For many, the festive season is as much about delicious food as it is about spending quality time with beloved friends and family. As over a third (38%) of travelers like to indulge in food and drink they can’t normally find at home* traveling to wondrous destinations during the festive season provides the unique opportunity to try delicious traditional delicacies. With a mission to make it easier for everyone to experience the world, Booking.com shares some food for thought for the perfect seasonal getaway with five gastronomical delights for travelers to visit during the festive season. From sweet treats in China and Greece to savory snacks in Israel and Costa Rica, these are the must-have holiday feasts around the world to inspire your festive vacation.
Melomakarona in Athens, Greece
The melomakarono (Greek: μελομακάρονο) is an egg-shaped Greek dessert made mainly from flour, olive oil, and honey. These cookie treats are traditionally prepared during the Christmas holiday season or even year-round for those with a sweet tooth! As 62% of global travelers said a key motivation to travel is to experience new and different lifestyles**, indulging in melomakarona will immerse visitors into the local food scene. Foodie fanatics can book an evening food tour where a local Greek guide will lead you through the local neighborhoods and introduce you to the mouthwatering cuisine.
Where to stay: The perfect home away from home is the Palladian Home. Located in the heart of the Plaka district in Athens, this charming guest house is a short walk from Syntagma Square where the city’s Christmas tree is lit each year. This apartment is in the perfect location to take a stroll after over-indulging on honey cookies.
Bacalao in Mexico City, Mexico
Bacalao is the Spanish word for dried and salted cod. While this is a common delicacy in Spain and Portugal all year round, the Mexican way is a real Christmas treat when it’s served as a festive fishy stew prepared with tomatoes, onions, green olives, chilies, and garlic. Traditional bacalao can be discovered on a historic center food tour around some of the city’s best food stalls where travelers can learn about the origins of delicious Mexican gastronomy. Mexico’s capital goes all out for Christmas with bright lights, markets, and holiday cheer among the locals and visitors, especially around the Zocalo and the city center, where ice skating is regularly available.
Where to stay: The festive feeling will be alive throughout Mexico City, but nowhere is merrier with cheer than the towering Christmas tree (árbol de Navidad) in Mexico City’s main city square, Plaza de la Constitución. Just a short drive away is The Red Tree House, a charming B&B situated near Chapultepec Castle. The accommodation offers guests a delicious breakfast and a sun terrace for visitors to enjoy the festive atmosphere in the Mexican sun. This Travel Sustainable stay also invests a percentage of revenue back into community or local sustainability projects.
Fried Chicken in Yokohama, Japan
Japan’s second-largest city Yokohama hosts an annual Christmas market throughout the months of November and December. The Red Brick Warehouse Christmas market is stocked with charming ornaments and festive treats. The market is famous for European delicacies like schnitzel and sausages but also for Yokohama’s world-famous Japanese-style fried chicken. Travelers can indulge in heart-warming food and celebrate the festive season by dancing to live music and DJ sets that fill the market most evenings. Those travelers on a festive foodie mission can book a food tour of Yokohama where a local host will prepare a personalized itinerary to tickle visitors’ taste buds.
Where to stay: Oakwood Suites Yokohama offers stylish and sleek interiors for a stay with unbelievable views of the city. Featuring a fitness center and a shared lounge, these apartments also have a Booking.com Travel Sustainable badge for the steps it has taken to offer guests a more sustainable stay, including a ban on single-use plastics. The suites are also a short walk from the Christmas market so visitors can enjoy the festive celebrations easily before returning home for a well-deserved food coma.
Latkes in Jerusalem, Israel
For many faiths, nearby Bethlehem is the star of Christmas and the backdrop of nativity. However, Jerusalem is the ideal spot to sample Hanukkah delicacy Latkes, a crunchy, savory potato cake, perfect for the more than three-quarters (78%) of global travelers keen to try local dishes on their next trip.** This traditional Jewish food served during Hanukkah is famous for being fried in oil, symbolic of the oil that miraculously lasted eight days instead of one in the Hanukkah tales. With both Hanukkah and Christmas celebrated around the same December period, Jerusalem becomes alight with celebration and decoration during this special time of year.
Where to stay: Jerusalem’s City Center is a great place to embrace the Christmas season, with plenty of churches and sacred sites to visit from the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Just a short walk from the city center is the Orient by Isrotel Exclusive, a luxury hotel offering a wellness center and two magnificent swimming pools with views of the city. The hotel is a Booking.com Travel Sustainable property serving organic food, offering tours and activities organized by local guides and giving local artists a platform to display their talents.
Tamales in San José, Costa Rica
For generations, families in Costa Rica have marked the festive season by preparing tamales – a dish of seasoned meat rolled in cornmeal dough and wrapped in banana leaves. They end up looking like cute little Christmas presents. For travelers hoping to taste authentic tamales, San José annually hosts the Festival de la Luz in December. The downtown of San José is transformed with magical lights as a parade of extravagant floats, beautiful masquerades, and exciting fireworks bring in the festive season. Visitors can experience one of the most anticipated events of the year with local Costa Ricans and eat delicious traditional dishes during the festival bursting with color and creativity.
Where to stay: For a luxurious stay, Grando de Oro Hotel is a charming hotel featuring elegant interiors located in the city center. This Booking.com Travel Sustainable property can organize tours and activities with local guides and businesses and welcomes guests with a beautiful rooftop garden. The hotel has a fantastic restaurant serving local gourmet cuisine so guests can celebrate the holiday season with a delicious meal and toast the celebrations in their stylish bar.
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*Travel Predictions 2023 research commissioned by Booking.com and conducted among a sample of adults who plan to travel for business or leisure in the next 12-24 months. In total 24,179 respondents across 32 countries and territories were polled (including 1014 from Argentina, 1006 from Australia, 505 from Austria, 504 from Belgium, 1009 from Brazil, 503 from Canada, 1009 from China, 1010 from Colombia, 505 from Croatia, 505 from Denmark, 1010 from France, 1001 from Germany, 500 from Hong Kong, 1005 from India, 504 from Ireland, 504 from Israel, 1008 from Italy, 1003 from Japan, 504 from Mexico, 502 from The Netherlands, 1007 from New Zealand, 1009 from Portugal, 507 from Singapore, 1008 from South Korea, 1001 from Spain, 505 from Sweden, 508 from Switzerland, 500 from Taiwan, 504 from Thailand, 1006 from the UK, 1009 from the US and 504 from Vietnam). Respondents completed an online survey in August 2022.
**Research commissioned by Booking.com and independently conducted among a sample of 48,413 respondents across 31 markets (2,000 from USA, 1,864 from Canada, 1,999 from Mexico, 2,003 from Colombia, 2,005 from Brazil, 2,002 from Argentina, 1,020 from Chile, 1,777 from Australia, 818 from New Zealand, 1,999 from Spain, 2,002 from Italy, 1,998 from France, 1,990 from UK, 2,005 from Germany, 2,003 from Netherlands, 985 from Denmark, 999 from Sweden, 910 from Croatia, 918 from Switzerland, 1,986 from Belgium, 998 from Russia, 953 from Israel, 1,999 from India, 1,990 from China, 901 from Hong Kong, 1,775 from Thailand, 1,001 from Singapore, 975 from Taiwan, 1,800 from Vietnam, 1,757 from South Korea, 1,001 from Japan). In order to participate in this survey, respondents had to be 18 years of age or older, had to have traveled at least once for business or leisure in the past 12 months, and planning to travel in 2022 and be either the primary decision maker or involved in the decision making of their travel. The survey was taken online and took place in January 2022.