15 places to visit around Christmastime

Editor’s Note: Because of the Covid-19 pandemic and limitations on travel, CNN did not update this annual story for 2020 or 2021. A new version will be published for 2022.

Story highlights

Visiting presepju, or nativity scenes, is an integral part of Christmas in Malta

The Arctic Snow Hotel in Finland is made entirely of snow and ice, but equipped with saunas and hot tubs

Christmas is a year-round occasion in Santa Claus, Indiana, a town of fewer than 3,000 residents

CNN  — 

Anyplace can string up a few lights and call it a holiday celebration. When you travel, you want more.

From Mexico to Malta and northern lights to sunny skies, these 15 destinations celebrate Christmas better than the rest:

1. Malta

Visiting presepju, or nativity scenes, is an integral part of Christmas in Malta. Every year, residents proudly open their shutters, and sometimes even their garage doors, to display their holy crib confections to the public.

Downtown Valletta is home to a lively Christmas spirit, with carolers singing outside the Baroque St. John’s Co-Cathedral during Advent, and a dizzying display of Christmas lights on Republic Street.

The Manoel Theater is well known for its annual Christmas pantomime. (Old Theatre Street, Il-Belt Valletta, Malta; +356 2124 6389)

A visit to the privately owned Malta Toy Museum, featuring dolls, soldiers, train sets, and clockwork tin trinkets dating as far back as the 1790s, is a heartwarming homage to childhood. (222 Republic St, Valletta, Malta; +356 2125 1652)

2. New York

Rockefeller Center lies at the core of the New York Christmas. Its famed ice rink has been around for 80 years; the decorated tree has been a holiday tradition since 1931. (45 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10111)

Across the street, Radio City hosts the annual Christmas Spectacular, starring the Rockettes. (1260 6th Ave, New York, NY 10020)

On the southwest corner of Central Park, Columbus Circle hosts more than 100 vendors selling clothes, gifts, snacks and drinks at the Holiday Market. (Columbus Circle, 59th Street and Central Park West)

Fashion’s biggest names join in the festivities, setting up impressive Christmas window displays. The most glamorous cases are at the Fifth Avenue flagships and department stores such as Saks and Bergdorf.

3. Bath, England

Plunge into Christmas in Bath, England.

There are few cities in the world where you can celebrate the birth of Jesus and the birth of Jane Austen with the same amount of fanfare, but Bath, England, happens to be one of them.

The Jane Austen Centre – and on-site Regency Tearoom – is the best place to learn about the city’s most famous resident. (40 Gay St, Bath BA1 2NT, UK; +44 1225 443000)

The Theatre Royal, which Austen mentions in “Northanger Abbey” and “Persuasion,” has a varied program of holiday drama, musicals, opera and concerts. (Saw Cl, Bath BA1 1ET, UK; +44 1225 448844)

The Bath Christmas Market has more than 170 wooden chalets selling distinctively British handmade crafts in a quaint Georgian setting. Straddled between the imposing Bath Abbey and the venerable Roman Baths, the market offers a festive way to discover the character of Bath, which is the only entire city in the UK to have been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Bath on Ice is a great excuse to bundle up and lace up skates. (Royal Pavilion, Royal Ave, Royal Victoria Park,, Bath BA1 2NR, UK; :+44 1225 436888)