When you’re travelling, it’s tempting to think the grass is greener (and the snow is whiter) on the other side of the border. I usually work hard to appreciate the place I’m in and ignore the constant call of other bright, shiny destinations.
At Christmastime, despite my best efforts, nostalgia takes over and I yearn for Christmases past and future. Although Stephen and I are both thrilled to be spending Christmas on the southern shores of Portugal this year, I’m also dreaming of storybook Christmases way up north, hot beach Christmases, and cultural Christmases in cities around the world.
These are just a few of the places I’m dreaming of spending Christmas this year.
Best Places to Spend Christmas
Best Places for a Beach Christmas
South Coast of Sri Lanka
Flip flops, bathing suits and surfboards aren’t the most Christmassy accessories. Nonetheless, the south coast of Sri Lanka, with wide sandy beaches and December temperatures around 30 degrees, is an ideal place to escape the winter chill. When you tire of the beach, the charming old city of Galle and the nearby wildlife sanctuaries will ensure you’re never bored. Check out our 19 Reasons to Visit Sri Lanka This Year if you need a little convincing.
We recommend the Back of Beyond resort near Tangalle →
Koh Ta Kiev, Cambodia
While it’s hard to pick a favourite of all the places we’ve travelled, this tiny island off the south coast of Cambodia always figures in our top five. Koh Ta Kiev has no electricity, no running water, simple accommodation, and some of the most beautiful sandy beaches we’ve seen. With a dry and sunny December, Koh Ta Kiev is the perfect budget destination for working on your winter tan. Plus, you can swim in magical water like we did!
We also recommend the Ten 103 resort →
Best Places for a Storybook Christmas
One year, just before Christmas, my Mom and I took a trip through Austria, where my grandfather was from. The entire country is one big Christmas card, but Hallstatt, a tiny mountain village in Salzkammergut, wins the Christmas crown. The gingerbread houses of Hallstatt cling to the lakeshore of Lake Hallstatt and the mountains rise steeply all around. With snow falling gently on cobbled streets and the town’s lights dancing in the glassy lake, Hallstatt might be the most romantic Christmas town on Earth.
I should probably go there with Stephen next time!
We have been to Tromso, Norway in high summer and experienced the midnight sun as it dips briefly below the horizon before rising again on a new day. Though locals have warned us against it, I’d love to experience the opposite; I imagine cold dark days sitting wrapped in a blanket by the roaring fire, reading classic novels and sipping glass after glass of Aquavit. When I did venture outside, it would be to feel the soft crunch of snow underfoot and to gaze in awe at the mysterious Northern Lights as they dance overhead. Gorgeous.
Rovaniemi, Lapland, Finland
If you think Santa comes from the North Pole, you have obviously never met a Finn. Santa really hails from Rovaniemi, Lapland, so there’s no way we could leave the frosty northern town off of our Christmas list. We’ve never been there, but with the chance to sleep in an igloo, go ice-climbing, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing, plus getting to visit Santa at his office (his home is in a secret location), Rovaniemi seems like the perfect Christmas destination.
Prague, Czech Republic
Until earlier this year, we’d never been to Prague. On our first morning in the city, we woke up to a fluffy snow falling lightly past our window. In Prague, strolling along the charming streets to find the best cup of hot chocolate in the city could become a full-time occupation—one I would willingly accept as my Christmas duty.
Best Places for a Cultural Christmas
When we visited earlier this year, I fell in love with Aarhus, Denmark. It is small enough to be walkable and bikeable but big enough to be a cultural destination as well. The addition of a Christmas market, tobogganing, and festive concerts during the holidays must fill Aarhus with the Christmas spirit. I would love to go back and experience it first-hand.
At any time of year, wandering Dubrovnik’s mysterious streets is a romantic journey through history. Though you won’t see any snow on a Dubrovnik Christmas holiday, the Dubrovnik Winter Festival lights up the city with winter cheer. To add to the festivity, cosy up in D’vino Wine Bar with a glass or a tasting flight of Croatian red and watch the city go by.
I was raised watching The Sound of Music every Christmas which means that Salzburg and Christmas are synonymous in my mind. With its romantic cobbled lanes and alleys decked with lights and boughs of holly, and plentiful coffee houses serving the world’s best pastries, Salzburg is ideal for a winter getaway. Even if you’re more Mos Def than Mozart, make sure to catch a classical music concert while there for the full Salzburg experience.
Photo by Sigketill via Wikimedia Commons
Whenever we travel to northern Europe in summer, people always say “It’s lovely now but you wouldn’t want to be here in winter!” But that’s not entirely true. Helsinki in the summer is gorgeous. But Helsinki in the snow and cold, with its array of fabulous architecture and snug cafes where you can while away an afternoon, makes it one of our best places to spend Christmas.
Photo by Christine Matthews
As the place where we learned the meaning of “Chrimbo” and that Christmas is not complete without a LOT of unbridled drinking, London holds a special Christmassy place in our hearts. The Christmas party season in London is unparalleled—if your calendar isn’t full of corporate-sponsored free-food free-booze shindigs you’re missing out! If you’re not a London resident, you can always get in on the Christmas fun by visiting the massive Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, the next best thing to being in Bavaria for Christmas.
Of course, it’s not only these best places to spend Christmas that call to us during the holidays.
If we could beam ourselves home to family and friends right now, we would. The problem is, our favourite people are scattered across the globe so unless we hop on the back of Santa’s sleigh, we’ll never get to see even half of them.
So here’s to all of you, our favourite folks, wherever you may be in the world!
We wish you a very merry Christmas and peace, love, and happiness for the new year.
♥ Happy Christmas and Merry Holidays, Stephen & Jane