Its hard to believe we have already passed half way through 2020! Time being a blessing or a curse, this year has been one for the record books.
As summer is closing in, and all the non-travel, canceled itineraries and pent up anxiety from Covid-19 are leaving so many feeling unsatisfied looms over us. Celebrating the Christmas season can be a great option for considering future travel to make up for the loss of family together time, canceled travel plans and joyous holiday experiences.
Note: We are not recommending you travel until it is safe and you feel safe to travel. Always check the State department website and with the countries you are visiting for travel requirements additionally we currently recommend you check the CDC and WHO websites for information regarding the current health status regarding travel.
December is a prime month for travel and with the holiday’s being the main attraction, travel is focused on family. So now that we are in the middle of the dog-days of summer, we dream about cooler weather and holiday festivities. This is what made Christmas in July such a popular concept.
Though the primary goal for the season is always family, rewarding ourselves with travel is the best gift you can give yourself and share with others.
Here are 12 Travel Cities you need to Experience for Christmas Cheer;
1 – Nuremberg, Germany – named Germany’s Christmas city for its original Christmas market and Advent traditions dating back to the early 1600’s. Christkindlesmarkt is located in the center of the main market square in historic Nuremberg filled with hundreds of decorated Christmas stalls to indulge in the sights, smells and sounds of the Christmas season. Among the popular purchases are Lebkuchen (gingerbread) decorated cookies, handcrafted ornaments and nutcrackers, gold angels and Zwetschgenmännle (popular prune dolls). Although the holiday shopping is A+ many also visit the markets for the original local Nuremberg sausages and blueberry gluhwein that is served throughout the market. The daddy of all Christmas markets in the region, they have their own opening ceremony with an annually appointed Christkind ambassador who is chosen to act as the symbol of the season appearing on the balcony overlooking the markets on opening day and frequently during the season wooing spectators and local children. German winters are unpredictable, prepare for rain, snow and beautiful days during your visit.
2 – Reykjavík, Iceland – Nothing says Christmas more than snow and here you will find a winter wonderland and a pretty much guaranteed “White Christmas”. Santa is not a single Jolly ol’ soul, Iceland has 13 troll Santa’s, Yule Lads as they are locally called, they are prankster trolls who bring fun and mischievousness to the long 26 days of holiday celebration. Visiting in winter will offer you the enjoyment of some of your traditional winter favorite activities like ice skating (on real ponds), snowmobiling and some more adventurous activities like glacier hiking or ice caving. If that is not enough to make you want to book a flight to Iceland during winter, it is also good to know that one of the top bucket list experiences, the Northern Lights often appear during this darkest time of the year in Iceland providing an unscripted and unexpected holiday light show of the natural kind.
3 – Paris, France – With streets adorned with holiday decorations the city known as the “city of lights” becomes even more dazzling with illuminations throughout. Even the iconic monuments and bridges that make-up Paris’ cityscape are illuminated in celebration. Streets like the Champs-Elysee are decked out in LED color and beautiful decor. Don’t miss the magical Christmas windows within the shops as you walk the streets, Galeries Lafayette and the local department stores. The piece de resistance for window shopping is Boulevard Haussman. Frequent local events and activities can be found throughout the city with many of the popular sites getting into the local holiday cheer. Paris’ famous dining will not disappoint with festive tableware, and the menus are custom curated for the season. Temperatures in Paris will be cooler then other times of the year but will not hit freezing levels for a comfortable visit.
4 – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – to escape the cold winter’s head south to Brazil where you can swap snow for picturesque tropical beaches and warm weather. Although it is the hot summer, Brazilians still bring the holidays to life with festivities and celebrations. Cities are festively decorated and restaurants are geared up for locals and tourists. The Lagoa floating Christmas tree in the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas drifts around the lake from the beginning of December until the Epiphany on January 6 illuminating the sky and reminding all of the season. A large celebration happens mid December along the beaches of Copacabana with fireworks, street parties and festivities you would expect of a Rio celebration to officially kick off the holidays. Even Christmas Eve, the day of celebration, ends with a fantastic display of fireworks throughout the city, Cariocas (Rio natives) spend Christmas day relaxing on the beaches.
5 – Bruges, Belgium – The capital of Northwest Belgium goes all out to celebrate Niklaas’. From mid November to January, the canals, cobblestoned streets and medieval buildings are transformed with beautiful lights throughout the city. Surrounding the Grand Palace is the Markt filled with small chalets selling custom made goods and local holiday cuisine. A large ice rink sits central and the Belfry tower looms over the festivities with 47 carillon bells chiming holiday tunes to round out the atmosphere. Tip; climb to the top of the Belfry just as the sun is setting for the best view of Bruges and all the holiday festivities (reservation recommended). Belgium is well known for its chocolate and they will not disappoint with many options for fresh hot chocolate sourced from local made chocolate. While it can snow in Bruges, December’s average temperature is 42 degrees which is perfect for winter celebrating.
