18 Ideas for Christmas Vacations
Are you a traditionalist? Do you stay at home over Christmas or do you spend your Christmas vacations somewhere else? If you’ve ever wondered where you could go for a different christmas getaway then perhaps these 18 ideas for Christmas Vacations shared by 15 top travel bloggers will give you some sparkly Christmas inspiration.
They share with us countries and cities offering the best cold places to spend Christmas, and also the warmest. They tell us about their top Christmas beach vacations, some of the loveliest places to spend Chrismas in Europe, along with many interesting Christmas getaways and some fabulous Christmas trips.
I hope you enjoy all the ideas in this post which will hopefully answer some of your questions about “Why Go”, “What’s Great?” and “Why go at Christmas?” to help you book your Christmas vacation early, and make the best of early bird deals around the globe.
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Sunshine Coast, Australia
Jan from Budget Travel Blog
Rightly or wrongly the most recognizable of Australian Christmas holidays would be a beach holiday. One place that ticks all those beachy boxes, is the Sunshine Coast, an hour north of Brisbane in the Sunshine State.
Christmas weather on the Coast is comfortably hot, the ocean refreshingly cool and the surf breaks sizzling. A must do is the Noosa Heads Coastal Track, a 6.8 km walk between Sunshine and Noosa beaches. The line-up of cliff top views, hidden bays and pristine beaches will blow your mind.
The Sunshine Coast however, is not only about beaches. It has a hinterland of lush green valleys, cool mountain villages, waterfalls and rainforests just begging for a road trip or two.
Beachside Twilight Markets are popular in the cool of evening. These are great for leisurely gift and souvenir buying or a casual dinner under the stars. Carols in the park, Santa at the Ginger Factory or Australia Zoo and NYE beachside fireworks are classic coast favourites.
Book your ocean-view apartment, roomy holiday home or beachfront campsite as soon as you can – pack your boardies – and the Coast will take care of the rest. If only all our life choices were as easy.
Skye Gilkeson – The Fit Traveller
As someone who grew up spending Christmas Day eating fresh seafood, soaking up the sunshine and swimming in the pool, a white Christmas was always a dream come true. The snow was coming down gently as we arrived in Whistler village, frosting the pines and making the decorations twinkle from the shop windows.
Whistler is a magical place all year round, but over the holiday season, it really comes to life. Spend your days on the mountain, whether you are hitting the slopes or taking in the views over a seasonal lunch at Christine’s on Blackcomb.
In the afternoon, do some Christmas shopping, take time for apres in the village and the lights displays are illuminated, head to Scandinave Spa Whistler or ice skating with Santa at Olympic Park for before catching the Fire and Ice Snow.
Most hotels offer Christmas dinner menus and for those in self-contained accommodation you can even pre-order it in while you wait by the fire with a mulled wine in hand.
Claudia Tavani – My Adventures Across The World
One of the best things to do in Slovenia is visiting Ljubljana. Despite being a capital, Ljubljana is a not a big city, though it is packed with interesting attractions. The fact that the entire city centre is completely closed to traffic make it incredibly pleasant to walk around.
While Ljubljana is a gorgeous place to visit any time of the year, it is simply magic during Christmas time.
That’s when gorgeous light displays are placed in the streets, squares and parks, giving the city a festive, bright look and turning it into a fairy tale place.
But there’s more: music is regularly played, so there’s always some concert to listen to; and there is a lovely Christmas market to buy decorations and gifts.
Gemma and Craig – Two Scots Abroad
Scotland’s capital is pretty dormant in between the months of September to November but that’s because it is recovering from the highs of the Fringe in August and gearing up for the madness that is the festive period. Christmas comes early in Edinburgh and it is BIG so book accommodation early.
The Christmas Market takes over three main locations Princes Gardens, George Street, and St Andrew Square. Visitors and locals can enjoy mulled wine, ice-skating and fairground rides. It is well worth sticking around after Christmas for the main event, the New Year’s Even party which we refer to as Hogmanay in Scotland. Big name bands play, party-goers ceilidh, and the new year is welcomed in with a bang of fireworks.
Then on New Year’s Day you can watch crazy cats run into the River Forth for charity during the Loony Dook at South Queensferry!
To find out more check out this Edinburgh guide by a local.
Mar Pages – Once in a Lifetime Journey
The Catalan Christmas is like no other. It’s filled with both religious and pagan traditions that are unique to our culture. Like hitting a log with a stick until it poops gifts (Caga tio).
