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Christmas party London, London Christmas lights and the most Christmassy experiences in the capital

Christmas party London, London Christmas lights and the most Christmassy experiences in the capital

London is simply sublime at Christmastime. It’s Christmas party London-style season, November through December. There’s London Christmas lights and many Christmassy experiences. Here’s a few things you shouldn’t miss:

Christmas party London

You can go to hotels, clubs, bars, markets – just about anywhere for a Christmas party London experience.

We were lucky enough to be invited over to Camden for the launch of FEST’s Christmas party London events. Take a look:

 

More places to relish in London’s Christmas spirit: 

Harrods Christmas Grotto

Knightsbridge tube
A Christmas escape for Children, that leaves parents free to also escape… to do some shopping! It’s festive, magical and very Harrods. Various events happening throughout December. More at: harrods.com

 

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland and Santa Land

Marble Arch tube
This gorgeous, annual one-stop Christmas spectacular includes rides, circus-like attractions, markets that sell sweets, Christmas treats and traditional German crafts and of course an ice rink. More at: hydeparkwinterwonderland.com

 

Westfield ice skating and grotto

Shepherd’s Bush tube / Stratford tube
There’s nothing that feels more like Christmas than spending a day in the warmth, shopping at Westfield London or Stratford City. Santa’s in store too, and there’s an ice skating rink – makes for a wonderfully spirited day out.

 

Southbank Centre Christmas Market and Winter Festival

Waterloo tube
A traditional German-style wooden hut market along the river – so charming! Toys, gifts, food, drinks – internationally inspired. Also features the Designers Makers Christmas Market, with over 50 British designers selling jewellery, ceramics, textiles, homewares and prints. More at: southbankcentre.co.uk

 

 

A Covent Garden Christmas

Covent Garden tube
The historic market piazza plays host to innovative digital installations, a super-sized LEGO snow globe, entertainers, festive lights and displays. More at: coventgardenlondonuk.com

 

Christmas Arcade at Somerset House

Temple or Covent Garden tube
The divine Somerset House‘s West Wing overlooks a lavish ice skating rink, and the setting features a Narniaesque corridor bedecked in lights and foliage. Dozens of airy rooms are occupied by pop-up-shops with an emphasis on British-made wares, so you’ll find the likes of Brora cashmere, Murdock grooming products, BoBelle London bags and leather goods.

 

 

Harry Potter Walking Tour

Indulge in a magical Hogwarts Christmas with a guided walking tour (also includes a boat ride) that takes you through Leadenhall Market and other Potter filming locations.

 

Christmas at Kew Gardens and Hampton Court Palace

Richmond tube
Christmas at Kew Gardens is family friendly in a magical woodland setting, includes a Victorian carousel and vintage rides, Santa’s grotto, boutique Christmas market and live music. Over at Hampton Court Palace, Henry VIII’s favourite ‘haunt’, not to mention a fabulous place to visit, there’s a divine ice skating rink in the front courtyard.

 

Christmas lights in London

Christmas lights by night

Famous throughout the world, each year there is a different theme throughout the city’s festive streets. Brave the chill and jump on an open bus sightseeing tour during the evening, taking in all the classic sights including Harrods, Oxford Street, Piccadilly and the Tower of London all dressed up in their Christmas finery.

 

Where to stay: The Wellesley, for a little Christmas luxury

 

The Wellesley is set within prestigious Knightsbridge, and provides easy access to all the Christmas experiences listed above, and much more. It is not yet a year old following extensive renovations which transformed the property from musical venue to luxe townhouse hotel. Gatsbyesque glamour sets the tone, and this boutique property is worth the dollar outlay if you’re seeking luxury alongside unparalleled service while in London.

The Roaring Twenties carry on at The Wellesley through cleverly considered interiors like crystal chandeliers, original artwork, mirrored panelling and lavish cream and gold colour scheme. It’s also a romantic building for anyone keen on being immersed in history − indeed it used to be the site of the original Hyde Park Corner tube station in the 1920s, and telling architectural signs are evident upon the exterior of the property and from within.

