It’s the holiday season and some of us just want to get away. For me, it’s always Europe. I’m not one for sandy beaches and balmy weather. I’d rather spend my time enjoying the holiday ambience in Europe. If you like snow, skiing, and winter wonderlands, then here are a few European destinations that will fill you with the holiday spirit.
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is one of the prettiest places in December. The perfectly preserved ancient buildings and fairy tale streets make it a magical experience. Visit the Christmas markets and inhale the rich cinnamon aroma, try some mulled wine, and pick up some souvenirs and ornaments. During the day, visit the Prague Castle or enjoy a private skiing tour that takes you to the largest ski area in the Krušné Mountains. At InterSkiregion Klínovec-Fichtelberg it’s possible to ski both in the Czech Republic and in Germany.
Berlin’s is a pulsating metropolis, but come Christmas time, it’s magical and enchanting. Some of the best attractions are within easy walking distance of the biggest Christmas markets, and by planning in advance you’ll be able to ensure you don’t miss out on the sights while you’re enjoying Berlin’s special festive atmosphere. Here are a few must see Christmas sights, Deutscher Dom church, French cathedral and Konzerthaus concert hall in the central district of Mitte.
Old town charm in Spandau – Berlin
It is no longer an insider tip, but it is still one of Berlin’s most attractive Christmas markets: the traditional Christmas market in Spandau’s old town. Some 250 traders sell food and handicrafts from four continents on the historic roads. Here you can find everything from Scandinavian flame smoked salmon to Ukrainian Christmas tree decorations, as well as the obligatory mulled wine.
Zermatt is a tiny village tucked in the Alps on the south side of Switzerland. White mountains, snowy forests and festive lights turn your Zermatt vacation into a real Christmas fairytale. Zermatt is best known for boasting a perfect view of the Matterhorn. Zermatt is a vehicle free, pedestrian village only, so you’ll either be walking everywhere, or you can hop on an electro taxi.
The clean air, quiet surroundings, and gorgeous holiday decor will fill your heart with holiday joy. For impressive panoramic views board the cogwheel train in Zermatt and ride to Gornergrat. The ride takes about half an hour. It starts at an altitude of 1605 m and ends at 3090 m on the Gornergrat ridge. There are four stops along the way for photos and hiking starter points. There are lots of places to ski, charming churches to visit, and festive places to dine.
Lapland covers the region of northern Europe and includes parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Kola Peninsula of Russia. Everyone knows that Santa Claus is from Rovaniemi in Finnish Lapland. Here’s your chance to visit him and his elves. Swing by the Santa Claus Holiday Village and take a picture with him and maybe even discuss whether you’ve been naughty or nice. This is also your opportunity to send a Christmas gift to a special person from Santa’s office.
The second best thing to do is see and experience the Aurora Borealis. A journey to the Arctic Circle is never complete without watching the Northern Lights, especially when there is no daylight in winter. The warm and glowing lights will mesmerize you as they dance in the sky for our entertainment. They’re considered as a symbol of Lapland. Go with friends, or you have the option of taking an Aurora Borealis tour.
Thanks to its moderate climate in December, a spectacular variety of heritage architecture which includes Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque buildings, and rich traditions that enliven the festive season, Krakow may well aspire to be the prettiest White Christmas location.
The Christmas market in Krakow is a regular feature of the city’s festive season. It takes place in Rynek Glowny central square, amid the Old Town historic district. Christmas trees glitter, decorations fill windows, carols resound, there’s folk dancing, treats galore, and gifts are aplenty. Traditionally the Christmas Market starts in the last week of November and lasts through December 26th at least. Sometimes the organizers venture to prolong the Xmas market to January 6th, the Epiphany festival. Thus the festive shopping event may somewhat extend Christmastime in Krakow, Poland. The Yuletide officially begins on December 24th and continues till February 2nd. Just a heads up, all shops are closed on Dec 25 and 26, so get your daily necessities in advance.
Salzburg is by far one of my very favorite cities in Europe. I love it! It’s one of the most romantic cities in Austria, but it’s even more enchanting and captivating in December. The peeling of countless church bells reminds us that Christmas is near, and the Salzburg Christmas markets will fill you with warmth as you look out to the city’s snow-covered roofs, domes and towers.
Salzburg’s Christmas Market, mentioned as far back as the 15th century, is located at the foot of the Hohensalzburg fortress and around the venerable Cathedral of Salzburg. An extensive program of events such as choral singing in front of the cathedral, “Turmblasen” (wind instruments) on Residenz Square and nativity exhibits in the Residenz courtyard await you.
It is the season for a romantic walk across the city’s hilltops, affording a breathtaking view of the city. After descending back down to town, the merry bustle of the Salzburg Christmas market on Marabell Square touches all. The smell of punch and toasted almonds, hot roasted chestnuts and freshly baked apples envelopes your nose, and the vendors’ gingerbread hearts, nativity figures, Christmas tree ornaments, toys and snug knitwear are irresistible.
Not far from the city of Salzburg you will find the beautiful Lake Wolfgang. The peaceful glow of lanterns across the water draws guests from near and far to the Wolfgangseer Advent. There is a joyful anticipation of Christmas and visitors are able to experience fascinating customs still in practice today. Take, for example, the Advent candles that light up St. Gilgen from 4pm onwards, or the special festive boat trips that take you to St. Wolfgang.
If you’re looking for an enchanting Christmas holiday, then venturing out to Europe may be just the ticket. Enjoying different cultures and traditions expands our appreciation and life experience and also broadens our minds.