5 Underrated Cities for Christmas in Europe

By Sarah Chin A Sen

During Christmas, Europe becomes a truly magical land and is the perfect place to celebrate the holiday. Around this time of the year, Christmas markets happen in several cities and create a festive atmosphere that is truly magical. Some cities are famous for transforming into Christmas paradises when December comes: Vienna, Prague, Budapest, Strasbourg… But many other less known places can offer an even more magical and exciting Christmas experience!

Let me take you on a tour of 5 (underrated) great cities to spend Christmas in Europe, and in true TWISPER fashion, I’ll share with you where to eat, sleep, drink in each of these locations. Ready for a Christmas to remember?

 

Zürich, Switzerland

City to spend Christmas in Europe

Around Christmas time, Zürich becomes a wintery holiday village. Christmas attractions are all over the city. Thousands of sparkling lights rain over the main street. A singing Christmas tree entertains children and adults. Santa Claus and his helpers have their special tram that you can hop on. Every street is decorated, and a majestic Swarovski tree thrones in the middle of the train station’s indoor Christmas market.

Walking along the Limmat river during Christmas is a truly enchanting and uplifting experience that will put you in a festive mood for the holidays!

Zurich Switzerland

EAT

Obviously, the best way to get some delicious food for Christmas in Europe is to go to one of the many Christmas markets and taste the local products and dishes offered at the different stands. Zürich is no different!

The city hosts over a dozen different Christmas markets where you will be able to enjoy raclette, fondue, gingerbread, nougat, mulled wine… One of the largest Christmas markets, the Wienachtsdorf, is located in front of the Opera House and regroups around 100 stalls.

Next to the singing Christmas tree, another market enchants locals and tourists with joyful Christmas carols. And if it’s getting too cold out there, The Christkindlimarkt at the main train station is one of the largest indoor Christmas markets in Europe with 150 beautifully decorated stalls!

Zurich Switzerland christmas market

In Zürich, you cannot miss eating a cheese fondue. Although many establishments serve the dish during winter (and often all year round!), here are a few places that especially deserve your attention:

  • One of the coziest places to eat this typical Swiss dish is in the Frau Gerolds Garten. The wooden pavilion and its crackling fire will transport you to the mountains while you relish a delicious fondue.
  • Baracca Zermatt offers the ultimate fondue experience in an authentic mountain-chalet atmosphere. Entering the restaurant is like stepping in another world dedicated to cheese lovers.
  • For an even more original experience, get in the Fondue Tram that drives across the city. The old tram will take you through a tour of Zürich’s beautiful and historic places as you enjoy a bubbling fondue.

 

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SLEEP

  • When thinking about Switzerland, mountains and wellness centers come into mind. Well, no need to go to the alps to enjoy a good hotel-spa. Plenty of options are available in Zürich, including the Atlantis by Giardino. This hotel is a true oasis where elegance and wellness meet. The spa will take your mind off your daily life struggles and will revitalize your body and spirit!
  • Ideally located close to the city center, The Dolder Grand is a legendary establishment in Zürich. One of the most luxurious hotels of the city, it offers incredible accommodation, an impregnable view, and amazing restaurant, bar and spa in its premises.
  • In the heart of the Old Town, Storchen Zurich is the only hotel to lie directly on the Limmat River! With its welcoming modern décor, it is a great place to sleep if you’re looking for a home-away-from-home type of experience.
  • The B2 Boutique Hotel + Spa knows how to be demure but grand at the same time. Sleeping in the warm modern wooden style is a relaxing experience, and the spa is cherry on top of it all.

 

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DRINK

  • Christmas markets are great places to get a drink with family and friends. You’ll find different types of beers, glühwein, ciders, etc.
  • Clouds is Zürich’s highest bar, offering a fantastic view of the city to admire while sipping high-quality cocktails. Visit the place at sunset for an extra-special experience.
  • Jules Verne Panoramabar is an amazing place to have a few cocktails and eat in front of one of the most spectacular views of Zürich, its lake and the surrounding Alps.
  • Café 1842 is one of the best places to get your hot chocolate fix in Zürich and their patisseries are just excellent. The sophisticated neo-baroque style of the place gives it an elegant nostalgic atmosphere. A real gem!
  • Schwarzenbach is a tea and coffee reference in the city. Located in the heart of the Old Town, the vintage-looking place has its own grocery store and coffee roastery. The café offers a large choice of tea and coffee flavors that perfectly complement their freshly baked goods!
  • Sprüngli is a Swiss classic. The famous café is owned by the even more famous Swiss chocolatier and confectionery company, Lindt. As can be expected, their chocolate truffles are to die for, and their tartlets and cakes are delectable! It is an ideal place for a tea, coffee or hot chocolate.
  • Café Felix is simply grandiose! High ceilings, colorful flowers decorating the place, mouth-watering confections and pastries, delicious coffee… A real spectacle for the eye and the palate. You’ll feel like a royal!

