Christmas is undoubtedly one of the most anticipated and beloved holidays for all people. Most people usually spend the holiday at home with their family. But, have you ever thought about going somewhere else? You can learn about ancient traditions and customs that are different from yours. You can see how people from other countries celebrate this holiday, the events and shows they organize during that time of the year while tasting their traditional dishes and desserts.
If you’re already thinking about where to go for your next winter holiday, check out the top 25 cities to visit at Christmas!
1. New York, USA
When thinking about Christmas, you can’t but think of New York. The holiday events and shows there start at the end of November with the lighting of the enormous Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center. The Christmas shopping starts with Black Friday.
There are several skating rinks set up in the city, such as those at Rockefeller Center ($28.00/€23.80, skate rental $13.00/€11.00) and Central Park ($12.00/€10, skate rental $9.00/€7.60).
Plenty of events are going on throughout the city, with the Christmas market being one of the most famous and most visited of all. There are Christmas markets in Bryant Park, Columbus Circle, Union Square, Seaport District, and inside the Grand Central Terminal. Also, there are many shows on Broadway, including one of the greatest classics, The Nutcracker. And, if you want to see the brightest neighborhoods of New York and those colorful shining bright classic houses we always see in the movies, you have to take the Dyker Heights bus tour.
2. Rovaniemi, Finland
If the cold doesn’t scare you and you want to see Santa’s home, you have to go to Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland. It’s located in the far north of Finland, which means it’s the perfect place to experience the Christmas magic. Also, it’s the perfect place to see the Northern Light.
Speaking of Santa’s home, you can find the Santa Claus Village just outside the city. While you can visit it every day of the year, Christmas is the best time. There, you can meet reindeer, huskies, and even Santa Claus himself. In fact, you can take a ride on the Santa Clause sleigh! If you plan to travel with your kids, this is the perfect destination for you.
While at Santa Claus Village, don’t forget to visit the Winter Zone, where you can find plenty of games, activities, and statues. Furthermore, you have to visit the Ice Restaurant, a restaurant made entirely of ice, and enjoy a memorable launch.
3. Prague, Czech Republic
All cities in Eastern and Northern Europe enjoy the Christmas spirit. And, that makes them one of the best destinations to visit at Christmas. One of them is Prague, which during December shines bright with all those colorful lights, Christmas markets, and events.
Undoubtedly, the Christmas markets are one of the most beautiful things there. They are located throughout the city and you can buy handmade Christmas decorations, small souvenirs, and traditional foods. Speaking of things you can buy and foods, don’t forget to have a cup of Svařák, the Czech version of mulled wine, to warm you up. The markets in Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square are some of the most beautiful ones in this city.
If you happen to visit the city in early December, you can’t miss the day of Mikuláš (St. Nicholas). This day is celebrated in a very amusing way. There’s a parade with people dressed as angels and demons, looking for children who were nice and those who were naughty, to see who do and who don’t deserve the St. Nicholas’ gifts.
And, there are several skating rinks set up in the city. They are usually open from December to February, so you can also try out your skating skills.
4. Copenhagen, Denmark
Copenhagen is another city in Northern Europe worth visiting at Christmas. If you decide to visit this magnificent city, you better get ready to enter a magical world that will leave you with open eyes and make you feel like a kid again.
The city begins to light up before the end of December when the citizens begin to decorate their houses, shops, and shop windows. The bakeries start selling the traditional Christmas products, most of which are cinnamon-based. The restaurants, on the other hand, prepare Christmas menus with traditional meals. Speaking of traditional meals, you have to try the GløggII, a mulled wine with raisins, almonds, cardamom, orange, and brandy.
There are 7 Christmas markets in the city. Some of the most beautiful markets are the one along the Strøget pedestrian street, with its classic wooden houses; the one of Kultorvet, which brings the world of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytales back to reality; and the one of the Tivoli Gardens, which turns into a magical world at Christmas. To visit the park, we strongly recommend you to buy a ticket with priority access or access with unlimited attractions.
5. Paris, France
Known as the city of lights and one of the most romantic cities in Europe, you can’t miss Paris during the Christmas holidays. It’s even more beautiful and enchanting during the holiday season. This can also be an opportunity to indulge in some of your desires and enjoy a romantic day, perhaps with a lovely final cruise on the canals.
