21 OF THE BEST CHRISTMAS VACATION IDEAS
In need of ideas for the best Christmas vacation? Look no further. Instead of bookmarking this article for a date closer to Christmas, give it a read now – Christmas will be here before you know it.
OK, I want summer to last as long as you do, but any effective vacation planner knows that you have to start early. Nothing is more festive than staying in a beautifully decorated stately home or castle at Christmas time, and its worth booking early to avoid disappointment. If you’re ready to ditch your usual Christmas routine and make memories somewhere new, here are the 21 best Christmas vacation ideas.
Chinese people don’t really celebrate Christmas. However, it doesn’t mean that their winter wonderland, Harbin, isn’t worth a visit during the vacation. Half of the excitement of Christmas has to do with the magic of winter, and Harbin, a city in northeast China, packs in a whole lot of winter wonder. Between the snow sports, ice sculptures, and snowy mazes, visitors might think they’ve stumbled into a real deal winter oasis. While visiting Harbin you can:
• View the snow sculptures.
• See the ice sculptures during the day and at night when they are illuminated with colorful lights.
• Visit the kid’s ice world featuring ice slides, animal sculptures, and ice lanterns.
• Ice skating.
• Skiing and snowboarding.
• Winter swimming.
On a visit to England, you’ll find festive cheer around the country, with many markets and festive events. The antiquated look that London boasts on any given day can give you just an idea of how epically Christmas it looks during the vacation season. Between the cozy pubs, opulent department stores, and a love for mulled wine, visitors to London in December will be served up a heavy dose of Christmas spirit. While visiting, you can expect:
• Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park featuring Christmas markets, seasonal eats, shows, and rides.
• Santa meet and greets at the Santa Land Grotto.
• Visit opportunities to Warner Bros. Studio for a Christmas themed Hogwarts tour.
• Southbank Centre Winter market.
• Christmas By The River market.
• Tate Modern Christmas market.
• RHS London Christmas show.
• Ice skating at Somerset House.
PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
Prague looks like something out of a fairy tale on a normal day, but during Christmas, the city resembles a village of gingerbread houses. If you want a Christmas vacation that is equally romantic as it is festive, Prague is the place to be. When visiting you can:
• Stroll the Christmas markets in the Old Town Square or Wenceslas Square.
• Listen to Christmas carolers.
• Dine at Café Mozart for a delicious meal with classical music.
• See the Christmas tree in Old Town.
• Go ice skating.
• Attend Christmas Mass.
COUNTY KERRY, IRELAND
Kerry in Ireland celebrates Christmas by illuminating their windows with red candles; doors will be left open, and salted fish will wait in boxes to be eaten on Christmas Eve. Longtime traditions still have weight around the vacation time in Kerry, making it a special place to experience during the winter vacation. Visitors to County Kerry can experience:
• Rival parades in Dingle.
• Pubs full of masked musicians, playing music to keep up with past traditions.
• Kerry Christmas market.
• Christmas themed afternoon tea.
You could even stay in an Irish Castle…
Christmas time in Vienna is characterized by street vendors offering hot punch and doughy snacks. The alleyways are full of stalls selling teddy bears or toys that resemble Santa. The smell of pine radiates through the streets and local shoppers are dressed in hats and coats, getting Christmas gifts ready for their families. While visiting Vienna for Christmas, travelers can:
• Drink mulled wine and eat roasted chestnuts.
• Eat gingerbread and drink coffee in historic cafes.
• Wander the Naschmarkt.
• Drink the Christmas punch in festive mugs.
• View the lights on Graben and Karntner Strasse.
• Check out the Christkindlmarkt.
• See Nativity scenes at St. Peter’s Church.
Schloss Kogl is just 2 hours drive from Vienna and would be a truly magical Austrian castle to spend Christmas in, full of charm, history and comfort.
The shopping streets are completely smothered in festive decorations while the churches put on shows and vacation music. Christmas markets pop up all over the city and the spirit of the vacation is hard to avoid. Visitors to Munich during Christmas can:
• Listen to vacation music at Church of Our Lady.
