rather seriously. Experience world-class music at the iconic St. Stephen’s Cathedral complete with the works of Mozart, Bach, and Haydn. Enjoy the famous Christmas markets at Rathaus and Schonbrunn Palace and for a quieter affair head to the newer market at Belvedere Palace. Practice your ice skating skills across the many ice rinks set up all over the city, especially in front of the Wilhelminenberg Palace and the Rathaus which hosts the 'Ice Dream' event. Last but not least, load up on plenty of Weihnachtspunsch, the local Christmas punch, to really get into the festive spirit.
Gran Canaria, Spain
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The beauty of Europe is that a sunny Christmas is just a short flight away if you're tired of the cold. With stunning beaches, exquisite restaurants, ideal temperatures, outdoor concerts, and a lively atmosphere, Gran Canaria is the perfect warm Christmas getaway. Don’t miss the Belén de Arena at Las Canteras beach, a one-of-a-kind exhibition of massive biblical sculptures that are made entirely out of sand. Enjoy local seafood delicacies like cherne, lapas, and langostinas. If seafood isn’t quite your cup of tea, try Canarian specialties like rabbit and baby goat meat. Music lovers will enjoy the local village troupes who come together to sing carols and Ranchos de Pascau. If you really want to prolong the festivities, stick around for New Year and The Three King’s Day on January 6th. If you’re looking for a whole lot of Christmas minus all the stress, Gran Canaria is the answer.
Europe is the perfect place to experience all that Christmas has to offer. Choose your ideal Christmas destination and get ready for a wholesome, memorable experience like no other.