Touring Europe in the Spirit of Christmas

View of the illuminated Christmas market in front of the City
Image by depositphotos.com

‘Tis the season for the splendor and spirit of traveling during Christmas. Embark on a magical journey through the heart of Europe as we traverse the continent adorned in the enchanting spirit of the wintery holidays.

In this festive exploration, we invite you to join us on a curated tour that captures the essence of the holiday season in some of Europe’s most captivating cities. To make your adventure seamless and joyous, we’ve strategically arranged our destinations in order of travel ease, ensuring a smooth transition from one Christmas wonderland to the next. From the festive lights of Dublin to the classical charm of Vienna, the warmth of Lisbon’s holiday embrace, and the snowy allure of Bergen, each city promises a unique yuletide experience. Let the twinkling lights, aromatic mulled wine, and jovial atmosphere guide your path as we unwrap the spirit of Christmas across Europe.

Reykjavik

Reykjavik Christmas
Credit: Meandering Wild

By Suzanne of Meandering Wild

Reykjavik is the most northerly capital city in the world with narrow streets and colourful houses that have glittering lights from late November. The Sun Voyager sculpture on the shoreline becomes magical with the northern lights above, while Hallgrimskirkja spire allows beautiful views across the city covered in a blanket of snow.

Icelandic Christmas traditions are unique. The Yule Cat (Jólakötturinn) roams the countryside, encouraging the exchange of new clothes as a symbol of goodwill and generosity among family members. A large model of the Yule Cat can be seen illuminated during the Christmas season on the corner of Austurstræti and Lækjargat.

The mischievous Yule Lads (Jólasveinar), a group of trolls with playful spirits who are the owners of the Yule Cat, visit children one by one in the days leading up to Christmas, each with their own distinct brand of holiday merriment and small gifts. Their story can be found in children’s books and our favourite little gift shop, Iceland Memories at Laugavegur 64 has Christmas cards featuring the lads as well as other beautiful gifts.

One of the best places to eat in Reykjavík is Dill. This small restaurant on Laugavegur seamlessly blends Icelandic traditions with local ingredients to produce a beautiful menu with simple dishes, perfect in the winter months.

The best place to stay in Reykjavík at Christmastime is the Reykjavík Edition. Overlooking the Harpa Concert Hall and Sun Voyager you cannot find a better location in the city.

York

Kathe Wohlfahrt Christmas shop in York city centre at sunset
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York’s enchanting Christmas markets grace its cobbled streets all throughout the holiday season. This historic city’s seasonal revelry carries on even past the traditional festive season, allowing visitors to savor the yuletide spirit beyond the traditional December timeline.

The heart of this winter wonderland lies in St Nicholas’ Fair, occupying the picturesque Parliament Street and St Sampson’s Square. Under the shadow of the iconic York Minster, this market exudes a magical atmosphere with its array of festively adorned stalls. Immerse yourself in the warm glow of twinkling lights as you peruse unique handcrafted gifts, local delicacies, and festive trinkets.

For a local touch, venture to the Shambles Market, where independent traders showcase their wares in the quaint medieval alleys. The Christmas market at Thor’s Tipi, nestled in the historic Coppergate Centre, offers a cozy retreat with its Nordic-inspired tipis, inviting you to savor mulled wine and artisanal treats. As for dining, explore York’s culinary scene by stepping into the charming Ye Olde Starre Inne or indulging in modern British fare at Skosh.

To complete your Christmas experience in York, consider a stay at The Grand, a luxurious hotel that seamlessly blends historic elegance with modern comforts. Positioned beside the city walls and just a stone’s throw from the Minster, The Grand provides a sumptuous retreat and a festive ambiance to make your holiday in York truly memorable.

The Cotswolds

Christmas in the Cotswolds
Credit: Hannah Kroes

By Hannah Kroes

The Cotswolds is known for being one of the most charming areas in England, making it the perfect destination for a Christmas getaway. The beautiful villages of the Cotswolds are decorated for the season, and many host Christmas markets. 

