Friday, December 1, 2017

Travel Link-Up: Top 5 Cities For Christmas Festivities

For the past two years, my family has made the 5,000-mile trip to celebrate Christmas with us here in England. Why? Well, I'm hoping that they want to see me (*insert angelic emoji here*), but really, I think they secretly love a European Christmas. Who wouldn't? Mulled wine enjoyed in pubs with roaring fires; Christmas carol services at the local church; frosty Christmas morning walks in the countryside; the tradition of pulling Christmas "crackers" filled with little knick-knacks and jokes ... Christmas in Europe feels so authentic.

So, here are a few of my favorite cities that turn up the dial on Christmas festivities - cities that are always on my list for a short (or long) December getaway:


We visited Amsterdam last December with my family with no expectations - and were blown away. The canals were lit with glittering lights (making a night-time canal boat tour especially memorable), the Amsterdam Light Festival was in full swing, and - best of all - we saw impossibly tall Christmas trees peeking out from the top windows of Amsterdam's famous canal-side apartments ('How did they get up there?' we wondered). There were plenty of places to enjoy hot chocolate and pancakes (or Poffertjes) dusted with powdered sugar, and the boutiques in De 9 Straatjes ("the Nine Streets") were perfect for last-minute Christmas shopping. Aside from visiting in the summer, when the air is balmy and the streets take on a dream-like quality, with people dangling their legs over the side of the canals, Christmas-time is probably the other best time to make a trip to Amsterdam. 


Paris feels magical at any time of the year. On our recent visit in August, it felt like the city was winking at me the entire time! But it takes on an especially swoonworthy-quality at Christmas. Sure, it's packed, but strolling along the Seine with a furry hood pulled up over your head with a cafĂ© au lait in hand and pushing past the crowds to get that shot of that tree at Galeries Lafayette makes a Christmas-time visit worth it. I especially love to browse the arcades in Paris around this time of year - the lights from the glow of the shops always make it look so enticing. 


What could be more authentic than a German Christmas market in ... Germany? During our same visit to Amsterdam last year, we took a day-trip to Cologne to browse the famous German markets (and to sip gluhwein and eat bratwurst, naturally). The stalls were adorable, but my favorite part of the market was being served hot chocolate in keepsake mugs that you can either return (they take a deposit when you buy your drink) or purchase to keep as a souvenir! 


Cobbled streets, horse-drawn carriages, and more Christmas trees than you can shake a stick at ... Bruges is ... well, it's a Christmas town. I spent most of my time there buying and eating all the chocolate, but cozy drinks by the fire and dinners in warm, candle-lit restaurants followed by evening walks in the bracing cold were equally fun ways to pass the time.


Finally, my home city (it's so weird but exciting to say that!) is a fantastic place to visit for Christmas: from crafty Christmas markets to festive decorations on every street, London definitely has its gladrags on in December (lights and decorations go up as early as mid-November). I love Covent Garden at this time of year, but West London feels incredibly festive as well. One of my favorite things to do - no matter how busy and crazily frantic it gets - is to stop by Fortnum & Mason in Piccadilly and Liberty in Oxford Circus, to gawp at the beautiful ornaments and delicious Christmas hampers/cakes for sale.

What's your favorite city to spend Christmas in? I'd love to know!

This post is part of December's Travel Link-Up, hosted by Emma, Angie, Polly, and Zoe. Head over to their blogs for more posts about the festive holiday season!

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