Best Christmas destinations worldwide

Rough Guides Editors

written by
Rough Guides Editors

updated 06.05.2024

Looking for inspiration on Christmas destinations? We can help, with our list of the 20 top Christmas places. Some have snow, almost all have glitter and Christmas spirit is guaranteed. Take a look.

This article is inspired by our Rough Guides guidebooks — your essential guides for travelling the world.

1. Copenhagen, Denmark - one of the best Christmas destinations

Pick Copenhagen for Christmas. The affordable and friendly capital of Denmark has a glittering city centre and it's easy to get around. If you want full festive fantasy, book tickets in advance for Tivoli Gardens. It's one of the world's oldest amusement parks and is magical at Christmas.

Copenhagen is famous for its castles, which take on a special magical charm at Christmas time. Among the most famous are Kronborg Castle, Christiansborg Palace and Rosenborg Castle.

If you're travelling to Copenhagen with children, take a look at our list of the best kids' activities in Copenhagen.

Where to stay in Copenhagen


Tivoli Gardens is one of Denmark's top Christmas destinations © Vlad Andrei Nica/Shutterstock

2. Dublin, Ireland - best Christmas pubs experience

Find Christmas craic in Dublin during December. The streets feel festive, there are ice rinks and carol singers at St. Patrick's Cathedral. And when you want to get cosy, Temple Bar pubs have you covered. If that sounds like fun, stay at Castle Hotel near Temple Bar.

What also makes Dublin one of the best Christmas destinations is the 12 pubs of Christmas. It's a world-famous competition challenging groups of friends to visit 12 pubs by the end of the night. Needless to say, only the most resilient participants make it to the end.

Explore Dublin and its castles and cliffs with our tailor-made 5-day trip.

Where to stay in Dublin


Dublin is especially Christmassy in December © David Soanes/Shutterstock

3. Salzburg, Austria - authentic charming traditions

Experience the festive and very Austrian city of Salzburg. Its famous Baroque architecture looks even lovelier with a snowy mountain backdrop. And it's the birthplace of Mozart so expect a lot of music wherever you go.

It's also home to the oldest Christmas market in Europe which is awash with charming traditions and smells like warm gingerbread. If you want to put that to the test, take a tour of Salzburg Christmas markets with local guides.

Where to stay in Salzburg


Christmas Market in the old town of Salzburg © Izabela23/Shutterstock

4. Nuremberg, Germany - home of the German Lebkuchen

Go Christmas shopping at the famous Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg. You'll find over 180 market stalls set on Hauptmarkt selling everything from toys to gingerbread. 

Don't miss the opportunity to taste the famous Lebkuchen (german gingerbread) was invented in Franconia in the 13th century. Head for the Lebkuchen-Schmidt stands at the Christkindlesmarkt to sample the authentic Lebkuchen.

Where to stay in Nuremberg


Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg as night falls © Sean Nel/Shutterstock

5. New York, USA - the true spirit of celebration in the metropolis

New York City rules Christmas from the outrageously famous Rockefeller Center Christmas tree to its dazzling store windows and awesome ice rinks.

One of the recent additions to New York's Christmas atmosphere is the New York Botanical Garden Glow. After dark, you can enjoy a stroll along the mile-and-a-half-long route decorated with all kinds of light installations. Dance performances, ice carving demonstrations and other seasonal activities are also on the agenda.

With our tailor-made 15-day tour you can experience the most iconic cities on the east coast of the USA: New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington DC.

Where to stay in NYC


Decorations in New York City - one of the world's best Christmas destinations © Anastasios71/Shutterstock

6. Berlin, Germany - a mix of cultural and nightlife festivities

Berlin has over 50 neighbourhood Christmas markets, so it's a bit of a festive legend. It's also worth visiting for iconic museums, great nightlife and festive experiences.

From mid-November to the first half of January, the Berlin Botanical Gardens invites you to enjoy a night stroll among the illuminated gardens. During the festive season, there are golden glowing arches, glittering penguin statues and twinkling lights streaming from the trees. Book your visit in advance, tickets sell out very quickly and don't forget to bring your camera to take the perfect festive photo.

In our in-depth guide, you'll find things to do in Berlin at any time of year.

Where to stay in Berlin


Christmas market, French church and konzerthaus in Berlin, Germany © S.Borisov/Shutterstock

7. Rome, Italy - Christmas in majestic surroundings

Rome mixes up its festive traditions across the entire city. So you have art collections, museums and monuments combined with Christmassy Italian food and culture. All of that makes Rome one of the best places to visit at Christmas. Plus, there's the Vatican Midnight Mass. So why not have a look around on a private Christmas tour with local guides?

The Christmas tree in the Colosseum in Rome cannot be overlooked. It may be a couple of metres shorter than the one in New York's Rockefeller Centre, but it is a truly spectacular sight.

Italy doesn't miss an opportunity to shine with its famous cooking at Christmas either. Don't miss out on the opportunity to enjoy a traditional Italian Christmas dinner before midnight mass.

