It’s (almost) the most wonderful time of the year: sparkling sheets of snow across fields stretching into the distance, long walks and roaring fires, and cosy cottages in which to experience all the lovely festivities. That said, the typical countryside, cottagecore-style Christmas isn’t for everyone; if you’re more interested in a Christmas city break, here’s our pick of the loveliest cities that come to life at winter.
Gorgeous Christmas City Breaks 2023
Whether you’re travelling from afar, seeking a UK city break, or looking to romanticise your hometown, London makes for an idyllic Christmas city break, with a plethora of luxurious shopping opportunities and gorgeous light displays, delicious Christmassy menus and festive afternoon teas, and family fun galore.
STAY: Mayfair is a magical destination. Stay at the Four Seasons at Park Lane for festive afternoon tea, a delicious dinner on the big day, and festive spa treatments. fourseasons.com
Germany is famous for its Christmas markets, and Cologne is one of the nation’s best destinations to make the most of it. With multiple markets dotted across the city – each devoted to a different theme – there’s plenty to see and do (and buy), including ice skating rinks, live music, and an ancient cathedral lit from a market below.
STAY: Head to the quirky 25hours Hotel Cologne The Circle, just moments from the city centre, for its unique 60s x utopia interiors. 25hours-hotels.com
Europe comes alive in the festive season; if you’re looking to take the plunge and spend the special day on the continent, consider Vienna. This icy cold city has an average December temperature around 2°C, so wrap up in your cosiest clothes, warm up with a delicious hot chocolate and slice of cake from one of the many pretty cafes, and stroll down the baroque streets and around the many Christmas markets.
STAY: Head to the Rosewood Vienna for spacious rooms, delicious cuisine, and spectacular views across the pretty city. rosewoodhotels.com
This historic French city is situated close to the German border, and is one of European Parliament’s homes. It’s also home to one of Europe’s oldest Christmas markets, the Christkindelsmärik, which has been running for four centuries and commences annually toward the end of November. This – along with the pretty river, colourful medieval buildings and stunning churches – makes Strasbourg a lovely Christmas city break option that will make you feel like you have been transported back in time.
STAY: After a long day of Christmassy explorations, wind down at the pretty Hôtel & Spa Régent Petite France, with its spacious suites and relaxing spa. regent-petit-france.com
New York City, USA
Christmas in New York City is the stuff of dreams: icy cold temperatures, the giant Rockefeller Christmas tree, beautiful window displays in designer shops, residential streets bedecked with holiday lights, and ice-skating rinks galore. It is so magical, this city has inspired a plethora of Christmas films, including Elf, When Harry Met Sally, Miracle On 34th Street.
With quaint ancient streets, a plethora of ice rinks and plenty of market stalls (pumping lovely Christmassy smells into the air), York makes for a delightful weekend break year-round, and Christmas is no different. Experience the festivities at the beautiful York Minster, womble down the famous Shambles to imagine yourself a Hogwarts student, and don’t miss the whimsical Nutcracker Christmas shop.
With the Eurostar from London St Pancras taking less than two hours and a delightful Christmas market, Brussels is the premier Christmas city break destination for Brits looking for an easy weekend away – or even day trip. With over 200 snow-dusted market stalls stretching over two kilometres, the market is sure to keep you busy, but there’s plenty of lovely sights and museums to explore across the city, too.
STAY: The luxurious Steigenberger Wiltcher’s is situated close to the city centre, with spacious rooms and pretty balconies. steigenberger.com
Munich’s world-famous Bavarian Christmas markets date back to the 14th century, with the expansive Christkindlmarkt at Marienplatz offering an extensive variety of enchanting stalls. Sip on mulled wine and nibble on candied almonds as you peruse everything the markets have to offer – or venture elsewhere in the city for centuries-old buildings, beer halls, and the neo-gothic Neues Rathaus with its cute glockenspiel show.
STAY: The stylish Ruby Rosi is a short, 15 minute stroll from Marienplatz, offering a cosy, wood-clad retreat bedecked in hand-picked vintage furnishings – perfect for continuing the Christmas fairytale back at home. ruby-hotels.com
Bath is another of the UK’s top destinations for a Christmas city break staycation, with its Christmas market (running from 24 November–11 December), lovely shops, and outdoor skating rink. After you’ve explored the festivities, stroll down the pretty regency streets and imagine you’re a Bridgerton or Jane Austen character.