If you have a year to plan (and save) for it, where would you spend Christmas 2013? Paris, Prague, Salzburg, Rome? Others? No fair mentioning your home or the home of relatives, unless we are all invited.
We will be in Venice for Christmas Eve and day - also visiting Munich, Verona, Bologna and Milan. Will report back!!
You know, that's a tough one. I've spent Christmas in London, Budapest and Orthodox Christmas in Moscow and each was memorable. But I'm having trouble picturing just one amazing place. In the parts of Europe that I am familiar with Christmas Day is a personal family holiday so unless you bring your own family it can be sort of dull. Christmas Season on the other hand is different. Budapest is lovely during the season as I understand is Paris; Rome has changed a lot over the years and doesn't attract me much any longer. Maybe too many of the big cities have become too homogenized to sparkle as I would want them to. Maybe a place like Plovdiv or one of the Banska towns or Sibu. Just to be a little smaller but still large enough to have life. BUT, family would have to come along.
Roy, we are spending this Christmas in Bologna, New Years in Florence. We have had wonderful Christmas experiences in London, Rome, and Brussels. So far, the most "Christmassy" was Brussels with its wonderful markets and beautifully decorated grand platz.
James, thanks for differentiating between Christmas season and Christmas Day. After the Christmas markets have closed, where would be a good place for a couple to spend the night on Christmas Eve?
My experience is a bit limited. In London we had dinner at a pub complete with all the little oddities of an English Christmas dinner and then went back to the drawing room of the hotel we were staying in. It was my wife and my kids so it was a family Christmas. In Budapest we have an apartment which we decorated for the holiday, again went out to a local restaurant to celebrate and returned home for drinks and snuggling (cold in Budapest in December). On another year in Budapest we walked down to the river and marveled at the lights across in Buda and played in the snow. Now that I think about it, it was really quite special and something i would welcome again. The next time we are in Budapest for Christmas one of the hotels prepares goose dinners and delivers them to your house. Moscow was Orthodox Christmas and didn't impact the town very much. If I had to plan a Christmas trip then I think I would rent an apartment in one of the Banska towns of Slovkia so we could dress it up for the holidays and cook a proper meal. If you have $$$$$ you might look at the Kempinski Grand Hotel in the High Tatras mountains. I would bet that they make Christmas pretty special and i cant think of many places more beautiful to spend a few nights. We've been there in the spring (fishing) and know we will return again. http://budapestflat.shutterfly.com/bp3 for some Christmas Season photos If you are looking for this Christmas let me know; i do have an idea.
If my wallet were very fat and I had cadged tickets for the Wiener Musikverein for the New Year Concert I would spend the holiday season in Vienna. My wallet has never been that fat nor would I be that lucky, so that would remain a pipe-dream, more's the pity.
Very easy for me... Paris.
"...where would be a good place for a couple to spend the night on Christmas Eve? " We spent last Christmas in Rome as tourists, our first time away from from friends and family for the holiday.
We loved Christmas Eve in Rome Borghese in the morning, then early church, a great trattoris for the Feast of the Seven Fishes, and a long walk to look at the lights which are magnificent. Rome is home to hundreds of precipe (nativity scenes) and it is fun to see as many as you can. Christmas Day we also took a long walk, then dined in a Kosher restaurant. We were blessed with good weather, which helped. While a lot of "sites" are closed, Rome is one big museum so there's plenty to see by just walking. Make dinner reservations, though. Lots of people eat out, both tourists and residents. Some places have special menus that are outragiously priced, so look for regular menus and neighborhood places. The dinner scene tends to be convivial, especially in the small places, where tables are close. Now, as residents, we'll spend the 24th & 25th in a similar way.
The Alps with my wife and our dog. Thus, we're spending the holiday in Grindelwald this year.
This is certainly an experience to look forward to as to where to spend Christmas in Europe: I'll include New Year's too. My choices PARIS and VIENNA, which ever is more possible at the moment. Both have salient advantages.
Roy, between those two i vote Vienna. It will be colder and the chance of snow greater. I love Paris, but Paris is so great when the weather is good it's sort of like cheating yourself to go in the winter. Some things in Vienna can be enhanced by the cold and the season and a lot of the rest isnt impacted no matter what the weather.
