With Christmas only a few days away, it’s time we turn our sights to some of the most festive places on earth. From Californian kitsch to snowy mountain towns this is our choice for 10 of the most Christmassy destinations on the planet…
Local legend has it that ol’ Santy’s hometown is out in Rovaniemi, Lapland. Concerned that his secret was finally out, Santa’s elves decided to build a village where Christmas lovers could visit and meet Mr. Claus face to face. Here, visitors can check out Santa’s main post office, as well as the Christmas House Exhibition, which details many of the world’s different Christmas traditions. A short distance away is Santa Park, a magical cavern located within the Arctic Circle itself that boasts a number of unique holiday experiences like a peek at the Elf School and cookie tastings at Mrs. Claus’ Gingerbread Kitchen.
Go back in time and experience the medieval feel of this charming destination where Christmas can be experienced all year long. Rothenburg der Tauber on the Romantic Road in Bavaria opens its annual Christmas Market in November where visitors can shop for ornaments, indulge in schneeballs (sweet fried dough doused in chocolate or powdered sugar), or simply walk about the cobblestone streets, taking in all the sights.
Every year, this California-based Danish town celebrates Winterfest, a month-long festival dedicated to all things Christmas. Come early for the annual tree lighting ceremony and take a stroll around the town, illuminated in beautiful twinkling lights. Sip a cup of hot cocoa while you enjoy carolers and other festive musicians performing throughout, attend a Nativity Pageant, or head out to the Jule Hus (Danish for Christmas House), which opens its doors to those with an interest in traditional and unusual holiday décor.
Gaylord Opryland Hotel, Nashville
For an all-inclusive holiday experience, book yourself a weekend at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and experience their annual tradition: A Country Christmas. This popular hotel was voted “The most Christmassy hotel in the nation” and has also been named as one of the top ten places to spend Christmas in the world (Travel & Leisure magazine). From millions of twinkle lights adorning a 1950’s style holiday village to horse-drawn carriage rides, dinner theater shows, and a 3D Radio City movie spectacular, you’re sure to find plenty to do at this Tennessee-based Christmas destination.
Old Quebec City, Canada
Every year, Quebec City undergoes a makeover to become QuebecAdabra – a truly festive town capturing the hearts of even the grinchiest of Grinches. Talk about unusual holiday experiences: go dogsledding along the Jacques-Cartier Valley, get some skiing in at the Plains of Abraham, take part in the geocaching GeoRally, or enjoy one of the many holiday concerts and shows taking place every night in December. Definitely plenty to do at this unforgettable holiday wonderland.
Regardless of what you believe, you can’t really deny Bethlehem as one of the top Christmas destinations. Obviously the subject of many holiday songs and stories, this little town really does get in the spirit with plenty of Christmas markets to shop at, caroling concerts to attend, life-sized nativity sets to behold. If you’re looking for a slightly different experience, try walking the Nativity Trail – the supposed path that Mary and Joseph took from Nazareth, and end your eve at Bethlehem’s St. Catherine’s Church for their midnight mass.
Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen
Denmark’s Tivoli Gardens is a beautiful place to behold all year long, but it never shines brighter than during the holiday season. From meet and greets with Father Christmas in the Pantomime Theater to toboggan rides and strolls along their Christmas market, Copenhageners have been enjoying the Tivoli traditions for generations. Vintage rollercoasters, random ice sculptures, and plenty of food and drink options make this an excellent choice for your next holiday.
If the sight of snow-covered mountains and the scent of Vermont firs isn’t enough to lure you to Woodstock this Christmas, how about a parade of 50 horses in festive costumes? December in Woodstock means it’s time for Wassail Weekend, a holiday festival based on 19th century Norse tradition. Stand on the sidelines of the annual parade, follow along on one of the historic house tours, take in some Christmas carols in the street, or just indulge the senses as you walk along the light covered buildings. Simply delightful.
Every year, the city of Salzburg puts up lights, sets out craft booths, and opens their Christkindlmarkt – or Christmas Market. Here, eager holiday visitors can take in caroling concerts in the town’s Cathedral Square, treat themselves to freshly baked apples and mulled wine, and even see real live reindeer. The market is especially known for its wide array of crafts for sale – which would certainly make for incredible gifts. And for those of you who are fans of Maria von Trapp and The Sound of Music, keep your eyes peeled and maybe you’ll recognize some of the filming locations!
Krakow boasts an interesting array of unique holiday traditions. Throughout the end of November and all December, the city enjoys a Christmas market in the Rynek Glowny town square, where it not uncommon to enjoy sweets, watch folk dances, and listen to traditional, centuries-old Polish carols. If you’re there during Christmas Eve dinner, take part in the oplatek tradition where guests approach each other with wafers of the same name and offer good wishes. Even better, watch out for the szopkis, or traditional Christmas cribs, which serve as sets for Nativity puppet shows, and visit the City of Krakow Museum for a glimpse at all the winners.
Have a lovely Christmas!