Looking for ideas to get away this Christmas? Or are you like Jenna, a Trippy user, who was looking to add more cities to her Christmas bucket list? Jenna inquired on Trippy’s community page:
Where are the Best Cities to Celebrate Christmas?
Even though I have a list with a few favorite cities to celebrate Christmas based on research and personal experience, I would still like to create my own personal ‘Christmas Bucket List’ for years to come! Here are the two I have so far: – Spend Christmas in Lapland, Finland – Spend Christmas in a Log Cabin in Canada. Since you are the experts in travel, I’d love to know where your secret places would be! Where are your favorite cities to celebrate Christmas?
Whether you seek the warmth of a December summer in New Zealand, the northern lights of Norway and Finland, or the Christmas magic of New York City and Orlando, this list of 10 best cities to celebrate Christmas is worth noting:
1. Rotorua, New Zealand
Rishabh from New Zealand recommended Rotorua for those looking for a “summer” Christmas:
Most of us have spent Christmas during the winters where it is either snowing or freezing cold. If you are looking for something different and exhilarating, you should definitely consider visiting New Zealand, where it is summertime during Christmas.
Christmas in New Zealand is less about snow and sleigh bells and more about sun, sand, and barbecue in the backyard. Pools, beaches are favorite places to chill around on this day. There are many festive season experiences only available in New Zealand:
Hangi – the Kiwi version of a traditional roast dinner is cooked in a pit under the ground, typical fare for a cultural Christmas with large groups of family and friends.
Kiwi ‘barbie – barbecuing is a popular option on Christmas Day when groups gather at home, the park, or the beach for a casual cook up and to eat out of doors.
Pohutukawa / New Zealand Christmas tree – this coastal species produces dramatic bright red blooms throughout December. For many Kiwis, lazing at the beach on a sunny day, under the shade of these natural New Zealand Christmas trees, is all they want for Christmas.
Santa at the beach – spare a thought for the jolly man when he arrives down under and has to endure temperatures of up to 30C. It’s hardly surprising that he often sheds the heavy woolen suit and boots in favor of speedos, jandals, and sunglasses and heads to the beach. Santa’s been spotted surfing, jet skiing, paragliding and sailing, and even doing deliveries by water in a canoe.
Christmas first and last – New Zealand is the best place in the world to get the most out of Christmas Day. After the Chatham Islands, New Zealand is the first place in the world to see the sun, and with the country on summer time or daylight saving, there are maximum daylight hours to enjoy Christmas. In parts of the South Island, it’s light by 5 am and doesn’t get dark until 10 pm.
2. Funchal, Portugal
Claus, a Trippy user, loved Christmas in Funchal, Portugal. He wrote:
Funchal is one of the best places to experience Christmas. I have been to many places around the world, but few places celebrate Christmas more than this little Portuguese island.
Funchal is a city in the Madeira Island located off the southern coast of Portugal, about 550 miles from Lisbon and 400 miles from the African continent. It has a temperate oceanic climate, which means winter is usually warm compared to other cities in Europe. It’s one of the most popular New Year destinations in the world, because of the Madeira Island Fireworks, a tradition that dates back to the 17th century.
Each year, Christmas is celebrated in full scale in Funchal. You’ll find Christmas markets, Christmas carolers, Christmas lights and decorated trees adorning the streets and squares of downtown Funchal.
The Childbirth Masses (Missas do Parto), a Christmas tradition in Funchal, is celebrated every year and symbolizes the beginning of Christmas on the island. It is where the locals attend special masses for nine days from December 16 to 24.
3. Medellin, Colombia
Alejandro from Colombia suggested Medellin:
Medellin or in general, in Colombia!!! The energy, the home warm, but also the parties and Christmas street lights…. all is perfect for Christmas there!!!
The entire city is transformed into a “city of lights” starting December 7, the “Day of the Little Candles” in Colombia. This over 150-year old tradition of hanging Christmas lights is getting more elaborate each year. Imagine over 30 million LED lights and almost 3.1 million feet of rope lighting.
Medellin’s El Alumbrados Navideños de Medellin (Christmas lights in Medellin) has two magnificent Christmas light displays – one is in Parque Norte, and the other is by Parques del Rio, along the Medellin River.
4. Bergen, Norway
Rory from New Zealand had a few on his list including Bergen. He said:
Otherwise, Norway is also a good choice for Christmas, visit the scenic town of Bergen and then take the train through the snow across the Hardangervidda National Park to Geilo for some skiing. On the way, stop in the town of Voss, which is beautiful, and take an excursion to the Flåmsbana railway and the fjords – jaw-droppingly beautiful.
