5 Winter Festivals to Visit Around the World

With the holiday season officially upon us, there are endless Christmas markets and Winter festivals taking place around the world. Whether you’re looking to see the biggest Christmas tree, performers, go ice skating, or sweat on the beach there’s a winter festival for everyone.

Here are four of my favorites and one on my wish-list: 

1.  Rockefeller Center – New York, New York, USA


For over eight decades Rockefeller Center has been the epicenter for Christmas in New York City attracting over half a million visits daily. From experience, trust me when I say its busy – all the time – but getting a picture with the massive Christmas Tree behind you is well worth braving the crowd (Free!). This year, you will have until January 7 at 9pm ET to view the tree.

In addition to the famous tree, there is an outdoor ice skating rink; The Rockettes at the Radio City Christmas Spectacular; views of the city for miles from 70 stories up at Top of the Rock; and over 100 shops and dining options.

2.  Public Square – Cleveland, Ohio, USA

Having landed on National Geographic’s Best Trips 2018 List this year, there is no better time to visit my hometown than this holiday season! Start off in Public Square with a Christmas tree; lights show; ice skating rink; casino; shopping and dining at Tower City; and the Cleveland Carolers on Saturdays through December 24. Walk over to East Fourth Street for more lights and award-winning dining at Michael Simon’s barbecue restaurant Mabel’s BBQ or farm-to-table fare at Jonathan Sawyer’s Greenhouse Tavern.

And don’t forget to visit the Christmas Story House where the holiday classic The Christmas Story was filmed. The house is an exact replica of the film set with a gift shop across the street. You can then head over to Tremont’s Professor Avenue for boutique shopping and more great restaurants.

3.  Grafton Street Christmas Lights – Dublin, Ireland


I happened upon the Grafton Street Christmas Lights Ceremony by complete accident while visiting Dublin for my birthday. A family-friendly event that takes over Dublin’s most famous pedestrian shopping street there is something for everyone. Though the actual ceremony has already taken place this year, you can still stroll down the street looking up at the spectacle of lights strung from shop to shop with background music provided by the many musicians busking. There is no shortage of shopping and dining.

On Christmas Eve, make your way down for the annual sing-along with musician Glen Hansard to raise money for homeless shelters throughout Ireland. Hansard is a founding member of the homeless campaign Home Sweet Home. In years past, Hansard has been joined by local musicians such as Bono, Hozier, The Script, The Coronas, Damien Rice, Rick Mundy amongst others singing to 100s and bringing the busy street to a stand-still. Keep in mind last year’s event was so crowded it had to end early, so be safe and listen to the local Gardai.

Note: There are also Christmas Lights on Henry St. and O’Connell St. where there is a 40 foot Christmas Tree.

4.  Christmas in Brisbane – Brisbane, Australia

Brisbane Christmas King George Square

Surfing, barbecue on the beach, thongs (flip-flops) – anyone from the Northern Hemisphere is going to feel like they just saw a unicorn experiencing their first holiday season in Australia. Brisbane delivers with a Christmas spectacle throughout the city from November 25 through December 24.

You can visit King George Square to view the Christmas tree, and beginning December 8 see the City Hall Lights projection show until Christmas Eve. Over at Riverstage the Lord Mayor’s Christmas Carols have their annual show on December 9. There’s also a nightly Christmas Parade with music, performers, Santa, and a nativity scene weaving through the streets from December 15 – 24.

If that’s not enough for you, head to South Bank for the Pop-Up Christmas Village to peruse a plethora of gift options and visit one of the numerous restaurants and bars to relax after a day of shopping.

All of the above events are Free!

Note: If you want to see a tree decorated with surf boards, take a trip down the coast to Byron Bay. My confusion quickly turned to child-like delight!

5.  Winter Wonders and Christmas Market – Brussels, Belgium

Lets be honest Europe does the Christmas market like no other. Sure in The States we have Christmas lights the likes of Clark Griswold, cookies, and Black Friday shopping, but a European market is basically a carnival during the winter. Belgium has been on my Europe wish-list for years and now the Winter Wonders and Christmas Market in Brussels is tops on my things to do in Belgium list.

Running from November 24 – December 31, Winter Wonders has plenty to enjoy from over 200 chalets, to a ride on the ferris wheel or merry-go-round, to ice skating under a covered rink. You can watch a light show and then take a photo in-front of the massive Christmas tree on the city’s Grand-Place.

Winter Pop events also take place in four other quarters: Square Ambiorix, Haren, Neder-Over-Heembeek, and Laeken.

If you’re near any of the above festival, head over and enjoy.  And, if you have your own suggestions for Winter Festivals and Christmas Markets share with all via the comments section.



  1. Wow! So fun to read about these Christmas traditions. I hope you get to Belgium soon. I’d love to read your description. Your writing puts a magical picture in my mind!🎄


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