6. Berlin, Germany
The German capital offers no fewer than fifty Christmas markets every year, set amid its varied districts. If the candles and consumerism get a bit much there are plenty of museums and cultural events to experience too.
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7. Rome, Italy
An ancient place packed with the remains of over two thousand years of habitation, Rome could ensnare you for a month and you’d still only scratch the surface. The city is so much more than an open-air museum: its culture, food and people combine to create a modern, vibrant city. Faith and tradition play a key role in Christmas here, and there aren’t many more suitable places on the planet to attend Midnight Mass.
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8. Lapland, Finland
A fantasy come true for kids and any adults that refuse to grow up, Father Christmas’s hometown is a must-visit for anyone that still believes in the magic of Christmas. Of course the Santa Claus Village and Santa Park see most of the visitors, but nearby Rovaniemi also offers numerous delights.
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9. Edinburgh, Scotland
The showcase capital of Scotland, Edinburgh is a historic, cosmopolitan and cultured city. The setting is wonderfully striking – perched on a series of extinct volcanoes and rocky crags which rise from the generally flat landscape of the Lothians – and Christmas is done in style. Extend your stay for the world-famous Hogmanay a week later.
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10. Montreal, Canada
Canada’s second-largest city, Montreal is geographically as close to the European coast as to Vancouver, and in look and feel it combines some of the finest aspects of the two continents. It’s a magical place at this time of year and a spin round (or tumble on to) the ice at the Patinoire du Bassin Bonsecours is a must.
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11. Hong Kong, China
East Asia’s most extraordinary city, Hong Kong doesn’t let Christmas pass without a fanfare. Lights dangle from skyscrapers, shop fronts are bedecked in wrapping paper and Christmas music blasts from speakers everywhere.
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12. Washington DC, USA
Although it can be bitterly cold during the winter months, Washington DC assumes a soul-warming aura in the pre-Christmas period. The Pathway of Peace leading up to the National Christmas Tree at the White House lights up daily from dusk until 11pm, and 56 trees – representing fifty states, five territories and the District of Columbia – are planted nearby.
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13. Boston, USA
Boston is as close to the Old World as the New World gets, and this is more evident than ever during the holidays. You’ll feel like you’ve travelled back in time as you navigate the gas lamp-lit streets of the historic city, working your way up to the huge tree in front of Faneuil Hall Marketplace.
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14. Cologne, Germany
Cologne boasts eight different Christmas markets on both sides of the Rhine River. Offering all manner of gift ideas and plenty of glühwein stalls, it’s the perfect spot to pick up all those presents.
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15. Prague, Czech Republic
With some 600 years of architecture virtually untouched by natural disaster or war, few other cities in Europe look as good as Prague. Straddling the winding River Vltava, with a steep wooded hill to one side, the city retains much of its medieval layout, and navigating the lanes in the run up to Christmas is a spellbinding experience.
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16. Reykjavík, Iceland
In the Santa stakes, Iceland has one up on us; or rather, more accurately, twelve up. Their folklore talks of thirteen such characters, known as Yule Lads, who show up in town on the thirteen days leading up to Christmas. Head to the beautiful capital of Reykjavík and you may just spot one.
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17. Dresden, Germany
Dresden has as many Christmas markets as the next German city, but the main reason to visit happens on the Saturday before the second Sunday in Advent, when a huge stollen (traditional Christmas fruit cake) is paraded through the city streets and into the market before being cut up and distributed among the onlookers.
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18. Bruges, Belgium
Christmas was made for Bruges, which is a picturesque medieval treat at any time of the year. The usual markets and ice rinks are present and correct across the Belgian city but the place has a charm all of its own.
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19. New Orleans, USA
Unsurprisingly, New Orleans pulls out all the stops at Christmas. Riverboat caroling cruises and festive streetcars are among the key attractions in a city that goes hog wild for all things Chrimbo.
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20. Aspen, USA
A white Christmas is guaranteed at Colorado’s famous mountain town and ski resort, Aspen. The place is jam-packed with alpine lodges and cosy spots to take refuge from the cold and share in some festive cheer.
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