For most North Americans, the charm of a visit to Europe is the chance to experience a country's rich culture, and what better time of year for Europe than Christmas, a time full of special traditions, celebrations, decorations, and seasonal warmth?
You might sip hot chocolate at a Christmas market, or listen to a choir in a midnight service at a medieval cathedral... Even the storefronts, all decorated for the season, can be an experience.
As a bonus, families traveling to experience Christmas in Europe can find lower-priced airfares and stay in hotels with off-season rates.
London Christmas Events
From carolers under lamplights to figgy pudding, much of the way we picture Christmas comes from Victorian England. Head over to London and imagine you're on Bob Cratchit's street, and enjoy seasonal fun such as carol-singing at Trafalgar Square and ice-skating at outdoor rinks. Don't miss this fun tradition in London: Christmas Grottos at major department stores, with elves and decorations, and Santa of course.
Germany - Christmas Markets
No matter what city you're visiting in Germany, you'll find a day or night market with gifts for sale and a festive atmosphere. Their popularity is nothing new. Four centuries ago, a Nuremberg priest complained that too few people came to church service on Christmas Eve, because everyone was shopping at the market nearby.
More Christmas Markets in Europe
Germany is famous for its Christmas markets, but many other countries -- France, Italy, Spain, Scandinavia, and more-- have these traditional markets, with twinkling lights, roasted chestnuts, and plenty of toys for sale.
Christmas Events in France
Christmas markets, midnight mass at cathedrals, special traditions... France is steeped in Christmas history.
Paris: Highlights include Christmas lights displays at historic sites, Christmas markets, outdoor ice-skating, Christmas at Notre Dame Cathedral.
In Italy, celebrations start on December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and continue until Epiphany on January 6 when the witch La Befana delivers candy and gifts. Read about local customs, and the best places to see nativity scenes, markets, torchlight parades, and more.
The city of Athens puts on a festive display each year.
About's Guide Scandinavia Travel Guide Christmas in Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen. This famous amusement park is over 150 years old; at Christmas, stalls offer gifts and seasonal delicacies, Santa's sleigh makes a landing, and carousels and other rides are in full swing. also seasonal customs in Sweden and Norway.
Sweden's Ice Hotel
And speaking of Sweden, for a truly unique experience, how about a visit to the Ice Hotel over Christmas? It's created anew every year out of 10,000 tons of crystal clear ice. A package tour company can help get you there.
Christmas in Europe - Traditions
About.com's Guide for Europe gives an overview of traditions and events in a number of countries.