We’re all for cozying up with loved ones at home, but we also love seeing how cities around the world transform every Holiday season.
While the jollity may look a bit different from city to city, these global destinations keep the holiday cheer going year after year. And if you already have your plans solidified for this upcoming season, it’s never too early to start planning a fabulous winter vacation for 2023.
Why we go: For the past three decades, the little town of Bethlehem in Pennsylvania has channeled its name and transformed into “Christmas City” for the holidays. Celebrations are centered around the Christkindlmarkt at the SteelStacks, with more than 50 booths featuring artisan crafts, as well as live music and special events with Santa Claus himself. The one thing to get you in the spirit: A “live” advent calendar at the Goundie House on Main Street features a downtown merchant emerging from the door at 5:30 p.m. every night with treats for all who are waiting.
Why we go: Europe’s best-preserved medieval city oozes charm year-round, but especially during the holidays. It’s hard to imagine a place more magical as you wander the cobblestone streets, admire the shimmering lights, and warm up with mugs of Belgian hot chocolate in cafés.
The one thing to get you in the spirit: Follow the Winter Glow light trail with stops at 10 installations through the historic part of the city center, including lights at the Church of Our Lady Tower and a projection at Gruuthuse.
Why we go: If you’re looking to escape winter during Christmas, you can't do much better than Cape Town—it’s summer in the Southern Hemisphere, after all. You can even visit one (or several) of the South African city’s holiday markets without having to wear a coat and scarf. The one thing to get you in the spirit: They’re not exactly Santa’s elves, but the estimated 2,000 to 3,000 African penguins at Boulders Beach—where you can get close enough to take portrait-mode photos of them—are sure to warm your heart just the same.
Why we go: From its European-inspired Christkindlmarket to light shows galore, Ch b icago knows a thing or two about embracing the Christmas spirit (and the freezing temperatures). Can’t-miss activities include visiting the 55-foot Christmas tree in Millennium Park and cozying up in a heated igloo at The Godfrey Hotel. The one thing to get you in the spirit: Be dazzled by 2.5 million LEDs at ZooLights (now through January 1), an annual light festival held at Lincoln Park Zoo. Check out the event’s calendar for sensory-friendly visit times.