The 12 best European cities to experience a magical Christmas
The 12 best European cities to experience a magical Christmas
Imagine any Christmas movie you've seen: half-timbered huts, thousand-colored lights that adorn every corner, alpine landscapes full of snow-covered fir trees, frozen lakes, busy markets where you can taste mulled wine and spiced bread ...
Europe, during the Advent holidays, is a magical spectacle incomparable to any other time of the year!
We propose 12 destinations where the Christmas tradition is more present than ever. This winter, don't stay home!
1. Alsace, the oldest Christmas market in the world
In the smallest region of France, Alsace, is where the tradition of the Christmas markets is most exciting and real. The Strasbourg Christmas market is considered the oldest in Europe, a tradition celebrated since 1570. With a reputation that positions it as one of the great European markets, the city of Strasbourg is considered the capital of Christmas. In addition, it is home to one of the most charming neighborhoods in France, La Petite France, with half-timbered houses surrounded by beautiful canals.
If you can imagine a Christmas village with typical Alsatian houses and a magical atmosphere, this is Colmar. The population is so involved in the Christmas festivities that in this small town houses, shops, restaurants, trees and banks are decorated. Complete your tour with the typical villages of Mulhouse, Obernai and Riquewihr. A trip where you will feel part of the landscape of a crystal ball!
2. Berlin, Christmas romance
The modernity of the most urban and well-known Berlin goes unnoticed when the advent festivities arrive in the city. At Christmas, its emblematic points are flooded with light and color, showing its most endearing part. The Christmas markets transform it into a postcard and fill its streets with tradition, gastronomy, culture and leisure. Among the most famous markets in the city is the Winterwelt or "winter dream", located on the famous Potsdamer Platz and one of the favorites of Berliners. This market is also known as the "wonderland", can you imagine why? You will also enjoy cozy and at the same time busy markets at Alexanderplatz, with typical wooden booths, or at Gendarmennmarkt, where you can buy typical handicrafts.
Take advantage of your trip to discover the history that the city hides, the famous neighborhood of San Nicolau, the Berlin Cathedral, the Avenue of the Kaisers and, of course, the Berlin Wall. In addition, very close by is Potsdam, a city steeped in history with one of the best-preserved baroque squares in Europe and the most endearing Christmas markets. A getaway that mixes history, culture and Christmas magic in equal measure.
3. Krakow, a journey full of history
You can breathe a unique atmosphere through the beautiful streets of Krakow, a mixture of history and architecture. At Christmas it transforms into a beautiful winter landscape characterized by cribs (pesebres) or szopcka and colorful decorations. You will smell the mulled wine long before reaching the well-known market square, where you will be mesmerized by the colored lights of its trees and by the beauty of the Gothic Cathedral of Santa Maria. Even the horse carriages that wait for tourists at one end of the square are decorated on these dates.
Even so, his great interest remains latent in the imprint of his history. You will have the opportunity to visit the former Nazi extermination concentration camp at Auschwitz, or Oscar Schindler's factory that explains the history of the salvation of more than a thousand Jews by a German merchant. You can complete your getaway by visiting the Wieliczka Salt Mines, unique in the world and declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
4. Nuremberg, the oldest markets in Europe
The Nuremberg Christmas Market is one of the most famous and visited in Germany. Located in the main market square, it has more than 180 wooden stalls that compete for the most beautiful decorations. Here we can find gingerbread, fruit, nativity scenes, Christmas trees, candles and other crafts, as well as the essential German sausages and spiced mulled wine.
Walking through the city we will discover the exterior of its walls, the San Johannis cemetery and the esplanades where the Nazi party congresses were convened. In the medieval quarter, its imperial castle, the church of San Lorenzo and that of San Sebald or the Rathaus stand out. Nearby we find an obligatory stop, a fairytale village called Rothenburg ob der Tauber that seems to have come out of the Hansel and Gretel story with its thousand-colored half-timbered houses.
5. Amsterdam, the Festival of Light
The capital of the Netherlands is one of the most visited cities in Europe all year round. During the month of December its charm multiplies, hosting the Festival of Light. Its well-known channels are illuminated by the hand of the best international light artists, offering a spectacle of incomparable color, works that in some cases are part of a permanent collection that travels around the world.
It is a good opportunity to discover the most popular neighborhoods of the capital, its emblematic buildings and its architecture. Highlights include the Museum Square, where an ice rink is installed in winter, the Riijksmuseumn and its gallery of honor and Dam Square. Make sure to pay a visit to Volendam, the area of old fishing villages located in the north of Amsterdam. A Christmas getaway with a different and special charm!
6. Hamburg, Bremen and Lübeck
Vibrant and modern, Hamburg is a city that has reinvented itself over time. A unique architecture such as the Elba Philharmonic building gives a very special touch to its winter atmosphere, with a very central market where you can taste traditional cuisine and the typical mulled wine. A perfect stop for a fast food at street level while you discover the city!
Stroll along the banks of the River Alster and its canals, where you will find one of the largest warehouse complexes in the world of Gothic architecture and built with bricks, pediments and curious towers. Delve into the famous San Pauli neighborhood, known for its long seafaring tradition as it is located near the port as well as for its football team.
Bremen and Lübeck are little treasures that you will find very close and that are worth visiting. In Bremen you can discover its historic center where the town hall, the statue of Roland, the Liebfrauenkirche church and the Weserpromenade are located. At the famous Markplatz you can see the symbol of the city, known thanks to the children's story of the Bremen Town Musicians. Lübeck was a very important maritime trade engine in Europe until the 16th century. Strolling through its old town you can see the stately mansions, churches, salt deposits and historical monuments.
