Travel

The Best European Countries to Visit for a Picture-Perfect Christmas

The ideal way to escape this country’s scorching heat.
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We all have this ideal version of Christmas in our heads: We’re bundled up around a fire in our coziest sweaters, drinking hot cocoa with burnt marshmallows, while the smell of gingerbread fills the air and snowflakes build constellations on frosted windows. Perhaps, there’s even the wish of going on a sleigh ride pulled by reindeer. Yeah, we can’t really do those things in the Philippines, but Europe is replete with such opportunities, sleigh ride to boot. Here are the dreamiest European escapes to turn those dreams into reality, or, you know, if you’re just sick and tired of our country’s scorching heat: 

1| Switzerland

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Switzerland is one of the top destinations for spending Christmas in Europe, and with good reason. There are plenty of villages and towns with unique personalities, from ones that date back to the gothic era to fabulous luxury skiing resorts. Zermatt is known for activities like hiking and skiing, while St. Gallen is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, an old town with sparkling lights and its own Santa-and-elves procession. Plus. having the Swiss Alps as the backdrop of your family portrait isn’t so bad, either.

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2| Amsterdam, Netherlands

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Photo by UNSPLASH.
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This city is beautiful all year round but it’s even better in the winter. There’s an Amsterdam light festival you could look forward to, where the canals light up with different sculptures by various artists. At the Dam Square, a giant Christmas Tree is installed, which will definitely be appreciated by the little ones. Make sure you give ice skating a try and gobble up some oliebollen—heavenly donut holes often served with apple filling. You can bet that wherever you go, Christmas lights will be on display, especially in Museumplein.

3| Denmark

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From Christmas markets, skiing slopes, to magical old towns, Hans Christian Andersen’s motherland hits all the bases for a perfect winter holiday. The Tivoli Gardens offer fun rides, fireworks, and food that make it great for family outings, while the Copenhill is the perfect place for active snow bunnies—it’s the world’s longest artificial ski slope. If you need to take a breather from all the Christmas fare, you can head to Odense and travel back to the medieval period.

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4| Prague, Czech Republic  

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There’s nothing more picturesque than Prague during the winter. In true postcard fashion, the country transforms into a wonderland where snow dusts rooftops and leaves a thick layer of fluffy white on the ground. According to Conde Nast Traveler, the Christmas villages here are the best outside of Germany. The Old Town Christmas Market is a must-visit where you definitely have to try the popular dessert, Trdelník, and Svarak, a mulled wine.

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5| Hallstätt, Austria

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While every corner of Austria is idyllic, there’s no place like the village of Hallstätt, discreetly located in between majestic snow-capped mountains and Lake Hallstätt. It’s got everything you hope for in a Christmas town: cobble streets, magical lights, a charming market square, and even horse-drawn carriage rides. There are fewer tourists here than in Vienna, and it’s perfect for those who love quaint cafes and quiet walks along the lakeshore.

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6| Norway 

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There are many places to visit to make the most of wintertime in Norway, and you could choose depending on your preferences. Should you want a relaxing vacation at a colorful village with iconic Nordic wooden houses, Bergen is the way to go. On the other hand, if you’re an adventurer or one who loves sightseeing, Tromso is your best bet as it is a famous viewing point for the northern lights and winter activities.

7| Finland 

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This is where Christmas is at its best, primarily because there’s a Santa Claus village in Lapland, Finland’s northernmost region. Here, you can see elves at work or take sleigh rides with reindeer or sled dogs, and cap off the day with a cup of hot cocoa. While you’re there, make sure to catch an unobscured glimpse of the northern lights. If you have time, head to Helsinki to check out the Christmas markets and taste traditional delicacies.

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8| Germany 

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You can’t talk about Christmas in Europe without mentioning Germany, as the country is a popular destination for Christmas markets—Berlin has over 60 of them. But even regions outside of Berlin are a Christmas treat. Aachen is the westernmost city of Germany with a Christmas market where one could get their hands on printen, a spicy kind of gingerbread, potato fritters, and other festive cookies. Dresden is another winter haunt that is home to the country’s oldest Christmas market, making it the prime place for discovering traditional delicacies.

9| Alsace, France

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Yes, Paris is always a good idea, but in December, Alsace is the place to be. The whole region illuminates with fairy lights and decorated old houses; it’s also the ultimate Christmas playground with seven themed lands. Due to its location (it’s near the border of Germany), Strasbourg boasts a cultural mix of French and German influences. It’s also home to Strasbourg Christmas Market, one of the oldest in Europe.

10| Bruges, Belgium

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Another town that gets high on the holiday spirit is Bruges. Its medieval buildings are like larger-than-life gingerbread houses, except you could lounge inside and treat yourself to waffles and hot chocolate while you watch the horse-drawn carriages that pass by. This place is teeming with warm-fuzzy Christmas vibes.        

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Nicole Cruz
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