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Christmas weekend in Europe: How to plan your trip and shopping

Christmas weekend in Europe: How to plan your trip and shopping Shopping center in the Netherlands closed for Christmas (photo: Getty Images)

Traveling to Europe for Christmas creates a festive atmosphere and vivid impressions. Many people plan to combine walking with shopping.

However, shops in European countries are closed on holidays. RBC-Ukraine tells you what you need to know about the holiday shopping schedule in Europe and how to plan your trip to avoid being left without purchases.

Poland - retailers will be closed for three days

Sunday in Poland is a day off when all shops are closed. But there are 7 shopping Sundays a year when people can go shopping. This year, December 24, Christmas Eve, falls on a Sunday that was supposed to be a shopping Sunday. However, due to the fact that it is a holiday, the government plans to introduce a ban on trading on this day.

Instead, the shopping Sunday is to be postponed from December 24 to December 10. Under the current regulations, stores will be open only until 14:00.

Therefore, on the eve of the Christmas holidays, it will be possible to shop only on weekdays or on another shopping Sunday on December 17.

According to the calendar of official holidays, trade in Poland will be banned for three days - December 24, 25, and 26. On these days, even groceries will be available only at certain locations: hotels, fairs, gas stations, train stations, airports, and Zhabka supermarkets that have the status of post offices. At the same time, bakeries, cafes, souvenir shops, and pharmacies are allowed to operate on weekends. The same applies to shops where the owner or their relatives work behind the counter that day.

Christmas weekend in Europe: How to plan your trip and shoppingFood court in Warsaw (photo:

95% of stores will be closed in Germany

Most shopping centers and supermarkets in Germany are closed on Sundays and public holidays. There is a limited list of stores where you can buy food on Sundays and holidays.

At the same time, the country, like Poland, allows open Sundays (Verkaufsoffener Sonntag). Retailers usually organize sales on Sundays. Decisions on whether stores are open on certain Sundays are regulated by local authorities.

In most federal states, shop owners are allowed to open four Sundays a year, according to Federal states may allow Sunday opening of stores in connection with certain major trade events (e.g., fairs, festivals) or in tourist areas. On those weekends when supermarkets and shops are allowed to trade, their opening hours should not exceed 5 hours. Usually, Sunday trading is carried out on a reduced schedule from 13:00 to 18:00. To find out whether a particular store is open on weekends, you need to enter its name and the word Öffnungszeiten in the search.

On Christmas Eve, December 24, all retail outlets operate on a shorter schedule - from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Then people prepare for Christmas Eve. On December 25 and 26, the first and second days of Christmas, 95% of all shops and even bakeries are closed. The only exceptions are shops at train stations, airports, and those with different religions (for example, Turkish cafes or shops).

Christmas weekend in Europe: How to plan your trip and shoppingPre-Christmas sale (photo: Getty Images)

Italy - shops and restaurants are closed

Italy, as a Catholic country, is no exception to the rule of closing stores for the holidays. Christmas is a family holiday for Italians, so most restaurants and museums are closed on December 25 so that employees can spend time at home. At the same time, holidays in Italy are December 25 (Christmas) and December 26 (St. Stephen's Day).

While stores in Italy are closed on Christmas Eve on December 24 and on Christmas Day itself, some stores in major cities will be open as early as December 26, so tourists will have the opportunity to go shopping.

Shopping on Christmas Eve in the Czech Republic - only until noon

Three days - December 24, 25, and 26 - are public holidays in the Czech Republic. Since 2016, the law has prohibited the operation of stores larger than 200 square meters on holidays. This means that on December 25 and 26, shops and supermarkets are closed. And on December 24 and New Year's Eve, they can work only in the morning. That is why large supermarket chains publish their working hours on Christmas Eve - the last purchases can be made until 11-12 a.m.

As in other countries, supermarkets and shops continue to operate at major train stations and airports during the holidays.

Christmas weekend in Europe: How to plan your trip and shoppingChristmas fair in Prague (photo: Getty Images)

Buying souvenirs at the fair will not work either

If you go to Europe to visit Christmas markets, you should keep in mind that they mostly take place before Christmas, Marina Kazakova, a tour specialist, tells RBC-Ukraine.

"On December 25, Christmas Day, the fairs will be closed - Europe is celebrating. Therefore, you need to buy all the food and gifts before then. If you are traveling for Christmas, be prepared for the fact that many restaurants may not work on December 25. Everything in the city may be closed, especially in countries like Germany and Austria, where family traditions are very strong," the expert warns.

According to her, in Europe, you can still get to the Christmas market on New Year's Eve - in Prague, where such trade lasts the longest.

Just so you know, we wrote about how to plan a trip to Christmas markets in Europe and where to go on a trip.

We also talked about the best Christmas markets in Europe that are worth visiting this year.