The Wellesley attracts a high calibre of clientèle, but is accessible for anyone seeking a night or more of pure indulgence. The hotel is conveniently situated for shopping, up-market bars and a wander around Hyde Park. Beautifully restored in Art Deco style with a contemporary twist, The Wellesley is a feast for the senses, offering the discerning traveller copious luxury surprises and outstanding personalised service.

What we loved!

  • Live jazz that was in the hotel’s divine Jazz Lounge which boasts brilliant acoustics thanks to the venue’s musical roots.
  • The delicious cocktails on offer in the Crystal Bar.
  • The beds!
  • Marble bathrooms and Hermès toiletries.
  • Courtesy Rolls Royce chauffeur service.
  • Fast, free WiFi and dozens of free movies available on-demand.

Dining and recreation

The Wellesley features several spaces for indulging, including the enthralling Jazz Lounge with its grand piano centrepiece; the award-winning Crystal Bar which boasts a large selection of fine cognac, champagnes and whisky, and the opulent Oval Restaurant where a delectable Italian-inspired menu is on offer.

Best room

The spacious 4-bedroom penthouse set across levels six and seven, with scenic views of Hyde Park, and featuring heated marble floors, heavenly bathrooms, balconies and a fire place.

The Wellesley, 11 Knightsbridge, London
Hyde Park Corner tube
thewellesley.co.uk

Do you have a Christmas experience tip for visitors to lovely London? Let us know in the comments

 

More Christmas

One of our favourite Christmas experiences was at the Cologne Christmas markets in Germany. Take a look around for yourself 

3 days in Lisbon travel itinerary

3 days in Lisbon travel itinerary

It’s one of the oldest cities in Europe and offers wonderful glimpses into Portugal’s layers of time and influence – needless to say we were very excited to get going on our 3 days in Lisbon adventure!

It was the Age of Discovery when Portugal ruled the world, stretching a hand (as well as culture and language) across the globe, from Brazil to China, Africa and beyond.

Set upon seven hills, imagine old-world trams bustling along narrow, cobbled streets; grand architecture, quirky stores scaling hilltops, and colourful rooftops as far as the eye can see.

 

We flew in for a Christmas city break and managed to cram quite a bit into our 3 days in Lisbon itinerary.

I’ve shared our discoveries below, and hopefully you’ll be inspired to book a trip soon too.

3 days in Lisbon itinerary

 

“Welcome to Lisbon – a roller-coaster city of seven hills, crowned by a Moorish castle and washed in an artist’s pure light. Lisbon is cinematically beautiful and historically compelling. This is a capital city of big skies and bigger vistas; of rumbling trans and Willy Wonka-like elevators; of melancholic fado song and live-to-part nightlife. Edge, charisma and postcard good looks, Lisbon has the lot!” –Kerry Christiani, Lonely Planet Lisbon Pocket Guide 

 

3 days in Lisbon - building art and beautiful views from Alfama

 

Understanding the layout

In your research on travel to Lisbon, you’ll find there’s a few main areas within the city’s old ‘centre’ and along the waterfront.

These areas of interest include:

  1. ‘Old town’ Alfama, Castelo and Graça: cobbled streets and amazing views from Castelo de São Jorge, Largo das Portas do Sol and Miradouro da Senhora do Monte. Usually reached by tram from streets around Rossio and Baixa.
  2. Rossio and Baixa, Lisbon’s riverfront gateway sitting below Alfama, with bustling trams, Elevador de Santa Justa and the charming Praça do Comércio to name just a few highlights.
  3. Bairro Alto and Chiado, particularly good for dining and nightlife. These areas are along the waterfront and within easy walking distance of Rossio and Praça do Comércio – all of this is close together and easy to explore on foot.
  4. Belém, a little further along the waterfront and overlooking the Ponte 25 de Abril (bridge); with its pastries, and historical charms like Jerónimos Monastery, Belém Tower on the banks of Tagus River, and Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument of the Discoveries) celebrating travellers from the Portuguese Age of Discovery.

