The dilemma before Christmas

I'm planning to spend 5 days in Europe in early December. Would love to experience a typical European Christmas and the famous markets. But here's the deal: I can't decide where to go. I'm torn between 5 places: 1-Paris+a day trip to Strasbourg 2-Vienna 3-Prague 4-Berlin 5-Salzburg Which would be the most picturesque city during Christmas? I've only been to Paris before, but never in Winter. I read articles that list Vienna as the top 1 Christmas destination. But some people say Prague is much more beautiful. I'm really lost at this point. Help is appreciated. The cities I found cheap tickets to are Vienna and Berlin.
Is Vienna my best best?

Posted by Angela
Sammamish, WA
403 posts

It sounds like you have narrowed it down to Vienna and Berlin based on ticket prices, yes? Between the two, I would pick Vienna. Both cities are great, but very different. Berlin is hip, lively, happenin'. Vienna is elegant, beautiful and traditional. Berlin isn't elegant and Vienna isn't hip. For Xmas, I'd choose Vienna because it is just so lovely, esp if it snows. If it were summer, I'd choose Berlin.

Posted by John
Charlotte, NC, USA
27 posts

Not necessarily, Angela. I'm open for all suggestions. Thanks for your reply!

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

I wouldn't say Berlin is particularly beautiful during winter, and Vienna would probably be much more romantic (I haven't been to Vienna in winter). I will say that I went to Berlin on a whim late last November for my birthday and was surprised by how great the Christmas markets there were. There's 50 within city limits alone, and many of them are very different from others. I found more diversity of markets within Berlin than I did throughout the rest of Germany. Hipster markets, upscale yuppie markets, crafter markets, "typical" markets, family-oriented ones - and that's just around the Mitte and Prenzlauerberg. I'm sure Vienna would be a great choice too, though. I'd go where you could get cheap flights, I don't think you could go wrong with either choice . Both cities have a lot of indoor museums, too.

Posted by Wray
Boston, ma, usa
155 posts

I would go for Paris and Strasbourg. Paris has lovely, sophisticated decorations. Strasbourg has a wonderful Christmas Market. Just my opinion though.

Posted by James
Frisco
1789 posts

I can only comment on Paris, Vienna and Prague. Paris? Naaa, not in December. If you are under 40 I would say Prague. Over 40 I would say Vienna. Actually I would do Vienna and Budapest for the contrast. Five days is plenty for the two.

Posted by John
Charlotte, NC, USA
27 posts

Thank you. I'm actually under 40, but not much of a party person.
Keep your suggestions coming :)

Posted by Toni
Charlotte, NC, USA
2846 posts

We've visited both Vienna and Salzburg during the pre-Christmas season. Both are great!!! I really ejoyed Salzburg a bit more. We also did a day trip to Budapest from Vienna on winter trip. We were a couple of days early for their Christmas market, however. But we did enjoy our day there. The regular market was very, very nice. Bought some painted wooden eggs to use as Christmas decorations and some other things too. You could easliy fly into Vienna, stay there 2 or 3 days ( with 1 day trip to Budapest by train if desired), then train to Salzburg for the rest of the time. You get to see some lovely ccuntryside on both of those trains. From there you could fly home from Munich.
We've also done great trips to the UK in early Dec. London has excellent regular markets and usually there is a German style small Christmas market near Covent Garden. Bath has a very large, excellent Christmas market. York and Cardiff and Canterburry have very good Christmas markets with local craftsmen mostly. Windsor has a French style market near the train station (which has excellent market style stalls set up all the time in the old station). Lots of good choices- I would just pick the one(s) you are most interested in.

Posted by James
Frisco
1789 posts

Prague, Vienna and Budapest together make an astounding trip through time, culture and history. They sold together a lot but what gets limited is that the have little in common beyond the music...and the music is wonderful. Prague is "in" and i lovingly call it the Disney Land of the east. The tourist zones are impeccably restored but compact and limited. Vienna promotes its past culture and glory as a modern attraction. The museums are wonderful. Inside the ring road the city IS a museum and magnificent and there are a number of deserving places to visit outside the center. My only complaint is that the culture is too much fabricated for the tourist and the people have the usually German warmth. Budapest i was told the othexr day is Stunning, but not pretty. i guess that's a fair assessment. The opera house one of the most beautiful in the world sells out most nights, but ppredominately to locals, not tourists.... way not pretty? because the building to the right rear of the opera is still riddled with bullet holes; probably from the '56 uprising but maybe from WWII. This contrast is typical across the city. The nice thing about this place is there are a lot of folks with different experiences and different knowledge. If you think Vienna/Budapest might be an option let me know and I'll give you enough to keep you busy in Budapest (and check out the Pannonhalma Archabbey)

