Lisbon sparkles at Christmas (try the huge tree in Praça do Comércio), however is extra cool than twee. The scent of chestnuts fills the air, and concert events are held in church buildings, however festivities really feel refreshingly uncommercialised.
Great unbiased retailers embody A Vida Portuguesa for native merchandise from cleaning soap to footwear. Of 4 shops, the Largo do Intendente department, in a former tile manufacturing facility, is the largest and greatest. There’s a retro really feel to buying right here, with numerous previous, family-run retailers, akin to 1930s-era Conserveira de Lisboa – tinned fish might not sound attractive, however the ornamental or hand-wrapped cans listed here are artwork types in themselves.
Gloves at Luvaria Ulisses. Photograph: Alamy
Luvaria Ulisses, which opened in 1925, sells lovely, handmade leather-based gloves. In the Baixa district, Chocolataria Equador affords candy stocking-filler options, with chunky chocolate bars and multicoloured bonbons. Embaixada, a 19th-century palace turned tasteful buying centre, options numerous Portuguese manufacturers underneath one roof – attempt UOY for males’s tailoring or Boa Safra for homeware.
For espresso and pastries, there are open-air kiosks in all places. To attempt bolo rei – the native Christmas cake, round, candy and filled with dried fruit and nuts – head to 19th-century patisserie Confeitaria Nacional on Praça da Figueira; it additionally serves massa de filhós, a festive doughnut. Bacalhau (salt cod) dishes dominate menus 12 months spherical, however a particular model is served on Christmas Eve (and in eating places within the run-up) with potatoes and eggs. Zapata on Rua do Poço dos Negros and Cervejaria Ramiro are each identified for moderately priced seafood.
Where to remain
Hotel Riverside Alfama
Hotel Riverside Alfama, within the maze of the previous city, has eight shiny, easy rooms (from £98 an evening in December). In a grand previous constructing in arty Bairro Alto, the Independente is a component hostel, half lodge, with clear dorms and a well-liked restaurant. Dorm beds from €14 with breakfast.
There’s loads of alternative from BA, Tap Portugal and the price range airways. EasyJet has return flights from Gatwick from round £110 over weekends within the runup to Christmas.
Lille Christmas market Photograph: Laurent Ghesquiere/OTCL Lille
The vibrant facades of 17th-century retailers’ homes within the previous city space, Vieux-Lille, look lovely on a frosty day, and its cobbled streets, full of retailers, cafes and bars, are a fascinating place to buy. The Lillois are famend for having fun with a celebration, so there’s a extra jovial environment than in some French cities.
Figurines on sale on the Grande Braderie flea market. Photograph: Maxime Dufour/OTCL Lille
Vintage and antiques. Thanks to the colossal Grande Braderie flea market, which attracts 2.5 million classic aficionados every September, Lille is awash with secondhand retailers. The booksellers within the internal courtyard of the Vieille Bourse (Tues-Sun afternoons) will have items to impress intellectuals. A bottle of genièvre, the native, juniper-infused firewater, is ideal for any decadent relation’s stocking. Buy wine for the Christmas desk from Les Chais du Savour (Square du Ramponneau), and skinny waffles full of vanilla cream from Méert (27 rue Esquermoise) for somebody you’re keen on a lot you may resist scoffing them on the best way home. Stock up on delicacies and cheeses from Wazemmes market, south-west of the centre (Tues, Thurs and, notably, Sun).
Beer, not wine, is the default Lille tipple, and at Au Fût et à Mesure (289 rue du Faubourg des Postes) every desk has its personal DIY beer pump. Grab a gaufre fourrée (stuffed waffle) with a cup of chocolat chaud wherever you see them, and finish the day at Saint Sauveur, a former items station that’s now a banner challenge for the town – a multi-arts venue, with an important bistro/membership, the St So.
Where to remain
Hotel l’Arbre Voyageur, Lille. Photograph: Marc Vidal
Theatrically embellished L’Arbre Voyageur (two-night minimal most weekends in November/December; in any other case doubles from €106 room solely) is near the Grand-Place, with 48 rooms. Hostel Gastama (dorm beds from €19) has a bar with 14 beers on faucet, and good rooms for teams, with cool wood-and-metal bunk beds.
Eurostar: returns from £123, (eurostar.com) trains take round 1 hour 25 minutes from St Pancras to Lille, with returns from round £123 over weekends on the finish of November and thru December. Or drive through Eurotunnel (from £120 return).
