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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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!