Posts Tagged With: Vienna


Lets Celebrate Christmas in July!

For the western world, celebrating Christmas is a time for folks to prepare for and participate in traditional winter activities to commemorate the holiday season. However, in parts of the Southern Hemisphere such as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and parts of South America, Christmas falls during the warm summer months. For this reason, Christmas in July was developed when these respective countries participate in winter holiday activities during their actual winter periods. 

While you won’t find annual holiday traditions within the U.S., U.K and many European countries in July, Christmas in July provides an opportunity to remind us that the holidays are only five months away and the perfect time to start planning yuletide festivities. 

What better way to celebrate the holiday season than enjoying the festivities and traditions of other cultures that date back hundreds of years. July is the perfect time to plan for Christmas and design itineraries that celebrate the holidays in countries like Germany, France, Switzerland, Netherlands, Austria or Hungary.


Rudesheim Cable Car decked out for Christmas

In the Deutschland, the Christmas season begins with the celebration of Advent, the official holiday season in Europe, which starts at the end of November and lasts four weeks until Christmas Day. Many visit worthy traditions specific to individual regions are held during this period throughout Germany. 

One of the largest cities in Germany, Cologne, is known for its annual Heinzels Wintermärchen festival within the Alstadt (old town) historic region of this gothic,  culturally diverse city. Next to the iconic Cologne Cathedral, the annual event features the Weihnachtsmärkte (Christmas market), an alley of artisans selling toys, ornaments and holiday treats for folks of all ages to enjoy. This Christmas village also features an outdoor ice rink that will have you swirling in winter bliss. 

Nuremberg, the Bavarian capital of Germany, is home to the annual Christkindlesmarkt, one of the largest holiday markets in the world. Dating back to the early 1600’s, the market centers around Christkind, a symbol for gift giving in Nuremberg. The market features a local teen named as the Christkind representative. Dressed in gilded attire, she is present throughout the festival to greet guests as a representative of holiday spirit to the children in Nuremberg. Within the holiday market, you will find wood badens (booths) filled with handcrafted items, and holiday treats like gingerbread and traditional almond spice cookies (spekulatius).

  One of the best preserved medieval cities in Germany, a Unesco World Heritage site is Regensburg. The city takes a unique approach to the holiday period as it comes to life with glistening holiday lights that complement the medieval architecture surrounding Regensburg’s Christmas markets. Regensburg’s largest market can be found at the medieval Neupfarr church. The excitement doesn’t stop at the markets. Walking the cobblestoned streets you will venture into courtyards, passageways, and find other gems the city has to offer. Don’t be surprised when you stumble upon secret stalls of local craftsmen featuring handmade items that can be taken home as gifts or souvenirs. Throughout your time in the city, dabble in the holiday entertainment, regional cuisine and indulge in the merriment also found along the Danube river and the surrounding beautiful winter scenery. 

Rudesheim, a small wine village in the Upper Middle Rhine valley, brings a more international holiday experience with their annual Christmas Markets of Nations. This village’s representation of the traditions and customs of 20 countries from six continents draws visitors for a unique spin to the traditional German Christmas market experience. Featuring the traditional foods, goods and entertainment of each country makes this a fun and global way to celebrate the holidays. Rudesheim also presents the largest Nativity scene in Europe which can be found within the market square. Some of the more popular activities include festive storybook boat rides along the Rhine river and

breathtaking views of the river and Rudesheim’s vineyards on the decorated cable cars to the Niederwald monument. 


Strasbourg in northeastern France is the original capital of Christmas. The first Christkindelsmärik (Christmas market) began over 500 years ago and has drawn visitors for centuries as the flagship holiday market experience. Squares throughout the cities offer unique themed areas filled with mini wooden houses (chalets) featuring the largest number of market food and craft vendors. Place Kléber, the central square of Strasbourg, is the prime location of celebration for the festival backdropped by a handpicked and decorated 100 foot Alsatian Christmas tree. Due to Strasbourg’s French and German heritage, you can find that popular foods like pain d’épices, gingerbread and spiced cookies, are influenced by both regions. Among other Alsatian specialties, don’t forget to try the Vin Chaud mulled wine that is a signature part of a Christkindelsmärik encounter. 

