Christmas market in Munich
The Christkindlesmarkt dates back to 1642.
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Eat, Drink & Be Merry in These 5 European Christmas Destinations

The Holiday Spirit Brought to Life

It’s that time of the year again.

The shops are playing Christmas carols, twinkling lights are strewn across the streets and there is a crisp chill in the air. What if you treated yourself to a European getaway as your Christmas gift this year? Europe is packed with charming holiday destinations that will enchant you with their magical festive atmosphere.

Europe’s Christmas traditions date back many centuries. There’s nothing quite like walking along the cobblestone streets of a Medieval city while sipping mulled wine and listening to carolers, or shopping at a bustling outdoor Christmas market for unique artisan gifts and ornate decorations.

Here are a few of the best European cities for Christmas — just make sure you pack some warm clothes and a good pair of walking shoes!

Munich, Germany

Munich has one of the most famous Christmas markets in Europe, the Christkindlesmarkt, a huge celebration where you can gorge yourself on roasted nuts, spiced cider and juicy German sausage. This traditional market has a long history, dating back to 1642 — more than 200 years before Oktoberfest.

Make sure you look for the food and craft stalls that are frequented by locals, as that usually gives you an indication of which ones are the best.

Also, throughout the month of December the church known as Frauenkirche hosts a series of concerts, so you can get in the Christmas spirit by listening to a powerful organ recital or a Bavarian choir.

Christmas market in Prague.Indulge in delicious Christmas treats and pick up a gift or two for someone back home.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Prague, Czech Republic

Prague is a city that feels like a Gothic fairy tale and it becomes even more magical at Christmastime. The gorgeous architecture of the city will be lit up with sparkling lights and the Old Town Square will host a huge Christmas market.

The festivities feature a stable full of goats, donkeys and sheep, many food, drink and handicraft stalls, live music and much more. You can try a traditional hot pastry coated in sugar or a spit-roasted ham, or pick up a unique handcrafted Christmas gift for someone special back home.

Allow yourself plenty of time to explore Prague and come with an empty stomach because you will want to sample all of the wonderful food and drink.

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Trees along sidewalk decorated in lights.Walk down festively decorated streets in a town surrounded by snow covered mountains.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Innsbruck, Austria

Innsbruck is a ridiculously pretty Austrian city, surrounded by snow-covered mountains. It hosts not one, but four different Christmas markets during the holiday season. Each one has a slightly different vibe, from the traditional Christmas market in the Old Town to the exciting and modern Christmas market at Maria Theresia-Strasse.

At the lovely traditional Old Town Market, you will find artisan market stalls with beautiful ornaments made from hand-blown glass, wooden toys, candles and much more. There’s also a spectacular sparkling Christmas tree and live trumpet music.

Busy cobblestone street with old country style buildings decorated with Christmas lights.Colmar is known as "Little Venice" due to the waterways that wind through the streets.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Colmar, France

The 13th century town of Colmar is gorgeous at any time of year, but its Medieval architecture becomes even more enchanting when it is lit up with Christmas lights. It is known as “Little Venice” due to the waterways that wind through the streets.

There are five Christmas markets that are linked together by the labyrinth of narrow streets lined with half-timbered houses. Each of the markets is unique, offering wonderful treats from local artisans. You can also enjoy guided historical tours of the city, wine tastings, traditional toy exhibitions and much more.

Sometimes the Christmas markets in the smaller towns can be more enjoyable, as they are less crowded and more traditional. You’ll be able to enjoy a quieter and more peaceful Christmas experience and learn a lot more about the local culture.

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Mill carved out of iceYou'll be amazed by the beautiful sculptures created by artists during the Ice Sculpture Festival.Photo Credit: ijssculptuur

Hasselt, Belgium

Hasselt is a beautiful town in Belgium, famous for it’s annual Ice Sculpture Festival. It takes place from the second half of November to the middle of January. During the celebration the streets will be filled with complex and impressively detailed sculptures carved entirely of ice. The creations are carved by 40 different artists and together they use about 300 tonnes of ice.

Walking through and marveling at the sculptures is a truly unforgettable winter wonderland experience. When you get cold (the sculptures are held in a tent kept at -5° Celsius) you can warm yourself up with a mug of delicious Belgian hot chocolate.

Hasselt is also known for being the unofficial gin capital of Belgium, so while you are there you can enjoy some high quality gin to warm you up inside. Visit the National Gin Museum, which is located within a beautifully restored and still operating 19th century distillery.

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