Christmas season: Special destinations around the world to visit during the most wonderful time of the year
'Tis the season
Christmas time in Singapore is a heartwarming affair. You’re back home, gathering with the same chummy faces and tucking into familiar roast recipes. As swell as that might sound, there are undeniably, better ways to soak up the festive spirit; away from the motherland of course. For starters, a wintry season should get you in the mood. So if time and money is on your side, we say go forth to these spectacular places for the most unforgettable time to sum up the year.
New York City, USA
So what if you're fulfiling a cliché? It's still iconic to ice skate under the world’s tallest Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Center. The famed ice rink has been around for 80 years and continues to prove that it remains a hit with locals and tourists alike. Stroll down Saks Fifth Avenue and admire the many window mannequins dressed in festive inspired clothes and winter essentials. Have a listen to the New York Philharmonic and be serenaded to performances of “Winter Wonderland” and “White Christmas”. There are also cups of decadent hot chocolate at Sant Ambroeus to indulge in.
Vatican city, Rome, Italy
What better way to celebrate Christmas than in the home of the Catholic church. Admire the many presepi (nativity scenes) as you walk around the city and head down to the obelisk in the centre of St Peter’s Square where you’ll be greeted with a life-action scene and a massive Christmas tree. While you're there, grab a bag of roasted chestnuts, which can be found in every corner of the city. Located at Saint Peter’s Basilica, you’ll definitely not want to miss out getting a glimpse of the pope; the annual 12pm 'Meet-the-pope' session on Christmas eve.
Book yourself a trip to Nuremberg to experience the magical Christkindlesmarkt (Christmas Market). Featuring over 180 stalls offering toys, trinkets, candles and sweets, you will be in for a visual treat as vendors compete for the most beautiful stall design award. Treat yourself to a fresh-off-the-grill bratwurst or if the cold wintery spells start to get to you, warm yourself up with a cup of mulled wine. Other highlights include a giant carved wooden Ferris wheel, an old-fashioned carousel and a steam train. An instant hit with the kids, that's for sure.
This city skyline is made more extravagant during the Christmas season. The Hong Kong winterfest (1 December – 1 January) promises nothing less than elaborate decorations and displays. Park yourself along Victoria Harbour to get the best views of dozens of buildings choreographed in a dazzling array of lights. You can either marvel at the illuminating display from a restaurant boat or while riding the star ferry during the symphony of lights.
Rovaniemi, Lapland, Finland
In Rovaniemi, there is something for everyone. Visit the official hometown of Santa and watch Santa and his jolly missus come to life. Children can get a hands-on experience and make gingerbread cookies with Mrs. Claus or enroll in Elf school. The Arktikim is the place to be if you are in search of an educational experience of revealing the mystery of the northern lights. Why not book a room in the Arctic Snow Hotel, made entirely of snow and ice but furnished with saunas and hot tubs. For the more adventure driven travellers, try tobogganing in the deep, untouched snow or embarking on husky-dog rides.
Famed for its well-preserved medieval towns, Bruges transforms into a winter wander-land where the best way to experience Christmas is to literally wander around and marvel at decorations and festivities with a cup of Belgan hot chocolate. Just outside the Bruges main train station, the Bruges snow and ice sculpture festival features ice versions of famous landmarks and icons. Another christmas favourite is bruge’s downtown Christmas market where there are food stalls selling the world famous Belgium waffles covered in chocolate sauce. With around 50 chocolate shops located around in Bruges, you are sure to be spoilt for choice when it comes to Christmas chocolate shopping.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Those who aren't the biggest fan of sub-zero climates will fare well here. Not your usual white Christmas destination, Rio has much to offer – from stunning beaches to the world’s largest floating Christmas tree. Make your way to Copacabana beach where you can enjoy a moment of its tranquility as beaches tend to be quieter during Christmas eve and Christmas day with most Brazilians spending time at home. Admire the world’s largest floating Christmas tree on the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon while savouring the panettone – a soft, sweet bread loaf traditionally eaten during the Christmas season. Celebrate Christmas in true Brazalian style as celebrations start with the main meal served at 11pm on Christmas eve with cheers and well wishes abundant as midnight strikes; ushering in Christmas.
One cannot miss Yokohama's landmark tower, which boasts an impressive height of 296 meters. Located on the 69th floor of the tower, the sky garden promises an impressive view of the city as well as Tokyo tower, Skytree and Mt. Fuji. Step foot into Germany at the Christmas market situated at Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse. Wiith 25 hutte (wooden huts) imported from Germany and stalls selling traditional Christmas food items like Glühwein (hot wine), sausages and stollen, this will be the closest German market experience you can get in Asia.