Europe is certainly one of the most popular places to travel for Christmas – and why not? With its cultural and historic attractions, all blanketed with a light dusting of snow, couldn’t be a more atmospheric backdrop for the season.

Slowly, Europe’s Christmas traditions are expanding beyond borders – for example, the classic German Christmas market can be found in nearly every country, and the shopping frenzy that started in America and spread to the UK is now alive and well in every European capital. Still, each country has its own special treats and festivals, making any Europe tours during Christmas a trip to remember.

No matter where you end up, here are three of the best Christmas Traditions in Europe that travelers love – and you haven’t enjoyed them yet, you’ll love them too.

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Christmas Markets and Street Lights

We’ve all seen those amazing photos of Europe ablaze in Christmas lights – there are so many cities that really roll out the Christmas cheer in terms of lights, and in most cities and even many smaller towns, you’ll find the squares and streets lined with Christmastime markets. It’s hard to choose a favorite, but many of Germany’s major cities – Nuremberg, Hamburg, and Cologne, to name a few – have some absolutely incredible Christmas markets and light parades.

Christmas Parades, Music and Theater

Performances and parades are also a mainstay of the Christmas traditions in Europe. Perhaps a favorite, not that well known, is the panto in Great Britain – not to be confused with a pantomime, these are funny skits that are a hit with children. But in many countries there are parades, such as the Netherland’s unusual cookie-throwing Santa Claus parade, but in other towns, like Vienna, you’ll be treated to wonderful Christmas ballets and operas. If you happen to be in Scandinavia, check out the local television for some of the Christmas shows playing – it’s all part of the experience.

Even if you don’t totally understand the customs or the language, dive in – these wonderful events are certainly a memorable way to enjoy the holidays.

Christmas Food & Drink

Just like in your own home, one of the best Christmas traditions in Europe is the tasty food and beverage! Many of the items you’ll find on sale are at the aforementioned markets, but of course many restaurants feature special holiday menus. I love the fried dough balls at some of the Belgian and Dutch squares, or any of the gingerbread treats you’ll find at the Austrian or German Christmas markets. In Ireland and the UK you can fill up on mince pies, or how about some yummy marzipan in Spain? And who can’t pass up some hot chocolate (spiked or not) or a warming glass of mulled wine? If those aren’t for you, you could always enjoy a cold glass of Kolsch, a popular beer in Cologne that goes down well with the hot food at the Christmas markets.

Have a look around during your European Christmas trip and see what the locals are enjoying, and jump in – you don’t know what you’re missing!

Why not spoil yourself this Christmas by planning a winter break in the lap of luxury? As the cold descends on the UK and summer feels it’s out of reach, a last-minute luxury getaway could be exactly what you’re looking for. From a warm holiday in the sun to a short city break to last minute cruise deals, a winter break is the perfect way to escape from it all.

Luxury cruising is one type of holiday that is garnering more attention in recent years and here are the reasons why.

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Everything is included

Most of what you experience while cruising, from accommodation, food and transportation to entertainment, facilities and activities, is all included in the price. This means that you’ll no longer have to deal with weeks of researching several hotels for the best price. In fact, your whole itinerary is all mapped out for you in advance – you won’t have to deal with anything. Simply, pack your suitcase, board the ship and relax.

Manageable costs

Besides excursions, alcohol, souvenirs and add-on such as beauty treatments, everything else is included in the price, which means you can experience your holiday without worrying the costs will spiral out of control. When going on a cruise, it’s very easy to keep a close eye on costs to ensure that they remain low. The nice thing is that you will have the option to customise activities as you go along according to your budget and what you want to achieve from the holiday.

Several destinations

The fact that you’re on-board a cruise ship for the majority of the holiday with the opportunity to visit several destinations at once is good news for people travelling in groups or with small children because it means that you don’t have to deal with constantly moving children through airports and hotels. Being able to by-pass airports and hotels also means you only have to pack and unpack once. If you visited several destinations by air, not only would you have to deal with all the check-ins, you’d have to pack and unpack several times. Cruising eliminates all the hassle.

Lots to do

While you’re spending days at sea cruising across the ocean, there’s so much to do. From sunbathing to on-board entertainment, you’ll seldom have to worry about keeping yourself occupied. Many cruises offer lectures and lessons ranging across a wide selection of subjects. So, if you’ve always wanted to learn how arrange flowers, make bread, salsa dance or learn how to play the piano, then you can put all those hours at sea in-between ports to great use. If learning isn’t your cup of tea on a cruise, there’s also a whole host of entertainment, such as live performances from Cirque du Soleil and Disney.

It’s a good idea to plan early, and book your cruise through a reputable agent like Co-operative Cruises. Many operators even offer early bird discounts – good luck.