The ancient and historic lands of Europe have town, villages, and cities where some of them date back to the day of the first historic Christmas. Other mostly established in the centuries that followed but their long histories are closely tied to the holiday of Christmas. Some of have dramatic festivals and snow covered scenery straight out of a storybook. No matter what you’re particular religion, spending the Christmas season with your family in the fabled lands of Europe can be a one of kind and all together magical experience. Here are a few of the towns and villages with some of the best Christmas celebrations anywhere in the world.
1. Salzburg, Austria
The town of Salzburg is not only the birthplace of the legendary composer Mozart and the setting for the iconic “Sound of Music”, it has one of the largest Christmas markets in Europe. It attracts millions of visitors every season to shop the hundreds of stalls, shops, and celebrations as the air fills with the amazing sounds of the season. There are children’s puppet shows and choir singing songs, making this place a magical Christmas setting high in the stunning snowy mountains of the Alps. The town is light with million of lights and horse drawn sleighs trot along the cobblestones. There are countless places to find one of kind Christmas treasures, toys, treats, and ornaments. Step into a quiet café and warm yourself with a hot cup of cocoa or a glass of wine.
2. Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
This historic medieval town nestled deep in the Black Forest of Germany is probably one of the most magical and enchanting places to visit around Christmas time. Christmas is so important here that they even have a massive Christmas market that is open all year around. The city is transformed into a winter wonderland and the market, known as Reiterlesmarkt, dates back to the 15th century. Aside from the fantastic shopping where shops and stalled are filled with toys, ornaments, and heavenly treats, the town itself will have you swearing Santa’s workshop might be just around the corner. The buildings are hundreds of years old and the cobblestone streets give the entire town a very romantic feel. Make sure to stop by and nibble on their signature treat, the Schneeball or snowball, which is essentially sweet fried dough, rolled in sugar. It’s truly a winter fairyland.
3. Dresden, Germany
The Christmas market began in here in 1434 and is the oldest and most popular in Germany. The entire city is alight with Christmas lights and there is no shortage of holiday fun to have. From the Gingerbread Festival in early December to the Stollenfest to the Christmas Arch Festival, the holiday events last all month long. Each one brings to life the history, traditions, and customs through carols and dances and the entire city delights in the cheer of the Christmas season. The children are front and center for the season too. Santa and his elves meet with the little ones and there are enchanting storybook cottages that will have the kids sure they have stepped into one of their fairytales. There is also a children’s railway and merry-go-round in the children’s adventure land. Kids can enjoy puppet sows, story telling or simply sinking their teeth in delicious treats and chocolates. Enjoy authentic gingerbread in the very land where it originated or stop in and a local pub or restaurant to warm your toes.
4. Prague, Czech Republic
The Christmas season lasts all month long in the Czech Republic and the capital city of Prague hosts one of the largest Christmas markets in Europe. The city is wrapped in Christmas lights and the air is filled with the sounds of Christmas carols emanated from both the streets and any one of the gothic churches. The Old Town Square and the Wenceslas Square host the main Christmas markets where you can not only buy ornaments, winter gear, jewelry, traditional souvenirs or toys, but also hearty food and hot wine on a chilly winter evening. Enjoy some traditional seasonal food such as roasted ham, sausage, or Trdelnik, which is a delicious sugary pastry. The pubs are a place where you can relax, socialize and enjoy some of the local beer. The children will enjoy the Nativity scene and a chance to pet the goats and sheep or awe at the massive Christmas tree in Old Town Square. You can also enjoy phenomenal operas and symphonies as well. All month long, the city becomes even more spectacular than usual.
5. London, England
In the land of Charles Dickens, the classic Christmas tales come to life in front of your eyes. Seems as though every inch of the city is covered in Christmas lights. During the holiday season you can enjoy ice-skating and Christmas choirs singing into the chilly night air. A visit to the annual Winter Wonderland and you can see ice sculptures and shop until you drop. There are several Christmas markets that offer all kind of treats, toys, souvenirs, clothing, ornaments, etc, There are shows, plays, and symphonies to get yourself in the mood for the season. There are sleigh rides and Santa’s Grotto along with a stroll through the 105-acre wildlife oasis. You can hear the story of Scrooge in London’s Wetland Centre. The famous store Harrods also gets a visit from Santa giving the family a chance for shopping, photos with Santa, and even real-life reindeer. You can also see real reindeer at the London Zoo along with Santa and his elves as well. The list is endless and you are sure to stay in the Christmas spirit for a long time.