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The best Christmas vacations you should take this year

A festive Christmas tree adorned with ornaments for the best holiday season.

Whether you’re planning a short vacation for the Christmas holiday or dreaming about your next epic long-haul Christmas getaway, we can help you choose from the world’s most magical festive spots. You could be exploring snow-dusted streets in Oslo, taking in the most stunning Christmas light displays in Paris or tucking into mouthwatering festive street food in Vienna. 

Whoever said Christmas was better at home?! Keep scrolling to check out our best Christmas vacations for the holiday season… can you guess where number one is?

17. Dublin, Ireland

You can expect a lively atmosphere in Dublin at the best of times; but once you add Christmas into the mix things get dialled up to 11. And we are totally here for it.

As you’d expect, those charming cobblestones are bathed in vibrant lights, the trees are up and the Guinness is being consumed by the barrel-load. If you’re after a festive party atmosphere this year, as well as some incredible life music, look no further than Ireland’s raucous Capital.

Irish restaurants in Dublin

16. Edinburgh

Edinburgh is one of those smaller cities that looks like Christmas should be 365 days a year, so it’s easily one of the best Christmas vacations. Even in the Summer its faded gothic grandeur gives off a “please someone chuck some fairy lights and tinsel over every square inch of this street” kinda vibe. 

As with London, the back street pubs and venues are begging you to get cosy and order something that’ll put fire in your belly. Expect a stunning Christmas market during December to engulf this beautiful city and to be enjoyed by thousands of locals and tourists alike. (Maybe leave the kilt at home as it isn’t going to be warm).

Edinburgh castle

17. Munich

The home of Oktoberfest, the home of dancing on tables and singing terrible cheesy bangers in beer-guzzling tents. Given that Oktoberfest ends in October and the Christmas Festivities kick off towards the end of November the city really does not give itself much time to turn this around. 

However the Germans know how to throw a party and when they commit…boy do they commit. Munich’s Christmas markets are almost unmatched: the food, the beer, the mulled wine, the food (did we mention the food?)  Visitors have the choice of not just one or two different markets but 20! Magical. 

Neuschwanstein-castle-Munich-day-trips

15: Amsterdam

Amsterdam is one of those cities that is full of charm. The Dutch really do know how to make others feel welcome on these fairytale streets…with canals lined with twinkling lights and Christmas trees on every corner as a part of their yearly light festival.

Of course no city featured on this list would be valid without a Christmas Market. Maybe be wary of the festive brownies, though.

Amsterdam canals at night

14. Canada

A recurring theme here but Canada is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places on earth. Mountains, lakes, snow, forests, Justin Beiber. Canada is the place that just keeps on giving. Christmas in Canada is something not to be missed. If you’re looking for an active Christmas then clip into some skis and get yourself over to one of the hundreds of ski resorts across the country. If you’re inclined to get involved in some Winter Sports then you would have heard of Whistler or Banff to mention but a few, both of which have built a reputation for being some of the best resorts in the world.

However if you want some chill and kick back then Canada could most definitely still be for you! Take in the beautiful surroundings in your very own little winter wonderland, and enjoy one of the best Christmas vacations in the world.

Woman looking out to Moraine Lake, Banff National Park

13. Austria

A European fairytale. If you’re based in Europe and fancy a quick injection of mountains, good food, great wine, amazing skiing and sheer beauty then look no further.  Salzburg, the fourth largest city in Austria is known for getting its visitors in the Christmas spirit, with an old towns full of character and charm and a Christmas market running from the 17th of November right through to the New Year.

After something a little more fast paced over Christmas? Eat, sleep, plough through powder, repeat. That’s the name of the game in the Austrian Alps. Why not check Contiki’s exclusive ski and apres paradise in Hopfgarten, a market town nestled in the Austrian Tyol?

group of happy skiers in hopfgarten, austria

12. New York

KEVIN!! A classic. Much like London, New York is one of those cities that just screams Christmas. Fairytale of New York, anyone? It’s an iconic city for iconic festive memories, and is easily one of the best Christmas vacations you can take. 

From ice skating outside central station, shopping down fifth avenue, gazing at the frankly insanely big Christmas Tree outside the Rockefeller centre, Christmas is in full swing throughout December. The Big Apple goes big every single year, and what else would you expect?

