Christmas getaways: Five best weekend breaks for 2015
It was Roman Statesman Seneca who said “Travel and change of place impart new vigour to the mind.” And aren’t the Christmas season and the impending New Year the best time to start? Whether you yearn for the festivities abroad, or something a little different closer to home, this a selection of the five best weekend getaways for winter 2015.
From London’s Kings Cross station straight into the heart of Paris, one can indulge at the patisseries and chocolatiers, or get immersed in the festivities. Markets span from a Japanese Christmas market (Espace Cinko), to the Champs Elysées’ own Christmas village, whilst the Galeries Lafayette’s 27-metre Christmas tree is a sight not to be missed. Romantic, historic Paris, a paradise of shopping and beautiful architecture, is scattered with quirky window displays and light-filled streets, carousels and ice rinks. And don’t forget this year celebrates Nicolas Fouquet’s 400th anniversary and the 10th edition of Chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte’s Christmas celebrations. The chateau is a worthwhile day trip while you’re in town.
University life comes to a standstill over the winter season, but Christmas takes over. The North Pole Christmas Festival becomes a firm favourite (on until 4th January), featuring a Christmas market, ice rink, fairground and festive foods for all. In keeping with tradition, the Cambridge Arts Theatre have their annual pantomime on until January, whilst the surrounding quaint streets and grandiose buildings make the city the perfect place to shop, wander and soak up some history.
Edinburgh’s seasonal offerings include Christmas festivities and also, of course, Hogmanay – the world-famous Scottish New Year festival. As the streets are lit up and mulled wine flows, three markets take you straight into the fittingly named Santa Land. It becomes evident that Edinburgh knows how to celebrate. Indie cinema The Cameo will fill their screen with Christmas favourites, including A Muppet Christmas Carol and Home Alone, whilst this year will also see the mystical performance of Circa: Beyond in St Andrew’s Square. The city of Edinburgh, as well as the nearby Lothians, are prime locations to escape for festive walks, including exploring the 70 acres of Royal Botanic Gardens in their winter guise.
Short breaks at any time of year can easily be spent in the 64 square-miles of Amsterdam. As if cobbled streets lining the canals and the mixture of modernist and renaissance architecture weren’t enough, Amsterdam becomes consumed by Christmas festivities. With 12 markets until January, including the Scandinavian market and a Charles Dickens market, Christmas is set to be all around. Outside of the market foods, Amsterdam has seen a rise in foodie culture. Rijsel (Marcusstraat 52), Hotel de Goudfazant (Aambeeldstraat 10H) and Koevoet (Lindenstraat 17) are just three of the greatest places to eat in the city. The majority of museums remain open around the festivities, whilst a plethora of performances and events from the Nationale Opera & Ballet, the RAI Amsterdam and a variety of others join the city in celebration.
Cyprus for a weekend in December may seem both unconventional and too warm, but with Christmas being a major holiday, a long weekend in the Mediterranean is never a bad idea. Some hotels offer weekend packages, such as Paphos’ The Elysium, which also includes a Christmas Eve gala dinner, and the Amathus Hotel has its own set of festivities, all adjoining the Amathus beach. If you immerse yourself in the culture, you can find yourself eating festive delicacies such as Cypriot Christmas cookies kourabiedes alongside the locals, or you can spend your days at one of many boutique vineyards. It’s great weather for a visit to the historic church of Agios Lazaros in Larnaca, or one of the many other monasteries and world heritage sites. Nicosia’s Pop Up Festival is spending this year at City Plaza (until 24th December). Over three floors and in its third year, the festival will comprise of shops, performances and exhibitions.