Larger markets are held in towns such as Stroud and Cirencester, while smaller markets pop up in villages like Moreton-in-Marsh, Malmesbury, Chipping Camden and Tetbury. Bourton on the Water is one of the most beautiful villages to spend Christmas in the Cotswolds, with its iconic Christmas tree set in the middle of the river that runs through the village. Don’t miss the model village of Bourton or the year-round Christmas shop on the high street. 

Broadway is equally decked out for Christmas, and a winter walk to Broadway Tower is the perfect way to spend a few hours. Broadway is known for its range of artisan shops with beautiful handmade goods. The Santa Express also runs from Broadway, and this steam train is one of the best things to do in the area with children. 

The Double Red Duke is a quintessential country hotel with luxury features and cosy fireplaces. Their restaurant is known for dishes cooked over an open fire and are sure to warm up winter visitors. No matter how you spend your days in the Cotswolds over the Christmas season, it is bound to be cosy and nostalgic.

Lisbon

Christmas in Lisbon
Credit: Discover Portugal

By Marga of Discover Portugal

When you think of European Christmas markets, you might not think of Lisbon immediately. But the Portuguese capital is beautifully decorated every year, and there are plenty of Christmas markets to discover! So, even in a warmer climate, you can enjoy the spirit of Christmas in Europe! Some of the most popular ones are the Christmas market at Rossio Square and Wonderland Lisboa. Adults can indulge in some Glühwein, and there are plenty of activities for children!

Terriero do Paço, the famous square in Lisbon, is the home of the tallest Christmas tree in town. The design of the tree, as well as the decorations, varies each year. Discover current dates for the Lisbon Christmas markets and discover what the 2023 decorations look like! Or travel beyond Lisbon and visit the Christmas Village in Óbidos. Children can visit Santa and enjoy the ice-skating rink. 

Most of the Christmas lights are found around the shopping centre Armazéns do Chiado, Praça Luís de Camões and Avenida da Liberdade. To be amongst all the Christmas celebrations in Lisbon, a stay at Hotel Tivoli Avenida Liberdade Lisboa is very convenient. And from their rooftop bar Seen, you’ll enjoy stunning views over the city. It’s also the perfect time to try Consoada, the traditional Christmas dinner. But be sure to check the restaurants, as many will be closed on Christmas Day.

Porto

Porto Portugal Christmas
Credit: Renee Hannes

By Renee Hannes of Dream Plan Experience

Visiting Porto at Christmas time is a truly magical experience that combines the city’s historic charm with festive cheer. Porto, located along the Douro River in Portugal, comes alive with holiday spirit in late November into December.

One of the best things about Christmas in Porto is the cozy atmosphere. The city’s streets are adorned with sparkling lights and decorations especially in Ribeira, the historic district, with its narrow, winding streets and picturesque riverfront views.

When it comes to dining, Porto offers a wide array of specialty classics like the Francesinha, Bolinhos de Bacalhau and Tripas à Moda do Porto. Some fantastic restaurants to try are Casario with its chef-tasting menu and wine pairing and O Buraco which serves traditional Portuguese cuisine. And don’t forget to savour a glass of Porto wine, a local specialty, at one of the many wine cellars.

During Christmas time, you can’t miss the festive markets. The Christmas market at World of Wine is a highlight, featuring artisanal crafts and seasonal treats along with the riverbank views of Porto.

Notable tips for visiting Porto during Christmas time include taking a stroll along the beautifully lit Dom Luís I Bridge and attending a Fado concert for a quintessential Portuguese musical experience. Additionally, the historic Livraria Lello bookshop is a must-visit for book lovers and the perfect stop for shopping for those on your Christmas list.

A recommended place to stay in Porto is at Massarelos House, a historic building featuring fifteen lovingly restored apartments that beautifully blend modernity with the city’s architectural character.

