I love Christmas and the excitement it brings to the air, despite the drop in temperature. As someone who lives in Southeast Asia, though, we don’t really have the stereotypical White Christmas here. It’s tempting to head back to Europe for the holidays and enjoy the snow, the markets, and the holiday food on offer.
If you’re thinking about spending Christmas somewhere other than home, then these European destinations should be at the top of your list. Check them out.
# Salzburg, Austria
I guess it’s fitting that the setting of the hugely popular “The Sound Of Music” is also the birthplace of Mozart, as well as the Christmas carol “Silent Night”. Salzburg’s Christmas market on Cathedral Square has great stuff on sale, mulled wine to warm you up, and even performances from choirs to brighten up your day. Salzburg’s Christmas market even gets special visitors – from “Christkind” and winged angels, to surly Krampus who punishes naughty children. Doesn’t seem like it’ll ever be boring in Salzburg!
# Vilnius, Lithuania
Days during winter are short in Vilnius because of Lithuania’s high latitude, but it doesn’t matter – the Christmas spirit is very much in the air because of their beautiful Christmas tree this 2016, illuminated with 50,000 light bulbs. They even have a heated Christmas train going around the city, perfect if you’re celebrating with children.
There are tons of events going on in the Lithuanian capital for the holidays, including a charity fair for those in need, and even a Christmas run for those who want to keep in shape. I’d love to spend my next Christmas in Vilnius, as it seems full of excitement.
# Lille, France
This French city is popular with British looking to spend their holidays in the mainland. I love that Lille is so colorful and enchanting for Christmas, with a Ferris wheel to keep children and kids at heart entertained. They also have a tall Christmas tree to provide light as you look through the stalls on Place Rihour. It’s so exciting that they even have vendors from as far away as Russia present.
Didn’t find anything you wanted? Just go window-shopping, as Lille’s stores compete to have the best display for the holidays. Lille is a great choice for your Christmas celebration.
# Cologne, Germany
You’re spoilt for choice in Cologne – it doesn’t have just one, but several Christmas markets for you to choose from. You’ll have the opportunity to do some skating on Heumarkt, or watch some live music performances near the Cologne Cathedral. The city caters to the LGBT population with its gay and lesbian Christmas market, but everyone is welcome – you’ll find unique Christmas souvenirs for sure. Cologne is vibrant during the summertime, but I’d love make a return trip in the winter now.
# Budapest, Hungary
Budapest has a special place in my heart as my former home, and it’s really a great place to spend the holidays! Right smack in the middle of downtown is Vörösmarty Square’s Christmas market, home to handmade gifts, crafts, and delicious food to energize you if you’re feeling tired from all the shopping. It’s not at all ostentatious, which makes this Christmas market my favorite in the whole city for its quaint feel! Don’t miss it.
# Lapland, Finland
Why not spend Christmas where Santa Claus is from? You’ll even get the opportunity to meet and greet him if you spend Christmas in Santa Claus Village. Even as a young adult, I’m still (secretly) excited by this prospect. Not feeling the vibe? There are also stores to browse in, selling crafts and traditional food from this Finnish region. If you’d love to live out childhood dreams for Christmas, this is the place.
# Manchester, England
Think you have the stamina? Head to one of the UK’s best Christmas markets, home to over 300 stalls for you to browse through. While they’re in different locations, it’s an easy walk from one spot to another. You can browse through the European Christmas market and easily stroll to the traditional German market. They even opened an ice skating rink this year for children to enjoy. While I’ve never been to Manchester, their markets might just have me heading there.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Noelle Filoteo is a Greek-Filipina, currently based in the Philippines. She’s a psychology graduate turned teacher who’s lived and worked in three different continents. When she’s not traveling, she loves to read, watch sports, and eat her weight in cheese – plus points if it’s feta.