Christmas is almost upon us! Whether you want to spend your Christmas in the deep snow of the polar north, or simply wrapped up warm in the Christmas spirit of a more temperate climate – we have you covered. We’ve rounded up the best Christmas destinations for you to visit; from cute villages to grand metropolises.
#1 Prague, Czech Republic
Prague gets its festive magic from the Christmas markets (Vanocni trh), which is one of the most impressive Christmas markets around. The market decorations are an amazing blend of lights, backdrops and snow, and it’s known to light up the whole city, and offer a real space for tourists to mix with the locals.
You can find the main markets in the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square – about 5 minutes apart from each other – but there are also smaller markets in Republic Square, Havel’s Market and in front of St. George’s Basilica. Make sure you try the excellent mulled wine on offer, and trdelnik, a local delicacy made of sweet-smelling pastry.
The markets also offer a dizzying array of hand crafted goods, including glassware, jewellery, embroidered lace, wooden toys, metal-ware, ceramics, scented candles, Christmas tree ornaments, hats, gloves, scares, puppets and dolls – any of which make the perfect gift to make your loved ones feel extra special on Christmas day.
#2 Berlin, Germany
The capital of Germany becomes an entirely different city during the winter months – as the rivers freeze over and the pavement seating gets packed away for the winter.
However, that’s not to say the outdoor scene has become any less lively. The Christmas markets come out in full force, offering more than just shopping – but rides as well! The Alexanderplatz and Potsdamer Platz offer amazing Christmas markets, complete with rides, whereas the Charlottenburg Palace offers a more regal tone.
If you fancy a quiet winter stroll, make sure you take a walk down the Unter den Linden Boulevard. 60 kilometers of fairy lights are needed to decorate the 220 lime trees that line the walk between the Brandenburg Gate and Humboldt University. Make sure you pack some thick layers – including your long johns – as the temperatures can drop well below freezing.
#3 Manchester, UK
Initially located in Albert Square, in front of the colossal Manchester Cathedral, Manchester Christmas Markets were the first – and some say the best – Christmas Markets in the country.
Manchester Christmas Markets now stretch further than simply Albert Square, winding its way through Manchester’s streets and squares. Offering up over 300 different stalls – which serve up food, drinks and finely crafted Christmas gifts – it’s no wonder the markets attract over nine million visitors each year.
#4 Krakow, Poland
If you’re looking to spend your Christmas immersed in culture and snow, you can look no further than Krakow. The seasonal street decorations, never-ending Christmas carols and a light white dusting of the numerous Gothic churches and Baroque palaces truly make Krakow a unique winter wonderland.
While you’re there, make sure you check out the szopki – which we translate to be Christmas cribs. They’re a unique Polish combination of a dollhouse, gingerbread house and a nativity scene. These miniatures are extremely vibrant and amazingly crafted – so much so that each year, one is selected to be a part of the Krakow History Museum.
#5 Rovaniemi, Finland
Not many know this – but Rovaniemi is the official hometown of Santa himself. However, Rovaniemi is not just for children – there is much more on offer here. Sleep in an igloo, go ice fishing or even try out a husky safari. Or you can let the family take part in the more extreme activities and you can enjoy the beautiful scenery from the warmth of a real fire in your hotel or accommodation.
Snow is plenty and reindeer are everywhere to be seen – adding to the festive joy of this winter wonderland. But the real winter wonder is in the sky – in the form of the Northern Lights – so keep your eyes peeled.
#6 Copenhagen, Denmark
Copenhagen becomes a completely different city in the winter, as the water surrounding this Nordic archipelago freezes over, and everyone grabs their ice skates. Head towards the heart of the town, towards the 19th century Tivoli amusement park, which becomes a romantic, yet slightly kitsch, Christmas delight – complete with enough Christmas lights to warm you to your core.
The Danish are famed for their sweet treats. Try warming yourself with one of their ultra-luxurious Danish hot chocolates – a cup of warmed, silky smooth melted chocolate. Make sure you don’t miss out on an aebleskiver either, a delicious pancake ball that’s filled with applesauce – traditionally only served during the Advent.
#7 Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Amsterdam’s famously cute gabled houses become snow covered and crisp in the winter months – but the wood-paneled cafes offer warming mugs of glühwein for you to sip beside the fire. The entire city lights up with festive cheer and while the city freezes over – make sure you pack thermals! – there are enough indoor activities to keep you occupied, as the city’s many museums remain open and ready to share some Dutch heritage with you.
Classical music performances resonate throughout the streets here, and ice skating is commonplace. Before you leave, make sure you head for the Amsterdam Light Festival to witness a stunning array of lights.
#8 Paris, France
During the winter months, the capital of France transforms from the City of Lights to the City of fairy lights, with enough lights to rival the Blackpool illuminations. Make sure you take a walk down the Champs-Elysées to see the Christmas lights lighting up the trees and, when you’ve reached the end, there’s an enormous ice rink to welcome you.
Wooden stalls make up the Parisian Christmas markets, offering you a chance to stay warm with hot chestnuts and mulled wine, as well as oysters, foie gras and yule logs. If you fancy staying a little warmer, make sure not to miss the Christmas shopping in the giant department stores Printemps and Galeries Lafayette.
#9 Salzburg, Austria
Salzburg’s Christmas market in Cathedral Square is over 500 years old – having first been established in 1491. Spending Christmas in Salzburg is truly an amazing experience, as the city’s fortress sits high above, covered in snow, and the Cathedral serves as a truly unique backdrop for the Christmas market. The air in Salzburg during Christmas smells of baked apples, incense and cotton candy, tempting you into trying the delicious treats on offer.
If you get the chance to go; make sure you check out the old custom of Perchten. This is an old Austrian custom where the locals dress up in frightening masks and costumes. Austrian folklore dictates that a demon brings in the New Year and the locals dress up to honour that – making it truly an experience not to miss.