Collected by Clare Olivares, AFAR Local Expert
Places to explore in winter for Christmas
Römerberg, 60329 Frankfurt am Main, Germany
There’s no better way to experience the festivities of the holidays than Christmas markets (Weihnachtsmarkt) in Germany, and Frankfurt's is particularly beautiful. The markets take place usually in the center of the town, and you'll find all...
75009 Paris, France
Galeries Lafayette Haussmann is worth a visit if only to stand under its magnificent glass dome. The family business has survived as a one-stop-shopping hub for five generations, thanks to steady innovation and an emphasis on high fashion and...
Budapest, 1051 Hungary
There's no better way to connect with a culture than through food. It's a universal language, tangible and immediate. Street/market food is particularly insightful. I recently spent time in eastern Europe and was pleasantly surprised by the...
Vesterbrogade 3, 1630 København V, Denmark
I got to Copenhagen with zero idea that there would be an amusement park right in the middle of it. Let alone a 19th century amusement park, which makes it all the more magical and romantic (in the antiquated sense). At age 23, I still enjoyed...
V Kotcích 516/15, 110 00 Praha-Staré Město, Czechia
One drizzly December day I came across this intrepid soul teaching archery to a knot of bored preteens in the Czech Republic. I couldn't put my finger on why, exactly, but the scene very much seemed to belong in a tenth story from "Nine Stories."...
Cinnamon, vanilla and anis lead the way. Bells and laughter invite. Two golden angels greet you as you walk through the gate. It's such a special time and no place really seems to bring the joyful feeling of Christmas closer to my heart than the...
Potsdamer Platz 1, 10785 Berlin, Germany
With only my nose peeking from my scarf, the smell of toasted almonds, melting sugar, and mulled wine warmed all my senses. Christmas in Berlin made me feel 5 years old all over again and I had the revelation, “This is what Christmas carols are...
Hauptallee 10, 01219 Dresden, Germany
Every other year my wife and I travel to Europe for Christmas Markets. Why? To begin with, most of these markets are traditions stretching back hundreds of years, so each market takes on it's own distinct personality. This trip we visited Erfurt...
Warmoezeniersweg 20, 9000 Gent, Belgium
Went over to Brugge the other day to see the ice sculptures and also had a walk through the city. The main square was lit up very nicely and there was an ice rink right in the center. The weather was cold but the atmosphere was poetic.
Barfüsserpl., 4010 Basel, Switzerland
Switzerland’s favorite cold weather libation is a piping hot glass of glühwein, a German-inspired mulled wine infused with the sweet and spicy flavors of cinnamon, clove, and star anise. The best place to enjoy a glass? The Basel Christmas Market,...
Domplatz, 99084 Erfurt, Germany
After three Christmases and countless holiday markets since our move to Germany, the Erfurter Weihnachtsmarkt has definitely become one of our favorites. Whether it's for the impressive Dom overlooking the main part of the market, the Medieval...
Berlin’s Kulturbrauerei in Prenzlauer Berg is home to one of Berlin's most hip Christmas markets: the Lucia Weihnachtsmarkt. Located on the grounds of a former brewery, the Lucia Christmas market is the “Nordic”-themed market in Berlin. You’ll...
6301 Valkenburg, Netherlands
Every year, the little town of Valkenburg creates a Christmas Market atmosphere in the municipal caves of Valkenburg aan de Geul. Considered the largest and oldest underground Christmas Markets in Europe, the caves are very inviting to visitors...
Piazza di Santa Croce, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
I studied abroad in Italy and, since they don't celebrate Thanksgiving, my friends and I dove right into Christmas as soon as November came around. I listened to my professor sing in a choir for a Christmas concert, attended the magical tree...
111 29 Stockholm, Sweden
December in Stockholm is a great time to explore various Christmas markets (Julmarknader) around town. At Stortorget in Gamla stan (Old town), you'll find the city's most popular Christmas market where you can pick up a variety of porcelain...
Trg bana Josipa Jelačića, 10000, Zagreb, Croatia
Reflecting on my Christmas in Croatia, I can only feel tremendously blessed. Though my flight from Budapest was cancelled, I ended up in a taxi with four other interesting people. Upon crossing the border into Croatia, we handed the officials five...
Japan, 〒060-0042 Hokkaido, Sapporo, Chuo, 大通西7丁目
One of the highlights we wanted to see in Sapporo was the White Illumination event in Sapporo in the winter. Odori Park, which is a whole12-block stretch of park that serves as a central landmark of Sapporo, is lit up using thousands of light...
