Top 11 Holiday Destinations For a Family Christmas in Europe
Another year another festive season to fill, which is easier said than done with the kids in tow. However, rather than sitting around the house trying to fill the day, why not take an adventure abroad? With Europe on our doorstep, there are plenty of places to spend Christmas in Europe.
Whether you’re looking for the cheapest places to visit in winter, or the most magical cities to peruse, I rounded up the best Christmas cities in Europe for families with children of all ages.
1. Kemi and Lapland, Finland
It’s the stuff that children’s dreams are made of. Without question, Lapland is one of the best Christmas cities in Europe that positively comes to life in the winter months. Magical for children of all ages, there’s endless activities for all the family to enjoy.
First and foremost, you have to stop by the Santa Claus Village for some festive fun. There is a tour that goes directly to the village to make things easy. Here toddlers will love the Elf Reindeer Farm, whilst older children will be thrilled to try out snowmobiling and ice-fishing.
All the family can enjoy a reindeer-sleigh and the opportunity to cross the artic circle. Whether you come for a day or a week, you’ll never run out of exciting and unusual things to do.
Be sure to stop by Santa Park – a cavern of treats deep in the hidden forests, including an Elf School for kids. Round off your trip with a stay in an igloo and sleep under the famous Northern Lights. There is:
Whilst in Finland, take time to stop by the coastal city of Kemi – roughly two hours away by car and a must-visit on any Christmas in Europe bucket list. From Rovaniemi there is a day trip to the Snow Castle which is quite the highlight for kids.
Kemi is a stunning location to walk around and soak up an authentic Finnish experience. This includes a ride on the IceBreaker – a gargantuan ship that smashes up ice to allow other boats to sail through its Baltic waters.
Finally, if you can extend your stay, you won’t regret tagging on a few days to experience Ruka Resort. A scenic three-hour drive, it’s one of the best family ski resorts complete with 35 slopes and 22 lifts. There are hundreds of fabulous places to stay to experience the slopes and top off your holiday in Finland.
2. The Alps, France
Christmas in Europe is famous for its ski-runs and white-washed mountains, and there’s no better place to experience this in full beauty than The Alps.
Ideal for all the family, ‘Les Deux Alpes’ is one of the biggest resorts in the world. Its high-altitude glacier slopes are open throughout the summer months too. It doesn’t matter if you’re new to winter sports either – everything you need is to hand in this extremely family-friendly destination.
Take for instance, the ‘Baby Snow’ device, which allows tots from as young as one year’s old to hit the slopes, and the ‘Big Air Snowbag’ for thrill-seeking teens. There’s even mini snowmobiles, winter Segway’s and snow bikes available to hire. As far as ski and snow goes, this is the ultimate European destination for fun, safe, and world-class facilities that all ages will enjoy.
Accommodation in Les Deux Alpes is mostly consists of apartments. L’Écrin Alpin and Le 24 are 2 apartments that are perfect for families, close to the kid’s learn-to-ski zone, indoor swimming pool and supermarket near the Alpette lift area.
Vacancéole Résidence l’Alba or Vacanceole Résidence Goléon are are around 600 meters away from the supermarket, but good choices for experienced skiers because they are close to the ski lifts with ski-to-door access. Vacancéole Résidence l’Alba is 100 meters from Vallée Blanche chairlift, whereas Vacanceole Résidence Goléon is 150 meters from the Cote and Petite Aiguille ski lifts.
3. Ice Hotel, Sweden
For kids (and big kids), the Ice Hotel is a must-visit for enjoying the very best of Christmas in Europe. Just 125 miles above the Arctic Circle it’s both remote and a tad chilly, plummeting to temperatures as low as -20c to -45c. Be prepared! This combined with its compact-size rooms, makes it suitable for families with older children, less so for those with toddlers and babies.
Once you arrive, the magic begins as you’re treated to a once-in-a-lifetime experience of staying in a hotel made out of ice blocks. It feels like stepping inside a movie lot, in this spellbinding setting.
More than just a hotel, the Swedish outpost offers fun family days out for guests. This includes an evening trip for spotting the Northern Lights and visiting ice sculptures and art nearby.
