A horse-carriage rides through a Christmas market in Nuremberg while is snows

The Best Christmas Towns in the World

From Europe’s holiday markets to festivities in the mountains of Northern New Mexico, here are the best Christmas towns in the world!

If you’re looking for the perfect places to go on holiday at Christmas, you’re probably hoping for holiday markets, twinkling lights and warm mulled wine? Some of the best Christmas towns in the world will offer you all of these things, but there are lots of other destinations where people can have great Christmas vacations. From celebrating the holidays like a Steel Magnolia in Louisiana and experiencing festivities worthy of a fairytale in Bruges, to Yuletide in Taos and Europe’s best holiday market in Zagreb, you’ll be booking your trip STAT.

Check out our list of places to visit at Christmas time; you’ll find some European favourites as well as some surprises.

1. Taos, New Mexico 

With snowy peaks over 12,000ft, throughout the year, Taos in New Mexico is a wonderful place to be. But from Thanksgiving onwards and up until the new year, Taos ups the ante on magic by putting on events under the banner of its Yuletide festival. Picture snow falling on flickering farolitos (New Mexico’s traditional paper lanterns), rows of adobes, cozy bonfires that warm the soul, carolling, and a host of holiday experiences that will transport you beyond the mountains of Northern New Mexico. The celebrations end with sacred dances by Pueblo people at the Taos Pueblo.

2. Vienna, Austria

Palaces covered in snow and lights, holiday markets, warm cafés, cobbled streets oozing with old-world charm; it’s harder to imagine a more magical destination in Europe than Vienna over Christmas. There’s so much to do, apart from indulging in festive food like sausages and tasty pastries and sipping on glühwein; you can visit attractions and events throughout the city. Make sure you check out the Snow Globe Museum, advent concerts in stunning churches, and from mid-November until the 24th of Christmas, City Hall Square is transformed into a winter wonderland by the traditional “Vienna Magic of Advent.”

Best Winter 2018 European Destinations
Christmas market in Vienna | ©Austrian National Tourist Office/ Österreich Werbung/Harald Eisenberger

3. Woodstock, Vermont 

The holidays are a perfect time to experience Woodstock’s iconic free spirit and indie vibes. Over the holidays, you should make your way to this famous town in Vermont for the Woodstock Wassail Weekend, which is when it comes to life. This yearly tradition is rooted in the town’s history. Sip on a spicy Wassail punch while watching singing carolers traipse up and down streets lit with Christmas trees and riders dressed in Victorian clothes kick off the party.

4. Bruges, Belgium  

From walking alongside canals and horse-drawn carriages to the heavenly Belgian chocolate shops and buildings that look like iced gingerbread houses, if there’s one city that can deliver on a fairytale Christmas, it’s Bruges. Around the main square, you’ll find lots of festive things to ogle at! Picture ice skaters twirling on the ice rink, wooden shacks selling seasonal goods and twinkling lights beaming at you. You can wander around the old town and refresh yourself with beers or steaming mugs of hot chocolate.

Grote Markt restaurants by night, Bruges
Grote Markt restaurants by night, Bruges | © Richard Barrett-Small/Flickr

5. Natchitoches, Louisiana 

For an energetic riverside Creole-style Christmas party, head to Natchitoches in Louisiana. Munch on hot gumbo and world-famous meat pies and take carriage rides through the historic district. In December, over 300,000 lights illuminate Natchitoches for the annual Festival of Lights. It is one of their oldest holiday traditions, which began in 1927. If you want to kick-off the holiday season like the movie Steel Magnolias, which was set in the town, turn up on the first Saturday of December and you’ll find a spectacular celebration encompassing everything from Eggnog daiquiris and fireworks over Cane River Lake to a festive parade. Natchitoches is enchanting during the holidays; the city was made for drinking hot chocolates and peppermint lattes under a halo of Christmas lights while taking in the atmosphere.

6. New York, USA

We couldn’t leave New York off this list of best Christmas destinations! From the Rockefeller Centre at the heart of the city’s Christmas traditions to ice skating in Central Park, The Plaza Hotel (featured in Home Alone 2) and seasonal window displays on Fifth Avenue, some of the world’s most famous festivities can be found here. The city becomes yuletide central during the holidays, with no shortage of holiday markets, countless renditions of The Nutcracker, wintery villages, and glittering lights, this is one of the best places to visit at Christmas time.

