While Christmas is a time to spend with family, the allure of the many unique ways that different cultures celebrate the holiday is often too much to resist. Whether you crave dashing through the snow in a horse-drawn sleigh or making your friends jealous by getting a tan on the beach, there is a Christmas getaway that’s perfect just for you...
1. Rome, Italy
For those of the Catholic faith, Rome is the most special place to spend Christmas. Aside from the religious festivities, spending Christmas in Rome is a great way to see the city without all the crowds of tourists. Piazza Navona transforms into a traditional Christmas market with shopping, food, and performers, while the many historical sites are aflame with brilliant Christmas lights.
2. New York City, USA
The Big Apple is as enchanting as ever come Christmas time. For those who crave a vacation full of things to do and see, there is no better place to visit than New York City. Whether it is taking in a show on Broadway, window shopping at the boutiques of world famous designers, or ice skating in the iconic Rockefeller Center, there is no shortage of ways to spend a Christmas vacation in New York City.
3. Paris, France
There is no better way to spend the holiday as a couple than in the most romantic city in the world. In the City of Lights, a nickname even more fitting during the holiday season, travellers trade in Santa Claus for Père Noel and feast on world famous cuisine and wine selections with Christmas flair. When visitors have had their fill of authentic French food, there are tonnes of shopping boutiques, little cafes and romantic spots to explore.
4. Lucerne, Switzerland
Lucerne may not be first on anyone's list as a Swiss Christmas destination, but it always goes all-out in its celebration of the holidays. From the whole town gathering in front of the Hofkirche to greet Saint Nicholas, to the mechanical nativity scene outside the Museum of History, there are a lot of great Christmas-themed events in Lucerne. Be sure to visit one of the many Christmas markets or enjoy the view of the city from Lake Lucerne on a festive boat ride. Lucerne is a great place to avoid the crowds of Zurich and have a romantically festive getaway in the Swiss Alps.
5. Montreal, Canada
Do you want the Paris experience this Christmas, but you don't have the Paris budget? Montreal isn't exactly the City of Lights, but the French influence gives the city a real European feel. During the Christmas season, Montreal’s streets are lined with colourful floats, ice skating rinks and Christmas markets, as well as traditional Santa Claus and French-themed Défilé de Noël parades. Perhaps the best part of Christmas in Montreal is all the French-themed holiday foods, like candied chestnuts and buttery pastries.
6. Bora Bora, Polynesia
Christmas doesn't have to be about snow. Bora Bora is sparse in the way of holiday cheer, but its natural beauty brings a cheer all its own. While all your friends are busy shovelling snow, you can be relaxing in a hammock between two lovely palm trees. With the crystal clear water, the white sandy beaches and the serene green mountain backdrop, you may just forget that it’s the Christmas season after all.
7. Edinburgh, Scotland
Edinburgh is a thrill regardless of the season, but during Christmas the city really lights up – literally. The city hosts some fabulous Christmas markets, as well as Europe's largest open air ice rink – Winter Wonderland in Princes Street Gardens. Don’t miss the chance to see hundreds of bagpipers gather around the Sir Walter Scott Monument to play Amazing Grace on Christmas Day.
8. Park City, USA
For those who want to spend Christmas on the slopes without the crowds of destinations like Aspen, Park City, Utah, is the place to be. Each year the city receives a metre of snow, giving it no shortage of powder to coat its many skiing and snowboarding trails. There are plenty of accommodation options close to the vibrant bars and night clubs. With world class skiing, over 100 unique shops and residents who really know how to party away the night, Park City is a great getaway for travellers young and old.
9. Lapland, Finland
Lapland is truly festive place for the holiday season. It's extremely cold and snowy, which allows for sled dog rides, reindeer petting and cruising around on snowmobiles. Lapland also plays host to the Christmas Village, which is a rather believable home to Santa Claus. It is not located at the North Pole, but it sure feels like it is! However, the biggest draw of Lapland during the holiday season is easily the Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights. Those lights in the night sky are definitely not something to miss.
10. Dubai, UAE
Dubai is essentially the Las Vegas of the Middle East. It is also one of the shopping capitals of the world, so be sure to pick up some gifts to give to your friends who are not lucky enough to get a warm Christmas getaway this year. Enjoy the skyline filled with uniquely shaped buildings and visit some of the world's best water parks.
11. Kangaroo Island, Australia
A Christmas getaway on Kangaroo Island is for those who want a little adventure. Whether it is hiking up mountains to enjoy a panoramic view of the island or exploring the island’s caves, there is an adventure waiting for you. However, the biggest draw of Kangaroo Island is Seal Bay where guests can walk along the beach and see the basking and occasionally playful Australian sea lions.
