10 Cities Around the World Worth Traveling to For Christmas
When it comes to Christmas celebrations, cities across the world all have their own special way of getting in the spirit. Sure, there are some constants — say, twinkling lights and decorated trees — but different places all have their unique traditions, from tree-lighting ceremonies to fruitcake tosses (I'm looking at you, North Dakota!). This holiday season, if you're up for getting a stamp in your passport, the following 10 international cities totally nail it when it comes to Christmas magic. Get ready for spicy mulled wine, expansive holiday markets, and some serious yuletide spirit.
Warm up with cup of mulled wine as you explore everything this romantic city has to offer during the Winter holidays. Markets begin to open in mid-November, offering everything from freshly poured candles to handmade shoes. The main shopping streets put on an impressive display of twinkling Christmas lights, and big storefronts and hotels will join in, too. The Vienna Boys' Choir, easily one of the most recognizable choirs in the world, is ready to serenade you with all the holiday classics.
Often referred to as the "Capital of Christmas," this festive city's famous Christmas market has existed since the late 1500s. One of the oldest markets in Europe, it attracts nearly 2 million visitors every year. Guests indulge in fresh sweets and doughnuts while they shop for original ornaments and handmade trinkets from hundreds of vendors. Visitors and locals alike gather to admire the giant Christmas tree and strap on ice skates to roll around the rink with loved ones. There are, of course, beautiful window displays, caroling, and colorful decorations abound.
If you're going to spend Christmas in Bruges, you better bring your sweet tooth. The city is famous for its chocolate, and during the holiday season, the offerings are on steroids. Start with a mug of hot chocolate at The Chocolate House and then sample Belgian chocolate at Grote Markt, the oldest market in the city. Then, work it all off on the adjacent ice skating rink. The city also has fantastic festive window displays and Christmas shopping.
There's some debate over whether or not Tallin erected the world's first Christmas tree, but either way, the city has been decorating evergreens in honor of the holiday for more than 500 years, which definitely wins it points in Christmas spirit. Today, the city holds an annual contest for the most beautiful spruce tree, and the winner serves as the centerpiece in the Christmas market held in the town square. At the famous market, guests shop locally made gifts and sample traditional Estonian fare like gingerbread, black pudding, and sauerkraut.
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague, with its parade of colorful buildings, expansive bridges, and charming cobblestone streets, is picturesque any time of the year. Throw in decorated Christmas trees, gleaming light displays, and a dusting of snow and you have a straight-up fairy tale. The two most popular Christmas markets are set up within five minutes of each other in the historic Old Town quarter, where visitors can browse traditional Czech huts offering visitors anything from nutcrackers to hot wine.
This time of year, London seriously turns up the bling. Sparkling displays of Christmas lights are set up all over town, with the must sees including Oxford Street, Carnaby Christmas Lights, and Covent Garden Christmas (but the list continues). There's even a Christmas Lights Bike Tour, a three-hour trek around the city to take in the sparkling illuminations that makes pit stops at holiday markets and huge landmarks. Pop-up igloos and festive dinner shows along with the traditional Christmas markets and ice skating rinks can be enjoyed by all.
What could put you more in the Christmas spirit than exploring Santa Claus Village? Venture to the arctic circle in Lapland, where you'll meet the man in red himself. Then warm up with a cup of hot chocolate and venture out for a day of dog sledding or tobogganing in the fresh snow. You can even visit a reindeer farm to really put you in the spirit.
In Edinburgh, Christmas isn't just a one-day celebration. This gorgeous Scottish city keeps the holiday festivities in full swing for six weeks. The streets are lined with Christmas markets, pop-up ice rinks, and lights, lights, and more lights! The city goes crazy with festive rides and attractions, like candy cane bungees, ice wall climbing, and the famous Christmas tree maze. If you prefer to sit back and relax, a variety of holiday shows are on deck, like the highly acclaimed La Clique Noel.
This magical alpine city becomes a dreamy Christmas wonderland beginning in late November with thousands of lights strung up and the smell of cinnamon permeating the air. The main train station boasts a highly Instagrammable 49-foot Christmas tree. Holiday markets are set up all over town, from the Opera House to Old Town, with all kinds of jolly goodies. Sip on mulled wine while you browse the gifts and decorations, then warm up with the city's famous Swiss fondue.
If shopping is your favorite Christmas activity, then Nuremberg is the place for you. People gather from around the world for the world famous Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt (Christmas market). Dating back to the early 1600s, this market still radiates tradition; each of the 180 stalls is made of regional spruce, and the city takes pride in what kind of goods can be sold. Vendors go through a rigorous approval process to be granted a spot, meaning no plastics or mass-produced goods. Instead, find hand-carved nutcrackers, hand-painted ornaments, and freshly baked gingerbread.