6 Great Cities to Soak in That Christmas Atmosphere

Ever had the dream of spending a magical white Christmas on a reindeer sleigh? Admit it, we all have. Sleigh bells ringing, frolicking in frosty snow, and the smell of pine trees – it’s all part of our childhood fantasy. Forget about commercialized Christmas tunes and last-minute Christmas sales, here are 6 cities that could just make your Christmas dream come true.

Lapland, Finland

Nowhere else in the world can be more magical than the legendary birthplace of Santa Claus. Explore the mythical Sarek National Park on huskies’ sleighs, along the King’s trail, past deep forests, lakes, and bare mountains.

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A trip to Lapland will allow you to sleep under the stars, where you can witness the magical aurora, spot a few moose, reindeer or lynx. With commercialized tourism yet to be developed, there are no tourist cottages or hordes of travelers around – you’ll be guaranteed a genuine Christmas adventure.

Snowmobiles and ice-fishing are also activities that you can rarely indulge anywhere else on earth. To get an authentic experience of the Sami culture, you can even ski with tamed reindeers to Skaite and Lake Peuraure.  This is also the best time of year to witness the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis).

>>Book a flight to Finland and read our Finland Travel Guide

Granada, Spain

Spain does not only mean hot summers and sizzling beaches along the Mediterranean. The Andalusian city of Granada – with the snow-capped Sierra Nevada Mountain in the distance, and the majestic Alhambra Palace nestled nearby, provides the best ambience for the Christmas season.

Like always, the Spanish kick back with a different kind of celebrations they call their own. The 3 Kings’ day (El día de los Reyes) on the 5th January is the most celebrated festival in Spain, where Santa Claus is nowhere to be seen. On the morning of 3 Kings’ day, the Spaniards feast on the Roscón de Reyes (sweet bread pudding littered with fruits) and thick hot chocolate for breakfast.

After an entire day of exchanging gifts, remember to catch the fantastic Cabalgata de Reyes (Magic Kings parade) with party mood and lots of candy to bag home!

>>Book cheap flights to Spain and read more about Granada

Oslo, Norway

Norway definitely claims the throne as one of the whitest and snowiest spots in the world –sparkling frost covering the slopes of the Holmenkollen, overlooking the tranquil fjord. On a sunshiny day, put on your ski boots and prepare to sled down the snowcapped mountain.

The local Metro goes all the way up to the peak of Holmenkollen, where locals gather to enjoy steamy Gløgg (mulled wine), and some Fattigmann (traditional Christmas cookie). With little red and yellow wooden cottages amidst the pure white blanket, Oslo boasts of dreamy Norwegian landscape as how one pictures fantasy land to be. Another activity to get you into the mood is a visit to the Bogstad Manor, a grand historical mansion oozing of Victorian elegance and smelling of Christmas baking.

>>Book a flight to Oslo and read our Oslo Travel Guide

New York, USA

The Big Apple is the modern epitome of Christmas – every year without fail, the giant Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, the brightly lit Radio City, and bustling ice-skating rinks undoubtedly add to the Christmas atmosphere.

New York is the perfect setting for every other Christmas movie of the year – think Home Alone! With the winter breeze grazing the Brooklyn Bridge and Christmas carols playing at Times Square, it´s impossible not to catch the Christmas bug.

Sprinkle some magic into this year’s Christmas by witnessing Macy’s parade where huge floats and characters party on the streets! Dinner at Greenwich and drinks at Soho always does the trick.

>>Check out our New York City Indie Travel Guide and read Around the World in 80 Days

Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Besides the enchanting coffee shops and Sex Museum, Amsterdam has lots more to offer. Narrow alleys, quaint canals, and pretty boathouses are the signature sights of the reputed city of angels.

The Damrak and the Museumplein that are littered with Christmas markets are great hang-outs during the season. Ice-skating rinks are set up in every corner of the city, especially those at Leidseplein, with young and old having a good laugh and enjoying the icy cold.

Saint Nicholas is the Patron Saint of Holland, and is seen as the Dutch Santa Claus. A special highlight would be Museum Amstelkring, a Catholic church concealed in the attic of a bourgeois canal house. It offers Christmas Eve masses with an alternative experience.