The city is completely decked out, with lights, Christmas trees, and decorations. There are many Christmas markets all over the city. The biggest one of them is in La Défense, with over 300 stalls. We also recommend you to visit the Lafayette Galleries, which turns into a magical kingdom at Christmas.
Apart from all these events, December in Paris also means a festively decorated Disneyland. It’s the perfect place to spend a day of fun and magic. If you are staying in the center of Paris, we recommend you to buy the Disneyland Paris Express ticket, which includes the entrance to the park and transport.
6. Tallinn, Estonia
Let’s go to Eastern Europe, more precisely to Estonia. Its capital, Tallinn, is a city full of charm at any time of the year. However, in December, the Christmas atmosphere in the city guarantees unforgettable days.
One of the festivities held in the city are the Christmas markets, which are held in the Central Town Hall Square. After visiting them, we recommend you to join a walking tour of the old town to admire the lights. And, here we have to mention a fun fact: The first Christmas tree in Europe was exhibited in Tallinn, in the distant 1441.
While visiting the markets, especially on weekends, you will come across traditional Latvian singing and dancing performances. And, don’t forget to try the traditional dishes and drinks of the city, such as the two traditional sweets, Kissel and Curd, maybe accompanied by a glass of mulled wine.
7. Budapest, Hungary
December is a perfect month to visit Budapest because here, not one, but two holidays are celebrated, Christmas and Hannukah.
There are many Christmas markets you can’t miss, with traditional wooden houses where you can buy Christmas products and wonderful wooden objects. The most beautiful ones are located in Vörösmarty Square, in the heart of the historic center. There are also many concerts in the Basilica of Saint Stephen. And, you shouldn’t miss the skating rink (HUF2.000/€5.60), located in the Városliget park, between lights and markets.
Apart from enjoying all festivities and the Christmas spirit, December in Budapest is also a perfect chance to enjoy a day of complete relaxation at the famous city spas, Széchenyi Baths, to fight the cold. And, don’t forget to take a romantic panoramic cruise on the Danube, which is especially recommended in the evening to admire the illuminated monuments.
8. Bruges, Belgium
Bruges is a wonderful city in Belgium, not far from the capital Brussels (100 km, direct train from €13.00 – €22.00). Being already romantic and fascinating throughout the year thanks to the canals, it reaches the pick of its beauty in December.
The Christmas markets invade the squares and streets and last from the end of November until the first week of January. While exploring the city, you can go shopping, taste traditional Belgian sweets, such as speculoos, Santa-shaped spiced cookies, and drink gluhwein, mulled wine, to warm up on the cold Belgian days.
There’s an ice skating rink in Grote Mark which follows the same opening hours as the markets and is open until January (admission and rental from €7.00). Also, you should visit the Ice Festival (from the end of November to the beginning of January, every day 10:00-19:00, €12.00), an event in which artists create wonderful ice sculptures.
9. Bolzano, Italy
Many people think about spending Christmas in mountains. If you are one of them, then Bolzano is the ideal destination for you. It’s located at the right place to explore the Dolomites and indulge in winter sports.
From the end of November to January 6, the city is filled with lights and Christmas markets. With all those lights, scents, flavors, and colors, you will experience a mix of emotions and have lots of fun. You can also go shopping and taste the traditional specialties and drink a cup of good hot chocolate or mulled wine to fight the cold.
Apart from all festivities, this city is also the perfect place for winter sports. From Bolzano, you can start exploring the Dolomites, with snowmobiling, sledding, or snowshoeing in the Dolomites. There are a lot of ski areas, with slopes of all levels and difficulties. The entire province of Bolzano has about 1,248 km of slopes. Some of the most famous are those of Carezza, Latemar, Belpiano, Val Gardena, and Merano.
Let’s go back to discover the Christmas magic of the Northern countries, this time in Stockholm, the capital of Sweden. In the Old Town, aka Gamla Stan, are found the oldest Christmas markets of the city. The streets are completely invaded by the scent of cinnamon, gingerbread, as well as mulled wine, an indispensable companion to fight the cold of the Swedish winter days.
