“Santa Claus is coming to town.” That’s right! As you hear more of Mariah Carrey’s 1994 hit buzzing up the streets and the chilly winter breeze blowing through every corner, you know that Christmas season is coming to town.
Typically, Christmas is family time, and most people from all walks of life gather around their loved ones. Some like to spend this holiday at home chilling in front of the fireplace with a roasted turkey on the table, but some just like to make the most of the day offs to venture out. Christmas holidays are held differently all over the world, and who wouldn’t want to see some of them?
Choosing the best Christmas vacation can be a skosh tricky, as virtually every place in the world has their own way of celebrating this holiday. Many may think of Christian countries (like many in Europe) as the only possible destinations, but in fact, most temperate countries celebrate Christmas and theirs are equally as exhilarating.
If you’re still scratching your head trying to figure out where you’ll be spending this Christmas season, CabinZero has got you covered. We’ve trawled through numerous sources and hereby compiled the list of top 20 best Christmas vacations.
So pack your sweater, bring your beanie, wear your socks, cause you’re in for a ride!
Top 20 Best Christmas Vacations
In the United Kingdom
It’s no secret that many Brits prefer venturing abroad for their vacations but going out of the country during this time of COVID wouldn’t be the smartest choice. And it isn’t like the United Kingdom has any kind of shortage when it comes to Christmas holiday destinations. Check out some of the perfect places to enjoy your holiday.
The classic Christmas holiday destination! No place in the world celebrates Christmas the way they do here in London. As soon as the temperature drops and the snow falls, the capital of Britain morphs into a hibernal heaven.
Image on Unsplash.
London just has something for everyone. From the hot booze of the many pubs and bars, to the twinkling ice rinks, the glittering streets, to the vibrant Alexandra Palace, on every corner there’s a new way to enjoy this festive season.
Food is also a signature of London. Enjoy warm tea and crunchy biscuits, the steamy milk chocolate, and the delicate cherry mousse. Consider fine dining in a winter-themed restaurant of the Vinegar Yard.
>> Check out: Best Hotels in the UK: What to Prepare Before Your Trip?
Edinburgh is truly a special Christmas getaway! Every year during the winter season, Edinburgh runs the gamut of festive specials, presenting wide-eyed visitors with stunning Christmas markets, massive ice rinks, and more.
Image from Edinburgh’s Christmas.
An Edinburgh’s Christmas travel experience wouldn’t be complete without a shopping cruise. Amble down the street markets to enjoy yummy drinks and foods while admiring intricate crafts. Perhaps buy a few as gifts for your family and friends? Come to Princes Street Gardens, or George Street!
The view of the city around this time is particularly spectacular! Make your way to the Big Wheel to enjoy the mesmerizing panoramic view of the sparkling city at night.
>> Check out: Travelling to Edinburgh: Edinburgh Tourism Overview
Asia probably never comes to mind as one of the better places to enjoy your Christmas holiday, but it will pleasantly surprise you should you know where to go. Trust us, Asia with some of the most unique places offer a great holiday getaway for you.
Christmas is a great time to visit Tokyo. Japan isn’t really a Christian country of any kind, but as one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, it also celebrates one of the most important occasions of the world. And it absolutely delivers.
Ethereal view at night. Image from Unsplash.
Tokyo is one of the most illuminated cities there is, and it’s even brighter at Christmas time. Many main streets and areas are heavily decorated. Harajuku’s Omotesando street is a huge boulevard, a popular tourist destination, that brims with fascinating light work. Places such as Tokyo Station, Marunouchi Area, and the famed Roppongi are all bustling with people in this season and therefore are decorated to the teeth. The Imperial Palace is close by, so remember to pay that a visit.
Shopping is the top Christmas activity in Japan for the year. Companies rely on this occasion to boost sales by offering generous discounts, so visitors are in for a treat if they like to go on a bit of a shopping spree. It’s a good idea to go shopping in Japan, too, as Japanese products are famous worldwide for their creativeness, utility, and quality.
