Europe is a veritable Winter Wonderland through the cold months, with gorgeous blankets of snow covering the cities and quaint countryside. For this reason, and many more, it's also a wonderful place to spend Christmas.
Here are three of the top spots in Europe to visit for the Yuletide season.
Barcelona isn't just a summertime destination – it's fantastic during the Christmas season, too. From December 8, you'll find the city and its shops, restaurants and streets decorated with twinkling lights and nativity scenes. Landmarks, such as the architecturally inspiring Sagrada Familia church, are wonderful places to see these displays. At the front of the Sagrada Familia you can also peruse the Fira de Nadal Christmas Market, which has materials for building nativity scenes as well as honey, candles and other festive items.
The Fira de Santa Llucia is the biggest Christmas market in the city and has been held since 1786 in the Cathedral Square. It's a wonderful place to stock up on Christmas decorations, with more than 280 stalls selling everything from baubles to incense and sweet festive treats. There are also more nativity scenes, plants and figurines. This market opens towards the end of November and remains until December 23. Throughout this period, there is also live entertainment such as choral performances and dancers.
Christmas Day itself in the city is usually spent enjoying a wonderful feast with family, and exchanging small presents.
Austria's gorgeous mountain town of Innsbruck is another fantastic place to spend the festive season. It too features some beautiful Christmas decorations, markets and events.
Head into the main street of the Old Town and see Christmas lights reflecting off the famous Golden Roof, which is painted beautifully with gold leaf. Here, you'll find the Old Town Christmas Market, which offers up treats such as Kiachln, hot donuts with Sauerkaut, and Gluhwein, delicious and warming mulled wine. There are also plenty of hand-made Christmas ornaments and other decorative items, as well as carolers. These markets also enjoy a long season from November 15 to January 6.
For a more modern take on Christmas, head to the town's main shopping street and visit the Maria-Theresien Straße Christmas Market, where you can find blinking lights and contemporary decorations.
If you're with the kids, be sure to visit the Family Christmas Market at Marktplatz. This boasts a petting zoo, carousel, puppet show, pony rides and much more to keep the children entertained from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. There's also a stunning, 14 metre high sparkling Swarovski crystal tree to marvel at.
Enjoy another city with a wonderful Christmastime atmosphere in Berlin, Germany. This destination is known for its artistic flair, so you can expect to see plenty of lovely festive decorations as you explore the city.
There are a range of wintertime markets and activities around Berlin. Check out the Berliner Weihnachtszeit, a market featuring a free ice skating rink. There's also a thrilling Ferris wheel that stretches 50 metres high and offers panoramic views of the city. Kids can enjoy pony rides at the petting zoo, take a photo with Santa Claus, ride the historic carousel or jump on a train that takes them on a journey through a magical forest. Meanwhile, adults can enjoy mulled wine and freshly baked bread to the romantic soundtrack of barrel organ music.
To see beautiful light displays, make sure you visit WeihnachtsZauber at the Gendarmenmarkt, which illuminates the city with more than 1,000 strings of lights. You can watch glassblowers and candlemakers at work, and enjoy delicious hot pastries inside warm tents when you need a break from the chilly winter air.
Whichever destination you visit, a Christmas in Europe is an experience you'll never forget.