This post contains affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you book or purchase through these links. You can read my full disclosure policy here.Christmas. It’s my absolute favorite time of year to travel. While it can also be the most hectic time to travel, the festive decorations, lights, food, and other fun events more than make up for it in my opinion. Have you thought about where you want to go this holiday season? I have collaborated with other travel bloggers to bring you our list of the best places to visit in December for Christmas. Find the place that fits you best to get into the Christmas spirit!
Best Places to Visit in December for Christmas
Below, you will find various places from the popular bucket list destinations to ones you may not have heard of or thought about. Hopefully, one of them inspires you!
New York City, New York
New York City at Christmas is on everyone’s bucket list. The city is iconic and truly comes alive with the magic of the season. Your endless list of things to see and do must include the famous Christmas tree at Rockefeller Plaza. Walk all the way around the plaza to see not only the tree but also the toy soldiers, the angels with trumpets and the many proposals that occur down on the ice skating.
The Empire State Building will be dressed in its Christmas best, all lit up in red and green. Walk down Fifth Avenue to see all the department stores’ gorgeous window displays, the best of all being Macy’s. As you’re walking, keep your eyes open for other decorations in the area such as the gigantic red ball ornaments!
The Christmas Spectacular featuring the Rockettes is a must-see and if you are a fan of Christmas markets, there will be plenty of those as well.
New York City definitely lives up to a high standard of expectations at Christmas!
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is quite the picturesque city anyway but it’s at a heightened state during Christmas. With many options for everyone, Charleston is the perfect destination to visit in December. The plantation houses might have been my favorite. They are beautiful all decorated for the season. In addition, there are lights all over the city including a really tall Christmas tree with lights in Marion Park.
Be sure to drive through the Holiday Festival of Lights on James Island. It’s a spectacular show that anyone from couples to families with children will enjoy.
Whatever you choose to do, Charleston at Christmas is the perfect choice to get you in the holiday spirit!
By Ladona Stark from Walking The Parks
Photo by Ladona Stark from Walking The Parks
Every holiday in Chicago starts with hot apple cider at the Kris Kringle market in Daily Square. This open-air German market is a great place to pick up unique ornaments as well as yummy snacks. From there, walk to State street for lunch in the historic Marshall Fields Building (now owned by Macy’s). One of the largest department stores in the world, they go all out decorating for Christmas. Not to be missed is the famous Walnut Room Restaurant with its 45 foot Christmas Tree.
Then, it’s a short ride North to Water Tower Place on Michigan Avenue. Michigan Avenue (aka the Magnificent Mile) explodes with sparkling lights and bustling holiday shoppers. On weekends you’ll find carolers decked out in their holiday best on most corners.
As you shop down Michigan Avenue, wander your way South to Grant Park’s public ice skate area full of laughing children.
In the city for more than one day? Visit Navy Pier where they celebrate the holiday with food, shopping, and decorations. You’ll want to ride the Centennial Wheel, an enclosed ferris wheel that soars 200 feet into the air for amazing views of Lake Michigan and the city of Chicago.
Las Vegas, Nevada
By Dhara Nargundkar from It’s Not About The Miles
Photo by Dhara Nargundkar from It’s Not About The Miles
Las Vegas is a fabulous Christmas destination. There are lots of things to do in Vegas no matter what time of year you visit, but the atmosphere in the city becomes even more celebratory at the holidays!
It very rarely snows in Vegas, so a natural White Christmas may not be in the cards. However, if you visit at the scheduled times you can definitely see snow falling in Town Square, a Vegas shopping center. You can also enjoy beautiful Christmas decorations at the Bellagio and the Wynn, two of the most upscale resorts on the Las Vegas Strip.
Take in a holiday-themed show. In addition to the evergreen Nutcracker Suite, there are several music shows geared toward the holidays. The LINQ promenade looks lovely, with holiday lights and carolers. Take a ride in the LINQ High Roller while you are there to see the lights of Las Vegas from above.
And don’t forget to reserve a table at one of the famous Vegas restaurants for a holiday meal. With so much to celebrate, it’s time to start planning a visit to Vegas for Christmas!
By Ashley Hubbard from Wild-Hearted
Photo by Ashley Hubbard from Wild-Hearted
Nashville is known for a lot of things, but not everyone would think of Nashville as a great destination to spend Christmas. They would be surprised though as there are plenty of Christmas and holiday activities to explore and experience in December and the rest of winter too.
If there’s one thing Nashville doesn’t have a shortage of it is definitely the holiday lights. Head to Gaylord Opryland hotel (free activity!) to experience a feast for the eyes as you adventure through the already beautiful hotel’s three million holiday lights. If three million lights aren’t enough, check out Cheekwood Gardens one mile of lights along with gingerbread house workshops, Santa meetings, ornament decorating, and more. Additionally, if you have a little extra time and are here during the second weekend in December, head south to Franklin for the unique Dickens of a Christmas festival.
This is all really just the beginning though. There are plenty of holiday lights to experience just by getting in the car and driving around, lots of “drive-thru” holiday shows, and plenty of seasonal events.
New Orleans, Louisiana
By Stella Jane from Around the World in 24 Hours
Photo by Stella Jane from Around the World in 24 Hours
New Orleans, Louisiana is famous for its Mardi Gras celebration. But many people don’t realize it’s also an amazing place to celebrate Christmas. It’s the only time of year when you can see the famous Pontalba houses covered in Christmas decorations. Some of the historic homes even open their doors for a special Christmas-only tour through the Preservation Resource Center. And the lights at Celebration in the Oaks in City Park are truly magical.