Soak up the sights and delights of Ancient Rome, with our tailor-made 6-day trip

Where to stay in Rome


Colosseum decorated for Christmas in Rome, Italy © Bucchi Francesco/Shutterstock

8. Lapland, Finland - the homeland of Santa Claus

Visit Santa in Finnish Lapland at the legendary Santa Claus Village just outside festive Rovaniemi. It's a kid's Christmas fantasy, and children do love it. But it's also designed to enchant adults. Plus, there's a chance of Northern Lights in December.

Here you can meet the pack of huskies at Apukka and hear their stories before mushing them through the trees on your own sledge.

Explore the surroundings of the Arctic Circle, visit a magical place - Santa Claus Village - try the traditional Lappish food, snow-shoeing with our tailor-made 5-day tour.

Where to stay in Finland

Rovaniemi Santa Claus Village © Shutterstock

Snowman in Santa Claus Village in Lapland, Finland © Roman Babakin/Shutterstock

9. Edinburgh, Scotland - a city steeped in Christmas magic

Edinburgh does a festive atmosphere from its atmospheric Old Town to the Georgian New Town. Edinburgh Castle looks magical, there are colourful Christmas markets and the New Year street party is one of the biggest in Europe.

The Christmas season is the best time to take a magical walking tour of Edinburgh and discover the city where the world of Harry Potter was conceived. Here you will have an opportunity to test your knowledge with an audio-visual quiz, find out your Hogwarts House, and visit Tom Riddle’s grave.

Visit two traditional capitals, London and Edinburgh and discover peaceful Scottish islands with our tailor-made 14-day trip vintage England.

Where to stay in Edinburgh


Edinburgh Christmas markets in Princes Gardens © Ulmus Media/Shutterstock

10. Montreal, Canada - fireworks and Christmas magic in the old town

Christmas is magical in Montreal. It's the second largest city in Canada and has everything from skiing on Mont Tremblant to the Vieux Port ice rink. Enjoy Christmas festivals and explore Old Montreal. Then meet ghosts of Christmas past on a haunted walking tour.

Montreal has held an annual parade of Santa Clauses since 1925. It is known locally as Defile du Pere Noel. About 15-20 floating statues take part in the procession through the city centre to Catherine Street. Also, don't miss out on the beautiful views of the Christmas fireworks held every year in Montreal's Old Port.

Where to stay in  Montreal


Place d'Armes at Christmas, Montreal, Quebec, Canada © Pinkcandy/Shutterstock

11. Hong Kong, China - an extravagant Christmas amid glittering skyscrapers

Hong Kong is the most extraordinary city and it dazzles at Christmas. Look forward to illuminated skyscrapers, bedecked shop fronts and Christmas music everywhere. If you want even more glitter, try happy hour with a light show at Sky100 Observatory.

At the Hong Kong Ocean Park, you can have a great time with the kids as well as on your own. Here you'll witness some wonderful world-class Christmas activities and performances. There's also a 40-foot-tall Christmas tree and plenty of roller coasters to suit all tastes.

Immerse yourself in the vibrant and exciting atmosphere of Hong Kong with our 5-day tailor-made trip.

While planning your Christmas holiday read our list of the best places to stay in Hong Kong.


Glittering Hong Kong lights up for Christmas © Shutterstock

12. Washington DC, USA - A mix of old-school American traditions and the spirit of Christmas

Washington DC is a Christmas capital packed with heartwarming traditions. Don't miss the illuminated Pathway of Peace with its 56 Christmas trees. Wrap up warm against the freezing weather to go exploring.

It's hard to argue that Washington DC is one of the best Christmas destinations. There's Christmas entertainment to suit all tastes, from a visit to the National Christmas Tree in President's Park to the holiday boat parade in Wharf.

Where to stay in Washington DC


White House at Christmas in Washington DC © Orhan Cam/Shutterstock

13. Boston, USA - an old-fashioned US Christmas

Boston is an Old World US Christmas from gas lamplit streets on historic Beacon Hill to huge Christmas trees and enchanting Quincy Market.

One of the best things to do in Boston at Christmas time is to visit the pubs. There are many different bar events during this time, the most popular being SantaCon and Ugly Sweater. For Santa Con, all participants dress up in their favourite Santa Claus costumes and shuttle around Boston's many pubs. The Ugly Sweater crawl is exactly what you think it is: put on your ugliest holiday jumper and head to Boston's pubs!

Where to stay in Boston


Christmas traditions in Boston Massachusetts, USA © Marcio Jose Bastos Silva/Shutterstock

14. Cologne, Germany - Christmas on the banks of the Rhine

Experience Cologne for eight Christmas markets and the Rhine riverbank markets. Quaint Glühwein stalls contrast with impressive urban architecture here and you'll find lovely festive traditions. Spread some cheer on a Christmas market and Kolsch Beer tour.

In addition to the Christmas markets, the city offers various Christmas activities such as a trip along the Rhine, and the Christmas garden at the Cologne Zoo. In Cologne, you can enjoy Christmas circus and theatre performances.

