The Christmas season comes but once a year, and any city can slap on Christmas cheer. But some places do more than all the rest, and each festive season they’ll give it their best. So come with PIXEO around the world, to see which cities win the Christmas Gold. Bring your best camera and take a pic, who knows, maybe you’ll capture St. Nick.

Also, we promise we’ll stop writing in rhyme.

1. Quebec City, Quebec, Canada

Quebec City Christmas-Photo by Frede Langlois
Quebec City Christmas-Photo by Frede Langlois

When it comes to top Christmas locations in North America, Quebec City, in all its festive glory, can’t be beaten. The Old Port section of the city is a Christmas Village brought to life, where the historic European architecture, snow and lights conspire to overload the festive senses. Photographers will find the terrific tapestry magical, with almost endless opportunities to capture the French Canadian culture in all its wondrous glory. Don’t miss the Christmas Markets, midnight masses at heritage churches, and the occasional wandering group of carolers.

2. Riga, Latvia

The Christmas Market at Dome Square, with the Riga Cathedral in the Background-Photo by Daniels Joffe
The Christmas Market at Dome Square, with the Riga Cathedral in the Background-Photo by Daniels Joffe

We’ve previously described Riga, Latvia as Europe’s Most Underrated Photo Destination, but they pull out all the stops at Christmas time. Gingerbread cookies mulled wine (it’s delicious), and a light dusting of snow on ancient Cathedrals make this one of the best happy holiday destinations. But it’s not just about what you can put in front of your camera lens. Latvian customs are different than the rest of Europe and include traditions such as having to recite a poem before receiving a gift and the requirement to sing for your supper. As well the nation’s Russian speaking population, who are Orthodox Christians, celebrate a couple of weeks after the Protestants. So if you love Christmas, the holiday season in Latvia lasts well into January. The Latvians were also one of the last ethnic groups to embrace Christianity, so several pagan rituals endure here. These include dragging a yule log around a property to soak up bad-luck and burn it. Don’t miss the city’s three main Christmas markets, especially the one at the Riga Cathedral. The photo opportunities during these festivities are limitless.

3. Castelmezzano, Italy

Castelmezzano-Photo by Paolo Santarsiero
Castelmezzano-Photo by Paolo Santarsiero

Castelmezzano is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful villages in Italy. Never is this truer than during the winter season, when snow clings to the steep peaks and creates a beautiful contrast between the warm orange-yellow glow of the village and the pale blue of dusk. For the photographer, this place is arguably at peak postcard during the Christmas season. Dotted with beautiful churches and clusters of houses perched precariously on narrow ledges, the photographer will find the city ripe for photographic picking. The local culture is also about as authentic Italian as you can get, and this is all the more evident during the Christmas season.

4. New York City, NY, USA

Radio City Music Hall in New York, NY USA — Photo by Goh Rhy Yan
Radio City Music Hall in New York, NY USA — Photo by Goh Rhy Yan

The classic Christmas setting of American movies, Christmas in New York, is on the bucket list of any festive fanatic. Whether it’s skating beneath the legendary Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, taking in the merriment at Times Square, or revisiting your youth with Santa at the 160-year-old world-famous Macy’s department store. New York goes all out for Christmas, and there are limitless photo opportunities. Don’t miss the new Luminocity Festival at Randalls Island, an immersive lights festival. If you like Christmas Lights, be sure to make your way to Dyker Heights, where homeowners one-up each other decorating their homes in the grand tradition of National Lampoons Christmas Vacation.

5. Hamburg, Germany

Christmas in Hamburg, Germany — Photo by Chris Spencer-Payne
Christmas in Hamburg, Germany — Photo by Chris Spencer-Payne

The classic Christmas setting of American movies, Christmas in New York, is on the bucket list of any festive fanatic. Whether it’s skating beneath the legendary Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, taking in the merriment at Times Square, or revisiting your youth with Santa at the 160-year-old world-famous Macy’s department store. New York goes all out for Christmas, and there are limitless photo opportunities. Don’t miss the new Luminocity Festival at Randalls Island, an immersive lights festival. If you like Christmas Lights, be sure to make your way to Dyker Heights, where homeowners one-up each other decorating their homes in the grand tradition of National Lampoons Christmas Vacation.

