Store Locator

From the Traditional to the Unique, These European Destinations Do Christmas Right

Here’s where to find real reindeer, medieval castles strung with lights and even St. Nick himself

Tall outdoor Christmas tree stands outside of a row of lights and buildings covered in snow, with people around

If you’re looking for unique Christmas traditions—different from the ones you enjoy at home—consider packing your bags, leaving Santa a note and heading to Europe to one of these destinations.  

Medieval magic: Ljubljana, Slovenia

 A tree covered in lights in Ljubljana, Slovenia with strings of lights hanging in the foreground

When winter comes to their capital, Slovenians socialize at one of the many cheery Festive Fairs. The top reason to visit, however, is the spectacular way the city is lit up each year by artist Zmago Modic, who transforms Ljubljana’s landmarks—including its medieval castle­—into festive beacons of light.

Here comes Santa Claus: Rovaniemi, Lapland, Finland

 Reindeer pulling a sled with two people in it in Lapland, Finland

In Santa Claus’ hometown of Rovaniemi, you’ll find the jolly man’s eponymous village, complete with reindeer-drawn sleigh rides, fir-tree forests and the official border of the Arctic Circle. Nature lovers will want to sign up for a nighttime northern lights safari to Mount Porovaara and consider booking a stay at the nearby Arctic Treehouse Hotel, with its floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Lapland’s winter landscapes.  

Sunshine and a street festival: Málaga, Spain

Tents and a tree made of lights are on display at a street festival in Malaga, Spain 

Pablo Picasso’s hometown is balmy in December, making Málaga a destination for both sunny weather and holiday festivities. Though it’s known for the stunning displays of lights along Calle Larios, you’ll also find dozens of nativity scenes set up at churches, museums and department stores. The annual Procession of the Three Kings draws hundreds of thousands of people who line the route while marchers hand out sweet treats. Be sure to grab a bag of warm roasted chestnuts from one of the many street vendors.

Island escape: Lindau, Germany

 A shot of the coast of Lindau, Germany at sunset

A December visit to Lindau gives new meaning to the idea of spending the holidays on an island. This island, with its historic Old Town, sits offshore in Lake Constance, close to Austria and Switzerland. Views of snow-capped Alps make this the perfect place to live out your Sound of Music fantasies. Each weekend in late November and early December, the city opens its Christmas market, where stalls strung with lights line the city’s lakeshore. The city’s fairy-tale forest walks are charming for kids, while adults can take a guided tour of Lindau with the town’s official night watchman.

Looking for some more festive spirit?

Try these five Canadian Christmas markets guaranteed to add more twinkle to your holiday season.

Thinking of booking a getaway? Be sure to follow these travel tips for planning a safe and happy trip.

Image credits: istock.com/kasto80, ©Visit Rovaniemi (Rovaniemi Tourism & Marketing Ltd.), istock.com/Emmeci74, Courtesy Lindau Tourism