People are starting to come up with more and more extraordinary destinations to spend Christmas. Barbados, Maldives and Morocco have been on the standard list for a while now. Well, there’s no accounting for tastes, they say. But if you’re dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones you used to know, ”where the treetops glisten and children listen to hear sleigh bells in the snow”, consider the following cities.
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague’s Old Town is fabulous at any time of year, but Christmas transforms it into an unearthly performance of light, colors and scents. Every year the Staroměstské náměstí (Central Square) turns into a bustling stage for hand-made puppets, wooden toys, children dancing in traditional costumes and visitors who eagerly become part of this magical performance. Whatever the weather, the markets throughout the Old Town are always open, crowded and buzzing with energy. But it’s more about a special a atmosphere than pure shopping. A shot of Becherovka (traditional spicy liquor), a bite of Trdelník (cinnamon sugar pastry) and you’re all set for one of the best Christmas experiences one can imagine.
Quebec City, Canada
Christmas in Quebec City means home cooking, traditions passed on from generation to generation, and a lot of merrymaking. Plus it’s so unbelievably beautiful. Narrow streets lined with tiny, sparkling firs, buildings dusted with snow, music and live street theater exude Old World charm captured in a winter fairy tale. At the famous Marche de Noel (Christmas market), both recreational and shopping conscious visitors will find a myriad of treats for themselves, from hand-crafted toys, hand-knitted winter accessories and ceramics to maple products, liquors and traditional baked goods.
If there’s one city in Europe that combines sophisticated elegance with cozy warmth, it must be Vienna during Christmas time. On the one hand, there’s the splendid Schönbrunn Palace, lavish City Hall building and numerous classical concerts to give the holiday some pathos, and on the other, there’s the reputation for one of the best Christmas markets in Europe, with beautifully decorated wooden stalls lining market squares, hand-crafted gifts, impossibly good apfel strudel, cheer-inducing Glühwein, and a lot of singalong fun.
Rovaniemi has all the makings of a truly magical Christmas: heaps of snow, Christmas trees decorated with sparkling lights, reindeer walking past your window, Christmas carols, nativity scenes, and the outstanding beauty of Lapland, with the awe-inducing Aurora Borealis to lit your way to the manger. It’s exactly what you remember from the fireside tales told in your childhood days. And hey, that’s where Santa has his residence. Christmas in the Arctic Circle? You bet!
Celebrate Christmas in Cologne, where the extravaganza of culture, gastronomy, traditions and history flares up every December, backdropped by the mighty cathedral, the Kölner Dom. Streets are flooded with lights, music, puppet theaters and holiday cheer, with the magic of Christmas best captured in the legendary Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market). After all, what’s Christmas without goodies? Stuff on traditional sweet delicacies and wash them down with aromatic mulled wine to warm your frostbitten limbs. Then watch artisans at work, take a ride on the merry-go-round and go skating on Heumarkt. Great fun guaranteed. 2 million visitors a year cannot be wrong.
New York, USA
Christmas in New York is much more than just holiday shopping spree and strolls in the blizzard. The city is amazing in itself at any given time of year, but this festive season is all about iconic sights and the feeling of togetherness that they generate in the crowd. The giant Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, Macy’s window display, fabulous decorations on Sixth Avenue, skiing in Central Park – they may all be cliché, but there’s something about them that makes the horrendously huge city a cozy place with a family-like feel to it. If New York is normally called a city that never sleeps, then what name could possibly describe it in the Christmas season?
It’s easy to combine Christmas celebrations with sightseeing in Bruges. Wandering through the medieval town, Belgium’s undeniable crown jewel, with its historic buildings, picturesque canals, winding streets and charming bridges is a treat in and of itself. Add to it Belgian chocolate and a whole flurry of special events that take place at this time of year, including the Snow and Ice Sculpture Festival, and you’ve got Christmas to remember for a lifetime.
Wherever you land this year, don’t forget to spread some serious dose of love! Merry Christmas