December is all about Christmas. Go on holiday this month and you’ll find seasonal celebrations, Christmas markets, tasty local food and curious traditions. But if you’re looking for some winter sun, there are always plenty of options all around the world.
Best for Christmas markets
If there is ever a time to visit Bath, it’s in December. This romantic Georgian city is transformed each year for Bath’s Christmas Market. Hundreds of wooden stalls line the streets and the square between Bath Abbey and the world-famous Roman Baths; each one offers handcrafted gifts, Christmas decorations, and traditional seasonal food and drink. There are plenty of ongoing events, too: on certain days there is children’s storytelling for the little ones in the crypt of St Michaels Without Church; Christmas craft workshops, carols, a host of live music performances, and theatrical shows put on by Bath Spa University students are also on offer. So, buy yourself a cup of mulled wine, fill your bags with sparkly Christmas crafts, and take a stroll around this lovely city and its superb market. The market is open between 23 November and 10 December, but events continue in the days after.
Germany is renowned the world over for its Christmas markets. One of the very best and most celebrated is the Christkindlesmarkt held annually in Nuremberg, a beautiful old city in the Franconian region of Bavaria. This market, which takes place in front of the Frauenkirche between 1 and 23 December 2017, is literally older than anyone can remember: its origins remain shrouded in historical mystery. Thanks to this long heritage, it is home to a number of peculiar traditions. Every year it is declared open by the Christkind, a young woman dressed in white and gold with sleeves like angel’s wings, who makes a speech from the church balcony. Then, guests are invited to explore the market, to enjoy traditional food like Nuremberg sausages and gingerbread, peruse stalls filled with handcrafted products, tree decorations, Rauschgoldengel (gold-foil angels), and curious little figures made of prunes. On top of that, there’s always the opportunity for some classic German Glühwein!
Best for winter warmers
Some of us are quite happy with winter weather, but for those yearning for some summer heat, there’s plenty of that to be found in the beautiful paradise of Phuket, in Thailand. With eight hours of sun and average highs of 31ºC/88°F guaranteed, there’s everything a sun-seeker could wish for. Even you don’t want to spend all day relaxing on the pearly-white beaches overlooking the crystal-clear Andaman Sea, you can explore the island’s tropical landscapes, visit the fantastic and uplifting Gibbon Rehabilitation Prokect in Talang, or peruse some Thai street food delicacies in Phuket City. But it’s the beaches that attract the most attention, including Hat Patong beach, a nightlife hotspot lined by bars, that also offers stunning views of the sunset from its northern end. Day trips to the nearby Similan Islands, Phang-Nga Bay, and Ko Phi Phi are also available, thanks to the calm clear December waters.
It is summer in Chile, and its capital city, Santiago, is blessed with warm – but not unpleasant – temperatures, with an average high of 28ºC. This growing city is fast modernising, boasting a modern metro system and an expanding financial centre, as well as beautiful 19th-century neoclassical architecture and surroundings of magnificent Andean mountains. Here, you’ll find a walkable city of cathedrals, theatres, plazas, parks, and markets, surrounded by vineyards. You can visit the home of poet Pablo Neruda, look out over the city from the tallest building in South America, or enjoy the city’s impressive jazz scene. There are a few problems to contend with: the air is heavily polluted during winter, and the main streets are noisy thanks to loud diesel buses. However, in the last decade, Santiago became the first capital city in Latin American to treat 100% of its sewage, and it’s one of the safest cities on the continent, highlighting the massive strides the city, and Chile as a whole, is making.
Best for British breaks
England’s second city is a dynamic, lively place, combining a cosmopolitan vibe with a friendly atmosphere, and plenty of history and culture. Manchester puts on a seasonal show as well, offering a continental-style Christmas market on Albert Square in front of the Town Hall, with all the usual baubles, curios, and festive foodstuffs. Manchester is also well-known for its football clubs, and December coincides with an important footballing tradition in Britain: the Boxing Day football match. This month is typically a hectic time for football clubs, and it’s no different in Manchester. Manchester United are playing on Boxing Day this year, but given the difficulty acquiring tickets to Old Trafford, it might be worth visiting one of the many non-league clubs, such as FC United of Manchester. Football fanatics might also appreciate a visit to the National Football Museum, which is located in the city centre.
As 2018 approaches, you’ll probably start wondering where to spend your New Year’s Eve. Scotland is an unbeatable choice. The traditional Scottish Hogmanay has been consistently ranked as one of the ‘100 things to do before you die’ on list after list, as one of the very best New Year’s celebrations in the world. The largest Scottish cities – Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Aberdeen – hold big, all-night celebrations with the typically New Year’s fireworks and partying. Edinburgh’s, the largest, also features the ritual burning of a Viking longship and a colourful street party. There’ll be plenty of eating and drinking and celebrating, no matter which part of Scotland you choose to visit, whether it’s the highland beauty of Inverness, the modern riverside of Glasgow or the striking city of Aberdeen, there’s no better place in the UK to ring in the New Year.
Looking to travel on a different month?
Decorations a plenty – image by Ruth Geach via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Santiago – image by Hans-Jakob Weinz via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Phuket – image by Earth-Bound Misfit, I via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Fireworks over Edinburgh – image by Robbie Shade via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
IMG_1224 – image by Andy L via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Bath – image by Kosala Bandara via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Fantasea (3 of 3) – image by Travis Longmore via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Manchester Town Hall – image by Steve Parkinson via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)