Everywhere Else

The Most Magical Places To Spend Christmas Around The World

By Hugo Mathers
17th Dec 2023

a crowd of people at a christmas market at night

Whether you want to go gift-shopping at medieval-era markets, gaze at the world’s most electrifying festive light shows, or just hang out with a gang of mischievous trolls (yes, you’re in luck), here at Urban List, we've found a destination for every kind of yuletide globe-trotter.

Read on for the best places to spend Christmas around the world.

Cape Town

South Africa

If you want to go abroad this Christmas, but don’t like the idea of swapping summer for winter, look no further than Cape Town. The South African city hosts a bunch of holiday markets during the festive season, and, best of all, you can catch some of the thousands of African penguins that rock up to Boulders Beach each year!

Chicago

USA

a train decorated in christmas lights
Image credit: @cdats | Instagram

Chicago goes to town for Christmas. From its 55-foot Christmas tree in Millennium Park, to its German-themed Christkindlmarket, to a heated igloo at The Godfrey Hotel, the Windy City sure knows how to roll out a winter wonderland. And don’t miss the shimmering light festival ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo, featuring no fewer than 2.5 million LEDs.

Hong Kong

China

There are Christmas lights, then there are festive light shows like Hong Kong’s Symphony of Lights that will simply blow you away. Held nightly at 8pm, the famous display features an extravagantly choreographed neon show displayed across over 40 of Victoria Harbor’s iconic skyscrapers.

Reykjavik

Iceland

aerial of christmas lights in Reykjavik
Image credit: @visitreykjavik | Instagram

Iceland’s capital is one of the only city’s where you could catch a natural light show this Christmas. On clear evenings, Iceland’s capital offers views of the Northern Lights, multicoloured streaks flashing through the night’s sky. Reykjavik also is home to the 13 Yule Lads, a mischievous group of Christmas trolls that wander through the town, and who actually pre-date Santa Claus.

Rio De Janeiro

Brazil

Another option for Christmas sun-seekers, December sees Rio host the world’s biggest display of full-sized nativity scenes at its Festival de Presépios (or Crib Festival) at Jardim de Alan. The city’s residents also flock to the Rodrigo Freitas Lagoon to enjoy views of the world’s largest floating Christmas tree!

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Salzburg

Austria

a christmas market in salburg
Image credit: @visitsalzburg | Instagram

Since the 15th century, Salzburg’s Old City has hosted Christkindlmarkt, a musical festival with sing-alongs and traditional wind music, as well as plenty of mulled wine, friend pastries and market stands. You can also catch the all-year Christmas shop, Goldgasse, for some sweet ornaments and hand-painted eggshells.

San Miguel De Allende

Mexico

A colonial-era city in Mexico’s central highlands, San Miguel de Allende commences Christmas festivities on 12 December. Between 16 and 24 December, most of Mexico participates in Las Posadas, reenacting the nativity story with dress-up, carols, food and piñatas. In a city already stunning with baroque Spanish architecture and cobblestoned walkways, this is a magical place to spend the festive season.

Taipei

Taiwan

a christmas tree covered in christmas lights at night
Image credit: Winston Chen | Website

From November, all the way to the new year, Taiwan’s capital celebrates the festive season in the utmost extravagance. The entire Banqiao District is transformed into Christmasland, featuring towering Christmas trees, fairground rides and food markets, plus a magic forest and Boshou light park.

Vienna

Austria

Vienna is known worldwide for its December markets, or “Krippenmarkt”. With more than 20 official advent markets offering lights, gifts and delicious treats, the Viennese Christmas Market at City Hall - which dates back to 1296 - is the iconic centrepiece of the city’s celebrations. Elsewhere, don’t miss the holiday tree at Rathausplatz, the Nativity Trail, the Tree of Hearts, and the Vienna Boys Choir, which has sung carols for the locals for over 500 years.

Tokyo

Japan

a laneway of trees covered in christmas lights
Image credit: Nagatoshi Shimamura | Website

Unsurprisingly, Tokyo is one of the world’s stand-out destinations for electrifying festive lights. One of the most famous displays is the Blue Cavern (Ao no Dokutsu) in Shibuya, inspired by the blue grottos of the Mediterranean, while elsewhere in the city you can find a 10-foot-tall snow globe at Tokyo Midtown and a gargantuan Baccarat crystal chandelier at Yebisu Garden Place.

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Image credit: Daniil Silantev

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