St Nicholas church, Ghent. Photograph: Allan Baxter/Getty Images
Less full of Christmas market crowds than Bruges, much less posh and fashiony than Antwerp, Ghent affords an enthralling Belgian metropolis expertise, with all of the cosy craft-ale bars, medieval and neo-gothic structure and artistic design a winter break wants.
Great for jams, decorations, homeware and utensils … Dille and Kamille, Ghent
For arty presents, print store Topo Copy (Coupure Rechts 308) has uncommon posters and prints – and machines to print your individual, possibly for personalised wrapping paper. Dille and Kamille (Hoornstraat 15) is nice for low-key homeware and wood utensils, felt tree decorations, apple and cinnamon jam, and crackers. Hit Riot (Dendermondsesteenweg 80) for artwork books, Zoot (Hoogpoort 46a) for celebration footwear, and the Bij Sint-Jacobs flea market (Fri-Sun mornings) for classic treasures. Tierenteyn (Groentenmarkt three) has craft mustards blended to a recipe created in 1790. The metropolis’s well-known cuberdons, or “red nose” sweets, bought on two competing road carts, can be a witty deal with to depart out for Santa.
A festive bar in Ghent. Photograph: Christophe Vander Eecken/Visit Gent
What might be extra Christmassy than eating in a church, and giving to these in want when you’re at it? Parnassus (Old Houtlei, open noon-2pm Mon-Fri) is a social challenge in a Franciscan church providing wholesome meals and employment to deprived individuals. A glass of Kerst Pater – a sherry-like, 9% Christmas ale – shouldn’t be missed: attempt it canal-side at De Dulle Griet (Vrjdagmarkt 50).
Where to remain
Treck Hostel, Ghent
Treck Hostel (caravans from €20pp), an indoor caravan park in a former brick manufacturing facility, has kitsch caravans painted in mad themes – “Hawaii” has surfboards outdoors; “Jungle” an enormous cuddly tiger.
Eurostar through Brussels from St Pancras (from round £200pp return over weekends on the finish of November by December), or drive through Eurotunnel (as above).
Christmas market at Chinese Tower, English Garden. Photograph: Alamy
Because of the bastardisation of the “German” Christmas market throughout the UK it’s simple to write down them off as naff, but when anyplace does them tastefully and historically, it’s Munich. The metropolis embraces Christmas to the total, with a Christmas tram, Christmas buying storage, a tree lit with three,000 candles, Bavarian singalongs and a nativity path. Apart from all that, the structure, warming winter food and drinks, and Alpine environment (the mountain resorts are simply 1-2 hours’ drive south) are ample to warrant a festive foray.
Stollen, Germany’s Christmas cake. Photograph: Alamy
Stollen, Germany’s Christmas cake, which originates in Dresden and whose form is meant to symbolise child Jesus wrapped in swaddling garments, will be discovered within the huge Viktualienmarkt meals market (Mon-Sat), alongside different Christmas treats, from gingerbread hearts to hold on the tree, to marzipan, cheese and salami.
Munich is powerful on uncommon idea shops: moral/vegan trend at Dear Goods (Am Glockenbach 12); cool stationery and homeware at Weissglut (Hohenzollernstrasse Eight and Hackenstrasse 1); glamorous classic garments and pink silk lingerie at fairytale-esque Alva-Morgaine (Hans-Sachs-Strasse 9). For old style Bavarian items like cuckoo clocks, music containers, nutcrackers, beer steins and candle pyramids, attempt Herrmann Geschenke (Neuhauser Strasse 2).
Augustiner-Keller restaurant. Photograph: Alamy
Dip into the twinkly chaos of the Christmas market round Marienplatz for a snifter of glühbier – beer spiced with vanilla and chilli, or cacao and rum. Traditional Bavarian fare will provide the energy required for severe pavement beating – attempt suckling pig with purple cabbage, pork escalope, white sausage, potato rosti, and apple fritters or Bavarian vanilla cream pudding at Augustiner Keller (Arnulfstrasse 52), a traditional biergarten close to the Hauptbahnhof. There are cosy indoor areas too; plus, in winter, you may rent the curling rink.
Those suspending indulgence till 25 December can seize a wholesome bowl of uncooked veg, grains and seeds with a matcha latte or “blood cleanser” juice at vegan Rebella Bex Cafe (Sonnenstrasse 23) as an alternative.
