Christmas is a the most magical time of year, and while there’s truth to the concept that there’s no place like home for the holidays, if you’re dreaming of spending it in a picture-perfect postcard-worthy place these festive top 14 Christmas destinations offer the chance for an unforgettable holiday experience.
New York City, USA
Countless movies set in the Big Apple have given us a picture-perfect representation of Christmas in this lively city. Visit the world’s tallest Christmas tree at the Rockefeller, go skating on the renowned ice rink, and peruse the window displays in New York’s largest department stores. A trip to New York isn’t complete without tickets for the New York Ballet performance of “The Nutcracker”.
The atmosphere of the Old Town is magical, and the Nuremberg Christmas market that boasts incredible vendor displays, makes Christmas in Nuremberg unforgettable. Wander through the market and take in the aromas of mulled wine, gingerbread, sweet roasted almonds, and traditional sausage. Children – and kids at heart, will love the two-tiered carousel and the Toy Museum.
Bruges’ stunning medieval beauty truly comes alive in winter, with its center transformed into a Christmas parade, ice rink and all. Visitors can enjoy the unforgettable Snow and Ice Sculpture show.
“Europe’s Christmas capital”, and Santa Park are situated at the base of the Arctic Circle. Nothing embodies Christmas more than a bitter cold place surrounded by winter snow and reindeer-filled forests. Tour the two different Santa themed parks, which boast real reindeer, a tour of Santa’s workshop, and a meet n’ greet with the big guy himself.
Vatican City, Italy
There is no doubt that the spiritual heart of Catholicism knows how to celebrate Christmas. The Eternal City is magical at any time of year, but December is an even more magical time to visit. Tourists line the adorned streets, roasted chestnuts are sold on every corner, and the city is full of displayed presepi (nativity scenes). Midnight Mass in St Peter’s Basilica is the religious experience of a lifetime.
Vienna boasts an authentic, old-fashioned Christmas, snow and all, where visitors can admire the Imperial architecture as they stroll through the three outdoor Christkindlmarkts. This magical city’s claim to fame is the Vienna Boys Choir and is a must-see on any Christmas traveler’s wish list.
This picturesque city becomes even more stunning during the holidays. The main square, Franziskanerplatz is transformed into a town in miniature and the decorated stalls along the Old Town offer a host of unique items. The Christmas carousel, located in the town center runs to seasonal music of choirs and brass ensembles.
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
The Spanish colonial gem and culturally popular city is spectacular at Christmas, with theatrical processions around town, posadas reenactments, live music, fireworks, and dancing in the main square. Authentic Mexican fare, such as ponche, a warm fruit punch containing a spicy blend of seasonal fruits, cinnamon, and a shot of brandy or rum, and if you’re really adventurous, menudo, a traditional tripe and hominy soup.
Bondi Beach, Australia
Instead of hitting the slopes over the Christmas holidays, hit the beach in the antithesis of all things traditionally Christmas. There are no cliches here – snow, decorative lights, and hot chocolate, are replaced with the blistering sun, sand, and surf. Despite the lack of turkey and traditional fare, the festive atmosphere still prevails.
Santa Claus, Indiana
A city named after Santa Claus has a lot to live up to during the holidays, and this magical town definitely delivers. Christmas is a year-round experience in this town but during the season there are all sorts of Santa-themed shops, attractions, and events, including a group of volunteers called Santa’s Elves, who answer thousands of letters written to St. Nicholas.
Old Quebec, Quebec City
At Christmas the 400-year-old walled city turns into a village straight out of a Charles Dickens’ story. Visitors can peruse the festive shops along the lit-up cobblestone streets lined with quaint shops, and the more religiously inclined can wander through an exposition of nativity scenes from around the world.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico serves up a traditional Christmas under the sun. Festivities begin in early December and continue until Three Kings Day on January 6th. Lively carollers fill the streets, travelling from house to house. Enjoy a traditional feast of Puerto Rican food, including roast pig on Christmas Eve, followed by Midnight Mass.
The oldest Christmas market in Europe, the Christkindelsmärik was first held in Strasbourg in 1570 and the authentic Alsatian tradition has been successfully conserved ever since. The spiritual traditions of Advent are prominent in Strasbourg, offering Advent concerts, a living nativity, as well as live music and cultural events.
Reykjavik offers a beautiful Christmas, albeit with a few peculiarities. Among these, the 13 “Yuletide Lads” (scruffy Santas) who are said to bring gifts to nice children for the 13 nights leading to Christmas. Visit the rows of beautiful kiosks that make up the Yule Town Christmas market and be awestruck by the sight of the northern lights that add to Reykjavik’s festive feel.
Have you been to any of these top 14 Christmas destinations? Which ones would be on your travel bucket list?