Of course, it’s not a New Orleans celebration without music. You can participate in a Christmas carol sing in Jackson Square for free. Or you can attend the Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s special Christmas performances. New Orleans has artists’ markets year-round, but you can find a few extra around at Christmastime. But the best part of Christmas in New Orleans is Reveillon dinners. These are lavish, multi-course feasts only on offer in the month of December. Just about every good restaurant in New Orleans has its own Reveillon dinner, so feel free to try each one. Interested in having caviar, oysters, foie gras, steak, and chocolate in the same meal? Then you’re ready for Reveillon dinner.
By Noel Morata from This Hawaii Life
Photo by Noel Morata from This Hawaii Life
Thinking about a warmer wintertime destination for Christmas – then think about Hawaii for the holidays. The Hawaiian islands are fun and celebrate the Christmas holidays with parades, Christmas shows and pageants, Christmas fairs and festive lights with that special aloha cheer that is unique to the islands.
Whether you love to shop, enjoy the adventure activities or gorgeous beaches and coastlines, there’s so much to explore in Hawaii to celebrate the Christmas holidays. Each island offers its own version of celebrating with different events and special activities focused on holiday fun on the islands. For inspiration, check out my post here on cheap or free things you can do here in Oahu for more details and activities when visiting Hawaii.
By Mikkel Woodruff from Sometimes Home
Photo by Mikkel Woodruff from Sometimes Home
The best place to visit for Christmas is arguably the Happiest Place on Earth: Walt Disney World. It’s located in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, though the public generally deems it “Orlando,” its neighboring city.
Christmas decorations abound Walt Disney World from November through New Year’s Eve. Hotels are decked out in themed decorations having to do with the resort (for instance, there are carousel horse ornaments on trees at Disney’s Boardwalk Hotel) and there are even life-size gingerbread houses in some hotel lobbies. The four theme parks – Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom – are all covered in lights and special holiday decor. And who can forget one of my favorite places if you’re looking for things to do at Walt Disney World besides the parks: Disney Springs (formally Downtown Disney).
There are many special events during the holidays at each park. I adore Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, where Santa Claus makes a special appearance at the end of the parade. (This is a separate park ticketed event – general park tickets won’t get you into it.) And, I love the Candlelight Processional at Epcot, for which a general park ticket does gain your entrance. Looking for an extra special holiday treat? Participate in the Holiday Cookie Stroll at Epcot’s World Showcase and collect all five holiday cookies at the different countries at your own pace.
By Rachel Elizabeth from Blond Wayfarer
Photo by Rachel Elizabeth from Blond Wayfarer
First of all, don’t miss Dickens Village and the Light Show at the historic Wanamaker Building. Dickens Village is a 6,000 vintage animatronic display that tells the story of Charles Dickens’ spooky tale “A Christmas Carol.” Dickens Village is a Philadelphia tradition that’s open daily – excluding Christmas Day.
Afterwards, catch the Light Show downstairs right in the heart of the Wanamaker Building. As illuminated reindeer and snowmen dance around the tree, Christmas carols fill the entire space with an organ playing at the grande finale.
Then, walk to Rittenhouse Square to see the Christmas Tree. You can also enjoy an authentic German Christmas market, lovingly called The Christmas Village, in nearby Love Park. The Christmas Village has booths selling holiday trinkets as well as European snacks like bratwurst, apple strudel, and pretzels. Beer and wine tastings are available on select days.
However, for an indoor Christmas experience, you need to go to McGill’s Alehouse, which was established in 1860. The decorations will definitely put you in the holiday spirit.
Salt Lake City, Utah
By Jessica Averett from Bring The Kids
Photo by Jessica Averett from Bring The Kids
Salt Lake City is a fantastic place to spend Christmas this year. It has all of the perks of city life but is surrounded by mountains. So realistically, you can be at some of the best skiing in the world within 30 minutes of leaving the airport (and heading to ski guarantees you’ll have a white Christmas). If you’re hoping to avoid the crowds and get some great skiing in, check out Solitude Resort. You can stay right at their base village and on Christmas day, the kids can get out and ski with Santa and the whole family can enjoy some legendary Utah powder.
Downtown Salt Lake is really close, and a trip there would not be complete without seeing the iconic Christmas lights at Temple Square and the candy displays at City Creek. For the perfect family night out, take the whole family to see Ballet West perform The Nutcracker and finish off the night with the best hot chocolate ever at Hatch Family Chocolates.
By Lindsey Bybee from Abroad Wife
Photo by Lindsey Bybee from Abroad Wife
Washington D.C. is full of festive events and celebrations in December! Stunning Christmas decorations can be found all over town. Between Christmas shows, concerts, markets, miniature trains, and light displays there is something to keep travelers of all ages entertained and in the holiday spirit.
The hottest ticket in town is a Holiday tour of the East Wing of the White House. Going inside the White House is a memorable experience at any time of year, but at Christmas, it is above and beyond!
A favorite local event is the wreath-laying at Arlington National Cemetery. Each headstone (270,000 of them) has a wreath placed by volunteers. This event is free and open to anyone who would like to participate. Christmas is the most beautiful time of year to see the cemetery.
