Top Places to See Holiday Lights

Photo: Vienna streets at Christmastime

Vienna, Austria

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.



Photo: Tivoli lights at night

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.



Photo: Projected light show in Brussels

Brussels, Belgium

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.



Photo: Illuminated toy soldiers

Callaway Gardens, Georgia

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.



Photo: Light display in Colombia

Medellín, Colombia

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.



Photo: Light displays in Sweden

Gothenburg, Sweden

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.



Photo: Light show in Hong Kong

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.



Photo: Christmas lights in Madrid

Madrid, Spain

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.



Photo: Light display in Kobe, Japan

Kobe, Japan

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.



Photo: Light displays in Saint Augustine

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.





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