Holiday: Xmas breaks
Explore the festive magic of these fabulous European cities, all easily reached by Eurostar
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.
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.
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.
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.
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