It’s the most wonderful time of the year and the festive season brings a magical atmosphere with sparkling Christmas lights, buzzing markets and a sense of joy in the air. From parties to presents and spending time with loved ones, the month of December is one that is highly anticipated all year round.
Take in all the seasonal delights from drinking mulled wine and sampling delicious delicacies to walking through markets filled with trinkets and candlelit displays. Get into the Christmas spirit and don’t miss a visit to these cities where light shows and markets are a part of tradition.
When it comes to creating some winter magic, the Nordics know how to do it right. Stockholm goes all out with its annual decorations and celebrations which includes their famous 120-foot Christmas tree which is placed in the center of the old town for the festive period. Accompanying this are glittering Christmas lights in white and gold hues, lining the street of the city.
Experience Stockholm’s Christmas markets to get a real feel for the place and the city isn’t short of them. The Skansen Christmas market is the most famous and has been running for over 110 years. Here you can try the local Christmas delicacies while being surrounded by the traditional architecture.
Lisbon is one of the prettiest European cities, but it truly comes alive during the festive season. Starting from the end of November, over two million lights will make the city sparkle with the riverside Comercio Square lit up by giant light installations and multimedia projections, but their centerpiece is the magnificent Christmas tree.
For one month, the Marechal Carmona Park becomes the magical Christmas Village and this years theme is the “Journey to the Magic of Christmas”. Attractions include the enchanted woods, Santa’s house, ice-skating rinks and you can pet the reindeer while you’re there.
Medellin hosts one of the biggest Christmas light shows in the world, let alone in South America. Millions of lights are illuminated in stunning displays, all with different themes each year. People from around the world travel to the festival to get a glimpse of the spectacular light show.
Located on the Medellin River and started in 1995, it draws in crowds of around 60,000 people who can’t wait to see the 27 million bulbs and 472 miles of light hoses. The city try to outdo themselves each year and this one is no exception. With warm temperatures in December, you can expect plenty of parties in the streets.
Paris is known as the city of love and when you add stunning Christmas lights across the city to that equation, it is more magical than ever. While the sparkling lights of the Eiffel Tower are special, the Champs Elysees is also illuminated with beautiful displays down the boulevard. With so many Christmas markets to choose from, you will be spoilt for choice with each of them selling delicious food and providing exciting attractions.
The les Halles Christmas market is one of the biggest in the city, but the Marché de Noël Champs Elysees, Village de Noël at Champs de Mars and Marché de Noël at Notre Dame are all special markets which draw in thousands of visitors to feel the Parisian Christmas magic.
Just like many other things in Japan, Christmas lights are ultra hi-tech and some of the most sophisticated in the world. The Carretta Shiodome has an Aladdin-Arabian nights LED display which usually attracts over half a million visitors every year.
Due to Japan’s love of Disney, the Caretta Shiodome has collaborated with Disney movies including Beauty And The Beast, Frozen and Tangled to make themed Christmas displays over the years which includes special lights and the movie soundtracks. For any Disney lover, this one is a must-see over November and December.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Experience the best of Rio de Janeiro over the Christmas season. Just because temperatures are in the 80’s doesn’t mean that Rio would give up the chance to join in with the celebrations. Christmas in Rio is just as big as Carnival, so expect plenty of fireworks, and a giant illuminated, floating Christmas tree.
The attractions bring in over 100,000 people from around the world, ready to party Brazil style. If you’re not one for the cold but don’t want to miss out on the celebrations of Christmas, then this is the place for you.
Berlin doesn’t do Christmas by half and the German capital is home to more than 50 Christmas markets. With all these Christmas markets, there won’t be a single thing you can’t find between all of them. Winter World on Potsdamer Platz is considered the favorite market by locals and from the beginning of November it becomes a winter wonderland. The Weihnachtszauber at the Gendarmenmarkt is one of the more classic Christmas markets which appeals to every person.
Find plenty of handmade trinkets here as well as delicious food which you can wash down with a classic German beer while you listen to live bands. For families, head over to the Berliner Weihnachtszeit at Roten Rathaus which houses a 600m squared ice rink as well as lots of rides for hours of winter fun.
London comes alive around Christmas time. The lights on Oxford Street and Regent Street are a must see as the retailers all have their own magnificent decorations, trying to outdo one another each year. Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park is one of the biggest and best Christmas markets where revellers go to enjoy the atmosphere, sing and dance in the beer tents and ride the rides.
Somerset House has its annual ice rink which is packed every day in the Christmas period. Christmas in London means plenty of parties and drinking. You can find a fantastic mulled wine almost anywhere and take in the pretty lights on all of the main streets.
As the most buzzing and vibrant place in Denmark, Copenhagen transforms into a twinkling paradise during Christmas. Everyone in the streets will welcome you and invite you to many different parties and events across the city. Walk through the streets which are illuminated by half a million lights and hundreds of Christmas trees which prove to be a magnificent sight and will be sure to get you into the Christmas spirit.
Sip on some cinnamon-infused mulled wine while you navigate through the Chritstmas markets. The Nyhavn market is one of the most popular and sits right on the harbor. Walk the cobblestoned streets and snap some photos of the gorgeous surroundings.
