The Best Cities to Visit for Christmas

Something magical happens during the Christmas season; streets are adorned with lights and garland, carolers joyfully share their melodies and the scents of cinnamon and sugar grace the air. Festivities fill city squares from Scandinavia to Mexico and if you’re lucky you may even catch a glimpse of Santa as he prepares for his big night. Whether you’re looking for Old World tradition or big city splendor, these ten cities know how to celebrate the holidays.

The Best Cities to visit for

London, England

Come Christmas time the streets of London sparkle with lights and festive decorations. Take in a traditional Christmas markets in Hyde Park or take a spin around the ice rink at the Tower of London. Be sure to save room for a traditional British Christmas pudding,a delicious steamed dessert typically served with a splash of flaming brandy.


Photo Credit: Cassie Sereda
Christmas lights grace the streets of London, the city comes alive during the holiday season. The Best Cities to Visit for


Rovaniemi, Finland

Instead of patiently awaiting for Saint Nick’s arrival on Christmas Eve what about heading up north to pay him a visit? The town of Rovaniemi in the northern reaches of Finnish Lapland is known as the official hometown of Santa Claus.Visit Santa Claus Village where you can bake gingerbread with Mrs. Claus, take a reindeer-drawn sleigh ride and experience the magic of the Northern Lights.Head north to Rovaniemi, Finland to visit the Hometown of Santa Claus and take a reindeer drawn sleigh ride.The Best Cities to visit for


Nestled in the Austrian Alps Salzburg gets high marks for traditional Christmas charm. Wander the  beautifully decorated cobblestone lanes of the Altstadt, or Old Town, with a warm mug of gluwein in hand. After checking out one of the Christmas markets around Salzburg head out to nearby Oberndorf, the tiny alpine town where the iconic Christmas carol “Silent Night” was written.

Shop for the perfect Christmas gift in Salzburg's charming Old Town. The Best Cities to visit for

Prague, Czech Republic

The winding cobblestone streets and spires of Prague are just magical during the holidays. In Old Town Square the Tyn Church serves as a backdrop for the majestic Christmas tree brought in from the northern forests of the Czech Republic as well as the Christmas Market where you can shop for traditional wooden toys, ornaments and marionettes. Warm up with a mug of mulled wine and a tredlnik, a traditional pastry coated with sugar and toasted nuts.


Quebec City, Canada

Beautifully decorated lights and a blanket of snow highlight the old world charms of Quebec City during the holidays. The cobblestone streets of the Rue de Petit-Champlain evoke the spirit of Christmas past while the hotel Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, the grande dame of Quebec City, is dressed in her holiday finest.

Photo credit: Tamara Gruber

A sleigh ride is the perfect way to enjoy Quebec City during the holidays. The Best Cities to visit for

New York City

A popular destination anytime of the year, the Big Apple is at its best during the holiday season. Admire the festive window displays along Fifth Avenue, glide around the ice rink in Central Park and check out the glorious Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center bedecked with over 30,000 twinkling lights. The Radio City Music Spectacular, featuring the world famous Rockettes, is a holiday classic that always delights.


Nowhere else celebrates the Christmas quite like New York City. The Best Cities to visit for


New Orleans, Louisiana

It’s no secret that New Orleans knows how to celebrate and that goes double for the holidays. Bonfires along the levees light the way for Papa Noel while carolers sing in the season in Jackson Square.Take in a dazzling light display in City Park or tour homes in the French Quarter and Garden District decked out in their Christmas finest before celebrating Christmas Eve with a traditional Reveillon dinner at one of the many great restaurants in New Orleans.

New Orleans sure knows how to celebrate the holiday season. The Best Cities to visit for

Chicago, Illinois

With over one million Christmas lights and dazzling holiday displays adorning store windows, Chicago‘s Magnificent Mile is even more magnificent. Take a spin on the ice skating rink at Millennial Park to work up an appetite for kringle and hot chocolate at Chicago’s Christkindlmarket, Chicago’s largest open-air Christmas Market inspired by the traditional markets of Germany.


Minutes from downtown Washington D.C. the colonial streets of Alexandria ring in the holidays with a European flair.  Join 45 Scottish clans on Alexandria’s brick-paved streets during the annual Scottish Christmas Walk, where tartan clad pipe and drum bands herald the arrival of Santa. For a more colonial Christmas stop by the historic Carlyle House where you can experience the holidays as they were celebrated during the American Revolution or enjoy a candlelight tour of George Washington’s Mount Vernon. With over 160 independent shops in Old Town Alexandria you’re sure to find the perfect gift for everyone on your list.

Photo Credit: R. Kennedy for Visit Alexandria

Welcome the holiday season at the Scottish Walk Parade in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. The Best Cities to visit for

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

The beautiful colonial city of San Miguel de Allende celebrates with Christmas season with a decidedly Mexican flair. Festive processions fill the cobblestone streets while revelers (with cups of ponche, a Mexican hot toddy , in hand) celebrate with posadas reenactments, fireworks,  live music and dancing.


Do you have a favorite destination that is just magical at Christmas? Please share with me in the comments!



65 Comments on “The Best Cities to Visit for Christmas

  1. These look so magical! I would love to go to Iceland (Reykjavik) for Christmas, or try Munich with all the holiday markets. Goa (India) is great this time of year too.

    • Munich is also super high on my list and the beaches of Goa would be amazing.

