Combining historic settings with quirky local traditions and delicious food, these short breaks are guaranteed to get you in the festive spirit. The best thing? You can reach them all from Gatwick, with a direct train from Victoria.

Vienna Austria

17th November – 26th December

Children lacing up their ice skates, air heavy with the spices of glühwein (hot wine) and wooden huts sparkling with frost – Vienna’s Rathaus Market delivers on all of these clichés and so many more. It’s one of the biggest, gaudiest and most over-the-top on our list, plus it boasts the glimmering arches and towers of the neo-Gothic town hall as its backdrop. For something slightly more understated, head to Spittelberg’s narrow streets, which will be lined by stalls offering handmade ceramics and silver jewellery.

MORE FESTIVE FUN

Vienna has one of the world’s longest ballet traditions and little could be more festive than slipping into one of the red velvet boxes at the Vienna State Opera House to watch The Nutcracker, showing on selected nights throughout December.
wiener-staatsoper.at


Tallinn Estonia

16th November – 07th January

Situated on the cobbled Town Hall Square, Tallinn’s Christmas Market looks like a scene from a Victorian Christmas card. The twinkling wooden huts unfurl from an enormous Christmas tree, which has been put up every year since 1441. Tuck into steaming plates of black pudding and sour cabbage before visiting Father Christmas in his candlelit grotto. If he asks, you’ve been good… Frost is guaranteed, while a dusting of snow often adds to the magical festive setting.

MORE FESTIVE FUN

Christmas Jazz is a two-week festival at the start of December that sees churches, bars and cafés transformed into intimate venues for concerts. jazzkaar.ee


 

Venice Italy

23rd December – 24th December

The most romantic city on Earth hardly needs more to recommend it than palaces lining medieval canal systems and handmade pasta in family-run trattorias. Yet, come Christmas, it has the added appeal of scores of classy markets tucked away in its crumbling campos. Head to the Palazzo Zenobio’s indoor market for high-end gifts and stylish stocking fillers, and the Campo Santo Stefano to buy Venetian glass baubles from the lagoon island of Murano, as well as pandoro cake snowy with icing sugar.

MORE FESTIVE FUN

With its rowdy wine bars and student population, the Dorsoduro area offers a glimpse of the ‘real Venice’. At Christmas its narrow streets are draped in fairy lights, perfect for an atmospheric evening stroll.
visit-venice-italy.com


Edinburgh Scotland

17th November – 05th January

Its Gothic spires and misty lanes feel magical all year round (it is where J.K. Rowling dreamed up Harry Potter after all), but the Scottish capital really comes into its own over the festive period, when Hogmanay brings bagpipers and fireworks to the squares and the historic pubs heave with merrymakers. In the shadow of Edinburgh Castle, the German-inspired market in East Princes Street Gardens boasts a selection of locally-made handicrafts and edible gifts like whisky, as well as a twinkling Ferris wheel that’s known locally as ‘the Edinburgh Eye’.

MORE FESTIVE FUN

Every day of advent the city will act like a giant calendar by welcoming visitors into one of its most mysterious buildings for free. edinburghschristmas.com


SalzburgAustria

22nd November – 26th December

Nestled between the formidable Hohensalzburg fortress and venerable cathedral, Salzburg’s Christkindlmarkt is our pick for anyone with an interest in history. Icicles form on the roofs of the little huts that glow with the warmth of roasting chestnuts and baking apples, while traditional wind music floats out of Residenz Square on Thursday and Saturday nights. Nearby, a torch-lit courtyard at Hellbrunn Palace hosts a small yet eye-wateringly picturesque market (24th Nov – 24th Dec) with real reindeer and 600 trees.

MORE FESTIVE FUN

St. Peter was one of Mozart’s favourite restaurants and they now offer candlelit Christmas dinners with a musical interlude between every course. stpeter.at


 

Copenhagen Denmark

17th November – 30th December

Every December, something strange happens in Copenhagen: for a few weeks a year, the residents of Europe’s ‘capital of cool’ embrace Christmas in all its gaudy, childish joy, before returning to their usual tasteful minimalism come January. Heritage theme park Tivoli Gardens is at the centre of the action, with half a million twinkling lights and 43 restaurants serving everything from roast pork to sugared almonds. Follow the smell of hot chocolate to the Hans Christian Andersen Christmas market at Axeltorv (16th Nov – 31st Dec). Every stall has a different fairytale theme – perfect for little ones.

MORE FESTIVE FUN

Explore the Danish concept of hygge (cosiness that leads to a feeling of contentment) with a three-hour Hygge and Happiness walking tour, stopping for coffee and cake in snug cafes along the way.
getyourguide.com


Seville Spain

14th December – 5th January

For an entirely different experience, leave that novelty jumper at home and stroll through Seville’s Moorish streets until you reach the hip Alameda de Hercules district, home to the Navideño Mercado de Artesanía de Sevilla. This is Christmas without the cringe. Think 80 sleek stalls specialising in artisan goods like pottery and glass blowing, while chic locals sip vermouth beneath a canopy of orange trees.

MORE FESTIVE FUN

Make the most of the balmy winter weather with a tapas crawl along the river in Triana. This area was once a favourite with sailors and gypsies but is now being reimagined by the city’s coolest restaurateurs. visitasevilla.es