Where to celebrate the festive season in Asia

Spend the holidays in one of these exciting Asian destinations and you’ll be rewarded with festivals and markets showcasing food, lights and music.

Decorated streets abound in Singapore over Christmas
  • Kaitlyn Palmer-Allen
  • December 2018

It’s the most wonderful time of the year and Asia knows how to celebrate the silly season – with lights, lights and more lights. If you find yourself in Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan or Singapore for Christmas this year, be sure to check out one of these festivals.

Christmas Wonderland, Singapore: Until 26 December

Come December, Gardens by the Bay is decked out in sparkly finery for Singapore’s biggest annual yuletide fair. Taking over a space about the size of eight soccer fields, the event features magnificent light sculptures handmade by Italian craftsmen, carnival games, rides and ice-skating. There’s also a European-style market for indulging in festive treats, plus you can pay a visit to Santa’s grotto and meet the man himself.

The festive decorations will fill you with cheer.
The festive decorations will fill you with cheer.

Festival of the Lights, Japan: Until 31 January, 2019

During the festive season hundreds of gingko trees are lit up along a four-kilometre stretch from Hanshin Mae to Namba Nishiguchi intersections for the Festival of the Lights. Towards the glassy waterfront around Nakanoshima, colourful artworks are projected onto several historic buildings in a kaleidoscopic display, providing spectators with plenty of Insta-worthy moments.

New Year’s Eve, Bangkok

The ball drop at the Lebua hotel is an annual tradition to count down the New Year in Bangkok. The event takes place from 265 metres up in the air so it is best to make a booking at the hotel’s rooftop restaurant, Sirocco, for the prime view of the spectacular fireworks display at midnight.

Get close to the fireworks from the Lebua hotel.
Get close to the fireworks from the Lebua hotel.

Winterfest, Hong Kong: Until 1 January 2019

Hong Kong does Christmas right – lights decorate the streets and restaurants offer festive menus. Hong Kong Disneyland will also host the Mickey Mouse and Friends Christmastime Ball – bring the kids along for music, dancing and a snow-capped finale. Aside from all this, Hong Kong visitors should check out Victoria Harbour’s multimedia show, A Symphony of Lights, which takes over the city’s skyline nightly with colourful lasers and searchlights synchronised to music from the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra.

Winterfest offers a tonne of nostalgic amusements.
Winterfest offers a tonne of nostalgic amusements.

New Year’s Eve Fireworks, Hong Kong

Ring in the New Year with the spectacular pyrotechnic display over Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour. The fireworks extravaganza gets bigger and better every year, so expect 2019 to kick off with a bang.

Sapporo White Illumination, Japan: Until 25 December

The heart of Sapporo becomes a shimmering winter wonderland each night throughout December, when strings of fairy lights transform tree-lined Ekimae-dori and Minami-ichijo-dori into a luminous tunnel. At nearby Odori Park, other enchanting illuminations warm the hearts of spectators, even on the coldest nights. The display is and the place to go for traditional Christmas fare as it coincides with the German Christmas Market — a celebration of Sapporo’s sister-city ties with Munich.

Millions of twinkling bulbs form a stellar light show.
Millions of twinkling bulbs form a stellar light show.

Christmasland, Taiwan: Until 1 January 2019

New Taipei City surrounds Taipei on all sides and during the Christmas season is awash with cheer. The Banqiao District becomes a fairy tale scene with lights, music and markets selling handmade gifts. While you’re there, snap a selfie with Taiwan’s tallest Christmas tree – a sparkling 36-metre conical structure.

Illuminated trees guide the way to the night markets.
Illuminated trees guide the way to the night markets.

New Year’s Party, Cambodia

Every night is a party on Siem Reap’s Pub Street, but come New Year’s Eve the bar-lined strip cranks this up a few notches, turning into an open-air nightclub for the evening of New Year’s Eve. Hit the street and grab a hearty dinner before joining the locals who party on into the New Year.