Do You Hear What I Hear? It’s the sound of church bells inside tall spires, Christmas music wafting in the air, and people of all ages frolicking at Christmas markets. Christmas in Europe is magical. There’s no better way to describe it. is it cold? Yes. But put on your warmest coat and fuzziest socks and take in the beauty of the quaint villages, snow-capped rooftops, and over-the-top Christmas decorations. I’ve compiled 25 photos that will inspire you to spend Christmas in Europe.
When I moved abroad many people asked, especially around the holidays, whether I was homesick. But my answer was an emphatic, “No”. the reason? There is so much to see and do around the holidays. Big cities like London, Paris, Munich and Vienna go out of their way to decorate every inch of storefronts and decorate their entire streets with lights. Small towns like Strasbourg, Colmar, and Heidelberg are gingerbread towns that come to life with Christmas markets dotted next to half-timbered houses.
Check out the best Christmas markets in Europe here.
I thought the best way to show you these places is to give you some of the most beautiful pictures of winter in Europe. From Switzerland, France, Germany and beyond. The Advent season begins with the start of Christmas markets across Europe, but is special to places like Germany and Austria because that’s where Christmas markets originated. Since 1310 in Munich the “Weihnachtsmarkt” (Christmas Market) or “Christkindlesmarkt” (literally meaning Christ Child Market) has traditionally been held in city squares. In 1296 there was the first December market in Vienna, Austria. So when you’re at a Christmas market or spending Christmas in Europe, you’re participating in a time-honored tradition. So grab the Gluven and let’s get to it!
Start in Frankfurt, a major airport hub that provides easy access to many beautiful places, and wind your way through Germany. I would suggest renting a car for ease of moving from one place to another. 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,
Make Your Way to Heidelberg from Some Other German Christmas Market, the ones in Nuremberg, Worms, Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Munich are extraordinary. Make your way by car or train to the stunningly beautiful markets of France. I would suggest Strasbourg and Colmar. Both border Germany, so it’s an easy trek over the border.
Next, I suggest going south Switzerland, here you can go Basel, just a short ride to the German border. Check out the Christmas markets there and then take a short ride to Beautiful burn, about an hour away you’ll find sorghum Located on the lake.
That’s a lot of ground to cover, but if you want to see more of Europe, keep heading east. then you can make your way Vienna, Austria For one of the world’s most magical Christmas markets. If you haven’t done your upkeep yet, head north praha to Christmas markets throughout the city.
The 25 photos below will represent the journey along the route.
Heidelberg is a true representation of a wonderful German Christmas market. You’ll find piping hot glühwein and an ice skating rink under a grand palace. The stalls are ornately decorated and there are many options to shop and eat!
see my full guide Heidelberg’s Christmas Market,
Black Forest, Germany
I moved to Germany to travel Europe, and I often forget how amazing the beauty around Heidelberg can be. the black forest A perfect example of this. we moved out of town Baden-Baden And watched the setting sun over the mountains. It is really a heart wrenching sight. Here you can find skiing, beautiful chalets and delicious Black Forest cakes in nearby cafes.
Nuremberg is home to one of the most traditional and famous Christmas markets in Germany. You can get a real feel for what a Christmas market was like in the 1300s and some of the decorated stalls selling food and Christmas decorations date back to 1890.
Worms is a small town but boasts some serious history. It is here that the commemoration of Martin Luther being declared a heretic is celebrated. The Christmas markets here are not as crowded, yet you will get a traditional feel.
see my travel guide Worms and Nuremberg for Christmas,
Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
Yes, Rothenburg ob der Tauber has a long name but it refers to the fact that it is still surrounded by city walls. This medieval town will feel like Christmas no matter what time of year you visit. But they also have lovely markets and even a Christmas museum. Here you’ll find the incredible Christmas store Käthe Wohlfahrt.
see my full guide Rothenburg ob der Tauber,
Munich is the jewel of Germany. You’ll find some of the most beautiful architecture, fun restaurants, and home to Oktoberfest. But Munich’s snow-covered rooftops are perhaps the loveliest in winter. Munich is said to have had the first early Christmas market in Austria after Vienna.
check out my Complete Guide to Munich,
Strasbourg at Christmas can be described in one word: magical. This elaborate, classic Christmas fantasy town on the border with Germany looks like a Currier & Ives winter etching come to life. Golden lights twinkle above individual market stalls decorated with imaginative Christmas settings – toy lands, candy forests, dreamy snowscapes – all tinsel and glitter. Locals entice a constant flow of market-goers with an array of regional foods, hot mulled drinks, hand-knit mittens, scarves and cold-weather clothing.
see my full guide Strasbourg at Christmas here and many more photos!
If you thought Strasbourg was beautiful, wait till you venture to Colmar. The whole 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 imagine being real.
I didn’t expect much when I traveled to Basel with my mom. I was wrong. This pretty town is situated on a river and the Christmas markets are brightly decorated stalls filled with trinkets and decorations.
One of the best treats I’ve ever had was in Bern, Switzerland, at a Christmas market. The melt-in-your-mouth caramel was downright divine and something I couldn’t find anywhere else. There is a huge cathedral, beautiful tree lined boulevards and sheepskin furs on almost every chair in the city. It just looks expensive. Maybe because it is. But it’s worth it.
see my full guide Bern, Switzerland,
Lovely Lucerne is situated on the banks of the lake of the same name. Walk across the oldest covered bridge in the world and see the mesmerizing lighted city at night. The markets here are distinctly Swiss and remarkably lively. A woman sells her woolen hats by showing how the items hanging from her chalet-style stall come from the sheep her father raised and her mother stitched together on her family’s nearby farm.
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is known for its mighty architecture and mighty bridge. It is a quintessential Christmas destination as it echoes the way Christmas markets were organized in the past. The markets are full of delicious pastries called trdelnik and roasting meat.
see my guide praha,
Innsbruck is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen in my life. Radiant Alps above and fabulous city below. It’s a great time to visit Innsbruck no matter the time of year. Feel like you are inside a snow globe in this happy, vibrant city.
see my Travel guide to Innsbruck, Austria here,
Vienna is famous for its stately architecture. But come Christmas time it is even more gorgeous with string lights on every building. I’m especially impressed by the chandeliers hanging in midair over the fancy streets. The Christmas markets are clean and bright and you cannot walk around this town without a smile on your face.
check out my Complete Guide to Vienna in 3 Days,
England does it right when it comes to Christmas. The decoration of each street is adorable. I remember walking down Oxford Street with my mouth open in awe. Hyde Park also has a Christmas market that is super-fun and an English version of a German tradition.
check my guide london christmas right here,
Here’s a quick look infographic I created to make Europe Christmas planning even easier. (Pin it so you don’t forget it!).
Christmas time in Europe is one of my favorite parts of my travels abroad. There is an overwhelming sense of pure joy and the Christmas spirit feels authentic. Everyone should travel at least once in their life during the colder months. I promise, it’s worth it!
Check out the best Christmas markets in Europe here.
View my Christmas Market Road Trip Itinerary HERE!
PS I share even more photos on my Instagram @heleneinbetween. All photos edited from my Lightroom presets found here!
Where is your favorite place for Christmas?