Taipei isn’t cold at all in the winter, but that doesn’t stop it from becoming one of the most popular Christmas holiday destinations there are. During the holiday season that comes into full display as the city transforms into a futuristic wonderland with decoration-stuffed streets and glimmering downtown.
Image from Taiwan News.
Visiting Christmasland is a must. The place is literally built for Christmas. It’s right around the Banqiao train station (near downtown). It’s a full-fledged Christmas dreamland with playgrounds and market areas drowned in carols. Multiple light displays as well as concerts take place around this time of the year so do check your calendar to coincide your trip with such an event. The Ji-Qing Christmas Alley is also a must-see. The uniqueness of this alley is the fact that instead of being decorated by the government, the residents here decorate their houses themselves, which offer visitors a nostalgic and homey atmosphere.
Yet another non-Christian country, Hong Kong, much like Taipei, knows how to celebrate a festival the right way. Come to Hong Kong to bath yourself in the relentless festival spirit of the city.
Image from Hong Kong Travellers.
The Winterfest is the largest reason why many choose Hong Kong as their Christmas getaways. The festival lasts for a good three months, in which time the entire city is vibrant and mesmerizing. The skyscrapers are set aglow nightly with light show as well as fireworks. As part of this Winterfest, there’s this thing called the Hong Kong Pulse 3D Light Show, which sees laser-audio-visual coordination light up the entire Hong Kong Cultural Centre, which makes the place look like a futuristic utopia pulled right out of a fiction.
Photo Credit: Goa Holiday Trip
The Portuguese charm, whitewashed Catholic churches, and firecrackers, bells, and carolers will make your holiday perfect. Stay at the Fort Aguada Beach Resort, built on the remains of a 16th-century Portuguese fortress. Jazz and Goan food is included in the hotel’s Christmas celebrations. Casa Portuguesa, is a sophisticated place to dine out and is a short walk from the Arabian Sea - one of the best Christmas holiday destinations in India.
In North America
Christmas is by far the most important holiday for this Christian country, and people treat it as such. Usually, it is usually celebrated with a huge roasted turkey in front of the fireplace with a good old Christmas tree. But sometimes we just like to be a bit extravagant and an authentic Christmas gathering just doesn’t cut it. If so, consider these places for an exciting getaway for Christmas.
The Big Apple just relishes big festivals! New Yorkers make sure that their love for everything flashy and extravagant shows, and their Christmas celebration is no exception. There’s a reason why New York is regularly featured in blockbusters whenever there’s a scene about holidays. Remember that movie Home alone?
Image from Loving New York.
Taking part in a light tour is a must. You’ll be gasping at the light decorations! From Lincoln Centre to Rockefeller Tree, stroll around the city to see just how creative people can get when it comes to drenching avenues in holiday spirit. Or if you’re too lazy to walk, just take a bus tour. That’s right! New York’s got them all for you.
It’s also during this time of the year where New York hosts some of the most enthralling stage shows. The yearly Radio City Christmas Spectacular is a sight not to be missed. Be there to watch The Rockettes and their famous “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” performance. The Nutcracker performed annually at Lincoln Centre is also a must-see.
Not the first destination that comes to mind when people think of a Christmas holiday destination, but being adjacent to Washing DC, Alexandria is a surprisingly piquant Christmas getaway that most people gloss over.
King Street, Alexandria, Virginia. Image from Visit Alexandria.
There's a reason why this place is selected among the list of most charming Christmas towns and villages across the world in 2021. This year, in particular, is a special year for the town, as it’s marking some of the most important milestones in the town’s development.
Join the 50th Anniversary Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend & Parade from December 3rd to 5th, or the 21st Annual Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights on December 4th. On these days, the city will go out on making these events memorable for you.
Portland is a cheap Christmas vacation destination most people gloss over, but it packs plenty of fun. From light displays to year-end performances, from markets to festivals, this place has got it all.
Image from Oregonlive.
From the following day of Thanksgiving, a gargantuan 75-feet Christmas tree will be set up in the middle of the Pioneer Courthouse Square and will be armed and packed full of decorations and lights.
Stroll down the fairy lane of the Grotto during its Christmas Festival of Lights. The Catholic shrine and garden will be embellished with tons of multicoloured lighting.
