New York, USA
Visitors to the Big Apple always take a big bite out of Christmas, with festive markets and bazaars cropping up all over the city, along with plenty of traditions to be enjoyed, such as ice-skating at Rockefeller Centre and in Central Park and visiting the enormous tree at Rockefeller Plaza.
To pick up some last-minute Christmas treats, hit the pop-up shops at Bryant Park, which is transformed into an old-fashioned holiday market with toys and gifts, and there are also plenty of places to sip mulled wine and devour gourmet bites. Before you wander around the 120 plus stalls, be sure to take advantage of the free ice skating at The Pond.
Land in the middle of the movies – you’ll certainly recognise NYC’s iconic Grand Central Terminal from the big screen – by checking out the stalls in Vanderbilt Hall at the terminal. Here you’ll find high-end wares out of the chilly winter air, and can marvel at the laser light show that bounces off the ceiling. Be sure to swing by all the major department stores – Barney’s, Bloomingdale’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman and Macy’s – to check out the incredible window displays, with Barney’s on Madison Avenue last year collaborating with Lady Gaga to create Gaga’s Workshop.
And no trip to New York is complete without taking in a show. Soak up a traditional festive feel at the world-famous Radio City Music Hall, where you can catch a show of the Rockettes’ Christmas Spectacular; or alternatively, go razzle-dazzle-free with a New York Philharmonic holiday concert, which takes place at the Lincoln Centre, and where you can enjoy works from the likes of Tchaikovsky, Handel and Gershwin.
The Plaza It’s earned famous fans aplenty since it was built in 1907, and a stay at Fifth Avenue and Central Park South-located The Plaza Hotel guarantees a
festive stay. Dine in the famed Palm Court, or the diverse Plaza Food Hall, where you’ll find a wine bar, a cheese and charcuterie station, a sushi bar, a burger bar and rotisserie, an Asian noodle and dumpling bar, an espresso and tea bar, brick-oven pizza, and a fish and seafood grill.
Germans take their Christmas celebrations very seriously, and nowhere will you find a more festive vibe than in the Bavarian city of Munich. Boasting a Christmas market (Christkindlmarkt) in Marienplatz that dates back to the 17th century, this is the place to pick up ye olde-style decorations and gifts, sup on glühwein to keep you warm, and enjoy a host of traditional eats – including juicy sausages, apple fritters, gingerbread and fresh-from-the-oven pretzels the size of steering wheels. And you can shop to the backdrop of a choir, with concerts held on the Town Hall balcony of an evening.
After a whizz around the ice at the open-air ice rink in Karlsplatz Square, check out the Christmas Village at the Royal Residence. Here you’ll find master craftsmen at work, including toymakers, woodcarvers and glassblowers, all demonstrating their ancient skills. Plus, you can splash out on items made right before your eyes. There are also carousels for the kids and the chance to meet a very convincing St Nick in person. Finally, a short drive or train ride out of the city will deliver you to the regally romantic gates of nearby Neuschwanstein Castle in Füssen, the structure upon which Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle was based, we recommend wrapping up and settling in for a horse-drawn carriage ride around the town.
Mandarin Oriental Munich The Mandarin Oriental is already a byword for luxury, and the Munich establishment is a Renaissance building of 73 modern, and elegant rooms and suites, located centrally near Maximilian strasse. Book dinner in the wooden rooftop chalet, which has views across the snow-sprinkled
The historic capital, the Old Town of which is a Unesco world Heritage Site, is covered in snow every winter, making for some picture postcard-style photo opportunities. And Tallinn’s Christmas market has become one of the most famous and most visited in Europe, thanks to its traditional folk entertainment and stalls, where you can soak up the festive atmosphere within
its medieval confines.
Head to the Town Hall Square (Raekoja plats) to stock up on trinkets, decorations and presents you won’t find elsewhere, such as intricate home-made quilts, felt wool hats and buckwheat pillows – all of which make for something a little more interesting than the usual socks, ties and bath salts. Afterwards, hit up the open-air ice rink at the front of St Nicholas Church, or hunt down the ice sculptors who congregate in Kadrioru Park, where there are also plenty of sliding-down-hills and snowball fight opportunities to be had.
The boho-esque Rotermann Quarter is another great place to while away a darkening afternoon, where you’ll spy so-hip-it-hurts Estonians and find plenty of art galleries and chocolatiers, as well as a creative area called Loovala, where you can snap up esoteric buys from local artisans. Just wrap up warm!
Hotel Telegraaf Find this five-star hotel in the heart of the Old Town, a coveted location next to Town Hall Square. Book a sleigh ride through Rocco Al Mare – a huge open-air museum.
Any Brit will tell you that Christmas seems to start earlier and earlier in the UK, so you can be sure that a festive-season trip to the capital will fulfil all your very merry needs.
Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland – open until January 6 – is a standout attraction, thanks to its outdoor ice rink, huge 60-metre-high observation wheel, carousel, helter-skelter, circus shows and giant Christmas market. And after a long day spent soaking up the festive vibe, head into town to catch a show at the theatre, with Scrooge, which is based on the Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol, playing at the London Palladium just off Oxford Street.
Alternatively, the Royal Ballet will be performing perennial fave, The Nutcracker, at the Royal Opera House. A stroll through the frantic last-minute-shopping crowds on Oxford, Regent and Carnaby Streets will also afford you the chance to check out the city’s famous Christmas lights, which are strung across the world-renowned shopping thoroughfares, and frequent stop-offs at the likes of Selfridges, Liberty and toy store Hamleys are de rigueur to snap up some luxe buys, or enjoy a refuelling sip of champers or hot chocolate.
Duke’s Hotel this boutique hotel in St James – a stone’s throwfrom Pall Mall, Piccadilly and Green Park – was a favourite of James Bond creator, Ian Fleming, who could often be found there. With a choice of eight styles of rooms and suites to choose from, the tucked-away hotel is the place to stay for classic British understated glamour over the festive season; and pre-dinner champers in the PJ Lounge is the new in-thing to do in the city.