The city is completely embellished and decorated with millions of lights. You will have plenty of time to enjoy the lights and the Christmas atmosphere because the sun sets very early in winter. Also, there is no shortage of skating rinks, with the largest being the one in Kungsträdgården park and one specially made for kids in Medborgarplatsen. Moreover, the river freezes, so you will find many people skating right there.
But that’s not all! Stockholm is also the perfect destination for those who love winter sports since there’s the Hammarbybacken ski area, with 5 slopes and a children’s area right outside the center. Therefore, you can ski or snowboard while admiring the city skyline.
11. Vienna, Austria
Austria is one of those countries where the Christmas period is particularly felt. So, why not organize a getaway to its capital, Vienna, which brings out the best in December?
One of the things to see are definitely the Christmas markets, which are scattered throughout the city. Wooden houses, traditional products, handmade crafts, a mix of colors, scents and flavors, and much more! Some of the most famous and beautiful markets are the Christmas Village Palazzo Belvedere, the Christmas Village Maria Theresien Square, the Christkindlmarkt at Rathausplatz, and the Schönbrunn Christmas Market in Schönbrunn.
Furthermore, there are numerous concerts organized throughout the city during this period. You can’t miss the Mozart and Strauss concerts at the Kursalon or the Brahms-Saal.
Finally, if you like to skate, we recommend the ice rink at the Vienna Ice World in Rathausplatz. It has an icy surface of 9.000 square meters (admission from € 8.00, skate rental from € 7.50).
12. Amsterdam, Holland
The capital of Holland, Amsterdam, is already a very fascinating city thanks to the canals and the traditional architecture of the houses. At Christmas, this charm increases due to the decorations, lights, as well as the snow, which makes everything even more magical.
The first thing you will notice in the city are the lights. The Amsterdam Light Festival has been held for several years, which creates light projections and shows on the streets, squares, and canals. There are also the Christmas markets, which in addition to selling typical products and handicrafts also organize workshops and laboratories. Some of the most beautiful are those at the Bloemenmarkt floating flower market, the alternative market of the Funky Xmas Market at Westergasfabriek, and the Ice Village on Museumplein.
The Ice Village of Museumplein is one of the attractions you can’t miss. Apart from the markets, you will also find a large skating rink (from €12.00).
13. London, England
Markets, lights everywhere, events, concerts, and much more will make your stay in London unforgettable!
The Christmas markets, which are scattered throughout the city, are ideal for young and old thanks to the great offer of activities. Some of the most beautiful and famous are certainly the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, the Christmas Market at London’s South Bank near the London Eye (from the top of which you can admire the whole city decorated for the holiday; it’s recommended to buy an online ticket due to the big number of visitors) and London Bridge Christmas Market, near the iconic bridge over the Thames.
Besides the Christmas markets, you will also find ice skating rinks as well as numerous events and concerts. Some of the most beautiful are those at the Natural History Museum, the Alexandra Palace Ice Skating Rink, and the Ice Rink Canary Wharf in Canada Square (average cost of admission to the rinks starts from €8.00). Finally, the little ones will be able to meet Santa Claus and give their Christmas letter to him. You can find Santa at various places, such as the ZSL London Zoo, the Royal Albert Hall, and the Museum of London.
14. Rome, Italy
You don’t always have to go to the far North to experience the magic of Christmas. You can also find it in warmer countries, such as Italy, particularly Rome.
The ideal starting point to discover all the Christmas markets is Piazza Navona, in the heart of the historic center. You will find artistic objects, handmade crafts, Christmas decorations, traditional food, and street food; in short, absolutely nothing is missing. In addition to Piazza Navona, other beautiful Christmas markets are the Christmas Market and Nativity Scene in Piazza di Spagna, the Kingdom of Christmas at Luneu, and the Christmas Markets Auditorium Park of Music. For the little ones, there is the Fantastic Castle of Santa Claus (every day 9:00-19:00, €14.00). It is an area with events, shows, and workshops. You can cook traditional sweets, visit the House of the Elves and the Post Office, and the children can meet Santa Claus.
If you are in Rome on 24 and 25 December, you can attend Holy Masses in St. Peter’s Square, held by the Pope worldwide. It’s one of the most awaited masses.
