If you’re an older couple looking for a new experience, spending the festive season in a new spot could be just the thing you need! While Covid-19 has put a stopper in many 2020 travel plans, tourism is slowly opening up in destinations across the globe. For older couples who are able, December could be a great time to travel to new destinations!
This time of the year is truly magical in many parts of the world, if only for the unique atmosphere, customs, and traditions you’ll experience in each destination. A Christmas tour in Europe is full of snowy white landscapes, bustling markets and Gluhwein enjoyed next to cosy fireplaces. For those seeking a winter holiday minus the chill-factor, we have included some destinations outside of Europe. All of these spots are great ideas for older couples with wanderlust!
The best over-50s holidays abroad involve experiences that combine sights and tastes of other cultures, without any stress. You’ll want the leisure of enjoying destinations at a comfortable pace, without it being so slow as to be dull and uninspiring.
Now that the kids are old enough to take care of themselves for a few weeks, it’s time to think about taking that European Christmas holiday you’ve always promised yourselves.
Europe is a treasure trove of Christmas delights because it hosts so many different cultures in a relatively small area. It’s possible to see quite a lot in a short span of time, especially on an organised group tour. Christmastime adds something even more special to the holiday spirit, and we have a few top suggestions for the best over 50s holidays:
When you tour Northern Europe over Christmas, you’ll discover several unique and familiar celebrations of the season. In the Denmark capital, the city is lit up as locals seemingly take every opportunity to hang a coloured bulb on anything they can find.
Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens resembles what we might have imagined the North Pole to look like when we were children. There’s also the St Lucy Kayak Christmas parade, where hundreds of kayaks decorated with lights drift across the harbour as the crowd sings Christmas carols. It’s one of the most unique and wondrous experiences you’ll ever have, guaranteed.
The sun drops early at this time of year, which makes for a magical Christmas in Finland. The snow is abundant and so are the Christmas lights. Helsinki’s high street is transformed into a beautiful winter shopping wonderland. Browse the markets as you sip on some mulled wine, or pop into a fine restaurant to sample the legendary cuisine – don’t forget your coat!
As a tourist landmark, the famous White Cathedral is free to visit around this time, as is the Russian Orthodox Uspenski Cathedral. Of course, you may want to try ice skating at Christmas. It’s a popular pastime for Finnish families on Christmas day.
Christmas ranks as one of the most important celebrations in Estonia. Traditionally, Christmas Eve is the most observed day here. If you want to participate in a bit of Estonian tradition, you’ll want to enjoy a sauna on Christmas Eve. In fact, saunas are hugely popular all over Northern Europe, especially around the holidays!
On the evening of December 24, the mayor will declare the Christmas Peace from the city hall’s balcony. Before or after, the pretty Tallinn Christmas market is a must-do. It is said that the traditional Christmas tree in Tallinn Town Hall Square is the oldest publicly displayed Christmas tree in Europe. It’s been a town square staple since 1441.
In Russia, Christmas is observed as a predominantly religious celebration. Interestingly, for many, Christmas is celebrated in early January, rather than on December 25. This is due to the Russian Orthodox Church making use of the old ‘Julian’ calendar. This means that you could celebrate New Year before Christmas.
Christmas is as festive here as elsewhere, with markets, fairs, lots and lots of food and plenty of lights and decorations to prettify the city. Between the festivities, you should also visit Regent Street, the ornate Catherine Palace, and the many Christmas markets. Definitely try to include Russia on a Christmas holiday itinerary for something different!
Eastern Europe tours offer amazing Christmas holiday options, too. Beautiful old Prague is the home of the remains of the historical Christmas carol figure King Wenceslas, who is associated with the tradition of Boxing Day. The Christmas Market at Wenceslas Square is one of the most popular tourist attractions over the holidays.
Prague also hosts an annual International Christmas Festival hosted by a diplomatic organization, the proceeds from which benefit local charities. You can walk the beautifully-lit city and riverside at night, explore Old Town Square, or travel the quaint old alleyways during the day, hunting for markets and Christmas spirit. At whichever market or square you choose to spend your time, remember to try the Trdelník. This traditional treat is made from rolled dough that is wrapped around a stick, then grilled and topped with sugar and walnut mix.
One of the many unique seasonal attractions in Bratislava is the Christmas Tram. The tram is decorated in bright red, and there’s even a fireplace to create an atmosphere of a cosy winter home. The tram operates between the 6th and 30th December, winding through the city in the early evening.
Elsewhere you can indulge in Slovakia’s world-class Christmas-themed classical theatre and dance on the various stages dotted around the city while sipping on more mulled wine. If you choose to stay till New Year, you can enjoy an amazing fireworks display over the city.
Vienna is world-famous for its beauty and also for its Christmas markets. If you’re looking for the ultimate Christmas culinary treat – and by that, we mean chocolate and sweets – you’re in the right place! Don’t miss out on a chance to sip on the warm Weihnachtspunsch (Christmas punch).
Of course, there are concerts celebrating Vienna’s most famous artists like Mozart and Strauss, lights to make the entire city look like a Christmas tree, and churches and cathedrals to visit. On any given day, Vienna is one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring cities in the world. At Christmas, it’s pure magic.
Hungary enjoys a special sweet treat called chimney cake. Though it’s popular throughout winter, it’s especially worth trying if you’re in Budapest at Christmas time. Tuck into your chimney cake while you walk around the streets and markets for a real festive experience.
Like Bratislava, Budapest decorates a tram with Christmas lights, which makes for an especially colourful ride. You can enjoy a cruise on the Danube for a romantic touch, or simply enjoy one of the many thermal baths open at Christmas.
Swap the snow for sunshine when you enjoy Christmas in Cape Town, South Africa! Christmas falls during the middle of summer in South Africa. So while there won’t be a white Christmas during your trip to Cape Town, the atmosphere is uniquely festive! South Africa celebrates Christmas traditionally – with decorations and festive markets popping up in towns and cities across the country. Enjoy a Christmas dinner with a twist and tuck into a Christmas braai (the South African version of a barbecue).
Travellers can spend the festive season soaking up the warm weather on one of Cape Town’s stunning beaches, exploring the regions wine farms and taking a trip to the top of Table Mountain. You can also set off on an unforgettable safari and see incredible wildlife – keep in mind it will be hot at this time of year!
Israel and Jordan offer one of the most unique spiritual Christmas experiences available. As a centre of religious pilgrimage for several faiths, Jerusalem is particularly special at this time, despite Christmas not being an actual holiday for the state of Israel itself. Pilgrims dutifully walk the Via Dolorosa or attend services to celebrate their faith in the Old City, an experience of a lifetime for the faithful.
Tel Aviv’s festivities will feel slightly less reverent than Jerusalem’s. This is because there’s more focus on lights, food, music, and a party atmosphere. Jaffa’s fascinating mix of Christmas trees and Hanukkah menorahs make for a fascinating backdrop to the Christmas Day Parade and Night Light Festival.
Each of the destinations above is home to cultures that provide flavour to this global celebration. But why should you settle for just one or the other? With a well-planned tour, you could take in several of these destinations in one go, giving you a taste of Christmas in each!
For those of us who might not be able to take a Christmas trip due to travel restrictions, a staycation is always a great option! Discover the festive wonders in your home country and make it a truly memorable holiday season this year.