Believe it or not, Christmas is right around the corner. For some, that might mean booking a flight home for the holidays– for me, it means looking for new places to soak up a little Christmas magic. Below are 8 destinations around the world that have their own, unique Christmas traditions– add them to your holiday travel lists asap!
Strasbourg is known as the “Capital of Christmas” for a good reason. Christkindelsmärik, France’s oldest Christmas market, is straight out of a fairytale. There are over 300 chalets that line the snow covered cobblestone streets. Couple that with twinkling shop windows, wafts of gingerbread, cardamom, and cinnamon, and the 98ft Christmas tree at the Place Kléber, known for being the most decorated Christmas tree in Europe, and it’s truly a little slice of heaven on Earth.
New York City
Everything about New York City at Christmas is magical– the hustle and bustle coupled with thick snowflakes and glittering shop windows turns the city into a real-life snow globe. The Christmas activities are endless, too. Grab a pair of skates and ice skate at Bryant Park or take in the twinkling, extravagant window displays on 5th Avenue. Continue down 5th Avenue to see the absolutely gigantic Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, a staple for any NYC Christmas trip.
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If you’re looking for a little adventure (and want to feel like you’re in a Hallmark movie), look no further than Aspen. From December 20-31, the picturesque downtown does something called the “12 Days of Aspen,” which is basically every Christmas lover’s dream. You can ice skate, decorate cookies, and, on the last day, catch the annual firework show on Aspen Mountain. I can’t include Colorado on this list and not mention skiing– it doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or a pro, Aspen has slopes for everyone. Ajax tends to have more advanced slopes, while Snowmass and Buttermilk are more lowkey.
Grenada is perfect if you want to swap white snow for white sand. You’ll also experience truly unique cultural traditions like ponche-a-cream (eggnog) and Christmas masquerades– guests and locals can eat and drink their way through street parties, dance, and wear extravagant costumes complete with masks. On Grenada and the neighboring island Carriacou, the Parrang Festival is a time for locals to come together and sing Grenadian Christmas carols and play a variety of instruments. Who wouldn’t want to ring in Christmas with maracas and drums?
Dresden is home to Striezelmarkt Christmas Market, which is the oldest Christmas market in the world, dating back to 1434, and the largest one in Germany. So, as you might have guessed, it’s the perfect place to find some holiday spirit. After you get a warm mug of glühwein (mulled red wine with cinnamon and cloves) and stollen (bread coated with icing and stuffed with candied fruits), take some time to wander through the cobblestone streets. The intricately painted wooden cottages will make you feel like you’re in a fairytale. The market on the Prager Straße, known as “Winterlights of Dresden,” is located in the city’s best shopping area and has a 50 ft tree decorated with twinkling lights.
Rovaniemi is a Christmas-must because it’s literally known as the Santa Claus Village– seriously, you’ll find Santa in the village year-round. Aside from being Santa’s home, Rovaniemi is a famous place to cross the Arctic Circle. The city is 4 miles south of the circle, which marks the border of the northernmost region of the planet. If you’re looking for more winter magic, Rovaniemi is a perfect place to see the Northern Lights. Make the most of the experience and stay in a glass igloo– Apukka Resort, located on Lake Olkkajärvi, is a great option if you want to stay close to Santa Claus Village.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Christmas in Santa Fe is a one-of-a-kind cultural experience. Pueblo tribes celebrate by hosting gatherings that are open to the public. These celebrations usually feature traditional Native dances, music, and intricate clothing. Note that taking pictures and recording the ceremonies are usually prohibited. On December 24, the city closes a part of Canyon Road and its surrounding streets for the Canyon Road Farolito Walk. The farolitos, which smell like pine, illuminate the streets, houses, and sidewalks with a warm glow.
Vienna is another city where there is truly no shortage of Christmas markets. Belvedere market is a particular favorite– it’s less crowded than the markets closer to the city center and located right next to the Upper Belvedere palace. The Baroque architecture and neighboring lake take the word scenic to the next level. For a break from the crowds and cold (and a chance to get dressed up), the Schönbrunn Palace Orchestra Christmas Concert is a must. The palace, with its sprawling gardens and statues, is iconic and a staple for any trip to Vienna.
For more things to do in Vienna, click here.
More Christmas Destinations we Love:
8 Must do Things when spending Christmas in London
10 Things to do for Christmas in Paris
16 Things you must do for Christmas in Vienna
Peles Castle: What it is Like to Visit the Real A Christmas Prince Castle
Words by Ellie Jane Batten. Images by World of Wanderlust and Unsplash.