Here’s how we divided our time, focused on the areas outlined above:

 

3 days in Lisbon, day one

We stayed not far from Rossio Square (pictured below), overlooking São Jorge Castle.

This was a perfect spot for exploring a large portion of the older part of town around Rossio and Baixa on foot. Or you can easily catch a tram around here, including the famous no. 28.

 

3 days in Lisbon - overlooking Rossio Square from Santa Justa Lift

 

Day one on your 3 days in Lisbon itinerary is best spent getting your bearings in this area.

Start early at Santa Justa lift to avoid the queues. Head up high and take a look around this beautiful city.

From here, you can also get an early start on the trams including the no. 28 which is famous for the pretty and historical route it takes; also the tourist options like the Yellow buses or trams (very good value for a 48 or 72 hour pass, if you ask us), or wander around and go shopping.

On your adventure, head for (or you’ll inevitably stumble upon) Praça do Comércio (pictured below), gateway to the lovely waterfront here.

There’s a romantic promenade along the front of the city, where you can enjoy excellent views looking back up onto the hills and Lisbon’s colourful canvas, plus out to sea where so many have taken to the waters for an adventure before you.

 

3 days in Lisbon - Praça do Comércio

 

Fascinating history and architecture

The reason I suggest you spend a little time in these parts along and around the waterfront, is so you can get a good sense of the rich history all around you.

In its heyday these parts of town were wealthy – some of the wealthiest in the world, in fact. This was thanks to trading happening in the 16th Century in gold, spices, silks and jewels among other things. Not to mention Portugal, alongside rival Spain, ruling half the world!

 



 

Fast forward to 9.40am on 1 November 1755 though – three major earthquakes hit as Lisbon’s residents celebrated Mass for All Saints Day.

These earthquakes triggered a devastating fire and tsunami, destroying much of the city. About a third of Lisbon’s 270,000 inhabitants died.

From this tragedy emerged a hero, Sebastiao de Melo, who set about reconstructing the city from the ashes. Together with architects and engineers, he made sure the city’s new design was earthquake-proof, and developed one of the world’s first grid systems that we see implemented in so many major cities to this day.

 

“We must bury the dead and heal the living.”

 

3 days in Lisbon - Cooper hanging about in Chiado

 

Surprising facts

There’s a lot I didn’t know about Portugal, and across our 3 days in Lisbon I continued to be more and more fascinated!

For instance, the country was run by a dictator, António de Oliveira Salazar, who was prime minister between 1937 and 1968.

A contemporary of Hitler, Franco and Mussolini, Salazar is remembered by some as the greatest figure in the Portugal’s history, but by others as keeping the country repressed and backwards.

Salazar was overthrown in 1974. Lisbon’s huge suspension bridge (resembles the Golden Gate in San Francisco and was built by the same company) was renamed Ponte 25 de Abril, or ‘April 25 Bridge’ (my birth date!) to mark the event.

Across the city there’s a fascinating legacy hailing from Lisbon’s Arabic roots – tiles, known as Azulejos.

These date as far back as the 13th Century, when the Moors invaded Portugal and Spain (per a contemporary map. The Moors secured their foothold in Portuguese culture between the 16th and 17th Centuries and used Azulejos to decorate plain walls of buildings. These beautiful little polished stones adorn old walls still. Thankfully not all was lost in 1755.

 

3 days in Lisbon - Azulejos tiles adorn many of the old walls of the city of Lisbon

 

I was also happy to learn that St Anthony was born here (coincidentally buried in Verona, Italy, where we are visiting in April). All through childhood, my mum used to tell us to ask St Anthony for help if we lost something.

