Hotels • October 2017
Take the fervour out of the festivities of a Christmas market break by checking into one of these stylish boltholes, dedicated to offering tranquillity in some of the world’s busiest festive hubs, says travel writer Jack Palfrey
Whether it’s the time of year or simply the Czech beer, Prague is even more tempting when lit up by fairy lights, enticing visitors to linger underneath the Christmas tree in Old Town Square. But come the time to detox, the Mandarin Oriental, housed in a former 14th-century monastery, proves an excellent tonic. Blending contemporary design with period features, the hotel offers a range of atmospheric rooms and suites, while those seeking a deep cleanse can visit the spa, uniquely located – somewhat soberingly – in a former chapel.
Club tip: Warming up in a traditional tavern is a must – avoid newer bars and stick to characterful local hangouts, such as U Medvídků in Old Town.
The Christmas markets of Austria’s capital city date back to the jubilant December ‘Krippenmarkt’ of the Middle Ages, and the festive season is still celebrated with similar zest. The air around City Hall is rich with the scent of baking vanillekipferls (crescent-shaped biscuits), mixed with the hum of traditional Bohemian carols. For the perfect intermission, The Guesthouse strikes a more tranquil chord, with designer interiors and a calm ambience best enjoyed with a traditional Viennese coffee in the on-site bakery.
Club tip: The City of Music has a wealth of concert halls – The Kursalon is the standout option, with nightly performances throughout December.
Germany’s most famous Christmas market in Nuremberg delivers more festive spirit than a slug of glühwein. Each December, the Old City morphs into a real-life Santa’s grotto, with 180 stalls stocking seasonal treats including sweet gingerbread, zwetschgenmännle (traditional dolls) and, of course, bratwurst. Le Meridien Grand Hotel offers complimentary access to the Neues Museum – perfect for quiet contemplation away from the crowds. Don’t miss the hotel’s Atelier Bar – rising local music stars play live sets here every Thursday and Saturday.
Club tip: Nuremburg has a burgeoning coffee scene with quirky cafés and roasteries popping up all over town. Try Next Door Coffee Club for a warming break from Christmas shopping.
Budapest’s snow-spritzed streets offer the usual blend of yuletide attractions, from craft stalls to skating rinks, but with a unique addition: the chance to sup mulled wine in swimwear. Along with its well-known restaurant overlooking the Danube and a striking range of rooms and suites, the art nouveau Danubius Hotel Gellért houses the world-famous Gellért Baths, a selection of indoor and outdoor thermal pools renowned for their therapeutic qualities – ideal for easing seasonal stresses and weary limbs.
Club tip: An antidote for icy afternoons, Azték Choxolat serves arguably the best hot chocolate in the city.
Traditional wares touted from market stalls, live music luring chilly punters into pubs, and kilt-clad merrymakers swaying through the streets, eager to swap a story over a stomach-warming whisky – at times it can seem as if Edinburgh is overrun. But respite is offered at the historic Glasshouse Hotel. A former church, the grand hotel has a soothing two-acre rooftop garden with spectacular views of Calton Hill.
Club tip: Full-blown escapism is on offer at The Cameo, a rustic arthouse cinema for new releases as well as festive favourites.