Where to get in the festive spirit this Christmas
Where to get in the festive spirit this Christmas
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Five exciting cities to celebrate the festive season

The decision of where and how to spend the festive period should be an enjoyable task; taking your pick from historic London, to quaint European Christmas markets, and places to escape the season altogether

London at Christmas

London

Even oft-cynical Londoners have a spring in their step come December, when the English capital gets merrily swept away by Christmas. Pop-up ice rinks offer visitors the rare opportunity to skate at iconic venues such as the Tower of London and Hampton Court Palace; while Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s Cathedral (pictured above) host a programme of stirring carol concerts. Often, it’s the little things that capture the festive spirit most beautifully in London, such as stumbling across a quaint old pub and enjoying a warming tipple or strolling through Covent Garden to admire the illuminated decorations and soaring Christmas trees.

Prague at Christmas

Prague

A fitting city for a festive sojourn, as Prague was the birthplace of Good King Wenceslas, a Bohemian king whose reputation for heroic benevolence lives on in an eponymous Christmas carol. The Czech city is arguably at its most dashing in December, when lantern-lit markets pop up across the mediaeval Old Town – including most notably, Wenceslas Square (pictured above). Grab a warm glass of medovina – Czech mead – and peruse the local handicrafts before heading back to the soothing surrounds of The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Prague. Need to refuel? Bohemia is renowned for its hearty winter fare – think dumplings, roast pork – both of which star on the menu at the much-vaunted V Kolkovne restaurant.

Paris during the holidays

Paris

The ‘City of Light’ certainly lives up to its moniker during its winter months, twinkling as it does with illuminations. Cast your eyes up the Avenue des Champs-Élysées for what is arguably the best display in town or spot the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower by night from your Mandarin Oriental suite. Head to the Marais, too, whose mediaeval streets are imbued with added romance during the festive season. Source one-off gifts in the neighbourhood’s independent shops and recharge your batteries in its uber-trendy restaurants. If you want to capture traditional nativity scenes, check out the moving displays at Notre Dame Cathedral (pictured above) and the Basilique Sacre-Coeur.

The M bar in Hong Kong at Christmas

Hong Kong

Hong Kong puts on a world-renowned fireworks display on New Year’s Eve. Watch the pyrotechnics from one of the city’s junk boats, which ply their trade in Victoria Harbour’s waters. Alternatively, get a bird’s-eye view of the action from the lofty M bar (pictured above), which is located on the 25th floor of Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong.
Leave time to sample some of the city’s lauded Michelin-starred street food; 19 hawker stalls are listed in the latest guide, including Hop Yik Tai, which is famous for its fish balls.

Food on a tray ready for Christmas

Tokyo

Christmas isn’t a public holiday in Japan, making it an ideal destination for yuletide-weary travellers. And where better to escape the monotony of festive fare than the culinary nirvana of Tokyo? Book a table at the lauded sushi emporium, Ginza Kyubey (pictured above), or alternatively, join locals in the obscure tradition of quaffing deep-fried chicken – curiously the result of an effective marketing campaign by KFC in the 1970s. Stick around to join locals in the annual hatsumōde – the first Shinto shrine visit of the New Year.

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