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6 travel tips for spending Christmas in Europe

6 travel tips for spending Christmas in Europe

Winter in Australia results in most of the country retreating inside and complaining loudly about the slight decrease in temperature.

Instead of dealing with a mild change in the weather between seasons, we all tend to sook when it’s not as warm or sunny as we’d like (and let’s face it, it doesn’t even get that cold in Australia).

As a result of this Aussie culture ingrained in me, Christmas in Europe seemed like it would be a huge novelty. I dreamed of snow perched on the many church spires, cozying up in cafes when the weather was chilly out, and wandering through the quiet streets on my way to the charming Christmas Markets.

Even though I didn’t exactly get a white Christmas, the trip really was like a fairytale. It completely lived up to my expectations and had me addicted to the charm of a European winter.

If you’ve never experienced the holidays in Europe, now is the perfect time to take a trip! Here are 6 travel tips for spending Christmas in Europe.


Wroclaw, Poland

Wroclaw, Poland

1. Join in the celebration

It might be tempting to cuddle up under a blanket and chain watch Netflix while you sip on hot cocoa, but staying indoors isn’t the best way to experience the season.

The streets of Europe are decorated brightly throughout December. Buildings are donned with fairy lights and ice skating rinks are set up in public areas. Outdoor Christmas Markets line the main squares where people flock to drink mulled wine and eat gingerbread biscuits iced with cheery holiday messages. Here’s some ideas for things to experience at Europe’s Christmas Markets.

The Europeans believe that winter is something to celebrate, so embrace the cold and spend some time outside enjoying it. Go join in the celebration!

Cruelty-free winter gear

My new winter gear

2. Invest in decent winter clothing

The number one mistake I made when visiting Europe in winter was that my clothing was not entirely suitable. As a warm-blooded Australian, it was difficult to comprehend just how freezing some countries were going to be (I’m talking to you, Russia).

Sure, I’d purchased a wool coat, scarves, a beanie, and thermals, but all of this just wasn’t enough. I was wearing many layers of clothing to keep warm, but if I had just one decent parka then I wouldn’t have needed them all.

I’ve now invested in a high-quality insulated parka to get me through the New York winter, and boy, is the investment worth it! Check out my guide to buying the best winter gear for some tips on being fully prepared for the cold.

Bruges, Belgium

Bruges, Belgium

3. Take advantage of cheaper tours

Travelling in off-peak season is the number one way to save money on your trip. Entrance fees are often reduced to encourage more visitors, and hotels aren’t as booked up so cheap rooms are usually easy to find.

Group tours are also discounted over winter. If you’re interested in taking a multi-day tour over Christmas, I’d suggest you check out Grand European Travel – these guys are a member of the Travel Corporation (one of my favourite travel brands) and they have loads of highly rated itineraries to choose from, including some excellent Christmas Market tours in Central Europe.

They’ll also handle your flights booking and organise optional excursions, AND they’ll do everything they can to get you the best deal. This is honestly the least stressful way to book your European Christmas trip.

Krakow Old Town, Poland

Krakow, Poland

4. Enjoy the quiet streets

We came across a few other winter travellers in Europe, though they were mostly backpackers who had been on the road for 6 months or more. The hoards of summer tourists were nowhere to be seen. If you’re like me and hate crowds, then this is a great thing!

Christmastime in Europe means the streets will be quiet, you won’t get hassled by as many people trying to sell you stuff, and there’s no need for you to line up for an hour and a half to get into the Louvre or go up the Eiffel Tower.

The downside of this is that due to the lack of tourists, some attractions will be closed. In Wroclaw we found that absolutely nothing was open, and in Hallstatt we could only find one restaurant serving food to visitors. It sucks, but it’s a trade-off for having the place to yourself.

London, UK

London, UK

5. Keep active and take breaks from the cold

You know what happens when you stop moving? Your body temperature drops – which is obviously not what you want to happen as you wander around the streets of Europe in the middle of winter.

To ensure your fingers and toes don’t feel as thought they’re getting frostbite, keep active whenever you’re outdoors and plan to retreat inside every hour or so to give your extremities a chance to defrost. Plus, you can use these breaks as an excuse to drink hot tea and eat freshly baked scones like I did in London.

Nuremberg, Germany

Nuremberg, Germany

6. Make full use of daylight hours

Much of Europe sits quite far north, so during winter the daylight hours can be short. If you want to fit in loads of sightseeing, avoid sleeping in until midday. Get up before the sun rises and make the most of the limited daylight hours.

Of course, winter in Europe can be wonderful during the evenings as well, but you don’t want to waste the little sunlight you have.

PS. Need some inspiration on where to go? Here’s 7 awesome winter holiday destinations in Europe for you to choose from.

Moscow, Russia

Moscow, Russia

*This post is sponsored by Grand European Travel. I’m proud to be an honest and transparent blogger, so every opinion expressed on AGWT is truly what I believe in!

Are you planning a trip to spend Christmas in Europe? What are your plans? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!


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Ashlea Wheeler

Blogger & Photographer at A Globe Well Travelled
I'm Ashlea, an excitable Australian who loves photography and exploring the world. Find out more about me.

12 Responses to “6 travel tips for spending Christmas in Europe”

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      I absolutely agree, Kate – there is something truly magical about winter in Europe! Will you be spending Christmas in the UK this year?

      Reply
  1. Taste of France

    Also: Have a plan for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. New Year’s Eve/Day as well if you’re here. Re Christmas: pretty much everything is closed. So make sure you have a plan for meals. You’ll find bakeries open in the morning (bread must be bought day of!!!), but that’s about it. And on New Year’s Eve places tend to be booked well ahead, and New Year’s Day is like Christmas, with shops and restaurants closed.

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      That’s an excellent point – when I was in Europe over Christmas, we went to the grocery store on Christmas Eve and stocked up on supplies, including cheese, crackers, fruit and snacks to eat in the common area of our hostel on Christmas Day. Planning ahead is absolutely essential for Christmas and New Year. Thanks for your tips!

      Reply
  2. Steph

    I wish Christmas in England was as exciting as it is in the rest of Europe! Absolutely agree visiting countries during their off peak season, I visited Canada over September and October and it was such a dream not to be crammed in with hundreds of other tourists! Really enjoyed this post 🙂 x

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Christmas in England isn’t so bad, though the rest of Europe does do a better job of it 😉 It’s great that you got to experience Canada in off peak – I’m sure that would have been an amazing trip! Thanks for your comment, Steph!

      Reply
  3. Dominika

    Yaay Poland! I think there is something about polish old market squares (especially when its christmas time) isn’t that true? Saying it proudly because I’m polish girl 😀
    dominikarutkowska.pl

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      That is 100% true! I loved all of the Polish market squares at Christmastime. Poland is seriously underrated in my opinion, especially for winter trips 😀 Thanks Dominika!

      Reply
  4. Jessica C

    Yes! Going to Prague for the first time and it’s over Christmas! Staying warm is definitely key. My biggest issue is pants. I don’t have good pants and I’m not even sure what kind to get. So, I wear jeans with leggings underneath which is usually fine for me unless it’s below freezing. Will have to check out the winter clothing post too!

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Oh, that’s awesome! I was in Prague for NYE a few years ago and it was such a lively place at that time of year. For the pants problem, I usually wear a pair of thermal pants under my jeans, which works most of the time! I was known to layer up with thermals, leggings, AND jeans when we were in Russia haha.

      Reply

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