Málaga

Malaga Spain lights
Credit: My Little World of Travelling

By Cristina of My Little World of Travelling

If you are looking for a winter sun getaway in Europe, Malaga is the perfect option. You can enjoy the Christmas atmosphere and the beautiful sunny weather that some travellers crave during this season.

One of the main reasons to visit Malaga at Christmas is the Christmas lights on Larios Street, Malaga’s main commercial street. The lights are different every year, so locals and travellers are intrigued by what display they will find. On top of a beautiful light display, there is also a light show with Christmas carols that usually takes place from 6 p.m. onwards.

The Christmas markets are in Paseo del Parque and Muelle Uno, Malaga’s port. They have everything from figurines for the nativity scene and lovely Christmas decorations to sweets and books.

Nativity scenes are very popular in Spain, and most Spaniards set up their Christmas tree alongside the traditional “belen”. However, you can visit amazing nativity scenes across Malaga city centre. The best one is usually in the town hall.

Besides these Christmas activities, December is a fantastic time to sightsee because it isn’t as scorching as in the summer and isn’t cold either.

If you stay in Malaga at the beginning of January, you can also attend the famous Three Kings Parade on the 5th of January. It is a great event to visit with children.

Malaga gets busy during this time of the year, so booking your accommodation in advance is recommended. Hotel Gran Miramar is a fantastic hotel. This five-star hotel close to the city centre also organises Christmas events.

Strasbourg

strasbourg Christmas market
Credit: Stephanie Rytting

By Stephanie Rytting 

Strasbourg is called the Capital of Christmas, and it truly deserves that title – the entire city just oozes Christmas spirit. Located on the very western border of France (almost touching Germany), Strasbourg is filled with charming half-timbered buildings. The Old Town is situated on the “Grande Ile,” a large island created by a fork in the Ill River that flows through the city. Here is where the Christmas magic happens. 

Practically every street in the city is strung with lights and large, lit Christmas decorations. One street, for example, might feature large candy cane decorations hung high above the crowds, another is strung with gingerbread men.

Garland covers windows and doors, and some houses are even covered with delightful themes – such as the popular house adorned in polar bear stuffed animals. 

There are 12 different markets that comprise the Strasbourg Christmas Market. The must-visit markets in Strasbourg are definitely the Christkindelsmarik at Hotel de Ville, which is the largest market and has beautiful displays of a large variety of goods; and Le Grand Sapin market, where you’ll see the enormous 30-meter-tall Christmas tree. Don’t miss the light show on the Christmas tree that starts at the top of the hour! I also really enjoy the markets around the Strasbourg Cathedral. 

One fun place to eat in Strasbourg is La Cloche a Fromage, which serves a variety of cheese-centric dishes. The Hotel Cour du Corbeau Strasbourg is a beautiful hotel set in a renovated 16th-century building, a great place to stay on a visit to the city.

Colmar

Colmar France Christmas
Credit: Chelsea Espinoza

By Chelsea Espinoza

One of the most magical places to visit in Europe during Christmas is without a doubt Colmar, France.  

Located in north-eastern France, Colmar is arguably one of the most beautiful and most popular places to visit during the holiday season.  One of the most enjoyable activities to do in Colmar at any time of year, but especially at Christmas time, is to stroll around the town and take in its beauty.  The holiday decorations are superb and make this quaint little village look like something from a Christmas card or movie.  

Colmar offers numerous Christmas markets to browse through, and they’re all relatively easy to find while strolling through the town.  Be sure to save room for warm drinks and sweet treats, as the markets offer numerous tasty food options to try.  For a more formal sit-down experience, a few noteworthy restaurants to try in Colmar include Aux Armes de Colmar, Restaurant Au Koïfhus, and Brasserie des Tanneurs.  

As for your stay in Colmar, consider booking at Hotel Le Maréchal.  This beautiful, quaint hotel is located in a perfect location that is easily accessible to all that Colmar has to offer.  You can count on clean, charming rooms that will allow you to feel cozy and comfortable during your stay. Perfect for your Colmar getaway.

