Digital Editor Alex McDonald shares his top tips and an inclusive travel guide for a short break in ancient city of RomeWritten by Alex McDonald on 26th December 2017
Why You Should Book a Winter Getaway this Christmas
Travel Editor Olivia Woodington shares her ideas for a winter getaway this festive season
For many of us, the Christmas break is a time for some well-deserved rest and copious amounts of homemade food as we take an opportunity to shelter in our families’ heated households. So why at an already expensive, dark and chilly time of year, should we choose to do a spot of globe-trotting? The winter period is often overlooked as a time for travels unless you are thinking of the Caribbean or Thailand, there are little options available in the Northern hemisphere for some winter sun. Nonetheless, whilst New Year in Aruba sounds desirable, you cannot beat the merry charm that Europe’s festive cities offer. If you are looking to have a memorable Christmas season, or simply want an excuse to procrastinate all that Christmas shopping you said you would have finished by the end of November, then find your passports and get packing.
Why Book a Winter Getaway
Save Some Pennies
December can be an expensive time to travel, there is no hiding that. Nevertheless, some flights are surprisingly cheap (and if you fancy travelling on Christmas Day you will be sure to bag a bargain.) Return flights to Warsaw, for example, are only £29, or if you fancy Geneva, you can get there and back for £54. You are unlikely to find a particularly warm destination on a budget but you might find some cosy hotels. Many accommodations offer sizeable discounts during the winter season, like the Max Browns Hotels group. There is nothing quite like thawing frosty toes by the fireplace of your four-star hotel that you got at a two-star price.
Some fairy lights and a bit of tinsel can warm up even the iciest of Europe’s cities. If you are concerned that you will be missing out on the sights due to a cloak of darkness descending on your day at 3:30pm, then think again. The dark can do quite the opposite of cutting a day short during the festive season. Amsterdam’s canals look quite spectacular as lights ripple across their surface, or if you would rather stay closer to home, Bath’s Christmas display takes you to the scene of an overpriced greetings card. Besides, a Christmas city break is surely better than that one token street that tries to outdo each other with the lights every year.
The Christmas Markets
This goes without saying. European Christmas markets triumph a sandy beach on the Gold Coast in December. Blistering sun does not exactly scream Christmas, but mulled wine, roasted chestnuts and games that are impossible to win sure do. And remember that Christmas shopping that you were putting off? Where better than to find some alternative gifts than the Christmas markets (or the airport’s souvenir shop.)
Where to Go:
Where better to go at Christmas time than one of Europe’s oldest Christmas Markets? Started in Strasbourg in 1570, the “Christkindelsmārik” is a spread out over 300 stalls in twelve locations in the city centre. Starting on 24th November and lasting until the end of December, you have plenty of time to beat the school holiday rush.
If you would rather go one step further, why not visit the world’s original Christmas Market in Dresden? Infamous for the Dresden bombings in WWII you may be surprised to find out that the traditional Christmas Market began in this German city in 1434 and is known as Striezelmarkt. Be sure to try to the “Dresden Christollen”, a Christmas cake that is suitably enjoyed against the backdrop of Altmarkt Square. You can find amusements such as the world’s biggest nutcracker and the world’s tallest pyramid all within one stretch.
If you would rather stay close to home this winter break, step away from the swarming commotion of London’s Winter Wonderland and look no further than Manchester. Manchester hosts the biggest Christmas Market in the UK (and the original), so it is of course a must-see. However, if you need some shelter from the bitter air, take time to explore the John Rylands Library, a beautiful Victorian Gothic Building or investigate Manchester’s industrial past at the Museum of Science and Industry.
If you are not one for frost and snow, a trip to Seville in winter is on the cards. The weather is still mild, hovering around 12 degrees, meaning you can ditch the gloves and scarves and stroll around the gardens of the Alcazar Palace. Take part in Belén tradition and marvel at the displays of Bethlehem dotted through the streets of the city. Immerse yourself further in Spanish culture and spend New Year’s feasting on fish and grapes at the stroke of midnight (it is said to bring you good luck.)
With presents and parties, the Christmas season is expensive and tiring. Poznan is a remarkably cheap destination at any time of year. The reconstructed architecture of this Polish city is vibrant and picturesque, the perfect backdrop for some wintery Instagram photos. Being a relatively small and inexpensive destination, you can take your time to recuperate from the strain of the festive activities, and give your debit card a few days off too. If relaxing is not for you, you will be pleased to hear that the nightlife in Poznan is far from quiet. Being a student town, there are plenty of snug bars to warm up in before partying in venues which are said to rival Poland’s capital.
Brussels’ Winter Wonderland stretches over 2.5KM and is one of Europe’s largest Christmas markets. Head to Sainte Catherine Place for a ride on the magnificent Ferris Wheel for a splendid view of the city lights. If warm Belgian waffles dripping in chocolate and whipped cream sound like your cup of tea then you will be delighted to find out that in Brussels they are traditionally served as street food, and as a result, the markets are abundant in them. If you need to work up an appetite or work off all the waffles, then take a skate around the ice rink at the Place de la Monnaie, which is open until 7th January 2018.
Another delicious winter treat are roasted chestnuts. Luckily Vienna’s street corners feature plenty of “Maronistands” selling hot chestnuts all season. Not to mention, if you are still seeking that flawless photo, the lake in front of the Belvedere Palace offers magical reflections in the dark water, no filter necessary. If you do not have a chance to visit the Austrian city in December, the Christmas market in front of the Schonbrunn Palace soon becomes a New Year’s Market so that you can enjoy all your festivities well into 2018.
Forget reserving all your travels for the summer months and instead consider a visit to one of these destinations this holiday season. They are great cities whatever the occasion, but there is something particularly special about a trip away at Christmas time. Swap mince pies for chestnuts and waffles, forgo the crowded shopping malls and take a step back from the hustle and bustle of daily life to appreciate the company of your family and friends amongst the merry musings that are only a short flight away.
*All prices subject to time of writing.*