15. Moscow, Russia
Christmas lovers, are you thinking of visiting Moscow? Beware because they follow the Julian Calendar which means the holiday dates don’t coincide with ours. Namely, Christmas is on January 7 and New Year between January 13 and 14. Nonetheless, there are numerous Christmas activities in Moscow even if you visit it in December.
In fact, as early as December, the traditional markets are set up in the main squares of the city, where you can buy local handmade crafts and traditional products. Some of the most beautiful are those at the great Red Square and the New Year’s Fair in TsUM at the TsUM department store. At the Red Square, you can also find a large skating rink. The ones in Gorkji Park and Sokolniki Park are also very beautiful and large. At VDNKh you will also find the largest ice skating rink in the world with an impressive 20,000 square meters.
16. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Do you love Christmas but can’t stand the cold? Then maybe it’s best to spend the holidays in a warm location, somewhere you can sunbathe and relax on the beach. If so, then the perfect destination for you is Rio de Janeiro. Although the weather is hot, Christmas is very much felt and you will notice it immediately.
There are many Christmas markets in the city that you can visit wearing light clothing and flip-flops. Yes, it is weird but it’s something you should experience at least once in your life. Furthermore, in Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, the center of the festivities, is the largest floating Christmas tree in the world. You just can’t miss it!
During your stay, you can also visit the city and sunbathe on the most famous beaches, such as Ipanema and Copacabana, maybe even enjoy a sailboat ride at sunset. And, don’t miss Christ the Redeemer, which is reached via the cogwheel train, and the Sugar Loaf, from where you can admire an enchanting view of all the surroundings (tickets can be purchased online).
17. Warsaw, Poland
Let’s go back to Europe with another destination – this time we talk about Warsaw, the capital of Poland. Here, also, Christmas is particularly heartfelt. There are numerous traditions of the city, such as the Christmas Eve Dinner, with 13 courses, 12 of which are vegetarian, to bring luck for the new 12 months.
The city is filled with Christmas markets and the main one is the one that occupies via Podwale. It’s full of stalls with local handmade crafts, porcelain, and traditional sweets. Furthermore, the Zimowy Narodowy, aka the winter city, is set up in the Warsaw Stadium from the end of November to March (from 14.00 PLN / € 3.20). It is ideal for those who want to enjoy winter sports like skating as well as sledding thanks to the 11-meter high ice mountain.
And, there is no shortage of musical events! Plus, since Warsaw is Chopin’s city, you can attend several concerts, like the Chopin concert in the historic Old Town.
18. Zwolle, the Netherlands
Zwolle is a town in the Netherlands, not far from Amsterdam (110 km, 1 h 10 min by car, direct train Amsterdam-Zwolle, 1 h, from €19.50 in each way). Therefore, you might consider staying in Amsterdam and visiting Zwolle on a day trip, given the speed of the connections!
But why is Zwolle worth a visit? It’s because here is held the Ice Sculpture Festival, IJsbeelden Festival in Dutch Nederlands. It is one of the most magical events in the whole country, as well as the biggest winter event. Over 40 artists come together to carve ice and create detailed and wonderful sculptures, each given a specific theme. The festival is open from mid-December until March (generally 10 am-5 pm, €14.50).
In addition to this famous festival, the city is decorated and illuminated. So, walking through its streets and markets will make you love Christmas even more.
19. Colmar, France
Maybe Alsace is not the first destination that comes to your mind when you think of Christmas. But, that doesn’t mean this historical region of France has nothing to offer. In fact, as soon as you get there, you will have to change your mind about the place. Colmar is one of the most beautiful destinations during the Christmas period. In fact, it becomes more and more popular in the world for this period and its very good wines.
At Christmas, Colmar turns into a fairytale kingdom. There are many wonderful markets set up throughout the historic center at which you can taste local products and shop. The Petite Venise district is one of the most spectacular. There is also a large skating rink on Place Rapp which is open every day (admission €7.00 including rental). There are various events and shows around the rink, as well as concerts and musical entertainment.
20. Gubbio, Italy
Let’s go back to Italy to discover Gubbio, a town in the province of Perugia, in Umbria. Probably most people don’t know that here is the largest Christmas tree in the world, standing out over the entire medieval city. The celebrations begin with its lighting, which is a very heartfelt event.
