Christmas may be a time for tradition but that doesn’t mean it can’t be exciting and novel too.
If you’re not feeling too enthralled by the idea of being cooped up indoors with the in-laws again, a festive family getaway could be just the ticket. To help you make sure you find the right destination for you, Booking.com looked at customer reviews and selected the best destinations for ‘culture’, ‘romance’, ‘nature’, ‘skiing’ and ‘food’.* Read on to discover the ultimate places to enjoy an alternative Christmas.
Emerse yourself in German culture in Weimar
Weimar’s claim to the cultural crown is ridiculously strong. This small, ancient city was the heart of the German Enlightenment and the home of Bauhaus. So look out for plaques, statues and museums dedicated to Kandinsky, Nietzsche, Goethe, Schiller, Bach and all the other greats that lived here. Though Weimar is probably most well-known for its eponymous Republic, founded in 1919 after the First World War, it has a broad and intriguing history. Not to mention the chance to experience the chocolate-box pretty, traditional German Christmas markets.
Christmas is the perfect time to visit Venice if you want to avoid the crowds
As Christmas is in the middle of low season in Venice, its jade green waterways and pastel-coloured palazzos are relatively empty and quiet. The mood is festive but in an uncommercial way. Decorations drape over doorway arches, dainty bridges and even the gondolas, while carol concerts are held in churches and piazzas across the city. Everything about Venice is romantic so there’s no shortage of things to do for a couple’s Christmas. Clichés are there for a reason, so why not enjoy an intimate candlelit dinner for two in a traditional trattoria or share a caffe affogato, an espresso with a dollop of vanilla ice cream melting in the middle.
If a white Christmas is what you're after, Longyearbyen is a must-visit
Experience the ultimate white Christmas in Longyearbyen, the world’s northernmost city. In a remote Norwegian location, glaciers and frozen fjords form the spectacular snowy backdrop. The town itself is an odd blend of brightly-coloured houses and industrial buildings but it’s an ideal base to explore the surrounding untouched arctic wilderness. Snowshoeing, Nordic skiing and snowmobile safaris are a few of the activities that make a trip here so thrilling. You can also take boat trips along the rugged coastline of Spitsbergen, the largest island in the Svalbard archipelago. A dogsledding trip is probably the best way to see panoramas of endless, undisturbed white – with a silence and beauty that will feel like you’re traversing completely undiscovered territory.
Spend Christmas on the slopes in Saalbach-Hinterglemm
Saalbach-Hinterglemm is two villages conjoined, meaning plenty of pistes that stretch across both sides of the valley. Known as the Skicircus, it’s Austria’s largest ski resort and is paradise for enthusiasts with a huge array of well-groomed slopes, cross-country runs, race and carving courses and more. Whether you want to ski, snowboard, toboggan or just enjoy the apres-ski scene, Saalbach-Hinterglemm caters for all. Cosy alpine huts and hearty Austrian cuisine will make you feel extra festive.
Taste a new variety of Christmas dishes in Ji'an
For anyone keen to consume ridiculous quantities of food and alcohol come Christmas, head to Ji’an for a mouth-watering array of local dishes. Jiangxi cuisine is defined by spice, umami (meaning savoury flavours) and the absence of cold or raw dishes (which you’ll be glad about when faced with chilly Christmas Ji’an weather). Many local recipes involve slow simmering, so as to really retain the fragrancy of the diverse ingredients, from bamboo shoots and soy bean to crab and frog.
*All of these destinations were approved by Booking.com customers, 95% of whom recommended them to other travellers.