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Santa’s Passport: 20 Spectacular Christmas Venues in the World

Berlin, Germany

Ah, Christmas! That magical time of year when the world sparkles a little brighter, and our hearts grow three sizes too big – or maybe that’s just the eggnog talking. We’re not just any run-of-the-mill holiday enthusiasts; we’re seasoned pros with over five years of gallivanting around the globe in search of the ultimate Christmas experience. So, buckle up your reindeer; Santa’s Passport – we’re going on a merry ride to the world’s most festive destinations!

1. Edinburgh, Scotland: Whisky Warming Wonders


First up, Edinburgh. Here, Christmas is more than a festival; it’s a highland fling with whisky. The East Princes St. Gardens market is a must-visit, but let’s be real; we’re all here to warm up with Scotland’s finest export. As the locals say, “There’s nothing like a wee dram to ward off the winter chill.” And if you’re feeling adventurous, there’s skiing at Pentland Hills and ice skating at St Andrew Square. Talk about a cool yuletide!

Visitors can explore the historic Royal Mile adorned with twinkling lights and pop into traditional pubs for a taste of Scotch whisky. Don’t miss the festive markets offering local crafts and seasonal treats, all set against the backdrop of Edinburgh Castle.

Edinburgh, Scotland
Credit: Sean Kinnear

2. Asheville, North Carolina: A Biltmore Christmas Extravaganza

Next is Asheville, where the Biltmore Estate puts on a Christmas show. With 100 Christmas trees and 25,000 ornaments, it’s like walking into Santa’s mansion. The Enchanted Christmas package at Biltmore is like living in a Hallmark movie – minus the predictable plot twist. Asheville transforms into a winter wonderland during Christmas, with the Biltmore Estate stealing the show. The Biltmore, America’s largest privately-owned home, is decked out in lavish holiday decor, including hundreds of beautifully decorated Christmas trees. Visitors can enjoy candlelight tours, live music performances, and indulge in the festive ambiance of this grand estate.

Asheville, North Carolina
Credit: Stephanie Klepacki

3. Bruges, Belgium: Medieval Magic Meets Festive Fervour

Bruges is where Christmas cards come to life. Cobbled streets, shimmering lights, and the best Belgian hot chocolate that’ll have you saying “Ho ho ho” in no time. The Winter Glow light trail is like stepping into a fairy tale, minus the evil stepmothers. Bruges, with its charming medieval architecture and picturesque canals, becomes even more enchanting during the Christmas season. The city’s historic squares and cobblestone streets are adorned with twinkling lights and festive decorations. Visitors can explore the famous Christmas markets, sip on mulled wine, and sample delicious Belgian chocolates amidst the magical atmosphere.

4. Cape Town, South Africa: Sun, Sea, and Santa

Want to escape the cold? Cape Town’s your spot. Summer in December? Check. Beaches over snow? Check. Are African penguins playing Santa’s little helpers? Double check. “It’s like Christmas in July, but in December,” says a beach-bum Santa we met. While Cape Town enjoys sunny weather during the holiday season, it still embraces the festive spirit with enthusiasm. Visitors can experience Christmas markets with a unique South African flair, enjoy beachside festivities, and even spot Santa arriving by surfboard. The city’s vibrant culture, stunning landscapes, and warm weather make for a memorable Christmas getaway.

5. Copenhagen, Denmark: Hygge and Holiday Happiness

Copenhagen is the capital of coziness. Tivoli Gardens turns into a festive wonderland that’s so charming it should be illegal. And if you have yet to try and haven’t Andesteg, you haven’t truly experienced a Danish Christmas. “It’s like a hug for your taste buds,” quips a local chef. Copenhagen embodies the concept of hygge during Christmas, with its cozy atmosphere and cheerful festivities. Visitors can stroll through the city’s charming streets adorned with twinkling lights, explore the Tivoli Gardens transformed into a magical winter wonderland, and indulge in Danish holiday treats like æbleskiver and gløgg. The city’s blend of tradition and modernity creates a truly enchanting holiday experience.