The whole city is festively decorated and the Christmas Land is set up. It’s a journey to discover the city and the Christmas atmosphere! Some of the many attractions you can find are the Santa Claus Kingdom and the International Exhibition of Nativity Scene (new attractions every year and times vary according to the day – consult the official website; admission €9.00). Moreover, by purchasing the Santa Claus Passport, you will be entitled to discounts and benefits on entrances and services.
Apart from the Christmas Land, you will find other attractions specially designed for Christmas that will allow you to admire the city. Some of them are the Gubbio Express Christmas and the Great Wheel of the North Pole. Plus, there are a lot of Christmas markets as well as a beautiful skating rink.
21. Salerno, Italy
While in Italy, let’s go to Salerno. It’s a Campania city not far from Naples, which means you can visit it in one day if you are staying in the Campania capital (55 km, 50 min by car, direct bus Naples-Salerno, 1 h, from €4.00).
Every year in Salerno, from mid-November to mid-January, the Luci d’Artista. This light show involves spectacular artistic lights set up throughout the city, between the streets, squares, and gardens, thus making the Christmas atmosphere even more magical. The inauguration takes place in mid-November at the City Hall.
The Luci d’Artista event is the backdrop to many other Christmas initiatives and activities. In fact, in the city, you will find a beautiful Ferris wheel, called City Eye (hours 10: 00-00, duration 15-20 min, €9.00), a large Christmas tree, and many shows and events.
22. Berlin, Germany
Berlin is an intense city, with a difficult history on its shoulders, but today it fascinates anyone who visits it. And, the Christmas period is one of the best times to visit it.
During December, the German cities fill up with traditional Christmas markets and Berlin is no exception. They are located in various parts of the city, including the Gendarmenmarkt market, the Berliner Weihnachtsmarkt near Alexanderplatz, and the Schloss Charlottenburg market. Furthermore, the whole city is full of luminaries and Christmas trees that you can admire even from the comfort of your seat in the tourist bus. Also, you shouldn’t miss a cocktail visit to the Berlin Icebar. It’s a bar made of ice, thus adding up to the whole winter atmosphere.
23. Naples, Italy
And another turn to Italy, to the beautiful city Naples. It’s the city where Christmas is a very heartfelt period full of ancient traditions. The city is completely decorated, the lights invade every street and the shops sell typical Christmas products.
As in the other cities, here also you can find plenty of Christmas markets scattered throughout the city, some of which are open from the end of November. If you visit Naples in this period, you have to see via San Gregorio Armeno, the famous street of the crib artisans. Here, you will find many figurines for the nativity scene. They come in any size and with the most specific shapes and representations – from the most traditional figures to those representing characters from the world of entertainment, sport, politics, and much more.
24. Oslo, Norway
The capital of Norway, Oslo, is a wonderful city with the typical charm of the Northern European cities. During the holiday season, it is filled with lights and decorations, illuminating the long Norwegian night.
This is also the best time to learn about ancient Norwegian traditions. The holidays begin with Advent and the lighting of trees and lights. Numerous markets are set up in the city and there are also numerous fairs during December, such as The Annual Christmas Fair, between late November and early December, and the Designer’s Christmas Market, on a weekend in early December. In this period it is also traditional to organize a julebord, a pre-Christmas dinner/party where traditional Christmas dishes are served.
In addition, there are skating rinks set up throughout the city, remaining open throughout the winter and usually closed in early March. The most famous is the Spikersuppa run, inside Studenterlunden Park. This rink is fully decorated and surrounded by kiosks selling hot drinks (work hours 11:00-21:00, free admission, skate rental NOK 150.00/€13.80).
The last but no less impressive city on our list is Innsbruck, the capital of Tyrol, Austria. It’s not far from the Italian border and it’s located in the Alps, which makes it a perfect location for winter sports. It’s the ideal destination to combine Christmas traditions and skiing!
Walking down the streets of the city you can visit 6 Christmas markets. The most famous is the Christkindlmarkt Altstadt Innsbruc, located in the old town. This is also a chance to taste the excellent traditional sweets.
But, as already mentioned, Innsbruck is also a paradise for winter sports lovers thanks to the many nearby ski areas. One of them is Olympia Skiworld Innsbruck, which includes 9 different ski areas.