Lap up the Santa-centric attractions in Lapland, experience Christmas in New York or strip down to your swimming costume for a sunny beach day in Santa Cruz – whether you're a fan of the cold or not, there's a winter city break that's perfect for you.
Embrace the cold in these winter wonderlands
Snowy landscapes and the fabled northern lights are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to winter city breaks up north, where you'll enjoy festive thrills and fantastic cultural attractions.
Visit Santa Claus in Rovaniemi
If you're planning a holiday for the entire family, consider Rovaniemi, the capital city of Finnish Lapland and the hometown of Santa Claus. You'll find his office and post office in Santa Claus Village, a year-round theme park that straddles the Arctic Circle and offers opportunities to see the northern lights. The Arktikum is a popular science museum, while modern works are displayed at Europe's northernmost regional art museum, the Rovaniemi Art Museum, Korundi. The Jatkan Kynttila cable-stayed bridge is a prominent feature of the cityscape, especially when it's lit up at night.
Trek to Tromso for winter sports
Another excellent spot for seeing the northern lights and soaking up the local culture is Tromso, the biggest city in northern Norway. Learn about the region and meet cold-water creatures at Polaria, an aquarium in an eye-catching complex, or visit the Arctic Cathedral, a futuristic landmark with glass and crystalline features. Tromso is also a great base for winter activities like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and dog sledding, plus catamaran cruises in the arctic fjords. Cap off an adventure-filled day in one of the city's many pubs.
Winter city breaks with tons of Christmas cheer
Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, as they say, and these winter escapes will surely get you into the holiday spirit. Breathe in the festive air as you stroll about a Christmas market in Berlin or skate hand in hand with your loved one in New York's Bryant Park.
Berlin has the best Christmas markets
The scores of Christmas markets (weihnachtsmarkt) in the German capital are the finest of their kind across the continent, and you'll find them in and around major squares like the Gendarmenmarkt and Alexanderplatz. Besides the usual holiday snacks, these advent attractions often feature beautiful handmade crafts, amusement rides and skating rinks. They typically run from late November until Christmas, with a select few open until New Year's Day. If you're planning a quick European winter break to visit Berlin's Christmas markets, book a holiday letting in Charlottenburg or Mitte, where the best weihnachtsmarkt are located.
There's nothing like Christmas in New York
Christmastime is simply magical in New York, so if you can jet off on an extended city break in November or December, go see for yourself why so many holiday movies are set in this phenomenal city. Major attractions include the Rockefeller Christmas Tree, lit up on the day after Thanksgiving, and Bryant Park Winter Village, which offers a skating rink, a food hall and a Christmas market. The spectacular shop windows in beloved department stores are also a must-see. While iconic, the Times Square Ball Drop on New Year's Eve means standing in the cold for hours, so staying in and watching the festivities from your holiday rental is highly recommended.
Seek warmer weather with these European city breaks
When it gets too nippy for your taste, you can trade your thick coats and woolly gloves for lighter clothes (maybe even a swimming costume) in these city break destinations in Europe. Beat the winter blues by sightseeing in Rabat or soaking up the rays in Santa Cruz.
Explore Rabat's Islamic and French colonial heritage
Rabat isn't exactly warm, as wintertime temperatures hover around 12 to 15 degrees on average, but Morocco's capital city certainly provides a welcome alternative to the bitter, freezing cold weather in many UK and European locales. Sitting at the mouth of the Bou Regreg river, Morocco's capital city boasts intricate monuments like the Hassan Tower, an unfinished 12th-century minaret, and the UNESCO-listed Kasbah of the Udayas. You can also explore the medina – the city's walled old town – and shop for souvenirs and Christmas gifts in the traditional souks.
Tenerife turns the heat up a notch
If you're looking for a warmer city break in January, set your sights on Santa Cruz, the capital of Tenerife, the largest and most populous of the Canary Islands. During this time, you can expect daytime temperatures in the upper 20s – a pleasant treat in winter while you lounge on the manmade Las Teresitas beach. You can also visit Plaza de Espana, the city's largest square, then peruse the archaeological displays at Museo de la Naturaleza y el Hombre before catching a concert at the waterfront Auditorio de Tenerife. Santa Cruz also makes for a lively city break in February, when the buzzing Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife draws a million or so travellers to the city.