Riquewihr is a magical French Alsatian wine village that is known for its fairytale-like architecture with half timbered houses that are spruced up with holiday decorations. Strolling the cobblestone street and seeing the village decorated with holiday lights and smelling the scent of chestnuts roasting will create a charming French holiday experience. The Riquewihr Christmas market is filled with cheer as you walk the wooden chalet’s filled with locally crafted item, stopping to enjoy a glass of local wine, or one of the local holiday treats of French spiced bread or German bretzels. You will be happy you stopped in this quaint Christmas town, unlike anywhere else in the world,


Amsterdam Canal during Christmas

Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, well known for its canals, is even more magnificent during the holidays. The annual light festival proves to be a winter highlight with it’s art light displays accompanied by live music and street vendors along the city’s canals. While these displays can be spotted from the bridges and walkways along the quay, the best way to experience the Amsterdam Light Festival is by a tour boat traveling along the canals. For another purely Amsterdam holiday experience, visit Amsterdam’s Museumplein museum square area. Centered around an ice skating rink, the Ice Village features a wooden chalet serving local Dutch dishes like cheese fondue that can be enjoyed offering views of the 800 year old Rijksmuseum, which houses the art of Dutch master artists. 


Ringstrasse Holiday Train

Vienna offers similar holiday experiences to what you will find in Germany but with a uniquely Viennese flare. Offering many Christkindlmarkt in the city, you are bound to find one that is your favorite. The largest market, the Wiener Christkindlmarkt found on the Rathausplatz within the center of Vienna’s historic area, is appropriately named for its large offering of local sausage vendors and has approximately 150 booths. Surrounding the market, you will find a carousel, ferris wheel, ice skating and the holiday “Tree of Hearts” decorated with illuminated holiday hearts. For a smaller, more upscale Christkindlmarkt, Schönbrunn offers the beautiful background of the glowing decorated summer palace of the former Austrian royalty, the Habsburgs. The heart of the Viennese holiday experience is the elegant light displays that illuminate the Austrian city. Whether you are strolling the Stephansplatz shopping area outside of the iconic St. Stephen’s Cathedral or riding the Ringstrasse train around the outside of the Vienna altstadt, you will not be disappointed with a multi sensory Vienna Christmas experience.  

Salzburg, the Austrian Alps city that borders Germany is known as the birthplace of Austrian composer Mozart and the filming location for the movie musical, The Sound of Music. But during the holidays, Salzburg becomes a fairytale land filled with colorful festivity, snow and choirs singing the Austrian hymn “Silent Night”. Visiting the Salzburg Christkindlmarkt in the city’s centre, one of the oldest Advent markets in Austria offers a holiday experience among the backdrop of the snowy rooftops of this beautiful Alpine old city. In Salzburg you are bound to see parades, hear ye olde Christmas stories and tune in to choral concerts. While visiting you will want to tour one of the many of the local nativity scenes, visit the Salzburg Christmas Museum, and stop into the beautiful Salzburg Cathedral. In typical Salzberg fashion, enjoy a music performance with 360 degree views of wintery Salzburg from the observation tower of the Fortress Hohensalzburg. A holiday highlight is Salzburg caroling featuring songs by Mozart and other traditional local holiday songs. 


St. Stephen Basilica Christmas Market in Pest

Budapest, the capital of Hungary, is two cities separated by the Danube river united into one. For a traditional holiday experience, take the funicular car to the top of Buda Hill on the western side of the Danube river. Here you can explore the quaint, charming town of Old Buda (Óbuda) and visit their Christmas market outside of the town hall building. Don’t let the small size fool you, you will find within this holiday area concerts, a carousel, skating rink and many more festive activities. For a larger and more modern holiday experience, head across the Danube river and into the eastern portion of the city, Pest. In Pest, you can visit the largest of Hungary’s holiday markets in the shopping district surrounding Vörösmarty square where you will find traditional crafts, artists, plus food booths and daily concerts by local Hungarian bands. A favorite holiday experience in Budapest is the intimate Christmas market that sits outside of the breathtaking St. Stephen’s Basilica. In addition to a small ice skating rink and a picturesque Christmas tree, you will find a holiday light show that occurs hourly upon the face of the beautiful exterior of the cathedral. 


