Worms is known for its “living manger” with farmhouse animals and its ice rink (until December 23), while kids at the Speyer markets (until January 6) can leave their wishes with Santa thanks to a “heaven telephone”. Buy handcrafted wooden ornaments, lace, pottery and advent stars at Germany’s oldest Christmas market, Dresden’s Striezelmarkt (until December 24), or stroll the city’s “Christmas mile” along Prager Strasse.
In Austria, explore Innsbruck’s Old Town market (until December 23) where trumpeters play carols from the Golden Roof at twilight.
An easy way to market-hop is by river cruise: Uniworld’s raft of Christmas cruises includes the Main River (Nuremberg to Frankfurt) and the Danube (Budapest to Passau) while Tauck plies the Rhine (Basel to Cologne). berlin.de, romantic-cities.com, dresden.de, christkindlmarkt.cc, uniworld.com, tauck.com in Dubai – including the Christmas decorations.
Compare and contrast overthe-top tinsel and sparkling trees in The Dubai Mall, the world’s biggest shopping mall, and Mall of the Emirates, also the home of Ski Dubai.
The Souk Madinat, a re-creation of a traditional Arabian marketplace inside the Madinat Jumeirah hotel, hosts a festive market until December 27 that includes gingerbread and roasted chestnuts, a North Pole train, ice rink, giant snow globe and reindeer rodeo.
On Christmas Day, the market has a festive brunch from noon. thedubaimall.com, malloftheemirates.com, jumeirah.com
Christmas, without trimmings
To avoid the festival entirely, head to a country that doesn’t celebrate Christmas on December 25.
The Russian Orthodox Church, which observes the Julian calendar, celebrates Christmas on January 7.
Time a trip on the TransSiberian Railway, which runs year-round, to hit Lake Baikal on December 25. The Siberian lake has the world’s only freshwater seals and fish that can survive a kilometre below the surface – the Limnological Museum showcases the lake’s sometimes bizarre creatures. Or hop off the train in Mongolia, where Christmas isn’t big either.
Sundowners Overland offers 2015 Christmas Trans Mongolian tours departing St Petersburg on December 11 and Beijing on December 19, $7950 a person. sundownersoverland.com
If you’re open to Christmas Day feasting, book in for a spread that includes roast turkey at Chisholm’s Restaurant, otherwise BYO picnic or barbecue supplies. Echo Point at Katoomba in the Blue Mountains is another popular Christmas Day outing – as long as the peasoup fog doesn’t roll in or there’ll be no blue-tinted valley view to admire. jenolancaves.org.au, visitbluemountains.com.au have a bush-tucker twist: think house-smoked crocodile on damper, caramelised wild roo fillet with bush tomato balsamic and native thyme, quandong apple crumble, desert lime and macadamia cheesecake, and plum pudding with wattleseed creme anglaise. ayersrockresort.com.au