Best Places to Celebrate Christmas Around the World
Since we already shared the favorite places to celebrate Christmas in the USA, we thought it only appropriate to share some of the best places to celebrate Christmas holidays around the world, including Christmas in Canada, Europe, and Asia. Once again, some of our favorite travel writers offered their suggestions and here’s what they had to share.
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Best Destinations for Christmas Around the World
Best Holiday Celebrations in Canada
Many Canadian Christmas traditions are very similar to what you would find in the United States, but different provinces and territories have traditions that are unique to them.
In Newfoundland, locals dress in costumes and visit their neighbors on house visits. These “mummers” as they are called, will knock on doors and once invited in, the homeowners guess who’s under the costume. Once they’ve solved the riddle, the mummers are invited in to share food and drink with the family.
Quebec City, Canada
In December, head to Old Quebec, where you’ll find a real-life Christmas village! The city is covered in white fluffy snow, while magical lights and breathtaking Christmas displays bring the holidays to life. There are holiday concerts to enjoy, a German Christmas market, and endless opportunities for Christmas shopping in this winter wonderland.
Toronto is a city like no other and that holds true for the holiday season. Torontonians and visitors alike flock to the many Christmas celebrations held annually in Canada’s largest city.
Experience a true European Christmas market in the historic Distillery District with unique food tastings, craft beer and plenty of holiday shopping. Then, head to one of Toronto’s many free ice rinks for a skating party hosted by a local DJ.
Not-to-be-missed events include the Toronto Santa Claus Parade, the Christmas festivities at Casa Loma, Toronto’s gothic style castle, and the fireworks display during the Cavalcade of Lights. Events kick off in early November and continue through the New Year. (Sarah Pittard from Trekaroo)
Vancouver is such a magical place to celebrate Christmas. You can ride the Bright Night Christmas train through Stanley Park and stroll over hanging pathways lit with hundreds of thousands of lights at the Capilano Suspension Bridge.
In the heart of the city at Robson Square you can bring your own ice skates and skate for free then check out the brilliant light displays at Pacific Center Mall, St. Paul’s Hospital and Jack Poole Plaza Christmas Market.
A ride on an aquabus at night is a fun way to get a different perspective of the city lights too.
If seeing epic Christmas lights are your holiday goals, take the skytrain to Metro Vancouver’s biggest free light display at Lafarge Lake.
Whistler is a short drive from Vancouver and even if you’re not a skier, the village there is festive with twinkling lights and an outdoor skating rink.
In Whistler you can also take a horse-drawn sleigh through a winter wonderland and warm up with your family post-adventure at Family Apres. (Terumi at An Emerald City Life)
Taking a visit to Victoria, British Columbia, will feel like you are transported to a English city by the sea yet it is just a ferry ride away from Washington state & British Columbia.
Christmas is my favorite time to visit because it is filled with activities & holiday traditions that families will love. You’ll find outdoor holiday markets, free horse drawn trolley rides around the city, and outdoor ice skating in front of the iconic Fairmont Empress Hotel.
Many of the historic buildings around the Inner Harbor are lined with Christmas lights showing off the beautiful architecture for ideal family photo ops.
A visit to Butchart Gardens outside the city for their evening Christmas lights display is sure to be a family favorite. The gardens feature a stunning 12 Days of Christmas lights display, traditional Victorian carolers and evening ice skating.
Whether you have young children or teens, Victoria will be a fun holiday destination for all. (Jen at Thrifty Northwest Mom)
Celebrating Christmas in South America
In South America, the traditions vary from country to country. Many countries and regions in South America do not celebrate Christmas, but have a harvest celebration instead.
In other parts of South America, particularly the more Catholic regions, families will celebrate the birth of Christ and decorate their homes with nativity scenes. Gift giving is also a part of their holiday traditions.
Best Destinations in Europe for Christmas
Christmas traditions vary throughout Europe, but there are a few similarities to traditions in the United States. For example: Christmas trees and wreaths are quite popular in Germany, and many other countries have adopted them as well.
Advent calendars count down the days until Christmas with pictures and sometimes candy. Catholics in Europe enjoy a traditional Christmas meal and gift giving after the Christmas morning mass. Other countries have their main celebrations on Christmas Eve. You will see it is different everywhere.
Bern is home to two of the best Christmas markets in all of Europe. Head to Orphanage Square for everything from DIY fondue to Christmas gifts for the whole family. Cathedral Square has crafts and homemade items for sale too! While the shopping is excellent, you can’t beat the views from a sleigh ride to Gurten Mountain.
