The 8 Dreamiest Christmas Destinations Around the World
Holiday magic, right this way
Regardless of the holidays you actually celebrate, we can all agree there’s something special about Christmas time. Between the glittering décor and the cheerful vibes, it’s everyone’s season. Here, eight cities around the world that do Christmas right.
The holiday season is so magical in Austria’s capital that if you visit any other time of the year, you’re not really experiencing it. All December, Vienna’s town squares are decorated with enormous, illuminated trees and glitzy Christmas market stalls filled with mulled wine (glühwein), crafts and roasted chestnuts.
This Alsatian city is called the “Capital of Christmas” for a reason. Strasbourg is home to Europe’s first Christmas market, a tradition that began in 1570 in the Cathedral Square. Now each year, this holiday destination comes alive with storytelling, caroling and live performances, and over 300 market stalls light up the city, wafting the festive smells of spices and cinnamon.
Quebec City, Canada
Imagine Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol has come to life, and it will look a lot like Old Quebec City during the holidays. The snowy, cobblestone streets and 17th-century stone-and-brick buildings are converted into a fairytale-like Christmas village come December. Each cozy bistro and café is decorated with bright lights, and entryways are adorned with golden Christmas trees and wreaths.
At the start of each December, this ski resort town holds an annual race of the Santas just before the annual tree-lighting ceremony. Then, holiday crafts markets are erected and the shops along Main Street are illuminated in golden string-lights. But the holiday spirit doesn’t end with Christmas. Perhaps the most anticipated event is the New Year’s Torch Light Parade, when skiers and snowboarders cascade down the mountain carrying flaming torches.
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
You won’t experience a white Christmas when you visit this Mexican cultural capital during the holiday season, but San Miguel de Allende knows how to celebrate Navidad. Throughout the entire month of December, the warm-weather holiday destination comes alive with feasts, parades, musical performances and fiestas. Donkeys, piñatas, colorful lights and tinsel fill the streets, and people sing and dance in the town squares.
During summer, Ogunquit draws tourists to its New England beaches. But come winter, temperatures drop to almost freezing and the population of less than 1,000 celebrates an annual Christmas by the Sea celebration. Things kick off in the neighboring town of Kennebunkport with an annual tree-lighting ceremony and Christmas prelude. Then, Ogunquit comes alive with beach bonfire fireworks, crafts fair, chocolatefest and chowderfest. Oh, and we should mention the polar plunge into the Atlantic….
Located on the banks of the Rhine River, the medieval city of Cologne comes to life during the holiday season. The Christmas market outside the iconic Cologne Cathedral is the largest and most impressive, complete with an ice rink, live music and bright lights galore. But smaller and less crowded markets are sprinkled around the city, where chalets sell traditional Bavarian foods, decorations and hot-spiced wine.
Naturally, Christmas becomes more magical the closer you get to the Arctic Circle. In Reykjavik, December is one of the most exciting times of the year. It’s also one of the brightest and cheeriest, despite only a few hours of daylight. According to Icelandic legend, there isn’t one Santa Claus but 13 Yule lads who parade down the streets. Around the city, a handful of Christmas villages sell traditional Icelandic Christmas foods like cured herring, smoked meats, gingerbread cookies and mulled wine.