• Wander the Christkindl Markt.
• Attend traditional Christmas concerts.
• Stop by the Tollwood Winter Festival which is held in the same venue as Oktoberfest.
• Go ice skating.
• Visit the Manger Market.
• Visit the Christmas Village at the Royal Residence.
Rome is one of the most important places in the world for those who celebrate Christmas. Home to the Vatican, it’s a religious hotspot of vacation charm. If you make Rome your vacation destination this Christmas, here is what you should do:
• See the Christmas tree at St. Peter’s.
• Go ice skating.
• See the Nativity scenes in the famous churches.
• Listen to a Gospel Festival concert.
• Wander through the Christmas market, Mercatini di Natale.
• Shop on the festively decorated, Via dei Condotti.
• See The Pope’s Christmas Address.
Most people don’t choose to visit Paris during the cold and dark winters. However, a Paris stay during Christmas time can be even better than visiting during the summer months. Aside from hiding out in bakeries and taking photos in front of the Eiffel Tower, you can:
• See the Champs Elysees and the 150,000 lights there.
• Attend a Christmas concert at Opera Bastille.
• See a Christmas ballet.
• Visit the merry-go-round by the Eiffel Tower.
• Look at the window displays of department stores.
• Visit the Christmas tree art exhibit at Centre Pompidou.
NEW YORK CITY, UNITED STATES
A quintessential Christmas experience is one had in The Big Apple. The spirit of the vacation period exudes out of the decorated street lamps and department store windows. Shoppers rush around to get the best gifts and eager tourists wander around the streets, passing horse and carriages and Santa wannabes. While visiting you can:
• See the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.
• Visit the real life gingerbread houses in Madison Square Park.
• Attend the Winter Wonderland Blunderland Variety Show.
• See the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.
• Cruise the Winter Village.
The cobblestone streets of the old town, especially when dusted with snow, makes Estonia’s capital city a dream during the Christmas vacation. Christmas is an important event for the locals so you’ll be sure to witness some cheer alongside a ton of decorations. When visiting Tallinn during Christmas, be sure to:
• Attend the Christmas market.
• Drink mulled wine.
• Eat gingerbread at Bonaparte Restaurant or take a class to learn how to make it.
• See Christmas jazz shows.
• Witness Gingerbread Mania; hundreds of gingerbread cookie sculptures.
Between the Alps and the architecture, Zurich looks like it was made for winter. And, besides the way it appears, this city offers some of the best Christmas festivities in Europe. If you’re visiting during the Christmas season, make sure to:
• Visit the Zurich Central Station Christmas Market.
• Drink hot chocolate and eat donuts.
• See the Christmas tree decorated with 10,000 Swarovski crystals.
• Witness the singing tree at Werdmuhleplatz
BETHLEHEM, UNITED STATES
That’s right, there’s a Bethlehem that exists outside of Israel, and it lives up to its name during Christmas. In fact, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania is officially referred to as the ‘Christmas City.’ Getting this title was a town and nationwide effort that included bringing in 800 Christmas trees, which are lit with thousands of colorful lights each year. Plus, all of the local businesses do their part of decorating their windows and storefronts to set the mood. Visitors during Christmas can expect:
• Christmas-themed walking tours.
• Christmas themed bus tours and carriage rides.
• Christkindmarkt, an outdoor market selling crafts, food, nutcrackers and Christmas decorations.
• Visits from St. Nick.
• Christmas music.
• Breakfast with St. Nick event.
The U.S version may be interesting, but we can’t neglect the real deal. Said to be the birthplace of Jesus, this Israeli city is actually a hot spot for Christians and Catholics during Christmas. Aside from the fact that Bethlehem still resembles the city that Jesus once roamed, visitors will experience:
• Christmas lights and decorations.
• A Christmas market.
• Christmas plays.
• Services and processions led by various Christian denominations.
• A chance to view Manger Square and the Basilica of the Nativity.
• Midnight Mass.