This is one of the most spectacular Christmas markets in France. I literally fell in love with its charm! It is actually home to not one, but five different Christmas markets that are spread out all over the town. They are all within walking distance, so it is just a matter of how tired you get from shopping!
Know that crowds of people will be coming here to enjoy the Christmas markets, so don’t say I didn’t warn you! At one point I found the crowds were too much, so be sure to time your trip just right!
Consider going early in the morning when they first open, or weekdays instead of weekends. At times, I found myself wanting to go to a side street just to take a break and a photograph! (Cacinda from Points and Travel)
Helsinki calls itself “the Christmas city” during this time of year. There is even a street called Christmas Street! The city lights up during the holiday season, and there are holiday markets, a winter circus, and even ice skating. Helsinki at Christmas is magical as there is almost always snow!
Jolly old England at Christmastime conjures up romantic visions of Dickensian characters caroling past flickering street lanterns. The modern reality can be just as atmospheric. My family loved “getting local,” enjoying traditional Sunday roast at a pub and strolling through the many charming winter markets.
After a fabulous visit to the Tower of London, we enjoyed strolling along Tower Bridge to the cozy huts selling comfort food, mulled wine and cocoa.
Our favorite castle, Hampton Court, one of Henry VIII’s great palaces, features ice skating during the winter. This gorgeous estate on the Thames does a fabulous job with children, offering period costumes for kids to wear throughout their visit, high quality reenactments and performers and even working kitchens to tickle all the senses.
We had tickets to a Christmas “panto,” a must during the holidays and a real hoot. Campy, silly renditions of well-loved plays, pantos rely on excited kids in the audience screaming “look behind you!” to warn the unsuspecting hero.
In addition to holiday fun, we made Harry Potter a theme of our England trip, including a great London walking tour and a whole day at the wonderful Warner Bros. Studio (a highlight for all of us!). (Julia at Inspire World Travel)
For me, no city in the world is as magical as Rome at Christmas. At the start of December, Rome’s atmospheric cobbled streets dress up in lights and the city’s elegant shops display elaborate windows, giving the city a festive and truly indulgent feel.
Despite the cold temperatures, at this time the city is full of events. Several churches host impressive nativity scenes and while the city doesn’t have large Christmas markets, many stalls do appear in the city’s piazzas filling the air with sugary smells, cute ornaments and a good bit to eat!
My favorite spot of all, at this time, is St Peter’s Square. Each year, a large tree is delivered to the piazza and the result is breath taking. St Peter’s Basilica acts as a stunning backdrop to the tree and locals kids and tourists alike gather to see it being lifted and decorated! You can also hear The Pope’s speech on Christmas Day, but expect a crowd.
My favorite way to spend time in Rome during the festivities is to mix sightseeing with shopping and food stops. If in Rome at Christmas, make sure you taste panettone, pandoro and torrone. You find them in many shops and they are a true seasonal foodie treat! (Marta at Learning Escapes)
If you are looking for a place to visit for both Christmas and New Year’s consider coming to Reykjavik for the winter holidays. This is a place where you can exchange books as Christmas gifts, and enjoy a spectacular fireworks show for New Year’s Eve.
Reykjavik goes all out for the holidays along the main streets with Christmas trees everywhere you look. The weather in Reykjavik in December may be chilly, but it offers a chance to see the Northern Lights. What are you waiting for? Book that trip!
We’ve celebrated Christmas around the world. But nothing has ever been as real and magical as the time we spent in Rovaniemi, Finland. The destination my daughter always says was her favourite. Home of the real Santa.
You can visit any number of themed attractions from Santa’s Holiday Village or Santa’s Park. But better yet was getting up close with elves in the enchanted Finnish forest and riding a husky sled through the dense trees.
For more grown up fun jump on a snow mobile to chase the Northern Lights. You’ll not be disappointed with a visit to Rovaniemi, it’s like walking into a Christmas snow globe. Everything breathes Christmas and you can’t help but feel jolly. Just like the big red man himself. (Erin at Explore with Erin)
What could be more wonderful than celebrating Christmas traditions in the ancient city of Strasbourg. Strasbourg, located in the region of Alsace at the crossroads of historic rivals France and Germany, is known as Capitale de Noël, or Capital of Christmas and professes to be home to the oldest Christmas market in Europe.
The Christmas market consists of more than 300 stalls spread out over 12 locations in the historic city center, including the most popular market located in front of the famous cathedral and the main square, where the largest real Christmas Tree in France grown specifically for the market is located.