Oregon Zoo is a favourite spot, too. Not many would even think of a zoo for Christmas, but that is the niche of this place. Come here to see the animal-themed light decorations unlike anything else you’ve ever seen.
San Jose, California
Another sleeper when it comes to cheaper holiday getaway, as people don’t typically associate the tech industries of the Silicon Valley with holiday festivals, but San Jose will definitely deliver if you choose it to be your Christmas holiday getaway.
Image from San Jose Spotlight.
The city is famed for its Christmas in the Park, a long-standing festival since the early 1950s. Meander around the famed Plaza de César Chávez where such a festival is held to see over 60 exhibitions and a 60-foot Giving tree. Maybe try the drive-through at the Blinky's Illuminated Holiday to experience a unique Christmas celebration style right in your car
Quebec City is one of the oldest settlements in North America, and its undeniable appeal and unmistakable European characters makes it a unique and exceptional city. Here, we never run out of things to do; visiting quaint shops and boutiques with hand-crafted goods, walking along the cobbled streets of the Old Town while exploring all the new restaurants and delicious bistros merrily decorated for the holidays. And that's just a small part of it. Besides its rich history, the old-world charm and its exquisite gastronomy culminates in the perfect recipe for a Christmas getaway.
Image from Unsplash.
One thing you may want to place on your to-do list when you visit Quebec is The Toboggan Au 1884 run by Château Frontenac (open from mid-December to mid-March). It is one of the city’s oldest traditions, more than a century-old, and is quite a rush. Zoom down icy tracks overlooking the city on a wooden sled will undoubtedly make you feel emotions as you get to speed up to 45 miles per hour down the hill.
With its cosy lobby fireplace, heated bathroom floors, along with a Christmas package that includes a five-course dinner and a personal visit from Santa, Auberge Saint-Antoine promises to be best Christmas holiday destination for families
Photo Credit: Travel and Leisure
Chicago is probably one of the best Christmas getaway destinations in America. Visitors fuel themselves with finger food and a glass of spiced mulled wine at Christmas markets. The Vienna Boys’ Choir concerts are legendary. Stay at the Ring Hotelis on Kaerntner Ring, a modern yet artsy place. Eight, the Ring’s acclaimed restaurant offers four- and five-course Christmas menus.
Located in the southwest of Quebec, near the intersection of where the St. Lawrence and Ottawa rivers meet, Montreal is the perfect choice for tourists who love the idea of spending Christmas vacation in one of Europe’s best-preserved cities.
Image from Treakaroo.
Take a tour around this must-see vacation spot during winter to enjoy its cozy Michelin-starred restaurants, high-end shopping, and over-the-top festivals. The supremely unique trait of Canada's chicest city will never cease to amaze you in the most interesting of ways.
Enjoy your Christmas holidays to the fullest at Notre-Dame Basilica – one of the crown jewels in Quebec's rich religious heritage. The gorgeous Catholic church is well-known for its intricately designed interior, which includes stained glass chronicling the history of the city. Basilica does charge admission for the service, so remember to get your tickets ahead of time.
Hotel Place d'Armes would be a fantastic stay for tourists during Christmas holidays as this lovely hotel offers comfortable accommodation and top-notch service, not to mention it is located just a block away from both Notre-Dame Basilica and the Nutcracker Market at Palais des Congrès.
San Miguel de Allende, México
Photo Credit: Robin Talks Travel
The Spanish colony in central Mexico is electric at Christmas, with theatrical processions, numerous re-enactments, fireworks, live music, and dancing in the main square, El Jardín - making it the best Christmas vacation for families. Be sure to sample the Mexican hot toddy made of fruits and brandy, and the sweet bread. Stay at the Casa Sierra Nevada, spread among historic Spanish colonial mansions, many with alfresco corridors, courtyards, and small gardens. With a shaded courtyard and fountain, Cafe de la Parroquia is a tranquil setting for gathering over a meal beginning with a bowl of sopa Azteca.
