There is traveling, and then there is traveling there during the Christmas season. Cities get decked out in dazzling decorations, streets bustle with local traditions, and squares are taken over by pop-up festive markets giving out stocking fillers and seasonal goodies as the world prepares for the most wonderful time of the year.
On the other hand, some places are great to visit at Christmas because you might forget it’s Christmas. Who among us hasn’t occasionally wished they could just ignore Christmas and go somewhere it wasn’t celebrated, only to return when the craziness subsided?
Consequently, we haven’t limited our list of top Christmas travel spots to those locations with unique customs or unforgettable cheer. In case you’re more of a Grinch than a Santa, we’ve also included several places you may go to avoid all the holiday cheer.
Whether you want to get into the holiday spirit or run far away from it, you’ll find the perfect destination in our holiday travel guide below.
New York City, USA
There are many reasons why New York City is known as the “Christmas capital of the world,” from the ethereal romance of ice skating at the Rockefeller to the dazzling festive shows on Broadway. In addition to being a traditional holiday destination, New York City is also unrivaled when it comes to shopping thanks to its abundance of malls, markets, and bazaars.
Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland and the official hometown of Santa Claus, is one of the most Christmassy cities in the world. Rovaniemi isn’t just a stop on the way to see Santa, though. After a day of reindeer rides and visits to Santa Claus Village, nothing says “Finnish Christmas” like sweating your cares away in a sauna.
— My Merry Christmas (@MyMerryXmas) November 18, 2022
New Orleans, USA
Alternative Christmas celebrations abound in New Orleans, from lively carol concerts to glam-AF hotel lobby decorations to bonfires on the Mississippi Riverbank. Daytime highs average around 21°C, which is warmer than the rest of the US mainland by a few degrees at this time of year.
London is hit with an unrelenting wave of holiday spirit beginning in early November. By the end of December, the holiday spirit has reached a crescendo, with fir trees, Christmas lights, and jingly festive music adorning the streets of the already romantic UK capital. Yes, it is just as enchanted as it sounds.
Not those types of young men, no sir. Icelandic children who have been good all year long wait for the Yule Lads, a group of 13 folk characters who are said to leave gifts in their boots on Christmas morning. The extra long winter nights in Reykjavik make for excellent Northern Lights viewing, and the city’s Christmas markets and ice skating rinks make the holiday season a particularly pleasant time to visit.
The Weihnachtsmarkt in Nürnberg is one of Germany’s oldest, largest, and most renowned traditional Christmas markets. A miniature town of wooden stalls selling candy canes, delicious lebkuchen, and unique holiday decorations gives off a heady aroma of gingerbread and mulled wine.
— Expedia (@Expedia) December 18, 2019
Where can I go that celebrates Christmas in full swing but doesn’t feel too… wintery? Australia’s likely your best bet. Sydney, with its average December high of 25 degrees Celsius, has all the Christmas decorations—including lights, trees, and even ice skating—of a typical city. Don’t judge a Christmas dinner on the beach until you’ve tried it.
Japan doesn’t celebrate Christmas; however, this is part of the country’s allure. Japan is a great place to escape away from the holiday madness of the rest of the world, but there’s still plenty of holiday cheer to be had, from Tokyo’s stunning winter illuminations to the annual Japanese tradition of eating KFC on Christmas day.
Do you think your vehicle is the coolest for going to Christmas services (if that’s your thing)? You should meet some native Caraqueos. The streets of the Venezuelan capital are closed each morning between December 16 and 24 at 8 a.m. so that Christians can roller skate to church. It’s also not uncommon to see rollerbladers decked out in full Santa regalia.
Marrakech is a great place to get away from the typical Christmas spirit because so few locals celebrate the holiday. In addition, the temperature in this Moroccan city is much more bearable in December than it is in the summer (averaging around 20 degrees Celsius, and rarely dropping below freezing at night), making sightseeing in the medina, souks, mosques, and riads much more of a pleasure.