Did you hear what I heard? It was the sound of church bells nestled inside tall steeples, Christmas music wafting through the air, and people of all ages chatting at the Christmas markets. Christmas in Europe is magical. There is no better way to describe it. Is it cold? Right. But put on your warmest coat and fluffy socks and admire the beauty of quaint villages, snow-covered rooftops and splendid Christmas decorations overhead. I followed 25 photos that will inspire you to spend Christmas in Europe.
When I move abroad, many people ask me, especially on holidays, if I miss home. But my answer resounded, “No”. Reason? There is so much to see and do around the holidays. Big cities like London, Paris, Munich and Vienna all try to decorate every inch of their storefronts and decorate their entire streets with lights. Smaller towns like Strasbourg, Colmar and Heidelberg are gingerbread towns that come alive with Christmas markets dotted next to half-timbered houses.
I think the best way to show you these places is to give you some of the best photos of winter in Europe. From Switzerland, France, Germany and more. Advent begins with the start of Christmas markets all over Europe but especially for places like Germany and Austria as Christmas markets originate here. The “Weihnachtsmarkt” (Christmas Market) or “Christkindelsmarkt” (literally Christ children’s market) has traditionally been held in the town squares since 1310 in Munich. Vienna, Austria had its first December market in 1296. So when you’re at a Christmas market or celebrating Christmas in Europe, you’re participating in a once-honored tradition. So grab the glüwein and let’s get to it!
Starting from Frankfurt, this is a large airport hub that allows you to easily travel to many beautiful places, and through Germany. I recommend renting a car to easily get from place to place. But you can also find the train system very easily. Frankfurt not a pretty place (sorry, Frankfurters) but they do have a market there. My suggestion? Skip it and go down Heidelberg.
From Heidelberg, let’s go somewhere else Christmas Market in Germany. Those in Nuremberg, Worms, Rothenburg Ob der Tauberand Munich is special. Next, go by car or train to the beautiful markets in France. I would like to suggest Strasbourg and Colmar. Both are on the German border, so it’s an easy walk across the border.
Next, I recommend going south to Switzerland! Here you can go to Basel, just a short trip across the German Border. Explore the Christmas markets there, then take a short drive to the beautiful place Bern. In about an hour you will find Lucerne lying on the lake.
That’s a lot to deal with, but if you want to see more of Europe then keep heading east. Then you can go through The capital city of Vienna, Austria for one of the most magical Christmas markets in the world. If you haven’t filled it out yet, go north to Prague for Christmas markets across the city.
The 25 photos below will represent the journey along the route.
A true representation of a great German Christmas market is Heidelberg. You’ll find hot pipes and an ice rink underneath a large castle. The stalls are lavishly decorated and have many options for shopping and dining!
Check out my complete guide to Heidelberg’s Christmas Market.
Black Forest, Germany
I move to Germany to travel to Europe, and I often forget the great beauty of nearby Heidelberg. Black Forest is a perfect example of this. We drive from town Baden Baden and watch the sun set over the mountains. It is a truly breathtaking scene. Here you can find ski gear, beautiful bungalows and delicious Black Forest Cakes in the nearby cafes.
Nuremberg is one of the most famous and traditional Christmas markets in Germany. You can get a real feel for the Christmas markets of the 1300s and some of the decorated stalls selling Christmas food and decorations dating back to 1890.
Worms is a small city but boasts some serious history. This is where the memorial Martin Luther was declared a heretic. The Christmas markets here aren’t too crowded, but you’ll still get a traditional feel.
See my travel guide for Worms and Nuremberg for Christmas.
Rothernburg Ob Der Tauber, Germany
Yes, Rothernburg Ob Der Tauber has a long name but it alludes to the fact that it is still surrounded by its walls. This medieval city will feel like Christmas no matter what time of year you go. But they have lovely markets and even a Christmas museum. Here you will find the incredible Christmas shop Käthe Wohlfahrt.
Check out my complete guide to Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber.
The crown jewel of Germany is Munich. You’ll find some of the most beautiful architecture, fun restaurants and Oktoberfest homes. But the snow-covered rooftops of Munich in winter are perhaps the loveliest. Munich is said to be the birthplace of the Christmas markets after Vienna, Austria had its first primitive market.
My test The complete guide to Munich.
Strasbourg at Christmas can be described in one word: magical. This elaborate, classic Christmas fantasy town just across the border with Germany feels like a Currier and Ives winter engraving come to life. Golden lights twinkle atop individual market stalls decorated with imaginative Christmas scenes – toy land, candy woods, dreamy snow – all studded and decorated with glitter. shining. Locals tempt the constant stream of shoppers with regional dishes, hot drinks, hand-knitted gloves, scarves and a variety of cold-weather clothing.
See my full guide to Strasbourg on Christmas here and more pictures!
If you think Strasbourg is beautiful, wait until you venture to Colmar. The entire town looks like a gingerbread wonderland with multicolored houses selling macaroons, croissants, and hand-painted glass ornaments. It’s one of those places that I can’t quite understand to be real.
When I traveled to Basel with my mother, I didn’t expect much. I’m wrong. This beautiful city sits on a river and the Christmas markets are brightly decorated stalls filled with ornaments and decorations.
One of the best I’ve had at a Christmas market was in Bern, Switzerland. The melt-in-your-mouth caramel has become divine and is something I can’t seem to find anywhere else. The city has a great cathedral, beautiful tree-lined boulevards, and fleece on most of the seats. It just feels expensive. Maybe because it is so. But it’s worth going.
Check out my complete guide to Bern switzerland.
Lovely Lucerne is located on the banks of the lake of the same name. Walk across the oldest covered bridge in the world and admire the lovely city lit up at night. The markets here have a unique Swiss style and are extremely vibrant. A woman scores her beanie sales by showing that the items hanging in her chalet-style stall come from her sheep raised and threaded by her father and sewn by her mother together on her family’s nearby farm.
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is famous for its stunning architecture and powerful bridges. This is a quintessential Christmas destination as it resembles the way Christmas markets were held in the past. The markets are filled with delicious pastries called Trdelníks and roast meats.
See my guide to Prague.
Innsbruck is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen in my life. The high mountains sparkle above and the breathtaking city below. No matter what time of year, this is a great time to visit Innsbruck. Feel like you’re in a snowball in this fun, vibrant city.
Watch my Travel guide to Innsbruck, Austria here.
The capital city of Vienna, Austria
Vienna is famous for its stately architecture. But come Christmas, it’s even more luxurious with string lights on every building. I am especially enamored of the chandeliers that seem to hang in mid-air over posh streets. The Christmas markets are clean and bright and you can’t NOT walk around the city without a smile on your face.
My test complete guide to Vienna in 3 days.
Britain does the right thing when it comes to Christmas. The decor on every street is absolutely amazing. I remember walking down Oxford Street with my mouth open in amazement. There is also a Christmas market in Hyde Park which is fun and an English version of the German tradition.
Check out my guide to Christmas in London right here.
Here’s a quick infographic I made to make Christmas planning in Europe easier. (Pin it so you don’t forget it!).
Christmas time in Europe is one of my favorite parts when I move abroad. There’s an overwhelming sense of pure joy and the spirit of Christmas feels authentic. Everyone needs to take a trip at least once in their life during the colder months. I promise, it’s worth it!
Where is your favorite place for Christmas?