If you're one of those people that anxiously awaits the holiday season all year, 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 and hot cider, Christmas sweets, and store displays will put even the grumpiest Grinch in the holiday spirit.
Trying to decide which are the best Europe Christmas destinations? You will 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. My best advice is to pick a city or two that's at the top of your list and then add on cities that are close by and easily reachable by train. Always assume you will be back again so that way you don't find yourself rushing or spending more time traveling than actually enjoying the city.
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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 & Bruges
Last year Jake and I went to 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 Europe Christmas destinations AND they are easily linked by trains. This allowed for minimal travel time between cities.
I choose theses cities because all were magical at Christmas and each had a different feel. With this itinerary we were able to experience many Christmas markets (some big and some small), see spectacular Christmas light displays and decorations, and enjoy delicious festive food. London and Paris gave us the big city feel we love so much and Bruges allowed us to slow down and enjoy the quaint feel of a smaller fairytale town.
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 Europe Christmas destinations.
Christmas in London
Plan on spending at least 3 to 4 days in London. I wasn’t sure what to expect since my research didn’t list London at the top for Christmas destinations. After spending Christmas here, I can confidently say London is one of the BEST Europe Christmas destinations 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.
Need more info on visiting London in December? See London in December - Top 10 Things To Do
Christmas in Paris
Similar to London, spend 3-4 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).
Need more info on spending Christmas in Paris? See December in Paris - Top 10 Things To Do
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 Europe Christmas destinations. It's almost like you found a hidden secret. 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.
Need more info on Bruges? See Christmas in Bruges - Top 10 Things To Do
See my other Europe posts!
I hope this Christmas itinerary gives you some ideas on how to spend Christmas in Europe. Which do you think are the best Europe Christmas destinations? Let me know in the comments below!
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