8 Special Places to Find Holiday Spirit on Your Travels

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The countdown to the Christmas holidays is beginning in earnest. There are upsides and downsides to this time of year, and depending on where you fall along the “Christmas Spirit” spectrum, you may either be embracing the music, tinsel and lights or preparing to hide under a rock (or on a sunny beach!) for the next few weeks.

If you’re the jingle-bell-avoiding-type, stop reading now. Maybe you’re better off reading our “get me away from it all!” piece. But if you love the season, you may want to know how our guides around the world are helping travelers discover Christmas in their cities and towns.

Christmas in Frankfurt: Germany’s Christmas markets are legendary for getting people in the yuletide spirit, and we have guides in both Frankfurt and Munich offering tours of the markets in their cities and surrounding towns. Marion in Frankfurt tells us: “Strolling through a Christmas market inspires all your senses: the smell of roasted chestnuts and malted wine, the taste of sugar almonds and the rich glow of beeswax candles. You see colourful decorated stands with nutcrackers, handcrafted wooden Christmas decorations, linen tablecloths and fine porcelain, while warming up with a cup of spiced "Gluehwein" in your hand, listening to the joyous sound of Christmas carols, trumpet concerts and church bells ringing.”

Christmas in Bavaria: Kevin and Simone in Munich offer tours of the markets in their part of Southern Germany: “Almost every town or village in Bavaria features its own market. Picturesque towns such as Garmisch-Patenkirchen, Oberammergau, Wasserburg or Bad Tölz provide the perfect background for Christmas flair. Stroll around ancient market squares, stop for a hot cup of steaming coffee, taste a slice of Stollen (rich yeast cake with loads of candied fruits), buy some gifts, have a Bratwurst and some Glühwein. There is no better way to get into a festive spirit!”

Christmas in Salzburg: Did you know that “Silent Night”, one of the most beloved Christmas carols of all time, originated in the little town of Hallein in Austria? Our guide Didi can take you to the composer’s home and the church where the carol was first performed. It’s all part of a festive day out from Salzburg that includes a visit to a Christmas market in Hellbrunn, and a snowy sleigh ride through the mountain village of Filzmoos.

Christmas in Ljubjlana: Tucked away in the heart of Slovenia, Ljubljana is a lovely city to explore in December. Our guide there, Mateja, says: “The last month of the year can be very cold in Ljubljana, but on the other hand in that month Ljubljana shows its most romantic appearance. The city is dressed in festive lights, there is a Christmas market along the river every day and with a touch of snow you will enjoy every moment of it for sure. You can enjoy a quiet (and heated!) boat ride, where we will warm up with a glass of mulled vine or a cup of tea or coffee at one of the stands along the river.”

Christmas in St. Petersburg: Farther north in Europe, St. Petersburg sparkles in winter. Our guide Irina has designed a special winter’s day tour that takes advantage of the quiet snowy streets and less crowded attractions. You can visit the stunning Catherine’s Palace and enjoy a sleigh ride through the snowy park that surrounds it. Warm up with a traditional Russian meal inside the Amber Room…a perfect winter’s day!

Christmas in Sicily: Sara in Agrigento, Italy has an inviting suggestion for those traveling to Sicily during the holidays: “Should you be here at Christmas time, take a trip inland to visit a Presepe Village. This is a special event that transforms the whole old part of a country into a living setting inspired by the Nativity. You will walk along the streets and see people engaged in traditional activities, such as looking after cattle or sheep, making ricotta cheese or baking bread, carving wood, embroidering and so on. This is regularly organised in the towns of Montaperto, Caltabellotta and Sutera, near Agrigento. Join us!”

Christmas in New York: Across the ocean in North America, New York City is a classic holiday destination. From browsing the Christmas window displays at Macy’s to skating in Central Park and viewing the famous tree at Rockefeller Plaza, there’s no shortage of holiday delights in Manhattan. Any of our local guides will be happy to show you around the city this December, but one in particular has created a "Christmas in New York " tour to show you the city’s most festive displays.

Christmas in Peru: And, lastly, a less traditional Christmas destination: Lima, Peru! Aaron, our local guide in Lima, is a whiz in the kitchen, and would like to invite travelers to join him and his family for Christmas dinner. He extends this invitation: “Christmas is the time to joy and share with their love ones, and if you are traveling to Peru we want to open our home and make you part of our celebration. Mom usually prepares the typical dinner, in the meantime I mix drinks for my guests. Family and friends we love join us for the party and to share our traditions. If you are spending Christmas day in Lima, let me know and let me make you part of my celebration.”
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