Photo Credit: Brendan's Adventures
It doesn’t look a lot like Christmas, but Paraty, is a well-preserved Portuguese colonial architecture, a vibrant cultural scene, with rainforests and has some of the world’s most perfect beaches. Stay at the pousada Bambu Bamboo, a lush retreat, where breakfast is served by the river. The French restaurant Voilà Bistro serves foie gras and shiitake mushroom empanadas as part of its Christmas dinner.
The winter paradise, and a favourite for any winter lover. The old continent is a perfect destination to experience the Christmas holiday.
What could be more inspiring than planning your Christmas getaway to a place that looks like a backdrop for a fairy tale? Then hurry and book a ticket to Bruges, Belgium as you will be amazed to find one of the most picturesque cities in Europe, especially during the holidays. It is also known as Europe's "Venice of the North”, with all the medieval rooftops reaching to the sky, rambling cobblestone alleys with shimmering lights, and cozy chocolate shops on every corner, not to mention a big selection of beer, wine and cocktails, of course. That, I promise you, would be an endless priceless joy during Christmas.
Image from Christmas market in Europe.
Tourists will surely be mesmerized by the enchanting beauty of Bruges during Winter Glow and its new lights trail with stops at 10 installations through the historic part of the city center, including the amazing lights radiating from the Church of Our Lady Tower and a projection of the two ‘seeking lovers’ on the Gruuthuse courtyard. You may also get to project your own light sticker, just download the special Winter Glow app and a string of beacons of light will show you the way.
Tourists seeking an all-inclusive Christmas getaway should consider the Grand Hotel Casselbergh, which offers inviting touches like sitting back in room with exposed wooden beams, soaking up some history as you sip at a lobby bar with a fireplace, or escaping the hustle and bustle of city life with a wellness centre located in a 16th-century cellar.
As a proud member of the UNESCO World Heritage List, it does not come as a surprise that Salzburg, the city of “outstanding value to humanity”, was chosen as a backdrop for The Sound of Music, a five-time Oscar-winning musical film. FYI, Salzburg is the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, one of the most famous musicians in the world. You may want to check out his “Sleigh Ride” to get a feel of a wintry atmosphere. I mean, what would Christmas be without music right?
Image from Salzburg.
With a long history that spans back to the 15th century, sing-alongs and traditional wind music are as much a part of the festivities as the mulled wine and market stands. It's literally Christmas all year round at the Christmas in Salzburg shop on Goldgasse, known for its frilly ornaments (especially those hand painted on eggshells).
Just steps away from Christkindlmarkt is the famous Hotel Goldener Hirsch - one of the most iconic hotels in the heart of the city’s evocative old town. And to be honest, with its fairy tale setting and such authentic Austrian charm, we don’t mind staying in these rooms all day
With its sparkling and mesmerizing decorations along with the shimmering lights covering nearly every building, Vienna is no doubt brimming with Christmas spirit. For anyone who yearn for a more vibrant and energetic charm of this city, check out the renowned Viennese Christmas Market at City Hall and holiday tree at Rathausplatz as well as the Nativity Trail and the Tree of Hearts.
Image from The Vienna Blog.
We highly recommend the Vienna Boys Choir - one of the oldest boys' choirs in the world, also known as the classic symbol of Austria for more than 500 years. They traditionally perform a delightful program of Austrian folk songs, classical masterpieces, Christmas hymns, and holiday carols in Vienna during this special time of the year, so hurry and book a ticket in advance.
The Park Hyatt hotel is within walking distance of St. Stephen’s Cathedral features some of the most spacious and elegant rooms in Vienna, with all the necessary modern comforts that will surely be in your favour.
Dublin is a fascinating city year-round, but there’s just a special charm about this place at Christmas. The Irish aren't as religious as they once were, but the way they celebrate a religious holiday like Christmas makes it one of the great destinations.
Image from Unsplash.
Walking is a great way to enjoy the holiday in Dublin. Stroll down the famous well-adorned street of Grafton. It’s one of the most famous streets in the country and is therefore given the most attention in holiday seasons. The streets when lit up turn into a sight of amazement that will render you agape with the lighting ceremonies galore. At night bucket artists perform to create an atmospheric yet exciting feeling to the place.