Somehow, this always did the trick. The link to St Anthony here was more sentimental for me than anything else (and I did by mum a memento to thank her for all the times her advice helped me recover missing things). The Lisbon Sardine Festival (sardines and other canned fish are a BIG industry here) celebrates St Anthony’s life and brings everyone out into the streets for a party every June.

 

3 days in Lisbon - Mercado da Ribeira

 

Eating and drinking – quirky ideas for you

A couple of places that I wanted to find but that were closed over Christmas, and perhaps worth adding to your list, are the storybook-themed Fabulas and Pharmacia cafes/restaurants (in the Bairro Alto / Chiado area). Lisbon is known for offering quirky experiences to locals and visitors alike.

The TimeOut Market (Mercado da Ribeira, pictured above) is also within walking distance in Chiado – only about ten minutes walk from Praça do Comércio in fact.

It’s cool for an evening outing, with a large variety of food and drinks on offer to try. A word of warning, it’s definitely not the cheapest spot in town, although is definitely worth a visit.

 

3 days in Lisbon, day two

Whether you’re enjoying a self-guided tour on local transport or have taken advantage of one of the tour operators (the Yellow tour brand appears to have the upper hand in Lisbon in terms of tour options and best value), add Belém to your list for the day.

In Belém you can’t miss the romantic Coach Museum, stunning Jerónimos Monastery (pictured below) and Padrão dos Descobrimentos the inspired explorers’ monument that’s along the waterfront (in front of Jerónimos Monastery).

 

3 days in Lisbon - Jerónimos Monastery

 

Wander a bit further past the monument and you’ll come across the medieval Belém Tower (pictured below) which is fascinating for its architecture alone, not to mention its prime spot by the river.

There’s a lot to do in this little area that’s about twenty minutes from the centre of town. Give yourself time to deal with any queues at the monastery and tower.

 

3 days in Lisbon - Belem Tower

 

You can’t go to Lisbon and not try a Pastel de Nata (Portuguese custard tart).

They’re everywhere, sweet and delicious! Try at least one from Pastéis de Belém, where they’ve been making these according to a top-secret recipe since 1837.

 

3 days in Lisbon - custard tarts are a must-try

 

The city is best experienced from up high, so to wrap up your day, find a rooftop bar for a cocktail as the sun sets. Many hotels have their own roof bar, but the Mundial Hotel in the middle of the city near Rossio Square is well known, as is the luxe Topo (although this appears to be a summer destination).

If you’re up for it, there’s one more stop to make – pop into a Ginjinha shop like Ginginha Sem Rival around Rossio Square and enjoy a shot (or two) of this delicious and inexpensive local delight. It’s a sour cherry liqueur (tastes like Port) that has been served in the city since 1890, and it’ll knock your socks off if you have too many in a row.

Tip: Before your visit, have a look at the Discover Walks website. They offer a range of free and inexpensive walking tours of Lisbon, including around Belém, so you can gather all the knowledge and inside secrets from a local!

 

3 days in Lisbon, day three 

Today you might want to start early and catch a ride on the famous no. 28 tram.

Ride a lap and eventually get off in historical Alfama – it’s about a ten to fifteen-minute tram ride from the city centre (e.g. Rossio Square or Praça do Comércio) up into the hills.

Alfama is colourful, interesting and easy to get lost in, so give yourself time to find the best views. Trip happily along the cobbled streets, and visit the historical sites like São Jorge Castle or the Moorish Gateway, Largo das Portas do Sol that also offers postcard-perfect views.

 

3 days in Lisbon - views from Alfama

 

Tip: See if you can find the quirky and cool circus school Chapito, where you can eat or have a drink. The view is excellent and you might even witness a bit of a show.

 

Your last night

Back in town, head towards Praça do Comércio, the old place of international trade in the Age of Discovery and home for the Royal Family. It’s often lit up to showcase a magical spectacle.