One other can’t-miss activity in D.C. at Christmas is visiting the Botanic Garden. The garden puts up a fabulous display featuring models of iconic buildings around Washington made out of plant materials. There is also a room where a miniature train chugs through different landmarks from all over the country-all made out of plants!
By Cat Lin from For Two, Please
Photo by Cat Lin from For Two, Please
If you want a white Christmas and to get all festive, Calgary is no doubt a wonderful destination. There is a variety of Christmas markets around the city. One of our favorites is the Spruce Meadows International Christmas Market, featuring more than 300 vendors spreading the holiday spirit. Not only can you shop for unique hand-crafted gifts, but you can also enjoy live entertainment to soak up the festive atmosphere. The market is open on the weekends from mid-November to early December.
Market Collective Holiday Markets is another one of our favorites, taking place on the three weekends in December. With over 150 local vendors, you are guaranteed to find the gifts for all your loved ones this holiday season. You can also expect interactive workshops, live music, and food and beverage on site.
Besides Christmas markets, holiday activities like Once Upon A Christmas at Heritage Park are not to be missed. The attraction will take you back in time and experience the magic of an old-fashioned Christmas. Gingerbread cookie decorating, wagon rides, snow painting and all sorts of fun and surprises await you every weekend from November 23 to December 22.
Québec City, Québec
By Chelsea Sipe from Pack More Into Life
Photo by Chelsea Sipe from Pack More Into Life
Looking to celebrate Christmas with European charm without flying across the Atlantic? Then make your travel plans now to head up to Quebec City, Canada. Ranked as one of the top places to enjoy Christmas in the world, Quebec City delights its visitors with charming European buildings, quaint shops, a German Christmas market and an abundance of winter activities. The market features over 1,000 locally-made products tucked into charming wooden kiosks. Be sure to try the German sausages and get some mulled wine to help keep you warm while you wander the lanes. The markets also feature a kindermarkt, winebar, and choral entertainment both indoors and outdoors.
Start your visit with tea at the impressive Chateau Frontenac Hotel, which will be completely decked out for the holidays with dozens of individually decorated trees lining the halls. Just outside the doors, you’ll also find a sled run, if you are feeling adventurous! Once you’ve explored the hotel and sled run, head over to the funicular that will take you down to Old Quebec City and Rue du Petit Champlain to peruse the shops and dine at Le Lapin Saute. The street is picturesque and often represents a snow globe with decorations and freshly fallen snow throughout December. End your day back up at the Christmas markets to enjoy the festive lights and evening shows.
By Ioana Stoica from The World Is My Playground
Photo by Ioana Stoica from The World Is My Playground
Toronto may get cold in December, but it compensates with amazing activities you can do all month-long that’ll keep you entertained and active.
Your first stop should be Nathan Phillips Square, best known for the location of the Insta-famous “Toronto” sign. Aside from being one of the most picturesque spots in the city, the square becomes magical in December as it gets decked out with one of the biggest decorated Christmas trees in the city. The fountain also becomes a huge skating rink, so bring your skates (or rent some!), and enjoy a night out skating amidst the skyscrapers.
Another spot you can’t miss is the Christmas Market at the Distillery District. Though not the only one in the city, this market is the best known and most populated. Walk around the huts and buy locally made souvenirs, enjoy a glass of mulled wine or a cup of delicious coffee. Every year, the market outdoes itself for winter decorations, so give yourself a couple of hours to enjoy here. Avoid massive lineups by going on Tuesday-Thursday, when it’s free.
Other cool things to do in December are checking out Yonge and Dundas Square (Toronto’s version of Times Square), stroll through Eaton Center (the biggest shopping center) to enjoy Christmas decorations, skating at the Harbourfront Center on the weekends when there are live DJs, checking out the view from the top of the CN Tower, and the Aquarium.
Vancouver, British Columbia
By Riana Ang-Canning from Teaspoon of Adventure
Photo by Riana Ang-Canning from Teaspoon of Adventure
Vancouver is one of the best places to celebrate Christmas because you get all of the Christmas spirit without any of the cold. It rarely goes below freezing in Vancouver so you can enjoy all of the festive outdoor activities without getting frostbite.
The entire city lights up for the holidays, starting with the giant tree at Robson Square. The ice rink at Robson Square is also open and nothing says Christmas better than skating on the rink while carols play (often by a live band) and the tree glows above you. For even more glow, head to Canyon Lights at the Capilano Suspension Bridge where the bridge and the giant Douglas trees are covered in thousands of Christmas lights.
Back in the city, be sure to visit the Vancouver Christmas Market, inspired by the famous German markets. Wander through all the stalls while you listen to carols and sip mulled wine from your special Christmas mug! Vancouver may not always get a white Christmas but it’s still a very festive place to be for the holiday season. And what we lack in snow we make up for in Christmas spirit!
By Adam McConnaughhay from Cartagena Explorer
Photo by Adam McConnaughhay from Cartagena Explorer
While most might think of Christmas as a time for snow, you can make it a time for the sunshine by escaping the chill to Cartagena on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. In addition to beach bumming and getting some sun, Cartagena also has a ton of historical charm, and the Christmas lights hanging over its narrow colonial streets only make it that much more charming. You’ll also be able to marvel at the Christmas lights draped along its 400-year-old colonial wall as you ride along the waterfront.