We build the most intricate nativity scenes called Pessebre (or manger) and place pooping figurines (El Caganer or “the shitter”) among them! See the photo above!
There are no Three Wise Men, only the Three Kings of the Orient who disembark from a ship and ride camels into Barcelona and other towns.
There’s no exchanging of gifts on Christmas day either.
We also eat a cake on Epiphany day (6th of January, when the Three Kings of the Orient reached Jesus) with a fava bean hiding inside. If you eat the bean, you pay for the cake!
So head over to Barcelona, to experience a very different kind of Christmas than you’re used to.
Ben and Jazzy, Stop Dreaming Start Living at Road Affair
Vienna offers heaps of activities to enjoy during Christmas.
Indulge in Maroni (warm chestnuts) and Kartoffelpuffer (potato fritters), drink some glühwein (wine) while you check out Christmas markets.
Scour the city for fabulous markets which offer food, drinks and handmade goods.
Visit Schloss Schönbrunn Palace to get a better sense of 18th century Austrian architecture.
Classical music is a plenty, with concerts happening throughout the city. You can learn more at the Haus der Musik (House of Music). This museum’s five stories is full of intrigue.
Christmas is a family holiday for Austria’s people, but that’s not to say that you can’t become part of the family.
The Christmas trees are decorated on Christmas eve, the city shuts down for a little while, but there’s always something cool going on in Vienna.
Leah Smileski – Kid Bucket List
Tasmania, the small island state south of mainland Australia, is a destination that should be in your Bucket List. With an untouched wilderness, a plethora of wildlife and pristine, breathtaking beaches, the call to visit is at its strongest over Christmas when the summer sun brings warmth to the mountains and water ways.
Whilst Christmas is celebrated in most towns in Tasmania, it’s what’s happening outside in nature that will pique your interest. Around the coastline, male penguins have begun serenading the females as the chicks prepare to leave their burrows.
You can book a tour and watch the delight yourself. Along the coastline you may just spot wild orcas (the only kind we have in Australia!). Or head to Freycinct and dip your toes in the crystal clear shoreline that laps the sandy edges.
It’s around this time of year that you have a chance of seeing Cradle Mountain without the clouds as it juts up to the sky behind Dove Lake. Don’t be mistaken by the blue sky and forget your jacket, you’ll still need it and perhaps a beanie. Instead of reindeers up here you can spot wombats and wallabies who are almost guaranteed to come out for a feed at some point.
Yes, Tasmania at Christmas is the perfect time to visit. Just be prepared to get back to nature.
Christine Knight – Adventure Baby
Sydney is not the obvious choice for a Christmas vacation, but it’s a fantastic time of year to visit Down Under and celebrate the holidays in a totally unique way – during summer! Christmas in Australia means golden beaches and endless days swimming, barbecues outside and plenty of ice cream in the sun.
There are traditional elements, such as the annual Swarovski Christmas tree in the Queen Victoria Building and free Carols in the Domain concert, as well as life-sized gingerbread houses, festive store windows and markets selling food such as Christmas puddings. Of course it all comes with an Aussie twist – such as spending Christmas day on the beach, or cooking prawns on the barbecue.
Christmas time in Sydney is also prime beach time, so pack a swimsuit and a wide brimmed hat and laze the days away at iconic Bondi Beach, followed by a scoop of some of the most delicious gelato you’ll ever eat at local favourite Messina Gelato.
You could also head down to the Sydney Opera House to enjoy one of their summer shows, then watch the sunset over Sydney Harbour at Opera Bar with a glass of wine in hand.
Sally Lucas – Our 3 Kids vs The World.
Unlike Northern hemisphere nations, Australia is warm and sometimes really hot at Christmas.
We don’t relate to most of the fairytale stories we grew up with, as most of them revolve around snowmen, nutmeg, mulled wine and rugging up from the cold. Whereas we are throwing on our shorts and thongs and slapping on the sunscreen.
Here in Melbourne though we have our own traditions.
We have our famous Myer Christmas windows which depict a different fairytale each year in a series of shop windows, often with a few little Aussie-isms in them.
We don’t have the traditional Christmas roast lunch, it’s more likely to be seafood and a BBQ.
Best of all, after Christmas day it’s the mad scramble to clean up, and head to our favourite summer holiday spot for a few days down time and to celebrate the new year. Most of us will head somewhere close to the beach as temperatures at this time of year are often in the mid to high 30’s.