630 Hamilton St, Vancouver, BC V6B 5N6, Canada
I love the lights, the carols, the colors, and the food of Christmas. I have always wanted to take in the famed German and Austrian markets, but I have yet to make the trip. If you are on the West Coast of North America, the Vancouver German...
55 Mill St, Toronto, ON M5A 3C4, Canada
Toronto's Distillery Historic District attracts tourists all year round however I find it particularly atmospheric during winter with a dusting of snow and sparkle of lights. 2012 marks the 3rd annual Christmas Market that takes place here and I...
Alter Markt 47, 50667 Köln, Germany
One of the best Christmas markets in Europe is in Cologne. The market is open right next to the Cathedral and it is open from the 25th of November till the 23rd of December. Gluhwine, ornaments, great food and allot of Christmas spirit is what you...
Gamla stan, Södermalm, Stockholm, Sweden
A picturesque mid-December afternoon along the Stockholm waterfront as the sun sets in the background. Despite the early darkness, Stockholm was bright and energetic all hours of the day. The air was festive with Christmas celebrations and...
Rue du Parc 2, 4577 Modave, Belgium
The Chateau is gorgeous at any time of the year but at Christmas time it's extra special as each room gets decorated with Christmas trees and beautiful ornaments. We went this past Christmas and I loved it. I cannot wait for next Christmas!
Fürstenweg 37, 5020 Salzburg, Austria
Hellbrunn is the ideal destination for a family outing, or anyone really who likes to have fun, as this peculiar palace was built for that sole purpose. The grand structure glows golden in the afternoon sun, but it is the garden that attracts the...
Budapest, Vörösmarty tér, 1051 Hungary
Wandering around Budapest, I stumbled on a couple of Christmas fairs around the public squares. There are rows of booths were you can buy all manner of locally produced snacks and wares while enjoying music and merriment.
Skagen 27, 4006 Stavanger, Norway
Scandinavian winters can be harsh--but don't let that stop you from visiting Norway when temperatures drop and daylight wanes. Stavanger is the third largest city there, boasting seascapes and hugging fjords all around, but it is quite a small...
400 Beach Dr NE #173, St. Petersburg, FL 33701, USA
If I were walking blindfolded, I would still know when I'd come within ten feet of the Savory Spice Shop in St. Pete. The seductive scent of the store's treasure chest of spices escapes out the door every time it is open. It lingers to entice...
Praça da Ribeira, nº1, 4050-513 Porto, Portugal
Looking across the Douro in the evening, I watched the night descend and saw a magical sight. The entire area was lit up and looked like a fantasy light display. It could have been Disney World or a Christmas light display. The air was charged...
Staroměstské nám. 1/4, 110 00 Praha-Staré Město, Czechia
Old Town Square, founded in the 12th century, is the center of Prague. In the middle of it all, the Old Town Hall (which also houses the famous Astronomical Clock), built in 1338, still provides the best 360-degree views of the city. For a...
Calle Acera del Darro, 18005 Granada, Spain
I planned my trip to Granada after spending a Christmas at home. While I was expecting winter in the mountain city, Three Kings day was a delightful surprise. Christmas may have passed in California but here in Spain the excitement was building....
Unionsgatan 29, 00170 Helsingfors, Finland
The last day of my 25-day trip ended at the Christmas market by the Cathedral of Helsinki. Truly magical as the vendors are all lined up perfectly looking down from the footsteps of the Cathedral.
Champs-Élysées, Paris, France
6, Laipu iela, Centra rajons, Rīga, LV-1050, Latvia
Riga is credited for being the first place to have a decorated Christmas tree and the Christmas spirit is certainly still present. The Riga Christmas Market was split between several squares throughout the Old Town. With the snow falling, people...
111 47 Stockholm, Sweden
Centrally located in Stockholm, the King's Garden is a lively urban garden/park/plaza that connects the harbor with one of Stockholm's main shopping districts. It contains a series of "outdoor rooms" including a formal entrance, fountain with...
Hverfisgata, Reykjavík, Iceland
There's an old tale they tell the children in Iceland about these little elf-like creatures called the Jule Lads who live in the volcanic lands outside of Reykjavik. Traditionally, around Christmas time, they come down and cause all sorts of...
Bürgergasse 14, 8010 Graz, Austria
Graz in the wintertime falls nothing short of the festive wonderland you might imagine. The christmas market's waffle stand fills the main square with a smell of sugar and cinnamon, as both young and old marvel at the giant advent calender...
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