There are also pretty lights and decorations set up in many of the city’s plazas and parks. Who says palm trees can’t look Christmasy? Finally, if you want to really feel like a local, try some buñuelos (fried cheese and dough balls) and natilla (a sweet corn meal based custard), both Colombian Christmas traditions. As Cartagena is a popular destination for Colombian nationals at the holidays too, many restaurants and clubs will also have traditional Christmas dinners.
So trade your hot cocoa for a piña colada and get a tan this Christmas enjoying the sunshine and charm of Cartagena, Colombia.
By Daniel Grocock from Layer Culture
Photo by Daniel Grocock from Layer Culture
If you’re looking for the best places to visit at Christmas be sure to check out Medellín in Colombia. Not only is Medellín known for its almost perfect year-round climate but also for being one of the most entraining cities during Christmas. More than 4 million tourists visit Medellín every year to spend the festive period and to enjoy the Christmas light extravaganza that lights up the valley.
This event is known as ‘Los alumbrados’, which basically means ‘the lights’ in English and is an integral part of Colombian culture and family life. This event quickly became one of my favorite things to do in December whilst in Medellín. You can visit places like Parque Norte where the show is at its best with over 26 million lights on display. Here I saw some of the best light decorations that I have ever seen. Medellín in December makes the perfect place to bring your family and every year the show gets bigger with more lights added.
By Ayngelina Brogan from Bacon Is Magic
Photo by Ayngelina Brogan from Bacon Is Magic
One of the most memorable Christmases I’ve spent was in Cuenca, Ecuador. A colonial city with a strong Catholic backbone, Christmas is one of the biggest holidays of the year.
But despite being a city of devout Catholics, Christmas here feels similar but is not exactly the same and that’s because Ecuador has both a healthy indigenous population as well as a history of Spanish conquistadors which have influenced traditions today.
Christmas is a great holiday because it begins on December 16th when the novenas begin. People gather at neighbors’ homes for nine evenings to honor the Three Wise Men, and Mary and Joseph. They pray for the poor and the sick.
My favorite aspect is that Papa Noel or Santa Claus is a relatively new idea in Ecuador. It still has the true spirit of spending time with loved ones rather than the commercialism that we know.
By Kenny Chow from Knycx Journeying
Photo by Kenny Chow from Knycx Journeying
We visited Lima, Peru for a few days during Christmas and we didn’t expect the city to have such a cheerful holiday vibe.
The souvenir and gift shops had their giant llama dolls dressed up under the Christmas tree. Also, there was a giant white Christmas tree in the Plaza de Armas, among all the iconic buildings including the Government Palace, the Cathedral of Lima, Archbishop’s Palace of Lima, the Municipal Palace, and the Palace of the Union.
The weather in December is cooler in Lima and it was much more comfortable to walk down the Jiron de la Union, a busy shopping street neat Lima’s old town. Soak up the holiday spirits with the crowd and you might catch some goodies during the Christmas sales on the street and the nearby shopping malls!
Apart from rich Inca heritage and culture, Lima is also famous for its exquisite culinary scene in Latin America. Make reservations in one of the world’s best restaurants – enjoy a fine-dining experience and then join a party or parade to celebrate the holiday season!
By Linda de Beer from Travel Tyrol
Photo by Linda de Beer from Travel Tyrol
If you love traditional Christmas celebrations, then you should visit Austria’s Alpbach Valley in the weeks preceding Christmas. Quaint Alpine villages surrounded by snow-capped peaks provide the perfect backdrop for white Christmas lights and unique local decorations.
A highlight of the Advent season in the Alpbach Valley Region is the Rattenberg Christmas market. Rattenberg is Austria’s smallest town with a unique position on the Inn River where the Alpbach Valley branches off from the bigger Inn Valley.
It’s accurate to say that the lights go off in Rattenberg every weekend before Christmas. That’s because the entire town is turned into one big Christmas market which is only lit by candles and fires.
Called the Rattenberg Advent, a visit to this Christmas market is a truly authentic experience. The local artisans, especially glass blowers, practice their trade for everyone to see. There is a labyrinth laid out with candles in paper bags, the Christ Child visits, and local musicians take to the stage to sing traditional Tyrolean Christmas songs.
For hunger and thirst (and to provide warmth) there are mugs of Glühwein to wrap your hands around and Kiachl with Sauerkraut or lingonberry jam to devour.
Of all the places I’ve visited at Christmastime, Vienna is in my top two favorites. This is the perfect place for a phenomenal Christmas market experience. Whether you are a veteran of European Christmas markets or a first-timer like I was, Vienna Christmas markets are amazing. Definitely try the delicious food and famous Glühwein but don’t forget that most cafes in Vienna will have Christmas specials too.
In addition to the Christmas markets, walk down the famous Graben in the city center to see it all decked out in festive attire. Lights, lights, and more lights! From the building whose corner is “tied with a big red bow” to the famous Hotel Sacher, there are decorations galore!
By Ana Rozanova from Merry-Go-Round. Slowly
Photo by Ana Rozanova from Merry-G0-Round. Slowly
Brussels is a perfect destination for Christmas. True, the weather might be cold and grey, but you most likely will not even notice it with so many Christmas activities going on around. From the end of November until early January the city transforms into a Christmas fairytale. First of all, plan a visit to the Grand-Place to admire the Christmas tree and Winter Wonders – a spectacular event with music and light show taking place each evening.
