From Europe’s most popular Christmas markets to a festival of light in China, here are our top picks for year-end getaways.
FROM November to January, Beverly Hills in California’s Los Angeles County transforms for the holiday season. Store fronts and hotel lobbies become must-see attractions as they update their décor to reflect the colours and spirit of the season. Santa at The Paley & The Jolly Trolley is a popular attraction, with Santa and Mrs Claus visiting the city each weekend leading up to Christmas. Guests get to join Santa at The Paley Center for Media for delicious treats and a screening of favourite holiday television specials. For an added treat, Mrs Claus greets visitors on the corner of Rodeo Drive & Dayton Way for a tour of historic sites and landmarks. At the Greystone Mansion, carollers have been performing for over 25 years, singing in a
cappella quartets. Guests can also enjoy a buffet lunch with a little bubbly cheer. At the CIRCA 55, The Beverly Hilton, Chef Troy Thompson prepares a scrumptious Christmas spread, while Scarpetta at the Montage offers a buffet including live music and traditional treats. Details: lovebeverlyhills.com
CHRISTMAS in Bruges distils the season’s fairytale essence. If there’s one word that sums up Bruges, it’s chocolate. You can’t walk the streets without being taken by the heady scent of pralines and waffles. Long known as one of the most well-preserved Medieval towns in the world, Bruges is an ideal Christmas town. The festivities begin as early as November, as the main square and the Simon Stevinsquare turn into a maze of booths selling gin (jenever), hot chocolate, pancakes and scrummy snacks. A favourite pastime is ornament shopping at Käthe Wohlfahrt. Ice skating and sampling treats is a must-do at the Grote Markt. For a historic stopover, head to the 12th century Basilica of the Holy Blood. Later in January, Bruges will host The Costumes of Venise (Les Costumés de Venise), a group of 50 men and women who will bring the atmosphere of Venice to Bruges. In the midst of the celebrations, find your inner child on the ice rink with the Belfry at the background. Bruges Christmas Market until January 1, 2017. Les Costumés de Venise takes place on January 14 & 15, 2017. Details: enchantingbruges.com
IN Belgium, Christmas is celebrated twice: once
on St Nicholas’ Day (December 6) and again on Christmas Day. On St Nicholas’ Day, children receive toys, chocolates and candy, while the Belgian capital lights up for celebrations on the big day. The Grand Place and the Place St Catherine come alive with an array of stalls, and it’s an excellent introduction to the short-break Christmas market concept. There are great chips, waffles and beer too. The Brussels Christmas Market delights locals and visitors alike, as the displays lend to the magic, with numerous live animations and illuminations creating a unique atmosphere. Shops remain open all weekend over a period of five weeks, as Belgians enjoy getting in the festive spirit with lots of shopping, parties and gatherings. Exhibitors from all over Europe set up their wooden chalets selling all manner of gastronomic specialities, handicrafts and stocking-fillers. There’s also a giant wheel, 55 metres high, from which you can admire the city’s spectacles. Until January 1, 2017. Details: visitbelgium.com.
SIN City goes all out on Christmas. No matter if you missed the Great Santa Run downtown earlier this December, there’s never a shortage of fun things to do — with the fourth-floor skating rink at the Cosmopolitan, the cactus garden at Ethel M Chocolates Factory, and the Glittering Lights Show at the Las Vegas Speedway (all events until January 1). At the winter
wonderland of the Opportunity Village Magical Forest, you get to stroll through hundreds of Christmas displays and decorated trees, ride the Forest Express passenger train and even have your photos taken with Santa (until January 4). The annual parade at Downtown Summerlin features a spectacle of floats, toy soldiers, snowflake princesses, nutcrackers, dancers and characters — all set to holiday music (until December 24). The Town Square, meanwhile, hosts a Holiday Nights & Lights Community Concert every Thursday Night through December.
