Snapshots of a European Christmas

Although Christmas is traditionally celebrated with presents under a Christmas tree in the warmth of a fireplace, over the past few years I’ve managed to escape the cold. I celebrated Christmas in 2011 in Iguazu Falls between Brazil and Argentina, and Christmas in 2012 was spent on gorgeous Railay Beach in Thailand.

Railay Beach Christmas

Railay Beach, Thailand in Christmas 2012

Instead of escaping winter in Europe, I decided to throw on my beanie and puffy winter coat and embrace it. I tackled a good part of my ever-growing European Bucket List over my two-week Christmas holiday in December. In total, I traveled through four countries and six cities:

  • Germany: Munich
  • Austria: Salzburg
  • Czech Republic: Český Krumlov, Prague
  • Belgium: Brussels, Bruges

If I were to close my eyes, visualize Christmas, and then sketch the scene in my mind, it would look exactly like these places I visited in Europe (if I had any artistic ability, that is).

There’s so much about this trip that can’t be put into words. I’ll let the photos do some of the talking for me.

Munich

Munich was the starting point for my trip and Christmas was in full swing. Every single open square had a Christmas market, and I’m pretty sure I puttered around all of them. The best part was listening to Christmas carolers singing at the Glockenspiel. It finally felt like Christmas had arrived!

Rathaus-Glockenspiel

The Rathaus-Glockenspiel in Marienplatz, Munich.

Christmas spirit was literally in the air in Munich with lights hanging from the trees in the market!

Munich Christmas Lights

There was plenty to do in Munich, but my day trip to Neuschwanstein Castle was one of my favorite experiences during this holiday!

Salzburg

Salzburg was full of light and excitement on Christmas. The Christkindlmarkt (Christmas market) was one of the best I’d seen, and I had been to a lot of Christmas markets in Berlin and Munich. Of course I sampled the food (bosnas, a sausage in a bun with onion, mustard, and curry powder) and drink (glühwein and white Russians) while perusing the stalls full of ornaments and Mozart-inspired chocolate!

Salzburg Christmas Market1

Christmas lights aglow in the Salzburg Christkindlmarkt

I could feel the love radiating from the love locks on Salzburg’s Makarsteg Bridge. The Christmas lights really brought out the beauty in this bridge.

Makarsteg Bridge Love Locks

Love locks on Makarsteg Bridge

Christmas day was quiet and peaceful in Salzburg. The past few days were hazy, but finally the clouds were lifting and we could clearly see Mount Untersberg in the distance. This view was the best Christmas gift I could have asked for.

Christmas Day Salzburg

Christmas day in Salzburg

Český Krumlov

On the way to Prague, my travel partner-in-crime, Alicia, and I stopped in Český Krumlov, Czech Republic for one night. I’m not sure when this small town started flashing on the tourist radar, but after exploring it for a day, I can understand why it’s gaining popularity.

The entire city could be explored in one day, but it was worth the trip. It was such a quant little town with unique shops and restaurants just waiting to be discovered.

The Český Krumlov Castle has one of the best views of the town, which looked stunning all covered in snow!

Cesky Krumlov

Prague

I had high hopes for Prague since everyone I know who has been there raves about it. Unfortunately, I was freezing the entire time! Prague was the coldest place I visited over this Christmas holiday, and I was seriously struggling with the icy cold wind while we attempted to see the sights.

Old Town Square

Old Town Square, Prague

Nonetheless, Prague’s old architecture is unparalleled.

Prague2

The iconic red roofs of Prague

The iconic red roofs of Prague

Brussels

We rang in the new year in Brussels, Belgium. Christmas was over, but it was New Years Eve and the city was full of life and excitement. This city has such a great vibe that I’m sure it’s just as vibrant even when it isn’t the holidays.

Brussels Town Hall

Bruges

Bruges is another one of those places where is feels like Christmas was invented. With its old buildings and canals, Bruges was so old and elegant. It was the ideal ending place for my European Christmas vacation.

Grote Markt

Grote Markt, Bruges

Bruges CanalsI’ve never seen Christmas embodied in such a grandiose way as it was in Europe. If you’re looking for a traditional place to celebrate Christmas, go to Europe! I still miss that beachside Christmas view from Thailand, though!