For many, the holiday season synonymous with staying in and spending time with family at home, but it's also an ideal time to head abroad. Hear us out: In the weeks leading up to the holidays, a number of key European towns completely transform to celebrate the festive season. Picture bustling markets dripping in handmade decorations and quaint town squares glittering in lights with a tall Christmas tree at the center. It's enough to make any holiday Grinch change their tune.
If you've never considered traveling with your family for the holidays, these five magical European cities might change your mind. Trust us—even if you've visited the likes of Prague, Copenhagen, and Brussels before, you've never seen them like this. It's like stepping into a real-life winter wonderland.
Austria's capital looks like a fairy-tale city year-round, but it's particularly magical during the month of December: The ornate cathedrals and clock towers are cloaked in tiny lights and the streets bustle with Christmas markets, called christkindlmarkd. Be prepared for crowds, though; Vienna is renowned as one of the best places in Europe to celebrate the holidays, and it attracts visitors from around the world. Book accommodation in the Old Town months in advance, and save space in your luggage for decorations and shopping—you're sure to come home with plenty of traditional souvenirs.
Given the Danes are renown for their love of "hygge," which roughly translates to comfort and coziness, it comes as little wonder that winter is the perfect time to visit Copenhagen. Dedicate a few hours to wandering Tivoli Gardens, the second-oldest amusement park in the world. Every year during the holidays, the tradition park (which, by the way, is nothing like Disneyland), is transformed into a winter wonderland, with decorations, strings of lights, and festive stalls. While you're there, don't miss Royal Copenhagen's Christmas table tradition, too. The beloved Danish brand displays six designer tablescapes to provide ample inspiration for your own gathering.
Renown for its stunning Gothic architecture, Prague embodies the festive spirit during the holidays. The famous Old Town Square creates the perfect backdrop for one of the biggest holiday markets in the city, complete with a grand Christmas tree, carolers, and nativity scenes. Nibble on Trdelnik, a traditional sugar pastry, and sip on mulled wine to embrace the festivities.
Home to one of Europe's largest holiday markets, the Belgian capital is magical in December and over the New Year. Roughly 230 artisan stalls stretch through the Grand Palace, the Bourse, and Place Sainte Catherine, selling gifts and famous Belgian treats like pralines and waffles. Keep an eye on the events held on the giant ice rink, which transforms for live performances and discos, and visit the Palais de la Bourse to see a light show projected on the historic building.
The medieval squares of Nuremberg, Germany, come alive during the holidays with stores selling locally made fresh gingerbread and handmade wooden crafts. The world's oldest Christmas market, Christkindlesmarkt, is a must-see, but be ready to brave the crowds.
Have you celebrated the holidays in Europe? Tell us where you traveled to and if you'd recommend it to others.