New-York-America-US-Girl-Camera-Empire-State-Building

11. Copenhagen

Bring your wallet and get ready to explore the hipster suburbs of Copenhagen with a Christmas edge. Home to the coolest bars and restaurant in Europe Copenhagen is a must for those looking for one of the best Christmas vacations this year.

However if you wanna slow things right down and take it easy then the Danish also like to embody Hygge during this festive period. Hygge literally describes a feeling of coziness or comfort with a feeling of wellness and content..and isn’t that what Christmas is all about?! So grab yourself a warming cup of Glogg and settle into some toasty Danish culture. Get down to the harbour and take in the lights that decorate the many boats anchored down for the winter!

A christmas tree is lit up in front of a building.

10. Brussels, Belgium

It might not be the first festive place that comes to mind but Brussels is a delight at Christmas. The city’s Winter Wonder event sees the stunning Grand-Place and other squares around the city come to life with cute, snow-dusted Christmas market chalets and pop-up restaurants. The massive Christmas tree and festive fairground will basically melt anyone’s heart, while the ice rink at Marché aux Poissons is postcard picture-perfect. 

And if you were wondering what people in Belgium eat at Christmas, the answer is chocolatey Belgian WAFFLES, of course!

Brussels at Christmas

Image source:@amberconnelly17

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9. Oslo, Norway

Ever heard of ‘koeslig’? It means cosy, and the Norwegians basically invented it. Which means Christmas in Norway is all about those cute, warming vibes. Tuck into seasonal treats like warm gingerbread and ‘peperkaker’ cookies at the Christmas market in front of the Royal Palace, or listen to a traditional carol concert in one of Oslo’s beautiful music venues. Interesting fact: you know that awkward period between Christmas and New Year? The Norwegians call this ‘Romjulen’ and see it as the perfect time to hit the local saunas. It doesn’t get cosier than that if you’re looking for the best Christmas vacation to relax this year.

8. Paris, France

Paris has to be one of the most romantic Christmas destinations in the world. Home to jaw-dropping window shopping at Galeries Lafayette, warming ‘vin chaud’ at the Parisian Christmas markets and an impressive vintage fairground at the Musee Des Arts Forains (this private collection of vintage rides date back to 1850!). If Christmas lights are your thing, nowhere beats Paris. The Champs Elysées always has a magical display, while Rue Faubourg-St-Honoré is frosted with crystal chandelier decorations.

Traditionally, the French have their Christmas meal or ‘le réveillon de Noël’ on Christmas Eve – so this is the perfect excuse to tuck into all the French delicacies. On Christmas Day, join local Parisians on a wintry walk along the stretching river Seine.

eiffel tower, paris

Image source:@ryadoug

7. Rome, Italy

At Christmas time, Rome becomes a magical wonderland. Check out the grand Christmas tree in front of the iconic Colosseum, plus you’ll find ornate nativity scenes popping up all over the city (including the Nativity at the Basilica of Santa Maria with life-size figures!). The Rome Christmas markets are incredible – Piazza Navona’s market transforms into a magical Christmas bazaar selling handmade toys, roasted chestnuts and more.

On Christmas Day, it’s best to do as the Romans do – eat! The Italian Christmas feast includes roast lamb with garlic and rosemary, a joint of ham and plenty of hearty vegetables. Of course, there’ll also be pasta like ‘gnocci alla Romana’ (cheesy, baked gnocci dough). Head to Vatican City (the world’s smallest country!) on the big day and you can even receive a blessing from the Pope himself.

6. Reykjavik, Iceland

Christmas is a great time to visit Iceland. Although a lot of shops and restaurants are closed in Reykjavik on the big day, that’s all the more reason to cosy up by the fire. Plus, there’s still plenty of Christmassy things to do and see in Iceland. In fact, throughout December there are events like the quaint Christmas market village in Hafnarfjörður, ice skating in Ingólfstorg Square and the Christmas Forest light display at City Hall. The dead of winter is also a great time to see the Northern Lights, so it’s worth booking a tour while you’re there for that extra special ‘Aurora borealis’ Christmas present. Make sure not to miss the annual Christmas market in Heiðmörk, located just on the outskirts of Reykjavik. You will be pleased to discover that the Christmas trees that are sold there are largely sustainable, meaning that for every tree that is sold, there will be 50 new ones planted.

