Europe has got a special charm: lights in every corner, snowy hills and smell of warm mulled wine. Christmas time in Europe is definitely something not to miss. Every European city is dressed with its finest decorations and the Christmas markets invite you to discover the traditions and make good memories. We recommend some of the best destinations.
Vienna celebrates Christmas in grand style. From the end of November to Christmas day, Vienna creates a pre-Christmas atmosphere, turning its squares into Christmas markets which are are an age-old tradition. One of the most famous is the market know as ´Vienna Magic of Advent´ at the City Hall Square. It offers the best christmas gifts, decorations, delicious food and warming drinks. Kids can have fun on the carousel or at Christmas workshops. Another famous Christmas markets is in front of the Schönbrunn Palace which displays hand-made decorations and handicraft gifts and offers a wide range of concerts as well as children’s program. You can try some of their specialities like sausages or freshly baked pastries, go ice skating at Rathausplatz or visit the Snow Globe Museum. Other tradition you shouldn´t miss are Vienna classical concerts. Every year a plenty of Advent concerts are organized at city’s churches and concert halls.
Salzburg with lakes area
In Salzburg people preserved their ancient customs and good old traditions. In some mountain villages these traditions survived through the centuries. The Salzburg Christkindlmarkt is known as one of the oldest Advent markets, dating back to the 15th century. The Christmas market at Salzburg’s Cathedral Square draws a number of tourist and locals every year to enjoy in the Austrian specialties, mulled wine and hot punch. Various events are also organized such as Traditional wind music or the visit of the Salzburg ´Christ Child´ with his angels.
Not far from the city of Salzburg you will find the magical Lake Wolfgang. Lanterns across the water, fascinating customs still in practice today and festive boat trips make the Advent at Wolfgangsee a special experience.
In Zurich you can find a Christmas market for every taste. Strolling through the market you can warm up with a glass of punch or mulled wine or get a bite to eat and enjoy the local specialities such as raclette or fondue. A speciality of Advent in Zurich is a Christmas tree at the Zurich main train station, every year decorated with 7000 Swarovski crystals. In the region around Lake Zurich you can enjoy skating in one of the many outdoor ice rinks. Every december the traditional ´Lichterschwimmen´ event takes place at the River Limmat. Students make the lanterns and launch them on the water.
The Christmas in Nuremberg begins with a opening ceremony each year on Friday before the first Sunday in Advent when the Chriskind opens her market. Christkind is a Christmas Angel that brings children their gifts, a tradition that goes back to the protestant reformer, Martin Luther. The angel is also a symbol of the Nuremberg´s Christkindlesmarkt and can be found in the form of popular Christmas tree decorations. Another popular figures are the Prune Men, made from prunes, figs and walnuts. You will find many huts selling the famous Nuremberg sausages and Lebkuchen (gingerbread). You can also see all the festivities from a stagecoach. On the Market of the Sister Cities you can buy gifts from all over the world, from the Scottish kilts to French marmalade. A special part of the market is Children’s Christmas Market with a beautiful merry-go-round and the Santa Clause house.
The oldest and the most spectacular Christmas market in Budapest is Christmas Market on Vorosmarty Square. Strolling between the huts you can enjoy in the concert music and lovely smell of cinnamon pastries (Kurtoskalacs – Chimney Cake). The hot Goulash will warm you up from the cold winter. There’s also ice skating by the illuminated St Stephen’s Basilica nearby. Popular thermal baths are open all year round and diving into the outdoor pool of Széchenyi Bath in a snowfall and relaxing in the pleasantly warm water is definately a special winter experience. The Christmas markets are not the only place where you can enjoy the Christmas atmosphere, in December, even Budapest´s trams are decorated with fairy lights. Another special experience is a Danube Christmas river cruise.
The breathtaking architecture makes a perfect background for mulled wine sipping and getting lost in the Christmas shopping frenzy. The oldest and the biggest Christmas market in Prague is the one at the Old Town Square. The market´s huts are beautifully decorated and filled with craft gift items and Czech culinary goodies such as spit roasted hams or Trdelník, a traditional hot sugar coated pastry. Numerous events take place in Prague in holiday season. You can attend a classical concert at one of the beautiful churches and historic buildings or see the popular ´Nutcracker’ at the National Theatre. If you’re in Prague on December 5th, don’t miss out on seeing the famous Mikuláš (St. Nicholas), a tradition known in many European cities. A Mikuláš celebration is typically staged in every square with a Christmas market. All over Prague diverse nativity scenes can be found. The most unique one is a live nativity scene that takes place every year at the Prague Castle.
Ljubljana is known as one of the most beautiful European capitals. Each December Ljubljana gets illuminated by a number of Christmas lights and the city´s streets fill up with people. At the Festive Fair you can get arts and crafts made by locals and delicacies such as honey, schnapps, and confections. The Christmas lights display represents an artistic vision of the universe and includes themes such as Cosmic Ljubljana, The Path of Life, Cosmic Spruce Tree, Bearers of Light, etc. This year for the first time Ljubljana added more than 2000 square meters of ice skating surfaces to ist festive look. You can also explore the festively decorated historical city centre of Ljubljana on a festive tourist boat cruise.
Croatia´s capital city at Christmas time has become very popular during the last years. On the main square, Ban Josip Jelačić Square, there´s a huge Chrsitmas tree, the fountain, transformed into a light display, live music and many boots offering warm food. Between the Tomislav Square and Art Pavilion you will find a stunning Ice Park, a display of lights and ice. Since there is not a lot of snow in throughout the winter, Zagreb created its own winter wonderland, a frosty fairy-tale with a sheer amount of sparkling lights. At the Klovićevi Dvori Gallery you can make the most beautiful Advent photo with a photo frame, specially made for the Christmas time that can even produce snow.