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Where would you go in Europe from December 22 - December 30 if you could go anywhere?

Due to expiring airline miles on Singapore Airlines, we have to travel to Frankfurt (only place to go from JFK besides Singapore) arriving on December 22 and departing on December 30. However, we can go anywhere in Europe from there. Knowing the Christmas markets shut down on December 23 and many places are closed from December 24-26, where would you go to maximize your European adventure? There are three of us (two adults and one 10 yr old kid)

We were looking at the Northern lights (Norway?) but were concerned about travel to and fro and if there was enough to do (we could also do a cruise if it fit our timeline). We were thinking about Strasbourg for the Christmas Markets and then moving on from there but will we be too late for it? We could hunker down in Germany and get an airbnb and do day trips and explore a part of the country. We've been considering Austria/Vienna. We're really open to many ideas and love the idea of staying at an airbnb or two and really digging into a place but are worried about losing several days if we're someplace where everything is closed. We did London last year and stayed in a flat in The Angel and loved it (and did our Xmas Feast on the 25th and found enough to do on the 26th that happened to be open).

The one thing we can't do is skiing (as my wife isn't into it) unless there was a place that had it AND many other things to do.

So what would you do if you landed in Frankfurt and could go anywhere else from there - either by plane, train or automobile?

Thank you!

Posted by
3951 posts

I vote for Vienna, and I believe the markets are open until New Year's. Safe travels!

Posted by
131 posts

We go to Europe every year and favor warmer destinations. We usually do Nice and Naples but sometimes throw Lisbon in too. The Christmas decorations are delightful, the weather moderate, the crowds light, and the food delicious!

Posted by
1832 posts

You can look for a cruise along Norway's coastline with Hurtigruten or Havila from Bergen to Tromso and stay there 1 or 2 nights - normally to Kirkenes. Fly back to Oslo and enjoy the city the rest of the time. with a little luck you can see Northern Lights.

Posted by
9849 posts

Paris or Rome. Lights, sparkle, window decorations, open restaurants, a lot you can do even on Christmas day. Plenty of markets, culinary specialties for the holidays and even Christmas Markets for those who like them. I'd be wary of any small town or any country with strict closure laws at that time of year. You can get stuck with little to do. I'll be in Rome at Christmas.

Posted by
4013 posts

You could fly to Bergen and do Hurtigruten.
The Christmas sailings are different to normal in that they have an extended overnight stop on Christmas Eve at a suitable port then skip several ports on Christmas day. I did that once when Tromso was our extended call, and the whole ships company- crew and pax went to Christmas Eve service at the Church closest to the quay, then senior company officials and the City mayor joined us for Christmas Eve dinner on board. With fresh snow that afternoon and the city basically closed for Christmas it was magical.
Depending on the overnighting port I can't promise all of that, but they will make it a special occasion.

Posted by
52 posts

Consider Malta or Seville. Although, no snow if you’re looking for a white Christmas. Lucky you to be able to go anywhere! Happy travels!

Posted by
6896 posts

Head up to Tromso, Norway. It’s far above the Arctic Circle, and winter is a more popular time to visit than summer. It’s been called “The Paris of the North,” and there are museums galore. How about going dogsledding? Reindeer? And perhaps your wife might consider cross-country skiing, even if downhill skiing’s of no interest.

Posted by
6 posts

These are all fantastic ideas - ty everyone. I feel Vienna or Norway is going to be the answer. If you were in Vienna, what would you do and see while there. Not just inside the city but outside and around for day trips. Is there elsewhere in Austria you would spend a day or two that’s special?

Posted by
16547 posts
Posted by
2060 posts

I would go anywhere that has a winter climate and I could rent an incredibly comfortable room replete with a fireplace.

Posted by
7879 posts

I'm sure not going to the far north as it's too cold up there. Much of Scandinavia also gets a lot of rain, cold and bad weather from October on.

I'd be heading for Vienna--or Budapest. Or, both.

I've been as far south as Venice in the middle of winter where we about froze our tails off. Tides were very hight too.

