Spark your festive spirit at these glorious Christmas city breaks in Europe. From mystical Florence to classy Gothenburg, these winter escapes (paired up with the best historic hotels in each city) have Yuletide all wrapped up.
1. Lisbon, Portugal
Frenzied all summer, Lisbon is a calmer sensation at Christmas. It smatters all the senses with the season; particularly the street vendors, who flood the city’s shopping streets in a smoky fog of roasted chestnuts. Follow your nose, hunting down custardy pastéis, cinnamon-infused espressos and all manner of belly-filling soups. Head to the Baixa area for Christmas markets you can’t miss, including Rossio and Praça do Município.
Where to stay: What was once an art deco stunner designed by modernist architect Cassiano Branco, is still an art deco stunner – just fitted up with all your favourite modern luxuries. The chic, calming rooms of Hotel Britania are beautifully restored and whisk you right back the the glamour of the 1940s.
2. Gothenburg, Sweden
Where to stay: Naas Fabriker Hotell & Restaurant is one of the loveliest places to stay in Gothenburg. Set in a grand old cotton mill on Sävelången Lake, it blends magnificent design with gorgeous surroundings and wonderful hospitality.
3. Strasbourg, France
Where to stay: Refined, luxurious and dripping with history, Bouclier d’or is a 16th-century dream that still flaunts Renaissance columns, ancient frescoes and an immaculate spiral staircase.
4. Groningen, Netherlands
Where to stay: Its Renaissance garden has romantic nooks in every corner, but you’ll probably just want to snuggle up in your luxurious cloud-like bed at the incredible 15th-century Hotel Prinsenhof.
5. Cork, Ireland
Where to stay: The plush rooms and grand restaurant at Blairs Cove House – all crystals, crisp sheets and candlelight – will whisk you straight back into the Georgian age.
6. Krakow, Poland
Where to stay: Escape the festive hullabaloo without having to travel very far at all. Sierakow Manor is just 20km south of Krakow, with crackling fires, an award-winning restaurant and a mystical four-hectare park.
7. Zurich, Switzerland
Where to stay: In the heart of Zurich’s Christmassy old town is Marktgasse Hotel. It may have been round for six centuries, but this stunning boutique stay is bang up to date and ready to swaddle you in new-age luxury.
8. Oslo, Norway
Where to stay: It’s almost like it was built for cosy Christmas getaways: Lysebu is an enchanting fairytale farm built in 1916, perched in the hills above Oslo. It’s Norwegian to the hilt, with traditional architecture, cross-country ski trails and immaculate local cuisine.
9. Leuven, Belgium
Where to stay: For a festive hotel stay with plenty of charm, The Fourth is a beautiful respite from the harse winter chill. Named ‘The Fourth’ to reflect the building’s four-stage history (it’s been The Guilds, a theatre, a bank, and now a hotel), you can expect old-world grandeur blended with pure modern zest at this 15th-century gem.
10. Vienna, Austria
Where to stay: The oldest hotel in the city is a chestnut’s throw away from all the best Christmas markets in Vienna. But location isn’t the only reason you’ll love staying here: Hotel Stefanie is a charming, authentic retreat from the chilling winter cold – wrapping you up in old-world guest rooms, lip-smacking wiener schnitzels and lashings of Viennese ‘Schmäh’.
11. Florence, Italy
Where to stay: Castello di Gargonza feels like a personal winter paradise. Far enough from Florence to escape the city, but close enough to make an ideal base, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime stay set in a fairytale fortified village. The astonishing hotel dates back to the 1300s, when Dante himself was once a guest. Expect authentic Tuscan cuisine, regional wines, roaring fires and immaculately restored guest rooms.
12. Cardiff, Wales
Where to stay: With only 12 bedrooms, Holm House is like staying at your really cool, really rich friend’s home. Part-country house, part-townhouse; the boutique hotel and spa perfects playful and luxe without losing any personal touches. You won’t find any corporate vibes here, just freestanding copper baths, locally sourced food and eclectic rooms throughout.