After that make sure you visit one (or several) Christmas Markets, taking place around the Bourse, the quarter Sainte-Catherine, Marché aux Poissons and Place de la Monnaie. While there, taste some Belgian waffles, grab a glass of mulled wine or juice to keep you warm and admire Christmas in Brussels above from the Ferris wheel or ride the beautiful antique merry-go-round. For those who like to stay active (or warm) during the cold Christmas days, there is also a covered ice rink for skating.
And if you have explored Brussels but are still in the mood for more, remember that you can also easily reach Bruges, Antwerp, Ghent, and Leuven for a day trip. Each of these cities also hosts great Christmas markets, so you will not be disappointed.
By Paulina Rubia from Paulina On The Road
Photo by Paulina Rubia from Paulina On The Road
One of my favorite places to visit in December and especially during Christmastime is Durbuy, in the French-speaking part of Belgium. Located in the south of the Wallonia region, where they speak French, Durbuy is also known as the “smallest town in the world”.
Indeed the town is particularly tiny and its cobblestone streets give it an enchanting look. It’s a lovely place to stroll through the narrow streets and have lots of warm, Belgian food in its countless restaurants.
However, the best reason to visit Durbuy in winter is its Christmas market. It is a very festive event with a lot of entertainment and music. But most people tend to visit for its food: original Belgian fries, Belgian chocolates and plenty of homemade sausages.
During the weekend some of the food stalls play music and people are dancing until midnight. It’s no wonder that the Christmas Market of Durbuy is considered one of the best Christmas Markets in Belgium.
By Veronika Primm from Travel Geekery
Photo by Veronika Primm from Travel Geekery
Prague in winter and especially at Christmas is a fairytale-like city. Beautiful Christmas markets spring up all over the greater city center. Both the Old Town Square and the Wenceslas Square feature a massive tree and the atmosphere is wonderfully festive.
Mulled wine is a must, or perhaps hot mead if you prefer a sweeter taste. The chimney cake called Trdlo or Trdelník is in no way originally Czech, but it does taste yummy and is a nice treat in wintertime.
Bear in mind that the magic of Prague at Christmas is not a secret and tourists love it during the festive season. It mostly shows at the Old Town Square Christmas market. Once you get further away from the historical center, the crowds become much smaller.
I have two favorite Christmas markets in Prague – one is at the Náměstí Míru Square in the Vinohrady district. It’s quite popular among ex-pats too. The other is a Christmas market at the Prague Castle. The atmosphere there is like nowhere else – in my opinion, it’s the best setting for a small Christmas market.
By Diana from The Elusive Family
Photo by Diana from The Elusive Family
In the center of Lapland, Finland is Rovaniemi, one of the most popular winter destinations in Europe due to its official status as the hometown of Santa Claus. The city is a beautiful winter destination, as its main activities for visitors include reindeer rides, ice fishing, northern light chasing and husky rides. Lapland can be done with kids or without and either way, it’s a fantastic place to visit.
Rovaniemi’s location is among the best for a wintry escape. It is within driving distance to popular locations including Ranua Zoo and ski resorts such as Ounasvaara. It is also home to Santa Park, an underground theme park that has elves, rides, shows, a post office, an ice bar, and Santa Claus. Rovaniemi has amazing things to offer visitors. Its location at the Arctic and its spectacularly beautiful winters make this a wonderful destination for the holidays.
Due to its popularity, the best tip for visiting Rovaniemi in the winter is to book accommodations and activities at least 9-12 months in advance, especially around the holidays. The holiday season books very quickly in well-known places such as Santa Claus Holiday Village and it’s not possible to get a booking only a few months out. For this reason, it is best to plan your holidays to Rovaniemi a minimum of one year out.
By Elisa Subirats from World in Paris
Photo by Elisa Subirats from World in Paris
Paris is a great destination to visit during the Christmas holidays. The days are shorter and it is cold outside but the city’s most beautiful monuments are illuminated, the main avenues and squares are lit up with multi-colored bulbs and Christmas decorations and there is a general joie de vivre in the city.
What to do in Paris at Christmas time?
Admire the cupola and shop windows of Galeries Lafayette, beautifully decorated with Christmas decorations and dancing puppets. Visit the Christmas markets (my favorite one is at the Champs Elysées) for the last presents and perhaps a vin chaud with friends to warm you up. Go ice skating on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower, for some fun and great views of the city.
Christmas in Paris is also packed with cultural events, trendy exhibitions, kids festivals and seasonal food and wine festivals so there’s something for everyone during Christmas in Paris.
By Hannah & Adam Lukaszewicz from Getting Stamped
Photo by Hannah & Adam Lukaszewicz from Getting Stamped
Looking for one of the best cities to enjoy mulled wine under sparkling Christmas lights? Budapest is a great place to visit during winter because of its incredible Christmas markets. You’ll shop unique, locally made gifts from vendors and eat and drink Hungarian specialties! It’s one of our favorite places to spend the holidays.
If you’re looking for a big Christmas market to attend, Vörösmarty Square is the place to be, with food stalls, craft vendors, and amazing live music every day. This is also the longest Christmas market in Budapest, running from early November until January 1st. Another option is the St.Stephen’s Basilica Market, which is a little smaller in size. This market has an ice skating rink and Christmas tree perfect for photo ops, as well as a custom-designed light screening that displays on the facade of the basilica.
