Looking for a romantic long weekend to take in the Christmas atmosphere.
Snow would be a plus but not necessary!
What a great question!
So running West to East, here are a few of my favourites:
Belgium, goes bonkers for Christmas and is a very convenient country to visit via it's international airport and excellent Eurostar connections. I think it is also very under the radar which makes its markets much more authentic and full of local charm/traditions. Probably the most visited Belgian Christmas market is Bruges, although a stunning city, I think the better choices are actually Liege with its Village de Noel, Hasselt (gastronomic heavyweights) and perhaps even Leuven (university town). Ghent is also always a good option.
Germany will spoil you for choice as every small town and big city has a well-organised Christmas market. Berlin has upped the ante in the last couple of years and their celebrations have become huge. The combo of Cologne and Dusseldorf is still the most popular and convenient (two in one!), and rightly so. But I once again favour the less obvious choice of Dresden, a grand city full of culture and a hefty cheery market as well. Nuremberg has also come highly recommended although I have never been.In Switzerland, Zurich is a great choice and convenient to get too, while I would prefer Salzburg to Vienna as an Austrian option.
An unusual option would be the north of Italy, less known but nevertheless worth a visit, Bolzano in South Tyrol turns into a Christmas haven from late November... and snow is very common in this high altitude Alpine town. Trento has also become quite famous for its festivities, dozes of wodden stalls set into its main street to offer a holiday sweet reprieve after a perfect bowl of pasta.
Ljubljana in Slovenia is, in my opinion, one of the sweetest towns in Europe. Its Christmas market may not be as grand but few places offer such an idyllic hoilday spirit: snow-covered willlow-lined riverwalks, perfectly festive wodden stalls, and even a day-trip to super romantic Lake Bled.
Onwards to one of my top choices: Prague has a wonderfully fun and traditional market right at the heart of the one of Europe's most beautiful capitals. To top it off, I would vote Prague Europe's most romantic city!
If you are betting on snow then I would recommend you head further north to Tallinn, the lovely capital of Estonia holds an incredibly fun and tradition-filled Christmas Market that is a bit off the usual tourist trail. For something a bit more familiar, you cannot go wrong with Copenhagen and the Tivoli Gardens turned into a winter wonderland!
One thing to note though, check dates before planning and each city/country start and end their Christmas markets at different days.
Have fun exploring!
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Christmas Markets originated i.a. in Germany and Austria and both countries are probably the best in terms of quantity, quality and variety. Munich is a great place to do some Christmas Market sightseeing as it houses over 7 different market throughout the city. My favorite ones are the Middle Age Market at Wittelsbacherplatz and the Pink Xmas Market of the gay and lesbian community at Stephansplatz. Other well-know and very popular Christmas Markets in Germany are held in Dresden(oldest German Christmas Market) and Nuremberg(over 180 stalls).
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Vienna has wonderful Christmas markets and decorations. The city definitely gets very excited about Christmas and markets pop up all over the place. They get plenty of snow, too!
Vienna. Best traveling Christmas ever. Music everywhere, Christmas markets, night markets, the Vienna Boys Choir on Christmas Eve, opera, Christmas brunch—with Sachertortes!—at the Sacher Hotel.
I would say go to Munich. I was there last December specifically for Christmas markets and I had a total blast. There's nothing like running around from stand to stand sipping on mulled wine or spiked hot chocolate. They have everything from ornaments, to shearling gloves and slippers to pastries. I loved the markets on the Oktoberfest grounds. They had a lot of cool stands, but also some fun music events and concert-like things while we were there.