Rockefeller Center, New York City
“Wow, that’s a big one!” Buddy the Elf (Will Ferrell) says when he spies the Rockefeller Center tree for the first time, before planting a kiss on love interest Jovie (Zooey Deschanel) at the skating rink. All of New York City, though, is practically one big Christmas movie set: Besides 2003’s Elf, there is the Macy’s on 34th Street (of Miracle on 34th Street fame); plus Bloomingdale’s, the Waldorf Astoria, Central Park’s Wollman Rink, and the titular sweet shop of Serendipity. The Family Man, Scrooged, and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York were also shot at various locations around the Big Apple.
Sometimes you just want to get away from it all for Christmas, like Amanda (Cameron Diaz) in 2006’s The Holiday. And she couldn’t have picked a more picture-perfect place to visit than this village in Surrey, southwest of London. Sadly, the cottage where Amanda stays was actually just a set built for the film, but you can visit the lovely country estate, Cornwell Manor, where she goofs off in the gardens with Jude Law (the interior shots of their lunch date were filmed elsewhere). Additional village scenes were shot in Godalming, also in Surrey.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
The visually amazing Nutcracker and the Four Realms, based on the classic Christmas ballet and in theaters now, is a mix of real locations in London, studio sets, and CGI. But even settings created by movie magic drew inspiration from real-life: Both the Land of the Snowflakes and the Land of Sweets look exactly like the Bavarian town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber (here’s a side-by-side comparison). In addition, the palace was clearly inspired by the Russian architecture of Moscow’s St. Basil’s Cathedral.