9 Top Holiday Destinations
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) Every year for as long as I can remember I've traveled for Christmas. Almost my entire extended family lives in upstate New York, and so every year my parents, brothers and I head there for the holidays.
Not everyone needs or wants to do this, though. For many people, a slow schedule at work and some decent vacation time means 'tis the season to travel and get away from the relatives. Maybe you want to see how the rest of the world celebrates Christmas, or maybe it's just time to enjoy a well earned vacation. Whatever the reason, taking a voyage during the holidays is a fantastic idea and a great chance to catch some deals despite the high season for airfare.
So, for those who want to take off and see the world this holiday season, here are nine great destinations for celebrating Christmas abroad.
#1. Budapest, Hungary
Unsurprisingly, Europe is going to feature heavily in this list. Most of our iconic Christmas images come from Central and Eastern Europe. Santa himself is even based on St. Nicholas, an Orthodox saint from eastern Turkey.
For Budapest, the holiday appeal comes particularly from its Christmas markets. Starting in mid-November the center city lights up with small, wooden sheds selling anything even remotely holiday-related, from ornaments to crafts and spices and even silk scarves. Grab a cup of mulled wine from one of many (many!) food stalls and enjoy the festive atmosphere, as well as the lights on the city's iconic castle.
While you're there, don't forget to try the trdelnik, a sweet pastry that made its way up from Transylvania to most of Central Europe. It's hard to miss the long rollers baking this treat over open fires and well worth getting hot.
#2. Freiburg, Germany
Freiburg is one of my favorite unsung cities. Located on the edge of southwest Germany's Black Forest, this university town is worth visiting any time of the year. Not only is it in the middle of a gorgeous region for hiking, but it's also a beautiful city in its own right with densely packed medieval architecture set among the surrounding wooded mountains. Small canals called bächle run through the cobblestone streets, unique in my experience, and the town sports plenty of great shops and restaurants to keep the local college students happy.
At the holidays, those half-timber buildings covered in snow look like something off the front of a Christmas card. Even more remarkable, the morning market around Freiburg's cathedral expands into a huge Christmas market. Under ordinary circumstances, this market hosts farmers, bakers, cheese mongers and butchers from Germany as well as nearby France, Switzerland and Italy. At Christmas, not only does the market sell its range of incredible food but also German shortbreads, ornaments and local crafts. It's enough alone to occupy days even before you get to the local beer halls, architecture tours and winter hiking.