Wander along the waterfront and then back up the hill towards Bairro Alto where there’s a few fun rows of streets that boast a selection of bars, restaurants and clubs.

Be careful though – we headed out for an innocent dinner but after being lured into a bar playing cool dance music, two free shots later (courtesy a generous barman), we ended up on a bigger night than anticipated. Oh who am I kidding? It was awesome!

 

3 days in Lisbon - Sarah Blinco exploring Lisbon's old streets

 

Where to stay

I did a lot of research trying to figure out the best area to stay in that was convenient to everything.

I settled on the stylish Lisboa Pessoa Hotel near Rossio Square, that’s nestled on a hilltop overlooking São Jorge Castle. I’d recommend the area and the hotel.

Visiting in December around Christmas time in Lisbon

It gets very busy in the summer season (May to August), and while it’s cooler in the autumn/winter months, everything is still open, and you’ll avoid the crowds.

Late December was cooler than we had anticipated. Take warm clothes.

There is sun though so that’s a bonus, but in the wind it is chilly.

Pretty much everything was open over Christmas though which was great (some places shut down for many days across the period). While you could spend so much more than 3 days in Lisbon, it’s a taster to get you ready for the next trip. That’s our thinking anyway!

As a city break at Christmas, it’s ideal. Busier even than Mallorca and definitely Ibiza – they have different things to offer at Christmastime though.

 

If you’ve been to Lisbon and have tips, please do share with us in the comments below. And any questions, you know where to find us.

Christmas markets Cologne

Christmas markets Cologne

Germany is famed the world over for putting on the best festive markets, and we’re excited to share with you our Christmas markets Cologne guide.

They’re some of the world’s best that attract millions to the city each year between 25 November and 23 December.

Christmas markets Cologne

Cologne is known as one of the best European Christmas destinations. There are seven significant German Christmas markets in Cologne and highlights of each, as well as best time of day to visit, are listed below.

This charming German city is of course, famous for its Christmas markets (as other neighbouring German cities are). It’s perfect for a winter Christmas city break!

Before we get into the detail of why we’ve come in December, a quick snapshot about this town…

Christmas markets Cologne - Santa's helpers

About Cologne

One of the reasons we chose to visit Cologne for a spot of Christmas market shopping is that its positioned on the Rhine river.

We’ve only been to this area once, when travelling around Europe on our awesome Expat Explore tour – and I remember it is spectacular!

Cologne is known as a cultural hub of north west Germany, popular for its food, art and traditional Kölsch beer. The city is filled with quirky bars, cool shopping and plenty of culture.

 



 

Much of the city was actually destroyed during the first world war, and the locals have had to rebuild it, together with a multicultural mix of neighbours from around Europe.

Cologne famously accepted many migrants during recent years’ refugee crisis’, and its people are known to be exceptionally friendly, open and welcoming.

Also famous and on at this time of year, is the Cologne Carnival, known as Fastelovend. I love that this annual celebration of street parties and costumes officially launches each year at 11am on November 11, and it runs until Christian Lent.

Apparently it’s normal during this period for people in costume to run up and give you a peck on the cheek. If you get kissed, don’t panic, consider it lucky and enjoy the moment.

Christmas markets Cologne - wandering the markets

Need to know: the 7 Christmas markets of Cologne

Cathedral Market: the big one

– This is the biggest  German Christmas market in the city, known for its spectacular location in the square in front of Dom Cathedral. It’s probably the first one you’ll come across if you arrive by train, as the main station is on the doorstep to the Cathedral.

Come back for a visit at night, for the sprinkling of pretty festive lights throughout the gift-filled wooden pavilions.

– There’s a lot of delicious food here, including local foods like German Bratwurst and Flammlachs (grilled salmon).

– The Cathedral Market is the spot for entertainment which you’ll often catch on the stage by the tall Christmas tree.

In case of rain, there’s a canopy under the Roman-German Museum where you can find shelter, people-watch and enjoy a mug of traditional gluhwein/gluehwein (hot spiced wine) – I liked mine with a splash of Amaretto!

