Anyplace can put up a few lights and call it any occasion celebration, but travelers who adore Christmas want more.
In 2022, many places are the time for livelier holidays after two years of subdued or canceled festivities because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
From England to the Philippines, these 15 destinations around the globe traditionally supply some of the finest holiday atmospheres for a Christmas-drenched vacation:
Rovaniemi, Lapland, Finland
While popular lore would have us believe the North Pole is the official home of Santa Claus and his jolly missus, the Finns would have us believe otherwise.
For them, Rovaniemi is Christmas HQ, located just north of the Arctic Circle in Lapland. Children here make gingerbread cookies with Mrs. Claus, enroll in Elf School, take a calligraphy class, and compose their Christmas wish lists with an ordinary quill.
You may also want to see the Ranua Wildlife Park, home to baby polar bears, wolverines, and moose.
The Arktikum is a research center where the mystery of the northern lights is revealed.
Those searching for a truly frosty experience can stay static in the Arctic Snow Hotel, made entirely of snow and Ice, but built with saunas and hot tubs by which to thaw.
Near Philadelphia and New York City, Bethlehem supplies a smaller-city Christmas escape.
Settled in the 1700s by Moravian colonists, Bethlehem is justifiably pleased with its Live Advent Calendar, which is often enjoyed starting at 5:30 p.m. from December 1 to 23.
It is a free, family-friendly event by which a town crier rings a bell up and down Main Street to call visitors to the Goundie House (the oldest house on Main Street). A young child from the crowd is invited ahead to knock 3 x, and a local business comes out with a shock for everyone.
“The Christmas City” even offers added new decorations, including a giant LED star, life-sized toy soldiers, and thousands of lights throughout the place.
This historic city in southwest England celebrates the birth of Jesus and the birth of Jane Austen with lots of fanfare.
The Jane Austen Centre — and on-site Regency Tearoom — is the better place to learn about the city’s most famous residents.
The Theatre Royal, which Austen mentions in “Northanger Abbey” and “Persuasion,” has a varied program of holiday drama, musicals, opera, and concerts.
The Bath Christmas Market has a variety of wooden chalets selling distinctively British handmade crafts in a quaint Georgian setting. Alongside the imposing Bath Abbey and the venerable Roman Baths, industry supplies a festive way to discover this historic city’s smoothness.
Bath on Ice is a great excuse to bundle up and lace up skates.
San Fernando, Philippines
If Asia were to have a Christmas capital, San Fernando in the heavily Roman Catholic Philippines would have been a top nominee.
The city, northwest of Manila, is renowned because of its Giant Lantern Festival, which starts on December 17 and ends on January 1. San Fernando’s lantern-making tradition dates back to the late 18th century.
The trip’s highlight is the parol, a colorful, electric Christmas lantern that symbolizes the Star of Bethlehem. The parols recall psychedelic kaleidoscopes, brilliant stained glass windows, colorful pinwheels, or oversized snowflakes.
Anyone who can extend their holiday until the 12th day of Christmas- Three Kings Day or Epiphany- can catch up with Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthazar in Barcelona.
On the evening of January 5, the kings (also called the “three wise men”) arrive in bearded and velvet-robed splendor at the city’s port on the Santa Eulalia, their ship.
Cannons are fired, fireworks are set off, and as the mayor hands them the keys to the town, the magic of the Magi officially commences.
They parade through the streets in a magnificent cavalcade of floats that includes camels, elephants, giraffes, and dazzling costumes.
New York City
Rockefeller Center lies at the core of the New York Christmas. Its famed ice rink’s been around since 1936; the decorated tree has been a holiday tradition since 1931.
Nearby Radio City hosts the annual Christmas Spectacular, starring the Rockettes.
On the southwest corner of Central Park, Columbus Circle hosts over 100 vendors selling clothes, gifts, snacks, and drinks at the Holiday Market.
Fashion’s biggest labels interact with the festivities, making appearances in elaborate Christmas displays at Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s Herald Square flagship store, and other department stores.
The magic of Christmas is in the broken chaos of the Kenyan capital.
Visitors will see loud carol music blaring in different languages at various stores, on public transportation, and in the long lines at restaurants and supermarkets.
A stop by a friend’s house or popular eatery might mean a plate heaped with chapati (flat bread), a spicy rice called pilau, and grilled meat — or name choma in Swahili — to call a few.
Revelers can burn off the calories with a rise at the scenic Karura Forest Reserve, a haven for outdoor enthusiasts made famous by Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai.
Iconic Nairobi National Park offers safari options for visitors to see rhinos, lions, giraffes, and other animals within the backdrop of the sprawling city.
For Christmas gifts, the bustling open-air markets, such as Maasai, offer authentic African paintings, jewelry, clothes, and fabrics unique to Kenya.