Posted by
4075 posts

geovagriffith, you and I are on the same page regarding cold weather, but we did really enjoy London at Christmas.

Posted by
4073 posts

Are you returning from Frankfurt as well? Assuming the answer is yes, I'm seeing a total time budget of 8 nights. The first is the jet-lagged arrival day of 22 December and the last is 29 December, the night before your departure day. If you follow the usual advice to spend that last night close to the airport, that leaves 7 nights to play with.

The days in late December will be short and shorter yet if you head farther north. According to timeanddate.com, and using Vienna as an example, you'll have about 8 hours and 15 minutes of sunlight each day, with sunrise at about 07:45 and sunset at about 16:00. Go to Oslo and you get about 6 hours of daylight between sunrise at about 09:15 and sunset at about 15:15.

You might want to use timeanddate.com to explore the predicted sunrise and sunset times for your cities of interest December this year The weather for last December (as well as for previous years) can also be found using timeanddate.com. It's much more variable, but it will be cold and possibly snowy in the locales you're currently considering. Having lived and worked in Nuremberg and traveled in the winter, I can verify that, but it was decades ago, so maybe climate change has warmed things a bit. 😉

Even as a solo traveler I tend to rent apartments on my trips, but I never go through Airbnb. I always search for them as well as for hotels on Booking.com. For me 4 nights is a crossover time point. Less than 4 means a hotel or B&B, more means an apartment, 4 could go either way. As I'm sure you know, pay attention to what a bed might be for your kid since two beds in a room are rare.

An advantage of an apartment is that is you could make your own Christmas dinner with ingredients found locally which could be fun. An advantage of a hotel is that there'd probably be food available. My experience of living in Germany was that even most of the tourist restaurants were closed. And the hotel possibilities were booked solid.

With only the short time you have, I'd pick one place and stay there. You have some good options already listed and suggested. For what to do in or near them, you can take a quick look at the basics by going to Explore Europe here: https://www.ricksteves.com/europe

The countries are listed with specific cities and locations.

If it was me, I’d go to Strasbourg, on the border with France first, especially since it's only about a 3 hour train trip from the Frankfurt Airport: https://www.ricksteves.com/europe/france/strasbourg

Beyond that, I'd probably head back to Frankfurt via Nuremberg for old time's sake.

You can use Google Maps to check the distances and times of train routes from the Frankfurt Airport to and between cities of interest to you

If I could resist beautiful Strasbourg and seeing Nuremberg again, I'd probably take an intra-European airline flight to Vienna from the Frankfurt Airport and maybe make my way back to Frankfurt by train, probably stopping in Munich on the way.

Posted by
16547 posts

I count Eight Nights. I am starting this in Vienna because in the past the Budapest Christmas Markets have run to New Year and I am not sure about the ones in Vienna. The only downside is that after the 24th the Budapest Christmas markets close the food stalls.

As far as eating on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, there are dozens of really good restaurants open in Budapest and I am assuming that the same is true in Vienna. If your research proves me wrong, then reverse the order of Budapest and Vienna and I can give you a list of restaurants in Budapest for those days.

22nd arrive in Frankfurt and make a connection to Vienna. Arrive Vienna about 2pm

23rd Vienna

24th Vienna

25th Vienna

26th Vienna to Budapest by Train

27th Budapest

28th Budapest

29th Budapest (absolutely no need to stay near the airport as the airport is 30 minutes away by taxi)

30th Fly home from Budapest (most flights through Frankfurt depart rather early … sorry).

The days in the winter are indeed shorter. Pretty much worldwide. But the short days work to your advantage if you choose wisely and if you find yourself in Budapest, which is without a doubt the world’s most beautiful (and active) city after sunset.

Snow is rare in Central Europe at Christmas, but it does happen and maybe you will get lucky and experience a white Christmas.

A lot of short-term rentals put a 3-night minimum on their properties, my suggestion puts you in each location 4 nights. Short-term rental or hotel, what ever lights your fire. I can make great arguments for both. But location is everything and will add a lot to the experience if chosen correctly. I can help you with Budapest and I have some thoughts on Vienna, but there are better than me. BUT do make sure any short-term rental is legally licensed in Budapest. Being on Booking.com or AirBnb does not guarantee that. Look for a license number in the booking information. Vienna apparently does not license their short-term rentals, but it sounds like they will be gone next year anyway.

