See The Most Magical Winter Places In Cinema: A Holiday Movie Travel Guide

November 30, 2021

During this time of year, many people enjoy watching holiday movies. These films range from being quaint and festive, to heartfelt and moving. Many of the movies were filmed in beautiful places worth traveling to, and the fact that they were the settings for some of the best holiday movies is only an added bonus.

If you’d like to take a festive vacation, or are just curious about where these films were done, read on for a global holiday-movie travel guide:

The Village of Shere in Surrey, England

This picturesque little village in the Cotswolds is where half of the film The Holiday was filmed. The movie is beloved for its beautiful scenery and cozy English cottages, and this place brought all of that to the screen. The White Horse is a real pub there, and while the cottage was a set, it was based on a real cottage there. There are lovely streams, a museum, a tea room, and a historic 12th-century church there. This is also a great place for wine tasting, as there is a stunning vineyard. Between the historic sites, castles, parks, and rolling hills, this is a perfect vacation spot not only for those who love the movie that took place there, but for those wanting a romantic, peaceful, scenic holiday. Be sure to grab a bite at the historic Kinghams Restaurant, which features a stunning vegan menu filled with locally sourced ingredients.

New York City in New York, U.S.A.

What would the holiday season be without New York City? This city serves as the location for countless famous holiday films including ElfMiracle on 34th Street, Serendipity, and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. If you want to see some of the locations in real life, there are so many places you can start. Central Park is a big one for many of the movies, and it’s a great place to get some peaceful time in nature while you’re in the city. If you love Elf, the lobby of the Empire State Building is a must while you’re there (and it’s always decked out during December with festive holiday decor). If you plan on paying to go to the top, make sure you are dressed very warmly, as during most of the year it is freezing up there. The hot chocolate shop in Serendipity is a real place, and it serves incredible frozen hot chocolate under a ceiling full of colorful vintage Tiffany shades (they also serve amazing vegan truffle mac and cheese if you’re hungry). Macy’s on 34th street is always extremely busy and crowded during this time of year, but if you love Miracle on 34th Street it’s worth stopping in and looking at the beautiful decorations. While you’re there, walk over to 5th Avenue and follow the locals’ lead by looking at the gorgeous window displays. It’s a tradition among New York residents to walk with their kids up and down the avenue to admire the splendor.

Chicago in Illinois, U.S.A.

Chicago is the gem of the midwest, and it’s an awesome place to visit during the holidays. The city is covered in lights, there is an authentic German Christmas market, and Millennium Park turns into a giant ice skating rink. It’s the ultimate holiday city. On top of that, a few holiday movies were filmed here. The famous movie Home Alone took place in a suburb of the city—Winnetka. The 1920s mansion featured as the family home in the film is there, and while it’s a private residence that can’t be toured, the neighborhood is a beautiful place to walk around. The houses are fantastically decorated for the season, so consider walking around in the evening with a cup of hot chocolate. It’s the perfect winter activity. This is also a great city for vegan food, so while you’re there make sure to take advantage of that. Fancy Plants is an especially good option- a farm to table, 100% vegan eatery serving the most colorfully seasonal food.

Seneca Falls in New York, U.S.A.

One of the most famous movies in history happens to be a holiday one—It’s a Wonderful Life. This film took place in a fictional town, but was based on Seneca Falls in upstate New York in the New England region of the U.S.A.. The feel-good film owes its appeal to the focus on kindness and gratitude, as well as the happy small town the story progresses in. If you go in person, there is an entire museum dedicated to the movie, and it’s worth visiting. They even host meet-and-greets with actors from the film! The town itself is quaint, just like in the film, and every December the community participates in cookie walks, holiday card making, and craft fairs together. If you want some time in nature, it’s right on a huge lake, so it’s a great place to take winter walks and spot wildlife. There are lots of cute bed and breakfasts to stay in- perfect for enjoying the small town feel of the movie, and the hospitality the town itself offers.

London, England

From Love Actually to A Christmas Carol, a lot of classic holiday tales have taken place in this festive city. This time of year is a great time to visit, as the city embraces the beauty of its many historic sites. Expect light-covered alleys and winding streets, bright red decor all over the city, and bright red trolley buses. You can even visit the sets for Hogwarts that were used in the Harry Potter film franchise as well, as many consider them to be Christmas movies. Hyde Park transforms into a Winter Wonderland, the castles are decked out, and there are countless holiday performances to catch during December (including Love Actually in Concert). Walk around the light displays, take a holiday-themed boat ride on the river, catch a ballet, or simply sit by a crackling fire in one of London’s many cozy pubs. It’s the ultimate holiday destination. While you’re in the city, be sure to experience the thriving vegan scene happening here. Roast Restaurant does a special vegan Christmas dinner, and is a very festive place to visit anytime during the season, as it offers beautiful views and sparkling decor. Bull and Gate has been around for many decades, and is a cozy, historic location for those wanting a more intimate ambiance. Their vegan options are famously good.

Svalbard

The holiday movie Klaus is seriously underrated. It didn’t receive as much attention as other Christmas films because it wasn’t American centric, and the narrative didn’t suit the Americanization of the old tradition. That said, it’s arguably the most beautiful depiction of Santa Claus, and the landscape is stunning. It takes place in a northern, tired, arctic town called Smeerensburg. This place is based on the Dutch-Danish station that used to be at the northern tip of Svalbard, Smeerenburg. Svalbard is the jumping off point for the North Pole, and is home to the world’s seed storage. It’s a real life winter wonderland, and people really live there. It may take hopping on many connecting flights to make it to the tiny airport up there, but it will be worth it if you love the film. If you plan on exploring outside the village, make sure to take a guided tour, as polar bears are plentiful and need plenty of space. Spend your nights drinking hot tea to warm up, watching the brilliant Northern Lights, and making merry.

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Emily Iris Degn
Emily Iris Degn is an environmental travel writer, editor, passionate eco-journalist, professional artist, and published eco-poet. She is from the San Juan Islands, but currently lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains with her incredible partner and beloved sea shell collection. You can find her in many spaces on Instagram: @emilyirisdegn @happyvegansfeed @emfallstoearth @emilydegnart OR at emilyirisdegn.com.

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