Chamonix

Chamonix France
Credit: Kate Fletcher

By Kate Fletcher 

Nestled amongst Western Europe’s tallest mountains in the middle of the Alps is the picturesque town of Chamonix, a magical place to get into the winter Christmas spirit. 

With picture-perfect buildings, snowy peaks, and a vibrant atmosphere, you’ll feel as though you’ve entered a snow globe even before you’ve indulged in the incredible food and world-class skiing, so make sure to layer up in warm clothing before hitting the slopes!

Take a family snap in front of the huge Christmas tree outside the tourist office, attend the Christmas carols concert, and enjoy a warming mulled wine from the street vendors practically any time you please! 

Don’t worry if you haven’t sorted out gifts for your loved ones yet, the pedestrianized main street turns into a festive Christmas market every December, selling local crafts and delicious treats to suit any taste. 

Another great thing about spending Christmas in Chamonix is that it is a very international town meaning Christmas is celebrated on both the 24th and 25th of December. This gives you plenty of opportunity to engage in local traditions while still fostering your own, no matter how you celebrate. 

Most restaurants in town offer Christmas banquets but they do book out quite far in advance as this is a popular spot to spend the holiday periods. While you’re here, make sure to get a table at La Caleche Savoyard, a cozy and traditional mountain restaurant with an unbeatable fondue! 

If you’re visiting with family or a large group of friends, nothing beats renting a luxury chalet for the most authentic (yet deluxe) stay in Chamonix, otherwise, you can’t beat the Hôtel Mont-Blanc Chamonix with an incredible spa and heated indoor/outdoor pool that can be used all year round!

Thun

Town Hall Square with Christmas tree in Thun Old City
Image by depositphotos.com

By Daria Bachmann of The Discovery Nut

Thun is a small town in Switzerland’s Berne’s Oberland region famous for its medieval castle and well-preserved medieval Old Town with narrow cobbled streets, historic buildings, and charming cafes. 

Located along the Acre River, Thun boasts a beautiful backdrop perfect for your Christmas photos, with all the colorful decorations and bright lights you can find around town.

Visiting Thun’s Christmas market is one of the best things you can do during December. It’s a cultural event that has everything you could wish for during this time of the year – delicious, sweet treats, produce from local farmers, hot drinks and handmade arts and crafts. 

As you stroll through town, you will be able to enjoy some of the most popular landmarks like Thun Stadtkirche, a white church that overlooks the town from the hill, Thun Art Museum and the beautiful Hauptgasse Street, the city’s main thoroughfare that’s home to the most beautiful architecture in Thun.

Thun is a compact town, and you can get to most places on foot. It’s a great place to visit, as you can practice sustainable tourism and catch local buses if you need to get around the area and go to Interlaken. If you need to go to Bern, you can catch a quick train that departs several times a day from the main station in Thun.

After you are done exploring the city, it’s time for typical Swiss food and maybe a glass of wine. Stop at the Restaurant Dampfschiff for an upscale dinner, or grab a quick bite at Mani, which offers a casual atmosphere. There are plenty of great places to find food in Thun after enjoying its Christmas atmosphere! 

Grindelwald

Grindelwald Switzerland village snow
Credit: Daniel Lewis

By Daniel Lewis of North Carolina Travel Guides

Grindelwald is a village that is located in the Bern canton of Switzerland, close to the larger city of Interlaken, and the village can be reached by train from that city. The village is surrounded by beautiful snow-capped mountains, and during Christmas, it often snows in Grindelwald, which transforms Grindelwald into a Christmas village. 

When you arrive in the village by train, you are immediately in the town’s center, where you can find many shops and restaurants. One of the best restaurants in Grindelwald is Restaurant Alte Post. This is a cozy restaurant that is located along Grindelwald’s main street where you can enjoy classic Swiss dishes. Another one of the village’s best restaurants is Barry’s, which is a restaurant where one can enjoy delicious food, including vegan dishes, in a cozy cottage setting. 

