10 of the World’s Most Picturesque Holiday Destinations to Visit for Christmas

From the best Christmas lights to the most festive cities, which celebrate the season right through to middle January. 

We’ve tracked down 10 of the most picturesque holiday locations which boast ambient ancient cities and streets lined with thousands of sparkling lights for Christmas.

Kobe, Japan:

Kobe has lit up their streets with millions of tiny lights every year since 1995, as a tribute to the loss suffered in 95 from the Great Hanshen Earthquake, which resulted in 6 thousand life losses and left the city in darkness for days.

The light festival symbolises hope and courage, and serves as a reminder of what the city endured and how they overcome it.

Old Quebec City, Canada:

The entire old quater of Quebec, known as Old Quebec, literally turns into a holiday spectacular. No tree is left untrimmed, and no street is left unadorned with tiny lights. Garlands and lights street between buildings, and there is not a door that can be found which doesn’t house a wreath. 

You can also be guaranteed a snow fall for Christmas, and their annual German-style Christmas market brings the holiday spirit alive nearly every night of the week for the season.

Tbilisi, Georgia:

In a place called Freedom Square, you’ll find a giant illuminated tree, which is the centrepiece for the holiday lighting display. Surrounding streets are connected by magnificent light displays, strung between buildings, and decked with giant lit up displays of festive ornaments.

Rustaveli Avenue is the most notable street to visit, as recommended by locals, as you’ll find the most lavish lights hanging above the road there.

Salzburg, Austria:

This ancient city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the remarkably preserved Baroque architecture. Add in the abundance of lights, along with snow, a giant Christmas tree and ringing church bells, and you have all the makings of a fairy-tale holiday. Think mulled wine, whilst listening to sugar plum fairy from the Nutcracker.

There are also Christmas markets held most nights, where you can enjoy a range of delicious drinks and foods or shop the beautiful range of Christmas decorations – many of them hand-made by locals.

Monte Carlo, Monaco:

In the first week of December, Monaco, one of the most luxe destinations in Europe transforms into a winter wonderland. With a fantastical Christmas light display in Casino square, varying Christmas markets, and multiple illuminations all over Monte Carlo. 

From shop fronts, to streets, buildings and more. The entire area transforms into a magical Christmas playground, attracting tourists from all over the globe to come visit this stylish grand city.

Rovaniemi, Finland:

Northern Europe really know how to channel the ancient traditions of Icelandic Christmas traditions. Since 2010, Rovaniemi became the official home of Santa Clause, creating a one-of-a-kind tourist destination in Lapland, where the Christmas spirit truly comes alive. Covered in snow, the entire town is lit up with Christmas lights and decorations, including most of the pine trees around town as well.

There are wild reindeer roaming about, and sleigh rides with tame ones. Even Santa comes out to hold court in office, where you can sit with him, snag a photo, and make present requests.

Ayala Triangle Gardens, Manila, Philippines:

Every year, Manila holds their festival of lights, accompanied with a sound show and a new theme every year, the show runs every 30 minutes between 6 and 10pm, and is held at the Ayala Triangle Gardens.

Due to some heavy COVID restrictions this year in Manila, the theme this year is a virtual light show of Christmas themed characters singing carols and celebrating the season.

Colmar, France:

Colmar is a medieval town located near the German border and is believed to be the inspiration for the setting of Beauty and the Beast. Much of the iconic timber-frame architecture has miraculously survived throughout the centuries, and the city is littered with picturesque canals and bridges waiting to be explored. The city boasts five Christmas markets, including one that’s indoors and another dedicated to children.

And since Colmar is the wine capital of the Alsace region, you must try the mulled wine if you get there. 

Baltimore, Maryland:

Dubbed as “Miracle on 34th Street,” the over-the-top lighting displays along a row of houses on 34th Street in Baltimore’s Hamden neighbourhood draw crowds of spectators each December and even some traffic jams as well. The entire street is decorated with Christmas lights by homeowners, giving any major city a real run for it’s money when it comes to personalised displays, self-funded by the public.

Make a plan to visit early to grab parking. Find a good spot to sit with a hot chocolate and then wait for the lights to turn on, just before dark.

Woodstock, Vermont:

A trip to Woodstock is a must for anyone staying in NYC. It’s a 5-hour drive north, or an easy flight to get there. And a particular favourite for anyone craving an old-fashioned New England white Christmas. It’s always guaranteed to snow there, and the town really get involved in Christmas, with tree lighting ceremonies, parades, not a house not decorated with lights and decorations. The main street stretch, lined with cute independent shops, is carefully draped in white lights and green garlands.

And, there are opportunities to ride in a horse-drawn sleigh in town as well.

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