December is definitely the right time to visit Brussels as you will feel the city come to life. The open areas around Bourse stock exchange, the Place de la Monnaie, the Place Sainte-Catherine, and the Marché aux Poissons are transformed into a winter wonderland.
Expect to see more than 200 wood chalets, an ice rink, an illuminated ferris wheel and all the market stalls you could think of. Even if you don’t plan on buying anything, you’ll most definitely leave with a bunch of things you didn’t plan to buy.
The windy city knows how to do Christmas right and Chicago morphs into a magical winter wonderland with plenty of events and attractions. Their Christmas lights are a sight to see and the Lincoln Park Zoo is lit up with 2.5 million bulbs during the annual ZooLights event.
You can also skate under the Chicago skyline at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park. If that wasn’t enough, the Chicago Botanic Garden host a display of festive lights each year including the 110-foot tunnel made up of 100,000 lights.
If you want to get a taste of tradition over the Christmas period, look no further than Colmar in France. It is arguably the most charming Alsatian town with crooked houses set on crooked lanes, something that is synonymous with the town. Over Christmas, you will really feel the ambiance of the Old Town, illuminated and decorated like a fairy tale.
Their Christmas market has five different sections, offering entertainment and activities for everyone. Along with the sights, the local foods can’t be missed with different market stalls selling delicious sweets, pastries and meats.
You will really feel the winter freeze when in Edinburgh over Christmas with temperatures plunging into the minuses quite frequently, but you can keep warm with a whiskey hot chocolate or a fragrant mulled wine. Edinburgh is home to many Christmas markets but the most popular by far is the Princes Street Garden.
You can ride on the rides, sample local foods, purchase some Scottish crafts and toys and even go ice skating in their rink. The whole city is lit up with sparkling lights and huge Christmas trees. You can even take your kids to Santa’s grotto to meet the big man himself.
What place on earth could be more Christmassy than Lapland? As Father Christmas’ hometown, you will feel like you’re right in the center of all things Christmas here. Blanketed in deep snow with wooden cabins, go and visit Santa Claus Village and Santa Park, pet the reindeer and walk through some of the best Christmas markets around the world.
Stay warm by a fire and drink hot cocoa with the kids, they will truly feel like that have entered the land of Christmas. An added bonus is you may get the chance to see the Northern Lights at night.
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague turns into an idyllic Christmas paradise over December with festive treats, stunning lights and amazing attractions. Prague’s Christmas markets come alive at night and the atmospheric, lit-up stands in the square are a sight to see. Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square both contain plenty of different stalls, selling everything from local foods and sweet treats to handmade artsy souvenirs.
Do not miss out on the traditional sweet pastry the spindle-shaped Trdelnik which is covered with cinnamon and sugar and sometimes filled with ice cream. It will go down a treat.
Toronto’s Christmas market is very much a beloved part of the city. Hear the sounds of choir children singing Christmas hymns as you walk through the market stalls and gorgeous Christmas lights and trees which line the streets. From handcrafted products to all different kinds of delicious food trucks, you will be more than satisfied with your evening.
Your kids can come along and meet Santa’s elves and enjoy the musical entertainment. Don’t miss out on the piping hot mulled wine which perfectly complements the whole Christmas atmosphere. Whether you want a Christmas twist on some poutine or a nice mug of hot cocoa, the market has it all.
Amsterdam are known for having some of the best Christmas lights and markets in Europe. The annual Amsterdam Light Festival attracts thousands of tourists each year as the beautiful city center and the canals sparkle from the magnificent lights designed by international artists.
This year’s theme is “DISRUPT!” and 20 up-and-coming artists from 16 countries were handpicked to make their illuminated vision come to life. The Amsterdam Winter Paradise and Ice Village Amsterdam are among the best Christmas markets, serving all kinds of delicious foods along with having attractions including ice-skating rinks, a giant ferris wheel and plenty of parties.
You are guaranteed a white Christmas when you go to Aspen during December. The city up in the Colorado mountains is blanketed in snow with Christmas decorations in all corners, giving you that warm, fuzzy and festive feeling. Whether you want to spend your days skiing on the world-class pistes, or take advantage of the amazing shopping districts, you won’t be disappointed.
When you need to warm up, there are plenty of cosy lodges where you can sit by a fireplace with some mulled wine. Listen to the sounds of Christmas music playing everywhere and get a picturesque walk to your dinner reservation as you see the fairy lights and Christmas trees adorning many of the buildings.
New York City, USA
The Big Apple knows how to do Christmas right, and this is the reason why so many Christmas movies have been set in New York City. From November to January, New York is lit up with stunning Christmas lights. From fairy lights lining Fifth Avenue to the world-famous Rockefeller Christmas Tree which stands at 77-feet and adorned with thousands of ornaments, a star made of three million Swarovski crystals and more than 50,000 LED lights, it is New York staple.
Go skating on the ice-rink below the tree and walk through the displays of gold-lit angels. Don’t forget that all the major retailers have their own Christmas lights that surround the buildings and light it all up.
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