Many people complain that Christmas starts earlier each year. I never complain. I love looking at the shops and buildings dressed up in tinsel and decorations while listening to Christmas songs. I’ve put together a list of my favourite and not so favourite Winter destinations I’ve visited over the years.
My favourite destination anytime of the year. During the Winter wonderland season they spray fake snow into the main street (not the cheap foam stuff) and everything seems to jingle. After a chocolate crepe and mulled wine in Fantasyland its time for a quick turn on the Mad Hatters Tea Cups.
Manchester Christmas Markets
Best time to visit is late afternoon/ early evening. Its one of the best city Christmas markets in England with the right mix of traditional German stalls, local artisans, unique gift stalls and a variety of regional, international and seasonal food and drink stalls. Make sure you try the roasted chestnuts (St Annes Square) and a mug of mulled wine with cognac (St Anne’s Square for ambience, King Street for taste).
I visited Vienna a few years ago in early December. Two words. Bloody freezing. I would advise taking extra socks, thermal underwear, big jumpers and a bigger overcoat! But don’t let the cold put you off, Vienna is a beautiful city, especially when its frosted in ice and snow. My favourite bits, every morning the church bells of the cathedral would wake me, room service delivered a complimentary hot chocolate to your room and the maid left a chocolate on your pillow after cleaning. The royal palace is beautiful and a must see. The Christmas market is traditional and delightful, and on every street corner there is a hut selling Gluhwien. Austrian mulled wine is not like anything I’ve ever tasted, one very small serving nearly knocked me off my feet.
Winter Wonderland Hyde Park
I met friends here a couple of years ago and was suffering from a tremendous head cold. It was quite a warm day and dry so I risked the trip and thoroughly enjoyed myself. The Christmas market was small, the food and drink stalls plentyful and the fairground rides really good fun. After partaking if several hot spiced orange juice with whisky (for medicinal purposes) I went on every ride twice. Best was the downhill tabogins, the merrygoround and the great wheel. The great wheel moves slowly, is best done in daylight for the view and isn’t for anyone with a fear of heights.
Winter Hill and Lever Park Lancashire
When it snows the only place to take your sledge/old tyre/black bin liner/upturned old car bonnet/tea tray is up Winter Hill. There’s a pretty clear slope at the foot of the hill in Lever Park where you can get some speed up before crashing into a sheep. Afterwards a quick visit to the pub for a warming brandy to nurse your cuts, bruises, and breaks is a lot more fun then A&E.
Bath Christmas Market
This year we met up with friends at Bath Christmas Market. Bath is a beautiful city and I’m planning to go back in the summer. Unfortunately I did not like the market, it was huge but all the stalls were very much the same. Its was very busy with tourists as well as shoppers, even at 6pm. I ambled from one stall to another sampling cheeses, nuts, liquors and ciders ( I’m noticing a pattern in my activities at my winter destinations) but nothing tickled my fancy. My friends enjoyed the market so it may have been me. I thought it lacked atmosphere.
Lytham Fylde Coast
I love seaside towns. I even like them in winter, the grey skies, the grey sea, the wild winds and waves all have a magic of their own. Lytham is one of the few seaside towns which doesn’t look dismal in winter. The mix of independent shops and charity shops means I always find a bargain. Stop off at the Lytham Kitchen for hot chocolate fudge cake with ice cream. The mulled wine is okay but a little sweet for me.
Do you have favourite winter destinations? Have you been to any of mine?