Whether you are still nursing your holiday hangover or indulging in some post-Christmas nostalgia while back at work, it is never too early to start planning ahead for 2020. Marta Montanari has listed some of the most beautiful cities in Europe to visit during your next winter break. 

It’s now the beginning of a new year and even though the holiday season has just ended, many ‘must see’ places are already on our holidays bucket list for next winter. Even if it’s a little far ahead, here are six cities you can’t miss if you want to get a fantastic Christmas atmosphere in December 2020!

Bath Christmas Market

Last time I went to the Bath Christmas Market, I was so wrapped into warm clothes, I almost couldn’t move. It soon became one of my favourite places and even if it was busy, I would absolutely go again. This Christmas market is spread all around the city; the square in front of the Cathedral is the main part and absolutely majestic. It will take you sometime to see it all, but it will be so worth it. I grabbed several glasses of mulled wine while walking around, browsing through all the products and stalls. We bought most of our Christmas gifts there and lots of them were unique handmade pieces. An amazing company, a hot drink, and such a magical city are the perfect recipe for a beautifully romantic afternoon with your favourite people.

Cardiff Christmas Market

Christmas decoration | Picture: Gerhard Gellinger (Pixaby) | Licence: Pixabay Licence

I might be a little biased, but this is probably my favourite place. I lived there for quite a while and every year, Cardiff Christmas Market got better and better. The market often opens with shows and parades around the main streets. Closer to the castle you’ll be able to admire the beautiful decorations as well as the fairy lights around the streets while surrounded by Christmas music. You definitely cannot miss the glass decorations stall, Gift of Glass. They make a lot of their creations on the spot and their products are some of the most beautiful ones I’ve ever seen. The ‘Homemade Welsh Cakes’ stall is another must; the cakes are delicious, very cheap, and cooked right in front of you. Warm Welsh cakes, mulled wine, hot chocolate as well as brownies covered in caramel are going to be irresistible.  And don’t forget to pass through the arcades, they are magical this time of the year and if you are lucky you might even get some snow around the city!

Malvern

A couple of years ago, I needed to escape to the countryside and with the help of a great guide, I ran away to Malvern for the weekend. The city is a little gem, hidden in between hills, beautifully decorated, and with an incredible history including some amazing legends. If the weather allows for it, go up to the hills, breathe, and get rid of all the stress you might have. The view is breath-taking and probably you will meet sheep, friendly cows, and lots of dogs. Many people who live there go for a walk to recharge their batteries and enjoy the view. If you feel a little too cold, you can head to “The Kettle Sings“, they have amazing desserts, fantastic teas and if you are lucky enough, you can see the top of the Breacon Beacons mountain range in the distance. In case you want to explore a little more, I cannot recommend enough to visit the Clive’s Fruit Farm for a lovely afternoon with family and friends. You’ll be able to pick your favourite apples, feed pigs and chicken, and buy local products (the food is fantastic!). A small Christmas market is organised just at the entrance with handmade products as well as more mainstream brands. The live music is the cherry on top of the cake in such a lovely scenario.

Even if these are considered touristic destinations, they are worth a stop if you have never seen them in Christmas time.

London

Famous for its Christmas markets and decorations, the last two months of the year are quite an experience in London. If you get the chance, visit the famous Winter Wonderland; there are plenty of attractions, food, music, and the market is adorable. However, if you are looking for decorations don’t limit yourself. Head to Regent’s Street and look at the beautiful lights put up across the street, stop at Hamley’s for some fun for the kids (even though I know many adults who go there to discover and play with the newest toys!). One of my favourite places to buy Christmas decoration is Liberty. Just around the corner from Regent’s Street, from September on, the store creates a whole floor dedicated to Christmas. You will find decorations, Christmas stockings, desserts, advent calendars, and much more. It is definitely worth a visit even just to admire the architecture of such a historical, beautiful building. Don’t forget to pass by Carnaby street and Covent Garden (try the desserts around there, they are delicious!). Even if these are considered touristic destinations, they are worth a stop if you have never seen them in Christmas time. In case you are still hungry, the Handover Arms in Hammersmith is perfect for a cosy dinner, far from all the city noise. You will find a familiar atmosphere, amazing dishes, and great beers!

London’s Christmas lights | Picture: Jamie Davis (Unsplash) | Licence: Unsplash Licence

Maastricht

If you are looking for a day trip in the Netherlands and a great Christmas atmosphere, Maastricht is your city! Known for its university and its fantastic architecture, you will be able to feel the festive spirit from your very first step outside the train station. The main square is filled with Christmas stalls and attractions and it is surrounded by beautiful buildings. Start your day with some mini-pancakes, chips, waffles, or any other food you can find and don’t forget to stop for some mulled wine! You can sit outside and enjoy the fresh air or take shelter in the bar near by the ice rink. The Giant Wheel is quite an experience, you’ll be able to see almost the whole city, but get ready with hat and scarf, it’s cold up there! Walking around the stalls you can find lovely handmade decorations, leather bags, or warm clothes. Try to wait until the sun disappears, the whole city looks a little more magical when all the lights shine at night. You will feel like in a snow-globe surrounded by Christmas music!

Brussels

From the end of November to the beginning of January, Christmas markets, light shows, and decorations will be all over the city centre of the Belgian capital. In Saint Catherine and De Brouckère, you will find dozens of stalls with all sorts of products. Some will offer locally sourced, handmade and unique things that will be perfect for your wish list. Walk around the city centre, with a glass of hot cider and head to La Grand Place. The square hosts a beautifully decorated Christmas tree and a big nativity scene. Not far from there, in Saint Hubert Royal Gallery, you can find your favourite sweets with all the main chocolate stores decorated for the season. Just few minutes away, at Mont des Arts, there is a beautiful light show which is really enchanting during the evening. Unlike other places, Brussels doesn’t have just one specific square with a Christmas Market and attractions but actually markets in several streets all around town. Check out this website and make sure you won’t miss any of the events next season!

Cover Photo: Gerhard Gellinger (Pixabay), Pixabay Licence

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    Marta is originally from Rome, where she studied for her BA in Political Science and International Relations. She then moved to London, and later to Wales, where she graduated with a Masters in International Journalism from Cardiff University. Marta has also lived in Brussels, working for the European Parliament's research service. She is passionate about writing, travel, photography, surf and badminton.

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