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Best European Cities to Spend Christmas and New Year's Eve

We are taking our 4 kids (17, twin 26 year olds and 28 year old) to Europe for 2 weeks the end of December this year. We don't want to do the usual Paris or Rome. I'd love other suggestions. Some have said Prague and other have said Copenhagen. We will probably rent an apartment or house on Airbnb. Would like to split the trip into 2 or 3 cities. Any suggestions are more than welcome!

Posted by
752 posts

Napoli and Napoli. Legendary at Christmastime. Spaccanapoli and the other Mercatini streets become festive and alive with a local downhome flair. New Year's Eve, people walking the streets and crossing piazzas have to dodge firecrackers thrown down from upper floors. A long season of Crazy Fun.

Posted by
5689 posts

Vienna for New Years. Waltzing in the streets. Wunderbar!

Posted by
162 posts

Prague was a WILD time on NYE...lots of locals shooting off their own fireworks, and all the tourist attractions (Wenceslas square, old town square, the Charles bridge, etc) crammed with revelers until the wee hours. Most fun Ive ever had partying on NYE, and I used to go to Times Square in New York regularly. Your kids would love it for sure!

Posted by
12576 posts

The "Best" welllllllllllllllllllllll...................... obviously I am biased. We spend about every other holiday season in Budapest. Snow, opera, concerts, (ruin pubs), lights, food, Christmas markets; we manage to stay busy and have a good time. With two weeks Prague, Vienna and Budapest are a common trio.

1 Depart
2 Arrive Prague
3 Prague
4 Prague
5 Prague to Cesky Krumlov (shuttle)
6 Cesky Krumlov to Vienna (shuttle)
7 Vienna
8 Vienna to Melk day trip (guided)
9 Vienna
10 Vienna to Gyor/Archaber at Pannonhalma (Train)
11 Gyor to Budapest (Train)
12 Budapest
13 Budapest
14 Budapest
15 Budapest to Home

Posted by
7948 posts

Your question has been posted 3 times. You might want to delete the other 2 before people start posting answers on them.

Posted by
11798 posts

Up north, days are short; which limits sight-seeing times. I tend to want to stay south that time of year, for both weather and daylight hours. In December, Copenhagen has about 7 hours of daylight (roughly 9-4) literally 10 hours less daylight hours than in June. It may seem even shorter because many days are overcast and gray.

Rome would be great, not just because it's Rome, and further south, but because Christmas is a big deal there.

Posted by
5 posts

Thank you all. Vienna, Prague, Budapest sounds fabulous. I'd love to hear more about your favorite things in each city!

Posted by
5094 posts

After many trips to Europe (and Italy), our first time in Rome was in December 3 years ago, so it wasn't "the usual" for us. It was, however, the only time I've been outside the USA at Christmastime. Other then a huge, decorated evergreen tree outside the Colosseum, Italy looked different from the Germanic Christmas influences that much of the USA shows that time of year. Presepi displays are a big part of the holidays in Italy, which last thru January 6.

We were actually at an agriturismo in Sicily for Christmas Eve and Day, and in Sorrento (a bit south of Naples) for New Year's Eve. For what it's worth, December is a cooler time of year to visit than during the torrid summer. But, you likely wouldn't get a White Christmas -- highs were in the 40's and 50's, with some rain a couple of days in Rome but sun and mild temperatures farther south. I'd wager that it was also a bit less crowded, overall, than Italy would be at some other times of the year.

Posted by
12576 posts

Not really sure what to tell you. This past Christmas and New Year’s was in Budapest. That marks the third time we have been in Budapest for the holidays over the last 7 years.

All depends on your interests. This year was dry, but the two previous trips we had snow and being that we are from a climate where there is no snow we always have a good time with it; including snow ball fights in the park.

Most of Europe, Budapest included, closes down for Christmas about noon on the 24th. So get all your shopping done before or after. But the best restaurants are open Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve and Day. This year we spent Christmas Day at the Bathhouse. 40F outside but the water was 80F in the outside pool. The family had a great time. Christmas Eve Dinner was in a restaurant in Buda that has this commanding view across the Danube to Pest. Budapest at night is stunning. Christmas Day dinner was in a Hungarian fare restaurant complete with gypsy music. There are a couple of these places that are really well done and a few that are not so good. While we are on food, the kids (about the age of your kids) always insist on a place in a basement with the belly dancer and the guys with swords and great platters of (actually really good) food that you sort of eat in a hedonistic manner. The wife tolerates it once a year. Budapest has remarkably good food in a remarkable number of restaurants.

At a higher level of consciousness the Opera House is one of the most beautiful in town and has the Nutcracker and some less obvious programs including a New Year’s Eve Gala that requires another bag for the tux and evening gown; but worth it. The opera is one of several performance venues in town. Opera, Dance, Ballet, Musicals (with English subtitles), concerts, Jazz Clubs. Budapest has about the same population as my home town, but 10 x the performance venues; and they are more for local consumption than tourism. Something that sets Budapest apart from places like Vienna (you are actually surrounded by Hungarians, not the O’Malley sisters from New Jersey).

There are some world class museums if you are into that. Generally the rail service will run a steam engine to someplace interesting as a day trip.

Budapest is famous for Ruin Pubs and while they use to be a sort of seasonal thing they stay open year long. Your kids might enjoy them. I like the Wine Bars better. Hungarian wine can be pretty good.

Finally the Christmas Markets. They do them really pretty well. Each vendor has to vet his products with a committee. This way the imported junk is kept out. Its almost entirely crafts and local products and lots of good hot food on a cold evening.

Unlike Prague where the tourism is in a tightly defined zone Budapest is pretty spread out. You go to Prague to see Old Town, you go to Budapest to “experience” the city. But if you pick your accommodations wisely you can be within 10 minutes of 90% of the sights and the beauty of Budapest. 90% of the time it will be a short walk or a sightseeing ride on one of Budapest’s great trams. These are fun.

Go browse the Hungary Forum for more information. https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/hungary/interesting-recoomendations-shorts

As for Vienna and Prague? I love Prague and I sort of like Vienna. But there are those here that can give you better advice than I can on them.

Posted by
5564 posts

No one has mentioned Edinburgh for New Years! The Scots do more to celebrate Hogmanay--New Year's--than they do Christmas. They have a big party in Edinburgh. But you can also find celebrations in smaller towns and villages.

Posted by
3696 posts

I like James itinerary... Have been to all these places a few times in the summer, but I am sure it is as amazing, if not more in the winter. More intimate and cozy... Just dress in layers and as for the shorter daylight hours, I tend to like that. You get to see the lights of the cities earlier... beautiful!

Posted by
12576 posts

Basically you sleep late and play all night.

If you rent an apartment there was a hotel restaurant that will deliver a Christmas goose with all the fixings ...... but I would rather go out.