THe Imagine Peace Tower, located on Viðey Island in Kollafjörður Bay near Reykjavík, Iceland, was unveiled in 2007 as a memorial to the late John Lennon from his widow, Yoko Ono. Conceived as an art installation to serve as a beacon for world peace, the tower is designed as a wishing well that gives rise to a powerful beam of light. The tower is projected from a white stone monument that has the words ‘Imagine Peace’ carved on it in 24 languages, referring to the Lennon song, Imagine. The beam often reaches cloudbase. Buried underneath it are over one million written wishes
that Ono gathered over the years for another project, titled Wish Trees. The beam gets turned on starting every Winter Solstice (December 21) until the New Year (December 31), from one hour after sunset until midnight, and until dawn on New Year’s Day. The tower also gets lit in the first week
of spring (March 20-27), as well as on October 9, Lennon’s birthday, and on December 8, the anniversary of his death. Details: imaginepeacetower.com
THe Macao Light Festival — Treasure of Light will
introduce innovative projections and new interactive elements this year. The celebrations revolve around a quest for the Treasure of Light, inviting visitors to embark on an adventure looking for the seven lost Energy Gems of Mazu, symbolising Hope, Perseverance, Health, Happiness, Harvest, Bravery and Faithfulness. By collecting these gems, visitors can awaken treasures from the sea and enjoy a virtual reality tour. Video mapping segments will illustrate historical
stories about Macao, while the interactive light installations will include 360 LED glow balls at Nam Van Lake Nautical Centre (projected on a cascade of water). At the Lantern of Wishes, visitors can ride a glowing seesaw to set off projections of blessing lanterns, while at the Fountain of Light, you can step into a fountain of light and collect gems flying down from the fountain. Daily 7 pm to 10 pm. Until December 31. Download the app Treasure of Light (Free on App Store or Google Play). Details: en.macaotourism.gov.mo
Christmas markets are essential to the festive magic in the Czech Republic. At Prague, the main markets are at the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square, while the smaller ones are at Republic Square, Havel’s Market, Kampa Island and St George’s Basilica at Prague Castle. Visitors can savour local treats such as hams roasted on spits, barbequed sausages (klobása), confectionaries like Trdelník, a hot sugar-coated pastry, with cups of mulled wine (svarené víno or svarák). A massive Christmas tree is brought in from Pecka, a town north-east of Prague, and erected at the Old Town Square, making for a grand sight against the city’s gothic skyline. Open every day until 6 January, 2017. Details: czechtourism.com
Christmas in San Francisco
is a magical time. The air is crisp and the city is full of gorgeous holiday lights. The highlights this season are in the theatre performances, apart from cruising down Lombard Street, visiting the Japanese Tea Garden, or walking through the Mission to see its colourful murals. The San Francisco Ballet
performs two shows on Christmas Eve, with their take on The Nutcracker at the War Memorial Opera House. You can also catch the Cirque du Soleil show Luzia, a vibrant ‘Walking Dream of Mexico’. Or head over to Golden Gate Theatre for the final performance of Irving Berlin’s classic musical, White Christmas. Details: sftravel.com
Once famous as a diamond-cutting hub, the city of Antwerp in northern Belgium, on the River Scheldt, shines with its medieval streets and ancient palaces during winter. The Christmas Market at Grote Markt features festive stalls offering all manner of speciality food and drink, apart from nativity scenes set against the backdrop of Antwerp’s historic buildings. The Antwerp Christmas Market is an important part of the city’s Winter in Antwerp programme, with nearly 100 stalls hosting fledgling designers and charities alongside traders of traditional wares and gifts. Get around an ice-skating rink, play miniature golf in a fire forest, plant a kiss on your loved one under a giant mistletoe, and enjoy a sweeping view of the city from a giant Ferris wheel. The Groenplaats area is adorned with lights, a sight you’re encouraged to take in with a glass of Glühwein (mulled wine).
Until 8 January, 2017. Details: visitantwerpen.be
By Team Indulge