Winter Wonderlands: The Best of UK and European Christmas Breaks

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Time for something different? The main thing we love about short breaks is that you don’t have to wait all year round for a summer holiday – you can get away at any time! Winter is the perfect time for a city break, and whether you’re in the market for some gift shopping before Christmas or looking to escape it all in the New Year, there are a handful of destinations that couldn’t be more perfect for you. The only big question is where to spend your long weekend – at home, or abroad?

When it comes to popular winter breaks two destinations stand out above the rest: Edinburgh and Bruges. Year after year these gorgeous, vibrant and historic cities draw thousands of visitors a week. Both are worthy candidates for your winter weekend away, but which gets your vote?

Edinburgh-Skyline-Night

Edinburgh by night

Why go?

The top reason many people visit Edinburgh is simple – personal recommendation. Those who’ve been to the exciting Scottish capital will tell you how wonderful it is until the cows come home. Those who haven’t been yet tend to have Edinburgh right at the top of their to-visit list. Besides the wealth of great shopping and the sense of history, the city is also home to a thriving theatre scene too.

Similarly, Bruges is the sort of place visitors can’t help but rave about. Not only is it home to dreamy architecture, tonnes (literally) of the finest Belgian chocolate and delicious Belgian beer, Bruges is also a great base for exploring the art, culture and history of Flanders, within the city and beyond. A quintessential European short break, Bruges deserves to be high on the to-visit list too.

Bruges-Canal-winter

A Bruges canal in winter

How to get there…

When you’re staying in the UK for a city break, there’s really no more elegant way to travel than on the train. Ok, rail in this country gets a bad press, but it’s a far easier and often cheaper way to travel than by car and it’s an awful lot more relaxed. Edinburgh is easily accessed on the East Coast mainline and from the west of the country on Virgin Rail services too; the historic and impressive Edinburgh Waverley station is well worth the trip all by itself.

Eurostar breaks are equally excellent. Generally a more stress-free and time-efficient way to escape to the continent, whether it’s Paris, Brussels or Lille, you can arrive there in style. Getting to Bruges on the Eurostar is not only quick and comfortable, it’s also easily the most popular way to visit the UNESCO-listed Belgian city. For a break with a difference, consider one of our terrific Minicruises from Hull – spending a couple of nights on the ship, and one or two in a nice Bruges hotel, they’re the perfect choice for a short getaway.

What to do…

It’s the time of year that shopping is at the top of everyone’s to-do list; whether it’s Christmas shopping or the January sales that has you inspired, a city break is a great chance to change things up a bit and shop differently. Naturally enough, Edinburgh has all of your favourite high street shops in abundance; Princes Street is one of the country’s best for shopping, and the vibrant city centre has quirky boutiques aplenty to offer up once you get exploring. The continent is known for its fantastic markets, and Bruges is no exception. Also, no trip to the medieval town is complete without loading yourself down with chocolate-based souvenirs for the whole family!

Edinburgh is famous for its fringe festival, but all the excitement of the summer doesn’t diminish the year-round charm of the historic Scottish capital. Fascinating attractions such as the impressive Edinburgh Castle, the renowned Edinburgh Zoo and the remarkable Royal Yacht Britannia are well worth getting around during your weekend break. Bruges in winter is home to the utterly brilliant ice sculpture festival – an annual celebration of the most beautiful and intricately carved statues – as well as the unmissable Bruges Beer Festival in the early months of the year. The timelessly pretty canals and the distinctive Belfry Tower both characterise the town’s magic at any time of year.

Which city would get your vote – Edinburgh or Bruges? Let us know in our comments section below and search for your perfect Christmas break in the UK or Europe with our Christmas packages!