Best destinations to celebrate Christmas in Europe on a budget
Christmas in Europe is traditionally celebrated on 24th of December. A few weeks before, the streets of the main European cities are highlighted with Christmas lights and magic decorations. Traditional Christmas markets are open everywhere and a festive holiday atmosphere comes to the cities. For sure, at this time there are many places in Europe to spend a perfect Christmas holiday. We created the list of travel destinations to spend perfect Christmas holidays in December 2019 according to your interests. Whether you are a snowy winter lover or you prefer to spend a weekend on the sunny seaside, here you can find the best recommendations about the places to travel in and have a great time this winter.
Perhaps, Strasbourg is one of the most popular and classical Christmas destinations in Europe. This city is even called The Capital Of Christmas. Every year a lot of tourists come to Strasbourg to enjoy incredible Christmas decorations, take a walk into snowy winter streets, to try famous hot bears and raclette and buy souvenirs. Regardless of a lot of tourists from all over the world, Strasbourg is still a place really worth to visit. To spend the greatest time in this city, follow some recommendations:
- Don't come to Strasbourg right on the Christmas evening. Last year I visited Alsace Region on 24th and 25th of December and was very disappointed. In fact, at this time all the places of interest are closed for holidays and it will be even difficult to find a restaurant to have a dinner. Christmas market also doesn't work on the 24th of December. So on these dates you can find yourself in empty streets where even food shops owners closed the doors to spend time with their families.
- Discover the best things to do in Strasbourg before your trip and make the planning of your activities and excursions.
- Also, book restaurants and hotels in advance. It may seem evident but it is worthy to mention that the best restaurants and accommodation sights in Strasbourg are sold out in months before the Christmas season.
The largest and oldest Christmas market in France is held in Strasbourg. The history of this market - Christkindelsmärik - began in 1570. In addition to the traditional Christkindelsmärik, several specialized fairs are also held in Strasbourg: Marché des Saveurs Alsaciennes (Market of Aromas of Alsace) at Place des Meuniers, Comptoir des Rois Mages (Market of the Magi) at Place Benjamin-Zix, and Marché des Bredle (market where they are sold Bradley - traditional cakes from Alsace) at Place d'Austerlitz. Start exploring the city by visiting one of them. Visit the traditional Christmas Market, drink a glass of hot wine there and try local street food.
You will not believe it, but the Christmas tree in Strasbourg is already installed in early November! Installation takes about two weeks. A giant Christmas tree with a height of more than 26 meters is set on the corner of Kleber Square. Such a large tree can only be found in the forests of the Saverne.
The Christmas tree in Strasbourg is one of the most beautiful in Europe. It is decorated with garlands of 11,000 light bulbs and about 300 Christmas tree decorations flaunt on the branches. Each of the balls weighs about 3-4 kilograms. Well, it is easy to calculate that the total weight of the Christmas tree is 6,000 tons.
Discover the wonders of the Christmas Market in Strasbourg with Strasbourg Christmas Market tour. Experience with a professional guide the incredible holiday spirit, shop traditional Alsace gifts and taste local specialties. The price of the tour is €15.
In the Catholic Czech Republic, Christmas is one of the main holidays. In Czech, Christmas is called Vánoce. Residents of the country celebrate it with sincere enthusiasm. Czechs like a lot Christmas holiday surprises and keep the ancient traditions.
On the first day of Advent (4th Sunday before Christmas), Christmas markets open in all the main squares of Prague. Here you can not only choose an original gift but also have a lot of fun. Christmas markets sell traditional Czech souvenirs, handmade products from wood, glass, straw, ceramics, toys, Christmas decorations. During Christmas, Czechs eat a lot of traditional sweets.
Tsukrovi (cukroví) - a traditional Christmas Czech treat. These are small cookies that melt in your mouth. Crispy biscuits or “wasp nests” with cream and chocolate are an important part of the Czech Christmas table.
Vanochni štola (Vánoční štola) is similar to the German "adit", a cupcake with lemon zest, raisins, candied fruits, and almonds.
Painted honey cakes are a symbol of Christmas in the Czech Republic. They are baked a few days before the holiday, as they should become softer, get a special unique taste.
The largest and most beautiful Christmas tree is set on Old Town Square. Fairs are open from 10:00 to 22:00, drinks are served until midnight. Venues for Christmas fairs in Prague: Old Town Square, Wenceslas Square, Peace Square, Republic Square, Tylov Square.
