As the snow continues on this Christmas eve, I am sipping a hot tea by the fire listening to the wind howl. The tree is decorated and Michael Bublé is playing softly in the background. Oh yeah, it’s Christmas vacation baby!
To celebrate the holidays, we thought we’d round up some of the best places to enjoy Christmas around the world. From the Christmas markets of Europe to the all-out displays in downtown New York, these destinations will definitely get you into the holiday spirit.
Places to Celebrate Christmas Around the World
We are home for the holidays relaxing in our own space but things weren’t always like this. We spent many years on the road far away from home celebrating Christmas abroad. If you are looking for a place that embraces the Christmas spirit here are some of the best destinations to celebrate around the world.
1. New York City
Christmas in New York City is a magical experience. The city is adorned with sparkling lights, and festive decorations, with numerous events and activities to enjoy. Some highlights include the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting, the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, and the New York City Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker.”
The holiday window displays at department stores like Macy’s and Bergdorf Goodman are beautiful, and the festive markets at Bryant Park and Union Square are filled with energy. Make sure to stop to watch the Saks Fifth Avenue light show for free. Read more: Christmas in New York – What to do in NYC for the Holidays
2. Quebec City, Canada
We are partial to celebrating Christmas in Canada. We have the snow, we have the lights, and we have the reindeer. Toronto and other Canadian cities decorate for the holidays and are filled with Christmas festivities, but our choice for where to celebrate Christmas in Canada is Quebec City.
This Christmas Magic tour takes you around to see the sites of the old city with a guide adorned in authentic local dress.
Quebec City’s old-world charm with horse-drawn carriages riding through its cobblestone streets is made for Christmas. Take a stroll through the historic Old Town which is especially beautiful during the holiday season, as its historic buildings are adorned with festive decorations.
The Quebec City Christmas Market is held in the Old Port of Quebec City and features over 100 chalets offering local crafts, food, and drinks. (albeit, I see that it took a beating during this year’s winter storm) We have personally skated at the outdoor ice rinks in Quebec and suggest lacing up at Place D’Youville ice rink at the Old City Wall, or the Plains of Abraham skating rink along the St. Lawrence River.
When visiting Quebec City at Christmas you feel as if you have stepped back in time. Read more: The 27 Best Things to do in Quebec City
3. Basel, Switzerland
Basel was one of our favorite cities in Switzerland with so many things to see and do. From incredible architecture to world-class museums Basel has it all. Read more: 20 Reasons to Fall in Love with Basel, Switzerland
If you’re visiting Basel during the holidays, take a walk around the magnificent Christmas Markets at Barfüsserplatz, Münsterplatz. Barfüsserplatz is the largest of the three with 140 merchants in decorated small chalets selling Christmas goods and seasonal delights.
The Münsterplatz holds around 40 stalls set out in a larger area so it’s easier to navigate through. You can also enjoy the amazing sights of the Rhine River and the Gothic Basel Minster. The smallest Basel Christmas Market Is the Claraplatz in Kleinbasel. The Foyer Theatre of Basel opens its doors to its Advent calendar daily production. Read more at: 24 Fantastic Things to do in Basel, Switzerland
4. Nuremberg, Germany
The Christmas markets in Nuremberg, Germany are a must-see for anyone celebrating the holiday season. Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg’s Hauptmark (the city’s main square) is one of the oldest and most famous in the world. It features more than 180 stalls selling traditional handmade gifts, food, and drink.
This interactive tour will get you into the Christmas spirit as you do fun challenges to solve puzzles while learning fun facts about Christmas in Nuremberg. It’s all done at your own pace using an app.
Visiting Nuremberg feels like a fairytale with its timber homes and medieval architecture. Nuremberg is a city with a rich history and culture, and there are many things to see and do all year round. During the Christmas season, you can visit some of the city’s top attractions, such as the Nuremberg Castle and the Toy Museum. (The perfect museum for the holidays don’t you think?
Nuremberg is a great place to experience a traditional German Christmas. Read more: Fantastic Things to do in Nuremberg Germany
5. Rome and Vatican City
For a truly unique Christmas experience, consider celebrating the holiday in Rome, Italy. Not many cities can compete with the history and beauty of Rome, and there are plenty of festive events and activities to enjoy.
The Vatican City displays an elaborate Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square every year, and the Pope addresses the public at noon on Christmas Day. Many people go to Rome to attend Midnight Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica. The Christmas season in the Vatican is a long one starting on December 8th and continuing to January 6th.
It can be difficult seeing the crowded Vatican at Christmas so we suggest a private tour. This highly rated tour is called the Vatican Magical Christmas Tour where you follow your local guide to the most beautifully decorated parts of the city while learning about Christmas in Rome and its Christmas legends at Vatican City.
