If you’re looking to get away for the holidays and experience Christmas in a different city with different traditions, you’ll have plenty of options to choose from. All over the world, different towns and cities celebrate their own unique traditions for the Christmas season, such as holiday markets, Christmas parades, and their own version of the North Pole. These traditions offer a new way to enjoy the festive season and create a Christmas to remember. Take a look at the best destinations for a Christmas vacation to start new holiday traditions with your friends or family and create memories that will last a lifetime.
New York City, New York, USA to delight the kids
New York City hosts some of the most famous Christmas activities in the world, including the renowned lighting of the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center. Each year since 1931, the towering Christmas tree in front of the iconic ice rink is decorated and lit for the season as part of the city’s tradition. You also have the Christmas Spectacular with the Rockettes at the Radio City Music Hall and the incredible decorated displays in the windows of luxury retailers on 5th Avenue. In Central Park, the Holiday Market offers vendors with snacks, gifts, clothing, and other goods.
Barcelona, Spain for spiritual holiday activities
In Barcelona, Christmas activities don’t stop on Christmas Day. If you spend the holiday in the city, be sure to stay long enough to experience Three Kings Day in January. On the evening before, Gaspar, Balthazar, and Melchior arrive in Santa Eulalia on a grand ship to receive the keys to the city with cannon fire and fireworks displays. After departing, the kings start the parade in the streets to show off costumes, gifts, and parade animals like giraffes and camels.
Bath, England with gifts for family or friends
Bath is home to the Bath Christmas Market, a vibrant holiday market with nearly 200 stalls of British handmade gifts. Located between the Roman Baths and the Bath Abbey, attending the market gets you into the holiday spirit of the city while appreciating its unique culture and personality. There’s a lot more to do during winter in Bath, such as taking a rejuvenating and luxurious soak in the Thermae Bath Spa at the Hetling Pump Room or ice skating at the Royal Pavilion.
Rovaniemi, Lapland, Finland is close to Santa
Located just 6 kilometres from the Arctic Circle, Rovaniemi provides just the right atmosphere for a Christmas-themed vacation. Locals get in the spirit of the holidays by turning the northern city into the North Pole, complete with Elf School, Christmas lists composed with calligraphy, Rovaniemi, Lapland, Finlan, and baking with Mrs. Claus. You’ll find plenty of non-Christmas attractions in Rovaniemi, such as the Arktikum science centre and Ranua Wildlife Park, which is home to polar bears, moose, and other native wildlife.
Salzburg, Austria is traditional Christmas for the family
Boasting picturesque, snow-capped mountains surrounding cities with Baroque architecture, Salzburg is a quintessential alpine town brimming with Christmas tradition. Throughout the town, you’ll find traditional Christmas markets with gifts, handmade toys, and local Christmas treats. Salzburg has another unique tradition in the Krampus Runs, a festival that celebrates Krampus, a creature from folklore who punishes naughty children. During the run, people dress up in their own version of St. Nicholas’s evil twin and terrorize the streets for a thrilling Christmas tradition.
Nuremberg, Germany to satisfy your sweet tooth
Nuremberg’s most incredible Christmas event is the Nuremberg Christmas market, a massive holiday market with traditional German attractions and events for the holiday season, such as Christmas treats, handmade toys, and other goodies. The market also has unique displays and decorations, such as a steam train, an old-fashioned carousel, and a wooden Ferris wheel. If you have the kids, be sure to visit the Toy Museum during your stay.
Reykjavik, Iceland is a magical trip for the kids
Iceland has a unique holiday season with quirky Christmas traditions and celebrations. One of the most interesting is the Yuletide Lads who bring gifts for the 13 days leading up to Christmas. Reykjavik also has a vibrant Christmas market in the downtown district with holiday treats, colourful Christmas displays, and unique gifts from artists and craftspersons. Christmas is also a great time to catch the northern lights displays, which happen often in winter in Iceland.