Top destinations for the festive period

Another hard day in the workshop for Santa... well that's what he told Mrs Claus, anyway
"The Canary Islands offer year-round sun without the long-haul flight. You'll have your pick of destinations with each island having a vibe of its own"
  • | by Abbie Laughton-Coles

Christmas is a time for gathering together with family, including boring Uncle Barry. Eating dry turkey and stuffing sandwiches for what seems like forever, while suspicious wafts emanate from a sleeping dad after one too many sprouts… sounds magical right, guys?

Well perhaps you could be persuaded to venture abroad for a getaway this festive season... after all, there'll probably still be turkey left when you come back.

Christmas markets and short breaks

Germany

German_christmas_market_F

Germany is the big cheese - or more accurately der große käse - of the Christmas market world. If you're planning a festive market excursion, chances are Deutschland will be top of your to-do list, and quite rightly so. 

There are loads to choose from, including the famous Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt which begins on 28 November this year and concludes on Christmas Eve. There are over 180 stalls selling everything from ornaments to figurines of men made from prunes, so you won't be stuck for souvenirs. Then there's all the amazing food and mulled wine to consume - which, let's face it, is the principle reason we go to Christmas markets.

Another obvious choice would be Berlin - over 50 markets are held in the German capital through the Christmas period. Drop by the expansive and popular market at Charlottenburg castle, which runs from 24 November to Christmas Eve.

Brussels

Brussels

Brussels' Winter Wonders spectacular has stalls to wander around to your heart's content. But at this particular event there's also a light show, ice rink, toboggan slope and the actual 45-metre ice dinosaur that was present at the birth of Jesus (er, perhaps not).

Winter Wonders runs from 28 November to 1 January, so get your skates on.

Lapland

Lapland

If you want a large shot of pure, unadulterated festiveness, you have to go straight to the source, which means the home of jolly Pere Noel and his red-nosed companion. 

Leave your cares behind with fun for the entire family in a winter wonderland. Stay in a log cabin, go husky sledding or snowmobiling and, of course, meet the man himself. There's even the possibility of glimpsing the Northern Lights...

Winter sun

If you'd rather be working on your tan than pulling on a cosy jumper, perhaps a winter sun vacation is more up your street.

The Bahamas

Bahamas

Chances are when you imagine paradise, it involves sipping a pina colada on a sandy beach, with the crystal-clear sea lapping at your toes.

If this is the case, then the Bahamas is for you. While away your days snorkelling through shoals of tropical fish, swimming with dolphins, yachting around the islands or just getting your rum on.

Canary Islands

Canary_islands

Fancy something a little closer to home? The Canary Islands offer year-round sun without the long-haul flight. You'll have your pick of destinations with each island having a vibe of its own, including Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria and Tenerife.

Visit Lanzarote for Cueva de los Verdes, a spectacular underground tunnel created by the eruptive activity of La Corona Volcano. Or you could take a trip to Teide National Park in Tenerife - a Unesco World Heritage Site and Spain's highest peak - for breathtaking views.

New Year's Eve

Times Square

New_York

Frank Sinatra was right, because New York is THE destination for any new year's reveller. As the song says, it's a helluva town.

Every year thousands of party people descend upon the most happening square on Earth for some ball-dropping, fist-pumping action. Surrounded by bars, clubs, restaurants, bowling alleys, attractions and obligatory Irish pubs, you won't be short of places to bring in the new year.

However, you'll need dedication and a strong bladder to watch the infamous ball drop at Times Square. With around one million people clambering to get a view and no toilets around, it's a long old evening.

You can forget about taking along some champers to toast 2015, too... it's illegal to drink alcohol in public in New York City.

Sydney

Sydney

Fancy a trip Down Under? Sydney's new year throws its hat into the ring with a family-friendly event featuring enough visual stimulation to last a lifetime.

The place to be is down at Sydney Harbour, where aerial displays, illuminated flotillas, light shows and three (yes, three!) firework displays will take place.

Christmas cruise

Cruising

If Christmas isn't really your bag, why not blow it off completely and spend the whole of December continent-hopping your way around the world on a cruise?

The wide range of cruising destinations - from the Mediterranean Sea to the Panama Canal, Antarctica to Africa - means that, whatever your holiday style, chances are there'll be a luxury liner setting sail to suit you...