INSPIRATION • November 2019
Whether you’re after an injection of festive spirit or want to escape the chill, travel writer Alicia Miller knows just where to go
Snow dusts romantic Wawel Royal Castle (pictured above); choir singing rings out in winding medieval streets; and one of Europe’s finest Christmas markets sprawls across the 13th-century central square – if you’ve never been to Krakow, December is the time. This Christmas-crazy city celebrates alfresco all through the month, with elaborate nativity displays, barbecued sausages, sleigh rides and old-school crafts (embroidery, gingerbread and painted dolls abound). Don’t miss oscypek, a smoked cheese served wrapped in bacon or topped with cranberry jam.
Dream flight: Take BA872 from Heathrow at 15:15 on Friday and arrive into Krakow at 18:45.
Winter frostiness just not your thing? Get yourself to Marrakech, where December daytime highs hit a soothing, sun-warmed 20°C. It’s the perfect weather for exploring the warren-like souk – too sweltering in summer – and for stocking up on hand-woven straw bags, metallic teapots, jewellery and patterned pillows (don’t forget to haggle!). Afterwards, wander Majorelle Garden (pictured above), a photogenic two-and-a-half acres of landscaped bamboo, palm and bougainvillea plants once owned by designer Yves Saint Laurent.
Dream flight: Take BA2666 from Gatwick at 13:40 on Friday, and arrive into Marrakech at 18:10.
Most European cities have one Christmas market – Copenhagen has more than a dozen. And from Scandi-style handmade ceramics in swish modern Axel Towers to traditional festive crafts at romantic old Nyhavn harbour, you’ll find something different in each one. Can’t decide? Sink a glass of steaming Danish gløgg (mulled wine), then hop on the fairground rides at illuminated Tivoli Gardens (pictured above), Copenhagen’s historic pleasure gardens. Between the fairy-light-illuminated buildings and Santa meet-and-greets, this might just be the most Christmassy place in Denmark.
Dream flight: Take BA822 from Heathrow at 18:45 on Friday and arrive into Copenhagen at 21:40.
In December, subtropical Madeira bathes in sunshine, with average highs over 20°C – so, do you really need another reason to go? How about for its epic forest walks, tracing levadas (canal systems) through craggy, lush hills (pictured above)? Or for the creaky old fortified-wine tasting rooms, where you can sip sweet, unctuous Sercial straight from the cask? If that’s still not enough, consider the plush seaside resorts, where you can flop on a lounger and simply listen to waves crashing against the cliffs...
Dream flight: Take BA2780 from Gatwick at 07:10 on Friday and arrive into Funchal at 11:00.
Twinkling fairy lights; steaming vats of mulled wine; fire-licked rolls of sugar-dusted pastry ‘chimney cakes’ – the Hungarian capital pulls out all the stops when it comes to Christmas markets. From the end of November, the historic city centre is dominated by old-fashioned stalls selling wooden crafts, gifts and snacks – wander Vorosmarty Square, with its decked-out Christmas tree, then hit the big ice rink outside the Basilica. Getting cold? Warm up at famed Szechenyi Baths, (pictured above) where you can enjoy a soak in steaming outdoor thermal pools surrounded by ornate architecture.
Dream flight: Take BA870 from Heathrow at 18:25 on Friday and arrive into Budapest at 21:55.
From its honeyed beaches to its sparkling blue coves, Malta – home to Valletta, the sunniest city in Europe – is lucky enough to bathe in year-round rays. December is no exception, when it’s the perfect temperature to sit out for morning coffees and pastries in cream-stone St George’s Square; to catch a midday luzzu boat ride across the yawning harbour; to hike prehistoric ruins at Borġ in-Nadur, or to dive into the azure depths of the Santa Maria Caves (pictured above).
Dream flight: Take BA2644 from Gatwick at 08:00 on Friday and arrive into Malta at 12:15.