What better way to get yourself into the holiday spirit than at one of Europe’s Christmas festivals? This time of year snow-covered towns host delightful Christmas festivals with sparkling lights, carol singing, market stalls and mulled wine. From delicious food in Padstow to irreverent traditions in Barcelona, here are some charming Christmas festivals you can visit for a memorable festive season break:
Padstow Christmas Festival
Each year the town of Padstow on the north coast of Cornwall, hosts a fabulous Christmas festival where visitors can see some of the UK’s top chefs in action, including Rick Stein who will be cooking recipes from his BBC India series. Although food is the highlight of the festival, there is also a great Christmas market where you can buy locally made arts and crafts, as well as live music, carollers and a fantastic Christmas light display around the harbour. Kids will love Santa’s grotto where they can meet Father Christmas, have their face painted and decorate Christmas cookies. This year the festival runs from the 5th to 8th December.
Christmas in Tivoli Gardens
The Tivoli Gardens amusement park is located in the Danish capital of Copenhagen and each year hosts one of Europe’s best Christmas markets. The Christmas market has around 50 stalls where you can buy gifts, Christmas decorations, sweets, and enjoy delicious food and drinks, but Tivoli Gardens has more to offer than just a great Christmas market. From November the amusement park transforms into a winter wonderland with twinkling lights and live reindeer to add to the festive atmosphere. Kids can say hello to Father Christmas from 15th November to 23rd December or see mechanical elves making toys, and the whole family can enjoy a spectacular display of laser lights, water, music and fire at Tivoli Lake. The Tivoli Boys Guard Christmas Parade and the Pixie Band will keep you entertained, and if you’re staying in a Copenhagen holiday rental between Christmas and New Year you can enjoy Tivoli’s legendary Fireworks Festival with amazing fireworks displays every day.
Barcelona’s Fira de Santa Llúcia
The Fira de Santa Llúcia is an annual Christmas fair that is held in front of Barcelona cathedral in the gothic quarter of the city. Along with market stalls selling Christmas decorations, jewellery, clothes and gifts, you’ll also find nativity scene exhibitions. Don’t be surprised if in between the nativity figurines you spot a bare-backside figurine with trousers down and a pile of poo on the floor. This traditional Catalan figurine is known as “El Caganer”, and is not the only defecating item you’ll find at the Christmas fair. “Caga Tio” is a present-pooping wooden log with a face painted on the one end. The hollow log is covered with a blanket to keep it warm, and after weeks of feeding Tio with orange peels, kids hit it with a stick and Tio poops out presents. This Catlan Christmas fair just wouldn’t be the same without El Caganer and Caga Tio. The marvellous, if somewhat irreverent Fira de Santa Llúcia is held from 30th November to 23rd December.
La Fête dé Noué, St Helier
The Channel Islands may not be the first place that comes to mind when you’re thinking about Christmas festivals, but La Fête dé Noué is well worth a visit. The festival takes place from 30th November to 15th December in the Jersey Parish of St. Helier. Visitors can enjoy carol concerts, street entertainers, a Christmas Film Festival, as well as a great display of twinkling lights which illuminate the Royal Square. During the festival visitors can also take guided tours of the town. While you’re shopping for gifts at the Spirit of Christmas Market, you can warm yourself up with minced pies and mulled wine. The culmination of La Fête dé Noué is the Christmas Parade featuring elaborate costumes and creative floats.
Glasgow Loves Christmas
Glasgow knows how to celebrate the season in style. Glasgow Loves Christmas is a 7 week celebration of the festive season, packed with events for the whole family to enjoy. The winter festival begins on St Andrew’s Day on 30th November and culminates with Burns night on 25th January. When you’re not shopping you can see the beautiful Christmas lights in George Square or ice skate on the square’s open air rink, which is open from 23rd November until 5th January. You can say goodbye to 2013 and welcome the New Year with some highland dancing and live music at the Glasgow Loves Hogmanay event which takes place on 31st December.
Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park
If you’re staying in London during December you can get into the festive spirit at Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. You can skate on Lycamobile Ice Rink, see the snow sculptures at the Magical Ice Kingdom, be entertained at Zippo’s Christmas Circus or Cirque Beserk, have a drink at the Nordic Bar or enjoy the thrill of amusement park rides. It’s the ideal place to bring the kids for a fabulous day out.