15 Festive Experiences for the Holidays
Collected by Serena Renner, AFAR Contributor
Christmas markets, light displays, quirky gifts, a cozy guest house, and the best place to ice skate during the holidays
2961 Kinderdijk, Netherlands
When waterways in the Netherlands freeze into glittering paths, overjoyed residents take to the ice. Visitors can buy or rent a pair of noren (traditional long-blade skates) to glide across town or take part in one of the country’s dozens of...
Marienplatz 1, 80331 München, Germany
Hverfisgata, Reykjavík, Iceland
There's an old tale they tell the children in Iceland about these little elf-like creatures called the Jule Lads who live in the volcanic lands outside of Reykjavik. Traditionally, around Christmas time, they come down and cause all sorts of...
Domplatz, 99084 Erfurt, Germany
After three Christmases and countless holiday markets since our move to Germany, the Erfurter Weihnachtsmarkt has definitely become one of our favorites. Whether it's for the impressive Dom overlooking the main part of the market, the Medieval...
San Luis Obispo, CA, USA
I took the long way home from Palm Springs yesterday. The winter holidays in California are strange to those used to snow and ice. But the over-the-top Madonna Inn, a pink palace of kitsch, goes all out this time of year. Step inside and you...
Vesterbrogade 3, 1630 København V, Denmark
I got to Copenhagen with zero idea that there would be an amusement park right in the middle of it. Let alone a 19th century amusement park, which makes it all the more magical and romantic (in the antiquated sense). At age 23, I still enjoyed...
Tauentzienstraße 21-24, 10789 Berlin, Germany
Kauhaus de Westens (Department Store of the West) is Europe’s second-largest department store, boasting a food hall rivaling Harrod’s. The 6th and 7th floors are entirely devoted to gourmet, and advertisements tout the place as having two football...
6301 Valkenburg, Netherlands
Every year, the little town of Valkenburg creates a Christmas Market atmosphere in the municipal caves of Valkenburg aan de Geul. Considered the largest and oldest underground Christmas Markets in Europe, the caves are very inviting to visitors...
Warmoezeniersweg 20, 9000 Gent, Belgium
Went over to Brugge the other day to see the ice sculptures and also had a walk through the city. The main square was lit up very nicely and there was an ice rink right in the center. The weather was cold but the atmosphere was poetic.
Cinnamon, vanilla and anis lead the way. Bells and laughter invite. Two golden angels greet you as you walk through the gate. It's such a special time and no place really seems to bring the joyful feeling of Christmas closer to my heart than the...
Crta. d'Olot a la Pinya, 17179 La Pinya, Girona, Spain
We arrived at night, when the glow of christmas lights in the trees outside the front door illuminated a structure that looked far too small to house all of the rooms we would need. Morning brought with it clarification and what we found was a...
North University, Austin, TX 78705, USA
The massive display of Christmas light pageantry on 37th Street draws thousands of spectators to this north campus neighborhood on an annual basis in December, but you won't find any nativity scenes here! The theme of this display every year is...
75009 Paris, France
Galeries Lafayette Haussmann is worth a visit if only to stand under its magnificent glass dome. The family business has survived as a one-stop-shopping hub for five generations, thanks to steady innovation and an emphasis on high fashion and...
Römerberg, 60329 Frankfurt am Main, Germany
There’s no better way to experience the festivities of the holidays than Christmas markets (Weihnachtsmarkt) in Germany, and Frankfurt's is particularly beautiful. The markets take place usually in the center of the town, and you'll find all...
Krujë District, Albania
As old markets go, this is now one of my favorites. Its completely contained along one short stretch of a cobblestone, pedestrian-only walkway. Wooden storefronts all have shade casting awnings that make it very comfortable to meander even on a...
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