Oh, and Icelanders don’t believe in Santa Claus, by the way! Instead, they have the magical Yule Lads. They are 13 mischievous pranksters who live in the mountains and only come down during Christmas – you’ll find them lurking on the walls of buildings in the city centre or hanging out at the National Museum.

5. London, UK

Christmas in the Big Smoke can’t be beat. It’s literally one of the best Christmas towns in the world. For the best London Christmas markets, try Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park with wild rides and sweet treats; the Southbank’s Winter Festival with crafts and delicious German-inspired street food; or go green at London’s Zero Waste Christmas Market in East London. 

London is also the city for quirky celebrations. You can experience hot tubs and beer pong at Winterland in Fulham. Stroll the colourful enchanted woodland at Syon Park or go to Liberty department store in Oxford Circus – it’s the spot for unique Christmas ornaments and decorations. The icing on top of the Christmas pudding? Take a day trip to Warner Bros. Studio Tour London and have yourself a very Harry Potter Christmas with Hogwarts in the Snow.

As you can see, there are many places to visit in London around Christmas, so make sure you stay somewhere close to a tube or train station, if you don’t want to miss all the good spots by traveling all day.

Winter Wonderland in London

Image source:Contiki

4. Charleston, South Carolina, USA

A surprise entry here! Spending Christmas in Charleston is like stepping back in time. Travel + Leisure Magazine hailed Charleston as one of the best Christmas vacation destinations in the U.S and we couldn’t agree more. The 19th-century antebellum mansions are decked with holiday garlands and the streets are filled with festive tunes.

There are plenty of Christmas events going on in Charleston, as well: From 15 November – 31 December, James Island County Park hosts the Holiday Festival of Lights with Christmas lights aplenty, a holiday train and Santa’s grotto. Don’t miss the Historic City Market and the amazing festive Southern food.

3. Lapland, Finland

Fly across the Arctic Circle to land at potentially the most magical place on Earth. A Lapland Christmas is to basically become a kid again! The Lapland Santa Claus Village is unmissable – after all it is the big guy’s official home – with a working post office and ice sculptures, just 8km north of Rovaniemi. Besides the amazing sightings, there’s also plenty of things to do in Lapland for Christmas, as well. You might see the Northern Lights dancing across the Arctic sky as they’re most likely seen January-April. And if not, there’s always a husky safari, reindeer meet-and-greet or the winter Ice Music Festival. Take your (ice) pick!

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2. Vienna, Austria

Vienna just might be the most photogenic city at Christmas. The Christkindlmarkt on the Rathausplatz is the biggest, and arguably the most beautiful, Christmas market. While the Museum Quarter hosts a kind of arty alternative to the traditional Christmas market.

If you’re wondering what to do in Vienna at Christmas time, here are our best tips: At night, head straight to the lake in front of the Upper Belvedere Palace to get a stunning reflection shot of the building, shimmering with a gorgeous Christmas light display. The Viennese also have the perfect festive food to combat the winter chill. Pick up a steaming mug of ‘Weihnachtspunsch’ (Christmas punch) and a hot ‘Käsekrainer’ or Bratwurst while exploring. It’s all about living like a Viennese local this Christmas!

1. Prague, Czech Republic

And the magical Christmas front runner is… Look Prague just gets Christmas okay? Some might say that Prague is eternally Christmassy with its cobbled streets, quaint town buildings and twinkling lights. Dreaming of a white Christmas? Prague might be just the place – the temperatures in December are often below freezing so snow is always possible! In fact, here’s what to pack if you’re heading for a winter trip.

The Christmas markets in Prague are phenomenal, with the main ones held at Wenceslas Square and the Old Town Square (just a 5-minute walk from each other). In the Old Town Square, you’ll also find the mighty Christmas tree – from the forests of the Liberec region in the Czech Republic, of course. The lights are switched on at 4.30pm every day and it’s an amazing sight against the stark, Gothic skyline, which makes Prague one of the best places to visit in December, as well. With so many attractions and events going on, there’s always something to do in Prague for Christmas.

December often attracts a crowd as more of us are catching on that Prague’s Christmas market is one of Europe’s best! So, plan in advance and try to stay somewhere near Old Town Square, so you can easily stroll to the Christmas market.

Snowy Prague

Image source:Ashley / Pinterest

If that doesn’t put you in the festive mood we don’t know what will! From quirky Christmas traditions to festive American delights – these are officially the most magical places to spend the holidays, now go forth and book that trip!

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