For people staying home safe this holiday season, new virtual tours allow anyone with an internet connection to visit famous Christmas destinations around the world.
Home-bound travelers can book live interactive tours with local guides to learn everything from the religious sites of Jerusalem to the department store displays of New York City.
In April, according to the company’s website, Airbnb launched the Online Experiences virtual program as a “new way for people to socialize, travel virtually and earn income during the Covid-19 crisis.” The sessions are live, interactive and limited to small groups.
The Canadian travel company ToursByLocals launched virtual live tours last spring after the international borders were closed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Of the more than 30,000 tours, 150 are now virtual.
“The idea was to give our avid travelers the opportunity to focus on one trip while staying safe and socially distant at home,” said Paul Melhus, CEO and co-founder of the company.
Christmas tour of Stockholm
Virtual travelers can see the city of Stockholm without braving the temperatures of a Scandinavian winter night.
A one-hour live evening tour takes chair travelers to the Christmas lights of the Swedish capital, the quaint alleys of Stockholm’s Old Town, and significant historical buildings such as the Parliament Building and the Royal Palace.
Stockholm old town, Sweden on December 4, 2020.
Jonas Gratzer | Getty Images
For around US $ 120, up to 10 people can join the tour booking link, so friends and family can explore Stockholm together from home.
Christmas in NYC
For those who have dreamed of seeing the beauty of the Big Apple in December, this 90-minute live virtual tour takes people to some of the city’s most famous vacation spots.
People near the Saks Fifth Avenue Christmas window displays in New York City on November 25, 2020.
John Lamparski | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images
Licensed tour guide Ibrahima Diallo explores the city on foot and, if necessary, by car. He told CNBC’s Global Traveler that he can cover two of the following locations in one tour:
- The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree and the storefronts of Bloomingdale’s and Saks Fifth Avenues
- The winter village in Bryant Park
- The Christmas lights at Hudson Yards
- The lights of the Empire State Building and the windows of shops on Broadway and 34th Street, including Macy’s department store
Although he said it depends on the number of participants and the time of the tour, Diallo suggests choosing the first two options or the last two to maximize time.
The tour can be shared with up to five friends and costs around $ 125.
Festive lights of Vienna
On this tour, travelers can take part in a “wonderful Christmas fairytale tour” to see the beautifully illuminated historical buildings of Vienna.
Visitors to a Christmas market in front of the Vienna City Hall on November 19, 2019.
JOE KLAMAR | AFP | Getty Images
During the tour of the Vienna State Opera, the city’s Imperial Palace and the popular shopping streets Graben and Kohlmarkt, a local guide explains Austrian Christmas traditions, including the annual visit of the “Christkind” or Christkind, who brings presents to children for Christmas. Santa Claus is a controversial figure in Austria because he interfered with the country’s tradition of giving.
The tour, which is almost sold out, costs around $ 88 and can be shared with up to six people.
Salzburg for the serious traveler
A Christmas market in Salzburg, Austria.
Buena Vista Images | Stone | Getty Images
From home, the tour guide, who has lived in Salzburg for more than 20 years, teaches tourists about Austrian history and Christmas traditions, including the famous Christmas markets and the city’s connection to the song “Silent Night, Holy Night”.
The tour, which includes photos, videos, and live music, costs around $ 190 and can be shared with up to five people.
Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter
For $ 39, virtual travelers can travel to Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter on a guided, real-time tour that begins at Zion Gate, one of the ancient gates that lead into the Old City.
People pray at the Western Wall in the old city of Jerusalem, Israel on January 12, 2017.
Chris McGrath | Getty Images News | Getty Images
The tour leads through the narrow streets of the Jewish Quarter and ends at the Western Wall, where the tour guide can “put a message in the stones for you” according to the centuries-old prayer custom, according to the booking site. It is estimated that over 1 million notes remain in the columns of the Western Wall each year.
Tours last 1 to 1.5 hours and include stops at the Sephardic Synagogues and the Cardo, an ancient Roman thoroughfare that served as the city’s main thoroughfare around 1,500 years ago.
Virtual steps of Christ
From the Mount of Olives, tour visitors can enjoy a live panoramic view of Jerusalem’s Old City from the comfort of their own home.
A group dressed as Santa Claus visits the Mount of Olives on January 7, 2020 with a view of the old city of Jerusalem.
MENAHEM KAHANA | AFP | Getty Images
Led by Zoom, this live tour ventures down the mountain, stopping at various churches and religious sites along the way before reaching the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus is said to have prayed before his arrest and crucifixion.
This tour, also costing 39 US dollars, and the tour through the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem are operated by the Israeli tour operator Gold Carpet Tours.
Santa Claus in Lapland
Meet the children for a chat with Santa from his Lapland home in Rovaniemi, Finland.
A “Santa Claus” feeds reindeer in Lapland, Finland.
Roberto Moiola / Sysaworld | Moment | Getty Images
The kids can ask questions and listen to Santa Claus talk about his elves, Mrs. Claus’s kitchen, and 400 years of experience delivering gifts around the world. To see more of the area, the kids can listen to a live stream of Rovaniemi’s “Santa Claus Village” for free.
Group and private bookings are possible, although the time slots before Christmas sell out quickly.
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