Finding Christmas in Northern Europe

Christmas Hamburg

Finding Christmas in Northern Europe

Merry Christmas, Hyvää Joulua, God Jul, Glædelig Jul, Frohe Weihnachten!

Christmas 2014-3189From a spectacular Christmas market in Hamburg to Lego Santa’s in Copenhagen, one of the most wonderful things about travelling Europe in December is the abundant sprinkle of Yule dust over the land.

It leaves you feeling warm and festive, with goodwill to all who cross your path. It means cupping a steaming mug of glögg with gloved hands, nibbling on gingerbread reindeer and learning all the marvelous ways to wish ‘Merry Christmas’ in different languages.

My previous Christmas to this was in China, and yes, there was a little festive spirit, although of the commercial, retail type. It is better to be here though, where Christmas pervades everything, wrapping you in its joyful wonder.

I’ve been to quite a few Christmas markets on this rail trip: Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Finland.

They were all a little different, some more overtly festive than others, variations in wares and nourishment.

The Christmas Market in Hamburg, Germany was by far the most festive: a riot of fairy lights and traditional German gifts and handicrafts.

I was happily warming myself with a cup of glühwein when Father Christmas took to the skies in his sleigh to tell a story (in German, of course) to all the little Children.

After spending a couple of Decembers house-sitting in Switzerland in the past, it was wonderful to be back in the world of glühwein and raclette, a sure-fire way to get me in the Christmas spirit!

Christmas HamburgCopenhagen was a little more demure with its Christmas markets, of which there were many, maybe not quite as showy but just as festive.

I quickly discovered that I love Glögg even more than glühwein, the addition of raisins and almonds take it from delicious to heavenly!

Scooping out that plumped up fruit and those whole almonds with a spoon at the end is just too good!

Glögg/gløgg/glögi is now my favourite Christmas drink! 

Christmas Copenhagen
I headed to Tivoli Gardens, the second oldest amusement park in the world.

It’s a short walk from Copenhagen city centre and is right opposite the railway station. 

It opens for a month at Christmas, a magically festive place of lights, food and rides.

A train ride up the coast from Copenhagen took me to the small town of Helsingør and Kronborg Castle: forever immortalised by Shakespeare as Elsinore, Prince Hamlet’s castle.

In the central courtyard a single Christmas tree stood proud and festive.

Christmas Copenhagen

I moved on to Sweden, to Stockholm by train.

There were many more Christmas markets, such as this one in Gamla Stan, the old quarter of the city: perfect for a glögg while I explored the medieval streets.

Christmas 2014-0865

Christmas 2014-0871I visited Sweden’s outdoor museum Skansen while I was there.

At the weekends throughout December there is a Christmas Market packed with seasonal goodies, traditional foods and of course, glögg.

Many of the historic houses and buildings were decorated with Christmas traditions of the past, examples of festive meals and decorations. There was traditional music and stories too.

From Stockholm I took the ferry to Turku, Finland where I found Turku’s celebrated Cathedral looking splendidly Christmassy with a gorgeous big tree.

All this scene needed was a sprinkle of snow!

Christmas Finland

Another lovely tree tastefully decorated one of the halls inside Turku Castle.

Christmas CopenhagenI stayed with a friend in Tampere and we found this super cute camper at Tampere Christmas market.


This cheery little van certainly put a smile on my face, what a fun little shop: I’m such a sucker for bunting, and if it’s on an old Vdub then all the better! 

Maybe I could just get another old bus, have a shop and roam the world…….


Thoroughly enjoying myself in Finland, I took the train, gliding through a snow-blanketed wonderland to Helsinki, a destination I’d dreamed of for about a year!

Helsinki didn’t disappoint me either, I fell completely in love with this city! At it’s heart stands Helsinki Cathedral, a pearly white church overlooking Senate Square where a twinkling Christmas market was in full swing.

Christmas FinlandOne morning I wandered through the square to find the Helsinki Fire Department demonstrating fire safety at Christmas.

I may have gone over there with an ulterior motive (ahem, Finnish firemen!) but flaming trees made up for the fact that I couldn’t understand the warnings, alas my rudimentary – well, pleasantries really, and numbers – Finnish didn’t quite stretch to the hazards of flammable decorations.

Christmas 2014 Helsinki

I managed to do a little christmas shopping, in this rather too hip Xmas Garage, pop up shop. There was lots of cool stuff in there that would have stretched my budget to breaking point but it’s fun to browse, and I bought one small gift.


I’ve had a wonderful run up to Christmas, Europe sure does know how to do it!

Pin it for later:

Finding Christmas In Northern EuropeFinding Christmas in Northern Europe Helsinki

Try these posts:

Stockholm: From Copenhagen to Finland Super festive Sweden!

Helsinki: The Thought Of Leaving Was Unbearable I lay my heart out to this beautiful city.

Tampere: Finnish Sauna, Finnish Food and Finnish Snow my friend introduces me to Finland culture!

I Could Have Kissed Shakespeare! Elsinore Castle Wandering in the footsteps of Hamlet.

Copenhagen on a Budget 8 Things to do in Copenhagen that cost virtually nothing, or are free!

By Rachel A Davis

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4 Responses

  1. Wow..Love this post and all the pictures!Makes me want to go up North asap! would have loved to have you join in my Christmas market collab and link this post:)

  2. Emily-Ann says:

    Aw, looks like you had such a fab build-up to Christmas! I love a good market. I know what you mean about spending the festive period in a different country. A couple of years ago we spent it in Argentina and although it was really fun, it just wasn’t the same – I think it needs to be cold somehow! 😉

    • Rachel Davis says:

      Haha, yes. We spent a Christmas in NZ and it was super hot. Great but it felt less festive. China wasn’t festive at all but it was a little cold! Definitely Northern Europe for it.