Travel Ten: Top Ten Places to Spend Christmas

Christmas is all about celebrating the birth of Christ, which comes with traditions both old and new, adapted to each country and different religions. But no matter where or how you celebrate Christmas, the yuletide nostalgia is one you can’t get away from during December – what with sparkly lights and nippy air, or for the southern hemisphere of the world, beautiful sunny weather and gorgeous locations. Regardless, we’re suggesting you break one tradition this year – don’t stay home – travel for Christmas, experience a Christmas you’ll never forget. Decide to travel, there’s definitely something for you to do to enhance your Christmas - making it just that bit more special.


Whether you’re booking a last minute vacation or just need a heads up on what to book for next year’s festive break, here are our top ten places to celebrate Christmas.

1.Swedish Lapland, Sweden

It makes our top ten for having one of the worlds “coolest” hotels for those looking for a truly unforgettable travel experience


Why Swedish Lapland: From dog sledging to a Northern Lights tour to snow mobile safaris, you can’t go wrong with this Christmas vacation. Perfect for adventurists, the kids and those who want to relax, enjoy a very white Christmas, this winter wonderland is a complete and utter must have experience.


Where to stay: Ice Hotel Lapland. A new hotel every year. Literally, built each year of snow and ice made of 60 rooms, the Ice Hotel will undeniably challenge your ideas of what can and can’t be done. Ranging from Snow Rooms to Art Suites adorned with stunning ice sculptures and flushed with subtle lighting. Open from mid-December to mid-April, before it melts back into the River Torne, in early January you can still watch some of the ice artists at work after which the completed hotel can be seen in all its glory. Through its reindeer-skin clad doors, you’ll find a simply breath taking ice pillared hallway illuminated by dazzling ice sculptures and spectacular ice-carved chandelier. Don’t miss the Icebar where colourful vodka cocktails are served in chunky ice glasses!

2.Santa Claus Village and Santa Park – Napapiiri In Lapland, Finland

Not to be outdone by Sweden, Finland also boasts an amazing Lapland, perfect for keeping your kids dreams of Santa Claus and the modern fantasy of Christmas alive.


Why Napapiiri: Because it’s where Santa Claus lives!! Napapiiri considers itself Europe's Christmas capital due to the fact that it is Santa’s “true base of operations” and every year the tour of two different Santa themed attractions – Santa Claus Village and Santa Park draw in hordes of tourists from all over Europe. What more could you want other than the real deal? From genuine reindeer encounters to visits with the big man himself, this is bound to be a sure winner with the kids. And for the parents! Once the tours are over, the nearby city of Rovaniemi provides a wider array of holiday delights.

Where to stay: Santa Claus Holiday Village, located at the heart of Santa Claus Village in the Arctic Circle,10km north of Rovaniemi, offers private cabins which come with a private sauna, a kitchenette, private bathroom and a terrace. Perfect for major family bonding time.

3.Nuremberg, Germany

Each year the market is opened by the Nuremberg Christ Child, a young woman between the ages 16 and 19.


Why Nuremberg: The dazzling Nuremberg Christmas market (Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt) is a German institution, luring two million visitors yearly with a giant carved wooden Ferris wheel and more than 180 wooden stalls selling all the handmade nativity ornaments revellers can stuff in a sack. Adults can enjoy stuffing their faces with sticky buns and fritters while kids will absolutely love spending the day at the Toy Museum.


Where to stay: Burghotel Nürnberg, located in the heart of Nuremberg´s old town. In the midst of historic streets you can experience first-hand the atmosphere of the old town, close to all the market you can scour them till your feet knowing that your hotel is literally right round the corner for you to put your feet up in no time.

4.Vienna, Austria

Why Vienna: The romantic city of Vienna turns into a fest of Christmas markets from mid-November until Christmas. With tradition dating to the Middle Ages, the market piles Christmas cliché upon Christmas cliché, but it’s impossible not to be charmed. Expect to overdose on Lebkuchen (gingerbread), gebrannte mandeln (toasted almonds), waffeln (waffles), maroni (sweet chestnuts), bratwurst (fried sausages) and glühwein (mulled wine) – yes, we really did mean it when we said cliché upon cliché. Christmas markets flourish in every city and town in Austria, though most visitors try to hit the markets in the largest cities Vienna, Salzburg and Innsbruck. The capital holds “Christkindlmarket” in many areas of the city.


Where to stay: Radisson Blu Palais Hotel, true to its name, consists of two restored palaces, the Palais Henckel von Donnersmarck and the Palais Leitenberger. Very famous maisonette suites and apartments can be found in this palace with a choice from classic rooms, royal club rooms to elegant suites or maisonette suites – absolute luxury.

5.Sydney, Australia

If you think snow is overrated, how about singing carols on a beach while chugging cold beer?


Why Sydney: Christmas occurs during the middle of summer in Australia, with average temperatures in Sydney hitting 25 Celsius throughout December. Bondi Beach hosts the Sunburnt Christmas on Christmas Day, with local and international artists, contests, pageants and Aussie barbecues lined up for the celebration. Just imagine a barbecued turkey!! So not a typical Christmas, but an experience nonetheless. And for those of you who just love some element of Christmas tradition, worry not because the city is still up in the colours of Christmas, also featuring the Martin Place Christmas tree, Shannon Reserve and many streets and parks around Sydney which shine bright and proud.