 

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Related Reading: If you want to spend your Christmas in another beautiful German-speaking city, our friend, Supal, at Chevron and Eclairs published an article on her Christmas holiday trips in Stuttgart! Worth a read! 😍

 

Vilnius, Lithuania

City to spend Christmas in Europe

Every year, Vilnius spreads Christmas cheer with its annual “Christmas in Vilnius”, the largest and most impressive festival in the Lithuanian capital. The town’s covered in Christmas decorations, holiday villages settle in front of the Cathedral and the Town Hall, and surprises and festivities entertain locals and tourists for five weeks! The snow-covered city becomes a winter wonderland where the Christmas spirit takes over. You’ll marvel at the beautiful lights and decorations and will be amazed by the fairytale-like parades and attractions available for the pleasure of children and adults.

If you get the chance, hop on the Vilnius Christmas Train to discover the city center! This place is a dreamy one to spend Christmas in Europe.

Vilnius Lithuania Christmas market

EAT

The two main holiday villages of Vilnius at the Cathedral and the Town Hall squares offer plenty of options in terms of food! In addition to the usual Christmas market food, you’ll find plenty of traditional Lithuanian street food to taste at the stalls.

The Independent Christmas Town at the railway station offers another type of experience. Revisiting the traditional Christmas market with a touch of modernity, the stalls are authentic 70s train wagons. A great place to celebrate untraditionally!

As far as Christmas Eve dinner is concerned, Lithuanians go big! Their traditional dinner is made of 12 meatless dishes representing the 12 months of the year. You can have such a meal at the restaurant of the Imperial Hotel. And on Christmas day, Telegrafas, the Kempinski Hotel’s restaurant, will help you celebrate with their festive brunch.

If you’re looking to discover more of the traditional Lithuanian cuisine for your Christmas in Europe, Amatininkų užeiga offers a selection of dishes, from beetroot soup to their renown chicken kiev. Another good option, Šnekutis will please your palate with their zeppelin dumplings, traditional soups and stews, and potato pancakes.

If you have a sweet tooth, Sugamour is the place for you. Their special festive treats in particular will put you in the Christmas mood!

 

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SLEEP

  • Nothing better than relaxing in a cozy bed and eating breakfast after a day spent wandering through the aisles of Christmas markets! Saulės Namai offers this delightful experience in their homelike environment. It’s a great place, slightly away from the crowd, that’s ideal if you’re looking for peace and comfort.
  • Set in an authentic 15th century building in the Old Town of Vilnius, the Artagonist Art Hotel is aptly named. Contrasting with the hotel classical façade, the interior is filled with modern artworks by Lithuanian artists. A favorite of tourists, the hotel is located a few minutes away from the Town Hall Square.
  • The charming baroque building of the Stikliai Hotel is at the heart of Vilnius Old Town. The place is a real gem. You will be welcomed in a warm and luxurious environment that will make your stay unforgettable.

 

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DRINK

  • I highly recommend having a hot chocolate or a chocolate beer at one of the Christmas markets of Vilnius. The magical atmosphere will make the drink even tastier and heart-warming.
  • Lithuanian mead is one of the world’s oldest alcoholic drink and the best place to savor it is at Girta Bitė. The drink is made of fermented honey, water, and various fruits, spices, grains. Dry, sweet or sparkling, it is a must when passing visiting Lithuania!
  • Alaus Biblioteka has become a reference in terms of beers in Vilnius. With their large selection including locally brewed and imported beers, it is a great place to discover new beers and probably find your new favorite one!
  • Mililitrai brings the speakeasy atmosphere back to life in its sophisticated, dark décor. Situated in the heart of the city but in a quite hidden location, the place transports you to the prohibition times. Find their mystery door and order one of their perfectly mixed cocktails!
  • Feel like a local at the Local Pub! This bar has a special atmosphere that makes you feel at home away from home. Modern and young, but still cozy, it is a great place to have a drink with your travel companions!

 

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Røros, Norway

City to spend Christmas in Europe

In the Gauldalen region of Norway, Røros is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that enchants visitors, especially around Christmas time. Surrounded by the stunning Norwegian wilderness, this mining town offers countless magical experiences such as dog or reindeer sledding, riding in an open horse carriage… It’s a snow-covered paradise to spend Christmas in Europe. The Christmas market showcasing the local food and craftsmanship fills up the streets of the small city, but only for one weekend per year. The sight of the town during Christmas time is truly breathtaking and there is nothing more charming than the traditional dance around the Christmas tree!

