If you’ve always wanted to experience a new city during the Christmas period, then here are eight places to go for a festive city break. You may be lucky enough to be able to book a last minute break for this year (jealous!), but if not, maybe you’ll be inspired to plan a trip for next year…
Visit the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen
The Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen celebrate Christmas in style. Along with enjoying the usual rides, you can visit over 50 market stalls selling gifts, crafts, food and drinks. The gardens are all beautifully decorated with fairy lights, and make time to see the Tivoli Illuminations over the lake and their new light show. You can also go and see their Christmas caberet show in The Glass Hall Theatre; this year’s show is Star Wars themed.
Go shopping and ice skating in New York
New York is a dream destination for many of us, and how amazing would it be to visit at Christmas? Stay for a short break and you can take time to go shopping for some gifts for your loved ones (or even yourself!), then wrap up warm and go ice skating at The Rockefeller Centre. Afterwards, enjoy a nice warm drink and of course you need to check out the hugest Christmas tree you’ll probably ever see.
Go to a German Christmas market
Every year Birmingham hosts its annual German Christmas Market which I have visited many times, enjoying a hot dog and some sweet treats whilst browsing the many stalls filled with Christmas treats and gifts. Nuremberg’s Christmas Market in Germany is famous for its traditional Nuremberg bratwurst sausages, which are cooked over an open fire creating that delicious hot dog aroma… why not pick up “3 im Weggla” (three in a roll) and have a ride around the market on a Stagecoach tour? Of course, the market isn’t just about hot dogs – you’ll find the usual food and drink stalls selling delicious sweet and savoury treats such as Lebkuchen (a traditional gingerbread) and hot mulled wine. There are also plenty of Christmas crafts and decorations to buy (look out for the “rauschgoldengel”, Nuremberg’s famous gold-foil angel) and you may even find some Christmas gifts for your loved ones in the nearby Market of the Sister Cities which sells gifts native to Nuremberg’s many sister cities from all over the world.
Ride a horse-drawn carriage through Bruges
Bruges is so picturesque with its cobbled streets, pretty architecture and canals that it almost looks like a fairy tale town. The city centre itself is a UNESCO World Heritage site, being Belgium’s best preserved medieval city. Bruges is the place for chocolate and beer lovers, having around 50 chocolate shops and a number of beer shops selling many Belgian beers; Belgian beer is often considered to be the best beer in the world. When you’ve done your beer and chocolate shopping, why not take a stroll around the market before taking a horse-drawn carriage tour?
Visit Disneyland Paris
The City of Light is amazing to visit any time of the year really, so why not do something a little more special if you can get there during Christmas and visit Disneyland Paris? The parks will of course be fully decorated for the holiday season, and there will be themed Christmas parades and shows, and of course plenty of Christmas gifts and snacks to pick up. Disney is such a magical place to visit, but it’s so, so pretty with the extra Christmas trimmings. Check out what’s on during Disney’s Enchanted Christmas here.
Look for the Northern Lights in Reykjavik
Seeing the aurora borealis (mostly referred to as the Northern Lights) is definitely one of my bucket list items, and December is one of the best times to see them if you visit Reykjavik in Iceland. Unless you’re an expert in spotting the lights, then I would definitely recommend booking a tour via a reputable company like Arctic Adventures who offer different tours depending on your budget. If you want to add some more activities to your trip, I’d suggest a visit to Laugardalur Christmas Valley where you can stop by to see the animals at the Reykjavik Family Park and Zoo, go for a bit of ice skating at the Skautahöll skating rink or go for a relaxing swim in the Laugardalslaug thermal pool. You can also go ice skating for free at Ingolfstorg Square.
Visit Santa Claus Village in Lapland
And the most Christmassy option of them all is a visit to Santa’s hometown of Rovaniemi in Lapland, Finland. Santa Claus Village is the place to be, and this trip would be perfect for those of you with little ones who’d love to go and meet Santa, or even those of you who just love Christmas. You can go on a husky sled ride, visit Santa’s reindeer, visit Santa Park’s underground caves and spend some time at Snowman World, home to the Igloo hotel and Ice Bar. A truly magical way to enjoy Christmas, and a trip little ones will really cherish.
FYI: This is definitely one you need to book in advance, so if this trip appeals to you, plan for next year!
Celebrate Hogmanay in Edinburgh
My final suggestion is for those of you who don’t particularly want to be away from home during Christmas, but love the idea of a massive New Year’s Eve celebration. Enter Hogmanay, Scotland’s way of welcoming the New Year. In Edinburgh, Hogmanay celebrations are held over three days, starting with a torch lit procession through the heart of Edinburgh on 30th December. Then there is the Concert in the Gardens against the amazing backdrop of Edinburgh Castle on New Year’s Eve (31st December), ending with a spectacular fireworks show at midnight (and of course the singing of Auld Lang Syne with the many, many people who are partying with you). Celebrations are wrapped up with the Loony Dook, the annual splash in the River Forth at South Queensferry on New Year’s Day (1st January). I’m pretty sure Hogmanay at Edinburgh would be a New Year’s Eve to remember!