– Cologne’s tourism information centre is very close to here too, well-signed, opposite the Dom, if you want some tips or help with getting around town.

Christmas markets Cologne - Cathedral Market

Old Market or Alter Markt: the traditional one

– Literally next door to the Cathedral market is this gorgeous set-up. For a traditional Christmas market experience that’s particularly great for a daytime visit,  make time for the large Old Market.

– This Cologne Christmas market is located in front of the Old Town Hall, and there are indoor areas if it’s raining.

– The open market area is on Heumarkt and features a large ice rink at the centre of it that has ice shows too!

– The Old Market boasts cool themed alleys e.g sweets alley, toy alley.

– There’s a fabulous vantage point here on  the balcony at the themed house that overlooks the ice rink, but it’s busy so be prepared to nudge your way through to get some nice photos.

– Want to try local fare? Special drinks to look for include Calvados liqueur with cream; and Feuerzangenbowle which is Gluhwein and rum set on fire and served in a mug called a Feuerzangentasse which has forks attached to it with a sugar cone that can be soaked in rum and the whole thing is set on fire.

 

Harbour market (Chocolate Museum): the modern one

– A short walk along the river from the Cathedral and Alter Markt, this spot is a must-visit. How could anyone resist a German Christmas market on the banks of the river Rhine in front of a Chocolate Museum? (which is perfect for shelter if it’s wet).

– While this is one of the smallest in the city, it’s possibly set in the most picturesque spot. Go in the daytime, and head here early, it is one of the first to open each day during the German Christmas market season.

– Perfect for lovely arts and crafts, and there’s a cool hat vendor too.

Christmas markets Cologne - markets in the city

Angel’s Market (Neumarkt): the glamorous one

– This pretty German Christmas market is the oldest in the city, and sits on Neumarkt Square, amongst some of Cologne’s great shopping streets. It is by far my favourite!

– It’s another lovely Cologne Christmas market to visit at night because of its lights, trees and romantic atmosphere. The Angel Market is about 15 minutes walk from the Cathedral (Dom).

In case of rain, seek the chic bar at the west end of the market, but you’ll want to be early because it gets full.

– Cologne’s Angel market is good for Christmas decorations, unique chocolates, artisan stalls, lights, arts and crafts.

 

Village of St Nicholas (Rudolfplatz): the magical one

– A village-style Christmas market that is set by the medieval Hahnentorburg on Rudolfplatz.

– This is the area where people go out at night; you’ll find a cool crowd, and atmosphere.

– For more festive spirit, look around the corner as this is next to Christmas Avenue Market.

Christmas markets Cologne - seven markets in the city

Stadtgarten: the local one

– A bit further out from the centre of the Cologne Christmas market action, but worthwhile; in the middle of the Belgian Quarter of Cologne – a gorgeous part of the city.

–This German Christmas market in Cologne is known for its  lovely village feel, and more locals than tourists surrounding you.

– Perfect for  unique and cute gifts; also a great food selection especially desserts and savoury delights.

 

Gay and Lesbian market: the cool one

– Cologne is one of the most LGTB friendly cities in Europe and its got a Christmas market to match!

– Don’t miss this one for a fun, bright, younger crowd, a diverse range of food and drinks and the quirkiest gifts.

Christmas markets Cologne

Cologne Christmas markets top tips

1. Each market offers its own unique and collectable Gluhwein mugs. You pay a deposit on your first drink which means you can keep this mug. If you don’t want to keep it, simply return to the bar at the same market for your deposit back.

2. You can walk between most of the markets, or catch the bus or special Christmas Market Express train. Visit Koeln also offers a Koeln card to get around the city. Visit the tourism centre for more details on this when you’re in the city.

3. An extremely comprehensive resource on the Cologne markets can be found at fromrealpeople.com – locals in Cologne who share helpful information about the markets, the food and treats to be found and importantly, transport. We got a lot out of this blog post (thanks team!).

