For most South Africans Christmas is synonymous with lazy days on the beach, warm weather and braais on the lawn, but for some Christmas wouldn’t be the same without snow and skiing.
With Christmas around the corner we thought we’d provide you with some inspiration to start planning that white Christmas you have always been dreaming about. As you know we are all about making travel easy, which is why we have searched for the best Christmas destinations, markets, resorts and events from around the world and listed them for you below. All you need to do now is decide where you want to go. Will it be a white Christmas in Paris or a skiing Christmas in Aspen? You decide.
Every year during the Christmas period New York turns into a winter wonderland with Christmas lights hanging from every tree and building. The Rockefeller centre is where New York’s most extravagant Christmas celebrations take place. The Rockefeller Christmas Tree lighting symbolises the start of the holiday season in New York. The Rockefeller Centre Skating Rink is one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions over the holiday season. It costs around $45 to skate on the ice and the average waiting time to get onto the ice is two hours, something to keep in mind if you are travelling on a budget or you have time constraints. Macy’s Santaland is a massive North Pole village complete with elves, an enchanted forest, Christmas trees and of course Santa himself. Try not to visit Santaland over weekends or at midday because it gets extremely busy.
The Christmas period is one of the most important periods of the year for the Catholic Church, as it is essentially the celebration of the birth of Christ. Each year the Vatican erects a life-size nativity scene and a giant Christmas tree in the middle of St. Peter’s Square. Rome is not as busy during the Christmas season as it is during the summer months, which makes visiting museums and churches easier. Most museums are however closed on Christmas day and New Year’s Eve. If you want to attend Christmas mass in the Vatican you have to buy a ticket. St. Peter’s Basilica, which can seat over 65 000 people, is not large enough to accommodate everyone attending mass on Christmas day. Mass is therefore held in St. Peter’s Square. Piazza Navona turns into a Christmas market over the holiday season. Outside the Castel Sant’Angelo the city sets up an outdoor ice rink for the public to use and outside the Colosseum one of the largest Christmas trees in the world is erected every year.
Santa Clause Village
Santa Clause Village is situated in the north of Finland inside the Arctic Circle. Here thousands of people from all over the world can come and visit “Santa” all year round. Santa Clause Village is an amusement park and family resort that is totally dedicated to celebrating Santa Clause and Christmas. There are restaurants and shops inside the village as well as a hotel. The village also has an Igloo Hotel where the rooms are made of only ice and snow. You literally get to sleep inside an igloo just like “elves” do. The Igloo Hotel has an ice restaurant and ice bar that is also well worth a visit. Visiting Santa Clause Village is one of those once in a lifetime experiences, which the whole family can enjoy.
Aspen is America’s most famous ski resort area. In this Colorado Mountain town they celebrate Christmas with a town wide festival called 12 Days of Aspen Christmas. They host concerts, plays, street entertainment and free ice skating rinks. There are also numerous restaurant and shopping specials running during the duration of the festival. The festival starts on the 20th and ends on the 31st of December each year. The festival culminates in a spectacular fireworks display over the Aspen Mountain. The town is a haven for the rich and famous, so you might just be lucky enough to spot a movie star or two while strolling through the streets of Aspen.
Paris really lives up to its name the City of Lights during the Christmas period. The trees along the famous Champs-Elysées are covered with strings of lights, and the shimmering glory of the Eiffel Tower seems to stand out just a tad more at Christmas time. Paris always prepares an array of special events and festivities for its visitors and residents during the holiday season. On the programme this year they have Christmas markets, open-air ice-rinks, nativity scenes, merry-go-rounds, plays and concerts lined up. Paris has some of the biggest Christmas markets in the world. Shoppers beware, if you are going to Paris for a shopping spree during the Christmas period be sure to take an extra suitcase along, you’re going to need it!
Santa Clause or “Sinterklaas” as the Dutch call him is a much loved character in Amsterdam. The city annually hosts the largest Christmas parade in the world with over a kilometre of boats and floats lining the canals of Amsterdam. 400 000 people welcome the arrival of “Sinterklaas” to Amsterdam each year. The Dutch however do things a little differently at Christmastime. The “Sinterklaas” parade is held on a Sunday in mid-November and the gift giving/opening takes place on the 5th of December, not the 25th like in most other western countries. Apart from the parade the city is also known for the classical concerts that it puts on during the festive season. The city hosts around fifteen to twenty classical concerts during the festive season with ticket prices ranging from €15 – €80.