Like most European cities, Rome has a Christmas Market and the Christmas Market in Piazza Navona is a popular destination for holiday shopping, with stalls selling a range of gifts, decorations, and festive treats. Even the Colosseum gets into the spirit with a large Christmas tree standing proud beside the ancient Amphitheatre.
A more unique Christmas celebration in Rome is the lavish Christmas brunch every year at the Rome Cavalieri and The Rome Opera often hosts special Christmas-themed concerts and performances. Read more: 23 of the Best Things to do in Rome, Italy
6. Sydney, Australia
If you’re looking for a tropical Christmas, head to Sydney, Australia. Christmas in Sydney is a unique experience, with warm weather and beautiful beaches.
The city is known for its beautiful beaches and festive events, including the Sydney Festival and the Sydney Harbour Yacht Race. There is also the 40th annual Carols in the Domain concert by Woolworths where Australia’s biggest stars put on a Christmas concert.
Visitors can also enjoy Christmas dinners at some of the city’s top restaurants or spend the day at the iconic Bondi Beach. Now that’s a Christmas I can get behind. Read more: 23 of the Most Iconic Places to Visit in Australia
Christmas lights in London are a sight to behold, with the city’s famous landmarks and streets adorned with colorful displays.
Some must-see locations include Oxford Street Christmas lights, Regent Street Christmas lights, and Christmas in Covent Garden. There are numerous festive events and activities to enjoy, such as ice skating at Somerset House or visiting the Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park.
London also has a number of festive Christmas markets, including the Southbank Centre Winter Festival, the Christmas market at Winterville, the Christmas market at Camden and the Winter Festival at the Southbank Centre. Read more: 22 of the Top Things to do in London, England
Christmas continues in London with cultural events, including the Christmas pantomime at the Old Vic Theatre, the Carols by Candlelight at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, and the Christmas concert at the Royal Albert Hall. Royal Albert Hall has been the home of Christmas in London for 150 years!
If you’re looking for a Christmas destination with a touch of elegance, consider spending the holiday in Paris, France. The city is known for its romantic atmosphere and beautiful holiday lights, and there are numerous festive events to enjoy, such as the Christmas markets at Champs-Elysees and the Notre Dame Cathedral.
This Paris Christmas highlights Tour in a vintage car is one of the most unique ways to see Paris. We have done a vintage Citroën convertible tour of Paris and it is so much fun. I would think it is even better at Christmas. At Christmas, you will be wraped in blankets as your private driver takes you to view the Christmas lights from Place Vendôme to Champs Elysées, Pont Alexandre III and the Louvre.
Some of the most famous displays can be found on the Champs-Elysées, the Place Vendôme, and the Place des Abbesses. Read more: 3 Days in Paris
Similar to New York, Many of Paris’s department stores and boutiques have elaborate Christmas window displays, and there are numerous skating rinks around town including the rink at the Eiffel Tower and the rink at Hôtel de Ville
The Opéra Garnier and the Salle Pleyel, which host special Christmas-themed concerts and performances and the city is home to a number of Christmas markets. Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées and the Marché de Noël du Trocadéro are popular and offer a range of gifts, decorations, and festive treats. Check out:21 Best Paris Hotels with Eiffel Tower Views
9. Dublin, Ireland
Dublin, Ireland is one of our favourite cities. While it’s famous for its St. Patricks Day celebrations have you thought of it for the Christmas season? The capital of Ireland is known for its lively and festive atmosphere during the holiday season, with events like the Dublin Christmas Market and the Winter Wonderland at St. Stephen’s Green.
A visit to Dublin during the holidays gives visitors the opportunity to experience a traditional Irish Christmas with events like the St. Stephen’s Day Parade and the lighting of the Christmas tree in the city center. The Christmas lights of Grafton street are magical and make sure to grab a hot toddy with Irish Whiskey to warm up in the cold winter months.
Dublin embraces Christmas with a number of Christmas markets, including the Dublin Flea Christmas Market. With markets, lights, and decorations throughout the city. It’s a great time to visit if you want to experience the holiday spirit.
For a Christmas destination with a touch of history, consider spending the holiday in Prague, Czech Republic. The city is known for its numerous events and activities to enjoy the holidays, such as visiting the Christmas Market at Prague castle and Old Town Square or attending Midnight Mass at St. Vitus Cathedral.
Wenceslas Square Christmas Market automatically makes me start to hum the Christmas Carol, “Good King Wenceslas”. Wenceslas was after all the Patron Saint of the Czech Republic.
Some of the most famous Christmas light displays can be found on the Charles Bridge and the Old Town Square.