 

Cologne has proven to be one of the best places to visit in winter, in our opinion. We love Amsterdam and Paris too, even Mallorca for some wintersun, but for a Christmas city break you can’t really go past this!

Let us know what you think in the comments

 

 

Images courtesy Köln Tourismus
Christmas in Mallorca, Spain

Christmas in Mallorca, Spain

The past few weeks in London had been cold – colder than I care for, but I had Christmas in Mallorca to look forward to! Work days at a top of 3 degrees, and when you top that off with a daily ride to work full of sniffly, coughing commuters, well, you can appreciate that we all need a little break come Christmastime.

I’d been very good [hello Santa] coming up to the festive period. One who enjoys the sparkly allure of a Christmas party, this year the late nights were kept in check, that is, until 22 December when a slew of happy events led me to being in a state not at all fit for a 4.30am rise.

We got through Stansted airport, fending off the rest of the Saturday morning school holiday rush. I thought I was doing well, despite the brain fog and living on the edge of severe grumpiness, only to get to security and realise my computer and liquids were inside my carry-on suitcase. I slid the laptop out through the side and attempted a very cunning manoeuvre to remove my plastic bag full of liquids, only for the entire suitcase to flip over on itself and for all the contents to scatter along the floor.

Oh yes, I was that person.

It would have been hilarious if only it wasn’t me. I’m sure for the hoards of holiday-goers trying to cope pre-caffeine it was hysterical. I didn’t look. I still can’t think too much about it.

Fortunately, just over two hours later, I was in Spain where I would happily take the sun and breezy 17 degrees by the marina – a pleasurable escape from the grey that has been my adopted home of the UK (I’m its biggest fan but even I need a little sunshine every now and then).

Thank the Universe for Christmas in Mallorca (sometimes spelled Majorca).

Then there was Spain

There really is something about Spain, for us at least.

We love the language and the accents and the culture. The sun and beaches are pretty nice too.

Last Christmas we defied tradition and visited Ibiza, a long-time dream destination of ours. It certainly did not disappoint and remains one of our favourite places. I’m looking forward to returning to that blissful, melodic island – probably in summer when everything is open!

We couldn’t get as far as home (Queensland), so wanted an Ibiza-esque Christmas experience in 2017. That is, sunshine, beautiful scenery and travel experiences, but with a little more actually happening over the festive break. After a long discussion where the list of possibilities became impossible (we just want to go everywhere!), one weekend in September we literally closed our eyes and put a virtual pin on Google Maps.

Mallorca (or Majorca) was the winner.

Is anything open at Christmas in Mallorca?

At Christmastime for most around the world, we all encounter the same thing which is a lack of activities, shopping and travel options on offer late December. Fair enough, this is a time for families and if you’re lucky enough to not be working, then so be it (you deserve it!).

As a visitor to a region though, we want to be able to take in a couple of new experiences, and my research indicated that while much of the island of Mallorca may not be open (some beach clubs operate seasonally across the summer months), the capital of Palma promised to be abuzz with plenty to do.

As it turns out, this is very true. Even London totally (totally!) shuts down on Christmas day, but in Mallorca the local buses were operating, as was City Sightseeing (hop on hop off bus tour) and many bars and restaurants opened their doors.

Winter in Mallorca – travel tips, transport and best-of

The weather in December averages a top of about 15 or 16 degrees. It’s warm in the sun but can be a little chilly if there’s a breeze, and the temperature does drop at night. It’s quite pleasant though.

The capital, Palma, is buzzing with plenty going on, so in the first instance wander the back streets, visit art galleries, take a look inside the old churches and try some tapas.

The Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma (or La Seu) is unmissable, its Gothic structure standing tall over the city. Work on this cathedral began in the 13 Century, and famous architect Antoni Gaudí (who has left his stamp all over Barcelona) even spent time working on this structure between 1904 and 1914.

