Come on mum, don’t hog all the fun – why not take the hubby and kids to Iceland as well? Along with its fjords, glaciers and the historic capital, Reykjavík, many Xmas explorers will travel north in search of the mysterious Northern Lights.
What are the Northern Lights: The lights produce an eerie natural phenomenon that illuminates the heavens with a wondrous, ephemeral display of dancing twists and swirls.
Where can I see them: Head to a rural spot away from towns and cities for the best view. However, the heavens don’t have access to your travel plans so there’s no guarantee they’ll be on show when you make your trip. For the best chance of a sighting head somewhere such as Drangsnes, a remote conurbation about 3.5 hours by road from the capital. Be sure to split your trip between spotting the Lights and spending time in Reykjavík – you’ll need a Plan B just in case the Aurora Borealis isn’t feeling friendly.
Why not take the hop across the pond and grab a slice of that Xmas ambience from the city that never sleeps?
Why New York: You’ll be hard-pressed to find a city that packs more of a festive punch than the Big Apple. If you’re travelling with kids then head to Macy’s flagship store – the setting of iconic Christmas flick, Miracle on 34th Street. If you’re looking for something a little more romantic, then head to the famed ice rink in Central Park where $11 will get you twisting and twirling in no time.
It’s all about the windows: Aside from skating, eating and drinking, Christmas in New York is all about shopping and the legendary window displays of Manhattan’s finest. From the Miracle On 34th Street displays at Macy’s, to the hip and humorous scenes at Barneys on Madison Avenue, it’s an experience that’s not to be missed.
Looking for something a little less commercial from your Xmas city break? Then head to Paris for an intoxicating cocktail of romance and festive atmosphere that’s not to be missed. With the Parisian winter thinning the crowds, there’s space and time to linger over your morning coffee and take a whistful wander through the Louvre – before destroying your credit card in a mad shopping frenzy.
Where to go: Get some great tips on where to visit by watching Woody Allen’s romantic comedy Midnight In Paris. Stroll the streets arm-in-arm and create your very own nostalgic Christmas classic.
Take the Midnight In Paris Tour: Follow the footsteps of Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) as he travels through time in the French capital.
Spending Christmas with Santa could well provide a preferable alternative to being stuck on the sofa next to the in-laws, so get your reindeer fired up and head to Swedish Lapland.
Where and what: Book one of the many Santa-themed trips to Lapland and Christmas lovers will be in for an excitement overload. Don’t despair if the thought of being continually bothered by a jovial old fella with a dodgy beard isn’t your thing – simply choose from activities such as sledding with huskies – or reindeers – snowmobile safaris, or visiting an ice hotel.
Something a little different: How about learning to build your own igloo? Perhaps not the most valuable life skill, but who wouldn’t want to learn how to build their very own house of ice? Head to Lapland and find out how it’s done in just five hours. It’ll cost £130.00. Details here.
If you’re looking for a guaranteed thrill this Christmas, then it’s time to chill at the bargain-priced Hotel Of Ice in the Romanian Carpathians – where rooms cost from just £70.00. Swerve crushingly expensive alternatives elsewhere and enjoy the stunning scenery and snow-covered peaks that surround this unique hotel built on the frozen surface of a glacial lake.
What to do: Apart from sleeping on blocks of ice mined from the frozen lake, guests can enjoy a drink in the bar, meal in the restaurant or a visit to the community’s unique ice church. You can even get married, should the need arise.
Check out the photos here: If you like the pics, then book your Christmas trip here
How much: Flights from £166.00pp, travelling Dec 13-20
Holiday 6: Prague, Czech Republic… more Christmas romance
Fancy something a little different, then Prague could be just the place. Head to the cobblestone streets of the Old Town and enjoy its Christmas market with mulled wine and local pastries during the day, before enjoying one of the many operas or ballets that take place across the city. End the night with a visit to one of the city’s trendy bars – just don’t get too drunk on the festive atmosphere.
What to do 1: There’s a whole raft of Christmas Markets in Prague, so satisfy your festive cravings by visiting as many as you can. Here’s a list of what’s on offer.
What to do 2: Thinking about staying in Prague over Christmas itself? Then don’t forget to join the locals for a traditional Czech meal that’s served on the 24th. No turkey for this menu, though – you’ll be feasting on fried carp and cold potato salad…
How much: Fly to Prague from £221.00, travelling Dec 13-20
Holiday 7: Swiss Alps… romance on rails with the Glacier Express
The Glacier Express
While a daily commute from East Grinstead to East Croydon might possess all the romance of kissing a week-old squid, taking a train trip through the snow-covered Swiss Alps is a totally different proposition. Find romance on the rails with the ultimate Xmas adventure.