Where to remain
The Flushing Meadows Hotel Photograph: Arnold Jaeger Werner/PR
Flushing Meadows (doubles from €208 room solely) is a super-cool lodge and bar within the taking place Glockenbach district, with fascinating unbiased retailers on the doorstep. Or Bold Hotel (doubles from €54 room solely) has two lodges within the metropolis with sensible, impartial rooms.
EasyJet flies to Munich from Manchester, Edinburgh, Gatwick, Stansted and Luton, from round £60 return over weekends in November and December.
Tivoli Gardens. Photograph: Alamy
Cool however cosy, the Danish capital blends the very best of previous and new: from castles and palaces to glossy modern design shops, from old style eating places to fashionable microbreweries and hip diners. Hans Christian Andersen’s adopted hometown has much more of a fairytale really feel over the festive season. Historic amusement park Tivoli Gardens is all lit up with a Christmas market and fairly previous industrial port Nyhavn is lined with stalls promoting festive treats.
There’s tasteful buying at each flip (even Illum division retailer is endlessly trendy), however attempt cobbled Jægersborggade road in Nørrebro: it’s full of small retailers promoting all the things from classic garments to handmade caramel (plus tons of cosy bars, too). In Høj Copenhagen search for homeware by small Nordic manufacturers, or attempt Ladyfingers for jewelry by native designers. Urban Room No 11 close by has enjoyable prints and funky garments (on Facebook). Comb Vesterbro for presents in shops like Dora, which is brimming with interiors concepts.
Nørrebro brewpub Brus
Get festive with æbleskiver (Christmas pancakes), and gløgg, a purple wine punch, at road meals haven WestMarket in Vesterbro. Tivoli Corner, a brand new meals corridor with round 20 eating places and stands, promoting all the things from fish tapas to burgers, has simply opened. Nørrebro brewpub Brus has a enjoyable bar with particular Christmas beers on faucet – To Øl’s Shameless Santa or Sur Yule.
Where to remain
Steel House hostel, Copenhagen
The former headquarters of the Danish Union of Metalworkers reopened this 12 months as Steel House, a central hostel with an industrial stylish vibe. There’s a bar, pool (yep, a hostel with a pool!) and kitchen amenities, plus non-public rooms and dorms (which will be rented of their entirety). Doubles at pre-Christmas weekends price about £130 an evening (lower than half that midweek), and it’s £30pp in a six-bed dorm (£15 midweek).
Multiple airline choices embody: Ryanair, from Stansted and Luton, Norwegian from Gatwick, and easyJet from Gatwick, Manchester, Bristol and Edinburgh. Weekend flights pre-Christmas from round £80 return.
Photograph: Sefton Samuels/REX/Shutterstock
There could also be extra apparent locations for a festive UK buying spree – Bath, with its Georgian backdrop and artisan quarter; Brighton for its enjoyable vibe; Manchester and London for the sheer alternative – however little Ledbury in Herefordshire is a picturesque, stress-free possibility. With its stilted 17th-century Market House, timber-framed buildings, nice unbiased retailers and arty vibe, the market city has luggage of environment. Plus it’s in a very pretty a part of the nation, ought to a winter stroll beckon.
Hus & Hem
Hus & Hem is full of lovely Scandi homeware and clothes (plus there’s a particular Christmas room – try the retro wood santas by Kay Bojesen). The tiny Three Counties Cider Shop has over 100 to select from and you’ll attempt before you purchase. Browse Tinsmiths for authentic artist prints and exquisite quilts, and Letterpress posters by native agency Tilley Printing. The Three Counties Bookshop on the High Street caters for all bookish wants, and fulfill sweet-toothed pals with somewhat one thing from The Velvet Bean Chocolates reverse Homend Shopping Mall – the handmade truffles are made with cream from native farms.
Ledbury has some sensible previous teaching inns. On a cobbled road, the 16th-century Prince of Wales is a locals’ favorite, with good pub grub, a alternative of actual ales and ciders, and a protracted gin menu. The Seven Stars is among the oldest pubs on the town, and has an important restaurant and its personal farm.
Where to remain
The Seven Stars, Ledbury
At The Seven Stars there’s restricted weekend availability in three rooms in November and December (doubles from £69 room solely, £90 Fri and Sat). The Talbot – one other historic pub, with a wood-panelled eating room – has added six bedrooms within the Old Stable Cottage, bringing the whole to 13 (from round £150 B&B on the weekend in November and December).
