7 of Europe's Best Winter Celebrations and Festivals

London Christmas MarketPedestrians mill about a beautiful Christmas Market on the South Bank in London, with the Elizabeth Tower visible in the background.

For a festive winter break, here are some of the best Christmas markets, celebrations and festivals in Europe

Europe is one of the most enchanting places to visit during the winter and holiday season. With its winding streets filled with glimmering lights and decorations, friendly locals and endless tables of holiday treats and gifts for sale, who can resist?

If you’re planning a festive break, here are some of the best Christmas markets, celebrations and festivals to look for across the pond. Just don’t forget to leave space in your suitcase for all the souvenirs and gifts you’re going to buy!

London, England

Running for more than a decade, London’s Winter Wonderland exudes Christmas spirit through the city during the winter. The attraction hosts Christmas-themed fun and activities, including an enormous ice skating rink, rollercoaster rides, street food stalls, a Ferris wheel, a Bavarian-themed beer hall with live music and a huge Christmas market.

Looking for a hotel near the Winter Wonderland? The Crowne Plaza London is a 20-minute walk from the festivities and a five-minute taxi ride to the shops and restaurants in Mayfair and Knightsbridge.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

The AmsterdamLight Festival is known near and far as one of the best winter events in Europe. In December and January, around 250 light installations of all shapes and sizes are on display illuminating the town. This all happens in the city center along the waters of Amsterdam’s canals during the dark winter months.

Preparations for the exhibit go on the entire year, so you can imagine how magnificent the displays are. Lights adorn everything from the bridges to the trees and beyond. Take a canal boat for a magical look at all of the light art in the evening. It will be a highlight of the season.

Strasbourg, France

Opening at the end of November, the festive Strasbourg market is a favorite for Christmas lovers with its four Advent converts and Living Nativity, along with authentic live music. Having first launched back in 1570, travelers come from around the world to visit this magical place!

Experience all that it has to offer, from its famous Christmas tree and scenic wooden chalets to the delicious mulled wine. If you’re looking for lodging, consider the Holiday Inn Express Strasbourg, an adorable hotel in the city center and only a short stroll away from the Christmas market.

San Sebastian, Spain

Move over Christmas markets. San Sebastian’s Tamborrada de Donostia, aka festival of drums begins on January 19th at midnight when the flag of San Sebastian is raised and signifies the start of the celebration. Thousands of locals and tourists gather in the city center to sing, dance, play drums and march for the next 24 hours.

The festival is free and open to anyone to attend, but as with any festival the area is extremely busy. Many locals go out for a seafood dinner to celebrate the city, so make your reservations for dining and lodging ahead of time.

Munich, Germany

Head down the cobblestone streets of Munich to witness the Christmas spirit at the famous holiday markets. Various markets pop up throughout the city, but Marienplatz is the legendary one everyone visits, right in the heart of the city. You can expect a massive Christmas tree decked out in holiday garb; stalls galore filled with handmade trinkets and you may even catch carolers singing. Well, let’s be honest – you’ll definitely see carolers in this jolly town.

Bergen, Norway

There’s a gingerbread town in Norway, tell all of your friends. But seriously, the world’s largest gingerbread town is constructed every year in Bergen. Students and volunteers put together a full town composed of houses, boats and cars. There’s even a Ferris wheel made of cookies and icing. When do we get to eat it?

Visit the mini version of Bergen from mid-November through December for around $10. Plus, there are a variety of Christmas markets throughout the town, so you can combine your tour with a visit to shop until you drop.

Warsaw, Poland

The post-card perfect market within Warsaw’s Old Town walls is home to more than 60 traditional wooden huts. They’re nestled among the snow and sell traditional mulled wine, adorable figurines and basically everything you could ever want to remember this fascinating city by. And if you’re looking for a white Christmas, it’s almost guaranteed in Warsaw.

There are a variety of markets throughout the city that are either traditional or modern, but you’re guaranteed to find what you’re looking for during the month of December. So, grab a few pierogies and maybe some vodka and get in the holiday spirit Polish style.

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