5 Best Festive European Cities to Visit this Holiday Season







It’s the most wonderful time of the year: time to get home to the fam from wherever you’ve been working/studying/travelling. Back to your hometown, ready to settle into your regular Christmas routine that you do every single year.

Or, you could use it as another perfect opportunity to Shut Up And Go somewhere new (no shade to the fam – bring them along). And I happen to have 5 of the best European city break destinations to make all of your Christmas dreams come true.

Bruges, Belgium
Photo by our own Victor Plyson
Bruges, Belgium

Every December, thousands of people flock to Bruges to experience its postcard beauty with an extra Christmas twinkle. Bruges is the archetypal big boy of the crimbo getaway market – and that’s for a reason. This UNESCO World Heritage Site (oh yeah Santa baby, the whole town) makes the picture perfect backdrop for any holiday cards you want to send to relatives – especially if you want to make them jealous.

Imagine taking a horse and carriage ride under the stars, bundled up in layers of scarves, snuggled up to your new Belgian boo, surrounded by Medieval history draped in festive sparkles. Stroll through the Christmas market (the cornerstone of any European Christmas) and let the smell of Belgian chocolate, spicy mulled wine and hot fries waft over you on the cold December air. If you’re looking for your perfect fairytale Christmas, Bruges is exactly what you want to find at the bottom of your stocking.

Christmas Nativity scene
Naples, Italy

If ever there was a city built on tradition, family, and Christianity, it’s Naples. The perfect destination if you really want to reconnect with the religious meaning of Christmas, Naples is runnin’ the nativity game, erecting them all over the city, from the huge to the ornate.

‘Tis the season to be jolly, AND gluttonous, and what better place to pig-out than Italy? Take your Catholicism alongside a mountain of pasta and followed by some traditional panettone. Then, take a stroll on the beach – Christmas is still quite mild in Naples, so this is the perfect place to visit if you’re after something a bit sunnier than your average Christmas, but don’t want to lose sight of the reason for the season.

Christmas Copenhagen in the snow
Copenhagen, Denmark

Dreaming of a white Christmas? Copenhagen’s got you covered. With an almost guaranteed chance of snow and Scandi aesthetics aplenty, there is no better place to visit for a cozy, crisp and wholesome Christmas than the capital of hygge. Don your cable knits and pom-pom hats, and warm yourself up with some traditional Danish Christmas food.

As well as the usual big-hitters of twinkly lights and Christmas markets, Copenhagen’s Tivoli park offers a Christmas-themed amusement park and pantomime, whereas the Frederiksberg Garden transforms into an ice rink for anyone looking for some festive, albeit cliché, date inspo, cute photo opportunities, or just the chance to break one of your limbs on the treacherous ice (I can’t skate).

Lisbon skyline at night
Lisbon, Portugal

You might not know it, but Lisbon actually has the tallest Christmas tree in Europe. That should give you some indication of how this unorthodox Christmas city break destination could actually hold the key to your best Christmas ever? Get set for lights – lots and lots of lights – nativity scenes, and Portuguese Christmas food.

Picture a visit to Alfama, Lisbon’s oldest neighbourhood, to see the twinkling Christmas lights of the city below, surrounded by people celebrating Christmas with warming bacalhau (traditional Portuguese cod stew – it’s delicious trust me) and indulging their sweet tooth with pasteis de nata (the most delicious thing on Earth). Lisbon at Christmas is for festive strolls around winding streets and taking it easy somewhere new.

Photo by Sophia Saeed
London, UK

Photo courtesy of my good friend Sophia who’s currently studying in London, I know how mad this city can get during the festive period. If you’re looking for a masterclass in how the Brits do Christmas, with a metropolitan twist, London is the obvious choice.

As well as the always-popular Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, feat. ice rinks, fairground rides, music and shows, London boasts spectacular decorations all over the city, pop-up grottos, and an overwhelming number of people flooding the streets to do their Christmas shopping. If you’re after a city break where you can crack on with your shopping, London is an obvious choice (just know it’s eat or be eaten on Oxford Street). And, of course, just as you think capitalism has squeezed every ounce of festive cheer out of you, you can always head to one of the Christmas markets, or a traditional British pub, to warm yourself up with some hot pie and mash, or a classic roast. And maybe a pint or two. It’s Christmas, after all.

Where are you spending the holiday sesaon this year?

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