As the vacation season approaches, many European cities rework into fairy-tale winter wonderlands. Snow blankets the rooftops of Prague, a large Christmas tree sprouts by Vienna’s Schönbrunn Palace and market stalls unfold out alongside the streets of Frankfurt. However these headliners draw large, bustling crowds. For a extra intimate vacation expertise, discover one in all these charming locations — with out the lots.

Winchester, UK.
Winchester, UKCourtesy of Go to Winchester

Winchester, UK
The ninth-century capital of England is bewitching any time of 12 months, however December in Winchester is very stunning. This peaceable market city lights up with a pleasant Christmas market and an ice-skating rink within the shadow of the medieval Winchester Cathedral, the place Christmas hymns echo by means of the longest nave in Europe. Don’t miss a trip on the Watercress Line steam prepare, which runs particular excursions serving mince pies and wine for the adults and gingerbread for the children.

Vilnius, Lithuania
Considered one of Europe’s most underrated cities, Lithuania’s capital provides a feast of baroque structure and an interesting medieval previous city. Snow incessantly settles on the streets come December, when the town additionally boasts not one, however 9 Christmas markets. You’ll discover mulled wine, pastries and different conventional fare in Cathedral Sq., plus loads of items and festive decorations in City Corridor Sq.. Time your go to with the Worldwide Christmas Charity Bazaar on Dec. 1 to snag vacation items from all over the world. Or head to the Design Sq. (Dec. 18 to 23) for distinctive finds by Lithuanian designers.

Coburg, Germany
The cobbled squares, historic properties and an unlimited, imposing fortress on this attractive Bavarian city are a Christmas fantasy come true. A market options handicrafts by Bavarian artisans, whereas spectacular lighting shows illuminate the town. There’s organ music by candlelight, horse-and-cart rides by means of picturesque streets and loads of Glühwein to go round. Don’t miss the statue of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband, who famously introduced the Christmas tree to England within the 1840s.

Aarhus, Denmark
Search out some vacation hygge in Denmark’s second metropolis this Christmas — Aarhus has small-town attraction and festive cheer aplenty. Wander its fairly streets strung with Christmas lights, ducking out and in of quaint boutiques and cafes, earlier than settling down in a comfortable bar. Or feast on conventional Christmas treats corresponding to gingersnaps and marzipan within the Kødbyens Meals Market. For teenagers (or the younger at coronary heart), the Tivoli Friheden amusement park is totally remodeled for the vacation season, making for a magical strategy to spend a day.

Vilnius, Lithuania.
Vilnius, LithuaniaCourtesy of Go Vilnius.

Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy
This tiny Italian city of simply 6,000 individuals sits between the peaks of the mighty Dolomites. A ski resort, it’s doused in powdery snow for a lot of the winter, making it a picture-perfect vacation vacation spot. Wander the city with an Italian wine in hand after a conventional snack of roasted chestnuts. Take to the slopes by day, and spend your evenings thawing out in one of many city’s very good pizzerias.

Antwerp, Belgium
This lesser-visited Belgian metropolis is good for a festive break, due to its dimly lit pubs that includes cozy roaring fires and very good conventional beers. Households ought to head to the Groenplaats for fairground rides to entertain the children — the wonderful Mercado meals corridor with its international delicacies and gin bar will hold the mother and father glad. Within the night, stroll by means of Grote Markt (stocked with greater than 100 stalls filled with native crafts), the place the City Corridor sparkles with fairly lights and the historic properties that fringe the sq. are illuminated after darkish. Take pleasure in a Belgian waffle, then retire to a desk at Elfde Gebod, a conventional pub the place a whole lot of statues of the Virgin Mary watch over revelers.

Colmar, France
The canals and cobblestone streets of this small city in northeastern France exude romance year-round, however they’re much more beguiling through the holidays. On Wednesdays and Saturdays all through the season, kids’s choirs float on illuminated boats, singing carols to passers-by. Children will adore Place Rapp, with its ice rink, curler coaster and carousel. Grown-ups can enterprise underground and into the town’s Alsatian wine cellars — corresponding to Maison Martin Jund or Domaine Karcher et Fils — the place December is toasted with folks celebrations, occasions and, after all, tastings.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
As soon as Germany’s second-largest metropolis, Rothenburg ob der Tauber is now one in all its best-preserved walled medieval cities. It’s the final word Bavarian fairy story — all turrets and timber and clock towers — and is a well-known cease on the Romantic Highway, a route that connects a sequence of quintessentially German cities. Take the Evening Watchman Tour to get perception into the gritty life right here through the Center Ages, then head to the primary Christmas occasion: the Reiterlesmarkt. It’s all you can need in a German Christmas market — get a chook’s-eye view of the festivities from the highest of the City Corridor tower, open till eight p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Zagreb, Croatia
Croatia isn’t an apparent winter vacation spot, and the town of Zagreb is all the higher for it. Its conventional market has been serving up sausages and mulled wine for years, however the current addition of rakija bars and outside concert events has made it an much more exciing Christmas cease. Do your vacation procuring within the Design District — the Croatian Design Superstore has books, furnishings, jewellery and lots of extra Croatian-made items — earlier than heading to the “New Introduction” celebrations on the Museum of Modern Artwork, the place DJs spin tunes and up-and-coming artists and designers showcase their work.

Coburg, Germany.
Coburg, GermanyGetty Photos

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