I don’t know about you, but the Christmas season makes me want to see live theatre. Prague is home to a number of concert venues, including the Rudolfinum, the Estates Theatre, and the Municipal House, which host special Christmas-themed concerts and performances.
There are even a number of Christmas-themed tours available in Prague, including this highly rated tour. Take a walk through Christmas-decorated Prague while you taste Czech holiday specialties through the Old Town and Lesser Town.
Experience the magical atmosphere of Prague’s Christmastime decorations and stalls. Follow a local guide as you walk through the Christmas markets of Old Town and Lesser Town on a guided journey. You’ll visit five Christmas locations while tasting traditional Czech holiday specialties such as Czech Christmas soup and mulled wine.
11. Tokyo, Japan
Despite not being a traditional l holiday in Japan, Christmas has become increasingly popular in recent years. Tokyo at Christmas is known for its elaborate holiday displays and light shows, as well as its festive shopping districts.
There are a number of holiday events, including the Christmas Illuminations at Roppongi Hills, the Tokyo Disney Resort’s Christmas event, and the Christmas Eve Countdown at Shibuya Crossing.
The shopping districts of Ginza, Shibuya, and Omotesando get into the Christmas spirit with a wide range of gifts, decorations, and festive treats. From Christmas to New Years, Japan loves to celebrate the holidays. Read more about New Years Holiday Traditions in Japan at 7 Unique Japanese New Year Traditions
12. Lapland, Finland
Why wouldn’t you celebrate the holidays in the land of the North Pole and Santa Clause? The Finnish region of Lapland is known as the “official home of Santa Claus,” and it is a popular destination for those looking to experience a traditional Christmas in a winter wonderland setting.
Lapland, Finland is a magical destination for Christmas, with its snowy landscapes and abundance of holiday cheer. Visitors can enjoy activities like reindeer sleigh rides, skiing, and dog sledding.
But nothing says Christmas more than seeing Santa himself in Rovaniemi’s Santa Clause Village. Santa spends his downtime 354 days of the year at Santa Claus Village spreading the message of love, goodwill, and the Christmas Spirit across the globe.
And, who needs Christmas lights when you have the Northern lights twinkling in the sky and you can take part in traditional Finnish Christmas celebrations such as the lighting of the Christmas peace candle.?
13. Copenhagen, Denmark
The Danish capital of Copenhagen, Denmark is known for its beautiful Christmas markets, which offer an array of festive gifts, decorations, and delicious treats. Copenhagen is already a magical city and at Christmas, it truly is a place of holiday spirit.
At Christmas, Tivoli Gardens transforms into a winter wonderland with Christmas lights and projected Christmas images. Santa and his reindeer make an appearance and the sparkling Christmas tree lights up the calm waters of Tivoli Lake. Read more: Tivoli Gardens – Copenhagen’s Enchanting Amusement Park and Pleasure Garden
One of the more unique things to do in Copenhagen is to go ice swimming at one of its outdoor pools. The Danes are a hearty breed and enjoy their cold dips in their pure clean waters. Read more: How to Visit Copenhagen Like a True Dane
We haven’t been to Bethlehem, but it would only make sense to visit the birthplace of Christ. So, one day we will get there. Located outside on the West Bank in Palestine, this is the most Christmassy place to celebrate Christmas since it was where Jesus was born.
Pilgrims take part in Midnight Mass in Manger Square. You won’t just be seeing a Nativity scene, you’ll actually visit the Church of Nativity. For Christians, this is the place to be.
You can take a tour from Jerusalem to Bethlehem and learn all about Christmas from the story of the Christmas tree to learning about local Christmas legends. It includes Midnight mass and free time to take in the Christmas festivities. Make sure to bring your passport as you’ll be crossing borders.
15. Panama City
Panama isn’t exactly known as a Christmas destination, but many a Canadian and American spend their winters in Panama. So why not? Plus, when you visit the Iglesia San Felipe you’ll be treated to one of the largest Nativity Scenes in the world.
Even if you are not religious, this nativity scene in Iglesia San Felipe is impressive. For years, families in Panama set up their own nativity scenes around the city but after the restoration of Iglesia San Felipe de Neri, one family donated the massive scene that they built up over the years for everyone to enjoy. If you take a walking tour of the Old Town, chances are your guide will take you into this hidden gem. Read more: 24 Best Things to do in Panama City, Panama
16. Vienna, Austria
We have enjoyed the famous Christmas markets of Vienna and we can attest they are incredible. The capital of Austria is known for its elaborate Christmas markets, which offer a wide variety of gifts, decorations, and festive treats.