The city of Edinburgh in Scotland literally looks like something out of a Harry Potter movie, and when it’s covered in snow, the magic really shines through. Thanks to the city’s layout, a walk through Edinburgh in December is like heading into a maze of Christmas. While you’re visiting, make sure to:
• Go ice skating.
• Visit the European Market, Children’s Market, and the Scottish Market.
• Watch the Hogmanay procession.
• Have a hot toddy at the German Christmas Market.
Make the whole experience unforgettable by teaming your visit with a stay in one of our beautiful Scottish castles and have a look at some of our luxury New Year’s Eve ideas for celebrating the end of the year and welcoming the new year in. Christmas in Scotland is a truly magical experience.
Want to get in the Christmas spirit? Like, REALLY get in the Christmas spirit? You must visit the festive wonderland that is Copenhagen during the winter. Lit up with Christmas decorations, this city is the place to be for true Christmas charm. While visiting make sure to:
• See the Tivoli lights.
• Wander the Christmas markets.
• Visit the oldest confectionary in the country for cake and hot chocolate.
• Visit the ice rink.
• Have high tea.
• Visit the Copenhagen Christmas Tables exhibit.
LAPLAND, NORWAY, SWEDEN, FINLAND
Lapland stretches across northern Sweden, Finland, and Norway, and it may just be the epicenter of everything that is Christmas. Technically the north pole, this is where Santa hangs out on the daily. Visits here during Christmas feel exactly like the movies and books that are loved around this time of year. While in Lapland, make sure to:
• Take a sleigh ride through the snow.
• Try snowshoeing.
• Visit Santa Clause in his very own village.
• Go dog sledding.
• Go skiing.
The historic town of Bath is quite the sight even when it’s not Christmas time. However, during the winter months, Bath turns into a bit of a wonderland. What should you do on a visit here during the vacation period?
• Attend the Christmas Market for handmade gifts, mulled wine, and waffles.
• Watch the lantern procession.
• Go ice skating at Royal Victoria Park.
• See the light festival at Longleat.
• Soak in a Bath spa.
If you want to make your Christmas trip unforgettable then you could also stay in a castle during your visit!
The atmosphere in Nuremberg is festive; famously so. Visitors from around the world and the country make their way here especially during Christmas to experience the renowned market and wintry charm. While visiting, make sure to:
• Try the gingerbread.
• Eat sausages.
• Take a stagecoach tour.
• Shop for Christmas decorations.
• Check out the Children’s Christmas market.
• See the little prune men.
Known for its youth culture and as the birthplace of graffiti artist, Banksy, Bristol is a quaint city with a ton of culture. However, with the twinkle of fairy lights and the colorful markets, Bristol turns into the place to be for Christmas. While visiting, be sure to:
• Walk down the Christmas steps.
• Join a candlelit carol.
• Tour the Christmas markets.
• See Christmas shows at the theater.
It’s one of Ireland’s most visited cities and for good reason. Dublin is brimming with history and is home to more cozy pubs than you could ever frequent in one lifetime. The whole month of December is a Christmas-inspired party and there are festive events going on both before and after the vacation. While visiting, be sure to:
• Go shopping on Grafton Street.
• Spend an afternoon in Temple Bar.
• Attend the Smock Alley Christmas Fayre.
• See Santa at Arnotts.
• Visit with reindeer at Airfield.
This small town in the Rocky Mountains looks like an actual snow globe during the winter months. Surrounded by mountain peaks, the main town strip is decorated to the nines with festive lights that make it look like a town out of a Christmas storybook. With snow dusted pine trees all around, and cozy, country western-type bars to warm up in, Breckenridge exudes everything festive. While visiting, make sure to:
• Ski or snowboard.
• Go snowshoeing at the wildlife reserve.
• Visit Breckenridge brewery or distillery.
• Go dog sledding.
Just because you have family traditions at home doesn’t mean you can’t take a vacation for Christmas this year. There are more ways than one to enjoy the Christmas vacation, so why not make this year more memorable than the last and treat yourself to some very special travel experiences.