6 of the most magical places to spend Christmas
Around the world
Natarsha Brown jingles all the way around the world in search of the places
sure to have your little ones believing in the magic of Christmas.
Carols sung around Christmas trees, decorations adorning homes
and entire cities, incredible feasts shared with loved ones, and, of course,
Christmas is an enchanting time no matter where you spend it, but if
your family is after a bit of extra magic, these are the places to spend your next
The Ritz Hotel, London
The magic begins the moment you step into the lobby, where a soaring seven-metre
Christmas tree takes centre stage: dressed in traditional red and gold, shimmering
with baubles, adorned in gigantic velvet red bows and twinkling fairy lights that
weave their way to the first floor in a mini light show.
This is just the beginning
of the wonder that is Christmas at The Ritz Hotel, London, turning what is an already
enchanting stay into one brimming with festive cheer. Guests rooms are personalised
with in-room Yuletide trimmings and menus.
And best of all? On Christmas Day the
little ones will receive a visit – gifts included – from Father Christmas, followed
by a six-course luncheon in the grand Music Room.
And let’s not forget the rest of London. The city’s unique festive atmosphere
holiday season can probably be attributed to how the Brits just love Christmas.
Walking the chilly streets, awash with bustling last-minute shoppers,
head-to-toe in your woolly wear, enjoying the spectacular lights of Oxford Street,
will surely have you and your littlies beaming.
Take time to marvel at the
Square Christmas tree, then visit the six-week Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, with more
than 100 rides and attractions on site, an ice rink around the Victorian bandstand
ice rink and the hugely popular sub-zero Magical Ice Kingdom Arctic-inspired
If the thought of Christmas shopping has you wide-eyed and crouching in the corner,
then you haven’t experienced Christmas shopping seasons as it’s meant to be: at the
Christkindlesmarkt at Nuremburg.
Pulling in over two million visitors each year, the
markets have been a German institution for nearly 400 years. Some 180 stalls overflow
with toys, trinkets, candles, decorations and sweets – it’s as romantic an atmosphere
as they come.
Mum and dad can feast on bratwurst and Glühwein (mulled wine), while littlies explore the
Nuremburg Toy Museum, take a ride on the wooden-carved Ferris wheel, explore the
old-fashioned steam railway and two-tiered merry-go-round and munch on spicy
On that note, you simply cannot mention Christmas in Germany without
mentioning the city’s beloved gingerbread – Nürnberger Lebkuchen. These sweet and
spicy desserts have been baked for more than 600 years and are loved by young and
According to legend, the finest variety is named after Elisabeth, the
daughter of a baker, who grew ill. Her father starting baking a new type of bread
without flour that used only the finest ingredients – the Elisenlebkuchen – and the
girl regained her health.
The Big Apple is, quite simply, a Christmas miracle in itself.
With so many Hollywood movies based around the holiday season in New York, it isn’t
hard to imagine how the city transforms into a land of promise and possibility: the
streets garnished with a light dusting of snow and alive with music and parades,
department stores’ windows aglow with red, green and gold displays; and the East
Coast’s tallest Christmas tree luminous with baubles, tinsel and surrounded by
flurries of ice-skaters.
The Rockefeller Centre is the heart and soul of an NYC Christmas.
Its famed ice-rink
has been around for 80 years, and its tree an 85-year-old tradition decorated with
more than 30,000 twinkling lights!
And it doesn’t stop there; most of the city’s most
famous landmarks get a Yuletide makeover. Across the road, Radio City hosts the
annual Christmas Spectacular featuring The Rockettes; Columbus Circle is awash with
vendors selling clothes, gifts, snacks and drinks at its Holiday Market; Central
Park becomes a fairytale of horse-drawn carriages and ice-skating ponds; and the
famous window displays at Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman and Macy’s
are so extravagant, they would melt the heart of Mrs Claus herself.
The spiritual heart of Catholicism sure knows how to make Christmas
time as enchanting as possible.
Rome is always magical, but come Christmas,
the city glitters with extra charm: carts selling roasted chestnuts on every
corner, presepi (nativity scenes) popping up inside churches, music concerts
flowing through the cobblestone streets and into cafes, historic sites – such
as the Colosseum and the Spanish Steps – become hosts to Christmas trees,
Piazza Navona transforms into a marketplace full of surprises and the shopping
district of Via Condotti islit up like a, well, Christmas tree with decorations.
If the kids can stay awake, the Midnight Mass at St Peter’s Basilica is a sight to
behold, whether your family are churchgoers or not.
If a white Christmas just isn’t your thing, swap the snow for some sand, surf and
sunscreen in our very own sunburnt county.
Australia does Christmas as only Australia
can, with a good ol’ backyard barbecue (prawns included) and Pavlova for dessert,
some beach cricket or a dip in the pool (or if you’re desperate, a run though the
sprinklers), followed by an afternoon nap.
If Father Christmas was an Aussie he
would definitely be dressed in boardies instead of a Santa suit, and would probably
spend the day enjoying a Golden Gaytime on Bondi Beach.
If you are in Sydney
pre-Christmas, be sure not to miss Carols in the Domain, the biggest Christmas
concert in Australia, and free! 2016 will mark the 34th year of this iconic
celebration and is sure to be another star-studded event.
In one of our cutest holiday traditions, kids must be sure to leave some drinks and
nibbles out for Santa and his reindeer before going to bed – with most families
leaving a glass of whisky (or a beer, depending on Dad’s preference), a mince pie
and some carrots for Rudolph on the kitchen table.
If meeting Santa himself isn’t the most magical way to spend Christmas, then I don’t
know what is.
Travel to Rovaniemi, Finland, in the Arctic Circle, and discover the
place generally accepted as the home of Santa Claus. Here, elfin postal workers
receive about half a million letters each year from hopeful children the world over
and reply with an Arctic Circle postmark... now that’s devotion to the holiday
After being picked up by an elf-mobile and whizzed through snowy streets and the
depths of the forest, you will come to a village of little wooden huts.
After meeting a friendly troll, decorating cookies, learning how to be kind at
elf school, roasting marshmallows and sipping at hot chocolates around an open fire,
guests finally arrive at Saint Nicholas’ house, where the real fun begins.
Little ones will most likely go into sensory overload as they discover this pocket
of make-believe: Santa’s satellite showing reindeer flying overhead, the mail-sorting
system and, if you listen closely, the elves working downstairs in the toy workshop.
Of course, the highlight is meeting the man in red himself, who is eventually
revealed sitting by a crackling fire, beckoning his young devotees forward and
answering any question they can throw at him.
If your kids are coming to end
of their believing days, this is the perfect antidote. Read more about meeting
Santa on page 134.