Key Takeaways: Top Worldwide Dream Christmas Destinations
- London, Vienna, Paris, Budapest and New York City are among the most sought-after Christmas holiday destinations, thanks to their irresistible festive charm. Though European cities take the lead, New York City has its own special festive vibe that attracts people from around the world.
- While many countries, including Japan, favor spending Christmas in European cities like Vienna and Paris, others, including Jordan and Thailand, are drawn to the wonderfully quirky Tokyo.
- Europeans, particularly those from Austria and Germany, tend to stay in Europe over Christmas, plumping for nearby destinations like Vienna and Nuremberg. On the other hand, many Canadian, American and Australian travelers are happy to travel far from home for the ideal Christmas getaway.
- American adventurers who choose to head overseas have a special affinity for Vienna, but also Paris, Barcelona and Quebec City. The majority of Americans who stay closer to home favor Branson, Missouri, and Chicago, Illinois — these locations are preferred by seven states each.
- People from some sunny states, like California, dream of a snowy Christmas in Leavenworth, Washington. Meanwhile, Arizonans are pulled in by the dazzling Las Vegas, Nevada, lights.
- Rather than jetsetting to Europe, states including Alabama, Alaska and Hawaii are charmed by top U.S. Christmas destinations like Leavenworth, Washington, and Helen, Georgia, among other U.S. locations. These places are known for their traditionally Bavarian-style Christmasses.
When thinking of the best places to spend Christmas, some people look forward to a quiet, restful Christmas at home with copious amounts of mulled wine or hot chocolate. Others dream of seeing the northern lights from a cabin in Northern Europe or traversing snow-covered cities steeped in history and buzzing with Christmas markets and holiday spirit.
Every day, hordes of people scour the internet for their dream Christmas destinations and activities, and the best Christmas markets to explore. This inspired us to analyze Google search data to map out and highlight the most popular Christmas getaways around the world. If you’re curious about traveling during the Christmas period, our maps are sure to intrigue and may even surprise you.
In this post, we’ll discuss the most popular places people want to go for Christmas in three categories: international cities, international cities preferred by Americans, and dream U.S. cities for Americans.
Where the World Wants to Go for Christmas
First, let’s take a look at the top international city destinations for Christmas travelers from around the world. Below the list, we’ll explain more about our findings. To create this list, we collected data on several countries spanning all continents (with the exception, of course, of Antarctica).
|Destination||Countries That Prefer This Destination|
|🇺🇸 New York City||8|
Here, we can see that, though not every city on this list is a capital, capital cities are some of the most popular Christmas destinations for worldwide travelers, especially those in Europe. Except for New York City, the top eight destinations are all in Europe.
It’s not hard to understand why European countries are such a draw for people from outside the continent, given Europe’s history and long association with all things Christmas. For one thing, Europe was the birthplace of a multitude of winter traditions.
Even before Jesus’ time, Europeans were celebrating the winter solstice in several ways. Traditions included burning logs and feasting over the Yule period in Scandinavia and paying homage to Oden, the Pagan god, in Germany.
Today, the idea of Christmas in a European city conjures up images of frost or snow-covered historical buildings and monuments, glittering Christmas lights, quaint little shops, cozy cafés serving winter-themed coffees and mulled wine, towering Christmas trees and, of course, the infamous Christmas markets. Evidently, for many, this prospect is just too lovely to resist.
Why Do People Want to Go to London for Christmas?
When we analyzed the Google search data, one of the most intriguing findings was how London attracts an incredibly diverse group of travelers over the Christmas period. To put this into perspective, we discovered that London is the most popular destination for travelers from Switzerland, Australia, South Africa, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, India, Egypt, Kuwait and Russia, among others.
This diversity suggests that even in countries where Christmas isn’t such a big deal as it is in Europe, people are curious about British Christmas customs and want to experience the whole festive season for themselves. Christmas may be a given for some, but for others around the world, it’s a new and unique experience.
Though London is a fascinating city year-round for historical and cultural reasons, at Christmas, it truly outdoes itself. London has become infamous for its wintery, magical and wonderfully “British” — for lack of a better word — vibe that simply can’t be replicated.
People from around the world flock to London for its Christmas illuminations, ice skating rinks (one of which is at Hampton Court Palace), cozy pubs (especially those with a fireplace — heaven!), majestic historic sites and shopping opportunities.
Covent Garden and Hyde Park are two of the most famous Christmas market destinations, while illuminations take place on Oxford Street, Carnaby Street, the Strand, Kew Gardens and Sloane Square. Some like to venture to Notting Hill, the East End or travel back in time with a visit to the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey or Buckingham Palace.
Northern vs Southern Hemisphere
When it comes to how people on opposite halves of the globe like to spend their Christmas vacations, it became very clear over the course of our research that travelers in both hemispheres favor a certain type of location.
