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Winter Wonderland

An Australian Christmas often involves seafood, barbeques and sunshine; but why not experience something different this year – see how it’s celebrated on the other side of the world?  Imagine snow-covered cobblestones, winter markets, coloured lights, egg-nog and ice-skating.


Here are our top picks for a magical white Christmas:


1. New York, USA


A New York Christmas is a must-do.  The Winter chill, streets strewn with lights and decorations, peppermint hot chocolate, ice skating in Central Park, and of course the window displays along Fifth Avenue – just to name a few.  But there’s nothing more spectacular than the annually televised lighting of the Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Center and The Radio City Christmas Spectacular.  Be sure to take a carriage ride around Central Park rugged up under a blanket and visit FAO Schwartz for a toy store like no other – you’ll feel like you’ve been magically transported to Santa’s workshop.  Book a ticket to the New York City’s Ballet production of the Nutcracker, it’s a Christmas classic.


2. Lapland, Finland


If you’d like to send your Christmas requests direct to Santa Claus himself, then Lapland, Finland is the perfect destination.  The Arctic circle cuts right through the centre of this region, so it’s the closest you’re likely to get to the actual North Pole.  Be sure to get tickets to one of the two major Santa Claus theme parks – The Santa Claus Village and Santa Park.  Complete with elves, reindeer sled rides and the chance to meet Santa Claus himself -privately if you pre-book!


3. Prague, Czech Republic


With a Christmas tree to rival the Rockefeller Center, the beauty of this city is intensified when the snow falls on its gothic backdrop.  The Winter Market runs from 01 December to 06 January in the Old Town Square and is a fairytale fantasy.  Listen to the choirs performing daily, enjoy iced gingerbread and mulled wine and browse the rows of brightly coloured wooden huts for handcrafted toys and puppets.


4. Bruges, Belgium


With a snow blanket cast over cobblestone streets, Bruges is a fairytale winter wonderland.  The annual Snow and Ice Sculpture Festival – which runs from November to January –  brings professional ice sculptors from all around the world to carve over 300,000kg of ice on an annual theme.  A nip of jenever (a gin-like drink), is just the thing to warm you up after a trip to the ice rink. And of course, the chocolates are a must.


5. Vienna, Austria


With the smell of roasted chestnuts in the air, stroll through one of the many Christmas markets on offer in Vienna.  The oldest and largest Christmas market in Austria is on the square in front of the City Hall, which is famous for its gingerbread hearts, roasted chestnuts, candied fruits and vanilla crescents.  For something more regal, visit the Christmas market in front of Schönbrunn Palace, where over 60 exhibitors sell handcrafted Christmas decorations and nativity sets.  Treat yourself to a delicious Bohemian pastry or spicy punch – you’ll find these at any of the markets.


6. Amsterdam, The Netherlands


The nights may be long and dark in winter, but you can always brighten up your day with a trip to the Christmas markets in Amsterdam.  With 26 different markets to choose from, you’ll be sure to find something that suits any taste.  If you’d like a market with a difference visit the Singel flower market where you’ll find tulips in every colour imaginable, beautiful bouquets and Christmas trees.  The Amsterdam Light Festival is also said to be spectacular – not to be missed. The event features an evening walking route, amazing light installations and a parade.

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