Where to stay: Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel, a five star hotel in an intimate, boutique style property, this hotel offers a location near Sydney Opera House and major shopping precincts. Or why not relax with a range of therapies in the modern Health Club and Spa before feasting on European-influenced Australian cuisine at the on-site Bistro Fax Restaurant & Bar.

6.New York, USA

No one does Christmas better than Americans! From the gaudy Christmas lights to the snow covered streets, New York in December just screams CHRISTMAS!


Why New York: From the tree at the Rockefeller Centre to the carriage rides through Central Park, there’s no denying the beauty of New York during the festive season. Just check out the elaborate store displays, the ever famous Christmas tree, The Plaza next to Central Park – seriously, the city has even the locals gawking like tourists. And it’s not just Manhattan that puts on a show during the holidays. Neighborhoods such as Dyker Heights in Brooklyn and Ozone Park in Queens are famous for their over-the-top Christmas decoration competitions.


Where to stay: Now of course there is a huge choice in New York, but just to be OTT like the rest of the city is come Christmas we’re going to choose The Plaza. The Plaza is the ultimate New York City luxury lifestyle destination - a timeless urban resort with a new and contemporary spirit. From the sumptuous décor to the impeccable white glove service, The Plaza is an extraordinary hotel that offers every indulgence.

7.Quebec City, Canada


Why Go: Lit-up cobblestone streets, 16th- and 17th-century stone houses, and lots and lots of snow make Quebec’s walled city an atmospheric and European-like place to be at Christmas. The local good cheer and great food could make even a cynic love winter after all. Offering history, beautiful city lights and Christmas markets – this holiday would be perfect for those who want something old yet something new at the same time


Where to Stay: Auberge St. Antoine, housed in former 19th-century stone warehouse in Vieux-Port, stands out for the perfection with which it juxtaposes old and new. Soaring ceilings and cast-iron beams are complemented with such amenities as heated stone floors, and artefacts unearthed during its renovation being on display throughout.

8.San Juan, Puerto Rico

In San Juan, Christmas is a marathon. Celebrations run from November through mid-January with the city enjoying carols, feasting on roast pork and watching holiday fireworks.


Why San Juan: The Spanish colonial cultural hot spot in central Mexico is electric at Christmas, with theatrical processions around town, numerous posadas re-enactments, and fireworks, live music, and dancing in the main square. Be sure to try out the foods, both exciting and intriguing - sample ponche, a kind of Mexican hot toddy made of fruits and brandy, and the sweet bread rosca de reyes. And be sure to join in with El El Día de los Tres Reyes Magos, or Three Kings Day, when children can get free gifts at the San Juan governor's house, Merry Christmas!!


Where to Stay: Why not check into Casa Sierra Nevada, a beautiful structure spread among six renovated 16th- to 18th-century historic Spanish colonial mansions—many with alfresco corridors, courtyards, and small gardens. Rooms feature tile baths, wood-burning fireplaces, bóvedas (curved ceilings), and paintings by local artists. A very Spanish Christmas indeed.

9.Jerusalem, Israel


Why Jerusalem: While this year Hanukkah does coincide with Christmas, you have time till 2016 to plan your vist where you can take a menorah tour of the citiy as the first light of celebration is lit to mark the beginning of the holiday and celebrate two holy periods for two religions at the same time. Spend an evening snacking on a sufganiyot, a Hanukkah jelly doughnut, and wander through the streets in the neighbourhoods of Nachlaot and the Jewish Quarter of the Old City.


Where to stay: Check into The Dan Panorama Hotel Jerusalem, with its dignified architecture and honey-coloured Jerusalem stone the exterior resonates with the spirit of the legendary city. The Dan Panorama Hotel boasts an exceptional location that enables you to explore Jerusalem’s multifaceted attractions simply by stepping outside. The hotel itself beautifully infuses old and new/modern Jerusalem featuring guestrooms fitted with every thoughtful amenity, a rooftop pool and elegant public areas

10. Goa, India

Why Goa: For a much more exotic take on the festive season, enjoy the Portuguese influences in seaside India, whitewashed Catholic churches, and firecrackers, bells, and carollers which will make your holiday seem like a perfect scene from a Bollywood film. Take a river cruise, enjoy the nightlife, be mesmerized by the Gothic churches and don’t forget Goan cuisine, which all go hand in hand with the Christmas mood.


Where to Stay: Check into the Fort Aguada Beach Resort set in acres of well-manicured gardens that sweep down to the ocean. Renowned for state-of-the-art sanctuary, the spa experience blends ancient Indian wisdom with contemporary therapies. And with treatment rooms that echo Eastern temples on the design front, the surroundings are positively Zen-like.


Outside you’ll find a jaw-dropping pool scene. Overlooking the sea, it’s framed by a roomy terrace and lawn area scattered with loungers – well-placed for making the most of the views. There’s a lounge bar just seconds away, too. The ideal exotic Christmas experience – it would be impossible not to love it.


By Mpona Lebajoa

Travel Ten: Top Ten Places to Spend Christmas