Travelers from countries in the Northern Hemisphere — including the Nordic countries, Austria, Germany, and Switzerland — favor spending Christmas closer to home in European cities like Vienna, London, Prague, Copenhagen, Munich and more. Countries in southern Europe — including Greece and Bulgaria — also have a preference for Central European cities.
This suggests that many in the Northern Hemisphere have an idea of Christmas that’s very much rooted in European traditions and don’t want to miss out by heading to warmer climes during this period. Plus, the traditional Christmas markets found in Central Europe are simply unmissable for some.
Rather than staying close to home, travelers from countries in the Southern Hemisphere, like Australia, Argentina, Brazil and South Africa, long for faraway sojourns to European cities over Christmas. Evidently, southerners are charmed by the concept of the traditional chilly Christmas that Europe is known for and don’t mind taking things down (quite) a few degrees to experience it.
It’s not just countries in the Southern Hemisphere and Europeans that have expressed this preference, though: Americans and Canadians are also open to traveling long distances for a European Christmas, with top preferred destinations being Vienna and London.
Preferred Non-European Christmas Destinations
Not everyone heads to Europe for Christmas. Based on the data we collected, travelers from Jordan and Thailand are attracted to Tokyo, a city infamous for marrying modernity and tradition. However, Japanese travelers tend to head for Europe at Christmas, with Paris — often called the “City of Love” — being the preferred location.
Though Christmas isn’t a Japanese tradition, Tokyo and other Japanese cities embrace the holiday with markets, illuminations and even yuletide logs in some bakeries. The winter period also sees the Japanese celebrate religious traditions of their own, so tourists who stay a while might get the experience of witnessing these ceremonies.
What’s more, according to Lonely Planet, December to February is a great time to avoid crowds, as it’s the low season in Tokyo (except for locals celebrating end-of-year parties). This may be appealing to those who want the Christmas experience in a less touristic environment. Another possibility is that it’s cheaper to travel to Tokyo at this time of year than it would usually be.
On the other hand, those in Spanish-speaking countries, like Bolivia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru, have an interest in visiting New York City for Christmas. Latin Americans — a culture known for its vibrancy — may have a soft spot for New York City because it’s such a diverse, lively location and its famous Rockefeller Center.
Where Americans Want to Celebrate Christmas Around the World
To see how Americans’ preferences compare to those of other countries, we checked out the favorite international cities of people in various states.
Americans’ Top Worldwide Dream Destinations for Christmas
|Destination||States That Prefer This Destination|
|🇨🇦 Quebec City||7|
For Americans, it’s unanimous that Vienna is the most desirable international holiday season destination. It streaks ahead of other popular cities, with a staggering 18 states between it and the runner-up, Quebec City. Surprisingly, London, which is the most popular worldwide destination, drops right to the bottom on this occasion with only one state favoring it as a Christmas getaway.
Why Do Americans Want to Go to Vienna for Christmas?
Deemed Europe’s most liveable city, Vienna is another Christmas destination with irresistible charm. The city during the winter period is full of bustling Christmas markets — where tourists can sample the local culinary delights, including the infamous Christmas punch — with the smells of some seriously tasty stuff emanating from them.
These markets are also known for selling beautiful hand-crafted items, including candles, Christmas decorations and soaps. The Christmas markets are set against a backdrop of jaw-dropping cathedrals, churches, parks and palaces illuminated by classic but subtle Christmas lights. If you’re a music fan, you might want to get yourself a ticket for one of Vienna’s signature Christmas concerts.
Those who have been lucky enough to spend time in Vienna describe it as a “gem” that’s simply bursting with history, art, culture and music. It’s no wonder so many Americans dream of a white Christmas in Vienna. An extra fun fact: In Austria, the celebrations typically happen on Christmas Eve rather than on the 25th.
Where Americans Want to Go in the U.S. for the Holidays
Americans’ Top U.S. Destinations for Christmas
|🎄 Branson, Missouri||7|
|🎄 Chicago, Illinois||7|
|🎄 Leavenworth, Washington||5|
|🎄 Helen, Georgia||4|
|🎄 Boston, Massachusetts||4|
|🎄 New York City, New York||4|
|🎄 Las Vegas, Nevada||3|
|🎄 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania||2|
|🎄 Gatlinburg, Tennessee||2|
|🎄 St. Louis, Missouri||1|
|🎄 Kansas City, Missouri||1|
|🎄 Nashville, Tennessee||1|
|🎄 Williamsburg, Virginia||1|
|🎄 Solvang, California||1|
|🎄 Bethlehem, Pennsylvania||1|
|🎄 Myrtle Beach, South Carolina||1|
|🎄 Frankenmuth, Michigan||1|
|🎄 Portland, Oregon||1|
|🎄 Denver, Colorado||1|
We looked into 48 states for this analysis. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get data on South Dakota and North Dakota, so those states have been excluded. Two cities renowned for their Christmas festivities — Branson, Missouri, and Chicago, Illinois — are in the top spots on this occasion. This may come as a surprise to those who expected to see New York City take the lead.
