For us in Australia, Christmas usually involves a platter of fresh prawns and poolside barbecues on a sweltering hot summer day. However, the Northern Hemisphere is blessed with the kind of Yuletide cheer that dons the front of greeting cards where snow-capped holidays are the norm.
Have you always dreamt of a white Christmas? This festive season, swap the sun for some snow. Europe is calling and we've discovered the most delightful cities and things to do to inspire you to make the most of the holidays.
Home to Europe's original Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg, Germany in December is the perfect place to reignite the childhood magic of Christmas. Luxury river cruise companies such as Uniworld, APT and Avalon Waterways have tailored journeys to some of Germany's most festive destinations, including Dresden, Cologne, Munich and Berlin where cobblestone town squares burst to life in a sparkle of lights beneath moody winter skies.
There's nothing more magical than meandering through the stalls while keeping toasty warm with mugs of spicy Glühwein (mulled wine). The perfume of freshly baked gingerbread permeates the air, melodic carollers are heard from every street corner and visitors and locals alike come together to soak up the festive cheer.
What better place to experience the spirit of Christmas than in Finland's Lapland, the home of Santa Claus. Not just a destination suited to kids, grandparents will also have much to love about this multi-generational holiday destination. Spend time with the grandchildren as they meet Father Christmas; embark on an all essential sleigh ride through pine tree forests smothered in a blanket of frosty white; carve through the snow on a sled behind furry huskies; and get up close and personal with red-nosed reindeer.
And with the choice of luxury wood cabins, there's no need to forgo any creature comforts either. You could also tie-in your end of year jaunt with a New Year's Eve cruise or holiday further north to witness the once-in-a-lifetime spectacle of Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights).
It matters little if you're a regular churchgoer; Christmas Eve is one such occasion where many flock to their local church for Midnight Mass. If you find yourself in Rome during the festive season, there's no better place to celebrate the birth of Christ than at the Vatican. While papal audiences with the Pope are held year round in St Peter's Basilica, none are as special (or bucket list worthy) as Christmas Eve mass at 10pm on the 24th or on the 25th December at 12pm. Just ensure you book well in advance.
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The picture-perfect capital of Hungary receives added embellishments from mid-December when the city shimmers in a dazzling spectacle of Christmas lights and holiday cheer. Soak up the jovial atmosphere onboard a cruise on the river Danube, or travel along Budapest's most scenic city routes on the Christmas Light Tram. Late afternoon is the perfect time for a dip in the restorative hot pools of the Szechenyi Baths, before indulging in some warming homemade strudel and töki pompos (doughnuts) at the Christmas market in Vorosmarty Square. Evenings also call for sledding with locals at Normafa Park or enjoying the vivid tales of the Budapest Nutcracker Ballet at the Hungarian State Opera House.
Czech Republic's Prague takes its Yuletide celebrations very seriously. Just as St Nicholas arrives on December 5 to the delight of young ones, the medieval city is revealed at its dreamy best beneath a glow of fairy lights. The Christmas cheer is infectious, from the wonderful bohemian market in Old Town Square, complete with nativity scenes and giant Christmas tree to advent concerts at Prague Castle's St Vitus Cathedral. The merriment continues right through until New Year's Eve.