Perhaps, most enjoyable for younger guests is the Ice Hotel restaurant where dishes are heated over an open fire, others served on giant blocks of ice. There’s a certain ethereal charm and theatre about all of it, that makes the Ice Hotel a captivating place to take young travellers.
4. Vienna, Austria
Oh Vienna! This timeless, breathtaking city feels like you’ve stepped inside a Christmas card. It’s easy to see why it’s consistently named one of the best Christmas cities in Europe. Famed for its Christmas markets and festive traditions, there’s plenty to see, do, and scoff!
Start with ‘Vienna Magic of Advent’ which is the biggest Christmas market in Europe. Open from 19 November until 26 December, this traditional marketplace takes over City Hall Square, transforming it into a glimmering fairy-tale land.
Stroll through the stalls and pick up some handcrafted treasures, perfect for stocking fillers and one-off gifts for loved ones. Treat the children to local sweet-laden biscuits and cookies, while parents get to enjoy a well-deserved cup of Glühwein!
Come the weekend, there’s choirs singing carols – perfect for experiencing the true spirit of Christmas. If you’d rather come in the New Year, Vienna Ice World is another popular attraction for all the family. Running from January through to March, the winter wonderland takes over City Hall Square with one of the biggest open-air ice rinks in the world.
One of the best rated places to stay that is within 200 meters of the market is the Hotel Rathauspark Wien which is a member of Radisson and well rated. This place will enable you to enjoy the atmosphere everyday if you wanted to.
5. Jura and Three Lakes, Switzerland
When the kids reach a certain age (post Santa-Claus), it can be harder to find the magic in Christmas. Lake Jura (Lac de Joux) takes care of that, as one of the biggest natural ice-skating rinks in the world.
This unique setting is ideal in the winter months, especially for school-age children curious to experience the wonder of skating on a frozen lake. With a shimmering backdrop of ice-capped mountains, glistening waters, and paved walkways through vegetable plantations, there’s a fair amount to see by foot, especially its famous lakes.
There are only a small handful of places to stay to be close to the Lake, but if you intend to stay active and enjoy the best view, this is the best place to be. The Hotel de la Truite & Spa is lovely and one of the few hotels that are right next to the lake.
The nearby medieval town of Estavayer-le-Luc is another beauty spot. It is even more jaw-dropping in the snow than Lake Jura and the ideal place for a Christmas in Europe family trip. Le Rive Sud and Hôtel du Port are well rated and good options where to stay in this small town. Le Rive Sud in particular is a historic building with traditional features located in the centre of the town.
6. Amsterdam Light Festival
If you’re looking for an affordable Christmas in Europe get-away, Amsterdam is one of the best destinations that ticks all boxes. Just hop on the Eurotunnel and four hours and a bit of driving later, you’re there!
Be sure to come between 1 December and 22 January when the Amsterdam Light Festival comes to town. This spectacular open-air display showcases international light artists from all over the world, and their visual displays of installations and sculptures. There is even a 2 hour tour by bike of the festival with a professional guide that will give you information about these impressive works and the festival in general.
If you’ve never visited the Dutch capital before, it’s a great way to discover the city by foot, including the many canals and waterways Amsterdam has to offer. However, this does mean that it’s more suited to children of walking age, and those with stamina to stay up till dark – the best time to witness the light show.
7. Budapest, Hungary
Award-winning ‘Advent Basilica’ is a must-visit winter market for all the family, in one of the best Christmas cities in Europe. In the heart of Budapest, this uniquely curated fair comes to life from 18th November, running until mid-January.
Popular with families for its scale alone, it’s the place to seek out unique hand-crafted gifts, along with leather goods, pottery, photography and much more. Part of its charm is that you never know what you might find in this mad market maze!
But, it’s not just a visual feast – the cuisine is mouth-watering too. This includes plenty of local mulled wine, hand-made chocolates and local delicacies such as honey cake and chimney cake. It’s the perfect foodie destination accommodating of children of all ages.
The nice thing about Budapest is that is it more budget friendly than other places within Europe. In fact there are 1000+ stays within 1km of the market at affordable prices.
Of course there are exceptions like the Párisi Udvar Hotel which is is an absolutely stunning building located 500 meters away from the market. However the 7Seasons Apartments are also within 500 meters and much more budget friendly than most in the vicinity.
