The World's 6 Most Festive Wintertime Destinations

A wintertime adventure to one of these towns in Europe (and one in Canada) is an adventure into a fairy tale. The aesthetics and the architecture are from a grander era—and it’s even more enchanted and festive around Christmas. Here, an invitation to enter a snow-covered world where the cocoa is sweet and the houses are prettier than gingerbread.

BAMBERG, GERMANY

This stadt, established in 1007, was constructed on seven hills that have, over the centuries, been crowned with castles and churches. Bamberg is a center for beer production, boasting nine breweries in the town (and 60 more in the area). It is, too, a center for Christmas festivities: In the winter, it is decorated with more than 40 nativity scenes.

COLMAR, FRANCE

This destination in the heart of Alsace, France, is well-known for its charm—and for its Alsatian wine. Colmar’s “old town” is decorated with cobblestones and Medieval and Renaissance architecture (the famous Maison Pfister is a demonstration of these styles). And the Quartier de la Krutenau, which is on the Lauch canal, and the Quartier des Tanneurs are certain to “wow” with their bold-colored, half-timbered houses.

HALLSTÄTT, AUSTRIA

Austria’s Lake Hallstätt is adorned with a small enclave with no small amount of character: Hallstätt is one of the oldest towns in Europe. There’s no one season to discover this dreamlike destination. But winter is, perhaps, the most festive—when the Baroque architecture and the handsome Maria Himmelfahrt church are covered in snow. It’s so perfect that it’s almost edible.

QUÉBEC CITY, CANADA

Québec City’s “old Québec” is the great old-world treasure in the New World. The historic streets—which date to the 1600s, when Samuel de Champlain colonized the area—are trimmed with plaster and stone–façade residences that are reminiscent of France. And Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, the iconic castle-like hotel, presides over the picture-perfect scene.

STEIN AM RHEIN, SWITZERLAND

This charmed enclave is centered around the Rathausplatz (the town’s square), where the façades are embellished with colored frescoes that date to the 1500s. The half-timbered houses are named for the themes of their façades (e.g., “House of the Red Ox” and “House of Sun”). First experience the richness of this scene. And then experience the richness of an authentic fondue.

ROTHENBURG OB DER TAUBER, GERMANY

The Brothers Grimm’s characters could almost be encountered on the streets of this fairy-tale destination, which continues to embrace its Medieval aesthetic. Indeed, Rothenburg ob der Tauber is so enchanted—so wondrous—that it was featured in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.

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