By Holly Connors from Four Around The World
Photo by Holly Connors from Four Around The World
If you are looking for a city rich in culture and history, Warsaw in Poland is a spectacular place to spend Christmas. With the bold contrast between the old town square and the Royal Castle and the modern developments, it is a city with it all.
There are two main Christmas markets in Warsaw and both are worth visiting, offering delicious traditional Polish food and drink, unique gifts and souvenirs.
The streets of Warsaw are lined with ornate decorations and multiple Christmas trees are erected in Castle Square, making it one of the most beautiful cities in Europe during December. And if you are lucky enough, it may even snow!
Christmas Eve, known as Wigilia, is one of the biggest and most important feasts of the year. Followed by midnight mass, this is a great tradition to experience during a Polish Christmas.
By Karen Alexis from Wanderlustingk
Photo by Karen Alex from Wanderlustingk
One of the best winter destinations in the world for Christmas has to be Moscow, Russia! Although people often forget that Russia also celebrates Christmas, Orthodox Christmas comes a bit later than Christmas in the rest of Europe. This gap in celebrations makes Moscow the perfect place to relax during the Christmas break as everything is still open during Christmas Eve and Day in Western Europe.
My favorite part about Christmas in Moscow had to be the Christmas markets spread throughout the city center. I went to the Christmas market near Red Square in Moscow which is the most well-known Christmas market. The first thing you’ll want to pick up (if you drink) is a cup of warm glintvein, the Russian take on gluhwein. You’ll also find Georgian-style meats roasting if you’re in the mood for a snack.
What I really liked about Moscow is that the cold doesn’t seem to deter people from enjoying the Christmas cheer and the many of the streets in the Moscow city center were decked out in lights! The other advantage of being in Moscow for Christmas is that you’re likely to be in Russia in time for celebrating New Year’s Eve, which is a major Russian family holiday with a great fireworks display.
By Anna de Nord from Travel Cultura
Photo by Anna de Nord from Travel Cultura
I have to mention that the main December holiday in Russia is the New Year. As for Christmas, in Russia, we celebrate Orthodox Christmas — on the 7th of January.
However, from the beginning of December St. Petersburg turns into a fairytale city. Light fountains, bridges glowing in the dark, decorated streets and New Year’s trees everywhere — this is what visitors enjoy most. Don’t forget to visit the local Christmas markets. Due to the cold weather, most of them take place in old picturesque churches and aristocracy mentions. Besides, there is an outdoor market on Manezhnaya Square. This is where you’ll appreciate how rewarming a hot tea from samovar is!
Keep in mind that the weather is cold. Mix wandering outside with taking rest in cozy cafes with mulled wine and cake Napoleon (a local specialty).
By Rai Suliman from A Rai of Light Travels
Photo by Rai Suliman from A Rai of Light Travels
During my first visit to Europe, I made sure to see as many of my favorite cities as the duration of my Schengen visa would allow. My time in Barcelona during Christmas was a highlight. The festive decorations lining the main streets set the mood. Numerous Nativity scenes and seasonal markets set up throughout the city only added to the celebrations, with my favorites being the ones at Sant Jaume Square and La Catedral. The markets are a good place to find some handmade items and traditional food products. Barcelona is a fantastic city to explore on foot. While wandering keep an eye out for two strange Christmas traditions — the Caganer and the Cago Tío. Sculptures with bare backsides said to bring presents and good luck.
By Allan Wilson from It’s Sometimes Sunny in Bangor
Photo by Allan Wilson from It’s Sometimes Sunny in Bangor
Few Christmas destinations can rival Zermatt in winter, a charming resort town found beneath the backdrop of the iconic Matterhorn mountain. The third highest peak in Western Europe, it is a scene that influenced the shape and packaging of Switzerland’s Toblerone Bar. So Zermatt is at its best at Christmas, when the festive season is celebrated from November – February, with Christmas baubles and snow heaped all around.
It is also a huge ski destination with 200 km plus of pistes connected by a network of cablecars that nip between the various mountain peaks surrounding the small resort town. And while skiers and winter sports enthusiasts will always be clumping around the resort, it would likely be around half-and-half with sightseers who visit for the unforgettable Swiss Alp scenery and to join the iconic Glacier Express in winter, a train ride that connects Zermatt to St Moritz via some of the most amazing winter scenery possible.
By Laura Caddick from The Travelling Stomach
Photo by Laura Caddick from The Travelling Stomach
Switzerland’s capital, Zürich, will almost certainly be the starting point for many people visiting the country, particularly at Christmas time. With many European and worldwide flight connections, Zürich airport is a truly global hub. The city itself is relatively modest in size compared to some of the others in Europe which makes it pleasant and easy enough to explore on foot, especially if you stay at the 25hours Hotel.
Set along the banks of the River Limmat which flows into the stunning lake alongside the city, its old town straddles the water dotted along with a number of pretty bridges and sights. Around Christmas, you will enjoy snow around the city which also lines the peaks that surround it. During this time, explore the nooks and crannies around the town or even go shopping for one of the country’s famous watches. The city’s thermal baths are not to be missed during your Christmas visit. Or, after a chilly day around town, finish off by tucking into a delicious cheese fondue at Swiss Chuchi.
