It’s the most wonderful time of the year and in many corners of the world, it means joyous celebrations, melodious carols, and twinkling lights. But there are certain cities that take Christmas to a higher level --- bigger, brighter, and merrier. From expansive markets, lighted villages, and lanterns of gigantic proportions, here are some of the most festive Christmas cities around the world.
As if Austria’s landscapes are not breathtaking enough themselves, the town of Vienna sparkles even more during the Christmas season. Every building and tree in every corner of the street is adorned with twinkling holiday lights. But the city is most popular for its Christkindlmarkts, or Christmas street markets, where handcrafted gifts, artisan ornaments, and the signature gluhwein or mulled wine fill the holiday air. Tasty treats and finger foods like gingerbread, sticky candy apples, and sweet chestnuts also abound making the Christmas cheers sweeter. And rounding up the spectacle is the amazing and world-renowned Vienna Boys’ Choir, usually heard in the Hofburg Chapel, something that can’t be missed while in the city during the holiday season.
New York, USA
It’s always brighter and bolder in the city that never sleeps. The start of the Christmas season in this eclectic city is marked by the lighting of the massive and famed Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center Plaza. Aside from this visual spectacle, the plaza is also popular for its outdoor skating rink, which has been around for more than 80 years, where thousands flock to enjoy and play around. Not to be missed is Radio City’s annual Christmas Spectacular which stars of the iconic Rockettes. And what’s the other best thing this city offers especially during the holidays? Shopping! Hundreds of vendors sell clothes and gifts at the Holiday Market in Central Park. And if you want to go all out, the glamorous displays and impressive storefronts in Saks and Fifth Avenue cannot be gone unnoticed.
With more than 2 million visitors flocking this market every year, the Nuremberg Christmas Market in Germany could be the merriest of them all. The city’s Old Quarter becomes a giant wonderland as more than 200 vendors put up their stalls in Hauptmakrt Square to sell holiday ornaments, handcrafted goods, Christmas angels and traditional toys. But they also make sure they put up an eye-dazzling show as the most beautifully-designed stall gets recognized. Kids find the place magical and enjoyable as they enjoy Ferris wheel and carousel rides with reindeer and Santa Claus sleighs. Kids at heart and adults feast over mulled wine, Nuremberg sausages, gingerbread, sweet almonds, and potato pancakes. How can you go merrier than this?
San Fernando, Philippines
Photo credit: John Paolo Zantua
The Philippines is known to have the longest Christmas celebration in the world. As soon as September comes in, houses, villages, and its huge malls also start turning on multi-colored lights and hanging their parols, star-shaped lanterns that symbolizes the Star of Bethlehem. And speaking of lanterns, there’s a particular town that does these in epic proportions. And we mean 20-foot giant lanterns that burst in colors and lights. San Fernando City in Pampanga, in the northern Philippines, has earned the title “Asia’s Christmas Capital” because of this spectacle and there’s no stopping them --- thousands of people flock to the city grounds during the holiday season to witness these giant lanterns brightly light up in perfect synchronization, each one skillfully handcrafted for months by the talented locals.
And what’s a list of most festive Christmas towns without mentioning the legendary home of Santa Claus himself? Lapland in Finland has become this side of the world’s holiday headquarters. The Christmas lights here are on a much higher level --- literally and figuratively. This place is blessed to be illuminated by the magnificent dancing lights show up in the sky: the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis. Locals and travelers can also visit the Ranua Zoo where baby polar bears can be seen, take calligraphy classes in the Elf School, or get up close with Santa’s reindeers and elves at the Santa Claus Village.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Grayson Yañez is a brand strategy consultant from the Philippines but mostly likes to be known as (Gray)son of the beach. He is also a content developer, cat lover, and marine conservation advocate. He shares his images, experiences, and realizations through Graysonofthebeach and @graysonofthebeach