With the impending arrival of another Christmas, there’s still plenty of time to dream of a winter wonderland in the Northern Hemisphere. What about these six cities to visit during the festive season?
1. Dublin, Ireland
From hot chocolates to hot toddies and Christmas markets galore, Dublin is an exceptional city to visit during the festive season. Dublin begins its razzle dazzle in mid-late November with the ‘Big Switch On’, lighting up the giant Christmas tree on O’Connell Street. There are some exciting events that locals look forward to each year – the St Patrick’s Cathedral Choice concert, elevated with its superb acoustics; and the Grafton Street Christmas Eve busker’s performance. In previous years, Bono, Glen Hansard and their music friends would busk here to raise money for the Simon Community. Nowadays, it’s a surprise as to whoever turns up, but they still put on a wicked show.
2. Budapest, Hungary
We think one of the best things about Budapest during the festive season are the traditional food specialties that make an appearance. The air is filled with the heady scent of sizzling sausages, roasted chestnuts, zserbó cake (filled with jam and nuts) and kürtöskalács (commonly known as a Hungarian chimney cake). Luckily, Budapest is quite walkable, so you can work off some of these indulgences! Don’t miss taking a ride on the line 2 tram, festively decorated for its route alongside the Danube; the Christmas market in front of St Stephen’s Basilica in the late afternoon to witness the sound and light show that is projected onto the church every 30 minutes; and you can even relax in the thermal baths of Széchenyi on Christmas Day!
3. Boston, USA
Boston has several pockets of festiveness dotted throughout the city. Similar to Dublin, they have the annual Boston Common Tree Lighting Ceremony in late November. This is a beloved tradition, signifying a special relationship between the city and Nova Scotia. In 1979, a munitions ship exploded in Halifax’s harbour and Boston sprang into action, sending a train with supplies and emergency responders within 24 hours. To thank Boston for their friendship, Nova Scotia gifts a tree each November. From there, festivities abound. The Downtown area has a different festive theme each year that spreads across the popular Boston Common and Public Garden; and the Seaport neighbourhood sheds its autumn layers for Snowport, a festive hub filled with rooftop igloos, curling lanes, a market and events.
4. Osaka, Japan
The Japanese sure know how to do Christmas. There is something very special about exploring this historic city whilst rugged up in the cold. The traditional food served in winter is perfect to warm you up – cups of oden (a mix of radish, egg, fish cakes and tofu boiled in a dashi broth) that you can even purchase in a convenience store, a steaming nabe (a bubbling hot pot with various ingredients), grilled seafood, and the famous KFC Christmas meal set that most families will have on Christmas Day. Osaka even takes inspiration from Germany with a German-inspired Christmas market at the Umeda Sky Building for a taste of Europe in Japan! It is also the perfect weather to soak away in an onsen, or hot pool, at the end of a long day.
5. Cardiff, Wales
There’s never a bad time to visit Cardiff, however the city dons its best and brightest come the festive season! Pick up some unique, hand-crafted gifts from The Hayes’ Christmas market; settle in for a cosy pub meal of a traditional roast followed by plum pudding (a favourite of locals during this time of year!); lace up your skates at the covered ice rink at Cardiff Castle; and head for the skies on the ferris wheel at Winter Wonderland, held on the City Hall lawn.
6. Rome, Italy
As one of the most important cities in Christian faith, Rome is one of the most amazing cities to visit during the festive season. From December 8th (Immaculate Conception Day), you’ll find Nativity scenes, beautifully decorated trees in all the main piazzas and sparkling lights around every corner. Visiting during late November/early December is less busy than the weeks around Christmas, so landmarks, museums and galleries are less crowded. If you do time your visit around Christmas, you may wish to attend Christmas Eve Mass at the Vatican or see the Pope make his annual Christmas Day speech. You could also dine as the Italians do with fish on Christmas Eve, and a tortellini soup on Christmas Day.