Ah, December. A cold, joyous month where your days are spent in enormous coats indulging in pretty much anything remotely festive. Thoughts turn to sipping hot chocolate under glistening lights of Christmas markets, and dancing around in the snow whilst belting out those cheesy Christmas pop songs. But here in the UK you find yourself wanting to escape the harsh realities of wind and rain and paying £5 for that one cup of hot chocolate in Starbucks. Why not let that desire for something greater take you to somewhere where the Christmas lights are bright and the land is white? December is arguably the best month to travel to a European country in search of escape, festivities and cultural stimulation. So in the spirit of all things festive, here are some of our favourite destinations to compose that perfect Christmas break:
The Christmas markets of Belgium.
Endless streets of stalls, lights and decorations are only a fragment of what Belgium has to offer over this Christmas season. Brussels, Antwerp and Bruges are amongst a host of cities that make for the perfect festive break, and are easily accessible and reasonably cheap to visit to help eliminate stress in the run up to Christmas. Belgium’s winter markets are notorious for their traditional and enchanting festive displays. From the astonishing lights of Brussels’ Grand-Place square, to the picturesque medieval markets of Bruges, Belgium will not disappoint. For there is truly no better way to get excited for Christmas than indulging in some delicious Belgian hot chocolate under a magical trail of twinkling lights in the heart of Europe.
Snow in Switzerland
If there is one thing everyone wants this Christmas, its snow. And even if that means chasing it, we won’t be fulfilled until we’re rolling around in it like the inner child within us all. The beauty of a Swiss Christmas can certainly fulfil that desire. Not only is it a generally cheap destination, but remarkable in its nature and cultural authenticity, promising an unforgettable festive season. The country has so much to offer to cater to your own distinctive taste. Why not head up to the Swiss Alps to indulge in some snow sporting activities? Resorts such as St. Moritz and Zermatt are amongst those where you will find not only great skiing but unforgettable après-ski activities, too. If mountains aren’t for you, Switzerland has an array of magical cities that light up in the spirit of Christmas. Explore the city of Basel that host’s the country’s largest market with over 180 wooden huts in the heart of the old town. Or head to Zurich or Lucerne where you can spend your hour’s ice skating, shopping or enjoying wonderful, traditional brass bands.
A cultural Christmas in Vienna
The Viennese Christmas market tradition is over 700 years old, and remains many culture-lovers’ favourite winter break destinations for its authentic beauty and traditional Christmas celebrations. Every Christmas, the squares of Vienna are filled up with trees, decorations and twinkling lights. They host a range of activates from present-making workshops for children to pony or donkey rides. Be sure not to miss the world-renowned advent choir concerts that take place in the town halls, with choirs flying in from all over the world to sing heavenly carols to fulfil that perfect festive ambiance.
The baths of Budapest
Hungary’s capital is one of the most popular Christmas break destinations as the city is particularly beautiful in the winter time. Budapest hosts an annual Christmas market where the city is packed in lights and decorations and the streets are filled with endless stalls selling everything from unique artesian gifts to traditional beer. Many people visit Budapest over Christmas to visit the outdoor hot spas. Tourists can pay a reasonable price to spend some time relaxing and unwinding in the hot baths of Budapest under array festive lights. The city is notoriously cheap and the nightlife is particularly great which certainly appeals to young, eager travellers. It is a vibrant and beautiful city filled with joyful people and, when tied with the festivities of Christmas time, it makes for the perfect winter getaway.
Words by Megan Tomos
Photos by Molly Geddes