Where to stay in Cologne


Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market, Germany © picturetom/Shutterstock

15. Prague, Czech Republic - an iconic holiday city among the best Christmas destinations

Prague is considered one of the best Christmas destinations for a reason. Festive Prague looks spectacular at Christmas time. How could it not with architecture spanning over 600 years, medieval streets, wooded hills and the lovely River Vitava with its many romantic bridges?

Prague's Christmas markets are in no way inferior to those in other famous Christmas destinations. If you are looking for the most atmospheric and scenic, head to the Old Town Square Christmas Market. Once there, don't forget to make your way to the Old Town Tower to enjoy the view from above.

Also, don't miss out on the opportunity to sample some of the Czech famous Trdelník and Svařák (Czech take on English mulled wine).

The Czech Republic is famous for its beer culture. If you're a beer enthusiast, check out our guide to Czech beer and the best places to try it in the Czech Republic.

Where to stay in Prague

Find more accommodation options to stay in Prague.


Christmas in Oldtown Square, Prague, Czech Republic © Jiri Foltyn/Shutterstock

16. Reykjavík, Iceland - snowy Christmas and Northern Lights

Warm to Iceland at Christmas. It's where to discover 13 Icelandic Santas known as Yule Lads. The weather's snowy and there's a good chance of Northern Lights.

Reykjavík is breathtakingly beautiful at any time of year, but on Christmas Eve the city is transformed with dozens of Christmas trees and decorations. If you like ice skating, go to one of the two ice skating rinks - Tjörnin pond or the Nova ice skating rink. Nova ice skating rink is sutuated on the Ingólfstorg Square where you can visit the little Christmas market.

Where to stay in Reykjavík


Snowy Christmas in Reykjavik, Iceland © John Speargod/Shutterstock

17. Dresden, Germany - sweet Christmas traditions

Visit Dresden for sweet traditions like the Stollen cake parade. The enchanting River Elbe setting enhances Christmas markets. And if you want to see historic Frauenkirche at its finest, take a night tour of Dresden with friendly local guides. Dresden is known for being home to some of the best  German Christmas markets.

Visit the Dresden Strieselmarkt, Germany's oldest Christmas market. This market is a magnet that attracts visitors not only because of its venerable age, but also because of its other sights. It is home to the world's largest step pyramid Erzgebirge at 14.61 metres, probably the world's largest candle arch and a daily Christmas cultural programme for young and old.

Embark on an exploration tour through Saxony starting in ­Dresden with our tailor-made 5-day trip.

Where to stay in Dreseden


Christmas market in Dresden, Germany © LianeM/Shutterstock

18. Bruges, Belgium - a crowd-free Christmas in a medieval atmosphere

Bruges medieval town centre was made for Christmas. It's awash with chocolatiers and charming Christmas markets. The canals are wintery and atmospheric and you can hear the traditional carillon in Bruges Belfry.

Belgium is among the countries that are mostly off the tourist radar. Thanks to this coincidence, you have the opportunity to stroll around the many serene canals of Bruges and feel as if the whole city is just for you.

And of course, Belgium is practically synonymous with chocolate, and the chocolate in Bruges is considered one of the best in Belgium. Take a stroll through the local chocolate shops and enjoy chocolate in all its Christmas shapes.

Where to stay in Bruges


Christmas decorations light up Bruges' Old Market Square © kavalenkau/Shutterstock

19. New Orleans, USA - heart-warming Christmas traditions

New Orleans does full-on Christmas with riverboat carol cruises, festive street cars and dazzling decorations. The city's historic quarters are at their most atmospheric and it's the perfect time of year to take a haunted cemetery tour.

Another event that might interest you is the Celebration in the Oaks in the City Park. Hop on the train with friends and family and enjoy 25 acres of Christmas holiday displays and 600-year-old ancient oaks studded with lanterns and moss.

It should also be mentioned that New Orleans is famous for its cocktail culture. Once there, check out our list of must-visit bars in New Orleans.

Where to stay in New Orleans


Christmas lights in the French Quarter of New Orleans © Colin D. Young/Shutterstock

20. Aspen Colorado, USA - Christmas paradise for skiing enthusiasts

Spend Christmas in the Colorado mountain town of Aspen. One of the world's most famous ski resorts it's all about alpine lodges, cosy restaurants and a festive atmosphere.

Above all, Aspen is a skiing paradise and it's a great idea to combine outdoor activities with a variety of Christmas events. The 12 Days of Aspen, a series of Christmas-themed events, takes place from 20 to 31 December. If you're travelling with children, this option is ideal, as most activities are tailored for the younger participants.

Where to stay in Aspen


White Christmas in Aspen, Colorado © The World in HDR/Shutterstock

If you prefer to plan and book your trips without any effort and hassle, use the expertise of our local travel experts to make sure your trip will be just like you dream it to be.

For more travel inspiration check out the snapshot of our ultimate Rough Guide: Make the Most of Your Time on Earth and find ideas and tips for your future trips.

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