As we wish you happy holidays, we thought we would share some of the ways different cities decorate and use public spaces at this time of year. In many parts of the northern hemisphere, the wintery weather and early sunsets prompts cities to decorate streets with seasonal lighting. While this time of year is centered around Christmas traditions in many cities, all across the globe other cities celebrate their own secular and religious traditions that feature decorations, markets, and community events invigorating their public spaces. Here is a selection of photos from a few of those cities:

Paris, France

From November to the start of January, Paris lives up to its name as the city of light, illuminating one of the most famous streets in the world, the Champs-Elysées, as well as other notable public spaces.

In 2013, Koert Vermeulen and Marcos Vinals Bossols won the international competition to design the lights for Champs-Elysées encircling 200 street trees with hoops of light, a display which was more ecologically friendly than previous years, using 65% less energy. (Photo by Sarah Oberklaid)
In 2013, Koert Vermeulen and Marcos Vinals Bossols won the international competition to design the lights for Champs-Elysées encircling 200 street trees with hoops of light, a display which was more ecologically friendly than previous years, using 65% less energy. (Photo by Sarah Oberklaid)

New York City

Holiday markets in New York City have become increasingly popular. One of the best known ones is the Union Square Holiday Market near 14th Street and Fourth Avenue in Manhattan. Individual craft vendors dot the northern part of Union Square Park with cutesy booths. The market itself was the brainchild Urbanspace, an English-turned-New-York street market cultivator that has launched many specialized public markets across New York City boroughs. Their newest seasonal market addition this year was in the Garment District with sidewalk vendors on Broadway.

Union Square Holiday Market filled to the brim. (Photo by Stephen Fesler)
Union Square Holiday Market filled to the brim. (Photo by Stephen Fesler)
Popup holiday market in the Garment District. (Photo by Stephen Fesler)
Popup holiday market in the Garment District. (Photo by Stephen Fesler)

Stockholm, Sweden

Stortorget, the oldest square in Stockholm, is renowned for its annual Christmas market. Although it had started to snow, people continued to enjoy the stalls of crafts and food, which lined the public square located in Gamla Stan, the oldest part of the city.  

The annual Christmas market in Stortorget, in the oldest public square in Stockholm. (Photo by Sarah Oberklaid)
The annual Christmas market in Stortorget, in the oldest public square in Stockholm. (Photo by Sarah Oberklaid)

Copenhagen, Denmark

Strøget, is one of the longest pedestrian-oriented and car-free retail streets in Europe. Along the 1.1km street, holiday lights and decorative garland add a little color to the wintery days, complementing the ornate architecture.

Lights along Strøget, an extremely popular street for walking and biking, which was pedestrianized in 1962. (Photo by Sarah Oberklaid)
Lights along Strøget, an extremely popular street for walking and biking, which was pedestrianized in 1962. (Photo by Sarah Oberklaid)

Melbourne, Australia

One of several public spaces around Melbourne decorated for the holidays, this former industrial railway bridge in Docklands was converted into a striking shared pedestrian and bicycle bridge some years ago, and this year, features red, white and green baubles above.

Subtle decoration on Melbourne's Webb Bridge, providing access for pedestrians and cyclists over the Yarra River. (Photo by Sarah Oberklaid)
Subtle decoration on Melbourne’s Webb Bridge, providing access for pedestrians and cyclists over the Yarra River. (Photo by Sarah Oberklaid)

Évora, Portugal

In the city of Évora in Portugal, a few years ago, the central square, Praça do Giraldo, held a fun community event, displaying Christmas trees made by locals from recycled materials.

A display of Christmas trees made by the community using recycled materials displayed in the central square in Évora. (Photo by Sarah Oberklaid)
A display of Christmas trees made by the community using recycled materials displayed in the central square in Évora. (Photo by Sarah Oberklaid)

Seattle

Several public spaces in Seattle feature holiday decorations this year, including: the Christmas tree and Macy’s Holiday Star outside of Westlake Center, which involved a public lighting ceremony and live performances a few weeks ago; Westlake Park has a carousel, live music, food trucks, and a winter village until January 1st; and at Pike Place Market, fun decorations are integrated into the awnings.

Decorations outside the Westlake Center. (Photo by Anton Babadjanov)
Decorations outside the Westlake Center. (Photo by Anton Babadjanov)
The Christmas tree outside of Westlake Center. (Photo by Anton Babadjanov)
The Christmas tree outside of Westlake Center. (Photo by Anton Babadjanov)
The Carousel in Westlake Park. (Photo by Anton Babadjanov)
The Carousel in Westlake Park. (Photo by Anton Babadjanov)
Decorations at Pike Place Market. (Photo by Stephen Fesler)
Decorations at Pike Place Market. (Photo by Stephen Fesler)

We invite you to share your photos of interesting decorations and events in public spaces on social media. Tag us on Instagram (@urbanistorg) and Twitter (@urbanistorg).

Happy holidays from all of us at The Urbanist!

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The Urbanist was founded in 2014 to examine and influence urban policies. We believe cities provide unique opportunities for addressing many of the most challenging social, environmental, and economic problems. We serve as a resource for promoting and disseminating ideas, creating community, increasing political participation, and improving the places we live. The Urbanist's sitting board members and senior editors represent the Editorial Board.