George Square, Glasgow. Photograph: Alamy
Combine full-on Christmas cheer with buying on brightly lit lanes filled with unbiased retailers, or within the many glittering arcades. The season brings loads of off-beat nightlife, such because the Gatsby Club 1920s winter ball (£18, 25 November), or Christmas film nights at Sloans bar (£15.95 for 2 together with sizzling snack). The hunky mountain surroundings inside simple attain bolsters its enchantment.
Napiers the Herbalists, Glasgow
The West End is full of unbiased shops, akin to 150-year-old Napiers the Herbalists (61 Cresswell Street), with its trendy vary of pure face merchandise and teas, together with the calming Superbitch brew. At 388 Byres Road, decide up a plum pudding candle from Shearer Candles, established in 1897. Pretty Ashton Lane, well-known for its pubs, seems pretty with Christmas lights, and has little present stalls over the festive weekends, as does Merchant Square on the town.
The giftshops of the town’s galleries and museums are an important supply of presents. Try the Gallery of Modern Art (Royal Exchange Square) for mugs, luggage and socks adorned with artwork masterpieces; Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum (Argyle Street) for arts and crafts prints and jewelry; or discover all the things from all of the museums collectively on the Glasgow Museums Store within the St Enoch Centre. In Finnieston, The Shop of Interest (1058 Argyle Street) has some charming paper build-your-own Scottish tenement kits, quirky wrapping paper, and bangles created from skateboards.
Fairy lights add a twinkly Christmas contact on the Stravaigin (28 Gibson Street), whose festive December lunch menu (guide forward) consists of Lebanese mutton broth and clementine and almond trifle. Post-shop, hit the whisky bar of sultry Òran Mór (Byres Road) for a warming malt, or the Ben Nevis (1147 Argyle Street), which has reside people acts (Weds, Thurs and Sun) and a roaring turf hearth.
Where to remain
Z Hotel (December weekend doubles from £105 room solely) has uncovered brick downstairs and wood-panelled bedrooms.
Vienna Town Hall in December. Photograph: Getty Images
The most refined Christmas lights in Europe – swaths of chandeliers and crystals fairly than flashing reindeer – illuminate avenues of palaces and cathedrals across the Austrian capital, and the grand buildings of the tree-lined Ringstrasse across the previous centre. There are festive concert events and choir recitals all around the metropolis – opulent Peterskirche is essentially the most atmospheric. There are quite a few Christmas markets, too, which the authorities are trying to maintain tasteful and tat-free, and another Winter on the MQ event within the museum quarter to counteract them, with fashionable pop-up bars and music.
Cakes, sweets and naughty treats! At the Manner store (Stephansplatz 7) purchase nougat waffles with an image of St Stephen’s Cathedral; savour Lipizzaner balls from the eponymous retailer (Stephansplatz 6), sweets manufactured from nougat, marzipan and chocolate; or sugared rose petals, candies and nice sachertorte from the grand Demel (Kohlmarkt 14).
Viennastore (Herrengasse 5) has enjoyable souvenirs, akin to particular triple breading plate for making wiener schnitzel, Gustav Klimt pencil instances, and Mozart-shaped cookie cutters.
Head to the seventh district for uncommon clothes shops. A gaggle may make use of Lucie (€35pp for a bunch of 6-Eight) who runs themed three-hour buying excursions akin to “young designers in hip areas”.
Naber Kaffee Photograph: Yannik Steer
A sizzling bag of roast chestnuts from a stand will solely maintain you for therefore lengthy. The metropolis is legendary for its espresso homes and pastry retailers. Hop right into a roastery for a pick-me-up – Naber (Wipplingerstrasse 25) has 4 sorts of espresso; Wiener Rösthaus (Tigergasse 33) is olde worlde; and Cafe Schwarzenberg (Karntner Ring 17), the oldest “concert cafe” on the Ringstrasse, is a tune of marble, brass and glass. Listen to reside piano whereas sipping a espresso topped with whipped cream, and cargo up on cheese strudels, dumplings and goulash.
Where to remain
25 Hours Hotel, Vienna
At MuseumsQuartier, within the 25 Hours Hotel (two-night minimal keep finish of November and December, from round €170).
Easyjet flies from Gatwick, Bristol, Edinburgh, Manchester and Luton to Vienna from round £200 return over November and December weekends.
