Tis the season to travel and plan a holiday vacation! From international Christmas markets to places where a white Christmas is not only a dream, we have the locales that are the best for travel during this time of the year. Whether you choose the festivities of Germany or just take a bite out of the Big Apple, you are sure to enjoy your holiday vacation. Here are our suggestions for the four most festive cities to visit during your Christmas vacation.
While Christmas markets are popular all over Europe, the Nuremberg Christmas market easily ranks at the top of the bunch. Over 2 million visitors flock to this Christmas market every year to take in the holiday sights and sounds. More than 200 vendors pack the wooden stalls in Hauptmarkt Square in the city’s Old Quarter to offer handmade gifts, tree angels, ornaments, jewelry, and more. Mulled wine, potato pancakes, sausages, and gingerbread are among the savory treats to enjoy at this Christmas market, as well.
In addition to shopping, the Nuremberg Christmas market offers a variety of activities for families to enjoy. There are various rides such as a classic wooden Ferris wheel, a two-tiered carousel, and small train ride. During Advent, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, the Christkind visits both Christkindlesmarkt and the Nuremberg Children’s Christmas Market. Delightfully decorated houses, child sized of course, are also part of creating unforgettable Christmas memories for families.
From mid November until Christmas, the squares in Vienna turn into beautiful Christmas markets. Enjoy a variety of festive sights, sounds, and smells as you stroll the streets during this magical time of year.
Begin your visit by passing under the candlelit entrance to City Hall Square for the Vienna Christmas World on Rathausplatz. There are over 150 booths offer traditional Christmas market wares such as gifts, tree decor, handicrafts, and various confections. Visitors can skate in an ice rink, stroll the beautifully lit trails and paths, and enjoy Children’s World, with a carousel, reindeer train, and much more.
Next, visit the Christmas Village on Maria-Theresien-Platz, between the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna and the Naturhistorisches Museum Vienna. Here Gospel choirs and music groups will bring the sounds of the holidays to your ears. Younger crowds and families with children will enjoy the Christmas Village in the Altes AKH, which offers a railway and even curling lanes. Traditionalists will delight in the Old Viennese Christmas Market on Freyung in the city center, where the Christmas market tradition began as early as 1772. Glass decoration, traditional mangers and handmade ceramics are available here, along with festive music and a champagne bar.
This beautiful snow covered landscape might be as close as one can comfortably get to the North Pole during the holidays. The city goes all out and the festivities start at the end of November with the much anticipated lighting of the town’s Christmas tree at Austurvöllur square. The festivities include choirs singing Christmas carols and the arrival of the 13 Santas, the “Holiday Lads”, who appear throughout town during lent.
Other favorite attractions include the Christmas Village in Hafnarfjörður town, where shops sell traditional holiday gifts and food. Live entertainment is to be enjoyed throughout the town. Reykjavik’s main Christmas Market in Ingólfstorg Square is another popular attraction, with mulled wine and lots of shopping opportunities. For those who wish to learn about traditional Nordic Christmas, visit the Christmas exhibition at the Reykjavik City Museum to learn how fried bread and tallow are made, as well as to enjoy Nordic songs and dances.
Children and the young at heart will be tickled by the relatively new “Christmas Creatures” tradition. The City of Reykjavík decided to honour Iceland’s storytelling tradition by using the Christmas Creatures in the city’s Christmas decorations, in order to keep old Christmas storytelling legends alive. The “creatures” include the thirteen Icelandic Yule Lads, their parents, Grýla and Leppalúði, who are bad tempered mountain trolls, and the terrifying Yule Cat.
For many in the United States, the holidays officially begin with the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. Thousands of revelers turn out for the star studded annual event to enjoy the lights and entertainment. Tourists and locals alike head to the plaza in large numbers to skate on the ice rink below the towering tree. The display is up until early January, so even if you are not there for the lighting you can still enjoy the magnificent scene.
Holiday shopping opportunities abound in New York City. Macy’s offers Santaland, a winter wonderland full of toy trains, elves, decorated Christmas trees, and much more to entertain the entire family. Multiple Christmas markets are also available for those who want to skip the department stores. Bryant Park, Union Square, Grand Central, and Columbus Circle all offer Christmas markets where you can enjoy holiday sights and sounds while shopping for unique gift and decor items.
For live entertainment, book tickets for Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas spectacular. There you can see the dancing Santa and the high kicking Rockettes. Traditionalists will delight in the New York City Ballet’s rendition of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. Of course, there is always Broadway, with world class performances of both traditional and new Christmas stories.
How many of these cities have you visited during the holidays?