Most of us visit cities in the summer. We want warm weather, even though it might actually turn out to be a bit too warm and we find ourselves surrounded by hordes of other people with the same idea. So, why not consider visiting your favourite European city in December, you’ll find that not only are all the usual attractions open but that there are plenty of additional seasonal treats as well.
1. London, England
One of the great things about visiting a city in December is that much of the seasonal entertainment is free and this is certainly true of London. The Christmas lights of Oxford Street are world famous and a stroll past the brilliantly illuminated shop windows is wonderfully atmospheric. In fact, you’ll find spectacular lights all over London: Carnaby Street, Regent Street, Bond Street, The Strand and Kew Gardens all have their own impressive displays. If you want a really big dose of seasonal spirit, then head to Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park. Entry is free but there’s plenty on offer to tempt you to part with your money: two circuses, the UKs largest ice rink, a big wheel, the Ice Kingdom and plenty of themed bars to warm you up with a glass of mulled wine.
2. Rome, Italy
A chance to enjoy this magnificent city when it’s not full of tourists. It’s absence of chain stores means small shops and a refreshingly old fashioned shopping experience. December is the start of the citrus season so visit the market at Piazza Navonna and pick up some oranges to ward off winter colds. On the 6th December entry to the Forum, the Colosseum, Ostia Antica and the Galleria Borghese are all entirely free.
3. Prague, Czechoslovakia
Under a blanket of snow, nowhere is more Christmassy than Prague. The Christmas markets in the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square are irresistible. You’ll come away with wooden toys, glassware and any number of locally made items. In the evening, you can go on a tour of Prague’s wonderful bars and pubs or take in a classical concert at any one of a number of stunning venues. If you are after something a little more exciting, then head to the World Poker Tournament at the Grandior Hotel which runs from the 3rd – 6th of December.
4. Paris, France
What better way to see the Christmas lights of Paris than by enjoying a meal at 58 Tour Eiffel, the spectacular three-star restaurant on the first stage of the Eiffel Tower. After your meal, you can enjoy a ground level view of the lights with a night time cruise down the Seine. Classical music always has a special place in this city and where better to enjoy a seasonal concert than in the newly restored La Sainte Chapelle with its soaring stained glass and stunning gothic architecture.
5. Barcelona, Spain
With over four hundred illuminated streets, Barcelona really puts on a show at Christmas. Be sure to see the often bizarre and surprising life size nativity scene at Placa Sant Jaume before going on to the market beneath the cathedral where you’ll find traditional Catalan gifts. A particularly charming seasonal tradition are the giant logs, affectionately known as ‘crapping logs’. These logs have legs, a smiley face and a red hat and when beaten with a stick they poo sweets.