Vienna, Austria: 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.
Winter Morning, Yosemite National Park: All that is required to surprise and delight is to go out early on a winter morning in Yosemite and keep your eyes open wide.
Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen: 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.
Hallstatt, Austria: When the dark falls and tourists rest, the town of Hallstatt comes back to peacefulness. As fog winds around the spire of the famous Parish Church, and the blue tint of the rainy night is decorated by warm light, the town really looks like a fairyland.
Gothenburg, Sweden: 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).
Kobe, Japan: 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.
Brussels, Belgium: During Plaisirs d’Hiver, dramatically lit buildings and 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
Hong Kong, China: 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 music. The city center, crowned by a giant Swarovski crystal tree, and Victoria Harbour is fantastically illuminated. Stick around for Chinese New Year festivities for more fireworks and action. November 25–January 1.