Few places surpass Europe when it comes to Christmas. Ancient walled cities bedecked with seasonal decorations are enhanced by Christmas markets (Christkindlmarkts) in the shadow of centuries-old cathedrals. The spicy aroma of hot mulled wine and chestnuts roasting on a brazier draw Christmas shoppers from far afield. The sound of sleigh bells, church bells, ice skaters and Christmas carolers make everyone pause and smile amidst the seasonal rush.
With ice-skating, shopping, concerts, palaces and hearty peasant food and drink, these are just a few of our favorite Christmas destinations in 2014 to tempt you from your favorite armchair and enjoy the Holidays with a more international flavor this year.
Vienna – One of 2014’s Best European Christmas Destinations
Top of the list for best Christmas destinations has to be Vienna, Austria, a classic city to visit at any time of year with its exceptional baroque architecture. There has been a Christkindlmarkt in the Austrian capital for over 700 years – and they have not one, but five! The oldest and best is in front of the Rathaus where rows of wooden chalets are lit with twinkling fairy lights around the Christmas tree. Stalls are laden with handcrafted wares, blown glass and hand-carved nativity figures which are a specialty of this market.
Even if your holiday shopping is complete you can still indulge in scrumptious fruit cakes, ginger cookies and colorful candies done up with pretty ribbons, making a visit to the Christmas markets in Vienna an absolute must for eager revelers. There’s even a live advent calendar counting down the days to Christmas.
Germany’s Top Christmas Travel Destinations
It’s hard to beat the city of Munich for winter entertainment. The high-end shops along Maxilianstrasse are brightly lit and alluring to fashionistas and international shoppers in search of luxury branded goods.
The baroque Schloss Nymphenburg, the glockenspiel at Marienplatz, the Viktualienmarkt and the former Royal Residence offer plenty of things to see and do during the day. After dark, head to one of the Bavarian beer halls such as the Hofbrauhaus for hearty food, steins of beer and rousing entertainment to join in.
In contrast, the UNESCO World Heritage listed town of Rudesheim could not be a more picturesque choice in winter. Located beside the romantic River Rhine, the Christmas lights and music add to the old-world atmosphere of the cobbled streets of Dosselgasse. Medieval houses with their half-timbered architecture are occupied by small family businesses, pubs and restaurants.
Visit the Asbach Distillery for a warming taste of Asbach Uralt brandy, explore Bloemser Castle or go hiking and cross-country skiing in the nearby forests of Rhein-Taunus Nature Park. It may be a little chilly for a Rhine cruise, but the Rechte Rheinstrecke train offers scenic views as it runs between Neuwied, Wiesbaden and Frankfurt.
Tasty Food and Drink in Stockholm
The Swedish capital of Stockholm is built on 14 islands, all linked by romantic bridges. The Old City is one of the best European Christmas destinations to visit with charming architecture and upscale shopping. Take a break at the famous Ice Bar where you snuggle in furry wraps and sip vodka from glasses made out of ice! (Read more about driving in Sweden)
In the Gamla Stan market you will find stallholders dressed in traditional 19th century costume adding to the charm of the experience. Dine on reindeer meat, tasty sausages, fresh salmon, meatballs and lingonberries with gingersnaps and saffron buns for dessert accompanied by a glass of warming glogg.
Prague in Winter
Home of “Good King Wenceslas” himself, Prague, Czech Republic is one of the best Christmas destinations in 2014 for indoor and outdoor activities. The Prague Christmas market runs from November until the first week in January and offers many crafts and traditions with an Eastern European appeal.
Nativity scenes are in evidence everywhere and on Epiphany (January 6th) the scene comes to life with the Three Kings Procession re-enacting the biblical journey of the wise men. The procession ends at the nativity scene outside the Prague Loreto, a baroque pilgrimage church also known as the Church of the Nativity.
Making the Most of Your Time in Europe This Holiday Season
Wherever you choose to spend Christmas 2014, we will be happy to provide you with a competitively priced car rental for your trip. Will you be traveling with the entire family this holiday season? We are able to book a spacious rental van that will be able to comfortably accommodate every member of your travel entourage. With more than 20,000 convenient pick-up locations in some of Europe’s busiest airports, rail stations and downtown offices, we’re sure you’ll find us the convenient and reliable choice, from economy options to family car rentals. Reservations can be made in three, easy steps when you utilize our three, step online search form, or by calling us toll-free 24/7 at 1-888-223-5555.