6. Leavenworth, WA, USA

Christmas in Leavenworth, Washington — Photo by Russ Alman
Christmas in Leavenworth, Washington — Photo by Russ Alman

Leavenworth is not a big town with a population of roughly 2,000 people. It sits smack dab in the centre of Washington State and is a Barvarian-styled village in the Cascade mountains. One wouldn’t typically think of the Pacific Northwest as a potential hub of Christmas merriment, but Leavenworth will prove you wrong. The Washington town is world-famous for its festive holiday atmosphere and draws visitors from around the world during this time of year. The town’s German theme is unquestionably American kitsch, but charming nonetheless. Once a logging village, it adopted its Barvarian-styled look after a railroad rerouting, and the town started to die. Town leaders realized its unique mountain setting resembled Bavarian German, and so began the ornamental change to the town’s architecture. Once the city “became” German, so did its major holiday events. So, if you live in the Pacific Northwest, Leavenworth is the place to be on Christmas Eve. Oktoberfest isn’t bad here either.

7. Dublin, Ireland

Winter in Dublin, Ireland — Photo by Giuseppe Milo
Winter in Dublin, Ireland — Photo by Giuseppe Milo

If you’re not looking to dive right into massive crowds of tourists, capturing Christmas while wading through the full-throated roar of holiday crowds, then most of the above destinations may not be your cup of tea. If, on the other hand, you are looking for a more understated holiday experience, we recommend Dublin, Ireland. The Irish capital is not short on Christmas lights, holiday fun and a festive atmosphere. What it is short on is massive crowds of people from afar clamouring to spend every last cent they have on bibbles and baubles and other Christmas knick-knacks. The people of Dublin are incredibly kind and welcoming, and you’ll feel a lot less like an ATM abroad. Dublin is also not short on architectural beauty that is only that much more stunning at Christmas time. Be sure to check out St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the Guinness Storehouse while you are there. You can’t go to Dublin without at least dipping a toe in the Pub atmosphere.

8. Bethlehem

Christmas in Bethlehem-Photo by Ben & Gab
Christmas in Bethlehem-Photo by Ben & Gab

When thinking of Christmas photographic destinations, perhaps the most interesting place to visit is where it all started. Discover the beauty and somewhat unusual Christmas festivities at the traditional birthplace of Christ himself in Bethlehem. Unsurprisingly, or perhaps surprisingly, Bethlehem celebrates Christmas. Located in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, Bethlehem may not be the safest place to visit during the holidays. But if you want to experience and capture the true meaning of Christmas, there may be no better place to do it than here. Visit the Church of the Nativity, and discover the birthplace of Christ himself. Enjoy the Christmas Festival and experience an extraordinary and exceptional holiday experience that is both moving and beautiful in its own right. So, if you are the sort of person who prefers to keep Christ in your Christmas, then this is the best way to do it.

9. Tokyo, Japan

Christmas in Tokyo, Japan — Photo by Manish Prabhune
Christmas in Tokyo, Japan — Photo by Manish Prabhune

It might come as a surprise that Tokyo makes our Christmas list. The Japanese people are primarily Buddhist or Shito, but it turns out they are also happy to celebrate the outward trappings of Christmas. The capital city of Tokyo takes this to another level, decorating their public spaces with the same vigour as any traditionally Christian destination. For the photographer, this makes for a great Christmas Photography destination if a little unconventional. Be sure to check out all the traditional dazzling nightscapes like Tokyo Station, Marunouchi, and Roppongi. At Christmas time, the highly technical LED magic the city is known for will be on full display.

10. Prague, Czech Republic

Christmas in Prague, Czech Republic — Photo by Travis Wise
Christmas in Prague, Czech Republic — Photo by Travis Wise

Prague in the Czech Republic is a beautiful European city, and when the Christmas Markets in Old Town Square pop up, the town takes it up a notch. Christmas garlands, trees and lights are on full display, and there is a palatable social feel to the festivities. Street photography opportunities abound during this time of year, but you’ll primarily be shooting fellow tourists. If you want an authentic Czech experience, you’ll have to meander a bit away from the market square, where you will find more authentic experiences. Mostly, however, the city is best known at this time of year for its Christmas lights. Perhaps no other city in Europe goes all out with Christmas lights like this historic city.

Conclusion

The fact remains that Christmas is a wonderful time of year to get out and take pictures, and no matter where you go, there’s usually a chance to capture some holiday cheer. Here’s hoping you get some time with friends and family this holiday season and take some time to snap a few photos too. Merry Christmas!

Explore More Photography Guides