‘Tis the season to ... take as long a holiday as your diary permits. If you’re in the mood for a last-minute sojourn abroad, there’s no shortage of snow-capped cities and Christmas Market capitals to spend the festive season in—mulled wine on hand. We’ve jotted down our picks of the best—and sometimes, most unexpected—destinations serving up a generous dose of yuletide charm.
Does any other city do a white Christmas quite like London? (Don’t answer that, New Yorkers.) Right now, its festive season is in full swing: you’ll find more pop-up markets, outdoor ice skating rinks, carollers and candle-lit chapel services here than there’s possibly time to visit. Sweet-tooth travellers should stop by the Museum of Architecture’s Gingerbread City, opposite the V&A (it’s open ‘til December 22), where the doughy constructions of leading architecture studios are exhibited across two levels, before a visit to the Cheesegrater Christmas Market, abounding with 17 German-style wooden chalets inside its open atrium. Don’t fly home without a visit to Claridge’s, where Mr Lagerfeld himself has designed the Christmas tree. It’s 16-foot-high and inverted, with silver roots and traditional lametta.
Every December, the 403-year-old capital of Quebec Province assumes the guise of a folkloric Christmas village. Stone houses are blanketed in snow. Figures in enormous coats wander down cobblestone streets, arm in arm. The air is thick with the scent of pine trees. You can toboggan down sharp wooden tracks in front of the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, located inside the walls of Old Quebec, or take to the slopes of one of four nearby ski hills. After a day hurtling through powder (or at least, attempting), there’s nothing quite like an après-ski at microbrewery Archibald, with its woody, Chalet-like interior.
A visit to Singapore’s Christmas Wonderland is—in and of itself—bountiful enough in sights, sounds, smells and culinary morsels to constitute your entire holiday. Running from 4pm until 11pm daily until December 26, the nation’s biggest winter event spans 57, 000 square metres across Supertree Grove and The Meadow at Gardens by the Bay. Not only are there all the trappings of the finest European-style market, there are circus acts, mistletoe-making classes, a Santa grotto and towering light sculptures. If clever illumination is your thing, Orchard Road’s Christmas on a Great Street hosts a pyrotechnic light display on Christmas Eve. Electronic-chic.
Beneath the hilltop ruins of Holland’s Valkenburg Castle—which dates back to the 14th century—is a tangle of passageways known as the Velvet Caves. At Christmas, these intimate spaces are reconfigured into Europe’s largest underground market and nativity scene; one cave, MergelRijk, has a marlstone nativity scene and a life-size sculpture of Rembrandt’s Nightwatch (along with ‘cave ham’ and ‘cave beer’ served in its brasserie). Outside, the bucolic landscape is perfect for long walks or bike rides: you’ll spot chalk houses and gothic churches adorned in baroque frescoes.
You’ve most likely eaten gelato across from the Colosseum, and walked the streets of Vatican City, but if you’ve never been in Rome during December, you’re still yet to see the Eternal City at its best. Throughout the month, classical concerts are staged in heritage chapels, secret crypts and outdoor plazas—be it a sit-down show by the Schola Romana Ensemble inside the spectacular 17th century church Sant’Agnese, or a walk through the Doria Pamphilj Palace’s painting and sculpture gallery, while baroque musicians play.