The best places to spend a White Christmas
If you’re dreaming of a White Christmas, this list is for you.
Christmas is fun enough as it is, but when you throw in snow, tinsel and chestnuts roasting on an open fire it becomes the winter wonderland we all dream about. Here are the best places to have yourself a very Merry Christmas in the snow.
1. Big savings in the Big Apple
New York at Christmas was the number 55 pick on International Traveller’s ultimate travel experiences of a lifetime, and it turns out it might be a bargain too. Many big-name luxury hotels drop their room rates in the lead-up to Christmas, sometimes by hundreds of dollars. But the same can’t be said of New Year’s Eve when prices in some hotels shoot up by double.
2. Snow-capped splendour in Canada
Victoria, British Columbia, has just about every Christmas tradition covered in one town: a main street of snow-frosted stores, snow-dusted trees, a gingerbread competition, a visit to see the reindeer, horse-drawn trolley rides and enough lights to make the Legislative Council glow in the night (literally).
Fairmont Hotels and Resorts is set to pump up the cheer in Alberta, the land of a million Christmas trees. The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise will have everything from toy making to making maple syrup popsicles in the stow, to winter sleigh rides to the lake, while there’s plenty more going on at Fairmont Banff Springs and Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge in Jasper National Park.
3. Magical markets in Germany
Dresden has one of the oldest markets in the country; Aachen, located on the border with Belgium and the Netherlands, is in the running for most popular (it attracts one-and-a-half million visitors each year); and Hamburg might just have the most with 15 fairy-light festooned markets dotted throughout the city.
4. Glittering sculptures in Harbin
A White Christmas might be an art form in itself. But up in Harbin in northern China, artists from all over the world have taken it one step further.
Every year at the International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, everything from enormous ice sculptures to ice labyrinths are created to enjoy, as the temperatures plummet. And while the world-famous festival might not officially open till 5 January, the jaw-dropping sculptures that make up the main attractions can be viewed from 17 December.
5. London for the little ones
The Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park is celebrating with their Christmas on the Park package, which includes a three-night-stay, Christmas Day lunch at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, Christmas carols in the lobby, a ticket to the festivities over at Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, and a welcome bottle of Champagne.
And The Ritz is treating its VIKs (Very Important Kids) to an exclusive Father Christmas meet and greet, with Hamleys x The Ritz London Christmas Grotto.
6. Icy nights and magic lights in Iceland
Christmas in Iceland falls just after the winter solstice when the days are shortest. But there’s no need to be gloomy! Instead, spend the snatches of daylight exploring and the long stretches of darkness getting cosy.
The Golden Circle drive takes in the epic Gullfoss waterfalls, the stunning rock formations of Thingvellir National Park, and the explosive Strokkur Geyser, and warm up in the hot pools of The Secret Lagoon. This is also the best time of year to see the Northern Lights, the long, dark nights creating extra opportunities to see the enchanting display of waving particles and lights.
7. Snowcapped houses in Shirakawa-go
You don’t need to go all the way to Europe for a White Christmas. Instead, fly up to Shirakawa-go in Central Japan. There you can discover the unique mountain homes of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama – a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The gassho-zukuri style farmhouses have thatched roofs, which almost look like hands in prayer. Pretty and practical, they are constructed so that the houses (some of which are almost 250 years old) can withstand the heavy snow of the region. All of this is enough to make you feel like you’ve stepped into a drop-dead Studio Ghibli anime film – which you can even book.
8. Meet Father Christmas in Lapland, Finland
If dashing through the snow on a one-horse open sleigh is your idea of a festive time, then do we have news for you. At Lapland in Finland, not only can you go on a reindeer ride through the cold, keeping one eye on the sky for the Northern Lights, but a husky one too, with Christmas House Safaris.
At the Santa Claus Village, kids can meet the Big Man himself, and post off their season greetings with the elves at the Main Post Office.
9. Ye Olde Christmas in Prague
The Medieval buildings and cobbled streets of the Czech capital are enchanting at any time of the year. But come to Advent, when a dusting of snow make covers its ancient castle, and the smell of roasting ham rises from the market stalls, it becomes utterly unforgettable.
So get into the Bohemian spirit of the thing. Check out the festive lights from Charles Bridge, skate on the pop-up ice rink at Ovocný trh and take photos of the giant Christmas Tree at Old Town Square. If you want to try out some more traditional Czech food, put aside the turkey and prawns, and instead book a carp dinner for your Christmas Eve meal.