At the beginning of December, the “Advent Market” takes place in Grindelwald, which is an outdoor market where you can shop for local items. Next to the train station, you can find the Swiss Chocolate Chalet, which is a cute chocolate shop. 

Romantik Hotel Schweizerhof, a 4-star hotel with rooms that offer views of the surrounding mountains, is one of the best places to stay in Grindelwald.

Munich

Munich Rathaus, main square with Christmas tree
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Renowned for its rich Bavarian traditions, Munich hosts enchanting Christmas markets that extend well into the festive season, creating a splendid backdrop for merry celebrations. The Christkindlmarkt at Marienplatz takes center stage, with the resplendent Neues Rathaus and the Glockenspiel providing a magical setting. Amidst charming stalls adorned with twinkling lights, visitors can savor the warmth of traditional Bavarian treats, peruse artisan crafts, and be serenaded by the sweet melodies of live music.

While Marienplatz embodies the allure of tradition, locals often seek the more laid-back ambiance of the Christmas Village in the Residenz courtyard, offering a serene escape within the historic surroundings of the royal palace. Additionally, the Tollwood Winter Festival at Theresienwiese provides a unique multicultural experience, blending Christmas traditions with international flair. As the enticing aroma of mulled wine and roasted chestnuts fills the air, Munich’s festive markets promise a delightful sensory journey through the holiday season.

For a luxurious European stay that perfectly complements your festive experience, consider NH Collection Munich Bavaria. Nestled in the heart of the city, this elegant hotel provides a seamless blend of comfort and sophistication. With its proximity to Munich’s enchanting Christmas markets, including the iconic Marienplatz, NH Collection Munich Bavaria offers a delightful retreat for those seeking to immerse themselves in the spirited charm of Munich during the Christmas season.

Prague

Prague Christmas Market
Credit: David Angel

By David Angel

If you happen to run out of time before Christmas, the Prague Christmas Markets may well be worth considering. Unlike the Markets in Germany and Austria, it continues into the New Year, with some of them remaining open into the New Year, until January 6th.

The most popular Christmas Market in Prague takes place in the magical Old Town Square, beneath the fairytale Gothic spires of the Church of Our Lady Before Tyn and the 14th-century Old Town Hall. It’s one of the most beautiful settings of any Christmas Markets in Europe, with a mixture of food stalls, bars and craft stalls, some selling high quality Bohemian glass products.
The Old Town Square Christmas Market is more popular with tourists than locals, who tend to prefer the Christmas Market in Namesti Miru in the nearby Vinohrady district. Tere are other smaller markets around Prague at Christmas including one in Prague Castle and a smaller affair on Kampa Island, a few steps from the stunning Charles Bridge.
Food at the Christmas Markets in Prague tends to be mediocre and overpriced, so you’re better off heading for one of Prague’s many great restaurants. We recommend a short ride on tram 22 to Klasterni Senk, a restaurant in the thousand-year-old Břevnov Monastery.
 
There is also an abundance of great luxury hotels in Prague. One of the best is the Hotel Pod Vezi, beneath the Gothic tower at the western end of the Charles Bridge.

Vienna

Vienna Rathaus Christmas Market Austria
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Vienna, renowned for its imperial grandeur, transforms into a winter wonderland adorned with captivating Christmas markets and dazzling lights. While Vienna may not be an immediate association with the holiday season, its charm during Christmas is nothing short of enchanting. Picture yourself strolling through the resplendent Schönbrunn Palace Christmas Market, where the imperial backdrop sets the stage for a magical experience. Indulge in a cup of fragrant mulled wine as you explore the market stalls offering handcrafted treasures and festive treats.

For an extra dose of nostalgia, the Vienna Christmas Dream on Rathausplatz boasts an ice rink and a Ferris wheel, creating a fairytale ambiance. As you embrace the spirit of Christmas in Vienna, immerse yourself in the city’s cultural offerings, from classical concerts to the iconic Vienna Boys’ Choir performances.

