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Last updated: 9 June 2023

The Roseate Edinburgh photographed by Kira Turnbull.

Choose from a merry selection of classically Christmassy city destinations

The most wonderful time of the year is fast approaching, which means we’re looking forward to indulging in a few Christmas clichés – whether it’s window shopping the fabulously festive displays with hot chocolate in hand, strolling snow-sprinkled streets beneath dazzling light displays, or lingering over gingerbread and cinnamon-scented market stalls. These winter city breaks promise plenty of Christmas cheer, plus some of the world’s best boutique hotels to bed down in.

1. Visit the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, Denmark

When you visit the capital of cool and birthplace of hygge, you know that your winter holiday is going to be something special. A long standing Christmas attraction for both locals and tourists, Tivoli Gardens have been the centre of Copenhagen’s festivities since they opened in 1843. During the annual Christmas lights ceremony, Tivoli lake is illuminated with a dazzling display of lights and fireworks.

Little ones will love visiting Santa Claus in his grotto at Honey Cake Castle for some hot chocolate and to decorate their very own honey cake hearts, while grown-ups can cosy up with some gløgg in one of the many Nordic-style cabins.

Nimb Hotel

Where to stay: A masterclass in Moorish romance and hygge-luxe, the Nimb Hotel gives guests direct access to Tivoli Gardens, which means every suite comes with twinkling views of the festive displays (not to mention four-poster beds, original artworks, log fires, Cakenhagen treats, and in-room advent gifts during December).

2. Go ice-skating in New York City, USA

We’ve all seen the movies. New York City is the place to be during the holiday season. Ice-skating amidst the frost-tipped trees of Central Park is practically a Christmas rite of passage, while visiting the iconic Rockefeller Center tree – which has stood as a holiday beacon for New Yorkers and visitors alike for more than eight decades – remains a quintessential New York holiday experience. Go for a spin around the picture-perfect Rockefeller ice rink, which opened for the winter season last week. Meanwhile, the 17,000-square-foot outdoor rink in Bryant Park is free and open late, you’ll just need to rent your skates.

Where to stay: Our collection of luxury New York City hotels are all within easy reach of the Rockefeller Center, both on foot or via the instantly recognisable yellow taxis. Superbly central to Manhattan’s wealth of attractions, The Iroquois Hotel is a short walk away from Fifth Avenue, while WestHouse Hotel is just steps away from Central Park.

3. Shop the Christmas markets in Edinburgh, Scotland

Charming cobbled streets brimming with independent shops and quaint cafés, row upon row of grey-washed Georgian townhouses, sitting prettily along picturesque crescents and well-kept gardens. There is something soul-stirring about Edinburgh whatever the season, but there’s a touch more magic when the Scottish capital has a dusting of snow.

Recently listed as Europe’s best Christmas market by National Geographic, the annual festive stalls will return to The Mound, Princes Street and Princes Street Gardens from the 25th November 2022 – selling gourmet hot chocolate (a warming shot of whisky is recommended!), gingerbread, and an array of artisan gifts.

Where to stay: Our favourite Old Town address is The Roseate Edinburgh, two stylish Victorian townhouses with complimentary parking, freestanding bathtubs overlooking the Pentland Hills, and an impressively stocked whisky cabinet – while the Nira Caledonia promises elegant Georgian accommodation in the heart of Edinburgh’s New Town.

The Roseate Edinburgh (left) photographed by Kira Turnbull / Nira Caledonia (right).

4. Satisfy your sweet tooth in Brussels, Belgium

Just a short Eurostar train journey away from LondonParis, and AmsterdamBrussels is a perfect pit-stop for soaking up some French-meets-Flemish culture – while indulging in some festive sweet treats. Belgium is synonymous with some of Europe’s most famous chocolate brands, and while it seems like there are chocolate shops on every corner, there’s really only one name you need to know. Belgian-born Pierre Marcolini is one of the few chocolatiers to roast his cocoa beans himself, and each handmade creation tastes as good as it looks – from beautifully packaged boxes of chocolates, to truffles, macarons, and jams.

Images courtesy of @maisondandoy and @wittamer_be

A trip to Brussels wouldn’t be complete without savouring the city’s elevated café culture – wrap up warm and head to Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, where you can browse the arched shopfronts for specialist sweets and eat traditional Liège waffles in one of the atmospheric cafés.

Where to stay: Discretely tucked away on the Place des Martyrs – one of the city’s most striking squares – Juliana Hotel Brussels feels like a well-kept secret you’ll only want to share with stylish friends. The 43-key property houses 37 individually designed rooms and six sensational suites, each with views over the heritage-listed square.

5. Experience the Winter Illuminations in Tokyo, Japan

It feels as though every tree-lined street is lit up during Tokyo’s annual Winter Illuminations, as many parts of the city put on one sensational display after another from November to February. From the Ao no Dokutsu (Blue Cavern) in Shibuya, to the 2km of pink LED lights designed to resemble cherry blossoms along the Meguro River, there is something different to see in almost every district. Dip into secret sushi counters and sake bars as you stroll, twisting and turning down narrow lantern-lit lanes brimming with little ramen stalls, and matcha serving salons – you can’t go wrong with a warming broth or brew as you take in the twinkling lights.

Where to stay: Either Hotel Gajoen Tokyo or The Tokyo Station Hotel makes the ideal base to explore the capital at its brightest – located in the hip neighbourhood of Meguro, the luminescent blossoms of Meguro-gawa Minna No Illumination (named for its environmentally friendly self-generated pink bulbs) are just a short stroll away from Hotel Gajoen, while the long-running Marunouchi Illumination is held in front of the historic station.

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