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Christmas Getaway Inspiration

The first places that spring to mind when I hear ‘Christmas Market’ are Munich and Salzburg, which are gorgeous places to be at Christmas time – unfortunately, everyone (including the people that set prices for plane tickets and hotel rooms) also know this. However, Germany is not the only place which can boast a Christmas market; there are plenty of other options both close to home and abroad, which are much more affordable.

RIGA, LATVIA

This small, out of the way UNESCO World Heritage city is positively overflowing with Art Nouveau architecture, which spills out over its cobbled streets and grand boulevards. Its turbulent history of multiple occupations by starkly different cultures (from Swedish Kings to Soviet armies) gives it a certain intrigue, and Christmas is a beautiful time to explore the city. The air is icy cold, but the shops and pubs offer a cosy, warm bubble with soft, ambient lighting and plenty of mulled cider and wine on offer. In every square (and there are a lot of them), wooden huts burst with Christmas lights and gifts in the shadows of huge, decorated Christmas trees, and the local vendors invite you to try their native food and drinks. Children can ride the wooden merry-go-rounds, and fairy lights in the branches of all the trees guide you home in the evening. Flights to Latvia are relatively inexpensive compared to other destinations at this time of the year – so if you can brave the brisk air, it is definitely the place to be.

For more information about what to see in Riga, click here.

YORK, UK

Perfect for a quick getaway as it’s only a 2hr train ride from London Kings Cross, at Christmas the main street in York is filled with wooden terraced huts, each one offering a different boutique of handmade crafts and Christmas gifts. Local vendors will let you taste their wares, from biscuits and fudge to pork pies and artisan olive oil. Try to time your visit to catch the carol concert at the Minster, to ensure you are filled to the brim with Christmas spirit. You can then wander down the cobbled streets of the Shambles (which looks like it was taken straight out of Harry Potter), filling your pockets with Christmas treats, and tuck yourself into a pub for a hearty roast and a break from the cold. If you're lucky, you'll even get a dusting of snow on the ancient rooftops, which you get the best views of by walking around the city walls.

For more information about what to see in York, click here.

SALERNO, ITALY

If heading somewhere icy and freezing cold doesn’t sound like a merry Christmas to you, then the place you want to be is Salerno, which maintains a positively balmy temperature of around 12 degrees Celsius throughout December. The main draw for Salerno at the end of the year, however, is the spectacular Christmas lights display that brightens its streets, squares and parks. Every year a different artist is chosen to design and coordinate the lights that keep the city ablaze and the results are always impressive. Light installations are tucked away in every nook and cranny, and this year a starry night sky installation stretches overhead as well. In addition to the lights, they have traditional Christmas market huts for you to peruse, and a Sand Nativity at the Santa Teresa solarium to remind you of the traditional Christmas story.

For more information about what to see in Salerno, click here.

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK

Hop on a short, cheap flight and you can find yourself in Denmark, where the temperature is icy and there is the slightly higher chance of a white Christmas than in the UK. The Scandinavian city oozes ‘hygge’ in the winter, so start your day by taking yourself to one of their many cosy spots for a coffee that gives you a warm winter glow. Then head over to Tivoli, which is the world’s second-oldest amusement park and is packed with treat stalls and pantomime shows, and which sparkles with 2 million fairy lights at Christmas time. Strap on some ice skates at the outdoor ice rink at Frederiksberg, and round off your trip with dinner at one of the many Michelin-starred restaurants that adorn the city – but be prepared to book well in advance for a table at Noma, which has been named as the World’s Best Restaurant three times.

For more information about what to see in Copenhagen, click here.

COLMAR, FRANCE

Christmas in Colmar, a stunning microcosm of Alsace, is magical: nestled in their labyrinthine streets full of fascinating architecture and half-timbered houses are five interlinking Christmas markets full of passionate and enthusiatic craftsmen selling their quality products. Everywhere you look, there are Christmas illuminations and fairy lights guing your path. You are also encouraged to take part in the many events that take place, including wine tastings and tours from local vineyards, shows, concerts and childrens' entertainment.

For more information on Colmar, click here.

Photograph © Rhiannon RoyRiga Christmas Market - Photograph © Rhiannon RoyA wooden merry-go-round in Riga - Photograph © Rhiannon RoyA Christmas market stall in York - Photograph © Rhiannon RoyA Christmas Tree in Tivoli - Photograph © Rhiannon RoyCopenhagen - Photograph © Rhiannon RoyCopenhangen - Photograph © Rhiannon Roy