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July 25, 2024

Travel to these destinations around the world for a magical Christmas 

Ruhi Gilder 
December brings to mind fairy-tale-inspired images of snow-covered streets, hot toddy enjoyed near the fireplace and a tall, decorated Christmas tree. For those who want this full-blown Yuletide experience, head to these picture-perfect locations, where the magical spirit of Xmas makes an appearance.  
Barcelona, Spain 
Three Kings Day, celebrated on January 6 is one of the most popular festivals in Spain. The Reyes Magos, aka, The Three Wise Men, are welcomed at the Port of Barcelona on January 5, and are accompanied by their impressive entourage. Kids and adults alike will be held awestruck by their regal ‘Procession of the Kings,’ where the wise men parade with camels, elephants, giraffes, throwing sweets and gifts to children. Also visit nativity scenes in Plaça de Sant Jaume and the Museu Marès, the Santa Llúcia Fair and the Sagrada Família Fair. 
Photo Courtesy: Barcelona Tourism,
Sagrada Familia Fair
Stay: Halt at the Mandarin Oriental, located in the Passeig de Gràcia, and enjoy their in-room Christmas decorations, and a free hot drink at the Christmas market.  
Photo Courtesy: Mandarin Oriental
Photo Courtesy: Mandarin Oriental
Copenhagen, Denmark  
An important characteristic of Danish culture is hygge. Defined as a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that creates a feeling of contentment or well-being, Christmas in Copenhagen embodies this concept. Winters are spent skating on ice rinks by Frederiksberg Gardens, or strolling through Tivoli with some homemade æbleskiver, a Danish pancake-style snack and gløgg, mulled wine. Visit Copenhagen on December 13, Saint Lucy’s Day, and you will see hundreds of kayaks all covered in Christmas lights and ornaments take to the canals for their annual Saint Lucy’s parade.  
Photo Courtesy: Copenhagen Tourism
Stay: The 265-year-old Hotel d’Angleterre, where the legend, Hans Christian Andersen himself supposedly spent Christmas in 1865. The hotel celebrates Christmas with æbleskiver (a Danish snack) and gløgg (mulled wine) served in the comfort of your room, as well as special Noël meals at their Michelin-star restaurant, Marchal. 
HC Andersen Suite, Photo Courtesy: Hotel d'Angleterre
HC Andersen Suite, Photo Courtesy: Hotel d’Angleterre
Loire Valley, France  
From December 4 to January 2, seven of the majestic Loire Valley châteaux get into the festive spirit. Touraine celebrates ‘Christmas in the Land of Châteaux,’ where each château creates its own world of joy. At Château d’Azay-le-Rideau, festive paper decorations, feasts of delicious food is expected. Véronique Chauvet, an artist and a chef, has created a world of “papier maché” delicacies in every room of the Renaissance-era home. Château de Chenonceau’s theme, Royal Paradise, features lavish golden-and-white floral arrangements. Château Royal d’Amboise’s all white theme is reminiscent of a wintry snow-filled Christmas Eve. Visitors can also explore “A wicker Christmas” in Villaines-les-Rochers, a village dedicated to the tradition of wickerwork. Kids will love Santa’s village at the fortress of Montbazon, and sample festive sweets at chocolate shops Maison Bigot and Cadeau et Chocolat. 
Photo Courtesy: Loire Valley
Photo Courtesy: Loire Valley Tourism
Stay: When in the Loire Valley, stay at Château d’Artigny, a Belle Époque castle built by François Coty, the famous perfumer. The hotel also provides two tickets to the Fortress of Montbazon and to the village of Santa Claus, complimentary to guests for Christmas. 
Château d’Azay-le-Rideau
Rovaniemi, Lapland, Finland 
An obvious choice for a traditional Christmas celebration is Santa Claus’ village in Rovaniemi. Cross the magical Arctic Circle to reach the town where children make gingerbread cookies with Mrs. Claus, attend Elf School, and ride along with cute huskies. There are even seasonal positions available as elf workers in Santa’s post office. Animal lovers must traverse through the Ranua Wildlife Park, home to baby polar bears, wolverines, and moose.  
Photo Courtesy: Finland
Photo Courtesy: Finland Tourism
Stay: A resort only open in December, Arctic SnowHotel & Glass Igloos gives guests the ultimate winter experience. Their hotel is made from ice and snow only, while their glass igloos offer rooms with 360º glass roof. The resort in is located 30 km (25 min drive) from Santa Claus Village.  
hoto Courtesy: ArcticSnowhotel
Photo Courtesy: Arctic Snow Hotel
Reykjavik, Iceland 
You can celebrate an unusual Christmas with only 4 hours of daylight in Reykjavik! Nevertheless, decorations like the Yule Cat, Oslo Christmas Tree, are bright so except a good dose of festive cheer. A tradition to look forward to is the Icelandic Yule Lads, known as Jólasveinar, who begin making their appearance 13 days before Christmas all over Reykjavik, in the form of animations on the walls of buildings and even pictures on milk cartons. Book lovers will rejoice at the city’s Christmas book flood, aka Jólabókaflóðið,  a beloved tradition in which numerous new books are published in the weeks leading up to Christmas, which are then given to loved ones as gifts. Foodies can try a local Christmas buffet, known as jólahlaðborð, which includes delicacies like laufabrauð, a thin flat bread, síld, a marinated or pickled herring, rúgbrauð, a dark rye bread, and hangikjöt, smoked lamb paired with caramelised potatoes. Travel about twenty minutes away from downtown Reykjavik, and the town of Hafnarfjörður will greet you. Open on the weekends in December, the square of this Christmas village is full of live entertainment, little wooden cabins selling arts, crafts and Icelandic specialty fare, along with horse-drawn carriage rides.  
Photo Courtesy: Iceland Tourism
Photo Courtesy: Iceland Tourism
Stay: Hotel Borg, an Art Deco building that overlooks the beautiful square of Austurvöllur is in the heart of the city.  
Photo Courtesy: Hotel Borg
Photo Courtesy: Hotel Borg
Zurich, Switzerland  
The Christkindlimarkt at Zurich Main Station is one of the largest indoor Christmas markets in Europe. 140 stalls and a glorious Christmas tree decorated with almost 7,000 sparkling Swarovski crystals make it a sight to be seen. Outdoor markets serve Swiss treats like fondue and raclette, artisanal crafts, and sledding runs. Adults can partake in warm mulled wine or spiced punch variations. Don’t miss Zurich’s oldest Christmas market in the quaint area of Old Town, at the Wienachtsdorf Christmas village, near Bellevue.  
Stay: Book your stay at one of the 10 rooms part of the city’s Hotel Noël pop-up. Between November 26 and December 26, 10 rooms in 10 different hotels around the city have been individually designed by artists from diverse creative backgrounds, reflecting contemporary interpretations of the Christmas season. Martina von Meyenburg brings to life the ghosts and angels of the former Hotel Krone. The artist creates ‘The Broken Angels of the Krone,’ 28 figures represented as ambassadors, guardian angels, or baby Jesus in an installation at the Pop-Up Hotel Krone.  
Noel Rooms: Martina von Meyenburg
Also read:
Experience a snow clad winter at these luxurious hotels in India
Last minute ideas for a family trip to these wonderful nature-bound safaris in India

Ruhi Gilder


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