Just the thought of Europe at Christmas brings to mind many traditions of joy and delight. Roasted chestnuts and Christmas pudding shared at a London table. Basil-wrapped crosses used to sprinkle holy water around homes in Greece. Nativity displays telling the Christmas story in Italy. And beautiful Christmas light displays brighten up the scene all over Europe. We love the Christmas spirit that bursts through many countries in Europe and the variety of different presentations that give each place its own special holiday magic. So here are just a few places to see some of the most beautiful Christmas lights displays in Europe to enjoy some holiday cheer.
Note: Because regulations concerning public health update frequently, the specific displays, events, or activities in each destination may vary. Be sure to consult official health organization directives before making any travel plans.
1. Mainz, Germany
Mainz, Germany, is a beautiful place probably best known as the spot where Johannes Gutenberg invented movable type printing and printed the famous Gutenberg Bible. Mainz is also beloved as a great wine capital and a wonderful place to visit. There’s plenty to see in this city filled with culture, history, art, and great things to eat and drink. And especially around the holidays, Mainz lights up with a beautiful Christmas glow. The traditional Christmas markets often provide a festive ambiance for holiday spirit. But, with or without the rush of holiday crowds, a glass of gluhwein and some dazzling lights make Mainz one of the loveliest places to enjoy around Christmas.
2. Budapest, Hungary
Christmas celebrations in Budapest, Hungary, are filled with festive lights and cheer. A giant lighted Christmas tree in the capital city demands attention. Christmas markets and dramatic lighting displays make for an awesome holiday scene. There is typically a fantastic light show presented at the St. Stephen’s Basilica, which can include multidimensional projections that can be viewed with 3D glasses. While the lighted Chain Bridge is available to see all year round, its glow becomes even more festive to see during the holidays.
3. Colmar, France
One of the most picturesque places we’ve ever been is Colmar, France. This tiny town full of romantic canals and timber-framed structures creates fantasy visions any time of the year. But when it comes to Christmas lights, the town’s charm becomes even more irresistible. It started with a public lighting program that was the first of its kind in France. Originally a Christmas event, the beautiful lighting became so popular that it continues throughout the year with different themes representing the elements of water, air, earth, and fire. We can’t think of anything more enjoyable than meandering through the cobblestone streets of this gorgeous town, filled with lights and holiday cheer.
4. Vienna, Austria
If you’re looking for an elegant city, Vienna, Austria, is a perfect fit. The city of music and wine lights up even brighter when the holidays come around. The city fills with gorgeous Christmas lights displays that include over two million lights around 33 of the main shopping routes. That should be enough to get everyone’s attention. Huge sparkling chandeliers hanging overhead and dazzling strings of lights like icicles dangling from up high are just a couple of examples of the beautiful Christmas lights all around the city. Strolling around the city at Christmas provides an enchanting view of the spectacular architecture, stylish venues, and historical features of this singularly beautiful city.
5. London, England
It’s hard to think of Christmas in Europe without conjuring images of a wintry London holiday scene. We have visions of food halls filled with every imaginable treat, people dressed in their holiday finery, plum puddings, toy shops, and afternoon teas. So it should not be surprising that when it comes to beautiful Christmas lights displays in Europe, London does is right. Many London areas have their own spectacular Christmas lights displays from streets to neighborhoods and even the ZSL London Zoo. Once you’ve explored all the beautiful Christmas lights London has to offer, don’t be surprised by visions of sugar plums dancing in your head when you fall asleep.
6. Madeira, Portugal
Just about every part of Portugal feels like magic. But when it comes to Christmas lights, the island of Madeira takes things to a whole new level. The celebrations around Christmas and New Year's Eve in Madeira are legendary. Funchal, the island’s main city, fills its streets with ornate lights displays, musical performances, and cultural programs. The whole island lights up across the landscape and in spirit. A spectacular fireworks show in Funchal caps up the ringing in of the new year too. While you’re enjoying the lovely holiday lights displays in Madeira, don’t forget to celebrate the wonderful cuisine. Fresh seafood and Portuguese sparkling wine should help make the holiday light displays even more bright and beautiful.
