The French capital dazzles at Christmas. Enjoy a moving midnight mass with organ and choral music in Notre Dame Cathedral. Stroll down the Champs-Élysées, lined with trees glittering in thousands of lights. Munch on roasted chestnuts and chocolaty crepes, and maybe even slip on some ice skates and glide along the seasonal rink atop the Eiffel Tower. For some Parisian chic, head to the Galeries Lafayette, a department store whose majestic interior is home to a huge decorated tree.
Rome truly celebrates the spiritual origins of the holidays. Among the many churches with nativity scenes are Santa Maria Maggiore, whose 13th-century version is carved in marble, and Santi Cosma e Damiano, with everyday figures alongside biblical ones. Roman kids write their wish lists to Santo Bambino, honored when his statue is paraded through the streets. Thousands gather in St. Peter's Square for the pope's Christmas message, delivered at noon from his apartment window. For a taste of the holidays, be sure to try some seasonal panettone and pandoro cakes — heavenly.
6: Rovaniemi, Finland
You'll definitely find your Christmas spirit in what's widely considered to be Santa's official hometown. Rovaniemi's Santa Claus Village — on the Arctic Circle — has plenty of snow, ice, elves and boutiques. Here in Lapland, it's also easy to get in touch with nature. Try your hand at ice fishing or, for higher-octane fun, reindeer or dog sledding. And you can take in the best holiday light show of them all: the aurora borealis (Northern Lights).