While it’s very different to what others know of Christmas, it’s all we know and we love it.
However, my own family is heading to the USA this Christmas, hoping and praying for a white Christmas!
Rocky Mountains, Canada
Dawn – 5 Lost Together
Spending Christmas in the Canadian Rocky Mountains is truly a magical experience.
The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Hotel is the best choice to experience your Christmas winter wonderland. Gaze out the window onto the frozen lake with towering mountains and glaciers as the backdrop.
You can rent skates and glide around the ice castle that is built each year on the lake. When you get chilly, warm up with a hot beverage in the hotel or at the ice bar on the lake. In the evenings, cozy up to the bonfire and roast some marshmallows over the fire.
The hotel is decorated in all its Christmas glory with beautiful tree and light displays and a gingerbread village. Every winter sport you can think of is easily accessible: the world class Lake Louise ski area, sleigh rides, snowshoeing, cross country skiing and dog sledding.
Best of all, winter in Lake Louise is quieter then the bustling summer. Celebrating Christmas in the Canadian Rockies is the perfect way to experience a white holiday season.
Melissa – Thrifty Family Travels
One of my favourite spots to spend the Christmas holidays is in Noosa which is located on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. Christmas is the perfect time to visit Noosa as it’s summer time in Australia which makes it the perfect time to spend the warm days on the beach and the balmy evenings having barbeques with family and friends around the pool.
Noosa has so much natural beauty to explore including the pristine Noosa River, the Noosa Spit Recreation Reserve and the various secluded beaches throughout the Noosa National Park.
There are plenty of parklands along the Noosa River which is great for families – in fact the Noosa River would have to be my all-time favourite place in the area.
I love how all the sand bars throughout the river, particularly at the river’s mouth, make all these tiny little islands which are postcard perfect with the white sand and shallow, bluish green, transparent, calm waters.
The area is perfect for exploring by kayak, you can even find your own tiny deserted island on a sand bar and spend a few hours switching between sunbathing and swimming in the warm water.
Noosa also has some fantastic cafes and restaurants some with some spectacular views across the water, but for me you can’t beat grabbing some fish and chips and having a casual lunch on the beach.
Natasha – The World Pursuit
Perugia, Italy is one of the best Christmas holiday destinations in Europe! Around Christmas and New Years this small medieval town comes alive. As one of the well-known cultural and artistic centres of Italy visitors can expect to find locals and visitors wandering the cobbled streets during all times of the day.
There is a Ferris wheel decorated high for the holidays as well as a large outdoor market in the town square.
People can hang out outside all day amoung the street vendors shopping for handmade ornaments and drinking up the mulled wine.
Perugia sits a high on the hilltop overlooking the valleys of Umbria, and one of the best things to do on a cold winter day is sit with a cappuccino with family and friends admiring the view.
Stephanie Parker – Big World Small Pockets
In my humble opinion, it really is hard to look past London when it comes to selecting the ultimate Christmas destination.
Indeed there is something very magical about warming by the fire, eating all those hearty, rich foods and celebrating the winter frost that an English Christmas provides and there’s no better place to get right into the heart of the action than in the capital.
From ice skating in the historic palace of Hampton Court to admiring the huge Christmas tree erected each year in Trafalgar Square, there’s few places on earth that tap so directly into that quintessential Christmas card image we all treasure.
Other London Christmas highlights include walking along Oxford Street and Regent Street to admire the flagship festive shop windows or enjoying candlelit carol services in many of London’s most prestige churches. There’s also tons of great Christmas markets to enjoy in London throughout December and, of course, a flurry of snow to set the scene perfectly if you’re lucky!
Stefan and Sebastien – Nomadic Boys
We celebrated Christmas a few years ago in Tallinn, the very picturesque capital city of Estonia, located just by the Baltic Sea. The old town of Tallinn was made a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage in 1997 because unlike any other capital city in Europe, it has managed to wholly preserve its medieval structure and is nicknamed “the medieval pearl of Europe”.
We loved the old town of Tallinn. The cobblestone streets are all originals, which along with the medieval churches, grandiose merchant houses, barns and warehouses, date back as far as the 11th century. It also has super cute houses, cafes and sightseeing highlights like the Kiek in de Kök (a 15th-century defensive tower), the Gothic Town Hall, built in the 13th century, and a 64m-high tower located in the main square.
