Article by Cole Rees
Why not enjoy Christmas abroad this year and experience the incredible celebrations put on across Italy, France and Spain? There is no doubt that the Christmas markets in London, Manchester, Birmingham and other UK cities are impressive, but experiencing Italian, French and Spanish festivities is something that everyone really should put on their Christmas wish list.
The festive season should be filled with fun, food and laughter, and these are the things you will find in abundance when you take a four or five day escorted tour to the Paris Christmas markets, Barcelona Christmas markets or Italian Alpine Christmas markets. Whichever country tickles your fancy, you won’t be disappointed by the atmosphere or the festive decorations and traditions that you’ll find in the Piazzas of Italy, the Places of France and the Barras of Catalonia.
Sights and sounds not to be missed at Christmastime in Europe:
ItalyChoose from Christmas breaks to Lake Garda and trips to the Italian Alpine Christmas markets, and experience a magical few days tasting the renowned Italian cuisine and browsing all that Italy has to offer. If you choose Christmas in Lake Garda you will see immediately what all the fuss is about when you arrive and see the mirror-calm waters, the craggy and dramatic mountainous backdrop and the pastel-coloured houses that line the shores. Lake Garda is one of the most idyllic places to base yourself from if you plan to visit some of Italy’s most prominent cities, from Romeo and Juliet’s “fair Verona”, to the Christmas markets of Trento – a great place to finish off your Christmas shopping. On Christmas Eve you can attend a traditional midnight mass at the church in Riva del Garda and welcome Christmas in the traditional style. Then enjoy Christmas day on the Lake, exploring the shoreline, before mooring and enjoying a four-course Christmas dinner complete with live music and entertainment.
If you choose to leave Lake Garda for another time and instead visit the Italian Alps and the Christmas markets in Bolzano and Merano, you will see exactly what a white Christmas should look like, thanks to the snow-capped Alps and the rooftops of the houses in the Alpine towns and villages. Spend your days perusing the local arts and crafts, and pick up some unusual and unique Christmas gifts for friends and family back home, before tucking into traditional Italian cuisine and warm spiced red wine.
FranceIf a Christmas markets break is what you want, then Paris is the city for you thanks to the incredible work that goes into dressing, decorating and lighting France’s capital. Don’t miss the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Louvre, Notre Dame and the Champs Elysees in all their festive glory; these sights are particularly impressive at night when they’re lit up against the night sky and when the hustle, bustle and aroma of the Christmas markets at La Defense (the business district) fills the air. Experience Paris with the help of an experience tour guide when you choose escorted tours to France, and don’t miss out on all the things this great city has to offer quite apart from all the fun you’ll have practicing your French with the Christmas market stall holders, trying the food and drink that is on offer and investing in festive arts and crafts for friends at home.
SpainVisit Barcelona’s Christmas markets for the ultimate Spanish festive experience because, while being by the sea might not conjure up festive thoughts, Barcelona is so much more than a seaside city. Home to some of the most incredible Modernist architecture, to authentic and delicious tapas that changes with the seasons and, of course, to the Christmas markets during December, Barcelona is definitely worth a tour. Simply strolling the main areas of the city will give you an insight into how the Catalans celebrate Christmas. Take inspiration home with you, as well as some of the traditional, handcrafted jewellery, artworks and woodcrafts that are sold on the market stalls.
There are two main Christmas markets sites in Barcelona, the Fira de Santa Llucia and the Fira de Nadal, in the shadow of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, one of the world’s most awe-inspiring cathedrals. Whichever one you pick, you’ll also see just what food is traditional in Spain and how it differs from the turkey dinner we’re used to.
So, why not broaden your festive horizons this year and spend a few days at one of the atmospheric Christmas markets of Italy, Spain or France?
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