We're all for snow days and cuddling up with loved ones by the fire, but the month of December is also a prime time for traveling—mainly to see how the rest of the world celebrates Christmas. These cities are worth a visit at any time of year, sure, but they seem to be exceptionally magical during the holiday season. Whether they're European classics with storybook Christmas market, Asian cities where you can see twinkling lights from a rooftop pool, or ski paradises in the U.S., some celebrations are worth the price of a plane ticket. From New York to Sydney, these are our 10 best places to visit this Christmas.
1. Quebec City, Canada
Quebec City is one of the oldest cities in North America, and its colonial French architecture gives it an unmistakably European feel. The cobbled streets of the Old Town are packed with quaint shops and delicious bistros, all merrily decorated for the holidays.
The toboggan run at Château Frontenac (open from mid-December to March) is one of the city’s oldest traditions—and quite the thrill. Zoom down icy tracks overlooking the city on a wooden sled reaching speeds of up to 45 miles per hour.
2. New York City, U.S.A
There’s no shortage of ways to make your New York City Christmas magical, whether it's ice skating at Rockefeller Center, window shopping down Fifth Avenue, or lurking around 34th street hoping to witness a miracle.
3. Copenhagen, Denmark
According to the World Happiness Report, Denmark is one of the world's happiest countries, making it a great place to spend the holidays. In Copenhagen's Tivoli Gardens, antique amusement park rides decorated with lights are surrounded by yet another adorable, alpine-village style Christmas market selling gifts and snacks through the end of December.
4. Cologne, Germany
Nothing embodies old-world yuletide charm like the Christmas market, and nobody takes Christmas markets more seriously than the Germans, with Cologne’s drawing four million visitors each winter.
Take in the merry sights from the observation deck of KölnTriangle, the tower directly opposite the Cathedral on the Rhine.
5. Sydney, Australia
You haven't seen Christmas lights until you've seen Sydney's Christmas lights. Plus, the holiday season lasts an entire month here (take that, 12 days of Christmas) with "Sydney Christmas," an aptly-named festival taking place from November 23 through December 25. The citywide celebration kicked off this year with a tree lighting at Martin Place and continues with Christmas markets and nightly concerts.
Wonder at the 85,000 twinkling LEDs at the incredible Pitt Street Mall Boulevard of Light.
6. Strasbourg, France
Strasbourg is home to the oldest of France’s Christmas markets, dating back nearly 450 years. There are 12 in total to check out, which is sure to keep you busy throughout the end of 2019. Pro tip: Though the markets will be full of delicious goodies, many choose to indulge in the king of Alsatian delicacies, foie gras, which is also a French Christmas tradition.
7. London, England
Christmas in London has a timeless appeal—chalk it up to the decorated Georgian townhouses, cozy, packed pubs, and a dash of Dickensian charm.
Rent skates and glide around the frozen 18th-century courtyard of Somerset House, a sprawling neoclassical building off the Strand.
8. Reykjavík, Iceland
Reykjavik shines on the streets and in the sky in December. Strings of glinting Christmas bulbs illuminate the city during its very long nights; and on the clearest evenings, the Nothern Lights can be seen from the city’s darker streets.
9. Inari, Finland
While most tourists flock to the Lapland city of Rovaniemi come Christmas, we suggest heading even further north (like, within reach of the Arctic Ocean north) to the village of Inari. Located in the heart of the incredibly scenic Ivalo region—reachable via a 1.5-hour flight from Helsinki—Inari is a pure winter wonderland dotted with hotels and restaurants that keep things nice and cozy. It's hard to imagine a more authentic winter holiday than one spent riding dog sleds, feeding reindeer, and chasing the Nothern Lights.
10. Tokyo, Japan
The city turns the voltage up each year with its winter illuminations, with different districts competing with each other to create some truly sensational displays. This year's illumination includes over 100,000 twinkly blue and silver lights at Tokyo Midtown and a massive Baccarat crystal chandelier at Yebisu Garden Place. And don't worry if you can't get there before December 25—the winter illuminations have become so popular that most remain up until February.