9 unique festive breaks to try this Christmas

As we write, Christmas is only about 100 days away. And while that might not sound too imminent, if you’re hoping to get away, it’s time to get planning! We’ve shared our top tips for Christmas breaks and holidays; from festive markets you might not have heard about to resorts combining Santa visits with sunshine.

9 unique festive breaks to try this Christmas

3 unique Christmas markets to visit in 2023

Valkenburg’s Christmas Market in the Netherlands is a delight for the fact that some of its stalls are in the eerie caves and tunnels of the 18th-century Gemeentegrot quarry, lit by illuminated festive figurines. The event runs from late mid-November until early January and includes regular overground stalls selling products from the Limburg region.

Gothenburg in Sweden – the world’s most sustainable city – is a lovely place to visit all year round, with its fabulous Liseberg amusement park combining quaint traditional rides with hi-tech coasters. In winter, Liseberg is also the setting for a gorgeous Christmas market with ice-skating, a Santa’s village with workshops run by elves, and traditional Swedish festive fare from stalls and restaurants.

Croatia may not spring to mind as a festive destination, but at Christmas its capital Zagreb becomes a winter wonderland - especially around Zrinjevac Park with its lanterns, wooden huts, and stalls selling festive treats such as štrukli pastries with soft cheese. Zagreb advent also runs across the city for six weeks from late November, with live music and ice rinks in various locations.

3 of the best ways to spend Christmas

Many hotels and resorts around the world see visits by Santa, but few match his arrival by helicopter at the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah in Muscat. Spread across two wings, one family-friendly, this resort has amazing facilities and amenities that make it great for winter sun. And in December, you benefit from milder temperatures that are perfect for both lounging on the beach and for exploring.

Alternatively, embrace the cold with a private wilderness escape in Scandinavia, at Octola – a ten-bedroom chalet on a private forested reserve in the Finnish part of Lapland, that's ideal for families and groups. For a true winter wonderland feel, you can explore the surrounds with a wilderness guide and there’s also Nordic dining from your private chef.

Sparkling at any time of year, New York City really comes into its own at Christmas. With must-see sights including ice rinks, festive markets, famous live window displays by iconic department stores, and classic entertainment including Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular, the New York City Ballet's The Nutcracker, and Handel's Messiah at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

Where to spend Christmas in the sun

Christmas Day on safari, anyone? You can do all this and more with a Christmas trip to South Africa, which is in full summer bloom at this time of year. That said, because of its history, the country has public holidays around this time of year. Take part in popular activities including trips to the beach, hiking, and visits to mountains, forests, waterfalls, and national parks – including Kruger with its opportunity to spot the Big Five.

Or celebrate Christmas before everyone else with a big trip to Australia. Kids here are on their summer holidays from mid-December, and there are Christmas festivals and carol services, big Christmas lunches (usually of seafood and cold dishes), and Boxing Day beach barbecues. Boxing Day also sees a famous yacht race from Sydney to Tasmania that’s well-worth a watch.

Then there’s Barbados, a party-loving island perfect for a festive getaway and a relaxed Christmas Day on the beach – but also for light displays and other festive decorations, carol singing, and holiday markets. 

For more inspiration for 2023 Christmas holidays, or to book ahead for Christmas 2024, call your Travel Counsellor today.

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