Via San Gregorio Armeno, home to the Neapolitan
presepi. Photograph: Alamy
Of all Italian cities, Naples does Christmas with essentially the most gusto – the historic centre sparkles with festive lights, road musicians flock right here for the season … and that is the home of the presepe, or Christmas crib. Year spherical, craftsmen work on their nativity handicraft – which is proudly displayed in squares and church buildings. See historic examples on the museum of San Martino – Presepe Cuciniello has greater than 450 figures. Neapolitans take craftsmanship critically, in all the things from footwear to meals, so guests will discover great-quality items, and eat nicely right here, too.
Christmas cribs on through San Gregorio Armeno. Photograph: Alamy
Don’t go home with out some nativity collectible figurines – through San Gregorio Armeno is “crib street”, lined with stalls and retailers promoting all method of manger scene necessities and different decorations (spot something from pizza makers to politicians and footballers among the many child Jesus’s entourage). Via Toledo is the principle buying road, with the stunning artwork deco Galleria Umberto I arcade. All the high-end designer retailers are right here (and markets promoting fakes), however head to family-run Scriptura on through San Sebastiano for smooth, handmade leather-based luggage, purses and jackets at cheap costs; or to Finamore for elegant, handmade shirts and equipment for males.
Naples is among the most foodie cities in Italy: stock up on prime native wines, limoncello, cheese (squidgy buffalo mozzarella) and salami at delis akin to Charcuterie Esposito, or chocolate at Gay Odin – it has been in business because the 19th century and has eight retailers round city.
Like most of Italy, Naples is fuelled by espresso – down an espresso at historic Gran Caffe Gambrinus or the much less well-known (and cheaper) Caffe’ Mexico on Piazza Dante. In a metropolis that’s synonymous with pizza, the selection is limitless – Sorbillo within the previous centre or Pizzeria Cafasso on through G Cesare are in style with locals – and road meals snacks akin to arancini (fried rice balls) or deep-fried courgettes are in all places. Look out for festive meals at bakeries round city, akin to strufoli (dough balls drenched in honey) and roccocó (a tough, doughnut-shaped biscuit).
Where to remain
Roof terrace at Attico Partenopeo, Napoli. Photograph: Gaetano Del Mauro
Casa del Monacone (doubles from £46) is a beautiful B&B in a former convent within the central Sanità space. It has restricted weekend availability in November and December, however a lot midweek, and is nice worth. Attico Partenopeo (doubles from £110 at weekends) is a B&B in a 15th-century constructing positioned within the historic centre of the town, with an important roof terrace and eight snug rooms.
Options embody easyJet from Bristol, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Gatwick, Luton and Stansted, from round £75 return over weekends within the run-up to Christmas.
The fairytale environment of Amsterdam involves life in winter. The canals – with heat lights lining the bridges – look notably magical on a frosty night, whereas the darkish wooden interiors of the town’s brown cafes are seldom so inviting. It’s the right setting to get into the festive spirit – and encourage some Christmas buying.
Festive candies on sale at HEMA. Photograph: Bloomberg through Getty Images
For a mixture of boutiques, classic and specialist retailers – with stopoffs in galleries, bars and cafes – head to De Negen Straatjes, a pocket of 9 streets within the canal district between Herengracht and Keizersgracht. For the very best of Dutch design, lovely items and costly furnishings to ogle, drop by Droog. 290sqm is one other idea retailer promoting distinctive and limited-edition merchandise, from clothes and niknaks to bikes and books. Stocking fillers can come within the type of stroopwafels (caramel waffles), artisan gouda (head to De Kasskamer), and tasteful stationery from reasonably priced homeware retailer HEMA.
Droog design store Staalstraat central Amsterdam. Photograph: Alamy
In De Negen Straatjes, cease by stylish and minimal Cafe Libertine for a glass of wine and a pizzetta. In the night, discover past the normal metropolis and cross the Ij to Amsterdam Noord for a meal in Hotel de Goudfazant, in a former automobile storage. Afterwards, head to De Ceuvel, a restaurant, bar, event venue and “urban oasis” in a former shipyard.
Where to remain
The Hoxton, Amsterdam
The Hoxton is a cool however inviting lodge that attracts collectively the historical past of Dutch canal home structure with the nation’s design heritage (doubles from €119 together with breakfast bag). Just east of the town is Volkshotel, a youthful lodge with a rooftop restaurant and membership (from round €238 for a two-night weekend room solely in December).
EasyJet has flights over December weekends for round £90-£150 return from Bristol, Belfast, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool and London airports together with Southend. Flybe operates from East Midlands, Exeter, Doncaster, London City, Manchester and Southampton from about £125 return. Return trains with Eurostar through Brussels from £185.