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Seasonal metropolis breaks: 10 of the very best pre-Christmas European getaways | Travel

Ghent, Belgium

With an ice-skating rink, an enormous ferris wheel and a horny Christmas market (7 December-6 January), Ghent presents no scarcity of alternatives to get into the Christmas spirit. But past the baubles and twinkly lights, there’s a lot to maintain winter guests to this Flemish metropolis completely satisfied, from shopping the bric-a-brac stalls of the Bij Sint-Jacobs flea market to hanging out with the hipsters on the Holy Food Market, a cocktail bar and meals corridor within the lovely 17th century Baudelo Chapel.
1898 The Post is a comfortable and cosseting boutique lodge in a former put up workplace constructing. Doubles from £160 (zannierhotels.com)

Zagreb, Croatia

Walking in a winter wonderland, Zrinjevac Park in Zagreb, Croatia. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

The Croatian capital takes the build-up to Christmas significantly, with elaborate road decorations, outside live shows and a conventional Christmas market which is commonly voted among the best in Europe. Most of the motion is centred on Ban Josip Jelačić Square and European Square, which have market stalls and stay music, and Zrinjevac Park the place the timber are hung with lanterns and wood huts serve mulled wine and štrukli (heat pastries full of mushy cheese). But if you wish to keep away from the festive clamour, merely duck down one of many metropolis’s aspect streets to discover a vary of classic shops, vinyl file outlets and quirky one-offs reminiscent of Što čitaš/Sapunoteka (Gundulićeva ul. 11), a secondhand bookshop-cum-natural cosmetics retailer promoting merchandise handmade from Adriatic olive oil and herbs. Or head east to Zagreb’s burgeoning design district of Martićeva, the place studios and pop-up outlets in former industrial areas showcase the work of native artists and designers.
Hotel President Pantovcak has mild, spacious bedrooms overlooking gardens. Doubles from £78 (president-zagreb.com). For extra info see adventzagreb.com

Turin, Italy

Buon Natale: Christmas lights in Turin.

Buon Natale: Christmas lights in Turin. Photograph: Getty Images

Turin brightens up the darkish nights of winter with the Luci d’Artista, a sequence of up to date mild installations designed by native and worldwide artists . If Christmas procuring is on the agenda, town has one thing for all budgets, from the classic and secondhand bargains of the Balon flea market (Saturdays) to the designer labels on the elegant Via Roma. For a present that’s uniquely Torinese, head to the ever-popular Juventus merchandise retailer on Via Garibaldi, or to Venchi, for mouth-watering sweets from considered one of Turin’s most commemorated manufacturers. Warm up with a bicerin – the native concoction of espresso, scorching chocolate and milk – in one of many metropolis’s many Belle Epoque cafés.
Piazza Vittorio Suites are good, modern residences in a 19th-century constructing on an attractive sq.. From £60 an evening (torinosuites.com)

Helsinki, Finland

Fairytale festivities: Tuomaan Markkinat – Helsinki’s Christmas Market.

Fairytale festivities: Tuomaan Markkinat – Helsinki’s Christmas Market – has design presents, conventional meals and a sauna. Photograph: Visit Helsinki

Helsinki have to be the one metropolis within the world with a Christmas market that comes with its personal sauna (1-22 December. But with winter temperatures barely nudging zero, the free blast of warmth presents welcome respite from the Baltic chill. Helsinki is Europe’s unofficial design capital, so you may count on a superior degree of merchandise from the Christmas stalls dotted round Senate Square: himmeli ornaments (geometric mobiles manufactured from straw), pine and birch tar candles, carved wood kuksa mugs and modern jewelry. The meals market on the Old Market Hall is a superb place to choose up Lappish delicacies, seasonal berries and jams. No journey to Helsinki, come rain, shine or snow, can be full with out a go to to the Allas Sea Pool. Its complicated of out of doors swimming pools (two of that are heated) and saunas is open year-round.
Hotel F6 is a pleasant boutique lodge a brief stroll from the Market Square. Doubles from £220 (hotelf6.fi)

Malaga, Spain

Avenue of light: Calle Larios at Christmas, in the centre of Malaga.

Avenue of sunshine: Calle Larios at Christmas, within the centre of Malaga. Photograph: Getty Images

Northern Europe doesn’t have a monopoly on festive cheer, so if you wish to mix Christmas procuring with winter solar, head to Malaga. Start your day in true malagueño model with churros and chocolate on the Casa Aranda (Calle Herreria del Rey) earlier than diving into the Atarazanas meals market for edible souvenirs reminiscent of Andalucian cane honey, goat’s cheese and further virgin olive oil. In the afternoon, take your decide of town’s cultural venues – the Picasso Museum, Pompidou Centre, the Malaga Museum or the Russian Museum. Then head to Calle Marqués de Larios, the principle procuring drag, at nightfall when the Christmas lights are switched on: the spectacle attracts guests from throughout Spain.
Room Mate Larios is a daring design lodge with a energetic bar and an excellent location proper on Calle Marqués de Larios. Doubles from £78 (room-matehotels.com)

Le Touquet, France

Christmas cabins: Le Touquet Paris-Plage Christmas Market.