If you like to warm yourself up a bit, Dublin welcomes you with all the cosy pubs. Gulp a few pints of Hot Toddy, or maybe just a cup of hot chocolate.
Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Photo Credit: iAmAmsterdam
The legend of Santa Claus is strong in the Dutch capital. Houses are strung with lights. Fireworks can be watched at Nieuwmarkt or Dam squares. Stay at the Canal House located on the Keizersgracht waterway. The local’s trade their bicycles for long-bladed ice skates and tour the city’s outdoor rinks. You may join them too as you wander around on the streets of Amsterdam - one of the best Christmas holiday destinations in Europe.
Photo Credit: Best Served Scandinavia
Trømso offers unparalleled views of the aurora. There’s dog sledding, great food, and a mountaintop cable car. Here, “day” is just a couple hours of twilight blue. Stay at Clarion Hotel Bryggen, right on the harbour, one of the very few hotels that is open. The views from this hotel are unforgettable and the traditional Norwegian Christmas dinner at the restaurant is absolutely remarkable.
Photo Credit: Nordic Visitor
Lapland, Finland is probably one of the best Christmas holiday destinations if you wish to enjoy the holiday with the Nordic traditions. The Urho Kekkonen National Park, turns into a winter wonderland. You can roam around via a reindeer-pulled sled, or go cross-country skiing on the Saariselkä trails. Stay at some of the igloos at Hotel Kakslauttanen, made of thermal glass, you stay warm while watching the northern lights.
Photo Credit: Zuerich.co
A display of 12,000 crystal lights marks the Christmas season on November 21. A hot chocolate and exploring the galleries on Rämistrasse, the Conelli Christmas Circus, or a holiday concert in the Romanesque-style Grossmünster church will be worth a holiday. Stay at the Hotel Restaurant Helvetia, set on the Sihl river which has rooms with Art Nouveau touches. On the eve of December 19, children usually set candles afloat on the Limmat River near City Hall.
Photo Credit: I Heart Reykjavik
This place has an otherworldly landscape, daylight is a four-hour affair and the northern lights illuminate the night sky. Statues of the 12 Yule Lads can be seen at every nook and corner. For covetable views of the Hallgrímskirkja cathedral, check in to the Hotel Leifur Eiríksson. The seafood restaurant Vid Tjörnina attracts both locals and visitors with its classic Icelandic cuisine.
Photo Credit: Blonde Gypsy
In this 16th century town, locals leave dinner including aquavit and herring by the fireplace for Santa. Stay at the Grand Hotel Garden Malmö serving traditional Swedish Christmas dishes. You can eat at the Petri Pumpa festive spread in the stately Elite Hotel Savoy. The feast includes a dozen varieties of herring and salmon and Swedish meatballs - what’s a better way to spend your Christmas vacation?
The snow has fallen, the mittens are out, what could be better than spending your Christmas vacation in one of the world’s happiest countries? According to the World Happiness Report, Denmark has been holding a spot in the top three for the last three consecutive years, and its capital Copenhagen – also its most populous city– is simply not to be missed.
Image from Visit Copenhagen.
Take time to explore the Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen’s renowned antique amusement park, along with the adorable alpine-village style Christmas market surrounding it to feel the rich Christmas spirit vibrant in the air while marveling at Christmas trees glimmer in beautiful colours and Swarovski crystal ornaments offering warmth in the cold winter darkness. It will be a fairy-tale Christmas adventure for tourists of all ages even if you travel alone or with partners, family, or friends. Glædelig jul!
When you start to feel hungry, you can visit Restaurant Vita to have some andesteg, a classic Christmas dish of crispy, succulent roasted duck served with prunes and apples.
Book a stay at Hotel Sanders would be practically perfect, as this elegant boutique hotel really set the tone for a best Christmas vacation with fireplaces and high-end amenities featuring in each apartment suite.