The first Christmas markets in Frankfurt were open in 1393. The best goods from the region were brought here, such as traditional wooden toys, sweets, Christmas gifts. Up until the 70-80s. 19th century, the tradition of all the parents of the city was to buy a toy for their child at the Christmas market.
Nowadays, the traditional Frankfurt Christmas market on Römerberg Square is still one of the largest and most beautiful in Germany. Every year it gathers more than 200 participants and about 3 million visitors. Here you can taste the traditional mulled wine and the “Feuerzangbule” punch, grilled sausages, chestnuts, gingerbread cookies and almonds. As well as local Christmas dishes - special Christmas gingerbread cookies (Brenten) and marzipan cookies with almonds (Bethmannchen and Quetschemannchen).
London is far from being a cheap travel destination. However, during the Christmas time everybody can find activities on his budget. By the way, in December this is one of the most beautifully decorated cities in Europe. The government spends a big budget to create an incredible magic atmosphere in the streets of the English capital.
Every year since 1946 the royal family of Norway sends to England decorations for the main square of the city - Trafalgar Square. A 20-meter-high Christmas tree from Oslo illuminates the city with thousands of lights on the last day of November or the first day of December.
On Christmas and New Year's Day, this truly royal vacation spot opens in London which is called Winter Wonderland. Here you can find shopping, ice skating, and Christmas fireworks, as well as great circus performances. Guests of the city and its residents do not need to pay money for entrance to Hyde Park, but the rides are not free. Double-Decker Carousel is a two-story carousel sparkling with Christmas lights. And Santa’s Factory is a really magic New Year's adventure which makes toys for children (you can immediately buy the one you liked).
Magical Ice Kingdom
This is a magic kingdom of ice, consisting of huge ice fairy tales sculptures. Here you will get an impressive walk through the kingdom of ice and snow in the Secret Forest. A walk through the Forest takes around 30 minutes.
A month before Christmas, numerous Christmas markets are open in Vienna. You can not only buy gifts there, but also feel the magical atmosphere of the holiday and celebration. The romantic Christmas village on the University of Vienna campus is also a favorite meeting place at Christmas, especially for students. There is a children's railway and a carousel, so this place is very popular among families. In addition, there are two spots for ice skating.
Town Hall Square
At the entrance to the Town Hall Square, visitors are greeted by a candle-decorated arch several meters high. There is also situated a traditional Christmas market, which has about 150 stalls. You can buy there gifts, Christmas tree decorations, crafts, culinary delicacies, sweets and warming drinks. Also, visitors can skate on a large ice rink with an area of more than 3,000 m². Children's activities include a carousel, a reindeer team and fabulous lighting in the park.
Festival of light
I'll start with Amsterdam's main Christmas attraction: The Amsterdam Light Festival. Thousands of light bulbs and LEDs will be installed on bridges, on water in canals, along promenades. You can enjoy them both from land and from water, if you book an evening boat trip along the canals. Illumination will be on every evening from November 28, 2019 to January 19, 2020.
Christmas markets are an important and very attractive part of pre-holiday Europe. In Amsterdam, they are for every taste and budget. You will find there the Scandinavian and Finnish Christmas markets, a market with bio products, funky goods, an evening market with artists and dances, a market with workshops and a special program for children, as well as charity markets.
What to visit in Amsterdam during the holidays?
Start with Museum Square, which houses the Reichmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, and the Museum of Modern Art. In the central square of Dam you will find the Royal Palace, and not far from it is the famous Madame Tussauds. Rembrandt Square is also interesting and worthy to visit. Here you can see the sculptural composition "Night Watch" with the legendary artist in the center. Also, be sure to visit the famous Red Light District.
Every year, Christmas markets open their doors in Budapest. Usually they start working in the middle or end of November. Some of them close on December 25, but most often they work until January 1. If you want to walk around all the Christmas markets and see New Year's Budapest in all its glory, then the perfect time for visiting the capital of Hungary is the end of November and December.
Budapest Christmas Fair
The main Christmas market in Budapest for Christmas 2019-2020 takes place on Vörösmarty tér. The most important performance is organized on Christmas Eve. Karácsonyi vásár Fair (in English its name sounds like the Budapest Christmas Fair) in 2019 will open on November 8 and it will be open until January 1, 2020. In fact, this fair is in the TOP 10 of the most beautiful Christmas markets in Europe. If you arrive in Budapest on Christmas Eve, be sure to visit Vörösmarty tér.
By the way, the city of Budapest has replaced a live Christmas tree with an artificial one since 2018.