Rome. My most memorable Christmas ever was attending mass at the Vatican in 1977. An Italian we met on the train from Florence to Rome tried to get seats for me and the Australian woman I was traveling with at the time. But there were none left. His advice was to go early, get as close to the entrance as possible, get through the doors as quickly as we could and stand at the corner made by the central aisle and the last row of chairs. We did just that, and from that corner we had an unobstructed view of everything. I am not Catholic, but it was truly one of the best experiences of my life. It helped that Pope Paul VI looked right at us and blessed us on his way out. We arrived at 22:00 and waited outside singing carols with others who were gathered in our area. We were allowed in at 23:00. We had already visited but were awestruck with the anticipation of what was to come. You could feel it in the air. The mass started at midnight and lasted for at least an hour. When we came out, there were no busses running, all taxis were taken so we walked back to our B&B through the quiet streets of Rome. Fortunately, we met an architecture student who lived near our B&B and she walked us home before going home herself. All in all we were on our feet without sitting for about 5 hours, but it was worth every minute. I'd guess these days it's a little more difficult to be inside for the mass and that the security is perhaps overwhelming. But if there is any way you could do it, you would not regret it. It was so special that I don't have a clue as to what we did for food on Christmas day, but somehow we managed.
"where would you spend Christmas 2013?" but there is no doubt, in Umbria! http://www.flickr.com/photos/ovi90/6854102307/
Vienna for sure...best Christmas Markets and atmosphere. The Punsch makes one feel pretty special as well.
Edinburgh Scotland!! Spent a week touring that area a couple of years ago (the terrible snowstorm year :) Fabulous people. Beautiful countryside and towns. This year we are heading to London. Hoping for the same (except the snow).
London and the Cotswolds!!
Lots of good suggestions here. I had to change my tickets from March because of illness in the family, and was looking at December of the coming year, when costs would be cheapest. Unfortunately, Delta would not let me wait that long, so end of July-early August it is. I was looking at Bavaria and Prague and thinking about other places, but I would disagree with those who argue against Paris. The city looks great in winter in the Jack Nicholson/Diane Keaton film "As Good As It Gets".
Christmas in Venice was wonderful! Just retuned from our adventure. Landed in Munich and spent one night there - Christmas markets, hot wine and a few beer halls. Then a beautiful train ride to Verona - more hot wine and markets and some nice wine bars and wandered. On to Venice which we loved - no crowds. Then to Bologna which was a blast - jumped a train to Ferrara for a few hours. Then a stop in Milan - Duomo, Last Supper and then long flight home! Weather was cold but no rain. Overcast until Milan and then sunny and pretty mild. Live starting our vacation in Munich - great place to spend a day and then jump on a train!
House in Normandy. A visit to a couple of favorite places to eat in Vire and Bayeux and avoiding the dramatic. On the other hand at Thanksgiving we've been to Amsterdam, Istanbul, Brugges, Berlin, Rome, Paris and Sharm El Sheikh and its always been away for the grief of cooking a large bird that doesn't fit in most ovens here anyway.
Since I can't really stand the cold, I probably won't ever spend Christmas in Europe. I was much younger when I lived in Vienna but I did enjoy their Christmas market. I also love Salzburg and the Wolfgangsee area, so my vote would go there.
When I think Christmas I think Germany or Austria. The decorations with little white lights on everything, the Christmas markets – with the aroma of hot spiced wine, the traditional music. Bavaria of course is wonderful, we've been in Ramsau by Berchtesgaden a number of times, also Munich. In Austria Innsbruck, Graz and Vienna have all been great Christmas locations. The cookies, roast goose for Christmas dinner, the quiet of Christmas Eve – nothing is better.
I enjoy more of a countryside setting. This year, I visited Christmas markets in the Salzkammergut region of Austria and it was everything I've been looking for. The ambiance was overwhelming for me. The warm glow of lights in the windows, strings of lights and stars across the pedestrian zone, the beautifully decorated stalls, the nativity scenes, the brass band ensembles... I can go on and on. Yes, most of these markets end on Christmas Eve. However, staying in this area, or Bavaria, would be lovely during the holiday. It's a three day holiday for them, so plan ahead on where you are staying. Many B&B's and pensions are closed during this time. On my bucket list is a sleigh ride. Maybe next year. If you want to check out my blog for this past year's Christmas market trip, send my a personal message.