10 of the Most Festive Cities in the World

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With the holidays quickly approaching, we found ourselves in search of a little extra holiday spirit. Cities around the world vary in their winter holiday traditions and decorations, from extravagant lights and Christmas markets to ice skating and Santa’s hometown. We rounded up ten of the most festive cities across the globe.

  1. Vienna during Christmas

    Vienna, Austria holiday decorations. Image courtesy of Linda Kesserling.

    Vienna, Austria: Do you love holiday markets and the smell of roasted almonds and spiced Christmas punch? Vienna might be your ideal holiday city. The extravagant holiday markets transport you back in time. Enchanting holiday lights, Christmas trees, classical music, and carousel rides mean joyful activities for all ages. In Vienna, the big day of celebration actually occurs on Christmas Eve, called “Heiligenabend.”

  2. Montreal, Québec: During the holidays, Montreal is all about the arts and entertainment. If you’re up for a chilly evening walk, you can experience the magic of Village de Noël’s tree-lined, wintry garden. Pop-up performances, incredible lights, and decorations bring downtown Montreal to life. There are also Christmas markets, holiday orchestra performances, and ice skating to immerse you into the holiday spirit.
  3. London, England: At this time of year, London is overflowing with the holiday spirit. Go on a Christmas lights tour, treat yourself to the best of holiday shopping, or enjoy “Hogwarts in the Snow” if you’re a Harry Potter fan! There’s also an abundance of Christmas markets and delicious food to enjoy throughout the city.
  4. Rovaniemi, Finland: This might be the most beautifully festive city in the world! It’s covered in glistening snow, and you can even catch a stunning show of the northern lights. Rovaniemi is situated right at the Arctic Circle, and is known as the “Official Hometown of Santa Claus.” If you’re looking for a classic, genuine Christmas experience, you have to visit the Santa Claus Village. Here you can cross the Arctic Circle, meet Santa’s reindeer, and even try husky sledding!

    New York City Holiday Decorations

    Holiday decorations in New York City, New York. Photo Credit: June Marie, https://flic.kr/p/iqna18

  5. New York City, United States: The city that never sleeps truly comes alive during Christmas time. New York’s holiday celebrations are over the top, including the magnificently tall Christmas tree at Rockefeller Plaza, ice skating in Central Park, and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which ends with Santa entering the city, officially kicking off the season. You can stroll through the streets, looking at festive window displays, or catch the Rockette’s holiday special at Radio City Music Hall. The options are endless, and the spirit can be felt throughout all of Manhattan!
  6. Prague, Czech Republic: In the Czech Republic, Christmas trees aren’t decorated until Christmas Eve, which is also celebrated with a large feast. Families decorate their trees with ornaments, apples, and other sweets. Nicholas Day is also celebrated on December 5th, which marks the start of Christmas in Prague. Traditions begin unfolding in the Old Town Square during the late afternoon, where St. Nicholas will appear and ask each child if they’ve been good that year. Between the stunning architecture, the Prague Christmas Market, and carolers singing, there is plenty for visitors to enjoy during the holidays!
  7. Stuttgart, Germany: The iconic Stuttgart Christmas Market (“Stuttgarter Weihnachtsmarkt”) occurs every year in the city’s central square and was first recorded by the city in 1692. It now consists of over 200 stands and is one of the largest Christmas markets in Germany. Activities include shopping, a children’s fairyland, and live nativity scene. Millions of people visit each year to enjoy the twinkling lights, Christmas treats, and mulled wine.
  8. Edinburgh, Scotland: In Scotland’s capital, holiday celebrations carry on for about six weeks, concluding on New Year’s Eve. There is a Christmas tree maze for all ages, where one can wind their way through to find Santa’s Elves Workshop at the end. Get a panoramic view of the city’s beautiful holiday lights from their Ferris wheel, stroll through the city and check out their yearly “Winter Windows” installment, or visit the Christmas market nestled below Edinburgh Castle.
  9. Québec City, Canada: Just before the beginning of December, Old Québec turns into a magical Christmas village, transporting you into what they call a “Living Christmas Card.” With its 18th century architecture, fresh fallen snow, and twinkly trees lining the street, Petit-Champlain is a must see on your holiday visit. There is a German-style Christmas Market, designed to evoke the charm of the classic markets in Europe. Visitors can partake in ice skating, themed guided tours, and concerts where all the best holiday carols are sung.
  10. Leavenworth, Washington: A Bavarian village tucked away in Washington State, Leavenworth is a town known for its Alpine-style buildings and picturesque setting. During the holiday season, it turns into “Christmastown”, where over 500,000 lights cover the snowy city, and celebrations continue all month long.  There are lighting ceremonies, a gingerbread house competition, and even the Leavenworth Reindeer Farm. There’s sledding, snowmobiling, and skiing all around the area. There is an abundance of shops to find the perfect gift for a loved one (or yourself), and there’s also a Nutcracker Museum with the best collection of nutcrackers in the world.