LONDON'S HYDE PARK WINTER WONDERLAND
Every November, an elaborate carnival opens in London’s sprawling Hyde Park. It truly is a wonderland: There’s a huge ice rink, a Ferris wheel, an ice bar and plenty of holiday treats to get your hands on.
SANTA CLAUS, INDIANA'S SANTA-PALOOZA
The town of Santa Claus, Indiana, goes all out during the holidays in honor of its namesake. This enclave has less than 3,000 residents, but boasts the title of “America’s Christmas Hometown” year round. There’s a lights display, numerous Christmas-themed events and even a group of volunteers who reply to the many letters the town gets from children looking for Santa.
ROVANIEMI, FINALD'S SANTA CLAUS VILLAGE
If you can’t get to the North Pole, Rovaniemi, Finald, is pretty dang close. Located in the country’s northernmost region, the town takes its geographic position just inside the Arctic Circle very seriously. There, you can find an amusement park known as Santa Claus’s village, which is fitting for a town is known as the “official” home of the big man in red. A more grown-up bonus: You can catch the Northern lights from Rovaniemi, too.
ZURICH, SWITZERLAND'S CIRCUS CONELLI
With the majestic Alps just a few hours away, Zurich is the perfect setting for any winter celebration. The city really gets in the spirit with the arrival of the annual Circus Conelli, which sets up every year on the small island of Bauschänzli in the middle of the Limmat River, and boasts plenty of Christmas spirit.
Want the feeling of a traditional European Christmas market without the transatlantic flight? Head to Chicago’s Daley Plaza, where you’ll find a German-themed Christmas market, complete with holiday treats, ornaments and other gifts.
NEW YORK CITY'S ROCKEFELLER CENTER
Countless Christmas trees pop up in New York City during December, but none shines quite as bright as Rockefeller Center’s coniferous centerpiece. It’s lit every year in epic fashion, with musical performances and tourists galore. It’s also adjacent to the famous ice skating rink and Radio City Music Hall, where the Rockettes perform their annual Christmas Spectacular.
SALZBURG, AUSTRIA'S KRAMPUS RUNS
Salzburg gets even more charming come December with the addition of multiple Christmas markets in the town’s streets, but it gets a little scary, too. Every year, there are “krampus” runs, during which a number of people dressed as the demon that gives punishments to bad children parade through the streets. Think of it as a dose of Halloween at Christmas.
PARIS'S EIFFEL TOWER ICE RINK
Paris is always magical, but it’s got a little something extra during the holidays, when the city’s most famous landmark opens up an ice rink underneath. It’s an ultra-romantic holiday spot for visitors to the city of love.
BARCELONA, SPAIN'S THREE KINGS DAY CELEBRATION
If you want to experience Barcelona at its holiday prime, it’s best to wait until after Christmas to do so. The real celebration comes on Jan. 5, also known as Three Kings Day, when the city goes wild to commemorate the arrival of the three kings to Bethlehem. How wild? There’s fireworks, canons, parades (with elephants and camels!), as well as a swimming competition in Santa suits.
COLOGNE, GERMANY'S CHRISTMAS MARKETS
Cities all over Europe open up Christmas markets come December, but Cologne, Germany’s are particularly worth a visit. There are eight separate markets in total, dotted along the Rhine River, where you can get all your holiday shopping done in one fell swoop.