For a truly immersive Christmas experience in Vienna, consider making Hotel Sacher your festive home away from home. The hotel’s proximity to Vienna’s renowned Christmas markets, including the nearby Albertina Art Museum Christmas Market, ensures that you are in the epicenter of the city’s festive charm. After a day of exploring the enchanting streets of Vienna, retreat to the hotel’s warm ambiance, where you can savor delectable seasonal treats and perhaps indulge in a cup of traditional Viennese hot chocolate.

Vienna, with its opulent charm and festive fervor, promises an unforgettable yuletide experience for travelers seeking the spirit of Christmas in the heart of Europe.

Bratislava

Christmas market in Bratislava main Square at sunset
Image by depositphotos.com

Visiting Vienna for an extended period of time? Consider extending your festive sojourn to Bratislava. By the way, Bratislava makes for a perfect day trip from Vienna!

The charming capital of Slovakia boasts a Christmas celebration that seamlessly extends beyond December, allowing visitors to revel in the magic well into the new year. Bratislava’s Christmas Markets, scattered across the city’s historic squares, offer a delightful blend of tradition and merriment. The Main Square, Hlavné námestie, transforms into a winter wonderland beneath the backdrop of the Old Town Hall, enticing both locals and visitors alike with its vibrant atmosphere. Wander through the market’s stalls, where the aroma of traditional Slovak delicacies mingles with the melodies of festive carols.

For a more local experience, venture to the Christmas Market at Hviezdoslav Square, where residents gather amidst the twinkling lights and lively entertainment.

While the markets provide a sensory feast, Bratislava’s culinary scene beckons with a diverse array of dining options. Treat your palate to the rich flavors of Slovak cuisine at local eateries like Modrá Hviezda or Savoy. For a touch of luxury, consider staying at the Grand Hotel River Park, a Luxury Collection Hotel. Nestled along the banks of the Danube River, this opulent haven not only offers resplendent accommodations but also immerses guests in a festive ambiance with its tasteful Christmas decorations. As you explore the delights of Bratislava, let the city’s unique charm and extended Christmas cheer create lasting memories of your holiday adventure.

Verona

Verona Christmas at night
Credit: Jenoa Matthes

By Jenoa Matthes

During Christmas time, Verona transforms into a magical holiday destination. With fresh pine trees lining the shop fronts and lights hanging across the small streets, the city feels like a real life Christmas village. 

The Christmas market in Verona is one of the best in all of Italy. Starting from mid-November, the main piazzas and historic bridges are lined with local vendors selling everything from ornaments, slippers, cheeses, meats, and foods. Try ricotta fried donuts covered in melted chocolate or a dish from the region called Peara e Cotechino, which is polenta covered in a meat sauce. Make sure to taste a slice of pandoro cake from Michele Turco 1909, the famous Christmas cake that is from Verona.

Every year Verona hosts the International Nativity Scene Festival inside of the ancient Roman arena where you can view nativity scenes by artists from all around the world. This is truly a unique event that is worth visiting.

For a taste of local food, head to Locanda di Castelvecchio for a plate of fresh pasta and boiled meats. Another option is to book a table at Trattoria al Pompiere, an authentic, old-school restaurant serving up some fantastic pasta dishes.

Hotels book up quickly during this time of the year, so make sure to reserve in advance. Vista Palazzo Verona is a 5-star hotel located in the heart of the city that is a wonderful spot to stay during the holiday season in Verona, Italy.

Malta

Parish Church of St Peter's Chains in Birzebbuga, Malta
Image by depositphotos.com

By Alice of Adventures of Alice

Malta is an amazing place to visit all year round. It’s located in the heart of the Mediterranean, between the boot of Italy and North Africa. Malta is a place full of rich history, and there are plenty of things to do in Malta; the streets are cobbled, and the buildings are so historic, almost as though you’ve been taken back in time! 

It has mild temperatures all year round making the winter period the perfect time to visit, especially if you don’t like the cold. It won’t be tanning weather though – it’s typically around 19°C during the day, and nights can drop to 12°C.

