If you're one of those people that anxiously awaits the holiday season, orders pumpkin spice lattes before the temperature dips below 70, starts playing Christmas tunes the day after Halloween, and has your Christmas tree up with every ornament hung before the turkey is carved at Thanksgiving, then spending Christmas in Europe is a no-brainer.
Europeans put Americans to shame when it comes to holiday cheer and décor. The light displays, mulled wine, themed sweets, Christmas markets, and shop decorations make for a memorable holiday experience.
So, what are the best destinations in Europe for Christmas? You'll soon learn there are enough charming towns to fill the next ten years worth of holidays.
There are at least twenty Europe Christmas destinations I can name off the top of my head. Nuremberg, Colmar, Strasbourg, London, Bruges, Cologne, Prague, Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg...you get the drift.
My best advice is to pick a city that's a priority and then add on places that are close by and easily reachable by train.
Always assume you'll be back. You don't want to stuff your itinerary with too many places and spend endless hours on trains, buses, and planes. That's a sure way to exhaust yourself and never get to enjoy a destination to its fullest.
Enough with the preamble. Let's dive into my Christmas in Europe itinerary for London, Paris, and Bruges.
Many people flock to Germany for its famous Christmas markets, and for good reason.
Europe Christmas markets originated here and Germany therefore offers some of the most authentic markets. Because of the popularity of Germany during the month of December, it can make hotel and flight deals hard to come by.
If you're thinking of spending Christmas in Europe and considering areas outside of Germany, I have the itinerary for you!
Christmas in Europe - London, Paris, Bruges
Overall itinerary and why we chose London, Paris, and Bruges
For this Christmas in Europe itinerary, Jake and I visited London, Paris, and Bruges with a quick stop in Brussels.
Not only was I able to score some awesome flight deals since we were flying into and out of the major airport hubs of London (LHR) and Brussels (BRU), but incredibly low hotels rates were easy to find.
These are some of the best destinations in Europe for Christmas AND they are easily linked by trains. This allows for minimal travel time between cities.
I chose theses cities because all are magical at Christmas and each offers a different feel.
With this Christmas in Europe itinerary we were able to experience many holiday markets (some big and some small), see spectacular Christmas light displays and decorations, and enjoy delicious festive food.
London and Paris offer all the perks that comes with big cities. Bruges on the other hand offers all the cozy vibes of a small fairytale town. This is the perfect place to slow down and recover from your hectic schedule in London and Paris.
See the full itinerary below and start planning your Christmas in Europe adventure! I will warn you though, you may never want to stay home during Christmas again after experiencing some of the best destinations in Europe for Christmas.
Christmas in London
Plan on spending at least 3 to 4 days in London. I wasn’t sure what to expect since London is often skipped when listing the best Christmas cities in Europe.
After spending Christmas in London, I can confidently say London is one of the BEST destinations in Europe for Christmas and should be near the top of the list.
London blew Paris out of the water when it came to decorations and Christmas lights. Add in Christmas high-tea, a Broadway show or play, and ice skating below a palace…it’s a clear winner.
- The Connaught
- The Marylebone Hotel
- The Ritz London
- The Milestone Hotel and Residences
- The Langham, London
Christmas in Paris
Similar to London, spend 3 to 4 days in Paris. It’s extremely convenient to get to Paris from London (or visa versa) by taking the chunnel. The train takes less than 2.5 hours and you don’t have to worry about airport security or baggage fees.
Paris might not have over the top lights like London, but it definitely has charm and you can’t beat a warm crepe on a cold day.
The city offers plenty to do during the festive season and the crowds were not overwhelming (outside of the famous department store Galeries Lafayette).
Christmas Markets in Brussels - STOP IN BRUSSELS ON THE WAY TO BRUGES
We decided to stop at Brussels on the way to Bruges since there is a larger than life Christmas market and magical evening Christmas light show. I had been to the Brussels Christmas market called Plaisirs D’Hiver or Winter Pret a few years back and wanted Jake to experience this winter wonderland.
Paris to Brussels is a quick 1.5 hour train ride. We took the direct train to the Brussels-Midi station in the morning and stored our luggage in the convenient lockers.
We had the entire afternoon to explore Brussel’s Winter Pret. This gave us plenty of time to sample some of the finest Belgium hot cocoa and chocolates, shop the Christmas market chalets, check out the ice skating rink, duck into a few cafes to warm up, and enjoy the spectacular evening Christmas lights show at the Grand Palace.
After the show we walked back to the station, grabbed our luggage and hopped on the hour long train ride to Bruges.
Christmas in Bruges
Bruges, or Brugge, was the perfect end to our Christmas trip. It's not as well known as many of the big cities, which is precisely why I think it's one of the best destinations in Europe for Christmas.
Even though we were here on Christmas eve and Christmas day, it never felt packed like other cities. It was especially quiet and calm in the mornings and evenings since many people visit Bruges as a day trip.
Nicknamed the Venice of the North, Bruges really is a fairytale town with its Flemish architecture, water canals, and picture perfect Grote Square.
This Belgium town is the definition of cozy and festive. The decorations are tasteful and done with great care. The number of family run and quality restaurants to choose from are vast, and the charming streets and canals are perfect for wandering while sipping your rich Beligum hot chocolate and freshly baked Leige waffle.
I hope this Christmas in Europe itinerary gives some inspiration for you upcoming trip. You'll have an easy time finding good flight schedules (and deals) since you're flying into and out of London and Brussels; two major airports.
The travel time is minimal between each city and is easily done by train.
You'll get a taste of not just three different cities, but three countries! Each offers a different take on how they do Christmas.
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Christmas in Europe | London, Paris, Bruges
See my other Europe posts!
I hope this itinerary gives you some ideas on how to spend Christmas in Europe. Which do you think are the best destinations in Europe for Christmas? Let me know in the comments below!
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