Copenhagen, Denmark
Credit: Razvan Mirel

6. Dubai, UAE: Deck the Malls

Dubai does Christmas like it does everything else: extravagantly. The city is a festive fever dream with tree lighting and Santa Runs. The Dubai Mall becomes a cooler-than-cool winter wonderland with an ice rink and indoor skiing. Over the top? Maybe. Fabulous? Absolutely. In Dubai, Christmas is celebrated in style with extravagant decorations and festive events across the city’s luxurious malls. Visitors can experience the magic of the season with towering Christmas trees, dazzling light displays, and special holiday performances. While Dubai may not have a traditional Christmas atmosphere, its opulent celebrations and shopping extravaganzas make it a unique destination for festive indulgence.

7. Dublin, Ireland: Pubs, Pints, and Puddings

Ah, Dublin, where Christmas is about cozy pubs, black pudding, and pints aplenty. It’s where “Silent Night” is more likely to be a lively ballad in a packed bar. And make sure to catch The Moving Crib; it’s like a mechanical Nativity scene on steroids. Dublin’s lively pubs and friendly atmosphere make it a fantastic destination for a festive Christmas getaway. Visitors can enjoy traditional Irish hospitality while sipping on pints of Guinness by cozy firesides. The city’s streets are adorned with festive decorations, and Christmas markets offer a variety of gifts and culinary delights. Don’t miss out on trying classic Irish Christmas puddings and other seasonal treats.

8. Basel, Switzerland: Market Madness and Marionette Magic

In Basel, Christmas markets are the name of the game. Two markets mean double the fun, and the Basler Marionetten Theater offers a puppet show that’ll make you forget all about your fear of puppets. “It’s like Pinocchio’s Christmas party,” a visitor remarks. Basel’s charming Christmas markets are a highlight of the holiday season, offering a magical atmosphere with twinkling lights and festive decorations. Visitors can browse through stalls selling handcrafted goods, sample Swiss specialties like fondue and raclette, and enjoy performances by traditional Swiss marionettes. The city’s historic architecture and picturesque setting add to the enchantment of Christmas in Basel.

Basel, Switzerland
Credit: Wirestock

9. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania: Christmas City USA

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, takes its name seriously. Christkindlmarkt is the heart of the celebration, featuring everything from artisan crafts to Santa sightings. The “live” advent calendar at the Goundie House is a treat-filled spectacle that even Scrooge would approve of. Bethlehem, known as “Christmas City USA,” fully embraces the holiday spirit with its festive decorations and events. Visitors can explore the historic downtown adorned with Christmas lights, attend traditional holiday markets, and enjoy performances of the famous Moravian Star. The city’s rich history and warm hospitality create a truly festive atmosphere for visitors of all ages.

10. Berlin, Germany: Market Hopping and Botanical Brilliance

Berlin’s over 60 Christmas markets are like a festive pub crawl but for shopping. The WeihnachtsZauber market is picture-perfect, and the Botanic Garden turns into a yuletide Eden. “It’s like Santa’s garden, if he had one,” jokes a tourist. Berlin’s Christmas markets are renowned for their diversity and festive atmosphere, offering everything from traditional crafts to culinary delights. Visitors can hop from market to market, admiring the dazzling lights and decorations, and sampling mulled wine and gingerbread. Don’t miss the botanical brilliance of the Berlin Christmas Garden, where illuminated displays transform the gardens into a magical winter wonderland.

Berlin, Germany
Credit: Roman Kraft

11. Gdańsk, Poland: Fairy-Tale Festivities

Gdańsk is like walking into a Christmas storybook, with its month-long Christmas Fair offering everything from advent windows to a speaking elk. Yes, you read that right, a speaking elk. It’s like Narnia but with more pierogi.