Christmas Market at the City Hall and the Christmas Market at the Belvedere Palace are the two main markets to visit. These markets offer a chance to shop for unique gifts and sample local food and drink. Our favourite food and drink, are giant pretzels and mulled wine. Yum!
Vienna is known for its rich musical tradition being the home of Mozart, Beethoven, and Strauss, and there are many Christmas concerts held in the city during the holiday season, featuring classical music, and choirs. During the Christmas season, you can visit some of the city’s top attractions, such as the Vienna State Opera, the Hofburg Palace, and the Kunsthistorisches Museum
17. Zurich, Switzerland
The city of Zurich is known for its beautiful Christmas markets, which offer an array of festive gifts, and delicious food. The Christmas Market at the Lindenhof and the Christmas Market at Bellevue Square are two of the most popular markets to go shopping.
Weihnachtsdorf, in Sechseläutenplatz in front of the Opera House, is one of the best Christmas markets in Zurich. It’s open from November 23rd-December 23rd. Zurich is known for its excellent transportation and during the holidays, Marlitram is a Christmas-themed tram that is driven by Santa.
After visiting its many markets, go ice skating in Zurich, there are many rinks around town. And be sure to order a taste of Glühwein, a hot red wine mixed with cinnamon, orange, and cloves. And nothing says the holidays more than enjoying a hot cheese fondu followed by a chocolate fondu dessert before heading out to Bahnhofstrasse to see the singing Christmas tree.
18. Brussels, Belgium
The Christmas markets in Brussels, Belgium are another must-see destination for anyone celebrating the holiday season. When walked into the square of Brussels for the first time, we gasped at its beauty.
It had the reputation of being one of the prettiest in Europe. Put in Christmas lights and Christmas markets and it is even more beautiful.
The Winter Wonders is held annually in the city’s Grand Place from November to January 1. It features more than 200 stalls selling traditional gifts, food, and drink. There is a large Christmas tree at the Grand palace and a sound and light show.
Make sure to keep an eye out for the winter pop-up that takes place around the city. There are plenty of ice rinks around town with decorations and toys including the Bois de la Cambre skating. And throughout the holiday season, there are brass bands, choirs at St. Catherines Square, and light parades taking place.
19. Tallinn, Estonia
Tallinn is such a beautiful city and it takes it up a notch during the Christmas season, with a number of festive events and activities to enjoy.
Some of the things you can do in Tallinn at Christmas include a visit to the Christmas Markets. Yes, I sound like a broken record, but Europe has an endless supply of Christmas markets. We once took an entire River Cruise of Europe dedicated to seeing the top Christmas Markets around Europe!
Tallinns top markets include the Tallinn Christmas Market in Town Hall Square and the Christmas Market at the Rotermann Quarter. Take a stroll through the romantic historic Old Town to go back in time.
You’ll feel as if you are in your own romantic Christmas movie as you walk through its cobblestone streets adorned with festive decorations.
There are a number of holiday concerts held in Tallinn during the Christmas season, featuring local and international performers.
Tallinn has a number of outdoor ice rinks that are open during the winter months, including the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds ice rink and the Freedom Square ice rink.
20. Beijing, China
Our first visit to Beijing was in the month of December and we were so surprised with how many Christmas displays we saw. We saw Christmas celebrated throughout our travels in China. Department stores are decorated with lights and displays and they get into the Christmas spirit indeed.
I know that the world is going through a lot right now and travel to China isn’t quite possible with the COVID outbreaks, but when things do open up again, you’ll be surprised just how Christmassy China can be. Shopping malls have Christmas trees, and shopping streets are adorned with Christmas lights.
Bird’s Nest Stadium (Beijing’s Olympic Stadium) transforms into a winter wonderland with the annual Ice and Snow Festival and there are Christmas Bazaars and markets. Even the hutongs have Christmas fairs. Read more: 24 of the Best Things to do in Beijing, China
Felize Navidad from Mexico. That’s what we were singing during our Christmas vacation in Mexico. It was a trip to the Riviera Maya that we first celebrated Christmas abroad. Someone brought a mini Christmas tree to the beach and we all sat around it on beach chairs.
Mexico knows how to celebrate Christmas with plenty of festivals, fireworks and pinatas. It is a festive season. There are processions by candlelight in city streets, and families put out Nativity Scenes. I will admit that we spent it on the resort, but years later we traveled around Mexico and enjoy festivities in town.
Families celebrate the nights recreating the moment Mary and Joseph search for lodging creating a procession going from one posada (Spanish Inn) to the next.
There are many more places around the world to celebrate Christmas. Regardless of your religion, Christmas is a magical time of the year all around the world. It’s fun to check out holiday displays and lights and to see how others celebrate the holidays. If you go away for Christmas next year, where would you go?