Posted by John
Charlotte, NC, USA
27 posts

Is Prague better enjoyed in Summer? Are most of its attractions outdoorsy?
Almost everyone I know who's been to Prague raves about its beauty. And now I'm kinda leaning to Prague. If dressed warmly, can one enjoy outdoor sightseeing or is Prague cold as hell?

Posted by Kira
Seattle, WA, USA
954 posts

I vote with Wray. But then I am biased, because I spend every year between Christmas and New Year's in Paris! I love it. Love it. Love it. The markets - the nifty neighborhood-themed decorations, les grands magasins all lit up and froufy - the families enjoying mulled wine and carousel rides and in-city ice skating rinks. It's magic. And Strasbourg pairs perfectly with Paris - it's more Germanic in style there, and the city amps up charming to the Nth degree.

Posted by John
Charlotte, NC, USA
27 posts

Kira, I've been to Paris before, but on a very brief visit. So I'm eager to go back. But do you think I could find a hotel room or small apartment in Paris for $100-150/night?

Posted by Bobbie
Park Ridge, IL
524 posts

John I am a little confused. Does the five days you are spending in Europe include your arrival and departure days? If so, I would wait until you have more time to travel. Regardless, I would stay in one city with a day trip to a nearby city. Otherwise you will spend too much time in traveling. It will take at least 1/2 day to travel to another place. And you will have to fly (except Paris/Strasburg) since the other cities are much further away. Even a day trip to Strasbourg will be 4 hours travel time roundtip. 5 days is really not a lot of time at all. . If you do decide to go to two cities, it is imperative to get open jaw flights. Fly into one city and fly out the other city. Keep us posted on what you decide.

Posted by Martin
Germany
206 posts

Well, if you want to see the "famous Christmas markets" I would recommend to stay in Germany, Austria or Alsace. The Christmas markets, and also many Christman traditions, come from there. And while Christmas markets in the German-speaking world are often centuries-old the Christmas markets in Prague or Budapest for example were mostly established in the last 20 years to please the tourists. They are not part of the traditional Christmas culture of these countries.

Posted by John
Charlotte, NC, USA
27 posts

Sorry for the confusion. I'm planning to stay in one city for 5 Full days. (excluding arrival and departure). But I'm trying to decide which city.

Posted by Diane
Ottawa
1155 posts

Budapest: Apart from a nice Christmas market, it also has those great warm baths... ;-) However, of the 5 that you mentioned, my vote would be for Salzburg. More intimate than Vienna, lots of pretty churches, great walkable center & market. Plus more snow, generally. Be careful though about the closure of the attractions that you would like to see for the dates that you want to go.

Posted by Kathy
Winston Salem
18 posts

Having been to all of those cities except Salzburg around Christmas time, I would say that your best bet is Vienna and Prague. Both are clean, beautiful and very different decorated compared to cities the U.S. Paris and Berlin are very large cities and can get cold and depending on what you like to do, expensive.

Posted by James
Frisco
1789 posts

Martin, about the German markets being the oldest; it wouldn't suprise me if you were correct. I am pretty certain from a few references I have read that the Budapest market goes back at least to the late Habsburg (dual monarchy) period; but then not much of what we call Budapest today even existed prior to the late Habsburg period (1845 to the end of WWI)so that makes sense. I've done some poking around and I cant find any evidence that they did or did not continue through the Cold War period. As Budapest enjoyed Gulyásleves Communism they might have been around but I doubt anything like what we see today. I can't begin to compare the Budapest market against any of the others as I haven't been to any of the others. I enjoy the one in Budapest enough to go back every other year or so. Winter can be good in Budapest if you enjoy theater, concerts, winter sports, knee high snow, hot gulyásleves, markets and in your face living history. But I imagine that the same holds true for a lot of Germany. They are just different places for different tastes. If anyone does decide to spend time in the winter in Budapest let me know and i can give you some help with what and where.