Christmas this year has been pretty restrictive with many of us unable to spend Christmas with our families let alone enjoy a Christmas vacation…but there is always next year! So here are some great festive places around the world for a magical Christmas time.
If you prefer a warmer climate to a winter wonderland, then here are some festive alternatives in the Sunshine.
In Sydney, the holiday season lasts an entire month, and the Christmas lights are spectacular. Sydney Christmas is the festival that runs during the holidays and features a huge Christmas Tree at Martin Place. There are also 85,000 lights, and 3500 lights at the Pit Street Mall and Strand Arcade to wonder at.
Cape Town, South Africa
Get into the festive spirit by going to see the 2,000 to 3,000 African penguins at Boulders Beach where you can get close enough to take portrait-mode photos of them…I’m sold! You can also attend the city’s holiday markets without a coat and scarf.
Honolulu – Oahu
This is a great warm winter holiday vacation option because Oahu puts on lots of Christmas activities, alongside great weather, and things like whale watching make it a great time to visit. There is also a month-long City Lights event at Honolulu Hale which features a parade and tree-lighting ceremony.
If sublime weather, luxurious accommodations, and gorgeous scenery is your idea of a perfect Christmas vacation then the Maldives is a good option for an all-inclusive package holiday. You could enjoy activities ranging from Christmas markets and Santa meet and greets to swimming with tropical fish, sunbathing on white sandy beaches, and spa treatments.
Cold Winter Breaks
If, like me, you prefer a cold traditional winter break for Christmas, here are some festive places to consider.
This is somewhere I’d be very tempted to go to at Christmastime. With Santa Clause village, reindeer, and dog sled rides in a beautiful winter wonderland.
Italy has been on my bucket list for a while, and it always looks beautiful and romantic in Christmas movies. Rome’s stunning piazzas, streets, and buildings get decorated for the holidays, with impressive Christmas trees in Piazza Venezia and the world’s oldest permanent nativity scene. There is also a large Christmas market and the Pope’s Christmas message and blessing to enjoy outside of St. Peter’s Basilica (get your free tickets two to six months in advance though).
Reykjavik is a pretty city with strings of Christmas bulbs illuminating the city, and the possibility of seeing the Northern Lights. Look out for the 13 Yule Lads, a group of holiday trolls that you will see about town, which in local folklore is Iceland’s equivalent to Santa Claus.
This beautiful city was the backdrop for the Sound of Music and has roots dating back to the 15th century. For a pretty European Christmas experience with snow, mulled wine, markets, and traditional music, Austria seems like a good option.
Bruges is Europe’s best preserved medieval city and it is beautiful. It’s a charming place with lots of cobbled streets and shimmering lights so it must be pretty magical at Christmas time with mugs of Belgian hot chocolate, and the market.
Naturally, as I’m British, I can’t list Christmas vacation places without including London.
Decorated Georgian townhouses, Dickensian charm, Christmas lights everywhere, shopping on Oxford Street and Regent Street, and an array of British Christmas traditions to enjoy make London a great Christmas holiday destination.
Edinburgh is a very pretty city, and I imagine that it looks particularly beautiful at Christmas time. There’s a sprawling holiday market, Edinburgh Castle, skiing, ice skating, giant advent calendars, and amusement park-style rides.
There is also the Hogmanay festival which runs straight after Christmas to celebrate the New Year, with outdoor concerts, fireworks, and dancing Scots.
Have you ever experienced a German Christmas market? You are missing out if you haven’t. I love the yule-tide charm of Christmas markets, and I don’t think anyone more seriously than the Germans. Cologne gets about 4 million visitors every winter so it must be a great place to go.
This is a storybook city that goes into overdrive over the holidays with a month-long Christmas fair that includes things like advent windows, a magical snow globe, a sleigh ride flight simulator, and a speaking elk. It sounds really fun here.
Prague, Czech Republic
I’m always tempted by Prague because they have holiday markets that run for the whole month of December. Mulled wine and pastries with a backdrop of pretty gothic architecture is very appealing.
I once spent New Year in Dublin and had a blast so of course I needed to include it in the list.
The Irish are generally super fun and friendly, and warming up with a few pints in cozy bars is a nice way to spend the holidays. There are also Christmas markets, tree-lighting ceremonies, and decked-out shops on Grafton Street to enjoy.
New York City
I’ve always wanted to experience Christmastime in New York as it just looks cool. With the Rockefeller Centre Christmas tree, shopping on Fifth Avenue, and horse-drawn carriage rides, there would be so many ways to make it a magical experience.
Boston, New England
For an old-fashioned Christmas experience, Boston sounds like a great option. The snowy cobbled streets in parts of the city will make you feel like you’ve stepped into ‘A Christmas Carol’, and the city offers varied holiday events like renditions of ‘The Nutcracker’, and ice skating at the country’s oldest park.
For active travelers and R&R seekers alike who are looking for a mountain ski resort option at Christmas time, Aspen seems to be the top choice. It has multiple luxury resorts with cozy fireplaces and spas to relax in. For festive fun, there is a 12-day Christmas event which includes activities like free ice skating, cookie decorating, and caroling.
Park City, Utah
Park City, Utah sounds fun. There are festive singalong shows at an Egyptian Theatre, a Santa’s ride down the Town Lift event, and a 16-day Snowfest with activities including live music, s’mores, and ice sculptures.
Montreal is full of cozy French restaurants, great shopping, and over-the-top festivals so it seems like a great option for a European-style Christmas without Transatlantic flights. One of the most gorgeous churches in the world, Notre Dame Basilica is also in Montreal and would be a stunning place to experience midnight mass.
Where would you spend Christmas, if you could go anywhere in the world?
Gemma Lawrence is the creator of This Brits Life. Born and raised in England, she has been living in British Columbia, Canada as a permanent resident since 2016. A solo traveler for the past 9 years, she hopes to inspire and help others to enjoy solo adventures too. As someone who has always struggled with her self-confidence and mental health, she also shares tips and inspirational stories relating to self-love, self-care, and mental health.