If you need a little help to get into the holiday spirit this year, get yourself a winter drink with a side of holiday treats and a tour of the world’s best and most elaborate Christmas trees. These towering pines (or sand piles, in some cases) are decked to the nines and shine brightly for celebrants around the world to enjoy. Here are the nine most amazing Christmas trees around the world this holiday season from Florida all the way to Lithuania.
1. Zócalo Christmas tree — Mexico City, Mexico
Christmas time in Mexico City welcomes the return of a gigantic tree in Zócalo Square. With the Metropolitan Cathedral behind it, the holiday display makes Centro Histórico even more scenic than it already is. In past years, the Christmas experience in Zócalo Square is completed with a nearby ice skating rink and even a light and music show. Note that the tree is not on display every year and in 2020, it is unlikely to happen.
2. Rockefeller Center Christmas tree — New York City, New York
When it comes to Christmas decorations, you just can’t beat New York City. Perhaps the most famous Christmas tree in the world, this year the Norway spruce at Rockefeller Center is 75 feet tall and is 45 feet wide. The brilliantly lit tree is a long-standing American tradition dating all the way back to 1933 when construction workers were building Rockefeller Center. The tree typically has five miles of string lights and a 900-pound star topper made of 3 million Swarovski crystals. The lighting ceremony took place on December 2 this year, and the Christmas tree will be lit and displayed until early January 2021 from 6:00 AM to 12:00 AM every day.
3. Sandi — West Palm Beach, Florida
Florida doesn’t get any snow during the holidays (or ever), so it makes do with what it has in abundance: sand. Beginning in early November, sand is delivered by the truckload to the West Palm Beach waterfront, where sculptors begin shaping the massive pile into a 35-foot Christmas tree. West Palm Beach’s Sandi tree is the world’s only 700-ton sand tree and is illuminated with choreographed light and music shows nightly from 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM throughout the holiday season. This year, Sandi (the name of this unusual Christmas tree) is bringing Hope with her for the holidays — Hope being a flamingo she met on a trip to Tahiti. Hope will have her own sand sculpture in Sandi Land.
4. Floating Christmas tree — Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Revelers like to do it big in Brazil, and Christmas time is no exception. Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon in Rio de Janeiro is home to a floating Christmas tree that stretches over 270 feet into the sky, a tradition that began alongside a dazzling fireworks display in 2014. The tree has to be constructed on a barge each year and is lit up with more than three million lights, attracting around 200,000 visitors. There’s no word as to whether or not Lagoa Christmas Tree will be lit this year or if there’ll be a fireworks display. The event does not take place every year.
5. Galeries Lafayette Christmas tree — Paris, France
A stunning four-story Christmas tree is placed inside the Galeries Lafayette department store each year in Paris, France, and it always has a different theme to surprise and delight shoppers. Past themes have included “From another planet,” complete with meteoric decorations; “Arctic,” which was made entirely of paper by French artist Lorenzo Papace; and “Spectacular Spectacular,” from the film Moulin Rouge. This year’s theme is “Embark on a Christmas Voyage” so the tree is crowned with a dome reminiscent of the beautiful Russian churches and filled with superb ornaments such as embroidered baubles and colorful pom poms that remind revelers of the richness of the world’s cultures. Around the tree, hanging from the sumptuous glass ceiling are balloon-like decorations and a large toy airplane. As is tradition at the Galeries Lafayette, the windows of the store are decorated with stunning automatons on the same theme.
6. Gubbio Christmas tree — Gubbio, Italy
Few things could better inspire holiday cheer than a mountain-sized Christmas tree made from hundreds of real, live pine trees. In Gubbio, Italy, individual trees on the slopes of Mount Ingino are outfitted with an array of lights to create the stunning visual of a 2,000-foot Christmas tree spanning the mountain from base to peak. It’s always lit from December 7 through the first week of January. Even better, the world’s largest Christmas tree is switched on by a notable figure each year, such as the Pope in 2014 (and in 2017, it was switched on from space!).
7. Vilnius Christmas tree — Vilnius, Lithuania
Vilnius’ Christmas tree, set every year in Cathedral Square, is always lavishly decorated. This year, to make sure the tradition continues safely, the Christmas tree has been installed so that it can be admired from a distance just as well as close by. In 2020, Vilnius’ Christmas tree takes a modern turn, as it seems to be breaking apart in square-shaped pieces, but if you’re comfortable getting closer to the beautiful illuminations, you’ll see that inside the modern tree is a traditional one, decorated with antique ornaments.
8. Christmas at the Capitol — Pierre, South Dakota
Most people head to South Dakota for a glimpse of Mount Rushmore, but travelers visiting the state around Christmas can enjoy a walk through almost 100 Christmas trees on display at Christmas at the Capitol in Pierre. Since 1981, the Christmas trees have been decorated by cities, businesses, schools, nonprofit groups and other civic organizations from all over the state of South Dakota; this year’s theme is “Hometown Christmas.” The official South Dakota Christmas tree is the centerpiece of the annual celebration and is decorated with ornaments and pine cone balls made by locals in Black Hills. Visit the Capitol and check out all the beautiful trees every day from 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM daily until December 26.
9. Taipei Christmas tree — Taipei, Taiwan
Situated in the urban Xinban Special District, the Taipei Christmas tree is the centerpiece that helps transform the entire area into what’s known as Christmasland, a full-on Christmas playground. Christmas is not a recognized public holiday in Taiwan, but that doesn’t stop its citizens from joining in on the holiday fun. Other highlights of Taipei’s Christmasland include a Christmas market, tall trees, carolers, over-the-top decorations, and even a Christmas fair with rides. Christmasland has been taking place for 10 years and this year, the Christmas tree was lit on November 13 and will remain on display until January 3, attracting an estimated 6 million visitors. In 2020, the light show and installations will feature Disney characters.
A version of this article was previously published on December 3, 2018, and was updated on December 3, 2020, with more information.