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Stunning Christmas Cities you Need to Visit

Updated: Mar 4

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Woman outside at Christmastime

Everyone has their own definition of a perfect Christmas. Some celebrators are happiest while spending time with family, while others enjoy the hustle and bustle of running place to place. Traveling has to potential to satisfy either, and once-a-year holiday events can bring a little uniqueness to the experience. From festive markets to streets laden with decor, breaking the norm in these Christmas cities has never sounded so good.

The Vatican City

The Vatican City

For Catholics, there's no better place to celebrate Christmas than the holy city itself.

The midnight mass, which actually takes place on Christmas Eve at 9:15 p.m., is a yearly tradition led by the current pope in St. Peter's Basilica. St. Peter's Square is covered in decorations, like Christmas trees and nativity scenes plastered on top of a classic Romanesque background. While you're in Rome, check out our list of the top things to do.

Bethlehem, Palestine

According to the Bible, Bethlehem is the place in which Jesus Christ was born, so if you're religious, this is a Christmas city you won't want to miss. From early December to early January, the city comes to life with bright Christmas lights that illuminate festive holiday markets. Christmas processions celebrating many denominations typically take place at the Basilica of the Nativity, which carries the reputation of the site of Jesus's birth. If staying in Israel, keep your passport on you as you'll have to show it before entering Palestinian territory.

New York City

New York Rockefeller Tree
Credit: Tipsy Atlas

Visiting New York City at Christmastime is a dream for many. Each year, the city is flooded with larger-than-life decorations and impressive light shows. You'll have the chance to ice state at Rockefeller Center - home of the world's tallest Christmas tree - marvel at Macy's window displays, and watch a Broadway performance of "The Nutcracker." I can personally attest that nothing quite beats taking a stroll through Central Park as the snow falls. If it's your first time visiting, check out our New York City tips.

Santa Claus Village, Finland

Declared the official home of Santa Claus in 1985, this lively village is a great place to catch a glimpse of Aurora Borealis (The Northern Lights). More than just a December excursion, Santa Claus Village is open every day of the year. When letters are sent to Santa Claus, they go to the Santa Claus Main Post Office in this town. The village itself sits right on the Arctic Circle, which is marked clearly for geography fans. For kids and adult believers alike, this place will spark (or reignite) the magic of Christmas.

Bruges, Belgium

Christmas markets are a big deal in Bruges, with the two most popular being Markt Square and Simon Stevinplein Square. The shopping centers' stalls offer a range of goods, such as gifts, treats, knickknacks, and hot chocolate - something the country itself is known for. Thrill-seekers can take advantage of the many ice skating rinks, while the more religion-focused can marvel at the Basilica of the Holy Blood. This is said to be the site of a cloth that Joseph used to wipe Jesus’s blood after crucifixion.

Nuremberg, Germany

Food is at the forefront of the Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt (pronounced Nuremberg Christmas Market). It offers world-famous gingerbread, grilled sausages, and mulled wine, a warm beverage containing wine, fruit, sugar, and spices. The red- and white-decorated stalls offer trinkets, nutcrackers, and other Christmas must-haves.

Bondi Beach, Australia

Bondi Beach Australia

Australia in December isn’t cold - in fact, it’s warm enough to swim. It really doesn't matter much, as locals pair Santa hats with bathing suits to find their own groove. The beachfront is decorated with a Christmas tree and home to an authentic Australian BBQ focused on grilled meats and beer. Suffice to say, you should be ready to party if you roll into Bondi Beach at Christmastime.

Tokyo, Japan

From Midtown to Roppongi Hills, Tokyo shows off its unparalleled light skills each year with inspiring displays. On Christmas, tourists may find themselves munching on fried chicken - likely due encouragement from a 1974 KFC ad campaign. Though Christmas is not a religious holiday in Japan, many celebrate it with the mission of spreading happiness to others, which sounds like a worthy cause in itself.

Christmas cities like these are amazing year round, so it's obvious that stunning lights and displays make them even more desirable. I've only visited two of these myself during the holidays, but I'm hoping to break tradition further and experience what this entire list has to offer.


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