Fair at Ferenc Deak Square
Another bazaar is a couple of minutes walk from the main Christmas market. Here you can buy a souvenir, Christmas decoration or a treat, there is also a couple of attractions for children. From mid-November to December, a winter festival takes place at this place. An extensive festive program was prepared for its guests, both for children and adults.
Fair at the Basilica of St. Stephen
In my opinion, this is the second most important Christmas market in Budapest after the market on Wörösmarty Square. In 2019, it works from November 22 to January 1, 2020. Approximately 80 fairy houses can buy souvenirs, gifts, clothes and accessories, as well as sweets, alcohol and snacks. One of the features of the Christmas market at the Basilica 2019 - 2020 is the light-musical 3D show. They are shown on the facade of the main temple of Budapest every half hour after dark.
Christmas Dinner Cruise
See the sights of Budapest in their festive lights on a 3-hour Christmas Eve dinner cruise down the River Danube. Watch a live piano battle show as you take in the sights. Feast from a 4-course fine dining menu, and enjoy live entertainment along the way.
During the cruise you will pass under the Elizabeth Bridge on the Pest side of the city. Than, travel towards Margaret Bridge, before the boat turns around and cruises to the last bridge in the city. Marvel at monuments, such as the National Theater and Palace of Arts. Relax as the boat turns around once more and cruises back to the starting point. Enjoy a complimentary Szamos Marcipán dessert during the cruise, and feast from a 4-course fine dining menu.
Frequently Asked Questions about best destinations to celebrate Christmas in Europe
What is the warmest country to celebrate Christmas in Europe?
South of France is a great place to visit during the Christmas holidays in 2019. It is rarely snowing here and the temperature never goes below zero, so you can enjoy a comfortable winter Mediterean weather. In December Nice is decorated with billions of lights and a Christmas market is open. Aslo, a big Wheel is installed in the city center on the Place Massena. From this wheel you can enjoy a great view of the whole Nice, including the Promenade, seaside and Old Port. To learn more about Christmas time in Nice check The best things to do at Christmas in Nice.
Also, Italian Sicily is a popular destination for a sunny Christmas holiday. This island is located in southern Italy in the Mediterranean Sea. During the day, the average air temperature in Sicily is 14.0 ° C and water is 15.0 ° C.
Where to go to in Europe to celebrate Christmas with a snow?
Classic snowy destinations for Christmas are Finland and Norway. There you can see the real Santa Claus and enjoy the northern lights. However, these are not the most budgetary countries and there are excellent alternatives for them.
Medieval Tallinn turns into a white fairy tale in winter. Its cobbled streets and red roofs are covered with snow, and the restaurants offer delicious dishes of national Estonian cuisine. The Christmas market in Tallinn opens in late November and is open until early January. The current dates of the fair, as well as the schedule of events can be found on the official Talinn Christmas markets website.
Near the Carpathian mountains, on the banks of the Danube River, in a stunningly beautiful place is located Bratislava, one of the oldest cities in Europe. The ruins of Devin Castle, Bratislava Castle, towers, palaces, bridges, the Danube, the Carpathian Mountains - all this creates its unique atmosphere. Bratislava is a great city to celebrate Christmas, take a walk along the snowy streets and experience medieval romance.
Arriving in Krakow for Christmas holidays, visit first of all the very heart of the old city - the fair on the main square RynekGłówny. Feel the delicious smells of street food, the sounds of carols, enjoy the festive decorations. The Christmas Fair begins in Krakow in early December and lasts until January 6th. In addition to the main square, you can also visit the Christmas markets at Mały Rynek and near Galeria Krakowska.
What is the cheapest city in Europe to celebrate Christmas?
In Europe there are many cities that offer wonderful attractions and decorations during the Christmas holidays. My favorite city to travel on a budget in December is Sinaia in Romania. The small beautiful mountain resort has a lot of wonderful things to offer to its visitors. Here you can go to the mountains, do winter sports, visit one of the most beautiful castles in Europe and have fun at the Christmas markets. In addition, in my personal opinion, Romanian cuisine is one of the most delicious in the world. In addition, according to my personal taste, Romanian cuisine is very tasty and warms perfectly in the winter season.
Where to stay during the Christmas holidays in Europe?
In Europe there are a huge number of accommodation options for any budget. The most popular are hostels, B&B hotels and rooms in private apartments. On average, prices for such accommodation will cost you from 30 € to 50 €. If you agree to share the room with other guests, you can choose to stay in a student hostel. In such a way the price may start from 15 € per night.