We are incredibly lucky in New Zealand to be one of the few nations in the world that get to enjoy the joy of Christmas combined with toasty summer temperatures. Christmas BBQ anyone? But if you haven’t already, we think it should be on every Kiwi’s bucket list to head overseas and enjoy a white (or at least) wintry Christmas. With this in mind we’ve compiled our top tips on five places around the world to spend the festive season.
Fancy ice-skating just a stone’s throw from the Thames River in one of London’s most iconic buildings? If so, it doesn’t get much better than Somerset House, where the stunning Christmas tree towers over skaters enjoying the crisp cold air, whilst meandering around the oval rink. We highly recommend following up a skate with a well-earned glass at Gordon’s Wine Bar (the city’s oldest wine bar) where wine is served at candlelit tables, accompanied with traditional scotch eggs and unbeatable cheese boards. If you still have more energy, the winter markets on the South Bank are a great way to wind down after an evening of activities.
Enjoy a spot of Christmas shopping? If you can bear the crowds, we don’t believe there is a better place to get into the Christmas spirit than in the Christmas Shop at Harrods. Let the awe inspiring window displays guide you into the shop (that opens from September onwards) and marvel at the $1000NZD boxes of Christmas crackers with gifts from Swarovski within.
If you are feeling disenchanted with the holiday season, and want to inject some magic back into your celebrations, there are worse places to do so than New York! Enjoy the incredible Christmas light displays, go ice skating in Central Park (or sit and observe with a toasty hot chocolate) and saunter through the Christmas Markets. Union Square Holiday Market and Grand Central Holiday Market are both great choices. The centre of a Christmas in New York however, is undoubtedly the Rockefeller Centre, where the world’s tallest Christmas tree has been a traditional staple since 1931.
Where better to spend the Christmas period than in the home of the man himself? If a family Christmas adventure is what you are after it doesn’t get much better than going to meet Father Christmas and his reindeer. Join the elves at Elf school, indulge in gingerbread cookies whilst staying in a wilderness lodge. For the adults there is also the chance of catching the northern lights whilst you’re up there.
From feeling the wind in your face as you sail down the slopes, to enjoying the panoramic views and indulging in the fabulous food (and an obligatory al fresco beer or two) – the Alps are the ultimate winter playground. France, Austria, Switzerland, Italy – where to choose? If you want to explore the Alps but are travelling on a budget, Italy could be your best bet. Resorts here tend to be a little less prestigious and so also less expensive. The best part about the Italian Alps? Enjoying hot chocolate so rich you have to eat it with a spoon.
If you want the full Christmas alpine experience, with all the bells and whistles, the French and the Swiss Alps are the place to be. We love the exquisite resorts of Val d’Isère, Méribel, Courchevel, St Anton, Verbier and Zermatt (to name a few). A catered chalet is always a great option, where your chalet hosts take away the stress and strain of everyday life, so that you can sit back and enjoy your break. Learn to ski, enjoy wine by the fire or relax in an outdoor hot tub with mountain views.
In its 29th year of existence, Sweden’s Ice Hotel is back again and more incredible than ever. The hotel is made up of 30,000 cubic metres of snice (snow and ice) and 1000 cubic metres of ice that covers a 5500 square metre area. Each room is crafted by different artists, each with a different theme. This year over 150 teams fought to decorate the 15 suites. Prices start at a rather affordable $251 a night for a warm room and $382 for an ice room, but you’d have to hurry if you want to squeeze in a stay this season, as it is only open until April when (in a suitably sustainable manner) the hotel melts back into the river from which it came.
Christmas at the Ice Hotel offers traditional Swedish Christmas food, snow covered adventures and the opportunity to see the northern lights amongst other things. If you’re looking for something more adventurous there is also the option to create your own ice art or take part in an ice plunge (if you are feeling particularly brave!).