Last minute short haul Christmas getaways
Posted on: 24 December 2012 by Laura Wilkins
If you’re getting bored of the same Christmas day routine of turkey dinner, the Queen’s speech and falling asleep in your armchair by 4pm, you may want to consider getting away this Christmas. Many places in Europe are only a short flight away and boast some of the best Christmas destinations in the world, from authentic markets and magical lighting displays to traditional foods, festivals and fantastic shopping.
If you fancy getting away this year, we have compiled a list of the best European holiday destinations to liven up and celebrate this year’s Christmas festivities.
The magical bright lights of Madrid
At the end of November Christmas lights created by some of Spain’s finest designers are turned on to light up every corner of Spain’s capital city. Beautiful decorations, mixing traditional with futuristic-looking designs, brighten the streets, shop fronts and parks.
The city’s central square, Plaza Mayor, becomes the home of over a hundred market stalls that stay open long into the evening selling a huge variety of goods, from jewellery to giant Christmas trees. Unlike many Christmas markets, this is not simply a tourist market, but one where locals go when Christmas time comes around to find decorations and festive products for their homes.
With its many enchanting nativity scenes, parades and festive activities, Madrid is a wonderful destination for children at Christmas time. Head to the Plaza de Colon for toboggan rides, funfair carousels, puppet shows and children's workshops or jump on one of the brightly coloured Christmas buses for a tour of the city’s illuminations by night.
On Christmas day…..
A traditional Madrileño Christmas is a very relaxed affair, usually involving going out for drinks with loved ones, a leisurely stroll and an indulgent Christmas lunch. Wrap up warm and take a walk in the city’s beloved Retiro Park. Wine is an important part of the day and Champagne of the Catalan region is the traditional choice for a festive toast. Spanish reds are also worth a try and rated as some of the best in the world, particularly the famed Riojas and Penedeses. If you are looking for flights to Madrid, London City Airport is offering 5% off reservations made from now until 31 December for bookings made for any date. Return flights start from £171.31.
The festive fires of Sicily
The season begins on the 8th December when families begin to decorate their homes. Rather than a Christmas tree, it is the nativity scene that is placed as a centre point in most homes, churches and places of interest. One of the best on the Island is the ‘Presepe Vivente’ in Custonaci where locals dress up and re-enact the nativity deep in the Mangiapane cave from 25th December to Epiphany.
The night of the Luminari on 24th December is a tradition that takes place in many small towns including Isnello and Collesano in the Madonie Mountains. Here large bonfires are lit that burn all night to keep baby Jesus warm.
On Christmas Day…
You could follow the Sicilian tradition of eating a leisurely meal, then enjoying coffee, desserts and card games. In Sicily sweets and desserts are extremely important, with the most traditional of these being buccellati, large round biscuits filled with almonds, pistachios and dried fruits.
For a homely Christmas getaway, Think Sicily offers a range of luxury winter villas that are perfect for a festive Sicily holiday. Prices start from £2,150 for a week’s stay.
A snow-capped Christmas in Val d’Isere
With plenty of snow and plenty of entertainment, the Christmas period is a perfect time to jet away for a skiing break, leaving stress behind and making this time a truly exciting experience.
The festive season in the Alps is always magical and charming Val d’Isere, as one of the livelier French ski resorts, offers plenty of celebrations for visitors as well as reliable snow. You can make the most of the wonderful snow sports options in the area, but here you will also find plenty of steaming mulled wine, carols, festive markets and Christmas menus. The twinkling lights are switched on at the beginning of December and Christmas Eve tends to see street parades, a visit from Father Christmas and Christmas Masses held in town.
On Christmas day…
Have a Christmas with a difference and hit the slopes! Enjoy the stunning mountain top views with a festive ski session, before heading back to the village to soak up the fun vibe and tuck into a delicious feast at your hotel, with mulled wine and mince pies for tea followed by Christmas dinner with all the trimmings.
If you fancy a snow-covered Christmas, ski holidays specialists Mark Warner offer a range of great activity getaways to Val d’Isere with Christmas holidays in Val d’Isere starting from £930 per person.
Historic Sherwood Forest
If you are looking for somewhere closer to home, how does Christmas in a cosy, beautifully-furnished log cabin with a wood burning stove and panoramic views of Sherwood Forest sound? For a unique festive break, Forest Holidays has cabins available set amongst the 3,300 acres of Sherwood Pines Forest Park. Christmas is a magical time to wander through the forest, when the fantastic shapes of its gnarled and ancient oaks can be seen in all their glory. On Christmas Eve there’s even the opportunity to stroll through the ancient glades of Sherwood with an experienced ranger, looking for winter wildlife.
On Christmas day…
Enjoy a real home from home but with beautiful surroundings and more space. The Golden Oak cabins sleep up to 8 and if you want to travel with an extended family you can request cabins to be side by side. All the cabins will have a complimentary real Christmas tree for you to decorate, and a box of festive treats including handmade chocolates, mince pies and local nibbles.
Forest Holidays are currently offering 20% off 4 night stays over Christmas, visit their site for other UK breaks. Prices start from £36 per person per night.
A Tuscan Christmas
Tuscany is a truly beautiful destination all year round but is perhaps at its very best during the festive season. Every major town and city is enlivened with simple yet elegant decorations and Christmas lights as well as the traditional Christmas markets, ideal for finding unique decorations, handmade gifts and of course for tasting some delicious Italian food.
Mercanatale which takes place on December 12th and 19th in Piazza Tasso is full of food products made by local producers, including just-pressed extra virgin olive oil – great for Christmas presents!
On Christmas day…..
Christmas day is very much a time for food and celebration in Tuscany! It’s well worth trying a traditional Tuscan Christmas dinner which starts with Tortellini al brood tortellini cooked in good meat stock before the main event Arista alla Fiorentina which is Florentine roast pork followed by oranges and tangerines.
To capture the magic of Tuscany at Christmas, Tuscany Now offers a wide variety of villas in Tuscany ideal for a festive break. Prices start from £571 per person.