Photograph by Sandra Raccanello, SIME
Advent brings out Vienna’s romantic side: Garlands of bulbs glisten over thoroughfares and shops are decorated with pine branches and silk ribbons (November 26-December 31). Giant chandeliers lead to St. Stephen's Cathedral, and daily Advent concerts take place at Schönbrunn Palace.
—From the November/December issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine
Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen
Photograph by Sisse Brimberg & Cotton Coulson, Keenpress
The Japanese Pagoda, a popular restaurant on Tivoli Lake, is among the many structures dressed up with holiday lights at Denmark’s 1843 amusement park and “pleasure garden,” the dreamy vision of a Tiffany design director. In addition to touring the Asian area, located near the concert hall, visitors can zoom through the sparkling skies on the 1914 roller coaster, and warm up with glogg (mulled wine) and apple dumplings. November 11-December 30.
Photograph by Thierry Roge, Reuters/Corbis
During Plaisirs d’Hiver, dramatically lit buildings and piped-in music lift spirits in the historic Grand Place. At the Christmas market, 240 chalets serve Belgian waffles and conical cuberdon candies. November 25-January 11.
Callaway Gardens, Georgia
Photograph courtesy Callaway Gardens
Eight million lights sparkle in the wooded landscape of this resort complex, which this year stages its 20th annual Fantasy in Lights (November 18-December 30). Woodland displays depict such holiday scenes as the March of the Toy Soldiers or nature themes such as Snowflake Valley. Two beach scenes with moving lights tell the stories of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas and the Nativity. The resort’s onsite Christmas Village features shopping, dining, and Santa.
Photograph by Raul Arboleda, AFP/Getty Images
This former drug town pulses with new vitality and, during the balmy holidays, fantastic lights. Tree canopies drip with oversize ornament shapes; giant 3-D figures twirl along Medellín River and above a carnival-like sidewalk packed with food stalls. December 3-mid-January.
Photograph by Roberto Rinaldi, SIME
The aroma of toasted almonds and glogg heralds the arrival of Saint Lucia to this charming river town illuminated all season long. Five million lights glitter on the buildings and on the 700 Christmas trees at Liseberg Amusement Park’s Christmas Market (Scandinavia’s largest, open November 18). Choirs sing and sweethearts smooch along a three-kilometer Lane of Light leading to the harbor beginning December 9.
Hong Kong, China
Photograph by Francisco Martinez, Alamy
It’s an over-the-top Christmas in Hong Kong, where lights twinkle along Main Street in Disneyland, the city’s malls try to outdo each other in awesomeness (Roppongi Hills Galleria created a ground-level Milky Way galaxy of lights one year), and the downtown skyline dances with colorful lights and piped-in music. The city center, crowned by a giant Swarovski crystal tree, bustles with carolers, and Victoria Harbour is fantastically illuminated. Stick around for Chinese New Year festivities—China’s traditional family holiday—for more fireworks and action. November 25–January 1.
Photograph by Liesa Johannssen, Getty Images
The city’s Plaza Mayor features lovely lights without glaring glitz. Its holiday market dates to the mid-1800s and is a main source for figures for the Nativity scenes, or Belenes, that are displayed throughout the city. Events culminate with a gorgeous parade on January 5, the Eve of the Epiphany.
Photograph by Jiji Press, AFP/Getty Images
Following the Kobe earthquake of 1995, Italy loaned thousands of hand-painted bulbs to be built into intricate luminarie—light-strung, Gothic-style structures. The tradition continues: Four million revelers celebrate Japan’s enduring resilience near Higashi-Yuenchi Park. December 1-12.
Saint Augustine, Florida
Photograph by John Coletti, Getty Images
Once under Spanish rule, this 16th-century city fetes its heritage. Single white candles once flickered from colonists’ windows; during Nights of Lights, the 144-square-block historic district twinkles with two million bulbs (each white, per city ordinance). November 19-January 31.
2015 Traveler Photo Contest
Do you have what it takes to win? Submit your best shots today and find out.