Europe is a great place to be during the winter holidays. The amazing lights and presentations of all kinds are outstanding because each country has a unique way of celebrating the magic and awe within their culture. Couple that with beautiful landscapes and Old World architecture, and you have the makings of the perfect holiday vacation.
If you’re thinking of heading to Europe for the holidays this year—or even if you’re planning ahead for next year—we’ve compiled a list of the 7 best cities to spend the holidays for you.
The official hometown of Santa is Rovaniemi. Besides seeing Santa and all of his reindeer, imagine being able to sleep in an igloo hotel, go on a safari pulled by huskies, fly fish, and hopefully see the fabulous Northern Lights.
Stroll through approximately 250 stalls with unusual gift suggestions (and keep some for yourself). Traditional Christmas food includes such delicacies as reindeer sausage (not sure how we feel about that one), gingerbread, fresh salmon, oven-fresh pretzels, and much more. There is a fairy tale forest for the children and a coffee or mulled wine for the adults at Coffe Baum, the oldest coffeehouse in Europe.
Christmas cribs (locally known as szopki) are a combination of a nativity scene, a dollhouse, and a gingerbread house, with most of these miniatures looking almost like Saint Mary’s Basilica. Since 1937, the city has sponsored a szopka competition with the most interesting szopki being sent to the Krakow History Museum.
The downtown is filled with a mile of shopping, eateries, and entertainment, and the unique Christmas Market begins on November 11. Among the spectacular illuminations, you and your children can wander through Tivoli’s “Land of Elves” to watch mechanical elves prepare for Christmas and meet Father Christmas.
Be sure to visit a famous Danish brewery and notice the Tuborg or Carlsberg wagons decked out with Christmas decorations in celebration of the holiday season!
Traditional Danish food include pancakes filled with applesauce, the specialty hot and spicy red wine drink accompanied by a pan-fried cake with sugar and jam, pickled herring, liver pâté, rich hot chocolate, and more.
In addition to ice skating throughout the city and classical music performances, a highlight is the Amsterdam Light Festival. This year, it will run from November 26 until January 17, 2016. There will be the Illuminade, a walking route that features a selection of spectacular illuminated artworks, along with canal cruises and a host of events at theaters, museums, shops, restaurants, and other locations.
Vatican City is the world’s smallest country and fits within the Italian capital city of Rome. You’ll find nativity scenes in many squares and churches such as in the Piazza del Popolo, where over 100 nativities, some life-size, go on display starting in late November. There’s also a museum devoted solely to nativities, the Museo del Presepio. A huge tree is erected in St. Peter’s Square that is all lit up at night.
The highlight is the Pope’s midnight mass on Christmas Eve inside St. Peter’s Basilica with a big screen showing it live in the square if you can’t get inside. The next day, the Pope comes out onto the balcony of his Vatican apartments overlooking the square and gives his annual Christmas address at noon.
The family favorite free-to-enter Winter Wonderland returns to London's Hyde Park from November 20, 2015 to January 3, 2016 with Christmas-themed activities for all ages. Enjoy the ice rink, the Magical Ice Kingdom with its frozen sculptures and ice castle, the acrobatic wonders of shows at Zippos Circus and Cirque Beserk, adrenaline-fueled rollercoasters, carousels, an observation wheel for a flight above London, and more.
A huge Christmas market is filled with arts and crafts, jewelry, and other festive goods and decorations. Dine on German fare, such as glühwein and German sausage in the Bavarian Village. Boxing Day on December 26 is also a public holiday with many sporting events taking place, and shops starting their post-Christmas bargain sales.
Heading out to Europe before the end of the year? An excellent way to get around from country to country is by car. We are currently offering a number of discounts for select vehicles from our fleet, some of which are designated specifically for winter driving requirements in Europe and are designated as “Grip Edition” on their respective descriptions. Check out our specials page for more information!
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