There are plenty of places to eat in Malta, and rabbit is one of their traditional foods, but one of the best places we went to for food was a traditional restaurant called Ta Pawla in Bugibba. Try the three-course menu; everything was delicious.

Christmas is a great time to explore the island. Visit Rabat, Mdina, go for a walk along the cliffs and take a ferry to Gozo. They decorate the buildings and streets with Christmas lights, so make sure you go and have an evening stroll to see the pretty lights. They have Christmas Markets too and fireworks. 

Depending on where you stay you may need to get public transport to see the fireworks display but the island is small, so everything is usually pretty nearby. If you are looking for a luxurious stay, stay in The Phoenicia, in Floriana, Malta. It is described as the “leading hotel of the world in Malta.”

Sofia

Image by depositphotos.com

By Emma of Journey of a Nomadic Family

Sofia, the charming capital of Bulgaria, is a hidden gem in Eastern Europe that comes alive during the Christmas season. If you’re looking for a unique and unforgettable holiday experience, here’s why Sofia should be at the top of your list for a Christmas getaway.

Sofia boasts a rich history, with a blend of Eastern and Western influences that are reflected in its architecture, cuisine and culture. The city’s historic sites, including the enormous Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and the ancient Roman ruins, provide a picturesque backdrop for your holiday adventures.

Bulgaria’s capital offers a delectable array of Bulgarian and international cuisine. During the Christmas season, make sure to visit restaurants like Made in Home, The Little Things, and Moma Bulgarian Food, where you can savour both traditional Bulgarian dishes and international delights. Embrace the local holiday spirit by trying Banitsa (a traditional pastry), honey cake, and mulled wine at the Christmas markets.

Explore the city’s festive atmosphere by visiting the Christmas market in the city garden, just opposite the National Theatre. The likely dates are from the 17th of November to the 22nd of December 2023 when they’re open until 10 p.m. Enjoy the twinkling lights, artisanal gifts and delicious street food. Attend the Christmas concert at the little stage in the same area and you can hear traditional Bulgarian carols sung by local schools. 

Stroll along Vitosha Boulevard, Sofia’s premier shopping street, where you’ll find a mix of boutiques and international brands. For unique, locally made gifts, don’t miss the gift shops at the National Palace of Culture.

Sofia’s blend of rich history, delicious cuisine, and festive spirit make it the perfect destination for a Christmas getaway. Whether you’re exploring the city’s historic sites, savouring delicious Bulgarian food or soaking in the holiday spirit at the Christmas market, Sofia offers a memorable experience that will warm your heart during the winter season.

Rovaniemi

Santa Claus Village
Credit: Pamela Drager

By Pamela Drager

Visiting Rovaniemi, Finland around Christmas Time is a truly magical experience. It’s the official home of Santa Claus and is surrounded by breathtaking scenery. As you explore the Arctic Circle, you’ll find yourself surrounded by the stunning beauty of a snowy landscape that seems straight out of a fairy tale.

During this time of year, Rovaniemi transforms into the official hometown of Santa Claus. You can pay a visit to Santa Claus Village, where you’ll meet the man in red himself. Get your photo taken with him, mail a postcard or two, and see reindeer! It’s an enchanting experience, and you can even cross the Arctic Circle line in the village.

In addition, there are plenty of things to do in Rovaniemi. You can embark on thrilling adventures like husky sledding, reindeer safaris, and snowmobiling through the pristine wilderness. The landscape, covered in a thick blanket of snow, offers a serene backdrop for your adventures.

For an exclusive experience, stay a few nights at the Arctic Snow Hotel & Glass Igloos where you can see the Northern Lights if the weather is right. The Arctic Circle’s unique position provides a good chance to witness the mesmerizing Northern Lights. Imagine yourself gazing at the colorful ribbons of light dancing across the night sky – right from your bed!