Visitors to the Strasbourg Christmas market should not miss the many local specialties like hand-blown glass Christmas ornaments, mannele, which is similar to gingerbread, the regional slice cookie, bridle, and the much-loved pain d’épices or spice bread.
There’s also vin chaud, and in Strasbourg you’ll find vin chaud blanc, or white mulled wine, a specialty of the Alsace region, which primarily produces white wines. (Monique from An Unstoppable Journey)
Spending Christmas in Vienna is a lot of fun because there are so many choices scattered throughout the city. In fact, there are at least 25 official Vienna Christmas markets and a whole lot of unofficial neighborhood markets.
My kids really enjoyed the Christkindl Market located in front of the Town Hall because there was a little train and a park nearby that was decorated for Christmas. If you would like to visit Schonbrunn Palace and the famous Vienna Zoo located in its grounds, you will also find a Christmas market.
In fact, you can walk between tourist sites and nip into a Christmas market for some warming Gluhwein (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions available) to ward off the cold. (Shobha at Just Go Places)
The holiday season begins punctually at 6pm on the 22nd of November in Zürich when the Christmas lights (which the locals call Lucy) turn on like Swiss clockwork. From then until the 23rd of December, Christmas markets fill the tow – our favourite being the Weihnachstdorf (Christmas Village) on the Sechsläutenplatz.
A smaller Christmas market on Werdmühleplatz features a singing Christmas Tree, where choirs of up to 90 people, mostly children, perform on a podium in the shape of a Christmas tree. Grab a glühwein and some warm chestnuts and immerse yourself in the magical holiday mood.
While wandering the streets of Zurich be on the lookout for Christas traditions, including the festively decorated “Märlitram” (or Fairytale Tram) driven by Samichlaus himself. Angels can be found inside telling stories to the lucky children who get a chance to ride. The stories are told in German and tickets are available to be purchased up to a week in advance. If you don’t speak German, but still want to mix with the locals, head to Bürkliplatz to dip candles, an Advent tradition since the 1960s.
Before saying goodbye, don’t forget to stop by the Christkindlmarkt in the main train station to catch a glimpse of the amazing Christmas tree decorated in Swarovski crystal gems. (Kristin at Swiss Family Travel)
Want other suggestions for the best European Christmas destinations? Don’t miss our Favorite European Christmas Markets, Christmas in Sweden and 5 Christmas Markets in Germany Kids Will Love.
Where to Celebrate Christmas in Asia
Tokyo can be really crazy during the winter holidays. There are parks all over with winter illuminations and some are absolutely insane. I’m talking hundreds of thousands of lights strung in all sorts of interesting ways. Waves of color. Fun characters. Even tunnels of light that make for fantastic photos — especially popular with couples.
The big areas, such as Roppongi Hills, or parks like Seibu-en, are where you’ll find the most impressive displays. There are massive competitions across Japan. Plus Tokyo has lights all over the place — even the regular downtown areas are lit up and festive. Christmas in Japan shouldn’t me missed. (Chad at TokyoSpark)
Celebrating Christmas in the Philippines is something Filipinos look forward to every year. People celebrate from September 1st through the first week of January of the following year. Time is spent preparing Christmas decorations, playing the songs of the season, and putting up the Christmas tree on September 1 until the first week of January.
One of the cities to visit during this time is the beautiful Dumaguete City located in the south of the country. Here is the well known “Christmas House” showcasing their majestic Christmas decorations inside and out to the public.
There are a lot of things to do in the city, one of which is a party that is thrown to the less fortunate children of the city annually organized by the owner of this famous “Christmas House”. On Christmas eve there are celebrations in the bars, restaurants, tempurahan kiosk (street food), and along Rizal boulevard until the fireworks go off at midnight.
Two of the local parks have carnival rides and games throughout the season, Quezon Park has a 60 ft tall Christmas tree in its center. Catholics observe the traditional 9 day mass which they attend at 5 o’ clock in the morning from December 16 until Christmas Eve.
Almost every household is has a Christmas Party where an abundance of food is set on the table, the Manito/Manita game is played (a gift exchange for the group), and the ever famous karaoke never disappoints. (Ferna Mae of Everywhere with Ferna)
What Christmas is Like in Australia
While it may be winter in the US and Europe, the Southern Hemisphere is in the heart of summer. Christmas in Australia is often a very hot day, and much of the day is spent at the beach.
Check out our article for more ideas about what you’ll find during Christmas in Australia.
Make this Christmas unforgettable through travel. Kids will love experiencing another culture and learning about their traditions. Who knows, you might even find a few traditions to start in your own home.