1. St. Petersburg, Russia
“It’s incredibly dreamy this time of year with the snow and the historic buildings,” says Jaclyn Sienna Charles, president and founder of the luxury travel firm Sienna Charles. She recommends buying tickets to the Russian ballets and catching a performance of the original Nutcracker at the Mariinsky, which is the theater that hosted the famed production’s world premiere in 1892.
2. Lapland, Finland
Is there anything more authentic than spending Christmas in the Arctic Circle? Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland in Northern Scandinavia, is known as the “Official Hometown of Santa Claus”—and it looks exactly like the Santa Claus’ village you grew up fantasizing about. Kids will encounter elves, play with Rudolf and his reindeer, and decorate cookies with Mrs. Claus; for adults, there’s snowmobile safaris, husky rides, and Northern Light hunting.
3. Tuscany, Italy
Traveling with kids? Look no further than Tuscany, where child-friendly holiday activities and eye-catching nativity scenes are abundant. One standout: Santa Claus’ Village of Montepulciano, which features a Santa Claus castle, a “Toy Factory” exhibit, and a mini pony ranch. Book a room at Il Castelfalfi, a new five-star resort located in a restored medieval village, or check out the equally luxurious Castiglion del Bosco, an 800-year-old Tuscan estate owned by the Ferragamo family. “Last year was the first year that the Ferragamos decided to keep it open for the holiday,” says Sienna Charles, of the hilltop resort. “It’s perfect for families—there’s exceptional food, and pizza and pasta-making for the kids.” And for adults, “What’s cozier than enjoying Super Tuscans by the fire?”
4. White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
West Virginia might not be the first place that comes to mind for a late December getaway, but that’s probably because you’ve never spent Christmas at The Greenbrier. The historic hotel—which has hosted 26 U.S. presidents—pulls out all the stops for its guests as part of a “60 Days of Holiday Cheer” tradition. On property, you’ll find more than 100 Christmas trees, 120,000 lights, 2,000 poinsettias, a 2,000-pound chocolate display, and a plethora of holiday-centric meals and events.
5. London, England
Arguably Europe’s most festive city come holiday season, London is an idyllic place to spend Christmas. Explore Christmas markets, cozy up by the fire at a posh hotel, go ice skating, and indulge in a shopping spree at Harrods. Shack up at the Brown’s Hotel in Mayfair, where a festive Afternoon Tea promises the ultimate in
You won’t find snowmen (or snow, for that matter) on the Mediterranean island of Malta, but you will find baroque churches overflowing at midnight mass, Christmas carolers parading through the streets, and low temperatures. At the Corinthia Palace Hotel, guests can partake in an indulgent Christmas morning brunch and “festive” happenings all week long.
7. Nuremberg, Germany
No one does Christmas markets quite like the Germans—particularly in Nuremberg, which is known for having the country’s best. Nuremberg’s Christkindlesmarkt dates back to 1628, and even though it has now expanded to more than 180 stalls, much of the old-world tradition and charm remains the same. Of course, there’s more to the city than its market. The medieval architecture appeals to culture lovers, as do Nuremberg’s 43 museums.
8. Bethlehem, Israel
For those in search of a truly sacred Christmas experience, Sienna Charles recommends Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus and home to the original nativity scene. Christmas carolers and processions pass through Manger Square, and churches host services for a number of different Christian denominations.
*This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
*Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.