The 3 Best Destinations in Europe to Spend This Christmas

best places in europe to spend Christmas

Europe’s history, architecture, and romantic charm all make it the perfect holiday vacation destination. From hundred-year-old markets to glass hotel rooms with views to the Northern Lights, here are three of the best places in Europe to spend this Christmas.

Visit the Christkindlesmarkt Christmas Market (Nuremberg, Germany)

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Editor’s Note: Despite recent events in Berlin, Germany, we continue to recommend you visit a German Christmas Market. Changing our way of life as a result of terrorism plays into the terrorists’ goals of instilling fear and sowing discord. We at The Manual believe that going about our lives as usual is the best way to illustrate our resistance and resilience in the face of such violence and conflict. We recommend vigilance, not fear, especially during the holiday season. 

Even if Christmas markets aren’t your thing, Germany’s Christkindlesmarkt is well worth a visit. As one of the world’s oldest and now most famous holiday markets, it draws more than two million visitors every year. The Christkind (or “Christ Child”) — a beautiful, young, blond woman adorned with angel wings and a golden dress — kicks off the event each year with a theatrical holiday speech. Germany may not be well-known for haute cuisine, but its best holiday edibles — gluwein (hot mulled red wine made with spices and raisins), local bratwurst, and lebkuchen (a traditional Christmas dessert similar to gingerbread) — are all worth a try. Where to stay: just around the corner from the market, SORAT Hotel Saxx Nürnberg offers sleek, modern rooms with views to the gothic Frauenkirche cathedral.

Related: How to Score a Dirt-cheap Holiday Flight This Year

Explore an Actual Winter Wonderland (Lapland, Finland)

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“Winter wonderland” has become an overused bit of hyperbole among tourism boards. But, every winter, that’s exactly what northern Finland becomes. Travelers willing to brave the country’s notoriously frigid temperatures will find truly unique outdoor opportunities in Urho Kekkonen National Park. Less than two hours from Helsinki by plane, the massive, protected area offers cross-country skiing, reindeer-pulled-sled rides, and is considered by many Europeans who “believe” to be the modern home of Santa. Where to stay: the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort offers stunning accommodations including twenty domed glass “igloos” with panoramic views to some of the best Aurora Borealis viewing on the planet.

Get a Taste of True Scandinavian Cuisine (Reykjavík, Iceland)

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North Americans are finally hip to what Europeans have known for years — Iceland is simply amazing. With only four hours of daylight during winter, the days in Reykjavík feel surreal. At Christmastime in particular, the city comes alive with illuminated statues of the 12 Yule Lads (the country’s nod to Santa), all-night holiday partying, and routine Northern Lights displays. For a real, seasonal taste of the local culture, head to Perlan. The iconic building is home to Perlan Restaurant which offers a top-shelf, four-course meal with authentic Scandinavian and Icelandic dishes like reindeer meatballs, tenderloin of lamb flambe, and skyr (a traditional dessert that dates back more than a thousand years). For a proper post-dinner tipple, visit the adjacent cocktail bar for a shot of Brennivín (Icelandic “firewater”) and unparalleled views of the city from the rotating, 360-degree dome above. Where to stay: with affordable rates (especially for Iceland), the quaint Hotel Leifur Eiriksson offers some of the most centrally located lodging in Reykjavík with views to Hallgrímskirkja cathedral.