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The Most Festive Places to Spend Christmas in Europe

By Sienna Bailey

Posted: 17th November 2016 08:30

Although the traditional family home Christmas can be fun, sometimes it’s nice to have a change and venture to another part of the world to see how the holidays are done there. Here is our pick of some of the most beautiful locations in Europe to experience the most wonderful time of the year.

Prague (Czech Republic)

Prague is a city akin to that of a storybook village, a perfect setting to experience a magical Christmas. The markets are open throughout the festive period from the 26th November to the 1st January, including on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Years Day, which is rare for most markets. You will find the main markets located in the historical Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square and smaller ones dotted around the city. The markets are made up of beautifully decorated wooden huts selling a range of handmade crafts including scented candles, ceramics and puppets dressed in traditional clothing. Try a Czech beer (Pilsner Urquell, Staropramen and Budvar) or a barbequed sausage (klobasa) and a hot sugar coated pastry (Trdelnik). A large Christmas tree from Ceska Lipa (North of Prague) decorates the Old Town Square and is turned on at 5pm each night. If you want to experience a bit of culture there are several classical concerts held in churches and grand concert halls to check out, plus the opera and ballet season takes place at this time of year.

Vienna (Austria)

The city of Vienna is one of the most beautiful in Europe, and Christmas there is no different. There are several Christmas markets to visit throughout the city stocked full of traditional Austrian produce such as gingerbread, sausages and gluhwein. However the oldest in the city is the Freyung Christmas Market, dating back to 1772. There is plenty to enjoy for everyone, ranging from Punch-and-Judy puppet shows for children and live music performed each afternoon after 4:30. There is also and organic farmer’s market and a range of good foods to eat during the Advent period, including cured and smoked meats and cheeses. Also to enjoy is the 6000 square metre ice skating rink situated between the Vienna Konzerthaus and the Inter- Continental Hotel. Skate rental is only a few euros and there is an option to take lessons before you take to the ice. There is the special Advent Concert held at St. Stephensdom which features beautiful pieces of chamber music and selections of work by composers such as Mozart, Bach, Schubert and Haydn. While you’re there be sure to visit one of the famous Vieneese coffee houses and sample some Apple Strudel or a sugar- dusted Buchteln. To get the best experience of the markets and decorations visit after dark to see the lovely light displays.

Budapest (Hungary)

Budapest is home to one of the largest Christmas markets in the world, and the beautiful city buildings provide an excellent backdrop. The Budapest Christmas Market takes place from the 11th November to 1st January in the Vorosmarty Square, District 5. Try a traditional grilled Chimney Cake while strolling around the market and sample other culinary delights such as strudel, stuffed cabbage, roast meats and honey cookies. If you want a nice way to warm up and relax after strolling around the chilly streets, visit the Szecheny Baths and take a dip in one of their fifteen indoor pools or either of their two open air thermal pools. Afterwards continue your bathing by going to the Luckas Baths Winter Party so you can celebrate Christmas while in your bathing suit. There is also an ice rink in Budapest City Park where you can glide around Vajdahunyad Castle. For a bit more Hungarian culture why not see an organ concert in St. Stephen’s Basillica or watch some Hungarian folk dancing? Enjoy strudel, stuffed cabbage, roast meats and honey cookies. If you want a great way to see the city sights, take a ride in the Budapest Christmas Streetcar or enjoy a river cruise on the Danube, especially beautiful to see at night.

Venice (Italy)

Venice is an extraordinary place to celebrate Christmas. The city is lacking the number of tourists you would normally see in the summer months, which enables you to enjoy the city without the crush of the crowds. There are lights and decorations all over the city and on Christmas day itself church bells are rung all day from St. Mark’s bell tower. It is a great city for Christmas shopping and you can find some lovely handmade gifts such as glass ornaments and lace decorations and traditional Venetian masks at the various Christmas markets around the city. The Natale di Vetro (Christmas of Glass) celebration on the island of Murano is a must see for any lovers of glass art and whoever wants to see the tallest glass christmas tree in the world. The city churches are closed to visitors on Christmas day and only open around the Mass schedule, however there is a wonderful opportunity to experience Midnight Mass at St. Mark’s Basilica on ‘la vigilia’ (Christmas Eve) along with the Venician locals. For culture there are plenty of art galleries and museums around the area to enjoy, such as the Doge’s Palace and th Galleria dell’ Accademia and there are plenty of Christmas concerts held throughout the city. Don’t forget to enjoy a slice of Pannettone, the best in Italy.

Dresden (Germany)

Dresden is truly one of the best and most famous places to experience the festive season. There are eleven markets around the city with over 250 stalls to look at. However, the Striezelmarkt is Germany’s oldest Christmas market, dating back to 1434 and is open from the 24th November to December 24th, located on the Altmarkt Square. You will find traditional handmade gifts, decorations and toys invented over hundreds of years ago in the Erzgebirge Mountains, a few kilometrers outside of Dresden. Sample treats such as gingerbread from Pulsnitz, Herrenhut Advent Stars and the Dresden Pflaumentoffel, a chimney sweep figure made of dried prunes. The market also boasts the world’s tallest Christmas pyramid, with a height of 14 metres as well as the world’s biggest nut cracker. Try the Dresden Christollen, more commonly known as Stollen, a favourite dessert of Christmas. Dresden itself is a beautiful city packed full of history and culture. It has three major landmarks: Zwinger Palace, Semper Opera House and the Church of Our Lady, set amongst the spectacular view of the River Elbe. 

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