The World’s Most Festive Cities That Get You into the Holiday Spirit

It’s beginning to look like Christmas everywhere we go, but some cities worldwide know exactly how to get us into the holiday spirit more than others. Toys adorn storefront windows, shiny ornaments decorate trees (are you a minimalist, “Charlie Brown tree,” or maximalist, “Blue Spruce,” kind of person is the real question?), and festive lights twinkling from every building are sure to get us into the mood for sipping a peppermint hot chocolate while snuggling up to a cozy fireplace. The holiday season looks different in every part of the world, so we’ve selected the cities that get us feeling holly & jolly like no other. 

Vienna, Austria

Winter in Vienna might be the most magical time of year, especially leading up to Christmas. On your festive stroll through the city, you can’t miss the giant, red-glittering Christmas bow directly across from the Vienna Opera House; it’s the perfect starting point for your holiday tour. If you’re hungry, grab a pastry from the historic Viennese bakery, Demel, to appease your sweet-tooth needs.

Why visit during the holidays: Christmas market galore: Schönbrunn Palace, Stephansplatz, and Belvedere Palace all boast spectacular Christmas decorations and pop-up shops to marvel over. 

Stay here: Hotel Motto is one of the city’s cutest boutique hotels. From pink-tasseled velvet lamps to vintage floral wallpapers, the decor allows guests to immerse themselves in both old-age elegance and modern Viennese culture.

London, England

Christmas in London is a holiday season vibe: hole-in-the-wall pubs, afternoon tea cafés, ubiquitous gift shops, and glowing Christmas lights suspending from street to street. Cool temperatures (& not too cool of temperatures) drift through the city, making this the perfect time of year to throw on your coziest winter coat and scarf for a stroll around the UK capitol.

Why visit during the holidays: There’s a medley of festive activities in London during this time, but one that must be checked off your holiday bucket list is ice skating in front of Somerset House.   

Stay here: Set between London’s lively Soho neighborhood and sophisticated Mayfair district, Hotel Café Royal is one of the city’s most historical stays, with over 150 years of stories to tell. Better yet, not only does the hotel boast an ideal location on the ever-glittering Regent Street, its interiors are decked out in eye-catching holiday decorations.

Berlin, Germany

Being Germany’s capital, there’s no doubt that Berlin goes above and beyond during the holiday season. Visitors are encouraged to indulge in the cheerful Christmas atmosphere by shopping around the festive markets, riding the Ferris wheel at Alexanderplatz, and trying the traditional winter beverage: glühwein (essentially, it’s a warm boozy drink made with red wine and spices — including cinnamon sticks — that tastes like Christmas in a cup). 

Why visit during the holidays: Head to Christmas Garden Berlin during the holidays, where you will find resident botanical gardens decked out in sparkling light installations.

Stay here: The Provocateur Hotel is all unabashed red velvet and dark dining rooms, which seems precisely right after years of Scandi minimalism. You can thank London-based interior designer Saar Zafrir for the hotel’s winning looks. 

New York City, U.S.

We’ve said it once, and we’ll say it again: New York City goes all the way with the holiday cheer year after year. From window shopping on Fifth Avenue to the traditional Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, it’s truly a magical time. There is a reason why some of the most iconic Christmas films are set in New York City, from Elf to Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.

Why visit during the holidays: Visit the Bryant Park Winter Village for ice skating at The Rink, charming gift shops, and festive dining at The Lodge Bar + Food Hall.

Stay here: The Plaza is a New York City staple, especially during the holiday season. Need we remind you of the number of films the hotel has starred in alone? During Christmas time to boot? Yep, we didn’t think so.

Tel Aviv, Israel

Tel Aviv, Israel, is one of the world’s coolest cities — in fact, the New York Times dubbed it “The Mediterranean Capital of Cool” at one point. Its stretches of beach, chic shops that occupy its oh-so-trendy Neve Tzedek neighborhood, thrumming nightlife, prolific café culture, plus cultural staples such as the history- and archeology-laden Eretz Israel Museum and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art are just a taste of what this trendsetting metropolis has to offer. 

Why visit during the holidays: It’s a Hannukah wonderland — this is one of the few places in the world where you will see more attention towards Hannukah as opposed to Christmas. Head to the public menorah lighting at HaBima Square and Rabin Square to immerse yourself in this Jewish holiday. 

Stay here: Bahaus-style boutique stay, The Norman, is one of the city’s most sophisticated accommodations, from its rooftop pool that looks out at the Tel Aviv skyline and beach to its swanky Library Bar. 

Québec City, Canada

Québec City brims with Christmas charm. As one of the oldest cities in North America, strolling down historic cobblestone streets decorated with sparkling lights makes visitors here feel as though they’re in a live version of Charles Dickens’s classic tale: A Christmas Carol.

Why visit during the holidays: The Petit-Champlain neighborhood in Old Town Québec enchants all during the holidays, with its historic buildings (many redolent of what you would find in France), plus Christmas tree-lined streets and snow-covered cobblestone streets. 

Stay here: The Auberge Sainte-Antoine, part of Relais & Chateaux, sits on an archaeological site that formerly housed wharves, cannon emplacements, plus colonial warehouses. In the spirit of Quebecois wintertime warmth, you can expect heated bathroom flooring, grand fireplaces, and cozy contemporary design (a winsome holiday trifecta if you ask us?).

Bruges, Belgium

With its preserved medieval architecture that looks gingerbread-y, Christmas in Bruges is an aesthetic time capsule of Europe’s storied holiday traditions. 

Why visit during the holidays: Follow the Winter Glow Light Trail throughout the city for several festive light installations that get you into the daze of the Christmas season. 

Stay here: Although Boutique Hotel Sablon may be the oldest hotel in Bruges, it’s one of the trendiest stays in the area, offering a host of modern amenities: free-standing bathtubs, plush bedding, and marbled bathrooms, to name a few.

Prague, Czech Republic

Prague is replete with holiday cheer during December. With festive Christmas markets running throughout the entire month, there’s ample time for visitors to get into the spirit: caroling performances, handmade trinkets, and Christmas light shows are sure to do the trick. 

Why visit during the holidays: Christmas markets in Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square — set just 10 minutes apart by foot — boast beautiful environs comprising beautiful Gothic-style architecture.

Stay here: For a modern, charming stay, consider Maximilian Hotel. Plus, it’s located right in the heart of Old Town, which is perfect for exploring all corners of the city when following our Prague Destination Guide.

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