What and where: Grab a bottle of something festive and take your seat on the legendary Glacier Express. The service connects the mountain resorts of St Moritz and Zermatt in the Swiss Alps and spends most of the adventure cutting through stunning scenery of the Albula / Bernina Landscapes. The journey takes 7.5 hours, crosses 291 bridges and negotiates 91 tunnels – reaching an optimum altitude of 6,670ft. So, fly into Zurich, take the 125-mile four-hour train trip to St Moritz, hook-up with the Glacier Express, be amazed by the views, stay the night in Zermatt – then do it all in reverse. High-altitude Christmas frolics to leave you seriously dizzy.
One last thing: Watch the Polar Express before you go, just because you can.
How much: Fly to Zurich from £147.00, travelling Dec 13-20
Holiday 8: Copenhagen… have a fairytale Christmas
Tivoli Gardens at Christmas
Where could be better to draw deep on the festive atmosphere than the home of Hans Christian Anderson? With snow falling and glögg warming, you’ll be left in no doubt that Christmas really has arrived.
What to do: There’s the Little Mermaid, of course, but we’d suggest a trip to the Tivoli Gardens amusement park. Opened in 1843, the world’s second-oldest theme park retains a charm and romance rarely associated with such attractions. Find more information on Tivoli Park’s Christmas experience here.
As the night draws in, head to the city centre and take a seat in one of the city’s cosy bars and watch the snowflakes fall gently from the skies.
How much: From £132.00, travelling Dec 13-20
Holiday 9: Christmas markets… don’t miss out on the fun
Tallinn Christmas market
The UK might be looking a bit drab and rainy as we hit the Christmas countdown clock, but festive salvation is always just a short flight away from Gatwick Airport with hundreds of Christmas markets just waiting to be explored.
It’s one of our favourite theme parks in Europe, but Christmas makes it positively irresistible. Wrapped up in a festive, winter atmosphere of crackling fires and winter activities, it’s a one-stop shop for thrill-seeking Xmas fans everywhere.
What to do: It’s not just your standard theme park fayre of rollercoasters and the like, Efteling also offers winter-based attractions such as a cross-country skiing course and ice skating rink. Kids will also enjoy the range of seasonal shows and displays acted out across the park. Get a full rundown of what’s on offer here at www.efteling.com.
Top tip: Make your base in the Amsterdam – just an hour away from Efteling – and double-up on your Xmas exploits. The Dutch city is at its most beautiful during the festive season, with the twinkling lights reflecting in the mirror-like waters of its canals. If it’s cold enough, you might even see them freeze – and witness the spectacle of locals donning their skates and using the erstwhile waterways as an impromptu raceway to traverse the city. Holiday dates, aside, prices will be at their lowest, too.
How much: From £72.00, travelling Dec 13-20
Holiday 11: Get your skates on… put Christmas on ice
Ten: Get your festive season underway with by getting your skates on and taking a trip to one of the many atmospheric ice rinks that pop up at this time of year. Here are a few you might want to consider…
Kungsträdgården, Sweden: It’s the most popular ice-skating rink in the city, where the open-air rink offers skates to rent as well as a great atmosphere with stands selling hot drinks and goodies to eat. Skaters of all skill levels are welcome. More information here
Strasbourg, France: With its close proximity to the German border, the French town combines flavours of both cultures to provide the ultimate Xmas experience. Along with its Christmas market, the city’s Gothic Cathédrale Notre Dame makes the perfect backdrop to the picturesque outdoor ice rink.
Munich, Germany: Ice Magic: It might be best known for Oktoberfest, but the Bavarian city also makes a great winter destination for Xmas fans. Just head for the Ice Magic rink set in the city’s 18th Century Square. See the interactive view below.
Lake Jura, Switzerland: Skating on a frozen lake with a backdrop of snow covered mountains… could there be anything more festive? Head to Switzerland for the best in high-altitude lake skating.
Paris, France: Hôtel de Ville: If you find yourself in Paris this December, then head to the open-air ice rink outside Hôtel de Ville. It’s is open until 10pm and is free for those with their own skates, otherwise you can rent a set for just €5.00 (around £4.00) Don’t worry if you’re new to the ice, the 1,365 square-metre rink includes an area for children and beginners to find the ice legs.
Holiday 12: Winter getaways… Xmas in the sun
Just a jet ride away…
For those who prefer their winter getaways to come with temperatures prefixed by a plus sign, why not check out our selection of winter getaways to the sun from Gatwick Airport…
If you want to get your Christmas kicks in the UK, then jump on a plane from Gatwick and head to Edinburgh. As one of the UK’s centres of Xmas excellence, you’ll be able to enjoy everything from seasonal shows, rides and attractions, Christmas markets, ice skating, free events and a special trip to Santa Land.
Find out more here: Get the full rundown of events here.