Findings from our analysis suggest that many Americans have an affinity for Bavarian-style Christmas celebrations. Two destinations high up on the list are Bavarian-themed cities Leavenworth, Washington, and Helen, Georgia. Americans may choose to visit these locations to get a more European-style Christmas experience closer to home.
Interestingly, Leavenworth, Washington (a northern U.S. state), is especially popular with travelers from California, a famously summery state, suggesting that Californians may be seeking a more authentic wintery experience for Christmas.
Some Americans have a preference for a more urban-style Christmas in cities like New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia and Las Vegas, all of which are known for their dazzling light displays. Travelers are likely drawn by the buzz and excitement these cities have to offer.
Why Do Americans Want to Go to Branson, Missouri, for Christmas?
Branson, Missouri, is a city that simply oozes Christmas spirit, which is a real draw for Americans in need of a touch of magic. It is famously called America’s “Christmas Tree City” thanks to its extravagant and plentiful Christmas tree displays, local theme park Silver Dollar City alone hosts over 1,000 trees.
Other festive points of interest for those who like to indulge in holiday cheer include the Polar Express experience, the gingerbread village display at Chateau on the Lake resort, and the drive-through Christmas lights tour. You can also enjoy Christmas performances or embark on a Christmas shopping expedition around the city’s diverse collection of stores and outlets.
Explaining Our Research Methods
To put together our roundups of the most popular Christmas destinations, our research team began their search on social media platforms like TikTok and explored various online sources to get an idea of the most sought-after vacation spots.
After putting together a list of these locations, we analyzed Google search volume data. Our focus was on common Christmas travel-related keywords that people search for on Google, like “Christmas in X (location)” and “Things to do in X for Christmas.” This helped us get a clearer understanding of exactly what the majority of people in certain locations are looking for.
We included data both in English and the country in question’s native language to get various perspectives on the topic and make sure our findings were as organic and accurate as possible. When we had all the data we needed to categorize and rank the locations, we began searching for information on why the top locations are so overwhelmingly popular.
Being Mindful of Travel Scams
As our regular readers will know by now, Cloudwards’ main focus is online security and privacy, so we think it prudent to address the issue of travel scams. Unfortunately, cybercriminals sometimes trick unsuspecting holiday-makers into paying for holidays that aren’t going to happen by promising things that seem too good to be true.
Travel scamming may not look the same in every instance, but scammers are likely to offer cheap deals for an all-inclusive holiday (flights, food, transfers, etc.). Once you’ve handed over your card details to pay for this “deal,” you won’t see that money again. These scammers may ramp up their efforts over the Christmas period because they know many people like to travel.
To avoid this, be sure to only use well-known sites that have received stellar reviews from previous customers to plan your Christmas trips. If your gut tells you something’s not right or something seems too good to be true, trust your instincts.
Check your bank statements regularly, too, to ensure nothing is going on that you didn’t know about. It’s also wise to use a VPN to prevent hackers, scammers and snoopers from seeing what you’re doing online, especially when you’re using public WiFi networks.
What’s more, a reliable VPN is great for accessing content from back home that you may not be able to access in the country you’ve traveled to due to regional restrictions.
Final Thoughts: Best Christmas Destinations
Whether you plan to jet off to a new place or spend Christmas chilling out at home, as long as you’re doing your thing and enjoying the festive season how you want to, that’s what’s important. To reiterate, don’t forget to watch out for those holiday scammers. We hope you’ve found this data and analysis informative.
What are your plans for Christmas day this year? If you’re traveling, where and why? What do you consider to be the best Christmas holiday destinations? Let us know in the comments, and thanks for reading.
Frequently Asked Questions
London, Vienna, New York City, Paris and Budapest are the top five most popular Christmas destinations in the world according to our analysis of available data.
Branson, Missouri, and Chicago, Illinois, are the most popular Christmas destinations in the U.S., followed by Leavenworth, Washington. Helen, Georgia, and Boston, Massachusetts, are also incredibly popular, as is New York City.
There are several Christmassy places in the world. Lapland, a region of Finland, stands out as an especially Christmassy place as it has long been considered to be the home of Santa Claus.
Over 160 countries celebrate Christmas, and these countries span every continent except for Antarctica.
Several countries celebrate Christmas, and each in its own way. To name a few examples, Christmas is a big deal for many people in the U.S., U.K., Poland, Germany, Austria, the Nordic countries, Spain and many, many more.
Christmas is not a public holiday in quite a few countries, including Afghanistan, Algeria, Bhutan, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Uzbekistan and more. In some countries, like China and Japan, it’s not a public holiday, but you’ll still see Christmas decorations in some of the larger cities and some people exchange gifts.