12. Hong Kong, China: Neon Noel

Hong Kong’s Symphony of Lights show is like Christmas on steroids – a neon extravaganza that’s nothing short of breath-taking. “It’s like the city is wearing its party dress,” says a dazzled tourist.

13. Inari, Finland: Arctic Adventures and Aurora Borealis

Inari offers a Christmas experience that’s literally out of this world. Think dog sleds, reindeer, and the Northern Lights. “It’s like Santa’s backyard, but with better views,” a visitor observes while sipping sparkling wine under the aurora.

14. London, UK: A Dickensian Dream

London at Christmas is all about timeless charm and a dash of Dickens. Skating at Somerset House? Check. Afternoon tea? Check. Feeling like a character in A Christmas Carol? Priceless.

London, UK
Credit: Luke Stackpoole

15. Málaga, Spain: Flamenco and Festive Flair

Málaga, where Christmas lights dazzle, and flamenco dancers add a fiery twist to the festivities. The Verdiales Music Festival is an explosion of colour and energy that’s as unique as it gets. “It’s like Christmas, but spicier,” says a local dancer.

16. Strasbourg, France: The Christmas Capital

Strasbourg stakes its claim as the ‘Christmas Capital’, and honestly, who are we to argue? The city is practically a Christmas card come to life, with markets that have been going strong since the 16th century. “It’s like Santa’s village, if Santa had a taste for fine wine and flammekueche,” a local vendor quip.

17. New York City, USA: A Concrete Jungle of Christmas

New York City at Christmas is an experience of a lifetime. The Rockefeller Center tree alone is worth the trip, but there’s so much more. Skating in Central Park, window displays on Fifth Avenue, and who could forget the Rockettes? It’s a festive frenzy that even the Grinch would love. A tourist merrily notes, “It’s like stepping into every Christmas movie ever made.”

Santa's Passport - New York City, USA
Credit: TravelScape

18. Tokyo, Japan: Technicolor Christmas

Tokyo turns into a neon-lit wonderland for the holidays. The city’s take on Christmas is a unique blend of traditional and modern, with dazzling light displays and quirky holiday-themed cafes. “It’s like Christmas in the future,” a wide-eyed visitor remarks as they snap a selfie with a robot Santa.

19. Rovaniemi, Finland: Santa’s Official Hometown

Rovaniemi, the official hometown of Santa Claus, is as close to the North Pole as most of us will ever get. It’s a winter wonderland with reindeer rides, Northern Lights, and, of course, a visit to Santa’s Village. “Meeting Santa was like fulfilling a childhood dream,” admits an overjoyed adult.

20. Quebec City, Canada: A North American Winter Dream

Quebec City is like a slice of Europe in North America, especially during the festive season. The cobblestone streets and historic architecture are draped in snow and lights, creating a magical atmosphere. “It’s like being in a snow globe,” a tourist says, enchanted by the city’s charm.


  1. What is the best time to visit these places? – Watch out for those holiday crowds as close to Christmas as possible.
  2. What to pack? It depends on the destination, but bring your holiday spirit… and maybe a sweater.
  3. Are these places kid-friendly? – Absolutely, but leave them at home for the Dublin pub crawl.
  4. Can these destinations be budget-friendly? -with some planning and off-peak travel, your Christmas adventure doesn’t break the bank.


From the twinkling lights of Tokyo to the historic charm of Strasbourg, these destinations promise a Christmas filled with wonder and whimsy. As we say in our expert travels, “Every “Christmas destination has its own story, and it’s waiting for you to be a part of it.” So, make your next Christmas unforgettable by visiting any (or all!) of these magical places. Happy holidays and safe travels! And no matter where you go, always remember to Travel Till You Drop!

About Jill

Hi, Jill Here

Hi! I’m Jill, a Dallas, Texas girl traveling the world. After a career in the Air Force and touring over 50 countries later, my need to explore keeps going! It’s time to rock & roll and find all those places I never knew I was missing.

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