Prague, Czech Republic
If you adore history and enjoy getting immerse in centuries-old architectures, Prague would be a perfect choice, not to mention holiday markets easily make the city one of the world's best places to have Christmas vacations: They run for a full month, crowded with locals and travellers passing through for mulled wine, sticky pastries, and roasted ham. Located in the Old Town and Wenceslas squares, the main markets are just 10 minutes apart by foot and are set to the backdrop of some of the prettiest Gothic architecture you'll ever see.
Image from Prague Experience.
Sip on Svařák, a Czech mulled wine with a citrusy touch from a market stall—or indulge your sweet tooth with a hot chocolate while sitting back at Cafe Slavia (founded in 1881) and watching snow pouring down the crowded streets. It’s going to look a lot like Christmas!
Spice up your Christmas getaways just the right amount with the unforgettable luxury Aria Hotel Prague by Library Hotel Collection, located just steps away from the Charles Bridge and Prague Castle.
When it comes to Christmas time, Germany is probably the best place in Europe that has the ambiance of a Christmas spirit, with Cologne as one of the most famous attractions that draws millions of visitors each winter.
Image from Europe Best Destinations.
There are several amazing Christmas markets held in the main town plazas throughout Germany, near the charming Heidelberg Castle. Take a quick tour to shop for wooden ornaments, drink mulled wine and savour spicy Lebkuchen.
You may also want to take in the merry sights from the observation deck of KölnTriangle, the tower directly opposite the Cathedral on the Rhine. It will give you a different perspective and appreciation for the amazing structure of this supremely unique location. Just breathe in the fresh air and enjoy your time in this idyllic place.
With stunning views of the Cologne Cathedral, plus a seven-course menu at Glashaus Restaurant on Christmas Eve, the Hyatt Regency Cologne sure is a pleasing spot to spend your Christmas vacation at.
While most tourists flock to Paris or Munich when it comes to Christmas vacations, we suggest heading to the city of Strasbourg, known as the best place for French and German cuisine, including the booze. Strasbourg is also home to the oldest of France’s Christmas markets, dating back to nearly 450 years ago. There are 12 in total to check out, which sure is a great opportunity for you to enjoy a day to the fullest and make the most of your time here.
Image from Best Europe Destinations.
We're huge fans of the luxurious Hôtel Les Haras, installed in Louis XV’s historic stables in Strasbourg. This upscale hotel would be a perfect spot for Christmas vacation if you seek for a place with a sense of seclusion and remoteness within the density of the surrounding residential streets.
Winter is one of Italy's best kept secrets, and since Italy is the home to the seat of Catholicism, it would be a fascinating opportunity for folks who want to experience age-old traditions and it surely will enrich your December trip.
Image from Tours Italy.
Imagine enjoying your evening by walking along the festively alight streets around Rome, devouring authentic Italian delights with hundreds of fantastic local restaurants and bars to choose from, or hearing hymns echoing off the walls of the 1,900-year-old architectural marvel during midnight mass at the Pantheon while feeling the pleasure extends to every sense of your body, how fascinating it would be?
The immaculate Hotel de Russie, with its peaceful spa and secret garden, offers excellent dining as well as the best aperitives in the city. Book a winter stay in this lovely hotel to enjoy the sights and sounds of this famous Italian city.
Traditionally not ideal for Christmas, but if you’re seeking a quirky and memorable Christmas getaway, we’ve got one for you.
Seeking a perfect destination to escape winter during Christmas? Come to Cape Town. With winter temperatures that range from the mid-60s to 70s, it's summer in the Southern Hemisphere, after all. You can even visit one (or several) of the South African city's holiday markets without having to wear a coat and scarf.
Image from CapeTown.Travel.
For a trip to remember, we suggest heading to the Boulders Beach, just outside of Cape Town, where you get to see its most famous and undoubtedly cutest bird – the African penguin. A visit to the penguin colony would be totally worth it if you want to take some portrait-mode photos of those wonderful birds waddling their bodies around the coastline. But remember to not get too close because they may not be as cute as they look.
If you are looking for a place to enjoy your Christmas holiday and a perfect antidote to the winter blues, you may want to consider booking a stay in the Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa, located above the Atlantic Ocean, which promises a five-star luxury experience with all the light and breezy rooms that makes it easy to relax and unwind.