Christmas has a lot of different meanings to people around the world, which is why every culture celebrates the holiday in unique and wonderful ways. If you love to travel for Christmas, there are destinations around the world that are absolutely not to be missed during this specific time of year. Whether you are seeking the traditional or the unconventional, there are cities and regions that offer whatever your heart desires. From the sandy beaches of Hawaii with Shaka Santa to the Arctic Circle in Finland, and everything in between, here are the most awesome Christmas destinations around the world.
1. Bethlehem, West Bank
If you are going to embark on a journey for Christmas, you might as well visit the place where the holiday’s story takes place. Midnight Mass at St. Catherine’s Church, a televised event worldwide, the religious ceremony is attended by thousands of Christians each year and is quite the spectacle to behold. Manger Square in the Old City is almost overflowing with holiday cheer and really makes the holiday a special one to remember for years to come.
2. Santa Claus Village, Finland
If St. Nick is more your style for Christmas, book a trip to the Arctic Circle in Finland. There you will find a holiday-themed amusement park that takes Christmas to a whole new level. Located in the Lapland region of Finland, attractions include SantaPark, Christmas House, Santa Claus Office, Santa Claus Main Post Office, and more holiday shopping than you could ever imagine. For all the reindeers, elves, and gingerbread that your heart desires, don’t skip this Christmas destination.
3. Strasbourg, France
During the holiday season, this French city transforms into multiple Christmas villages, each with their own charm and personality. As you move from village to village, you can sample and purchase various holiday treats, the perfect treat for the traveling foodie. Strasbourg has hosted traditional Christmas markets since 1570, the oldest in France. Thousands of lights are strung from the buildings in and around the city. Truly an idyllic winter wonderland, Strasbourg, France should top your travel wish list.
4. Zurich, Switzerland
Beginning on November 21, 12,000 crystal lights are strung from the buildings of Zurich to prepare for the approaching holiday. With numerous Christmas markets, Advent concerts, and other festivities such as the Lichterschwimmen candle-floating event create a fairy tale atmosphere in this Swiss city. Visitors can enjoy guided Christmas-themed walking tours through Zurich. Members of the whole family will find something magical about Christmas in Switzerland.
5. Leavenworth, Washington
Named the Ultimate Holiday Town in the United States by A&E, Leavenworth is a Bavarian-themed town on the eastern slope of the Cascade Mountains. Kids love the tour of the Leavenworth Reindeer Farm. The town’s Nutcracker Museum houses over 6,000 nutcrackers. Holiday festivities include a Bavarian-style Christmas market and the Christmas Lighting Festival that includes 500,000 lights. This Washington hamlet really comes to life in a holiday snowglobe atmosphere that visitors will want to return to year after year.
6. Goa, India
A state located on the Arabian Sea, Goa was a Portuguese colony until 1971. The combination of Portuguese and Indian cultures in Goa creates a Christmas atmosphere, unlike anything you would experience anywhere else in the world. While it’s certainly not the traditional White Christmas destination, Goa hosts a variety of holiday festivities. With temperatures averaging highs around 90 ℉ in December, travelers can enjoy both Christmas events and water sports on the same vacation.
The small Mediterranean archipelago nation goes all out for Christmas. The most spectacular Christmas display is at the Bethlehem f’Ghajnsielem, a life-size nativity scene and Judean village covering over 20,000 acres. More than 150 actors recreate life in ancient Judea over 2,000 years ago. Additionally, visitors will love all the Christmas spirit in downtown Valletta, an area filled with carolers and thousands of lights. Don’t skip the Malta Toy Museum or St. John’s Cathedral.
8. Santa Claus, Indiana
Called America’s Christmas Hometown, this small hamlet in southwestern Indiana celebrates the yuletide year round. However, when the actual season finally arrives, the magic really starts to happen. Guests can visit the Santa Claus Museum & Village, Santa Claus Church, Santa Claus Post Office, and a statue of the man himself made 82 years ago. You can also inject some adrenaline into your visit with the rides at Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari. There’s also the Land of Lights display, a 1.2-mile long drive around the Lake Rudolph Campground and RV Resort.
9. New York City, New York
Yes, Christmas in New York City is just as whimsical as every movie makes it seem. From ice skating at the base of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree to catching the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular, NYC hosts some of the most awe-inspiring holiday displays and shows that you’ll ever see. Plus, New York City is home to some of the best shopping in the world, so you’re bound to find the perfect gifts for everyone on your list.
10. Honolulu, Hawaii
It comes as no surprise that Santa Claus and his reindeer love stopping in Honolulu for Christmas. This tropical locale does it up right for the holiday. Shaka Santa, a 20-foot tall statue of jolly St. Nick in his favorite shorts, resides over downtown with Tute Mele, his muumuu-wearing wife. You can also enjoy Honolulu City Lights, a month-long holiday celebration including a parade, live music, and giant Christmas tree.
11. Prague, Czech Republic
The capital city of the Czech Republic celebrates Christmas with a different theme every year. For instance, The History of Prague was the theme in 2017 and visitors could view decorated gables at the holiday markets that depict monumental moments from the city’s history. While there are Christmas markets spread all over the city, the Old Town Square is the largest and most popular. The Prague Zoo, rated the fourth-best zoo in the world, hosts a variety of special Christmas programs that kids of all ages will love.
12. Edinburgh, Scotland
For six weeks, the capital of Scotland embraces the festive spirit of the holiday with Christmas markets, decorative displays, and so much more. The city’s Christmas light display included fireworks that light up the sky from Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of the Holyroodhouse. Around the Sir Walter Scott Monument, bagpipe players perform all of your favorite Christmas songs. For a remarkable view of Edinburgh at Christmas, buy tickets for The Forth 1 Big Wheel, a special holiday Ferris wheel in the city center.