  2. I’m happy to see my hometown, NYC, Christmas is definitely the best time to visit! I’m also excited to see London, England because we are spending Christmas this year in that lovely town, we can’t wait to go to The Christmas markets in Hyde Park and have pudding!
    Brenda Tolentino recently posted…Berjaya Langkawi Resort, One with NatureMy Profile

    • How lucky you guys are to be spending time in London during the holidays!

  3. I visited Quebec City in the winter for the Ice Festival. It was 30 degrees BELOW zero. This made nothing fun….take into consideration the weather at Christmas if you choose Quebec City. It is a wonderful and lovely city, but winter is no joke!

  4. I have been to London and New York are pins Christmas but haven’t been to any others. Christmas really does turn places into a super magical place. Thanks for new inspiration for our holidays!! I already have Finland on the list. Got to make it before my son no longer believes!
    Karilyn recently posted…Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide for Traveling FamiliesMy Profile

    • Paris is always a good idea, I bet its just splendid during the holidays.

  5. Oh my! I love Christmas and it’s my favorite holiday. What a great list. I would definitely head to Finland to see that reindeer! So adorable. And of course nothing beats NYC during the holidays. Holidays in New York reminds me of the movies I used to watch like You’ve got mail. 😀
    Janna C recently posted…Utah Road Trip Guide: Dead Horse Point State ParkMy Profile

    • NYC Christmas makes me think of Elf, hands down my favorite Christmas movie!

  6. Oh yes, my favorite so far is Cologne, Germany! They have so many Christmas markets, all walking distance in a totally walkable city! It was such a fabulous atmosphere and the food and gluhwein were fantastic! I wouldn’t be against visiting any of these cities on your list, though!

  7. So many lovely places to visit! Living in CA, it never feels quite like XMas with all the sunshine and palm trees, but one of my favorite XMas memories was touring the Christmas markets in France and Germany. Everything is so well decorated with great food and wine. It definitely gets you in the spirit!
    Kelly @ TastingPage recently posted…Napa Valley Wine Tasting WeekendMy Profile

    • Truth be told food is my favorite part of the holiday season (and any other season for that matter.

  8. I love the excitement and decorations of big cities at Christmas. We were in San Francisco around the holidays a couple of years recently and it was a lot of fun to see Union Square all lit up and the tree, ice rink, etc. I also love Italy at Christmas. The decorations are so beautiful.
    Jenna recently posted…For Your WeekendMy Profile

    • I’d love to see SF done up for the holidays, I’m sure its just beautiful!

  9. Great list. London and NYC would be near the top of my list for Christmas also, though my favorite is Austin Texas, not only is it the live music capital of the world, during Christmas we also have Trail of lights, The Austin Trail of Lights is consistently included in Top 10 National Light Festivals by USA Today. MY 2nd favorite is Vienna Austria, the christmas market outside the city center si amazing!
    arvin recently posted…Things to do in Dublin IrelandMy Profile

    • You’ve mentioned two of my favorite cities, I’m sure both are even better during the holidays!

  10. You know, I have never spent Christmas elsewhere but in the Philippines. It’s something I have been meaning to try though. Despite that, I guess, I am happy that I am with family during the holiday season. They’re not a big fan of holiday rush so we spend it all in one place but all celebrating and happy anyway, so that is good too.

    • Spending time with family and friends is really what the holidays are about aren’t they?

  11. Fabulous post! My husband and I will be in Nice, France for the holidays this year. Hoping it’s a festive spot as well, but reading this made me want to experience Finland! Maybe next year 🙂

    • I’m sure Nice will be just lovely! Is there ever a bad time to spend time on the RIviera?

    • I never would have thought of Japan for Christmas but I’m sure the light displays are spectacular!

    • I came close as many of the traditions we associate with CHristmas are German in origin.

  12. What a great list of cities to choose from. I visited Quebec City for the first time in May this year and can imagine how fabulous it would be at Christmas.

    In Europe can I also suggest Munich? Its Christmas market is very unappreciated and there is Dallemeyer for fabulous food treats. Visiting Neuschwanstein in the snow is a magical experience
    Jo recently posted…Four budget Paris food treats under $100My Profile

    • Being that Salzburg ws on the list I made the tough choice not to include Vienna(another city I love).

  13. I have visited a few on your list and will be heading to London today to enjoy a few days of festive spirit. I think NY is fun during the holidays and Chicago is always on my go to list. I really need to visit more European cities next year and Prague is towards the top

  14. Some of these were surprising to us! We’d love to see New Orleans at Christmas – it seems like it would be such an interesting experience!

    We were just recently in Rothenburg, Germany and it was a pretty magical experience with their Christmas market at the centre of the walled city and all the shops with christmas displays and decorations.
    Carolann & Macrae – One Modern Couple recently posted…Toronto Christmas Market – A Distillery District Winter WonderlandMy Profile

  15. I love to get away for Christmas because it’s my birthday then and I’ve spent it at various places. My pick from your list would be Rovaniemi, so I could finally spot the Aurora and go dogsledding 🙂

    • It doesn’t get any better than visiting the home of Santa does it? THe Northern Lights are definitely on my travel wish list.

  16. Every year we celebrate our Christmas in our home. but this time we want to celebrate it in another place. For this reason, we finding which city is best to visit for Christmas. After reading your article I collect much information. I think new york city is the best place to visit for our next Christmas. thanks for sharing your article.

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