Now we never need an excuse for a winter getaway. You know us. But when it comes to Christmas we simply can’t wait to dive into Europe and discover all its festive treats. We’re talking carol singing, festive food, mulled wine and some real magical moments.
Ready for all that and more?
So, whether you’re after a city with great Christmas market game or you want somewhere quaint and charming high up in the mountains, this list is for you. After all Europe is bursting with fabulously festive destinations. It would be rude of us not to share our favourites with you. So here goes.
Budapest won’t let you down if a festive spa weekend is your idea of heaven
Check at the door what you think you know about Budapest. Yes it was once the domain of rowdy stag weekends and skint backpackers, but it’s recently emerged as one of the best places for a winter getaway in Europe!
Fun fact. Budapest is spread out across two sides of the epic Danube river. Can you guess what each side is called? Buda and Pest, you got it!
Ok, sorry back to the festivities, we got side-tracked. Think charming markets selling all kinds of mouth-watering Hungarian delicacies, idyllic ice-skating rinks in pretty city parks and cosy ruin bars serving up hot spiced wine. That festive enough for you? But what really sets this city apart is its thermal spas. The entire city sits over an area of natural hot springs and you’ll find no fewer than nine bathhouses where you can enjoy a relaxing soak or treat yourself to a very affordable spa treatment. Pre-Christmas facial, anyone?
Have a holiday in Hallstatt if you fancy being dropped into a Christmas fairy tale
Now this is what Christmas is all about. Vienna might tick a load of Christmas boxes, but it’s the tiny town of Hallstatt 300km to the west which takes the trophy as the most festive location in Austria.
And why is that we hear you ask? Ok, here goes. Number 1: it’s as picture-perfect as mountain villages come – there’s a lake and everything. Number 2: check out the 16th century alpine chalets and cobblestone streets. Sweet. Number 3: a guaranteed dusting of snow awaits in this storybook destination. Nice.
Anything special at Christmas? We’re glad you asked. In the run up to Christmas, the romantic UNESCO World Heritage town sets up an awesome market where you can pick up moreish cinnamon-spiced cookies, mugs of mulled wine and bundles of traditional arts and crafts. Sounds pretty perfect! We’re assuming you’re sold, and you’ll meet us by the mulled wine?!
Bruges is the place if you want to gorge on chocolate
Now we’re not talking about your run-of-the-mill Christmas chocolate here. We’re talking melt-in-your-mouth Belgian truffles. The perfect excuse to indulge yourself at Christmas.
So, what else does Bruges have? Chocolate shops aside, Bruges is undeniably an incredibly picturesque place. Think strolls down canals lined with colourful townhouses. What about afternoons drinking hot chocolate in waffle houses? Bruges really is a shoe-in for a Christmas city break. Grote Market is the place to go for gifts galore, plus the city’s top tourist sights tend to look even more stunning in the snow (yes, it’s likely you’ll see some powder in December!).
Ready for some romance? It is Christmas after all! Bruges is one for the dreamy romantics amongst you. We’re talking lakeside walks, boat rides down the canals and feeding each other chocolate in that gooey way that couples do. And even if you’re not into romance, who can ignore the chocolate. Yes we’re back to chocolate, but you can’t blame us – it’s Christmas.
Get down to Lapland to meet the man himself
Yes, we’re talking the jolly guy in the big red suit. We don’t want to ruin the secret, but this is rumoured to be Santa’s hometown! Lapland is the original Winter Wonderland and an absolute must-see for hardcore Christmas fans.
Ready for the cold? You better be ready to pack some thermals to make it through a getaway in this Finnish locale as the average temperatures tend to be around -6˚C! That’s pretty cold, but nothing a seat on Santa’s lap or a hug from an elf won’t solve. And it’ll be well-worth the toe-biting chill for a chance to see reindeer up close and ride around on sleds pulled by huskies…
Christmassy activities up for grabs in Lapland include snowmobile safaris, sleigh rides, hanging out with elves in igloos and – the pièce de resistance – an audience with Santa Claus himself!
Cologne is king if you can’t resist a Christmas market (and really, who can?)
You really can’t argue with a German Christmas market. They’re arguably the best in the world and definitely need to be experienced at least once! And really, who wants to argue about Christmas?
So, what are we talking? Festive and fun? Traditional and charming? All that and more. And Cologne really takes the crown. That’s mostly down to its epic Cathedral X-Mas Market which is home to over 150 wooden stalls selling handmade gifts, regional delicacies and cups of eggnog which’ll definitely put some colour back into your cheeks. Germans don’t do things by halves at this time of year!
Other markets in Cologne worth checking out include the magical Angel’s Market in the Old Town and the colourful LGBT market located on the very appropriately named Christmas Avenue.
Make your way to Malta if you want a pre-Christmas glow,
For you is the best Christmas present of all some vitamin D? We hear you, and have we got the spot for you! There are a few places in Europe where it’s still possible to soak up some rays in December. And balmy Malta in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea is one of those spots. So, how hot are we talking? How about temperatures which can reach as high as 22˚C? Sounds good, right?
And as well as sunshine and sea, there’s the Maltese Christmas experience to get involved in. There’ll be markets popping up across the country and the streets of Valletta will be illuminated with twinkling lights from late November onwards.
And this wouldn’t be a Christmas experience without a nativity would it? If you’re holidaying in Gozo, the village of Ghajnsielem usually sets up a live nativity scene with over 150 actors playing figures from the traditional Christmas story! Now that’s what we call festive!
Fancy turning your festive break into a winter road trip? There’s plenty of gorgeous destinations you can drive to within hours of Europe’s largest cities – think dreamy chateau escapes in France and enchanting lakeside retreats in Germany.
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