With just two days before Christmas, and some days before the New Year rings in, what’s on many people’s minds and lips is; Where did the year go? Because it practically whizzed by!
Last year, round about this time, I drafted up a post displaying what I thought to be 10 kick-ass Christmas destinations. This year, I will point you to a different set of destinations; though locations such as Singapore, Bethlehem, Prague or Reykjavik are timeless when this season of the Savior’s birth, good tidings and cheer comes about.
So here we go…
1) Amsterdam: First on the list is Amsterdam. A majestic Christmas tree, replete with lights towering over 20 metres high is set up smack in the city centre, at Dam Square. Just across from it, is the iconic 146 year old department store De Bijenkorf. For any shopperholic, this store is a dream come true; with five floors of premium fashion, designer brands and luxury goods particularly celebrated with the festive Castle of Dreams theme during Christmas time.
There is no shortage of Christmas markets around the city where you can have your fill of food, snacks and gluhwein to keep you warm. For some fun on ice, Museumplein has an ice rink right infront of the beautiful Rijksmuseum. It will be open from the 17th of December right upto the 30th. Then there is the ice sculpture festival at Amsterdam South East in the Bijlmer and the Amsterdam Light festival. A cruise while in Amsterdam is obligatory as the city has an abundance of canals.
2) Brussels: If you have chosen Brussels as your Christmas destination, be sure you’ll be immersed in a magical atmosphere. I have great memories of Winter Wonderland two years ago, and can vouch for the Belgian capital as a worthy destination. This year, you’ll find the action at the Grand Place, with a light and sounds show and a huge tree in it’s centre, donated by Slovakia to mark the completion of its six-month presidency of the European Council. At the Place de la Monnaie is an ice rink for those who would want to skate. At the Place Sainte-Catherine is the Christmas market. Brussels has gone all out featuring more than 200 different chalets where one can have their fill of hot delicacies and spicy mulled wine. For kids, there are the fairground attractions that include a Ferris wheel and merry-go-rounds. Churches around Brussels hold Christmas carols and New Year concerts during this time as well.
3) New York: Christmas in New York is ‘lit,’ the city is on record as being one of the best holiday destinations in the world. With an overload of activities from the beginning of December way into the New Year, the city will be sure to tug at all of your senses. Caroling events take place around the city parks as well as at major attractions; the public is invited to sing along classics such as Silent Night. Then there’s the Christmas tree at Rockefeller.
4) Goa: There is no where in India quite like Goa. The small city is a beautiful blend of Indian and Portuguese cultures. As it is a coastal town, there’s the promise of sun, sand and lots of sea. It is a Christian-dominated area with a rich tradition and stunning historical churches. During Christmas, stalls are set up to sell homemade cakes, chocolates in an atmosphere of joy. Some famous churches to visit during Christmas time in Goa include; the Basilica of Born Jesus, Se Cathedral, Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception and Church of St Francis of Assisi. Celebrating Christmas is one of the highlights of a December holiday in Goa.
5) Dar Es Salaam and Arusha: Tanzania is one of my favourite African countries; I find the locals there polite and chivalrous, plus they speak an almost poetic version of Kiswahili. If you’re looking for a warm Christmas, both Dar-Es-Salaam and Arusha can be good picks. I mention just two cities because TZ as it is known, is pretty huge and takes time if one is over-landing. The Serengeti is a world attraction when it comes to viewing the big five in their natural habitat. You can scale Mt Kilimanjaro, the second highest peak in the world, and while at Dar, you can do some island hopping to Zanzibar where you can partake in adrenalin-pumping water sports.
6) Venice: Venice for Christmas? Yes..Venice is one of those destinations that is timeless in it’s authentic beauty. During Christmas time, it’s pure magic with canals, piazzas and the ornate architecture all bathed in lights and decorations. There’s as well a chance to celebrate the reason for this season by taking part in midnight mass at St Mark’s Basilica. A visit to Venice should ideally include Murano, The Glass Island. You’ll discover the tallest glass Christmas tree in the world.
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7) Vienna: Christmas in Vienna is pursued with a passion. The stunning baroque architecture only adds to the beauty and magical feel of the city when the markets spread out with food items and drinks such as gluhweijn, roasted chestnuts, sausages served with grated horseradish and sticky candy apples. Alt Wiener Weihnachtsmarkt at Freyung is a favorite of many because of it’s ceramics, candles, wooden toys and Christmas decorations. There is an overload of cultural events too. You can’t come to Vienna and miss out on the Museumsquartier, packed with some of the leading museums and art galleries in the world. Each Christmas it hosts an outdoor extravaganza of events such as spectacular light shows and video projections broadcast onto their building sides as well as the setting up of ice pavilions. You are urged to stay into the New Year, as you will be presented with the opportunity to waltz.
Will you be spending Christmas in any of these locations? Let me know in the comments section below.