Travel Picks: Top 10 Christmas decoration spots
SAN FRANCISCO, Dec 14 - Just like each family has their own holiday traditions, so does every city. Whether it's a special event or seasonal decorations, if you're traveling this month, you don't have to forgo the excitement of the holidays. For those planning to travel over the holidays who want to visit a place known for holiday excitement, the members and editors of VirtualTourist have compiled a list of the "Top Ten Spots for Holiday Lights and Decorations." Reuters has not endorsed this list:
1. Vienna, Austria
If you're considering visiting Europe this December, VirtualTourist members recommend spending time in Vienna. Advent, the period of preparation before Christmas, begins on the Sunday four weeks before Christmas Eve, so Viennese celebrations and decorations often begin in mid-November. On some of the city's busiest streets, garlands of lights and illuminated chandeliers glow above pedestrians. Rathausplatz, the square in front of the town hall, is home to Christkindlmarkt, a traditional Christmas market complete with vendors selling apfel strudel, gluhwein (mulled wine), and lebkuchen (gingerbread). There are many Christmas Markets throughout the city, but another member favorite is at Schonbrunn Palace, particularly because of the fantastic decorations outside the ochre building. VirtualTourist members said that perfectly dressed Christmas trees appear in most open spaces, and even some of the trams are decorated with large, golden bows.
2. Copenhagen, Denmark
Another European city with great architecture, Copenhagen is a perfect spot to get into the holiday spirit. One of Europe's longest pedestrian streets, Stroget is decorated with garlands, illuminated stars, and glowing red hearts hanging overhead. Tivoli Gardens is also located in the Inner City and is a must-see for visitors looking for unique decorations. The world's second oldest amusement park, Tivoli is always filled with rides, food stalls, and well-kept gardens, but come November, the entire park is sparkling with tiny lights and glass ornaments. From November 16 to December 30, the park has Russian Christmas and Nordic Christmas themes, side by side. With six additional rides open during the Christmas season, there is also a traditional Christmas market with over 50 stalls, selling pastries, gingerbread, pancakes, and Scandinavian crafts.
3. Hong Kong
The skyscrapers, reflective harbor, and mix of Western and Eastern traditions make Hong Kong a city uniquely built for holiday spectacle. This year's annual WinterFest is partnered with Tiffany & Co., so the brand will be taking over Statue Square in the Central district of Hong Kong Island with its signature Tiffany Blue hue, even including the 18-meter-tall (60 feet) Christmas tree. On Lantau Island, Hong Kong Disneyland has Christmas illuminations all along its Main Street, U.S.A. Further inland, New Town Plaza hosts the "Starlight Romance" illumination show, with more than 100,000 flashing bulbs synchronized to festive music. All three events, WinterFest, Hong Kong Disneyland, and Starlight Romance, are available for viewing now and run through January 1. In addition to visiting these spots, don't forget to take a harbor night cruise and experience all the additional lights with the already stunning Hong Kong skyline.
4. Gothenburg, Sweden
By December, the days in Sweden are very short (some cities only have five hours of daylight), so they have a great excuse for extensive holiday lighting. Almost directly north of Copenhagen, the city of Gothenburg on Sweden's western coast is known throughout the country for its seasonal spirit. Starting at the city's harbor, a three kilometer (1.86 mile) "Lane of Light" guides you through the city to Liseberg, the largest amusement park in the Nordic countries. From November 16 to December 23, Liseberg is lit by about five million Christmas lights, as well as host Sweden's largest traditional Christmas market. Visitors can also experience the Lucia celebrations, one of Sweden's most important cultural traditions. While historians may debate the tradition's origins, it centers around Lucia being a mythical figure who is the bearer of light in the dark Swedish winters, with the holiday traditionally falling on the longest night of the year. Dressed in white with an illuminated wreath on her head, the role of Lucia is a prized position in every town in Sweden, tasked with leading a progression through the town. Gothenburg claims to have the world's longest Lucia parade, which took place on December 12 this year. Continued...