Rovaniemi at Christmastime is not just about the magic of the season but also a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the Arctic’s natural beauty and unique activities. It’s a destination where your winter dreams come true, surrounded by nature’s breathtaking beauty and the spirit of Christmas.

Oslo

Oslo Norway at Christmas
Courtesy of Pixabay

By Kristin of Scotland Less Explored

During the month of December, Oslo comes alive with lights and Christmas decorations. It might be cold, but it is a great time of year to visit for a bit of festive spirit. One of the best places to go after dark is Spikersuppa, which is between the castle and parliament. Here you will find a Christmas market where you can try Norwegian specialties such as gloegg, aquavit and the 7 different types of Christmas biscuit which tradition says you should make. Right next to the market is an ice-skating rink.

After a bit of Christmas shopping take in some of the sites such as the Opera House and the Munch Museum. Another museum worth a visit is the National Museum. It houses the Norwegian State’s collection of art, architecture and design objects. The Viking ship museum is closed for refurbishment but visit the Viking Planet instead. It is amazing to see the interactive displays showing the boats the Vikings would travel to Scotland in.  

For dinner Teaterkafen is popular with Norwegians and you can try traditional Norwegian Christmas food such as lutefisk, pinne kjoett and ribbe. A more modern option is Avalon close to the National Museum.

One of the best places to stay in Oslo is the Thief overlooking the Oslofjord. A more classic option is the Grand Hotel right next to Spikersuppa and parliament.

Bergen

Bergen christmas - Yukti from Travelwithme24x7
Credit: Yukti Agrawal

By Yukti Agrawal of Travelwithme24x7 

Bergen is worth visiting for the European spirit of Christmas due to its enchanting Christmas markets, where the aroma of seasonal treats mingles with the festive sounds of traditional Norwegian music, creating a magical festive atmosphere. Bergen’s charming snowy streets adorned with sparkling lights and the opportunity to partake in local holiday traditions make Bergen a truly enchanting destination during Christmas. Therefore, Bergen tops Norway’s winter itinerary for soaking in the Christmas spirit. 

You can enjoy many activities during the Christmas season in Bergen, like visiting a bustling Christmas market at the city center or taking a stroll through the city streets, especially in areas like Bryggen, and admiring the Christmas lights and decorations. Many shops and restaurants display festive displays, creating a picturesque atmosphere.

Experience Norwegian Christmas Traditions by exploring exhibitions on traditional holiday foods, customs, and folklore. Mount Fløyen offers stunning views of Bergen; it’s often illuminated with festive lights during Christmas, The Bergen Christmas Market is one of Bergen’s most famous Christmas shopping experiences. Take the funicular to the top and enjoy the panoramic scenery. Look out for the main Christmas tree in the city, usually located in a central square.  

Bergen has a rich cultural scene, and during the Christmas season, you can find various concerts featuring traditional Norwegian Christmas music. The historic Bergen Cathedral and Grieg Hall are popular venues for these performances.

To thoroughly soak yourself in the Christmas vibes of Bergen, book your stay at the iconic Thon Hotel Rosenkrantz. As it is in the heart of the city, this hotel not only provides luxurious accommodations but also offers proximity to the charming Bryggen Wharf, where festive lights, Christmas markets, and the enchanting atmosphere of the holiday season come to life, allowing you to soak in the true spirit of Christmas in Bergen.

For an authentic taste of Christmas in Bergen, visit “Enhjørningen” (The Unicorn). This historic restaurant on Bryggen Wharf offers delicious Norwegian specialties. It immerses you in a cozy, festive atmosphere with its charming holiday decorations and seasonal delights, making it a must-visit destination for experiencing Christmas vibes in Bergen.

Bergen’s most famous Christmas shopping experience is the Bergen Christmas Market in the city center. This festive market transforms the historic square into a winter wonderland, featuring over 80 stalls adorned with twinkling lights. You get to explore and shop from a wide array of locally crafted gifts and traditional Norwegian ornaments and indulge in seasonal treats, creating a magical atmosphere that captures the essence of Christmas in Bergen.