Basler Weihnachtsmarkt

Basel, is a city on the Rhine river in the northwestern portion of Switzerland bordering France and Germany. The main markets of Switzerland are found in Basel’s center of the city within the old town. Basler Weihnachtsmarkt in the central shopping district is the largest of the markets with the most vendors in Switzerland. The Weihnachtsmarkt on Münsterplatz is smaller in size, however exquisite with its large, decorated Christmas tree adjacent to the Basel Münster (cathedral). Climb to the top of the cathedral towers for fantastic views of the illuminated old town. These Christmas Markets are distinguished by their wooden chalets featuring local artists’ creations and popular food items influenced by Basel’s location near both France and Germany. The most popular items include house made waffles, Gluhwein (mulled wine) and sausages among Swiss favorites like Basel Läckerli (gingerbread) and raclette, a melted cheese. The holiday spirit of the city is spotted among the decorated streets, within the windows of the local businesses, residences and along the Rhine as you stroll along its wintery banks. 

Cruising the Rhineland on the Moselle River in Germany

So now that you know about the various holiday experiences that await you in Europe. So what is the best way for you to start your planning? A Christmas Market river cruise will transport you into Europe’s most popular cities and villages covered with snow-capped Cathedrals and brimming with holiday cheer. 

From late November through December, travel along the waterways of central Europe from Amsterdam to Switzerland or Germany to Hungary visiting the traditional and authentic charming markets that still appear as they have for hundreds of years.

In addition to the Christmas experience, you have plenty of time to explore fairytale castles along the Rhine Gorge, the gorgeous mountainous snowy alps or the dreamy gilded sites of Vienna and the cathedrals of medieval Germany. Tours are included in ports to visit the landmarks of each city with ample time to explore the unique offerings of the local holiday delights.

Discover more about river cruising. If you would like more information on a Christmas Markets River Cruise, BucketList Travel Advisors can assist you with planning the perfect river cruise experience.

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Have a Vienna Experience

Vienna, the capital of Austria is one of the most captivating cities of Europe for its culture, architecture, music, art and dining.

The beautiful location of the city along the Danube river, with many Imperial palaces and buildings which invite you in to view the art and architecture of one of the greatest monarchy’s of European history. Plus perfectly manicured parks which are quietly waiting to be explored offer hidden treasures throughout every corner of the city. The most memorable experiences here, fully indulge the senses. Hearing the sounds of the city’s longtime connection to music, tasting the gastronomy at the historic cafes and seeing the beauty of the plentiful gardens together create a truly Vienna experience. 


If you have researched Vienna you know the connection to music is just as long and important as the connection to art. The home of many famous composers like Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms also has a place in the world of orchestra, opera and theatre. One of the first buildings you pass as you set out along the famed Ringstrasse (circle road surrounding Vienna) is the State Opera House. The Wiener Staatsoper was built as the Royal Opera by former Austrian Emperor Joseph I and to this day, the opera house welcomes guests who still enjoy the Renaissance musical experience. 

Vienna’s connection to music expands on from the exquisite building of the opera house to the world celebrated Vienna Philharmonic which can be enjoyed at the Vienna Musikverein, where you can relish in the sounds of Mozart, Beethoven and Strauss. However, if a formal music experience is not available or untimely, historic Viennese music can also be enjoyed with performances at some of the smaller theatres and possibly some of the churches, cathedrals or palaces, throughout the city.


Viennese cafes are a unique experience that should not be missed. Housed in Baroque buildings, cafes are what many locals consider their second home as they spend hours reading, socializing, working and sipping some of the best coffee in Europe at these popular local shops. Viennese cafes were established long before Starbucks ever brewed their first cup with some of the local cafe’s dating back to the 1700’s. It would have been common to spot Mozart or Beethoven entertaining relaxing guests at one of the many local cafes, sampling their newest compositions. 

Vienna’s love for coffee started even earlier than the cafe. In the late 1600’s, bags of coffee beans were abandoned by invading Turkish soldiers who left them in the hands of unfamiliar Austrians. The beans were roasted, and served with milk and sugar to sweeten the bitter turkish coffee which established what would soon become the Vienna coffee culture. 

