Festive escapes

Enjoy a seasonal mini-break before the big day arrives

Salzburger Christkindlmarkt

by Zoe Bishop |

Tour Europe’s Christmas markets

Christmas market
©Gendarmenmarkt Square

Get yourself into the holiday spirit with a week-long trip to some of Europe’s finest Christmas markets. Starting in Berlin, you’ll be able to enjoy some of the famous sites, such as the Berlin Wall Memorial and the Brandenburg Gate, before tucking into a bratwurst and exploring the festive market in Gendarmenmarkt Square. Enjoy a leisurely train to Nuremberg, where you can try some traditional German cake, Nuremberg Lebkuchen – it’s a bit like gingerbread – before exploring the fairy-tale inspired stalls and old-fashion carousels. Next up is Austria’s Salzburg with its historic square, and a climb to Hohensalzburg Castle, as well as a stop at the Hellbrunner Christmas market. Your last stop is beautiful Vienna – enjoy a hot beverage and cake in the famous coffee houses, sipping warm mugs of Glühwein, and visit landmarks such as The Vienna State Opera House or the must-see viewpoint from the top of St Stephen’s Cathedral, which showcases stunning views of the city. Enjoy any one of the unique yuletide markets, with Christkindlmarkt being one of the favourites, situated in front of Rathaus City Hall.

• Christmas in Central Europa: Berlin to Vienna tour, costs from £1,099 per person for seven days (excluding flights). Departures are on 28 November or 12 December. Visit Gadventures.com to book your place.

Retreat to a wintry manor

Burleigh Court in Gloucestershire
©Burleigh Court in Gloucestershire

Fancy getting your creative flair going, while staying in a 200-year-old country manor? Then enjoy a weekend stay at Burleigh Court in Gloucestershire and try your hand at Christmas wreath-making. With a local florist, you’ll learn how to make a beautiful wild wreath, followed by a delicious afternoon tea, all homemade with locally sourced products. For the rest of your break, relax in the cosy surroundings of this beautiful house with roaring fires, wintry gardens and delicious festive menus. If you fancy leaving the confines of your hotel, then the beautiful Cotswolds is right on your doorstep.

• Pre-Christmas Advent Stays start from £159 per night, including breakfast. Wreath-making and afternoon tea, £69 per person – book online at Burleighcourtcotswolds.co.uk/Christmas-new-years or call 01453 883 804.

Find festive arts and crafts

Chester market
©Chester market

Head to Chester for a mini-break and enjoy one of the UK’s most popular markets. Running from 18 November to 22 December, browse 60 wooden chalets selling gifts, local food, handmade jewellery, crafts, and the perfect stocking fillers. Located in the city’s Town Hall square opposite Chester Cathedral, with a sparkling Christmas tree in the centre, magic is in the air! Make the most of your weekend with a stay at boutique hotel Oddfellows Chester, which includes a festive afternoon tea.

• Odd Festive Break, from £250 for two nights, room only, in a Caldecott classic room, includes afternoon tea. Book at[ Oddfellowschester.com](http://Chesterchristmasmarket.com call 01244 345454. Visit Chesterchristmasmarket.com for more information.

Enjoy a classic carol concert

London Lights
©London Lights

Get this year’s festivities off to a sparkling start and enjoy the Christmas Carols concert at London’s iconic Royal Albert Hall. Part of the venue’s 150th anniversary celebration, this year’s event will be even more magical than ever before. Omega Breaks offers a package with an overnight stay in the city and return coach travel, giving you time to enjoy a few hours’ shopping in the capital’s iconic stores like Harrods and Selfridges. And don’t forget to stroll along Carnaby Street and Regent’s Street to see the stunning festive lights displays.

• Departs from 18 December from a range of UK pick-up points. Prices from £129 per person, including one night’s bed and breakfast, return coach travel and ticket to Christmas Carols. Visit Omegabreaks.com to book or call 0330 013 0145.

Hit the shops for presents

Hit the shops for presents
©Voco Oxford Thames

For the ultimate shopping experience, head to Bicester Village. With over 160 boutiques and fantastic food choices you won’t be disappointed. Brands include classic designers like Gucci, Prada and Ralph Lauren, as well as newbies Jil Sander and Benefit Cosmetics, all offering incredible savings. Make your day that little bit easier by using the Silver Gate Package (£65, prebook at Bicestervillage.com – which includes priority access to two boutiques and the hands-free shopping experience, where your bags are securely stored until you’re ready to leave. You’ll feel like a celeb! Or better yet, stay overnight in nearby Oxford with the Voco Oxford Thames Shop Till You Drop package, and you’ll get ten per cent off most stores.

• The package starts from £287 per night, including bed, breakfast, dinner and a glass of fizz. Visit Ihg.com to book.

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