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The World’s Best Holiday Runs

Great Runs is the ultimate guide to the best places to go running in the world’s major cities and destinations. We’re pleased to share this content through a partnership with Runkeeper.

Here’s a reason to cheer a runner’s heart, despite the creeping cold and shorter days: holiday running! Travel magazines and websites are full of lists such as ‘best cities to see holiday lights”, so we did some research to match some of those with some great running routes. This is a combination of beautiful light displays, popular ‘Christmas Markets’, and cities that are especially festive this time of year. A special bonus: that dreaded nighttime run becomes a special treat! While the list might tilt toward wintry, northern spots, you’ll find some special surprises in warmer weather cities, too. So, here’s the Great Runs holiday running list.


Vienna. Garlands of bulbs hang over the city’s main streets, while its shops are decorated with pine branches and silk ribbons. Chandeliers line the road to St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Stay inside the ring road, on the western side of the river, and create your own tour of historic Vienna.

Prague. This fairytale city, with its gothic architecture and wintry streets, is beautifully lit and abounds with Christmas markets. Our Prague Major Sites Tour will hit many of the holiday hotspots.

Copenhagen. No holiday running list is complete without a Scandinavian destination, and Copenhagen is our favorite this time of year.  See wonderful decorations as you run through the Tivoli Gardens or in the waterfront district of Nyhaven.

Potsdam, Germany. An easy train ride from Berlin, Potdsam is one of the best preserved cities in Germany and features one of the country’s largest Christmas markets. Our Potsdam tour features wonderful palaces, paths along the Havel river, and pretty parks.

Madrid. One of the best warmer weather Christmas spots in Europe. The city is festooned with lights, especially the Plaza Mayor. Best seen on our Madrid Sights Tour.

Paris: We couldn’t leave out a classic. The Champs Elysées is lined with lights, as are other iconic Paris landmarks, highlighted in our ‘runseeing’ tour.

North America

New York City. Here’s a good excuse vary from the usual Central Park or Hudson River running route. Manhattan is special at Christmas, with the famous tree and lights at Rockefeller Plaza, and the festive window displays on 5th Ave. and surrounding streets. Best bet for runners is to go early in the morning, while it’s still dark but to avoid the crowds.

Dallas. This city does it up for Christmas, but in a commercial sort of way. We have a route through the neighborhood of Highland Park, which is one of Dallas’ prettiest and most affluent neighborhoods, and a destination for light/decoration gawkers.

Kansas City. The historic Plaza area is practically a tourist destination in itself during the holidays. Take a night run through this lovely area.

San Antonio Riverwalk. The River Walk and its adjacent streets are illuminated by tens of thousands of string lights, so it’s a treat to do a nighttime run there this time of year. You might have to dodge the crowds attending the nightly parade and the Fiesta de las Luminarias on weekends.

Newport Beach. Time your run right to enjoy this one-of-a-kind holiday display: a nightly boat parade of more than 100 vessels adorned with lights and other decorations. Best viewed from our route on Balboa Island.

Detroit: Grosse Pointe Shores. This is a lovely neighborhood just northeast of Detroit. Run our route along Lakeshore Drive or in Jefferson to see gorgeous homes decorated done up for the holidays.

New Orleans: Garden District. The French Quarter is pretty during the holidays, but we love the beautiful older homes are gorgeously decorated during the holidays. From our Garden District run, make sure you hit First, Second and Pleasant Street.

Montreal: Old Montreal Tour. If you want a snowy run, Montreal is an almost sure bet. The beautiful older buildings, shops, and restaurants of Old Montreal have a particularly special glow at this time of year.

New England-Y Holiday Runs. We’ve come up with three best bets for a Currier & Ives holiday run: Burlington, Vermont, where our highlights tour features the charming Church Street Marketplace and arts district; Portsmouth, NH, where you should focus on the center of town, Prescott Park, and the grounds of the Strawberry Bank Museum; and Portland, Maine, whose compact center is festive during the holidays, with charmingly lit indy shops, bars, and restaurants.

Mark Lowenstein is Chief Running Officer of Great Runs, the ultimate guide to the best places to run in the world’s major cities and destinations. He can be reached at Twitter: @greatruns
















Mark Lowenstein

About the author:
Mark Lowenstein

Mark Lowenstein is Chief Running Officer of Great Runs, the ultimate guide to the best places to run in the world’s major cities and destinations. He can be reached at Twitter: @greatruns Instagram: @greatruns