With the holiday season officially underway, cities around the world are celebrating by flipping the switch on their magnificently-lit trees. From New York to Vienna, these are seven of the most impressive Christmas trees around the world. They are larger than life and elaborately decorated, and some are uniquely located in front of famous buildings, within historical landmarks or even float on water. While many who celebrate the season will procure and decorate their own trees, the ones in this gallery set the bar high.
Paste Travel’s Bucket List columnist Lauren Kilberg is a Chicago-based freelance writer. Her travels have found her camping near the Pakistani border of India and conquering volcanoes in the Philippines.
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The holiday season is huge for the department stores of the world and many mark the occasion with extravagant decorations for shoppers. The Christmas tree at Paris' Galeries Lafayette is a perfect example of this. The French department store chain unveils breathtaking holiday decorations, elaborate themed windows and an incredible tree that sits on display at the center of the store's grand rotunda. Each year a different tree is unveiled and for the first time ever this year it will be made entirely from paper. Created by artist Lorenzo Papace, the tree is surrounded by an animated Ferris wheel, cable cars and more. If you won't be in Paris over the holiday season, you can witness the Galeries Lafayette's magical holiday display in a short enhanced video on the store's YouTube page.
Photo by Olivier Ortelpa, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is arguably one of the most famous in the world. Located at Rockefeller Plaza in New York City, the tradition officially dates back to 1933 when 30 Rockefeller Plaza first opened. Most of the trees that have served as Rockefeller's Christmas icon have been donated and range in size from 69 to 100 feet. The tree is adorned with some 45,000 colored LED lights and topped with a 550-pound Swarovski star. You can catch the Rockefeller Christmas Tree through the first week of January. After the holiday season, it's donated to Habitat for Humanity, who turn it into lumber for building homes for those in need.
Photo by Anthony Quintano, CC BY 2.0
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Famous for the numerous holiday markets that pop up around the city, Vienna does Christmas unlike anywhere else. Arguably the most famous among them is the Christkindlmarkt, which is home to a magnificent Christmas tree that sits on the Rathausplatz (the square in front of the City Hall). The entire market oozes with holiday cheer from the elaborate decorations to the ice skating rink and countless vendors selling holiday wares.
Photo by Brian Colson, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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While Chicago marks the holiday season in a variety of ways, few are as cherished as the decorations outside and within the State Street Macy's (formerly Marshall Fields). The iconic flagship department store draws plenty of visitors who wish to catch a peek at their annual themed holiday windows, but tucked away within this National Historic Landmark building is the Great Tree. For 109 years this 45-foot tree has illuminated the dining area of the very popular Walnut Room, which is both the world's first restaurant in a department store and the longest continuously running restaurant in the country. Enjoying a meal beneath the Great Tree is a holiday tradition for many Chicagoans. This year's main attraction features custom-painted ornaments in shades of blue and silver, as well as crystal snowflakes and icicles.
Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty
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Each winter, locals and visitors alike flock to Madrid's famous La Puerta del Sol to celebrate the holiday season. While the entire square features decorations, the centerpiece is the giant metal Christmas tree. If you find yourself there during the season, be sure to peek inside the 12-story illuminated structure for an especially unique photo opportunity.
Photo by Ana Morales, CC BY 2.0
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Each winter the U.S. president officially ushers in the holidays by lighting the National Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C. The tradition dates back to 1923 and marks the beginning of the Pageant of Peace, a month-long celebration in the nation's capital. The National Christmas Tree, a massive evergreen, is planted near the White House on the Ellipse in President's Park and is surrounded by smaller trees for each U.S. state, the five U.S. territories and the District of Columbia.
Photo by U.S. Department of Agriculture, CC BY 2.0
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Rio de Janeiro celebrates the season with the world's largest floating Christmas tree. The massive tree features a different theme each year, but always floats on a platform in Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas. The tree is illuminated with millions of lights visible from several districts around the waterfront, including Ipanema and Copacabana, among others. The tree comes to life each season around the beginning of December during a festive event marked by fireworks and music.
Photo by Leandro Neumann Ciuffo, CC BY 2.0