4 incredible European destinations to spend Xmas & the New Year

If you’re looking to get away from the pressures and stresses of spending the festive season at home, Europe has some awesome destinations to hit over Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Here are our top picks.

Cologne, Germany

Germany is seen by many as an iconic Christmas destination and for good reason. It is the country that gave the world the Christmas market after all, with the first one said to have been held in Dresden all the way back in 1434.

Famous for its imposing gothic cathedral, Cologne is the perfect place to experience a German Christmas. Of course there are markets galore where you can marvel at skilled craftspeople hand making gifts from metal, wood, glass and more. Then stuff yourself silly with gingerbread, washed down with steaming mugs of gluhwein.

For New Year’s Eve, take you pick from a seemingly endless quota of beer halls, of which Cologne has more than any other German city. Then party the night away at one of the 70-plus night spots. The legendary Bootshaus which has recently taken the title of the country’s best nightclub comes highly recommended.

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Madeira, Portugal

You’d be forgiven for thinking this tiny archipelago lying a few miles off the northwest coast of Africa probably isn’t the most festive of destinations for this time of year. But the Portuguese region of Madeira, and specifically its capital Funchal, is a great shout.

OK, so you’re not likely to experience a white Christmas. Instead it’s probably gonna be a relatively balmy 19C, which, depending on what you’re used to, should make a lovely change to the cold, grey weather usually associated with winter.

New Year’s Eve is when they really pull out the big guns in Funchal, as the skies are set ablaze at midnight with a fireworks display to rival anything you’ve seen. In fact, it has previously held the record for the largest fireworks display in the world. Grab yourself a spot at one of the city’s numerous vantage points, sit back and enjoy the show.

Edinburgh, Scotland

Scotland’s capital city runs a packed 6 week festive schedule each year, spread across a number of central locations. Christmas markets, Santa’s grottos, fairground rides and a variety of shows and concerts will keep you occupied over Yuletide.

But it’s New Year’s Eve, or Hogmanay as it is known here, where the lid really comes off. The centrepiece is an immense street party which welcomes over 75,000 people annually and draws a stellar lineup of performers each year. But it also includes numerous other events throughout the city.

Expect traditional bagpipe music, lots of dancing, and a bevvie or two to be enjoyed by all. Just make sure you last until the breathtaking fireworks which light up the sky over Edinburgh Castle at the stroke of midnight to a rousing chorus of Auld Lang Syne.

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Budapest, Hungary

Budapest transforms into a winter wonderland come December, with gorgeous city-wide decorations and Christmas markets running through to January.

You’ll find folk dancing, daily concerts, mulled wine and sweet treats on offer, plus roasted chestnuts on many street corners. And don’t miss out on the seasonal outdoor ice-skating in City Park. What’s a pond in summer is converted into Europe’s biggest rink.

The people here love to party and New Year’s Eve is no different. Marvel at the huge fireworks display over the Danube before hitting one the city’s famed thermal baths. No, not for a relaxing opening to the new year, many of these historic baths throw epic parties. What better way to ring in the new year than a shindig in your swimming cozzie?

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