Posted by
1832 posts

you and I are on the same page regarding cold weather

Rule of mid and north Europeans:

There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.

Posted by
1627 posts

periscope--I too would go anywhere with winter weather. I love it! Maybe that is why we have gone to Iceland a few times in the winter etc. I don't do warm weather well at all.

Posted by
16547 posts

There is something special about locations that have relatively "real" winters. Having to live with the fact, they have found ways to use it to their advantage or defeat it. When you are out in 35F weather and so is everyone else in town, the streets are full and the lights are bright; the cold just isn't that cold. On the other hand, in locations where winters are relatively short, then what you find for a month or so is people "surviving" the cold and waiting in misery for it to end.

"I will never travel to Europe in the summer". Then you will miss what I suspect is one of the best fireworks displays in Europe, and one of the best Jewish cultural celebrations in Europe, and one of the best .....

"I will never travel to Europe in the winter" Then you will never see a Christmas market, or see a city lit up for the holidays, or ski, or hear snow crunch under your feet or marvel how a great river can freeze over in a few hours, or .....

Posted by
429 posts

My first reaction was Vienna (ixnay Budapest).
But, why not the obvious. Singapore is wonderful at that time of year. Why torture yourself with the cold of Europe?
Toss in a few rounds of golf in Penang and call it a day.

Posted by
1499 posts

Either skiing in Vorarlberg, or relatively warm sunny Christmas time holiday in Sicily.

I really value moving around outside a lot, so risking a straight week of freezing rain elsewhere is not optimal for my constitution. But that's me, your specific requirements are different flying into Frankfurt, no skiing allowed.

You could do far worse than Alsace (which is my understated way of saying Alsace is wonderful :). Quite close to Frankfurt by train, super Christmasy, beautiful cities and towns. Strasbourg has already been suggested. I would choose to stay in Rick Steves' Alsace favorite Colmar, which truly might be the most christmasy place on earth outside of Santa's workshop at the North Pole.

You could probably enjoy a couple of days in the Swiss Alps as well, Lauterbrunnen area. You could ski if you want, but there is still beautiful, natural, sightseeing and a lot of activities for non-skiers. It's also not far from Alsace.

Another option for a second stop that has already been proposed, if you start in Alsace, the high speed train takes you to Paris direct from Strasbourg in a couple hours. Departing Paris would make for a rewarding, varied and efficient Open Jaws itinerary.

Posted by
1499 posts

Regarding Vienna, I really love it as a city. The winter weather is not wonderful. By late December the average high is 37° f/3c. That's the high, like for 90 minutes in the middle of the day. Average low is below freezing, 28f/-2.5c. And the chance of a fully sunny day is 15%. Much better chance than not of significant cloud cover.

So freezing cold, and likely gloomy. Short days too of course, quite far north.

On the plus side, not a lot of precipitation in December, less than a one in five chance of any precipitation on any given day.

By way of comparison, The average low temperature in late December in Paris is about the same as the average high temperature in late December in Vienna, and the average high in Paris is 7c. So an easier temperature band to be outside all day.

Personally, I have lived through something like 30 Seattle winters now. I'm perfectly functional in cold, gloomy and wet, but not particularly interested in either of the latter two (if coupled with cold) when I go somewhere on vacation.

Posted by
1499 posts

Regarding Norway, in Bergen, the sun is up for less than 6 hours a day in your time frame. And by "up" that means peeks above the horizon, moves more sideways than up, slips below the horizon.

Nothing at all wrong with far north in the winter, just be sure that dark most of the time is what you are interested in.

Posted by
2251 posts

I’m with Bets and would want to go to either London or Paris. I feel very at home in both those cities and because I live in a rural area, I think spending time in a big city is a treat!

Posted by
273 posts

Have always wanted to do an England December holidays trip--a combination of London and some time in the countryside.