World’s best travel destinations for a Christmas holiday

World’s best travel destinations for a Christmas holiday

Martyn Weber ( )

Christmas is a holiday for most parts of the world, so take those days of paid leave and head off for a destination Christmas. Whether it’s the bright lights of New York or a pilgrimage to Bethlehem, make your holiday magic.

Bethlehem, West Bank

Christmas in Bethlehem, West Bank

Make the emphasis this year on spending time with your family, not buying meaningless presents. Head to Bethlehem to see the birthplace of Jesus. Go to Manger Square or the Old City on Christmas Eve. Attend midnight mass at St Catherine’s Church and soak in the incredible atmosphere. The West Bank isn’t the simplest of destinations to visit, but if you make the effort you’ll be rewarded with an incredible experience.

Santa Claus Village, Finland

An amazing shot from the air incorporating the whole of santas village

Go visit Santa’s workshop in the Arctic Circle. It’s 10/10 for a magical experience, for kids and adults alike. Watch out for reindeer in the forests, visit the Santa Park Arctic World amusement park in Rovaniemi and bake Christmas cookies with Mrs Claus. Take an evening snowmobile trip to spot the Northern Lights.

New York, USA

Amazing angels in New York

The scene of a multitude Christmas movies, New York is everything you’ll expect. Snow falling on your face as you stand in the flashing lights of Times Square. The world’s tallest Christmas tree, lit with a million sparkling lights. Ice skating at the Rockefeller Centre. The iconic window displays in department stores, The Nutcracker ballet performance… wrap up warm, drink mulled wine and hot chocolate and revel in the festive atmosphere.

Sydney, Australia 

If you’ve only ever known a winter Christmas, then a summer one will blow your mind. Have a BBQ for Christmas lunch, play some cricket on the beach and maybe go for a swim in the ocean. Take sunscreen, sunhat and ‘jandals’ and find a bunch of other ‘Christmas orphans’ for a summer festive season.

Sydney goes a bit overboard on Christmas, from November 24 to December 25 there’s a Christmas festival with markets and concerts. Head to Pitt Street Mall for the Boulevard of Light—94,000 of them.

The Vatican, Italy

The nativity story, setup in the grounds of the Vatican

Italy is amazing all year round, but it knows how to do Christmas right. Attend Midnight Mass at the Pantheon, or the noon service on Christmas Day at St Peter’s Basilica,. Eat hot roasted chestnuts, admire the nativity scenes everywhere and gaze at the sparkling star atop the Vatican Christmas tree.

Dublin, Ireland

You’ll find the craic all over Ireland but especially in Dublin. The 12 Days of Christmas Market is famous for the shopping, there’s ice skating, Christmas lights, carols at St Patrick’s Cathedral, and the streets shine with festive cheer. 

Of course, while you’re there, you should visit the Guinness Storehouse, which is sparkling with a zillion lights for the festive season.

Nuremberg, Germany

Arguably some of the best Christmas shopping in the world, Christkindlesmarkt has 180 stalls with everything from toys to Christmas decorations, gingerbread and mulled wine to gifts for even the hard-to-buy-for. Perhaps you buy everyone a prune man, made from dried prunes and figs…

There is an opening ceremony, if you can attend it’s worth it.  The Friday before the 1st Advent, the Christkind appears and reads the opening prologue that starts the market season. There’s a choir, trumpets, and the full performance that goes with it.

There’s also a children’s market for the kids, which is totally magical if you have your family with you.

Zurich, Switzerland

Zurich christmas market

Another place for a magical white Christmas, the cobbled streets and backdrop of craggy snow-clad mountains make Zurich otherworldly romantic. It has Christmas markets, guided themed walks, and public carolling. The streets smell like cinnamon and seem lit by a gentle glow of twinkling lights. Attend the Lichterschwimmen candle-floating and stay until the New Year’s fireworks. 

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo Christmas Lights

While not big on religion, Tokyo gets thoroughly behind the idea of Christmas. Spectacular lighting displays, decorations and Christmas Eve is a magical fairy land of romance and fried chicken. In 2018, there was more than 100,000 sparkling blue and silver lights strung around midtown, and a tinkling crystal chandelier at Yebisu Garden Place. However, Christmas day itself is business as usual.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

A unique Christmas tree in Rio

While maybe not the most traditional of Christmas locations, remove the ugly Christmas sweater and head to the sunshine to eat panettone and rabanadas, two sweet Christmas treats. On Christmas eve, celebrations start at 11pm on Christmas Eve, with a huge festive meal and then at midnight the party starts. Christmas dinner is turkey or chester (a Brazilian chicken) with salad and rice. You’ll find the world’s largest full-sized nativity scene, and the largest floating Christmas tree on Rodrigo Freitas Lagoon. 

Follow the star to your shining destination

Have a Christmas like no other this year. Get your travel insurance, tell St Nick you’re not going to be at the bottom of your chimney this year, and launch yourself into a yuletide adventure. Whether you want the full religious experience at the Vatican or Bethlehem, or a modern sun-shine-filled beach Christmas, the world is awaiting.