What makes it extra special is when you go at Christmas time. The old town already looks like something from a Disney film. But covered in a layer of snow makes it even more special and unique. It’s that iconic Christmas image you dream of.
By Barbara at Jet Settera
Israel is a very special and meaningful place to spend Christmas.
Many Christians and Jewish people visit Nazareth and Bethlehem during Christmas to visit the places where Jesus was born. Nazareth has a beautifully decorated giant Christmas tree on its main square.
If you are visiting Israel for Christmas probably the most popular place to go is the town of Bethlehem which is just south of Jerusalem, in the West Bank. Services take place on Christmas Eve in Manger Square.
In the north of Israel, Nazareth, Jesus’s hometown is also an interesting place to be for Christmas with many festivities.
Haifa is the most beautifully lit up city I have ever seen during Christmas. The entire city is dressed up in lights. On the main square you’ll find a giant Christmas tree, a lit up menorah, and the moon sign of the muslims.
Rachele and Gabor – Surfing the Planet
Just as most of central Europe, Budapest is cold in winter, and you can expect snow quite often. In addition, the city is packed with Christmas markets that make for a really great atmosphere and awesome food.
Walking around these markets with a mug of mulled wine in your hand, and visiting all the fabulous sights you must see in Budapest make Budapest a perfect destination in winter, especially around Christmas.
Visiting the Christmas markets is awesome, but there are some other really cool things to do in Budapest around Christmas too.
One of the greatest things you can do is to visit any of the thermal baths in the city.
In these baths you won’t only enjoy the warm pools, but you can appreciate the architectural beauty of the spas themselves. The most common choices include the world famous Gellért Bath, which is also a hotel and the Széchenyi Bath established in a beautiful Baroque building near City Park.
It’s a fascinating experience to take a bath in winter in the outdoor thermal pools, when outside the pool everything is frozen and sometimes covered with snow.
If you are after more activity, you can find a huge skating ring, the City Park Ice Rink, just in front of the marvelous Vajdahunyad Castle.
Munich for Christmas
Kylie Gibbon – Our Overseas Adventures
Munich transforms into the very definition of a winter wonderland at Christmas time and is such a fabulous place to get into the spirit. The streets and shops are adorned with stunning Christmas lights and decorations.
Gorgeous streetside Weihnachtsmarkte or Christmas markets open selling beautifully decorated lebkuchen which is a type of gingerbread style cookie, and serving Glühwein – the traditional hot mulled wine.
If you’re lucky enough it will snow, making the ornate buildings look even more stunning. The lakes in the Englischer Garten often freeze over so you can ice-skate or just watch! For a more tame experience, check out the Muenchner Eizsauber (Munich ice magic) at Karlspatz Square.
Further down is the Marienplatz, Munich’s main square in the Old Town where you’ll see a 100 foot tall Christmas tree that is decorated with hundreds of lights. The famous Christkindl Markt is in full swing selling food, drink and beautifully carved traditional wooden toys and ornaments.
When the outdoor cold gets too much, head inside to a cosy beer hall or restaurant. We were lucky enough to have roast goose and chestnuts for Christmas dinner, topping off our fantastic Munich Christmas.
Devon and Cornwall
Jo Castro – The ZigaZag Mag and Lifestyle Fifty
For me, my most memorable Christmas’s are those spent in my home county of Devon, in England with excursions and cold wintery walks around the coastal path and trips to castles and coves in Cornwall.
There’s a certain mystery to dark chilly nights, crisp snow on the ground when you wake up, Jack Frost’s artistic endeavours on the windows and carol singers knocking on your door.
Roast turkey and all the trimmings, Christmas pudding, a big Christmas tree, and plenty to watch on TV after the morning church service if you didn’t make Christmas mass, followed by a brisk walk in a howling wind.
Then perhaps everyone will meet up with friends and acquaintances over a glass of mulled wine at the local thatched pub where inevitably there will be a log fire and much Christmas cheer.
You can’t beat Christmas in Devon – you might like to get some more ideas, and check out the best prices for hotels in Devon and Cornwall Right Here.
Accommodation: Where to stay at Christmas?
So where will you go?
Home or Away?
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Jo Karnaghan from Frugal First Class Travel has produced a useful guide about the best area to stay in Paris, always a popular Christmas destination: A guide to the best arrondissements to stay in Paris