The Nuremberg Christmas market (Nurnberger Christkindlesmarkt) is a German institution, traditionally pulling in more than 2 million visitors yearly. It has a lot of history behind it — its first known written mention dates to 1628.
In “the little city of wood and cloth,” visitors to promote booths will get traditional, often handmade Christmas decorations, wooden toys, and all sorts of food and drink.
Adults can enjoy Nuremberg spicy gingerbread and mugs of mulled wine.
And for families with youngsters alone, there’s the Toy Museum.
Colombia’s high-altitude capital brightens up annually with Christmas lights galore.
In Bogotá, there’s the tradition of “Ruta Navideña,” or the Christmas Route. Celebrants stroll popular spots around the town to consume the dazzling displays. Click here for some of the best places to go, including breathtaking Monserrate, a higher mountain that dominates the city.
Día de las Velitas (Little Candles’ Day) is celebrated on December 7, the eve of the Immaculate Conception. It officially marks the start of Christmas in Colombia. People light small candles and paper lanterns, placing them on windowsills and balconies.
Christmas is sweet here. Natilla is a custard dish that resembles a flan or pudding and is eaten alongside other festive favorites such as buñuelos (fried dough balls served hot)
There’s a travel bonus to coming to Bogotá at Christmastime: It’s the beginning of the dry season.
While December is off-season, this heavily Roman Catholic island in the Mediterranean Sea features a festive and spiritual vibe at Christmas.
Visiting precepts or nativity scenes is an intrinsic part of Christmas here. Annually, residents proudly open their shutters, and sometimes even their garage doors, to show their holy crib confections to the public.
Downtown Valletta is home to a lively holiday spirit, with carolers singing outside the Baroque St. John’s Co-Cathedral during Advent. View a dizzying display of Christmas lights on Republic Street.
A stop by at the privately owned Malta Toy Museum, featuring dolls, soldiers, train sets, and clockwork tin trinkets dating as far back as the 1790s, is a heartwarming homage to childhood.
Quebec City, Canada
A haven for green, and outdoor enthusiasts, Quebec bustles with winter activity, offering holiday programs for all tastes.
Old Quebec is converted into a picturesque Christmas village. Sausage and roast chestnut lovers can browse the wares at the German Christmas market. The more religiously inclined can wander an exposition of nativity scenes from around the world.
The nearby Sentier des Caps de Charlevoix offers family-friendly hiking, snowshoeing, and skiing.
Speed devils can zoom around in a snowmobile from Nord Expe.
Can’t you ensure it is for Christmas? There’s still the Quebec Winter Carnival from February 3 to 12, 2023.
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Piñatas, posadas, and ponche sum up the festivities in this colorful town in central interior Mexico, where Christmas is both a solemn and celebratory affair.
Before December 24, visitors are likely to stumble upon Mary and Joseph strolling the streets as locals make pilgrimages from your home to home, singing to beg for “posada” (or “shelter”) because they reenact the journey to Bethlehem.
Piñatas and ponche (a mulled fruit drink) cap a long evening of peregrinations for this cobblestoned city, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its wealth of grand churches, well-preserved architecture, and grand zocalos.
Salzburg and Oberndorf, Austria
The birthplace of Mozart and the filming area for “The Sound of Music,” Salzburg is chocolate-box perfect. Think snow-capped mountains, baroque architecture, and traditional Christmas markets.
It’s even your home of “Silent Night.” The famous hymn was performed for the first time in nearby Oberndorf bei Salzburg on Christmas Eve 1818.
Town also plays host to a far more unusual Yuletide tradition.
Across Austria and Bavaria (in nearby Germany), people dress up as a terrifying Alpine beast called Krampus and rampage through the streets, searching for naughty children who need punishment. The Krampus runs in Salzburg are held on various dates in December.
Get both French and German flavors of Christmas in this border city that feels the influences of both cultures. Dating back to 1570, Strasbourg claims to function as the oldest Christmas market in France and one of the oldest in Europe.
Strasbourg’s group of themed Christmas villages morph the town into an aesthetic and gastronomic wonderland. Countless stalls are disseminated in several locations.
Make photographic and visual memories with a 30-meter-tall (98-foot-tall) Christmas tree taken to the central square of Place Kléber annually and decorated with ornaments and lights.
Alongside the original market, there’s the OFF alternative Christmas fair, featuring live music and a road art trail.
Queenstown, New Zealand
The original Christmas colors of red, green, and white undertake an entirely new meaning in New Zealand.
Red represents the pōhutukawa (New Zealand’s ruby-red flowering Christmas tree). White represents the pristine sandy beaches. And green? The kiwi, of course!
Sun lovers who want to join Santa in his surf shorts should visit Queenstown, where warm summer temperatures mean folks can jetboat, river surf, or paraglide on Lake Wakatipu.
Or visitors can create camp across the lakefront and enjoy a hearty Christmas meal of lamb, seafood, and chicken on the barbie.