By Tea Gudek Šnajdar from Culture Tourist
Photo by Tea Gudek Šnajdar from Culture Tourist
With its dreamy canals and picturesque canal houses, Amsterdam is a wonderful place to visit during Christmastime. Many large, beautifully decorated Christmas trees can be found around the city. Each street has different thematic ornaments and there are many ice skating rinks all over the town.
Each weekend in December a different Christmas market is organized in Amsterdam. One of the most amazing is the Museum Christmas Market held on the first weekend in December. It’s a place where you can find some lovely things created by Dutch artists and designers. From mid-December until the end of the year, the Ice Village is organized at the Museumplein. There, surrounded by some of the most beautiful Dutch museums, you can enjoy some stroopwafels, oliebollen or hot chocolate.
By Josh and Sarah from Veggie Vagabonds
Photo by Josh and Sarah from Veggie Vagabonds
Every travel destination is important. Personally, though, I think your Christmas travel destination is extra important. The festive period is special so you want to make sure you pick the right place. If you’re looking for quintessential British culture, cozy pubs, unique Christmas markets and festivities then Cambridge is the ideal place.
Rather than having one large Christmas market, you’ll find a number of smaller markets spread throughout the town, each with their own uniqueness and special events. Our personal favorite is the Market Street Market which is filled with delicious foods, drinks, and souvenirs or the All Saint’s Market which showcases arts and crafts from lots of local sellers.
Probably the most festive feeling in the city will be in one of the many traditional pubs. Go on a cold afternoon and warm up with a classic pub lunch and sample some of the locally produced ales. You’ll be spoiled for choice as there are pubs around every corner.
Another perfect Christmas activity is to go punting in Cambridge. If you haven’t heard of it before, punting is the boat trips you can take along the River Cam. You travel in traditional wooden boats pushed along with a long wooden stick. The river travels right through the heart of Cambridge University so you can see the timeless historic side of the city. Sites like the Mathematical Bridge, King’s College Chapel, and the Wren Library look even more spectacular with a layer of snow on the floor!
By Chrysoula Manika from Travel Passionate
Photo by Chrysoula Manika from Travel Passionate
The Scottish capital of Edinburgh is a spectacular winter destination thanks to its Christmas lights, decorations and markets all working together to create a wealth of warmth, charm and cheer throughout the festive season.
The largest of Edinburgh’s Christmas Markets takes place on the East Princes St Gardens, where festive wooden chalets pop up with an array of gifts, goodies and gastronomic treats to delight both locals and visitors alike. The Christmas market also offers rides and attractions for all the family, with a Big Wheel, Carousel and Star Flyer as well as smaller rides at Santa Land to keep the smiles on the little ones’ faces!
Of course, it wouldn’t be Christmas without a visit to an ice rink and Santa’s Grotto too and Edinburgh has you covered. The markets are open daily from 10 am to 10 pm throughout November and December so there really is no excuse to miss out!
When you’re not exploring the Christmas markets, you can wander around Edinburgh Castle, witness the light displays along George Street and the Royal Mile, discover the Edinburgh Botanical Gardens in full festive spirit and party the night away at Silent Light, an extraordinary silent disco/light show!
Edinburgh also has a whole host of great coffee shops, restaurants and traditional British pubs which are the perfect place to enjoy a drink, make new friends and soak up Scottish cuisine and culture.
By Krix Enikő from Travel Hacker Girl
Photo by Krix Enikő from Travel Hacker Girl
Christmas in London is very magical. There are several Christmas markets all over the city. The biggest and most popular one is Winter Wonderland. It is very different from the traditional cute Christmas markets in Europe. Winter Wonderland is huge and resembles a theme park, as it has many rides, such as roller coasters, bouncy castles, haunted houses, and bumper cars. You can even book tickets for music and theatre performances.
If you want to visit a more traditional market, the Southbank Centre Winter Market might be more appealing to you. London also has several ice rinks in the city in the winter which provide great fun and exercise on a cold day. There are a lot of pop-up events that you can only experience in the city during the festive season. So don’t miss Christmas at Kew, the Backyard Cinema or a panto performance if you are in London during Christmas.
By Lindsay Nieminen from Step Into Jordan
Photo by Lindsay Nieminen from Step Into Jordan
What better place to explore over Christmas than the Holy Land itself. Not for decor, or Christmas markets, but to feel an overwhelming sense of place, packed with Believers, who are on a pilgrimage to one of the most important sites in their religion.
You cannot really visit Jerusalem without walking the Old City and the via Dolorosa, a modern-day creation of Jesus’ last days before His crucifixion. One of the most popular places to visit in the Middle East is the Old City of Jerusalem. See the church of the Holy Sepulchre, which houses, according to traditions, the last four stations of the via Dolorosa and marks the place where He was crucified. It also houses His empty tomb (now covered with a 19th-century shrine).
A popular and easy day trip from Jerusalem is to also visit Bethlehem. If you plan to visit Jerusalem over Christmas, you should take a trip to the place where he was born, on what we now call Christmas Day. Located in the West Bank, if you want to take the guesswork out of it, you can visit on an organized day tour. These tours often give you front-of-the-line access inside the Church of the Nativity as the tour guides know all the tricks!
By Margherita Ragg from The Crowded Planet
Photo by Margherita Ragg from The Crowded Planet
If you’re traveling around South East Asia but don’t want to give up on some Christmas spirit, you may want to consider spending Christmas in Bali. The Indonesian island is home to an ever-growing ex-pat community, so even though Christmas is not part of the calendar of Balinese festivities, you can be sure to find plenty of Christmas-related events.
