20 Best places to go for Christmas

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Rough Guides Editors
11/18/2020

Dreaming of a trip this Christmas? We're here to help. From glittering cities to a few snowy escapes, here are 20 of the best places to go for Christmas. A few things they all have in common – cosy corners, twinkling lights and a determination to let the Christmas spirit shine no matter how cold (or rainy) it might be. If you're inspired to book a festive trip for yourself, take a look at our new tailor-made travel service. We'll connect you with a local expert to plan every aspect of your Christmas adventure.

1. Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen is Scandinavia's most vibrant and affordable capital. Small and welcoming, it's a place where people rather than cars set the pace, making its pre-Christmas activity a lot easier to navigate. The city’s streets are transformed annually by half a million lights and hundreds of Christmas trees which form a magnificent backdrop to your festive meandering.

If you're thinking of visiting Copenhagen, get in touch to find out more about our Tailor-Made Trips service.

The Tivoli Gardens lit up for Christmas © Vlad Andrei Nica/Shutterstock

2. Dublin, Ireland

It might be a cliché, but the craic really does flow in Dublin during December. The city’s streets are imbued with an irrepressible sense of festive cheer, and from the lights to the ice rinks and the carols at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Christmas is celebrated with gusto and glee. Make sure you're close to the attractions you want to see and check out our guide on where to stay in Dublin.

Dublin has a special atmosphere at Christmastime © David Soanes/Shutterstock

3. Salzburg, Austria

For many, Salzburg is the quintessential Austria, offering the best of the country's Baroque architecture, sub-Alpine scenery and a musical heritage derived from the city's most famous son, Mozart. Its festive market is compact and intimate and a frequent dusting of snow adds to its appeal, making it one of the best places to go for Christmas.

If you're thinking of visiting Austria, get in touch to find out more about our Tailor-Made Trips service.

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

4. Nuremberg, Germany

Nuremburg in Germany is renowned for its Christkindlesmarkt (Christmas market), which sees 180 stalls arranged side by side on the Hauptmarkt selling toys, trinkets and gingerbread treats. It looks especially enchanting after dark. It's the perfect place to shop for some stocking-filler Christmas presents for loved ones back home - and you can't beat the atmosphere.

Fancy heading to Germany? Get in touch to find out more about our Tailor-Made Trips service.

Flea Market at night in Neurenburg © Sean Nel/Shutterstock

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5. New York, USA

The city that never sleeps inevitably rules the roost when it comes to Christmas. From the Rockefeller Center’s gargantuan tree to the awe-inspiring shop displays, December and Christmas in New York City is simply magical.

Whether it's a festive holiday or a summer trip, get in touch to find out more about our Tailor-Made Trips service and start planning your New York trip.

Christmas decorations in New York City © Anastasios71/Shutterstock

6. Berlin, Germany

Christmas and Berlin are basically synonyms; the city offers no fewer than fifty Christmas markets every year, set in different neighbourhoods across the city. If the candles and consumerism get a bit much there are plenty of museums and cultural events to experience too. Berlin also has a great nightlife, so getting bored in this city is virtually impossible.Visiting the German capital? Check out our guide on where to stay in Berlin.

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

7. Rome, Italy

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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 in Rome, and there aren’t many more suitable places on the planet to attend Midnight Mass. Get the most out of the city and read our guide on where to stay in Rome.

Colosseum in Rome at Christmas during sunset, Italy © Bucchi Francesco/Shutterstock

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 get most of the visitors, but nearby Rovaniemi also offers numerous delights. Along with all the festivities, it's also a chance to witness one of the most magical natural phenomenons in existence: the northern lights.

If you're thinking of visiting Finland, get in touch to find out more about our Tailor-Made Trips service.

Snowman in Santa Claus Village in Lapland, Finland

© Roman Babakin/Shutterstock

9. Edinburgh, Scotland

The showcase capital of Scotland, northern lights 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 northern lights a week later. Before you travel, check our guide on northern lights.

Edinburgh's Christmas market © Ulmus Media/Shutterstock

10. Montreal, Canada

Canada's second-largest city, northern lights 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 onto) the ice at the Patinoire du Bassin Bonsecours is a must.

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

11. Hong Kong

East Asia’s most extraordinary city, Hong Kong doesn’t let Christmas pass without fanfare. Lights dangle from skyscrapers, shop fronts are bedecked in wrapping paper and Christmas music blasts from speakers everywhere.

© Shutterstock

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 11 pm, and 56 trees – representing fifty states, five territories and the District of Columbia – are planted nearby.

Christmas Tree and White House in Washington DC, United States © Orhan Cam/Shutterstock

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.

© Marcio Jose Bastos Silva/Shutterstock

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. With all its looming, impressive architecture, Christmas in Cologne is a grand affair.

Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market © picturetom/Shutterstock

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.

If you're thinking of visiting the Czech Republic, get in touch to find out more about our Tailor-Made Trips service.

Christmas in Oldtown square (czech: Staromestske namesti) Prague, Czech Republic © Jiri Foltyn/Shutterstock

16. Reykjavík, Iceland

In the Father Christmas stakes, Iceland has one up on us; or rather, more accurately, twelve up. Their folklore talks of thirteen such characters, known as the 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.

Interested in travelling to Iceland? Try our new tailor-made travel service and book a fully personalised itinerary with the help of a local expert.

Christmas in Reykjavik, Iceland © John Speargod/Shutterstock

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.

Dresden christmas market © LianeM/Shutterstock

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.

If you're thinking of visiting Belgium, get in touch to find out more about our Tailor-Made Trips service.

Christmas decorations lighting up Bruge's Old Market Square © kavalenkau/Shutterstock

19. New Orleans, USA

Although it may not seem like the most obvious Christmas destination, New Orleans pulls out all the stops at Christmas. Riverboat carolling cruises and festive streetcars are among the key attractions in a city that goes hog wild for all things Chrimbo.

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

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 in which to take refuge from the cold and share in some festive cheer.

Aspen, Colorado © The World in HDR/Shutterstock

Top image: Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, at Christmas © Vlad Andrei Nica/Shutterstock

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