At any of these locations you can dip out and within minutes experience the warm Christmas atmosphere of the market to make a very special Christmas.
8. Hogmany, Edinburgh
You might be wondering where’s the cheapest place to travel during Christmas? Well, bonny Scotland is one of the best Christmas cities in Europe for any type of budget.
Whether you choose to stay in a high-end hotel like The Balmoral, or in one of the many other lodgings many of which are affordable, you’ll find a warm welcome and first-class hospitality for all the family. Plus, trains and flights are highly affordable, as well as the option to drive if you live anywhere in the UK.
Head to the capital – Edinburgh, for a cultural festive feast. From its many world-class galleries and breathtaking buildings, to famous landmarks, you’re never short on free things to do, and many guided tours in Edinburgh that will give you a more well-rounded experience.
And then there’s Christmas. After haggis, neaps and tatties, relax and enjoy the fine whiskey collection, while children can enjoy playing with their new toys. You’ll need your rest ahead of Hogmanay – the famous end of year celebrations with 140,000 revellers taking to the streets.
It’s one of the largest New Year’s street parties, with bagpipes, fireworks and plenty of dancing to enjoy. Before you go, why not treat the kids to a tour of Loch Ness, or one of the many castles in the area – it’s what makes Edinburgh one of the top spots for enjoying Christmas in Europe.
9. Carnival de Santa Cruze de Tenerife, Spain
When it comes to winter sun, you have to go further than Europe for topping up the tan. However, Tenerife bucks the trend as one of the warmer destinations for Christmas in Europe, typically between 16-20 degrees.
Time it well and you’ll also be able to enjoy the street carnival, which tends to take place between 28 January and 6 March. Akin to the Carnival in Rio, this vibrant display of colour and outfits brings the streets to a standstill with its epic parade. The Park Suites and Hotel Colon Rambla are stays close or on the roads where the parade go through so you can make the most of it.
Guests of the carnival can look forward to the Carnival Queen being announced, along with the curious tradition of the ‘burial of the Sardine’ (yes really!) and the fabulous Grand Finale Parade.
10. Antwerp, Belgium
If not for stocking up on Belgium chocolates, then come for the shops, in one of the best Christmas cities in Europe. You’ll feel a world away from home, as you mooch around the streets and stock up on homemade treats from boutique shops in the area.
Visit when the Kerstmarkt (Christmas market) is open, and you’ll find plenty of activities to enjoy. There’s a fun fair that younger visitors will love, complete with big wheel and candy floss galore. There’s also lots of eateries the whole family can enjoy – after all, you’re in the homeplace of chocolate and waffles.
Don’t worry, you’ll walk off all the calories with so much to discover by foot. This includes the many castles, churches and festive displays en-route with many tours on offer, not forgetting everyone’s favourite – Antwerp Zoo.
11. Ice Sculpture Festival, Zwolle – Netherlands
There’s something captivating about ice-sculpting that appeals to children of all ages, as well as adults. This makes for the perfect trip to one of the best Christmas cities in Europe you’ve never heard of: Zwolle. Stick with me…
Located in the north east of the Netherlands, this vibrant city has a proud medieval history, which is best seen in its wonderful architecture and buildings. You can easily lose a day walking around and there are a small handful of places to stay in this small town to enable you to take your time and take it all in.
However, don’t let this distract from the Ice Sculpture Festival – the main attraction in these parts. This exciting one-off event attracts the world’s best ice artists from around the globe. Here they come together to showcase their creations to a mass audience. Taking place from 17 December until springtime in March, it’s one of the annual highlights of the New Year.
If you’re coming with tots, be sure to bring the buggy, as there is plenty of walking and some queuing during the show. However, for those willing to wait, you’ll be greeted with awe-inspiring creations using over 275,000 kilos of ice and 275,000 kilos of snow.
Destinations for Religious Christmas Celebrations
If you would like to celebrate Christmas in the more traditional and religious way you could opt to visit Malta. Apart from having many activities for children year round in Malta, there are also religious events and activities to celebrate Christmas.
Alternatively you may want to consider Rome for Christmas. It has the same traditions in great abundance. Additionally there is the Vatican which is a sight to see in and of itself, let alone with the Christmas decorations and activities that are organised at this time of year.