Travelling at Christmas is a tough sell, after all when you ask someone what Christmas means to them “family” is normally at the forefront of their mind. I would like to start by emphasising that travelling on Christmas is not for everyone – I cannot be the one to tell you whether it is right for you; that is a discussion for you and your family. However, as I see it, there are many benefits for those that do not have their family all in one place. Christmas is actually one of the more feasible times of the year to take time off, and a prime opportunity to broaden your cultural horizons as well as appreciate your own Christmas rituals through partaking in others. Before I begin looking at highly recommended travel destinations I would like to highlight that this is a very busy time of year for travel so make sure you make plans and book far in advance. I have tried to take an eclectic approach looking at predictable as well as some of the more unconventional destinations – starting with Winchester (UK)…
Winchester (United Kingdom) – It is not without reason that Winchester has earned itself the title of ‘England’s Christmas Capital’; you can watch a short video here to get a sense for the atmosphere. Winchester Cathedral has a carol service on Christmas Eve, if you are a fan of beautiful music in awe-inspiring buildings with stunning acoustics than this is the place for you. There is also a splendid little Winchester Cathedral Shop so that visitors can take something away from their experience, with all of the proceeds used to maintain the Cathedral. A carol service is just the beginning though, there will also be ice skating rinks – each session lasting an hour with free skate fitting. Finally, I also highly recommend the Christmas market; there are stalls here that are wholly unique, offering up highly distinct gifts and art work. Winchester does not suffer the crowds that locations like London do, allowing travellers to take their time and truly soak in the old fashioned atmosphere unhindered.
Lapland (Finland): Who saw this coming? The reason for this location’s popularity over the winter months is the fact that it is host to an abundance of reindeer, not forgetting Father Christmas himself! If you want to guarantee yourself a white Christmas, then you really can do no better. This, more than any other entry on this list, is perfect for families with children – you cannot imagine the excitement that the prospect of meeting Santa evokes in youngsters, it really is magic. There is also the possibility of witnessing the Northern Lights a natural phenomenon which has to be seen to be believed – it is predicted that the likelihood of this occurring is improved this coming December. There are many activities you can partake in, from husky dog rides to exploring the elves at work in their factory – it really is an unforgettable experience.
Dortmund (Germany) – Where Germany excels are in its markets, if they do not get you into the Christmas spirit then I don’t know what will. This experience is not one that can be authentically replicated elsewhere; the markets are always accompanied by beautiful music, they are traditional, romantic and less commercial than most markets of the western world. Dortmund is one of the most popular market destinations, being in possession of over 300 stalls all orientated around a Christmas tree of gigantic proportions. What is great about German markets is that they actually take place relatively early, in late November, so you can still catch a slice of Christmas early and then return home.
Samnaun (Switzerland) – Now for the unconventional, this recommendation is for those that are fairly adventurous and just looking for outright fun. Samnaun is home to the Santa Clause World Championship; what is more, anyone can participate over the age of 18! As strange as it may sound, this seems to be perfect for a workplace Christmas retreat – the structure of the competition is inherent with teamwork as you have to enter in a team of 4. Activities include chimney climbing, gingerbread decorating and sleigh riding!!
(Santa Float in South Australia)
Australia – yes, whilst it hardly fits the ‘white Christmas’ bill, it can offer a refreshing change of pace. In Australia Christmas lands directly in the centre of summer. Their stories of Christmas are a little different, instead of riding reindeer Santa is said to give them a rest whilst he is passing through Australia and use kangaroos instead. Whilst the temperature is different, many of the regular traditions remain – all that differs is that you don’t have to suffer the cold and everyone is in high spirits as they are in the midst of the summer holidays.
This is as far as my recommendations go – hopefully this will inspire others to broaden their horizons this winter. If you have any recommendations yourself, by all means sound off in the comments section below.