Røros Norway

EAT

  • In Røros, lutefisk, pork and ribs can usually be found on the Christmas dinner table. If you’re looking for a place to dine on Christmas Eve, the Røros Hotell organizes a decadent buffet! You can also taste local Christmas food at the annual Christmas market where gingerbread and mulled wine await! With around sixty stalls, the market is quite big for such a town. The delicious food products sold are fresh and come from the local nature.
  • At the heart of Røros, Vertshuset Røros restaurant is a perfect place to taste the local cuisine, but with a modern twist. The dishes are made of seasonal ingredients and the menu regularly changes. Around Christmas, you’ll probably be able to order smoked reindeer.
  • Kaffestuggu is Røros’s oldest café. Homemade food is served in a cozy atmosphere that will warm you up during cold winter months.
  • When in Røros, do not miss the Sami turf hut at Rorosrein. This place makes you dive into the Sami way of life for your Christmas in Europe: open fire in the center, reindeer-broth and reindeer meat in the plates…

 

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SLEEP

  • The Røros Hotell offers a central location, close to the city center and the Christmas market. The hotel’s spa and wellness center includes an amazing in- and outdoor swimming area. It’s an ideal place to spend Christmas in Røros!
  • Sleep in a homelike environment at Vertshuset Røros. Renovated in the traditional Røros style, the hotel offers a great cultural experience to all its guests.
  • The Erzscheidergården Hotell is a building from the 17th century where you’ll find comfort and coziness. Staying at this hotel is a real cultural experience!
  • In a more modern style, the Bergstadens Hotel is also a great place to stay at in Røros. The staff will help you organize your trip as you wish and will make sure you have a comfortable time at their establishment.

 

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DRINK

  • If you love a good mulled wine when it’s cold outside, you will probably be seduced by the Scandinavian version of it: Gløgg. You can easily have a taste of this drink at the local Christmas market and in the different cafés of Røros.
  • Planning a cocktail night with your travel companions? The Lobby Bar of the Roros Hotell is the place for you! It’s a great place to have drinks with a few tapas.
  • Skanckebua Bar & Restaurant is another good place to have a few beers in the city. Their beer menu displays a large choice of tap beers, including local ones.
  • For a more intimate atmosphere, try the Nilsenhjørnet in the center of Røros. Their warm wooden walls and comfy chairs and sofas make the bar a great place to take shelter from the cold weather.

 

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Tallinn, Estonia

City to spend Christmas in Europe

Spending Christmas in Tallinn is like traveling back in time. The charming, very well preserved Medieval Old Town transports you to the Middle Ages with its cobblestone lanes, stone buildings and cute shops and cafés.
Although the days can be quite dark during this season, winter is probably the best time to discover and fall in love with the Estonian capital: when snow falls over the city, it feels like in a winter wonderland with Christmas lights and candles decking the streets of the Old Town.

Tallinn Estonia Christmas market

EAT

  • An authentic Estonian Christmas dinner usually includes jellied meat, beetroot salad, herring, sauerkraut, Christmas bread, black pudding, pickled pumpkin… Although you may not find everything there, the Christmas Market on the medieval Town Hall square has a very large choice of traditional Estonian Christmas food! Charming little huts are spread around the giant Christmas tree, offering visitors different types of craftwork and seasonal food and drinks. I highly recommend trying out the blood sausages and sauerkraut!
  • Kuldse Notsu Kõrts (or the Golden Piglet Inn) serves authentic Estonian cuisine. Recipes have been passed down from generation to generation in order to make you discover true local food.
  • Korsten Armastus & Hea Toit serves Estonian dishes with a twist. Their modern take on Estonian cuisine is served in a pleasant and cozy atmosphere in Tallinn’s Creative Hub neighborhood.
  • Located in an enchanting villa, the restaurant Mon Repos uses centuries-old recipes. You can have a meal in their main hall or opt for the Head Chef’s hall where more refined menus are served.
  • Ö Restauran serves amazing dishes with Scandinavian influences, inspired by the Nordic nature. The high-quality ingredients selected will take you on a mouth-watering tour of Estonian flavors.

 

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SLEEP

  • The Three Sisters hotel is located in Tallinn’s Old Town, in a medieval building with wooden pillars and ancient stonework. It is a perfect place to end a day spent wandering through the winding cobbled streets of the Old Town.
  • The elegant Telegraaf Hotel can be found in the old central office of the Estonian Telegraph. Former post office, the hotel is a place where old meets new in a luxurious décor.
  • The historic building of the Von Stackelberg Hotel Tallinn is located between the old town and the new town. The hotel has a delightfully bright interior, a harmonious décor and comfortable, elegant accommodations. The ZEN spa will be your favorite place to relax after a long day of walking around the city!

