Many dream of a white Christmas market as the festive season approaches, but what if you could enjoy the holiday spirit under a warmer sun?
While swapping hemispheres for a summer Christmas might not be on the cards, heading south to sun-drenched Southern Europe offers a temperate twist to traditional holiday festivities.
Imagine sipping mulled wine under a winter sun, exploring the classic tourist sights without the need for heavy coats, and Christmas markets that blend festive cheer and Mediterranean warmth.
Here are five city break destinations in Southern Europe where the Christmas spirit more than makes up for the lack of snow.
In Athens, Greek Orthodox traditions ensure that Christmas is a vibrant affair, while December's gentle weather is perfect for exploring ancient ruins without the throngs of summer tourists.
Syntagma Square buzzes with festive energy, showcasing a grand Christmas tree and twinkling lights that form a stunning contrast against the backdrop of the illuminated Acropolis. Stroll through the old Plaka neighbourhood, where shops and tavernas blend Greek Christmas customs with sparkling decorations. Local crafts such as hand-painted ceramics and intricately woven textiles make for unique gifts, while traditional Greek sweets like melomakarona and kourabiedes add a sweet touch to the holiday cheer.
Kids will love Little Kook, a popular, fairytale-inspired café serving crêpes that goes all out for Christmas.
Majorca’s capital transforms into a winter wonderland over the festive season, far removed from its bustling summer vibes.
Christmas markets adorn Paseo del Borne and Plaza Mayor, offering a variety of food and local crafts – sample traditional Majorcan Christmas treats, like the sweet ensaimada pastry and savoury sobrassada sausage or pick up some handmade Majorcan glassware and intricately designed leather goods. The mild Balearic climate allows for leisurely explorations of the gothic Santa María cathedral, beautifully lit for the season, too.
To make your Navidad extra fun, Port Adriano, located just a few miles west of the city, has an ice-skating rink.
Christmas markets are in full swing in cities like Paphos and Limassol in the festive season, and you’ll find them packed with Cypriot handicrafts, including delicate lace from Lefkara and colourful pottery.
For sightseeing, the temperate weather is perfect for visiting historical landmarks such as the Kourion Archaeological Site in Limassol and Paphos Castle, decked in unique decorations like pomegranates, which represent good fortune and fertility, is extra charming.
Holiday cuisine is a feast for the senses too, with dishes like koupepia (stuffed grape leaves) and sweet flaouna on the menu.
Seville lights up with Andalusian flair during Christmas and the city's unique blend of gothic and Moorish architecture becomes a canvas for festive illuminations. Traditional crafts like hand-painted ceramics and flamenco attire fill the markets, which pop up all over the city, and outdoor performances and flamenco shows add to the festive atmosphere.
Sevillian Christmas is incomplete without sampling its culinary delights. Look for pescaíto frito (fried fish) and turrón, a type of almond nougat.
If you’re booking a holiday over New Year, bear in mind that the entire city, including most restaurants, shut down for this family-centric occasion.
Naples, a city steeped in art and culture, offers an Italian Christmas filled with age-old traditions. Its historic centre, decked in festive lights, features artisans crafting kitsch presepi (nativity scenes) – a Neapolitan Christmas hallmark.
Average highs of around 14C in December are ideal for exploring Naples' lively streets and Christmas markets. Local delicacies like struffoli (honey-soaked dough balls) and roccocò (almond biscuits) are must-tries.
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