Spectacular Light Shows
Around the World
Around the World
The holidays have a unique magic, which cities around the world celebrate with light shows ranging from simply pretty to spectacular.
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We've searched the globe and rounded up 10 of the best light shows – all the shimmers, glimmers and twinkles anyone could ask for.
10. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The holiday season in Brazil may be filled with sun, sand and surf, but they more than make up for it with the annual lighting of the Bradesco Seguros Christmas Tree. Since 1995, Brazil's largest insurance company has set up the tree in the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon and has ensured it remains among the largest Christmas trees in the world. Last year's tree stood nearly 280-feet tall and weighed nearly 542 tons. Its unveiling featured fireworks and a performance of Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker," among other entertainments. If you can't make it to the unveiling this year on December 1, don't worry – the tree will remain lit until January 6.
9. Brussels, Belgium
Every year from November 28 to January 4, the heart of Brussels is transformed into a holiday-lover's dream. During Plaisirs d'Hiver (Winter Wonders) Grand Place is transformed into a traditional Christmas Market, complete with over a mile of shops, a skating rink, street activities and an illuminated Ferris wheel. Dramatically lit buildings serve as a magical backdrop for choirs and wandering artists as you munch on the famed Belgian waffles and cuberdon candies.
8. Vienna, Austria
Advent in Vienna means the streets will be awash with the glow of thousands of Christmas lights. Beginning with the Graben (a main street in the inner city), garlands of bulbs soon glisten over thoroughfares. Local shops get in on the holiday spirit too, decorating with pine branches and ribbons. Perhaps the most spectacular of the lights can be seen on the street leading to St. Stephen's Cathedral, where giant chandeliers hang overhead. Don't miss the daily concerts outside of Schönbrunn Palace.
7. Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona is an all-night kind of city all year round, so it makes sense that its light displays would be among some of the world's most spectacular. Everywhere you go, it seems interesting and creative lights can be found. The best, however, are found in La Rambla. The tree-lined pedestrian mall stretches for close to a mile, connecting the city center with the Christopher Columbus Monument. During the holiday season, lights line La Rambla's entire length. The theme of the lights varies from year to year, so take turns guessing what the theme might be before you arrive.
6. Tokyo, Japan
Seasonal illuminations have become extremely popular in cities across Japan, starting in early November and continuing through January. If you're looking for flash, head to Shiodome, Shinbashi to enjoy the Shiodome Caretta Illumination. The mix of 24,000 LED lights and projection mapping is truly jaw-dropping. You'll have plenty of time to view the spectacle, since the show begins November 13 and lasts until January 12. You can catch it every 20 minutes beginning at 5 p.m. This year's theme is Canyon d'Azur, or underwater Christmas.
5. Medellín, Colombia
The Lighting of Medellín is a much-beloved event. For close to 50 years now, the city has hung millions of lights for the holiday season, particularly on and around the Medellín River. The event traditionally begins on December 7, the Day of the Little Candles and the unofficial start of the Christmas season in Columbia, but it varies based on weather and other concerns. It's truly an over-the-top celebration – giant 3D figures dance along the river and tree canopies drip with oversized, glowing ornaments while vendors hawk cotton candy and street performers entertain the masses. If you're lucky, you may also catch a fireworks display as you walk and gawk at the displays from Barefeet Park along the river.
4. Sydney, Australia
The holidays in Australia are hot, relaxed and social, set firmly in the southern hemisphere's summer season. The city of Sydney still brings the requisite charm and cheer though, aglow with lights and decorations. Don't miss the new interactive Christmas tree in Martin Place or the excellent choral installation incorporating light and sound in Pitt Street Mall. Perhaps the best show, however, can be found at Sydney's Town Hall. There you'll see spectacular light demonstrations projected onto the building's sandstone surface. The digital animations are accompanied by special performances by Australian Children's Music Foundation (ACMF) ambassadors and local artists.
3. London, England
London lights up at Christmas – literally! The city's west end takes the holiday spirit to new levels. Wander down Oxford Street and Regent Street and admire the gorgeous lights, which are usually turned on in early November. Each year they have a different theme – Oxford Street last year featured snowballs, while Regent Street portrayed all twelve days of Christmas. Wander among the big box stores (and pick up any gifts you may have forgotten!), and don't forget to duck into a pub somewhere for some traditional eggnog!
2. Saint Augustine, Fla.
Saint Augustine's "Nights of Lights" traditionally begins the Saturday before the Thanksgiving holiday. The celebration can trace its roots to the Spanish tradition of displaying a white candle in the window during the holidays. It has certainly grown since then – now the whole city glows with holiday magic, with over two million tiny white lights covering the Spanish-style buildings from the ground to the rooftops. You can catch it this year from November 22 through January 31.
1. New York City
What better place for a light display than The City That Never Sleeps? It seems that every year the installations get bigger and better. Of course you'll have to start in Rockerfeller Center to see the traditional Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, lit up by over 30,000 LED lights. But the real action is out in Dyker Heights in Brooklyn. The Italian-American neighborhood is known for its elaborate decorations from late November through early January. You'll see animatronic toys and motorized displays, glowing nativity scenes, 30-foot tall toy soldiers, and that's just the start. For easiest viewing, book A Slice of Brooklyn's Christmas Lights & Cannoli tour which features, you guessed it, cannoli and hot chocolate from an authentic Brooklyn pastry shop.