12. Munich, Germany
Germany is a popular choice for many travellers during the Christmas season, as it is the home of the traditional Christmas markets. People flock to Munich each year to relax with a hot glass of mulled cider, watch street performers from the warmth of a cafe, or see the festivities at the annual Tollwood Winter Festival. Of course, any trip to Bavaria would not be complete without a stop at a German beer garden. The standout favourite for travellers is the Hofbrauhaus, where they make it Oktoberfest all year round.
13. Madrid, Spain
For those in the mood for a fiesta this holiday season, Madrid is the place to go. With holiday songs redone with Latin flare and holiday food with a spicy twist, Christmas in Madrid is unique. Just remember that Christmas Eve happens on January 5th in Spain, as they use the Julian calendar dates. For an exciting new look at the festive season, be sure to catch the Three Kings Parade on January 5th.
14. Quebec City, Canada
Quebec City is a nice alternative to Montreal because it is a smaller town and has fewer crowds during the Christmas season. With its European influence, Quebec City is a quaint little town with mansard roofs, stone buildings and cobblestone streets. There are Christmas markets and Nordic-style spas to enjoy, as well as an opportunity to go sled-riding. For those who want a real treat on their Christmas getaway, be sure to try and get a room at Quebec City's famous Ice Hotel – a hotel made completely from snow and ice. It may be a cold night, but a stay there will make for a great story.
15. Sydney, Australia
Celebrating Christmas by having a barbeque on the beach may seem a bit odd to those from the northern Hemisphere, but in Australia that is how they do it every single year. However, just because it is hot doesn't mean that it’s any less festive. When all the Christmas lights go up, Sydney's iconic skyline glows a bit brighter. On Christmas Eve, be sure to head down to Darling Harbor to watch Santa Claus arrive by boat accompanied by an epic firework display. And on Boxing Day, you will want to return to see the start of the massive Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.
16. Prague, Czech Republic
Prague's Old Town is universally agreed to be a wondrous sight at this time of year. Christmas transforms this medieval town into a flurry of lights, colours and scents, all wrapped up in a thick white blanket. Prague's Central Square hosts puppet shows and the local children get dressed up in traditional Christmas costumes.
17. Reykjavik, Iceland
Reykjavik is a great place to cuddle up for a romantic Christmas getaway. If there is one thing unique about Reykjavik, it is their Christmas traditions. Whether it is gnome-hunting or gathering to watch singing Santas in the city square, there’s always something unique to do in Reykjavik. As many of the locals are deeply invested in family time, Christmas Eve is quite the quiet event. Be sure to try the traditional Christmas meal of smoked lamb, pickled cabbage and ptarmigan in a local restaurant.
18. Bruges, Belgium
There is no town the melds sightseeing and the celebration of Christmas better than Bruges. While wandering through the winding streets of this medieval jewel, it is only natural to want to cling onto the city and never go home. The prospect of staying is even more tempting when travellers get a taste of some of that famous Belgian chocolate. Check out the annual Snow and Ice Sculpture Festival which showcases ice-sculpting talent from all over the world.
19. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
When one combines the festive season with a knack for throwing some of the best parties around, it’s a recipe for the most exciting Christmas a younger traveller will ever have. Whether it is dancing on the beach to Latin-themed Christmas jingles or hanging around the docks to see the city celebrate Christmas with fireworks, there is always something going on in Rio during the Christmas holidays.
20. Puebla, Mexico
For those who want to celebrate Christmas the traditional Mexican way, there is no place more welcoming than Puebla. Watch the traditional Las Posadas progression nightly as the local children re-enact Mary and Joseph's journey, or kick back and enjoy some mole – a spicy chocolate sauce flavored with hot chilies, cinnamon and fruit. This quiet city doesn't have much in the way of nightlife, but it more than makes up for it in culture.
21. Tokyo, Japan
While spending Christmas in Japan, travellers will undoubtedly notice the amount of couples out and about. Christmas in Japan is a couple's holiday. This makes it quite the romantic option for a Christmas getaway. And although the Japanese don't really celebrate Christmas, that doesn't mean there will be any lack of decoration. Tokyo lights up every year with Christmas lights.
22. Bethlehem, Israel
What is the most traditional place to spend Christmas? Why in Bethlehem, of course! Bethlehem, Israel is the centre of nativity scenes worldwide. Every year thousands of people make the pilgrimage there for Christmas, making it quite the sight to behold. Nothing can put one closer to the meaning of Christmas that sitting in the Church of Nativity.
Have you spent Christmas in any of these tinsel-tastic places?
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