Festive Cities

Amsterdam from The Most Enchanting Christmas Light Displays in the World

The Most Enchanting Christmas Light Displays in the World

Amsterdam

Amsterdam

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In this capital city, the Museumplein turns into a delightful Christmas Village, where you can enjoy Dutch treats, visit the Christmas market and go ice skating. From mid-November to mid-January, the Leidseplein also is transformed into a winter wonderland with a lovely ice-skating rink. The Amsterdam Light Festival bathes Amsterdam in a feast of colors, best seen from the famed canals.

Barcelona

Barcelona

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A white Christmas is not very likely here, but the palm trees, wide avenues, Christmas lights and some of the world’s best architecture make this a great spot for the holidays. Colored lights are strung everywhere, you can gawk at the huge nativity scene in Plaça Sant Jaume and snack on fragrant chestnuts roasted on braziers in the streets. The ice rink in Plaça Catalunya is a big draw for children and has a small practice rink for beginners, Lonely Planet says.

Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen, Denmark

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The concept of hygge, which is a term used to convey a kind of Danish coziness or charm, helps make Christmas here special. A stroll through the Tivoli Gardens, one of the world’s oldest amusement parks, is a must. There are several Christmas markets, including one named for favorite son Hans Christian Andersen. Take a walk along the Stroget pedestrian shopping street with the fashionable Copenhagen residents and enjoy the beautiful decorations.

Frankfurt, Germany

Frankfurt, Germany

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The city goes all out for its Weihnachtsmarkt in central Frankfurt. The enormous market is one of the largest Christmas markets in Germany. The elaborate and creative stand decor, the scenic surroundings on the Römerberg and St. Paul’s Square and the impressive Christmas tree also make it one of Germany’s most beautiful markets.

Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki, Finland

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Helsinki calls itself the Christmas City and it’s easy to see why. Christmas lights on the city’s main street of Aleksanterinkatu and the bustle of shoppers in the Helsinki Christmas Market exude a cheering warmth — and the mulled wine also helps to ward off the chill. Visitfinland.com notes that Christmas is usually a quiet family celebration, so people make the most of pikkujoulu – “little Christmas” – during which they party in festive bars and restaurants.

Jukkasjärvi, Sweden

Jukkasjärvi, Sweden

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This might not be the first place you think of for a festive Christmas and it takes a bit of traveling to get there, but Jukkasjärvi is the home of the famous IceHotel. The hotel is in an icy winter wonderland in far northern Sweden and it puts on a special show for Christmas. Beyond the magical white landscape and incredible northern lights, there are wilderness experiences like husky dog sledding and ice sculpting, according to the IceHotel site. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day feature special events, including a visit from Santa and a concert in the historic village church, dating to the 1600s.

London

London

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London lights up at Christmas. Window shopping amid the lights of Oxford Street and Regent Street in London’s West End is lovely and won’t cost you a penny. Every winter, outdoor ice skating rinks appear all over London, including the U.K.’s largest at Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. Norway gives London a huge Christmas tree for Trafalgar Square each year as a thank you for the country’s help during World War II, Tripsavvy.com notes. There also are Christmas markets galore.

 

Mexico City

Mexico City

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Christmas is a big deal in Mexico, with celebrations beginning on Dec. 16 and not coming to a full close until Feb. 2 for many people. The capital puts on a great show, from oodles of Christmas lights strung across buildings to giant, life-sized Nativity scenes, Culturetrip.com reports. There’s also a giant Christmas tree and decorations in the enormous Zocalo.

Munich, Germany

Munich, Germany

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Munich holds its famous traditional Christmas Market on Marienplatz (St. Mary’s Square) in the center of Munich. A huge Christmas tree covered in lights towers over the many festive stands. Advent music is performed live every evening from the balcony of the Town Hall. You can also listen to German Christmas music in the impressive Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady).

Nuremberg, Germany

Nuremberg, Germany

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Germany seems to have cornered the market on festive Christmas markets. A yellow stagecoach pulled by draft horses is just one of the charming elements of the Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt in Old Town. The aroma of mulled wine and gingerbread and the sounds of the brass ensembles and children’s choirs are sure to delight.

Paris

Paris

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You may have avoided Paris during the holidays for fear it’s cold and dark. You’ve been missing out. Roasted chestnuts, vin chaud and raclette are yours for the taking and the city is about four times twinklier than usual, TimeOut reports. Elegant holiday lights adorn several quarters and historical sites in Paris, bringing the town out of the November gloom, Tripsavvy.com says. There are carousel rides and Christmas markets, and the Christmas Eve service at Notre Dame Cathedral is something special.

Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro

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Sand, beaches, warm weather — this is the place to be for those who hate cold weather. Rio also manages to make Christmas very festive, with its enormous lighted metal tree floating in the scenic lagoon. Stick around for New Year’s Eve, because each year about 2 million revelers gather on the Copacabana beach to celebrate and watch the spectacular fireworks.

Rome

Rome

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See the old city in a new light at Christmastime. Walk around the city center, soaking up the lights and atmosphere, from via Veneto to via del Corso. Head to Piazza Navona and enjoy the piazza’s special look and feel this time of year, Romewise.com suggests. And be sure to go to St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican at noon to watch Pope Francis give his Christmas Day “Urbi et Orbi” (“To the City and the World”) speech

Vienna

Vienna

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Merrymaking and Christmas celebrations are taken seriously here. There are quaint markets held in the shadow of dramatic Baroque architecture, streets filled with gorgeous lights and classical concerts in some of the greatest venues in the world, Culturetrip.com reports. The Viennese Christmas Market in front of City Hall is a highlight for those eager to get into the spirit of the season. The backdrop gives this market a boost and a mug of steaming Weihnachtspunsch (Christmas punch) warms the soul.

Wroclaw, Poland

Wroclaw, Poland

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Wroclaw boasts one of Poland’s best and largest Christmas markets. The fair features a few amusement rides, mulled wine and the Bajkowy Lasek (Fairy Tale Forest), where animatronic characters behind glass convey fairy tales to wide-eyed children, according to Inyourpocket.com. Parents can grab some hot wine and grilled sheep cheese from the Polish mountains.