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is a large Christmas tree placed annually in Rockefeller Center, in Midtown Manhattan.
Rockefeller Centre Christmas Tree in Midtown Manhattan | © Michael Vadon/Flickr

7. London, England 

If iconic festivities and European traditions along with the British accent sound like your idea of a well-made Christmas destination, England’s gorgeous capital is the stuff of dreams. London packs a mighty seasonal punch: the entire city will be dotted with holiday markets and fairs, the most famous being Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. This exciting event features a fun fair, ice rink, and lots of delicious food and drink. The entire city will be adorned with decorations and lights, there are Christmas trees almost everywhere you go, and many of the city’s attractions offer festive things to do. You’ll also find beautiful window displays at famous department stores like Selfridges and Harrods and many iconic shops up and down Oxford Street.

8. Nuremberg, Germany 

Seasonal markets are a tradition that came to us from Germany, and Nuremberg is home to one of the oldest Christmas markets in Germany and thereby the world. Nuremberg draws people to its medieval streets all year, but Christmas is always a huge hit. You can expect plenty of holiday activities, experience the town’s historic toy-making tradition at the Toy Museum, enjoy treats like glühwein and lebkuchen (local gingerbread) and pick up handmade arts and crafts for gifts. Sipping on mulled wine is a must, but don’t leave without sampling some of the local beers as well.

A horse-carriage rides through a Christmas market in Nuremberg while is snows
Christmas market in Nuremberg | © Gellinger/Pixabay

9. Quebec City, Canada 

400-year old Quebec City is the perfect place to experience the romance of Christmas. The churches and buildings are draped in lights, and the streets are buzzing with merrymakers. Of course, it helps that Quebec happens to have a distinctly European feel to it, which adds a certain je ne sais quoi to the local traditions. Popular festivities include nativity scenes from around the world and a party called Réveillon, which takes place on the night of the 24th where people eat traditional food and give gifts to one another.

10. Tokyo, Japan

Believe it or not, Tokyo is one of the best places to be at Christmas. In a city that glimmers with life and light twenty-four seven, it’s hard to imagine it becoming even more alive! Come December, Tokyo is transformed by thousands of lights, it’s the perfect place to go shopping, the 24th and 25th of December are huge for date nights, and you’ll also find German holiday markets infused with some local Japanese culture. What’s not to love about mulled wine laced with yuzu?

thousands of blue lights illuminate Tokyo's midtown
Midtown Christmas lights in Tokyo, 2017 | © James Faulkner/Flickr

11. Rovaniemi, Lapland

North of Arctic Circle, you’ll find the official hometown of Christmas poster boy Santa Claus. Make gingerbread with Mrs. Claus, brush up on your festive cheer at Elf School or explore your surroundings on a reindeer-led sleigh ride. All the magic found in Rovaniemi happens against the backdrop of Lapland’s postcard-perfect frosted scenery, ice sculptures and trees gleaming with fairy lights. It’s also the only town on this list that lets you pair the seasonal activities with the mystical northern lights!

12. Vatican City, Italy

This ethereal city teems with spirit most of the year, but come December it elevates itself. People make their way from all over the world to Rome so they can experience Midnight Mass in St Peter’s Basilica on Christmas Eve, or at noon on Christmas Day, and the festive energy is contagious. From the nativity scenes in St Peter’s Square, Piazza Navona, and in the church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli, to the smell of roasted chestnuts wafting through the air, the Eternal City is one of the perfect places to go on holiday at Christmas.

View of the Christmas Tree in Saint Peters Square at night
The Eternal City at Christmas | © Giuseppe Milo/Flickr

13. Zagreb, Croatia

Zagreb has some serious seasonal appeal. From its cobblestone paths and domes, vibrant street culture, and food stalls, this destination can do the holidays with flair. In fact, it’s now home to Europe’s best Christmas market! The holiday market is considered somewhat of a spectacle and spreads itself across the city, enveloping Zagreb in a festive spirit that manifests through lights, decor and outdoor entertainment. Visitors can experience a winter wonderland at Zrinjevac Park or gather in European Square or Ban Josip Jelačić Square alongside the locals.

Based in Toronto, Sahar is a full-time content editor for Days to Come and part-time travel junkie.

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