 

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DRINK

  • Tasting the Vana Tallinn, a rum-based liqueur, is a must when in the Estonian capital. Have one in the magical atmosphere of the Christmas market!
  • It is common to drink porter-type beer around Christmas time in Estonia. Special Christmas brews are also available at many Estonian craft brewery, such as Põrgu.
  • Manna la Roosa is a fancy cocktail bar and restaurant to spend memorable evenings. The establishment is set in a former wooden pharmacy with a cozy interior covered in paintings. A truly special place for a drink in Tallinn!
  • If you’re looking for a glass of wine, Paar Veini is the place for you. Well-situated at the center of Tallinn, the bar has a very young atmosphere and often hosts live music performances. You can also get stronger alcohols, great cocktails, beers and ciders.
  • Located on the 4th floor of the Solaris Centre, Komeet is a great café to warm up with a hot drink and a delicious slice of cake. From the rooftop terrace, the view over the neighborhood is also beautiful to look at.
  • Kohvik Rukis is a charming place to take a break from your visit of the city. Also a bakery, it serves delicious cakes and pastries that go very well with a cup of coffee.

 

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Rovaniemi, Finland

City to spend Christmas in Europe

Located in Finland’s Lapland, Rovaniemi is the Official Hometown of Santa Claus, and, as a consequence, is the perfect place to spend Christmas in Europe! A few kilometers away from Rovaniemi’s airport, right on the Arctic Circle, Santa Claus Village is a truly magical place where Santa and his elves help you create everlasting memories. The village offers tons of very special activities: a visit to Snowman World, reindeer rides, reindeer farm visits, husky tours, ice fishing, snowmobile, winter swimming… And on Christmas Eve, you can attend the elves’ show and watch Santa leave for his world tour on his reindeer-pulled sleigh.
To sum it up: your childhood dreams come true in Rovaniemi!

EAT

  • The Aitta Restaurant is located in the Apukka Resort. Former tavern with 100-year-old timber log walls, the restaurant has become a place merging old and new. Dining next to the huge stone fireplace is a delightful experience.
  • Located near lake Perunkajärvi, close to the city, the Sirmakko Reindeer Farm organizes many incredible experiences for visitors. One of them is their dining experience at their Kota Restaurant, where you can taste various delicious reindeer-based dishes.
  • Spend a magical moment at the Snowland Restaurant. Enjoy Lapland’s local food in a beautiful igloo restaurant!
  • At the Arctic restaurant, the spotlight is on the splendid lakes and forests of Lapland. Their locally produced seasonal ingredients create an authentic Finnish experience for the palate.
  • The Bear’s den restaurant is housed in a legendary log cabin that welcomed a number of heads of state and dignitaries. The cabin radiates coziness and friendliness in the middle of the surrounding untamed wilderness.
  • The Arctic Snow Hotel Ice Restaurant is an ice restaurant creating a unique dining experience. Local ingredients compose the meals served on ice tables.

 

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SLEEP

You cannot go for your classic hotel when spending Christmas in Rovaniemi. So many amazing places offer extraordinary experiences. Here are some of them:

  • You’ll spend incredible nights at the Igloos Arctic Circle. Sleep in a glass igloo and watch the beauty of the Finnish nature from the comfort of your bed. Watch the spectacle offered by mother Nature: Aurora Borealis and Midnight Sun will make your trip even more memorable.
  • At the Arctic Circle Wilderness Resort you will sleep in a traditional Finnish log cabin in the middle of a fairytale-like Lappish landscape. Enjoy the peaceful silence and reconnect with nature. Their traditional Finnish sauna near the river is something out of a dream.
  • You will find luxury and comfort in the middle of the wilderness at the Arctic Tree House Hotel. Wake up to the breathtaking view of the Finnish snow-covered landscape. This place promises an enchanting stay. The hotel’s panoramic restaurant is also worth your time!
  • Santa Claus Holiday Village is a series of cottages offering comfort and privacy to Santa’s guests in the heart of the Santa Claus Village. It’s a great place for a Christmassy family getaway.

 

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DRINK

  • Cocktails are a specialty of Café & Bar Zoomit. And for sports fan, their lounge is available to watch sports and play pool.
  • Artic Snow Hotel’s Sky Bar is a great place to admire the splendor of the Northern lights from the comfort of their top floor. The glass roof offers an impregnable view on the spectacular Finnish sky.
  • Located in the center of Rovaniemi, Café & bar 21 has amazing cocktails (and food)! Try their Lappish tapas to accompany your drink.
  • In the heart of Rovaniemi, Café Linna is THE place to get a hot drink and sweet treats. Fresh coffee, cakes, pastries and savory dishes in a relaxing, cozy atmosphere.

 

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I hope this blog post put you in a Christmas mood for the festive time to come, and that you check out these amazing places and add them to your TWISPER try-out list. Christmas in Europe is an amazing experience to have.

If you’re more interested in discovering the US during Christmas time, check out our blog post on 8 things to do in New York in December for some inspiration!

In the meantime, have a joyful Christmas!

Sarah Chin A Sen
By Sarah Chin A Sen
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