Plan your winter escape
When the panicked rush of the holidays has some of us feeling more “stress and chaos” than “peace and joy,” a Christmas abroad starts to look really appealing. If you’re looking for an escape from your usual holiday frenzy, but don’t want to miss out on the festivities, book a trip to Europe! Prepare to experience deep-rooted traditions and seasonal cuisine against the backdrop of sparkling, city lights and rich architecture.
1. London, England
In the rom-com classic, “The Holiday,” Amanda Woods picks the perfect destination for her Christmas getaway. What could be more idyllic than snuggling up in a cozy, English cottage for the holidays? But when you’re ready to come out of hiding, head to London for your Christmas festivities. The whole city is decked out with lights, trees, and dazzling window displays. Check out the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, skate at the Somerset House Ice Rink, or attend the midnight mass at Westminster Abbey.
2. Rovaniemi, Finland
Rovaniemi is famously the “official home of Santa Claus.” Santa Claus Village is just 8 km from the city center and remains open all year round. In addition to seeing Santa himself, plan a huskie or reindeer ride for a breathtaking tour of the Lapland region. Get your winter sport fix with skiing, snowshoeing, or snowmobiling. If you’re not sure where to start, take a look at Lapland Safaris here!
3. Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is the birthplace of the Good King Wenceslas, made famous by the eponymous Christmas carol. Fittingly, Prague’s Wenceslas Square hosts a large Christmas market each year. Just a short walk from Wenceslas square is the city’s largest Christmas market at Old Town Square. Enjoy music and live Nativities as you shop the stalls for a handmade souvenir. Feast on smokey, Prague ham or trdelník, a spiral pastry dusted with cinnamon sugar. Indulge in a 4-course meal with live classical music at Cafe Mozart.
4. Bruges, Belgium
If you can’t make it all the way to China for the annual Harbin Ice Festival, Belgium’s Snow and Ice Festival is a great alternative. It is a spectacular event for young and old alike. This year’s festival will celebrate the 90th anniversary of Mickey Mouse, featuring ice sculptures of all your beloved Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars characters. Visitors can attend from November 24th to January 6th. Warm up from your frozen adventure with classic Belgian waffles and a steaming hot chocolate at The Old Chocolate House.
5. Frankfurt, Germany
Christmas in Germany might be pure magic. The whole country basically becomes one big Christkindlsimarkt (literally meaning Christ child market). The oldest and largest of these is the Frankfurt market, which began in the late 1300s. More than 3 million visitors attend each year between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Classic market treats include gingerbread, bethmännchen pastries (marzipan and almond), glühwein, roasted nuts, and, of course, sausage!
6. Rome & Vatican, Italy
With the sweltering heat and heavy tourism of summer well behind it, Rome welcomes the holidays with fresh enthusiasm. If you’re looking for a mix of lively celebration and timeless traditions, this is the place for you. Enjoy some outdoor skating or sample traditional sweet bread panettone. As you enjoy the sights and sounds of Rome at Christmas, you may notice that Santa Claus (known as Babbo Natale) has a much smaller presence than other European cities. Instead, you will see Nativity scenes everywhere you go. Rome is famous for its mostra dei 100 presepi or its “100 nativity scenes.” If you are traveling for a religious pilgrimage, such as attending the Pope’s Christmas Eve midnight mass, you will need to make bookings well in advance.