7. Lake Konstanz markets
Imagine a beautiful Christmas market located on the shore of a frozen lake. At Lake Konstanz you will find yourself immersed in the unique landscape of the Alps, shared by Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Its largest market is in the medieval city of Konstanz, where the aromas of typical regional food mix: freshly made gingerbread and mulled wine enriched with scent keys, oranges, cinnamon and sugar.
From here you can visit the beautiful Rhine waterfalls, considered the largest waterfall in Europe with a width of 150 meters and 23 meters deep. In Meersburg you will enjoy beautiful views of the Swiss and Austrian Alps, and on the shore of the lake we will visit the Birnau Basilica called the “jewel of Konstanz Baroque”. Hohenzollern Castle, located on top of a hill and considered one of the most beautiful in Germany, is worth visiting. It hides a Christmas market in its inner courtyard. Time seems to have stood still in Lindau in the 16th century, when the Renaissance created an Italian atmosphere in the city.
8. Lake Geneva markets and Santa's house
At Lake Leman you will live a unique experience between snow-capped mountains and a frozen lake. The Montreaux Christmas market awaits you with 150 wooden stalls that will amaze you just looking at them. This town marveled such famous people as Charles Chaplin or Freddie Mercury. You have not traveled to Switzerland if you have not tried its delicious chocolates, especially those of the Caillier chocolate shop in the small town of Pico, the oldest in the country founded in 1819. Continuing with gastronomy, in Gruyères you will taste the most delicious cheeses, as well as be one of the most beautiful villages in Switzerland.
Nearby is one of the best kept secrets, Santa's house in Rochers de Naye. Take the train to the house of the most famous man in the world, located no more and no less than 2,000 meters above sea level. Get in the Christmas spirit by visiting its reindeer park, the giant manger, its worker elves and the post office. A unique experience that you will never forget!
9. Frankfurt, Heidelberg and the Rhine
The Christmas atmosphere in the center of Frankfurt is unique. In its market you can see the contrast between a modern city and an old one, with a skyline typical of American cities. Did you know that its financial district is called Mainhattan? In the historic center we find Romerberg Square, with half-timbered houses, endless food stops, sweets and mulled wine, all around a beautiful illuminated tree. Very near tense the opportunity to visit Heidelberg, a university and youth city with a Christmas market where you can buy all kinds of handicrafts and a medieval castle with views on the Neckar river. If you are looking for a complete experience, you can sail through the Rhine Valley and observe the beauty of its castles and its villages, such as Saint Goar or Rüdesheim.
10. Salzburg and the Lake District
Strolling through Salzburg during Christmas is a magical experience. As the first snowflakes fall, the city gradually turns white, creating a unique romantic atmosphere. The city keeps Alpine traditions alive and a large number of folk traditions, such as the Krampus. It is about a demon that takes children who have not behaved well during the year, a kind of bogeyman in the Austrian version. In the cathedral square you will find the Christkindlmarkt, the main Christmas market, but we recommend you also visit Hellbrunn and Mirabellplatz. In its markets you will find a multitude of decorative objects, crafts, handicrafts, wreaths and all kinds of Christmas ornamentation.
Snowy villages with beautiful landscapes await you in the Lake District, such as Königsee, Hallstatt, considered the most beautiful town in Austria, and St. Wolfgang.
11. Riga and Tallin
Riga has impressive cultural vibrancy and an interesting Art Noveau heritage. Its central market is an essential visit, with more than 3,000 stalls dedicated to food and one of the largest in Europe located in the heart of the city. Do not miss a visit to its Christmas market, located in the historic center where you will find wooden toys and traditional Christmas items.
The city is known as the "Paris of the North", and stands out for the beauty of its old nucleus where different architectural styles are mixed: Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Classic and Art Noveau. Discover the most interesting places in the city such as the Arsenal Tower, the Lliberat Monument, the Opera House, the Dome Cathedral, the Old Medieval Castle, the old buildings of the old guilds, the Bridge of the Swedes and others buildings.
In Tallinn the Christmas market is installed at Raekoja Platos, where handicrafts and wood stand out. The capital of Estonia is the perfect symbiosis between ancient traditions and modernity. Its historic center, with old walls and alleys, is very well preserved and was declared a UNESCO heritage site. Visit the towers known as the "Long Herman" and the "Margarete grasseta", the town hall square and the churches of San Olaf and San Nicolau.
12. Hannover, on the banks of the Leine
Christmas in Hannover is celebrated every year in its picturesque Old Town, which still preserves the original architecture from before WWII. Around the market church, glass torches, potters and candle makers display their products and crafts at different parades in a historic Christmas village. Observe the contrast of its Advent tradition with the eclectic urban landscape: Gothic, Hanseatic, former royal residence, industrial and modern state capital. Discover its main points, such as the Herrenhausen Gardens, in a baroque style and one of the most important in Europe, as well as its iconic Town Hall.
Nearby you have the opportunity to get closer to the most classic tales of the Brothers Grimm, such as Hamelin with its half-timbered houses, and Celle, which with its forests inspired the tale of Little Red Riding Hood. Complete your trip by visiting Austostad, the car city and current factory of the Volkswagen company. Throughout its six pavilions you can learn about the history of this German company with exhibitions of cars from all eras.
Do not stay at home this Christmas, take the opportunity to discover some of the most beautiful cities in Europe that are filled with magic and illusion during these dates!
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