7. Vilnius, Lithuania
Keep the holiday season cheery and bright with some of the most beautiful Christmas lights displays in Europe presented in Vilnius, Lithuania. One famous feature is the phenomenal lighted Christmas tree shaped like the Queen in a chess game. The tradition of a grand tree in the capital of Lithuania dates back to the 14th and 15th centuries. These days, visitors are treated to additional spectacular lights displays such as a Christmas tree near the town hall, multiple Christmas markets, and a recently added “Alternative Christmas Yard.” This unique attraction features a variety of experiences including light installations, an alternative Christmas tree, water features, and interactive swings in an environment designed to encourage creativity using a former prison yard as its backdrop.
8. Vigo, Spain
If there’s a city in Europe that takes Christmas lights more seriously than Vigo, Spain, we don’t know what it is. The mayor of Vigo has been on a quest for many years to make the Christmas lights displays in Vigo the very best in the world. Lighted, giant storybooks, a Christmas village, Santa’s House, 10 million lights, more than 450 Christmas trees on display, and decorating that began in the summer indicate that this is a real effort. The effort seems to be paying off as visitors to this largest city in Galicia delight in the bright and festive atmosphere. Vigo offers guided routes for free walking tours that feature the impressive Christmas lights displays, decorations, ornaments, and attractions. So if you’re looking for one of the most beautiful lights displays in Europe -- as well as one of the biggest -- Vigo has holiday plans that should make you smile.
9. Ruedesheim, Germany
The German town of Ruedesheim is charming, beautiful, and fun. It’s an enchanting place that captures your heart from the moment you arrive. Add the small winding roads up and down hills throughout the village filled with Christmas lights, handcrafted items, and tasty holiday treats, and that’s a recipe for a wonderful Christmas celebration to us. One of the treats we discovered during one Christmastime in Ruedesheim is Asbach brandy. A famous German television chef created a taste sensation when he added warm Asbach brandy to sugar cubes, lit it with a match to dissolve, then topped it with hot coffee, sweet whipped cream, and bittersweet chocolate flakes. This is now known as the Ruedesheim coffee and makes the perfect beverage to warm you as you stroll through this town of twinkling Christmas lights.
10. Strasbourg, France
Christmas in the Alsace region of France is truly special. Strasbourg, France, has a unique personality that encompasses its French roots and German borders. Dubbed “Capital of Christmas,” Strasbourg embraces much of the vibrant holiday spirit that makes Europe a special place during the holidays. With a giant Christmas tree in the city center, Strasbourg’s Christmas lights provide a warm glow all over. Twinkling angels, dazzling stars, glowing Christmas trees, and other displays show off the holiday spirit in lights. Strasbourg offers cuisine that is French, German, and uniquely its own. Different markets offer tasty treats and holiday decor, blending right in as part of this lovely city that dazzles with some of the most beautiful Christmas lights displays in Europe.
11. Prague, Czech Republic
Romance flourishes during Christmas in Prague, Czech Republic. The Old Town Square dazzles with brilliant lights, a large, twinkling tree, and fairy tale holiday decor bring a glow to the city as well as to the hearts of those spending holiday moments there. Historical buildings, beautiful churches, and architecture ranging from Romanesque and Baroque to Gothic adds a touch of drama to the storied city landscape. Christmas lights displays add to the festive atmosphere as locals and visitors alike enjoy the city’s beauty. Mulled wine, Czech Christmas cookies, hot roasted chestnuts, and gingerbread treats warm from the inside. The beautiful glow of Christmas lights against the stately buildings with centuries of history makes for an unforgettable dose of European holiday spirit.
The variety of styles and approaches to holiday lighting provides plenty of ways to relish the season. Whether you’re looking for romance, spectacle, history, or small-town charm, the most beautiful Christmas lights displays in Europe offer much to celebrate.
Looking for other holiday travel inspiration? Here are a few other recommendations. Happy holidays to you and yours!