Drinking coffee in Vienna is an artform that is specific to the Viennese lifestyle. Typically sitting at marble tables, your waiter delivers your coffee in a porcelain cup, served with a glass of water to cleanse the palate between sips. Usually as you also enjoy an order of one of the popular housemade pastries as you scroll the daily newspaper. Specialty cafes further enhance the enjoyment of the Kaffeehaus encounter. Cafe Sacher, a cafe in the 5 star Hotel Sacher is the home of the Sacre Torte, long considered the “World’s Most Famous Cake”. Tip: Due to the popularity of and long lines for cafes, share a table and amplify your experience with a memorable conversation. 


With over 50% of the city of Vienna featuring green space, it is not surprising that timeless manicured gardens are still enjoyed as an integral part of a Viennese experience. 

Stadtpark (Vienna City Park) – the oldest and largest of the parks in Vienna just outside the famed Ringstrasse features memorials to Vienna’s famous writers and composers and pays homage to them with regularly scheduled waltz concerts at the Kursalon building. 

Volksgarten – . Designed in an English garden style and as a French Baroque garden, the park houses a monument to past Empress Elizabeth (wife of Emperor Franz Joseph I) and features a rose garden and symbolic fountains. Once part of Hofburg castle (the former Imperial winter residence of the Hapsburg dynasty), this garden is today considered “the people’s garden”

Schönbrunn Palace Garden the summer residence for the Hapsburg rulers has one of the most popular parks with the locals as well as with tourists. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the once private area today offers recreation for the locals, jogging and sport, in addition to regularly scheduled events that occur throughout the year that also attracts visitors. Amenities within the park include an opulent private palace garden, the Orangery (exotic plant) garden, a maze garden, plus a zoo that was founded as the Imperial menagerie. Note: some require an admission fee. 

Vienna, a classic destination, appeals to the senses for immersion into the very Austrian culture. A must when wanting to experience the best of the European cities. Spending time in Vienna among other regions of Austria, Salzburg and the Wachau Valley, is included in a 7 night river cruise along the Danube River, but one of the highlights of a Danube travel experience. 

Find out more about the river cruise experience from our website. 

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Twelve days of Christmas Markets

As we approach the holidays, here is our gift to you:

Enjoying the season in Europe is a treat that everybody deserves. Here is our rendition of the holiday classic, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” to describe a Christmas Markets experience along the Central Europe rivers annually from the end of November through Christmas. 

Each verse and accompanying photo will take you to more information, so click away!


On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

A Christmas Markets River Cruise in Central Europe

An annual Christmas Market

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Two mugs of Gluhwein to sip as we explore the booths of the Christkindlmarkts

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Three nights pre-cruise in Amsterdam or Budapest

Bicycling the canals of Amsterdam is a must

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Four extra days post cruise in Europe

Chapel Bridge over the Reuss River in Luzern, Switzerland

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Five different countries to enjoy with additional holiday cheer

Decorated Half-timbered houses of Strasbourg

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Visits to six of the most beautiful holiday adorned Cathedrals in Europe

Dom, the Regensburg Cathedral of St. Peter

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Seven full relaxing and enjoyable days of cruising the European rivers

Niederwald cable car Assmannshause in Rüdesheim am Rhein

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Eight handcrafted souvenirs to bring home as holiday gifts

Holiday shopping in Riquewihr, France

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Nine ornaments, one from each town we visited 

Bratislava, Slovakia on the Danube river

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Another suitcase for the 10 Christmas market holiday mugs

Nuernberg Christkindlesmarkt, Germany

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Eleven active excursions walking, hiking, golfing or biking beautiful towns and villages

Exploring Bernkastel – Kers on the Mosel River, Germany

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Twelve full days of holiday bliss with endless memories of a river cruise experience

Cologne Cathedral, Germany

From our family to yours, we wish you health, safety and blessings during this holiday season. When you are ready to experience the joy and beauty of the Christmas Markets, BucketList Travel Advisors can assist you with planning the perfect river cruise.

