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7 affordable destinations for South Africans to experience a white Christmas

A magical starry night with snow and bright lights in the village of Whistler, Canada. Picture: Unsplash

A magical starry night with snow and bright lights in the village of Whistler, Canada. Picture: Unsplash

Published Nov 20, 2023

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While the festive season in the southern hemisphere is warmer than countries in the northern parts of the world, the prospect of experiencing a white Christmas can be more than just a fantasy.

South African can also experience a white Christmas that comes with snow, exploring bright light streets littered with decorations, carolling, and drinking hot chocolate.

If you’re a traveller looking to experience a white Christmas, these are the destinations to consider:

Lake Bled, Slovenia

A panoramic view of Lake Bled. Picture: Pexels

According to Altitude Activities, Lake Bled in winter is an enchanting and romantic place, especially when the landscape is covered in snow that glistens in the morning sun.

The idyllic alpine town is surrounded by mighty mountains and is perfect for spending holidays in wintertime. It is also decorated with Christmas lights during Advent.

During this period you can also see the nativity scenes that are set on the promenade by the lake, explore Bled Castle and stroll around lake shore promenade and stop by at Christmas stalls and taste traditional Upper Carniola dishes and delicious hot drinks.

Stay at Adora Luxury Hotel, which offers four-star luxury accommodation on the shore of Lake Bled, starting from R3 737 a night for two.

Tallinn, Estonia

The Tallinn Christmas market. Picture: Visit Estonia

If you’re looking for snowflakes floating down over the red rooftops and cobblestone streets, candles and fairy lights illuminating café windows, beckoning you to come in for a cup of hot mulled wine, then Tallinn is the destination for you.

Tallinn’s main attraction is the world-famous Christmas market held in the Town Hall Square. You can look forward to a Christmas jazz festival and Gingerbread Mania, an exhibition dedicated entirely to displays made out of gingerbread.

Outdoor enthusiasts can also glide across the ice at the rink in Old Town or fly down a hill in a sled at the Song Festival Grounds.

Consider an affordable stay at Original Sokos Hotel Viru, located in Tallinn’s centre 100m from the historical Old Town from R1 722 a night for two.

New York City, US

Skaters enjoy some time on the ice at Bryant Park in New York City. Picture: Unsplash

If you’re looking to experience Christmas in the city, then the concrete jungle of New York is the perfect destination.

According to the Globetrotting Teacher, Christmas in New York has just the right amount of chill in the air for red noses and the city streets are decked out in shimmering lights and dazzling displays of ornaments, snowflakes, and tinsel.

Christmas comes alive in New York, particularly in midtown Manhattan, where department stores are decorated, Christmas performances are in full swing and skating rinks are packed with people celebrating the holidays.

You can watch “The Nutcracker” by the New York City Ballet at the Lincoln Center or visit Bryant Park for an ice-skating rink where you can skate for free.

Consider a stay at The Manhattan at Times Square Hotel in Times Square for R2 352 a night for two.

Quebec City, Canada

Vieux-Québec, La Cité-Limoilou, Québec, QC, Canada. Picture: Unsplash

According to Québec Cite.com, the city’s holiday season is simply magical: boating, bright lights, decorations and snow create an enchanting setting like no other within Old Quebec.

Starting at the end of November, Old Québec is transformed into a real Christmas village and when visiting the city in December there are exhibitions, concerts, and dance and music shows galore this time of year, as Québec City is known for its vibrant culture.

Québec City also gets a good amount of snow in winter starting in December, making the city look like something out of a Christmas postcard,.

Consider a stay at Hôtel Palace Royal starting from R3 359 a night for two.

Cotswolds, England

The Cotswolds is the perfect place for a Christmas getaway as the village has a cosy atmosphere. Picture: Unsplash

According to Art Distance, the Cotswolds is the perfect place for a Christmas getaway as the village has a cosy atmosphere. Set in the rolling countryside, this charming area of England becomes even more beautiful during the holiday season.

There’s much to explore over the winter holidays in the Cotswolds and visitors can take winter walks, explore Christmas markets, and hearty pubs serving local cuisine.

You can also enjoy spectacular lights displays with hands-on festive workshops to take part in during this time.

You can stay at Cosy Cotswold Hotel, a 16th-century property located in Blockley in the centre of the Cotswolds area. It features a restaurant, a bar and a scenic and central location close to many attractions for R1 068 a night for two.

Alps, Switzerland

Matterhorn, Zermatt, Switzerland. Picture: Unsplash

If your ideal Christmas holiday in Switzerland consists of plenty of snow, the mountains are the place for you.

The Swiss Alps at Christmas have a fairy-tale appeal that can’t fail to get you in the festive spirit so if you’re looking for a truly white Christmas, Switzerland is the destination for you.

Ski bunnies are spoilt for choice with a number of Swiss alpine resorts guaranteed snow over the Christmas season due to their high altitude.

There are plenty of activities available to make Christmas in the Alps a special experience for visitors of all ages. Horse-drawn sleighs are a common sight in some resorts, and many villages hold Christmas markets.

During your visit, you can stay at Radisson Blu Hotel Reussen, Andermatt, a casual hotel in the heart of the Swiss Alps ideal for mountain activities starting from R4 416 a night for two.

Vienna, Austria

December in Vienna offers the prospect of snow, perfect for a white Christmas destination. Picture: Unsplash

When selling Christmas in Vienna, Austria.Info said the Christmas markets truly are an age-old tradition.

“The forerunners of the present-day events date back to the Middle Ages when, in 1296, Albrecht I granted Vienna's citizens the privilege of holding a December Market or ‘Krippenmarkt’.

“Since then, the character and prevalence of these markets have changed considerably. Nowadays, over 20 official Advent markets sell a vast array of seasonal gifts and mouth-watering treats,” said the website.

One of the sought-after winter activities in Vienna is to go ice skating, which is great fun. Both visitors and locals enjoy this activity, and you can pick from modern indoor skating rinks or go skating adjacent to some stunning backdrops at the top outdoor ice rinks in Vienna.

During winter, Rathausplatz, located at the front of Vienna City Hall, is transformed into a fabulous outdoor ice rink.

Consider a stay at DoubleTree by Hilton Vienna Schonbrunn from R1 834 a night for two.