For instance, all large hotels and villas will be all decked out with Christmas decorations, many restaurants will offer Christmas lunches and brunches with favorites such as turkey with stuffing or Christmas ham, plus free-flowing drinks!
If you need some Christmas presents, the large malls in Seminyak will offer special Christmas deals. Even craft markets like Ubud Art Market and the Love Anchor Market in Batu Bolong will offer Christmas wares. When night falls, Christmas is celebrated with stunning firework displays. The beaches in Canggu and Kuta are a great place to be to see fireworks.
The only downside of Christmas in Bali is that it’s fairly busy since it’s a very popular tourist destination. The weather may also be quite rainy, but since there’s so much to see and do in Bali, it’s a great place to visit year-round especially at Christmas!
By Lena Scheidler from Nagoya Foodie
Photo by Lena Scheidler from Nagoya Foodie
Christmas isn’t a traditional holiday in Japan, but the Japanese have embraced the foreign holiday fully and made it their own.
I do have a couple of tips on how to make the best of Christmas in Tokyo.
Tokyo has some fun Christmas markets to visit. I can recommend the one in Hibiya Park and I have also been to the one in Roppongi. Outside of the city, there is also a very nice yearly Christmas market at the warehouses in Yokohama.
There are Christmas trees everywhere around Tokyo, and while you cannot decorate them yourself (a shame really) you can marvel at the size and just enjoy the Christmassy atmosphere.
The Japanese spend Christmas day not with their family, but rather as a couple with their significant other doing something romantic. I recommend a visit to one of the winter illuminations all around the city followed by a delicious Christmas dinner, maybe some Teppanyaki or other food at a fancy restaurant works best.
In recent years it has become more common to give Christmas presents. Parents will buy gifts for their children and couples will exchange gifts as well.
Christmas in Tokyo isn’t like it is at home, but it is a unique experience you shouldn’t miss!
By Jing Calonge from Finding Jing
Photo by Jing Calonge from Finding Jing
Christmas season is undoubtedly the most important holiday in the Philippines, with about 80% of the population being Christian. Celebrating Christmas in the Philippines is unique in itself, but visiting Pampanga during the yuletide season will definitely make your Christmas even more memorable.
Pampanga is home to the first and best makers of Philippine lantern or parol. Parol signifies the star that guided the Three Kings to the manger. It has become an iconic symbol of Christmas and an emblem of light and hope for the Filipinos.
During December, Pampanga holds a Giant Lantern Festival to showcase colorful lanterns lit with over 5,000 light bulbs. The lanterns are lit forming a medley of dancing patterns that sync with the music. This annual event has gained local and foreign spectators, gaining Pampanga the title “Christmas Capital of the Philippines”.
While you’re in Pampanga, visit Plaza Anghel in Angeles City to get a taste of Filipino holiday delicacies. Bibingka (baked rice cake cooked in clay pots lined with banana leaves) and puto-bumbong (rice cake steamed in bamboo tubes then served with grated coconut, margarine and sugar) are popular during Christmas season. These are sold in hawker stalls within the plaza as early as September.
By Penny Fernandes from Globe Trove
Photo by Penny Fernandes from Globe Trove
We have spent a number of Christmases on the road. One of the best experiences we have had was in a place called Hoi An in Vietnam. It is an odd choice of a place to spend Christmas, but it was the spot that we landed upon after planning our route and it turned out to be one of the wisest choices we made. Hoi An has a small Christian community and you would be surprised at how many Christmas related activities are present in the ancient town.
We spent Christmas Eve night wandering through the Christmas markets, watching plays set up by children and attending Christmas mass. I must say that the lanterns that were being sold by the river added a lot to the Christmassy feel. We saw small children dressed up as Santa Claus and gorgeous balloons that were shaped like him.
When I think back, it was one of the most peaceful ways in which we spent Christmas. Away from the noise and bustle. Just the calm celebration alongside the local community.
By Paula Barnes from Truly Expat
Photo by Paula Barnes from Truly Expat
Sydney is one of those unique places where Christmas is spent swimming in the ocean and drinking cocktails on rooftop bars. Yes, I love a white Christmas but growing up in Sydney makes you feel like this is the way Christmas should be. Cooking a barbeque and enjoying the great outdoors is exactly why this makes it the best destination for Christmas.
Christmas isn’t Christmas without checking out the Christmas lights. Some suburbs get into the festive season (this changes year to year) so plan ahead by doing a little research. Venture out into the residential areas where you can walk the balmy nights viewing what makes Christmas special.
The city is magical at this time of year from the big Christmas tree that lights up each night to the many storefront windows decorated with a Christmas theme. The streets themselves are decorated, and a must-see during December.
My favorite event of the year is Carols by Candelight which can be found in almost every suburb in Sydney during this period. But by far, the biggest and the best is in the Domain. With celebrities galore, this family-friendly outing can not be missed, so grab your picnic basket and some camping chairs and join in the festivities that only come once a year. If you are thinking of visiting Sydney during winter then check out the best of Sydney winter in 1 day.
Congratulations if you are reading this and are still with me! It is a long but valuable list of the best places to visit in December. Hopefully, you have found your travel inspiration for the fast-approaching holiday season!
Have you made your December travel plans yet? Have you been to one of these places? If not, which one is calling your name? Let me know below!
‘Til next time…