Christmas cabins: Le Touquet Paris-Plage Christmas Market. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

The seaside might not be the primary place that springs to thoughts when planning a festive escape, however Le Touquet definitely is aware of how one can placed on the Christmas sparkle. From 30 November, the timber lining the promenade and avenues of this stylish resort are festooned with fairy lights, and there’s a Christmas carousel, a skating rink and horse-drawn carriage rides. The pedestrianised Rue St Jean is lined with chi-chi boutiques promoting all the things from artisan sweets (Au Chat Bleu has the very best) to jewelry. Le Touquet is simply an hour’s drive from Calais, so carry your automotive and be part of the locals stocking up on cheese and charcuterie on the marché couvert (Thursdays and Saturdays) and wines on the wonderful Le Touquet-Vins, simply exterior the city.
Hotel Bristol is a pleasant, trendy lodge with good-value rooms. Doubles from £85, (hotelbristol-letouquet.com). For extra info, see letouquet.com

Colmar, France

Illuminating ideas: Christmas Little Venice in Colmar, Alsace.

Illuminating concepts: Christmas Little Venice in Colmar, Alsace. Photograph: Getty Images

With its wonky, half-timbered homes and slender lanes, Colmar appears just like the kind of place you would possibly see on the entrance of a Christmas card. This canal-side city within the coronary heart of Alsace has a preferred Christmas market which takes over the outdated city (till 30 December. There’s a wood carousel and animated nativity scene, stalls promoting Alsatian specialities reminiscent of freshly baked pretzels and berawecka (spiced buns flavoured with fruit and nuts), and a craft and antiques market within the medieval Koifhus (customs home). If all of it will get an excessive amount of, take a second to ponder the true that means of Christmas in entrance of the Isenheim Altarpiece, a Gothic masterpiece depicting the Redemption of Christ, on show within the chapel of the Musée Unterlinden.
James Boutique Hotel is a recent bolthole a two-minute stroll from the outdated city. Doubles from £99 (james-hotel.com)

Lecce, Italy

Follow the star: Christmas tree in Sant’Oronzo Square, Lecce.

Follow the star: Christmas tree in Sant’Oronzo Square, Lecce. Photograph: Getty Images

The lovely city of Lecce, sitting on the heel of Italy’s boot, is at its most interesting in winter, when the vacationer crowds skinny out, the Baroque cathedrals and piazzas are fantastically lit and craft festivals and markets pop up in sudden corners. Don’t miss the Fiera dei Pupi (puppet truthful), held each December on the Ex Convento dei Teatini, a former monastery the place you may admire nativity scenes painstakingly crafted from papier-mâché. Good buys embody ceramic and terracotta homewares, and connoisseur treats reminiscent of almond-stuffed figs and fennel-flavoured taralli biscuits. Southern Italy’s cucina povera comes into its personal in winter with rabbit stews, roast lamb, chestnuts and the crimson wines of Salento that includes closely on menus. If you’re visiting within the week earlier than Christmas or the primary week of January, look out for the dwelling nativity scenes (presepe vivente) which this area is legendary for.
Risorgimento Resort, subsequent to the city’s Roman amphitheatre, is Lecce’s most luxurious retreat. Doubles from £130 per night time, with Essential Italy (essentialitaly.co.uk)

Wrocław, Poland

Deck the trees: Wroclaw’s old town sparkles in December.

Deck the timber: Wroclaw’s outdated city sparkles in December. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Wrocław’s outdated city sparkles in winter, with enormous Christmas timber, illuminated fountains and a Christmas market promoting presents, mulled wine and oscypek (grilled sheep’s cheese, with cranberry sauce). Get a hen’s-eye view of the Christmas lights from the remark deck on the high of the Cathedral of St John the Baptist, or take a look at the programme of carol live shows and festive recitals on the National Forum of Music, Wrocław’s world-class new music venue. The metropolis is nice worth in the event you’re seeking to purchase some last-minute presents. Good buys embody vibrant hand-painted pottery from the city of Bolesławiec, west of Wrocław, on sale at Vena (Rynek four) and movie and propaganda posters from the Polish Poster Gallery (ul. Św. Mikołaja 54/55.
Hotel Puro has glossy, fashionable rooms. Doubles from £50 (purohotel.pl)

Aarhus, Denmark

Golden town: Christmas market in Aarhus, Jutland, Denmark.

Golden city: Christmas market in Aarhus, Jutland, Denmark. Photograph: Getty Images

Copenhagen grabs all of the limelight, however Denmark’s second metropolis, Aarhus, can maintain its personal in the case of procuring, tradition, consuming out and the compulsory dose of hygge. Head to the Latin Quarter for impartial boutiques, cosy cafés and a captivating Christmas market. Shop for Scandi homeware and style on Strøget, town’s foremost procuring road, earlier than heading to the rooftop of the historic Salling Department retailer (Søndergade 27), for a glass of mulled wine with panoramic views of town, lit up for Christmas. And if that doesn’t get you within the festive temper, the large Christmas tree – the biggest in Denmark – carol singers and Danish meals market on the Tivoli Friheden amusement park absolutely will.
Hotel Scandic The Mayor has easy however fashionable rooms within the metropolis centre from £115 (scandichotels.com)

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