Hol­i­day: Xmas breaks

Ex­plore the fes­tive magic of these fab­u­lous Euro­pean cities, all eas­ily reached by Eu­rostar

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1 Paris

France’s cap­i­tal is al­ways spec­tac­u­lar but, from late Novem­ber, it takes on an ex­tra layer of fab­u­lous­ness. Il­lu­mi­na­tions trans­form the main streets, with glow­ing arches, mul­ti­coloured bulbs, and daz­zling pro­jec­tions, il­lus­trat­ing why Paris is aptly known as the City of Light.

The city also hosts a range of Christ­mas mar­kets, with clus­ters of wooden stalls sell­ing all kinds of gifts and food. Don’t miss the one at Les Halles (parisle­shalles.fr), which of­fers fes­tive work­shops, an En­chanted For­est, plus the chance to write a let­ter to Santa and even visit his house.

2 Brus­sels

The el­e­gant, his­toric cap­i­tal of Belgium is worth a visit even be­fore it dons its Christ­mas fin­ery. The stately Grand Place, or Grote Markt, is only en­hanced by its prime po­si­tion as the cen­tre of Brus­sels’ an­nual Win­ter Won­ders fes­ti­val and Christ­mas mar­ket (brus­sels.be/win­ter-won­ders).

From Novem­ber 30, the square and the streets be­yond are trans­formed by over 200 charm­ing wooden chalets, buzzing bars and pop-up restau­rants. A mighty Christ­mas tree sits in the mid­dle of Grand Place, and ev­ery evening a mag­i­cal mu­sic and light show trans­forms its sur­round­ings.

3 Am­s­ter­dam

Some­one

very spe­cial al­ways comes to Am­s­ter­dam around mid-Novem­ber. Yes, he looks a bit like Santa Claus, with his gold-trimmed red robes, red mitre and bushy white beard, but this is Sin­terk­lass, a leg­endary Dutch fig­ure based on Saint Ni­cholas, the pa­tron saint of chil­dren.

Im­merse your­self in Am­s­ter­dam’s an­nual Light Fes­ti­val which starts on 29 Novem­ber. Each year, 35 light sculp­tures and art­works, de­signed by artists and ar­chi­tects from around the world, are scat­tered through­out the city, il­lu­mi­nat­ing fa­mil­iar mon­u­ments in mag­i­cal and sur­pris­ing ways.

4 Lyon

This 2,000-year-old city at the junc­tion of the Rhone and Saone rivers (the dis­trict where they meet is called the Con­flu­ence), lights up at Christ­mas time. The start of the hol­i­day sea­son is marked by the Fete des Lu­mieres be­tween 6-9 De­cem­ber, when more than 50 light in­stal­la­tions on build­ings, mon­u­ments, streets and parks cre­ate a mag­i­cal scene.

The Christ­mas Mar­ket on Place Carnot, in the heart of the city, is one of the largest in France. Lis­ten to carols, try a warm­ing mulled wine and taste a wide range of fine foods, from cured meats and cheeses to sweet treats such as gin­ger­bread, mac­arons and caramelize­d nuts.

5 Lille

Deep in the heart of win­ter, Lille sparkles and glows with joie de vivre! As if with the wave of a magic wand, the city takes on a fes­tive at­mos­phere and wel­comes you to a win­ter won­der­land.

On Place Ri­hour, in the cen­tre of town, you’ll find 90 wooden chalets packed with gift ideas, Na­tiv­ity fig­urines, Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions and fes­tive food. You can find re­gional spe­cial­i­ties here, and you can also check out arts and crafts from Rus­sia, Canada and Poland. Treat your­self to the gin­ger­bread and other del­i­ca­cies, which you can take away or eat on the spot with a glass of mulled wine.

6 Dis­ney­land Paris

See the sparkling sea­sonal magic come alive at Dis­ney­land Paris from 9 Novem­ber to 6 Jan­uary. If you think the park’s a thrill al­ready, you’ll be daz­zled to see it at its fes­tive best!

Say hello to your favourite char­ac­ters in the streets of Dis­ney­land Park, take in the won­der­ful pa­rade – and en­joy the en­chant­ing gi­ant tree that lights up the evening sky.

At Gare du Nord…

Brus­sels by night Paris aglow Sin­terk­laas is com­ing to town Trip the light fan­tas­tic! Walk in a win­ter won­der­land Get fes­tive with Mickey and Min­nie

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