Six cities to celebrate the festive season in
Illuminated Munich stalls as part of a Christmas market

Five cities to celebrate the festive season in

As the year comes to a close, there’s no better time to escape and remember life’s simple pleasures. From the feel of crunchy snow underfoot as you explore a new destination, to cuddling up after a day’s sightseeing, why not make this festive season extra special with a trip to one of these magical cities? 

Snow-capped rooftops in Munich

Christmas markets in Munich

Grab a slice of stollen, wrap your hands around a steaming cup of glühwein and prepare to be dazzled – the Germans are masters when it comes to celebrating the festive season. Of course, the spectacular Christmas markets around the city aren’t to be missed, but there are lots of other ways to get into the spirit, too. Say hello to elks, yaks, polar bears and other wintery animals at Hellabrunn Zoo, join the tobogganing locals in Luitpoldpark and Westpark, or hop aboard the seasonal Christmas tram for a cosy sightseeing tour.
Add some MO magic: Cold evenings are made for early nights. Snuggle up in one of the recently refurbished rooms at Mandarin Oriental, Munich and enjoy the Neo-Biedermeier décor – as well as the heated floors. Staying on Christmas Eve? For connected rooms (to make your family’s Christmas morning extra special) book the Tower Suite.

Festive rocking horse ornaments

Gourmet treats in Geneva 

The closest thing to holidaying inside a snow globe, Geneva is one of the prettiest locations for a festive break, thanks to its white peaks and stargazingly clear night skies. Wrap up warmly and visit one of the many Christmas markets the region is so famous for. Foodies will love tucking into Swiss specialities, including oozy raclette and gooey fondue, at the Chalet à Fondue, which is part of the Geneva Christmas Market in the city’s English Garden. Meanwhile, families should head for the Carouge Christmas Market in Geneva’s Italian part of town. See who can be first to spot Switzerland’s only Christmas-tree shaped restaurant, the Swisspine, on Place de l’Octroi. For a souvenir of your trip, visit Schilliger Garden Centre in Gland (a 35-minute taxi ride) to pick up decorations, table settings, lights and gifts.
Add some MO magic: Warm up at MO Bar at Mandarin Oriental, Geneva with a Suisse Manhattan – Talisker whisky infused with dry-cured Grisons beef (yes, you read that right), Antica Formula vermouth and Angostura bitters.

Tables set up for service at alfresco Tasca, Dubai

Design in Dubai 

OK, so the sun will be shining and you’re more likely to be slipping into shorts than a snowsuit, but there’s still plenty of festive fun to be had in Dubai. You’ll find shops, restaurants and bars pulling out all the stops, from jolly Santas to gingerbread grottos. Ripe Market in Umm Suqeim is the best place for families (a Polar Express train winds around the park), while the Irish Village hosts a hugely popular annual tree-lighting event. And don’t forget your Christmas shopping: from the luxury stores in Dubai Mall (one of the world’s largest shopping centres) to the traditional souks selling gold, perfumes and spice, and the fashionable Dubai Design District, you’ll have everyone ticked off your list in no time.
Add some MO magic: Book a Boxing Day brunch at Mandarin Oriental Jumeira, Dubai with lashings of chilled Champagne. At Tasca, the best seats in the house are on the terrace, which looks out over the shimmering sea of the Arabian Gulf.

Cocktail glasses with garnish at The Rosebery

Lights in London

To paraphrase the great Samuel Pepys – a man who is tired of window shopping in London is tired of life. For the greatest festive thrills, start with the iconic Christmas displays at Harrods – just a short stroll from Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London – then hop over to the West End to ogle at the technicolour splendour of Fortnum & Mason and Selfridges. Then, to get the blood pumping, try one of London’s picture-perfect ice rinks dotted across the capital, from the Tower of London to Hampton Court Palace. After dark, pile on your layers and make for an enchanted wood. Christmas At Kew is one of the best, with its twinkling light trail. 
Add some MO magic: Visit the suitably bedecked halls of The Rosebery for a sumptuously festive afternoon tea.

A view of the illuminated harbourfront from the water in Hong Kong

Holidays in Hong Kong

A riot of colour and noise is how the festive season is celebrated in Hong Kong. For the most enthusiastic homage to Christmas, visit Stanley Market for some last-minute stocking fillers. Set along the waterfront, it offers sparklingly lit stalls selling souvenirs and jewellery – plus there's plenty of restaurants and bars nearby to sit and enjoy a bite to eat or festive tipple. For your evening’s entertainment, don’t miss the free Victoria Harbour light show. It’s always impressive, but is even more so at this time of year, with seasonal 3D projections and festive tunes becoming part of the mix. For the best views, hop aboard a Star Ferry to watch the show from the water. 
Add some MO magic: If the festive season is all about food, then book ahead to experience The Krug Room at Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, where the expert team creates each course using the most exclusive seasonal products, all paired with your choice from the largest collection of Krug Champagne in Asia.

A woman pouring tea and arranging cakes on a stand at The Rosebery

Five of the best afternoon teas around the world

The ritual of afternoon tea started in Britain in the 1800s but has since been exported around the world. Here we have searched out some of the most delicious