>>Book a flight to Amsterdam and check out our Amsterdam Indie Travel Guide

Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh

Christmas in Edinburgh is like a walk back in time to the medieval days of traditional royal march and bagpipers playing good old Christmas songs. With fireworks lighting the skies, you can spend Christmas in the Lauriston Castle, opened for family crafts and activities.

Christmas concerts, choir performances, and cabaret dinners are also aplenty from the beginning of December. The Christmas Fair at Meadowbank Stadium also fulfills every child’s dreams as proceeds go towards charity.

Everybody’s heard of Edinburgh’s one-of-its-kind Hogmanay celebrations after Christmas! So if you make it here, remember to catch the torchlight procession that kicks off the festival on 29th December. Celebrations continue to fill the streets until 2 January.

>>Look for airfare to Edinburgh and read the Edinburgh Indie Travel Guide

Further reading:

manifesto - seeing

Photo credits:
Finland by fotoyong on Flickr, Granada by Akent on Flickr, Oslo by Mazda6 (Tor) on Flickr, New York by caruba on Flickr, Amsterdam by Peetje2 on Flickr, Edinburgh by Robbie Shade on Wikimedia Commons

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Leave a Comment

  • Ivy Manalansan-Casagnap said at 2012-12-29T14:28:29+0000: Of all the places listed above, New York appeals the most to me. <3 It's kinda weird to have that realized while watching CSI NY when I saw Jo Danville lying in the snow and doing that flying/flapping arms, kidding Mac Taylor to join her. *kid wonder* See, told you it's weird. :)
  • Artūras Jakutis said at 2012-12-25T19:49:44+0000: Christmas and Amsterdam.... Definately the last place to visit if you want experience Xmas atmosphere....
  • The Drifter Journals said at 2012-12-25T07:39:47+0000: There is definitely something special about Granada, Spain!
  • Martin Agerhäll said at 2012-12-24T12:25:46+0000: Actually, Lapland refers to a region situated in both Sweden and Finland, the former in which I live. The distances are vast, you would probably not be able to do all of what you posted. For a commercialized experience of santa and his workshop, go to Rovaniemi, Finland. The best place for northern light is Abisko, outside Kiruna town in Sweden. Sarek national park is also in Sweden, although not for the common tourist. While we have the midnight sun in summer, wintertime is almost pitch black, Sarek is a wilderness best left alone then. For common itinearies I might suggest visitsweden.com and visitfinland.com.

Older comments on 6 Great Cities to Soak in That Christmas Atmosphere

Craze_b0i
01 December 2009

The first two choices are a bit odd. There is nothing particularly christmassy about Granada. Secondly Lapland isn’t a city. And I don’t think you can say it is uncommercialised either, it is one of the most popular christmas-holiday destinations. Every travel agent down my road is offering weekend deals to Lapland so that the kids can ride a sleigh and meet Santa.

The rest of the list is fine. But why not include something from Germany? After all the christmas market and christmas tree both originate from Germany.

WildJunket
02 December 2009

Thanks for pointing out the mistake – Lapland isn’t a city. I made an error, apologies for that.

Granada is rather Christmassy especially if you’re here on 6th January, the Three Kings Day, which marks the end of Christmas for the Spaniards. There are X’mas markets everywhere, as well as parades and celebrations on the streets.

I didn’t include Germany with the intention of being slightly more unconventional.

Thanks for the feedback!

Craze_b0i
02 December 2009

Ok fair point about Granada. And I guess you could include Lapland if you changed the title of the article to remove the word ‘city’.

But as I said, I like the rest of it. Keep up the good work!

islandmomma
08 December 2009

Sorry, silly laptop! I have spent three or four Christmastimes around Grandada and it is wonderful, I applaud your choices!

tangareene
18 April 2010

Hi Nellie. I really love what you’re doing. My first love is travelling. And i was reading your article on Lifestyle ST today. Was in Granada some 5 years ago. And i didnt know there was so much else to see. Because of that article, I feel the urge to go there again.