European Christmas Markets
Prague, Czech Republic, in December is a place where the enchantment of winter meets the charm of a bygone era. With a high chance of snow, especially at night when temperatures can drop to a chilly -3 degrees Celsius, the city transforms into a fairytale setting. Prague's old European architecture, including iconic landmarks like Charles Bridge, the Old Town Square, and Prague Castle, will transport you back in time. The city's twinkling lights, paired with centuries-old stone buildings, add to its wintery allure, making it a perfect spot for Christmas holidays.
Recommended tour: Prague Christmas Markets
- Lunch on the water: Indulge in a delightful lunch cruise on the Vltava River, allowing you to admire Prague's stunning skyline while savouring delicious local cuisine.
- Largest nutcracker: Take a day trip to nearby Dresden to witness the world's largest nutcracker, an enchanting sight that will make your Christmas getaway even more memorable.
- Indulge at the market: Immerse yourself in the festive spirit by exploring the Christmas markets in Prague. Don't miss the chance to sample local delicacies like Pražská Šunka (ham roasted on spits), langoš (flatbread topped with cheese, ketchup, and garlic), and trdelník (hot sugar-coated pastry).
Top Tip: Make sure to witness the city's astronomical clock striking on the hour; it's a fantastic show featuring wooden figurines that will leave you in awe.
Hamburg, Germany, offers a wonderfully traditional setting for experiencing Christmas markets without the overwhelming crowds. The city's blend of classical, gothic architecture and modern attractions, including museums, galleries, and concert halls, create a unique atmosphere. Take leisurely strolls along the Elbe River, sipping warm drinks and discovering hidden gems as snow gently falls.
Recommended tour: Hamburg Christmas Markets
- Walking Tour: Join a walking tour through Hamburg to explore various Christmas markets and other city highlights, gaining insights into local traditions and culture.
- Harbor Cruise: Embark on a relaxing cruise on the Elbe River, with local skippers highlighting points of interest along the banks as you enjoy scenic views.
- Back to the 12th century: Venture on a day trip to Lübeck, a charming nearby town known for its mediaeval architecture and delightful Christmas markets.
Top Tip: Keep your eyes peeled for Alster swans, known as the animal ambassadors of Hamburg. These graceful creatures add to the city's charm and are a sight to behold.
For those seeking an authentic Alpine experience, Switzerland is a top choice for a December escape. This destination offers the perfect blend of small village charm and breathtaking winter scenery. While it's a haven for snow-sport lovers, Switzerland also provides ample relaxation opportunities during the winter season.
Recommended tour: Swiss Christmas Markets
- Cosy stay: Enjoy your stay in the picturesque alpine village resort of Château d'Oex, surrounded by stunning snow-covered landscapes.
- Capital, here we come: Head to Bern, the Swiss capital, and explore its UNESCO-listed old town, which comes to life with festive decorations.
- Explore Montreux: Discover the magic of the Christmas markets in Montreux, situated on the shores of Lake Geneva, where you can shop for unique gifts and savour local treats.
Top Tip: Surprisingly, even in winter, you should wear sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun's glare on the snow.
Easy Festive Escapes
Lapland is quintessentially Christmassy, making it an ideal destination for families and anyone looking to immerse themselves in the Christmas spirit. The stunning scenery and a plethora of activities await you in December, whether you seek festive fun or more heart-racing adventures with the kids.
Recommended tour: Lapland Santa Experience Day Trip
- Winter activities: Enjoy thrilling activities such as sleigh rides, dog-sled excursions, and snowmobile adventures in the winter wonderland of Lapland, where you can relish the snowy landscapes.
- Secret santa: Make memories of a lifetime with a private meeting with Father Christmas himself, creating a magical experience for both young and old.
- Into the unknown: Immerse yourself in the breathtaking natural beauty of Lapland by exploring its pristine wilderness, a place where you can reconnect with nature.
Top Tip: Pack a good pair of waterproof gloves as building a snowman upon your arrival is a must.
For a unique and less crowded Christmas escape, consider Slovenia. Known for its stunning landscapes, this European gem often gets overlooked when it comes to holiday destinations, but is one of the most exquisite places to visit in winter. The extremely cold weather in December also provides the perfect excuse to cosy up in pubs, bars, and cafes.
Recommended tour: Christmas on Lake Bled
- Touring Ljubljana: Explore Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, which is adorned with festive decorations and offers charming Christmas markets where you can shop for local crafts and delicious treats.
- Take a turn around the lake: Venture to the shores of Lake Bled, a postcard-worthy destination with a fairytale island in the middle, where Bled Castle overlooks the serene waters.
- Visit Postojna: Explore one of the world's most famous caves, the giant chasm at Postojna, where you can witness spectacular underground formations.
Top Tip: Make sure to indulge in a kremšnita (cream cake) on your trip, as it's a delightful way to embrace the local culture and savour the flavours of Slovenia.
Italy: often associated with summer, yet it can be a hidden gem for winter travellers. The incredible snowy landscapes of the Dolomites, combined with Italian charm, cuisine, and history, create a perfect Christmas base for all kinds of wintery adventures.
Recommended tour: Christmas in the Italian Dolomites
- Live as a Roman: Explore the former Roman settlement of Trento and wander through its enchanting Christmas markets, where you can find unique gifts and feel what it would have been like to be a Roman hundreds of years ago.
- Christmas embodied: Visit Bolzano, renowned as the 'Italian Capital of Christmas,' and experience its lively and festive atmosphere with colourful decorations and markets.
- Into the mountains: Embark on a journey into the Dolomites, a UNESCO World Heritage site, to immerse yourself in the magic of this winter wonderland, where snow-covered peaks and charming villages await.
Top Tip: This area shares a lot of similarities with its northern neighbour, so don't be surprised if you see food that looks more German than Italian, adding a unique twist to your culinary experiences.
Fancy Something Different This Christmas?
Escape the traditional Christmas spirit and embrace winter sun as you journey to South Africa in December. It's one of the best places to spot wildlife and immerse yourself in a culture vastly different from your own, providing a welcome break from the wintry weather back home.
- Starry night: Experience the unique opportunity to dine under the stars in a safari game reserve, creating unforgettable memories and connecting with the natural beauty of South Africa.
- Wildlife Spotting: Embark on 4x4 drives to spot Africa's famous "big five" animals—lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard, and rhinoceros—in their natural habitat.
- Eat your fill: Feast on traditional South African cuisine in the bush, savouring flavours and dishes that are a true reflection of the country's diverse culinary culture.
Top Tip: Despite the heat, it's a good idea to wear light clothing that covers your body to reduce the risk of heatstroke, ensuring you stay comfortable and safe while enjoying the warm South African summer.
With these remarkable destinations, there's an ideal December getaway for everyone. Whether you long for the magic of Christmas, snowy adventures, or a break from winter's chill, these places hold the key to unforgettable experiences. So, embark on your December adventure, and embrace the spirit of the season wherever you choose to go.