Happy Holidays!

Categories: Active Travel, Celebration Travel, Eat like a local, Experience, Food, River Cruise, Travel Bucket List | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

3 “Must See” Breathtaking Cathedrals along the Danube River

Spanning central and eastern Europe, the Danube is Europe’s second-longest river at 1,770 miles flowing through or bordering the countries of Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova and Ukraine before draining into the Black Sea.

The Danube flows along the heritage route of Emperors and Kings and some of Europe’s most magnificent cities like, Nuremberg, Regensburg and Passau in Germany, plus four capital cities; Vienna in Austria, Bratislava in Slovakia, Budapest in Hungary and Belgrade in Serbia, making it a popular river for cruising itineraries.

Each country along the Danube has a different culture and different stories related to the river and yet something they all have in common are beautiful cathedrals dating back hundreds of years. 

While visiting Europe coincidentally 3 of the most amazing cathedrals are all named St. Stephen’s. But this is where the similarity ends because each offers a very different and unique experience that makes them all worth visiting. 

Dom St. Stephen, Passau – Germany

Located where the German border meets the Austrian border is the city of Passau in the lower Bavaria region of Germany. 

Within the larger city of Passau is the old town which is popular with visitors for its gothic and baroque architecture. 

In the old town is St. Stephen’s Cathedral, built in 1688, today a Catholic church (the diocese of Passau) was created in the baroque style. She is home to the largest cathedral organ in Europe boasting 5 separate organ sections that plays still today from one console. 

A gilded pulpit and ten side altars painted by important German artists of the 17th and 18th century.Not to be missed are the church bells of the north and south towers, the dome frescos that run the central nave and the choir and of course the daily organ concert at noon. Note: get there early as tickets tend to sell out during busy tourism periods. 

St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna – Austria

In eastern Austria along the Danube is Austria’s capital city Vienna. One of the most beautiful cities in Europe with many Imperial palaces from influences of a long history of royalty, and the music of  some of her famous local residents including Mozart and Beethoven. 

Also dedicated to the same bishop as in Passau, St. Stephen, within the central part of historic Vienna is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, commonly known as Stephansdom. Originally built in 1187, the Romanesque and Gothic cathedral that can be seen today from the square outside the front of the cathedral (Stephansplatz) is considered to be the most important religious building and most recognizable symbol in Vienna having stood through many historical events and survived World War II.

From the moment you enter the giant doors at the front of the cathedral, the 18 beautiful alters along the nave and high altar at the opposite end draws you in to view the artistry of the chapels within the north and south towers and to explore the crypt and catacombs on the basement level. 

Worth noting, this was the parish of Amadeus Mozart who was an adjunct music director for the church, he was married in the church, baptized his children here and his funeral was held here in the Chapel of the Cross. Mozart is buried at nearby St. Marx cemetery.  

St. Stephen Basilica, Budapest – Hungary

Budapest the capital of Hungary, is separated into the old and new by the Danube river and the modern Chain Bridge that connects the historic and hilly Buda with the flat Pest. In the Pest district is landmark cathedral Szent Istvan Bazilika (St. Stephen’s Basilica).

One of the most beautiful churches in the country is a Roman Catholic cathedral built in 1851. Designed in a Neoclassic style, she is most identified by her Neo-Renaissance dome and is also one of the most visited sites in Hungary for her beauty. 

Named after the first King of Hungary, St. Stephen I, whose right hand is kept in a reliquary of the church, you can best see the greek cross layout of the basilica from the large square outside of her main entrance. 

The beauty of her architecture and artistry within the building, you will want to explore the interior of the church, climb the 364 stairs to the top of the dome (an elevator is available) and stop at the top to overlook the views of the city.

Tip: St. Stephen’s is one of the most photographed buildings in the world, when we visited, we stopped by as the sun was setting, the reflections of the sun onto the buildings created a breathtaking vision.

Beyond the amazingly beautiful cathedrals, there are many reasons to visit each of these beautiful central European cities. To explore these and a few other towns and villages along the way, a river cruise is recommended for the most enjoyment with the least travel time. 

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12 Travel Cities you Need to Experience for Christmas Cheer!

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. 

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