6 – Melbourne, Australia – Christmas festival is a four week long celebration of festivities, decorations, events and celebratory activities. Melbourne becomes a fantasy land of Christmas cheer with decorations all around and the Christmas Square is at the center of the activities. With the larger than life individually programmed LED Christmas tree. An original in the region is the Gingerbread Village where local master bakers recreate iconic landmarks of the region into miniature baked villages. To top off the celebrations is a holiday projection show on local landmark buildings that are offered nightly. Music performances, nativity, augmented reality, a silent disco, an outdoor movie theatre and a christmas market round out the fun. With average summer temperatures at highs of 76 degrees and lows of 57 it should be an enjoyable time to visit and celebrate.
7 – Vienna, Austria – One of the most beautiful cities in central Europe on any given day, becomes simply magical at Christmastime. Ride around the exterior of Vienna’s old city on the holiday Ringstrasse to view displays and lights throughout the city before heading into the historic area. Belvedere Palace is one of Vienna’s most exquisite and hosts an annual Christmas Village. Enter from the southern gate after dark for a breathtaking view of the palace and the adjacent lake. From there head to the Kartner Strasse (Vienna’s famous shopping street) to see Vienna glitter and enjoy the many holiday displays. One of the most Viennese Christmas experiences are the annual Advent concerts offering musical influences of the region from Mozart and Strauss, Choir recitals within the cathedrals to the famous Vienna’s Boys Choir holiday performances. The weather in December can be cold and snowy, a mug of Weihnachtspunsch (Christmas punch) in a souvenir mug is sure to warm your soul.
8 – Montreal, Canada – Noel is one of the best times to visit Montreal. The european influence of Old Montreal sets up the city as a mecca of experiences for holiday fun. They have all the winter themed open-aired events you could want; winter lights festivals, multiple Christmas Markets, fireworks, candlelight processionals. Even some of the historical sites will join in the fun with interactive holiday cheer and local traditions. With the average temperatures peaking at below freezing, you can assure that winter activities like ice skating will be part of your experience. Tip; If you are in Montreal for Christmas Eve, attend a Christmas mass in one of the many beautiful churches or cathedrals. Note, tickets may be required.
9 – Dublin, Ireland – In addition to being one of the friendliest cities, it has also been named one of the best places to visit during the holiday season. The city center is the perfect holiday experience for its array of colorful shops, Christmas markets, local events and lots of festivity from interacting with the Dubliners themself. The main thoroughfare of infamous O’Connell street is lit up with holiday cheer, and we are not just referring to the pubs, an ice rink in Smithfield Square and Christmas markets scattered throughout Ireland’s capital city will keep you busy as you enjoy the local experience. The most popular of the markets is at Dublin’s Docklands where the annual 12 Days of Christmas Markets are in full force from mid December up until Christmas Eve. Grafton street is also a must see for holiday shopping. A city known for its high spirits offering multiple venues to enjoy the festivities as you explore this iconic Irish city.
10 – Hong Kong, China – While Christmas is not observed at the levels that it is in the rest of the world, with western influence from its British past, Christmas is celebrated as a large festival. WinterFest brings the holidays to life and makes the city magical. Covered with festive decorations and holiday trees provide the city holiday ambience. The beautiful Hong Kong skyline glows with lasers and LED screens as the buildings are enhanced with lighting for the daily Symphony of Lights show. Christmas caroling is in order, Karaoke is a popular activity with locals. If you are still wanting some more Christmas cheer, head over to Hong Kong Disneyland for additional holiday fantasy with a Disney Christmas.
11 – Verona, Italy – a medieval town in Northern Italy that despite being the third largest city in the region is usually under the radar for visits. From mid November through Christmas, Verona comes alive for the Christmas season. In the historical center, surrounding the Arena (one of the largest amphitheatres in Italy) is the Piazza Bra one of the largest [German influenced] Christmas markets in Italy complete with wooden chalets selling local foods and handmade decorations. Tip; sample the Pandoro Artiginale, Verona sweet Christmas bread that dates back to ancient Roman times. Nativity scenes are an important part of Italian Christmas traditions, the Festival of the Nativities is an annual international exhibition of nativity scenes from all over the world each with its own representation. It gets very cold in Northern Italy and it is not unusual to see snow during the holiday season with temperatures below zero.
12 – Disney World, Florida – When travel can’t take you farther than the good ole’ U.S. of A, travel to a world of magic, tradition and worldly experiences right in our own backyard. With 4 theme parks all donned up in their holiday best and embracing the culture of the lands they represent you will get a warm fuzzy holiday experience without the long international plane ride. Your WDW ticket is your passport to fun filled adventures, beautiful fireworks and holiday cheer in the form of shows, global traditions and yummy holiday offerings. We have spent our holidays here many times, it is a celebration that can offer something special to every member of the family. Tip: if you are looking for an international experience, head to World Showcase in Epcot and celebrate as they do in each country represented. As for the weather, well, if you have a Crystal ball you will know if you will be wearing shorts or tracking down gloves and hats because we have had both experiences at this magical Florida time of year.