Bergen offers the world’s largest Gingerbread Town (Pepperkakebyen). Every year since 1991, by November, the locals start making and assembling the edible artwork of houses, castles, churches, people, and landmark buildings. Gingerbread Town is open daily from November 16 to December 31.
5. Rovaniemi, Finland
There’s definitely no place like Rovaniemi for Christmas. It’s the official hometown of Santa Claus. Besides meeting Santa, you can go on husky or reindeer rides, go on snowmobile tours or enjoy a relaxing day in an igloo hotel.
Trippy user Rory said:
Lapland is awesome, although I went in February rather than at Christmas. We stayed in a log cabin at Sallatunturi which was really cool, right next to a small ski field, frozen lake for ice fishing, and a reindeer park.
There may be an opportunity to see northern lights while in Rovaniemi. Minna from Finland said:
Northern Lights are common at Lapland, in northern Europe – Finland, Norway, and Sweden during wintertime.
Rita from Belgium said:
I have a recommendation: do not miss Lapland when you go to Finland. The south and the west coast are very nice, and also the eastern lake district, but in Lapland, you can find something extraordinary. You can take the night train to Rovaniemi, Kemijarvi, or Kolari, and continue from there by bus or rent a car. There are certainly also guided tours available. You don’t have to go far to notice that nature is totally different from the rest of the country. You can take a hike to the hills and rivers, see wild nature and arctic reindeer everywhere.
6. Strasbourg, France
Trippy users Mei and Kerstin wrote:
If you’re a food lover, then you might want to go to France. Strasbourg in Alsace (we’re going there tomorrow for a long weekend!!) is certainly one of the best cities in France for food lovers!! There you get the French quality and the German portions! Besides, the oldest and largest Christmas market is also in Strasbourg (open until December 31st).
Did you know one of the oldest Christmas markets in Europe is in Strasbourg? The city has over 10 Christmas markets, but the oldest and most iconic is the Christmas market by the Strasbourg Cathedral. It started in 1570.
Martine, a Trippy user suggested the following things to do while you celebrate Christmas in Strasbourg:
Climb up an XVIth century spiral staircase and discover nine contemporary-style bedrooms, overlooking the roof of Strasbourg, under the majestic gaze of the Cathedral. Here, you will find a different style and ambiance! Sound-proof and air-conditioned bedrooms, with color TV, radio-alarm clock, mini bar, WIFI, and direct dial telephone. Great idea to visit my part of France for the Christmas season.
7. Florence, Italy
Mary Ann added Florence to the list. She said:
Florence is absolutely magical; not a lot of tourists; stores, boutiques, shops, and restos ready to welcome you; the streets alight in Christmas decor; renaissance parades and pageants through the streets; all manageable; walk everywhere; weather cooperative…perfetto!
The nativity scene, known as precepe in Italian, is an Italian tradition since the 1200s. You can find all types of nativity scenes, including the life-size nativity scene, particularly the ones in front of the Duomo.
8. New York City
When it comes to celebrating Christmas, New York City has it all. NYCGo has a long list of things you can do and see during the Christmas season but here are four you must check out when you’re in the Big Apple:
- Christmas Tree and ice skating rink at the Rockefeller Center
- Christmas markets in Union Square, Bryant Park, and Columbus Circle
- Christmas window displays on Fifth Avenue, especially Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf, and Tiffany
- Go for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular show at Radio City Music Hall, The Messiah or Nutcracker at the Lincoln Center
In Orlando, the theme park capital of the world, you can ride the Polar Express to the North Pole, have dinner with Santa or Mickey, enjoy holiday parades day and night, and of course, endless entertainment and fun rides.
Check out VisitFlorida’s Holly Jolly Christmas and Holiday Events in Orlando.
10. Graz, Austria
Christmas in Austria is magical, but for a less crowded city, go to Graz. Rory was very enthusiastic about Austria. He wrote:
Christmas in Austria is great – especially the Christmas markets in Salzburg and Vienna. Just beautiful, and I’d recommend a scenic train ride through the mountains to end up at Graz.
Graz’s old town is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site with narrow cobblestoned streets, squares, and medieval houses. This city would definitely make history and architecture lovers happy.
Christmas in Graz is celebrated on a grand scale. The city offers beautifully decorated Christmas markets, the ice-carved nativity scene, outdoor ice skating rinks, and display of lights. The Christmas market on the Hauptplatz (in front of City Hall) is the place for mulled wine, roasted chestnuts, cookies, and Christmas souvenirs. The facade of the City Hall is lighted up at night and is transformed into a giant advent calendar. Check out this list of Christmas markets in Graz by the Austrian Tourism Board.