Christmas holidays are upon us, and we couldn't be more excited! If you decided to spice things up this year and spend Christmas in Europe, you made the best decision in your life. Why? Let's just say Christmas in Europe is a synonym for snowy rooftops, festive music, a celebration of light, charming medieval squares, and joyful Christmas markets. If this isn't enough, let's scroll down this article and find out which six destinations in Europe for a Christmas holiday you must consider before making the final decision. However, we must warn you this might be one of the hardest decisions you'll have to make!
Spartacus publishes the Gay Travel Index every year since 2012. The index measures the legal situation and living conditions for members of the queer community in the respective country.
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague, also known as Europe's Gothic fairytale, celebrates Christmas in style. Its stunning architecture creates a genuinely theatrical atmosphere for sipping aromatic mulled wine while getting lost in the Christmas shopping rush. It's an understatement to say that strolling down the cobbled streets and alleys of Prague in wintertime feels like stepping right into a Christmas card.
The world-famous Christmas markets in Prague offer a unique opportunity to learn about its customs, culture, and delectable cuisine. Not to mention that this fairytale city is steeped in remarkable history, which you can see on every corner. The best representation of this is the Church of Our Lady before Týn, located at Old Town Square. It has been standing proudly in its magnificence and greatness since the 14th century. Fascinating, right? In addition, if you're keen on gothic architecture, you should also visit the cathedrals at Wenceslas Square and Náměstí Míru.
Everywhere you go, joyful and beautifully adorned wooden huts are brimming with festive treats. You can buy anything here, from handcrafted gifts and lovely Christmas ornaments to traditional Czech specialties like Trdelník, a classic hot sugar-coated pastry, or pit-roasted hams. Additionally, this Christmas spirit is brought to life by music, lights, and animal stables. Therefore, Prague is a must on both your bucket list and the list of best destinations in Europe for a Christmas holiday.
*Spartacus Gay Travel Index Ranking: 40
You'll have a hard time finding a more charming city in Europe than Bruges. Fairytale-looking canals, gingerbread-like homes, and graceful carriages drawn by beautiful horses along old cobblestone streets are just a sneak peek of the festive atmosphere you'll experience in this city.
Grote Markt, the city's main square, transforms into a wondrous realm at Christmastime. Besides being adorned with glittering lights and a magnificent ice rink, you'll also see lovely wooden chalets brimming with handicrafts, festive ornaments, and exquisite Belgian chocolate.
Additionally, the Ice Sculpture Festival is held each year on the square in front of the Bruges' famous train station and showcases magnificent artworks by worldwide artists.
*Spartacus Gay Travel Index Ranking: 18
St. Gallen, Switzerland
If you want an idyllic fairytale-like Christmas, St. Gallen, Switzerland, is the place for you. During the Advent, 700 stars twinkle above the St. Gallen's Old Town while giving the historic façades a festive gleam. However, the light doesn't stop here. The massive Christmas tree in the Abbey district dressed with 18,000 lights is another uplifting and joyful sight. This is one of the most beautiful sights in Europe during wintertime.
Furthermore, the St. Gallen Christmas market spans from the Waaghaus, down the Bohl, to the famous Market Square. Local vendors sell their unique Christmas goodies in roughly 70 wooden huts and booths.
Frequent concerts in St. Gallen's majestic Cathedral, as well as unique activities at the Waaghaus, provide a diverse Advent program in this world heritage city. You can't miss amazing choir performances and festive readings!
The "Chlausritt" is another must-see event, especially if you're traveling with kids. This is a parade in which Father Christmas, along with his helpers and angels, rides through the city horseback-style.
*Spartacus Gay Travel Index Ranking: 14
Both vast and small squares of Strasbourg are filled with not one but numerous Marchés de Noël. This Alsatian city on the Rhine boasts France's oldest and most outstanding Christmas market. The scenery is composed of half-timbered homes with garlands of lights draped between them. In addition, the squares are illuminated by spectacular light shows. The market stretches along the river in Strasbourg's picturesque Petit France area, surrounded by traditional houses.
You can't visit these destinations in Europe for a Christmas holiday and not come across the marketplace! The biggest market in this picture-perfect city is located beneath the spectacular Gothic Notre-Dame Cathedral. Here, you'll find plenty of wooden huts which offer Christmas decorations, souvenirs, and snacks. Here are two traditional snacks you simply must try:
- Bredele cookies: this is a thick bread loaded with dried fruits and caramelized ginger chunks.
- Tarte flambée or flammekueche: thin pancake stuffed with cheese and onions baked over an open flame.
Oh, and don't miss taking a spin on the magnificent skating rink in the main square. It doesn't get more Christmasy than that.
*Spartacus Gay Travel Index Ranking: 22
Dresden & Nuremberg, Germany
Germany is the world's Christmas market hub. Believe it or not, there is one in almost every city in this country. That's why we couldn't choose only one place you should visit but two. Let's see what the best destinations in Europe for a Christmas holiday are - German edition:
Dresden's first Striezelmarkt dates back to the early 1400s. Therefore, this city has a pretty long tradition when it comes to Christmas markets. Believe it or not, Striezelmarkt is still going strong after almost 590 years. The sparkling lights, twinkling stars, and mulled wine ornate the Old Town Square every year. However, the real treat is inside the Dresden Royal Palace. There, you can find a true medieval market with no electricity. Only traditional foods and handicrafts.
One thing that is a must when you visit this German winter wonderland is Dresden Christstollen - a buttery loaf filled with candied fruits. Stollen is so popular and cherished in Dresden that it has its own parade!
One of the most famous European Christmas markets is the one in Nuremberg. Since this enchanting city houses Germany's oldest Christmas market, it's no wonder it attracts so many tourists every year. Along with its long tradition, Nuremberg's Christkindlesmarkt is famous for its majestic movie-like setting.
The focal point of Nuremberg is a high-pointed cathedral illuminated in lights standing proudly in the massive square surrounded by medieval houses and buildings. There is also a magnificent fountain, likewise lushly lit. Additionally, the whole area is accompanied by rows of wooden cottages, each with its own sparkling paradise.
*Spartacus Gay Travel Index Ranking: 10
Nothing gets you in a Christmas mood more than quality festive music. So, if you enjoy classical, choral, or chamber music at this time of the year, you must visit Austria's capital - Vienna. No other city celebrates Christmas with so much joyful music as Vienna. The best part? These concerts usually take place in one of many palaces throughout the city. The most magnificent one is, of course, the Schönbrunn Palace. However, the world-renowned performance is in the Wiener Konzerthaus and is known as Christmas in Vienna.
Besides eclectic concerts, the palaces provide lovely markets as well. Make sure not to miss the ones in Schönbrunn and Belvedere. On the other hand, you'll find the latest market at the square - in front of the City Hall and under the massive Christmas tree. The one thing that sets Vienna apart from the rest of European cities during Christmas is its stunning and long skating rink. This is fun for the whole family!
*Spartacus Gay Travel Index Ranking: 5
Now, the only thing you have to do is choose one of these six destinations in Europe for a Christmas holiday. We warned you - this isn't going to be easy. Yes, every European city does Christmas in the same way - lovely markets, glittering lights, mulled wine, etc. However, each city has its unique traditions, delicacies, customs, and architecture. Therefore, all of them will warm your jolly heart in a special way!