It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and although most of us tend to spend the festive season with our families at home, there’s a lot to be said for taking a trip away for Christmas.
True, there are some disadvantages to travelling at this time of year. Everywhere is busy because nearly everyone’s on holiday, and flight prices generally go through the roof, as everyone’s either flying off on holiday or flying home to their family.
However, if you’re looking for an escape at Christmas time, whether it’s to avoid annoying relatives or just to see what Christmas is like in a different part of the world, there are all kinds of places to choose from.
1. Vienna & Austrian Alps
Why not spend the Christmas week in a ski chalet? There’s no better chance of a white Christmas than in a ski resort perched high up in the mountains. A double treat if you land in Vienna and explore the city first and then head over to the Tyrol region.
It won’t be cheap, but club together with friends and split the cost of a catered chalet, from where you can hit the slopes every day. You’ll come home to a freshly baked cake and your Christmas dinner is sure to be spectacular.
Although anywhere in the Alps would be dreamy, I particularly love the Tyrol region in Austria for picture-perfect villages, good food and mountains of snow. There are dozens of resorts near Innsbruck airport.
2. Rovaniemi, Lapland, Finland
Rather than letting Father Christmas come to you, go to him. Rent yourself a log cabin with a wood fire and take a ride on a dog-sledge to pay him a visit. Just not on Christmas Eve, obviously. He’ll be a bit busy.
In Rovaniemi, there’s a Santa Clause Village amusement park, perfect for children and big kids alike, all beautifully done, and staffed by ‘elves’ who are always in character. The ultimate Christmas experience for the whole family.
It’s not just Father Christmas that makes Lapland attractive at this time of year. With the sun never rising, there’s plenty of time for the Nothern Lights to make an appearance. Why not spend Christmas on a snowmobile trip, aurora hunting?
3. Malaga, Andalucía, Spain
This charming coastal city in the south of Spain is another one that goes all out on the Christmas lights. There are Christmas markets and free concerts throughout December.
Although it’s technically winter, the temperature is normally pretty balmy, and the sun that shines during the day is still wonderfully warm, so it’s a great spot for a bit of winter sunshine, much closer to home if you’re Europe-based.
Enjoy the Verdiales Music Festival on December 28th, with performances of the regional flamenco dance taking place all over the city.
4. Prague, Czech Republic
We’ve gushed about Prague on the blog before, and it’s charming at any time of year, but it really comes into its own at Christmas.
The Old Town Square could’ve been designed especially to host the Christmas markets that pop up here in the run-up to the festive season, and the lights reflected in the river are impossibly perfect.
That gothic architecture is the perfect backdrop for your Instagram post clutching a mulled wine wearing a bobble hat.
This is the perfect city to spend Christmas itself or visit in the days running up to it to load up on Christmas presents.
5. Bruges, Belgium
Prague hasn’t got the monopoly on European Christmas charm, Bruges does it pretty spectacularly too. Only an hour from the capital, Brussels, the centre of which is pretty stunning itself, Bruges is the stuff Christmas cards are made of.
The streets are decked with Christmas lights, and there are plenty of cosy bars selling Belgian hot chocolate. Try the local beers, strong enough to keep you warm when the temperature dips.
6. New York, USA
Leaving Europe behind, all those Christmas movies set in New York mean that it’s hard to think of somewhere more atmospheric to spend Christmas.
Be sure to wrap up warm and then embrace the clichés. Go skating by the Rockefeller centre with that famous, giant Christmas tree behind you, go and taking a photo of the 34th street sign, or take a carriage ride through Central Park. Listen for the bells ringing out for Christmas Day, and enjoy your own fairy-tale of New York.
7. Sydney, Australia
Had enough of cold Christmases? Or maybe you’ve never experienced one, but still aren’t interested, and prefer the idea of a classic Aussie barbecue on the beach to a roast dinner and evenings by the fire.
Sydney is an amazing destination at any time of year, but at Christmas summer is in full swing. It’s the school summer holidays, meaning it gets very busy, but there are so many beaches in Sydney that you’re sure to still find the perfect spot for whiling away Christmas Day.
The city also excels itself when it comes to Christmas lights and Christmas markets. The lights are turned on at the end of November and don’t stop shining until after the New Year’s fireworks over that world-famous harbour.
8. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
We had to include another offering from the Southern Hemisphere, whose summer is in full swing when we in the North are all praying for snow.
Rio’s another one that’s beautiful at any time of year, and it does get extra busy at Christmas, but it’s a brilliant party. Seeing the Cariocan’s celebrate Christmas on Copacabana or Ipanema beach whilst sipping a caipirinha is a fascinating people-watching exercise, and the party is unbeatable.
Despite the weather, they still get into the festive spirit with full-size Nativity scenes at a park between Leblon and Ipanema. If you’re looking for a tropical break with no hint of Christmas, however, you can easily avoid anything Christmas-themed here.
Whether you’re looking for a solo escape, a romantic break, want to forget Christmas is happening or just want to mix your family Christmas up a bit, there’s an amazing option for anyone. Dive headfirst into Christmas, or let the madness go on without you and just lie back on a beach enjoying the sunshine.