Top 11 Christmas Towns Around the World
Whether you’re hankering for a taste of Christmas outside the jolly season or simply after some inspiration for your next December vacation, these international Tinsel Towns (not that one) have you covered. From meeting Santa Claus in his Arctic home to soaking up some Christmas sun in the southern hemisphere, here are 11 of the most festivity-infused destinations around the world.
This small Alaskan town just outside Fairbanks has become a year-round Christmas treat, thanks to its themed streets, resident reindeer, and Santa Claus House. And when the winter brings its seasonal snow, the Chena Lake Recreation Area becomes a festive playground with dog sledding and snowmobile tours.
Capital of Lapland and official home of one Mr. Claus, Rovaniemi is a place of pilgrimage for Christmas enthusiasts of all ages. Meet the man himself at the SantaPark Arctic World or Santa Claus Village or borrow his reindeer for a ride around snowy Lapland.
Basel’s award-winning Christmas markets take place every year between late November and December 23 over two town squares. Highlights include the Christmas Tram, Christmas Ferry, and traditional 42-foot (13-meter) mulled wine pyramid. Basel’s location close to two international borders also makes it easy to tick off several European markets in just a few days.
Atlixco celebrates not one but two winter festivals in close succession. From November, the city is illuminated by larger-than-life light features, sky lanterns, and funfairs as part of the Festival de la Iluminación. Then, in early January, the Festival de la Ilusión rings in the Epiphany with a float parade and balloon launch. Day trips from Puebla are a convenient way to immerse yourself in the city’s festive spirit.
From the first Saturday of Advent, Prague transforms into an enchanting Christmas enclave with multiple markets springing up around the city’s squares and castle complex. Learn about Czech traditions including the Golden Pig, savor trdelník pastries, and admire the vibrant Vánoce decorations on a walking tour of the city’s markets.
Often overlooked in favor of the UK capital, Birmingham boasts seasonal charm of its very own. The Frankfurt Christmas Market—the largest such market outside the German-speaking world—takes place every year from early November to December 23. Sample glühwein, bratwurst, and schnitzel or ride the Big Wheel for Christmassy views of the Midland metropolis.
Though December markets have been taking place for millenia, it’s thought that Dresden’s 1434 Streizelmarkt was among the first proper Christmas markets in the world. Today, the traditional market can still be visited all through Advent, along with several others around Prager Strasse, Dresden Castle, and Frauenkirche.
Where better to immerse yourself in the Christmas story than the original setting? Bethlehem is a year-round nativity attraction, with tourism reaching its peak in December. Attend Christmas Eve mass in the Church of the Nativity or visit off-season and combine with a tour of Jericho.
Singapore’s Christmas lights are a spectacle not to be missed. The Gardens by The Bay hosts a Christmas Wonderland every year, which features incredible illuminations, plus a market, funfair, and Santa’s Grotto. Other Christmas crackers include the Orchard Road and Chinatown seasonal displays.
Medellín’s famous El Alumbrado festival sees millions of colorful Christmas lights and enormous glowing figures illuminate the city’s streets, parks, and river. The festival traditionally begins on December 7, Colombia’s Día de las Velitas (Little Candle Day), and is best viewed on an afterdark tour of the city.
Experience a quintessential Christmas down under in sunny Sydney. Don’t miss the city’s annual light display, now at the Royal Botanic Gardens, which includes choir performances, festive projections, and artisanal markets. Other festive highlights include Darling Harbour’s Christmas weekenders and Christmas Day cruise tours.