Another Gothic structure that’s well worth the trip to the top of a hill overlooking the city, is Bellver Castle. The only circular castle in all of Spain, this 14th Century structure is really interesting to explore, and with a huge bonus in that it boasts the best views across Mallorca.

Hire a bike and ride along the extensive promenade, explore the marinas and along the coast.

You could ride to, or take bus number 25 to nearby beach s’Arenal. Many beaches and beach clubs around the island are closed over winter but this is a nice area and some eateries and shops are open.

The bus system is quite easy to use, but you’ll need cash. A single fare is currently €1.50, and the driver can change up to a €10 note.

If you have spare time and in need of retail therapy, there’s plenty of stores and a mall in the city, and a large shopping destination called Porto Pi which you can take a bus or a cab to.

Another experience that was mentioned to us a few times was a steam train that runs between Palma and Soller on the other side of Mallorca.

The whole trip is about an hour and a half one way, and you can’t pre-book tickets. The line was closed for maintenance when we were there, but this seems like it would be a lovely thing to do. Do keep an eye on the timetable though, because return trip would need to be planned.

Christmas in Palma – dining ideas

To be honest, we didn’t have a bad meal here! I remember being concerned about what may not be open at Christmas in Mallorca but there’s no need to worry, you’ll have plenty to choose from even on 25 December.

Notable venues we found:

Lennox the Pub, for €2.50 glasses of wine and gorgeous bar ambience.

Cafeteria Tropic (opposite the marina and next to the Auditorium), for delicious tapas.

Hogan’s Live Music, Sports Bar & Restaurant for yummy burgers, pub menu and music.

Bodega can Rigo, in Palma town, a charismatic little restaurant and bar, excellent food and coffee and a popular bar since 1949. We literally stumbled across this place and loved it!

Chez Camille for a finer dining experience.

All of the above and much more was open on Christmas day. It’s quiet around 5pm so go for a wander and see what takes your fancy.

Average weather in Ibiza in winter: sunny!

Average weather in Ibiza in winter: sunny!

Winter in Ibiza is an excellent choice for anyone wanting to escape the cold of other Euro destinations. We visited from the UK for Christmas in Ibiza, and the average weather in Ibiza at this time was about 18 degrees and sunny during the day! Spain in general is pretty great at this time of year, especially around the Barcelona region or Mallorca, but there is indeed something very special about the islands.

Winter in Ibiza was basically a perfect experience for us. Read our travel guide and tips on things to do…

Average weather in Ibiza in winter is warm – get your dose of winter-sun

This year’s winter in the UK has already been particularly long, grey and cold – worse than last year in my view.

That said, I’d prefer it to sweating (southern hemisphere Christmas!), but this December it was time for a break, which is why we ended up in Ibiza for winter.

Last year we visited Copenhagen in Denmark and had some lovely family for Christmas company along for the ride. It was fantastic – a cool city and Tivoli Gardens, the world’s oldest operating amusement park, was a magical highlight.

However this year I wanted to change a couple of things with regards to an end-of-year break:

− it needed to be less expensive

− it needed to offer more of a mix of options to explore (travel), as well as options to rest

− it needed to be warmer!

 

Recalling that the Mediterranean seemed to be at least sunny when we cruised through back in January 2013, my research began ….

Sunny climates in Europe during winter

And it started in August because previously I’ve left plans really late by which time flights everywhere are expensive.

Long story short, I found a good deal through British Airways holidays which included flights from London City airport (tick, that’s our closest);

–>to Ibiza in Spain (double tick, always wanted to go!);

–>staying at a central resort by the beach with American half board (so breakfast and dinners, including seven courses for our special Christmas meal were included in the package).

Yes, yes and yes.

Old Town in Ibiza, average weather in Ibiza at this time of year is sunny and warm

But like many of even the world’s biggest destinations, much is shut over Christmas, and in Ibiza even more so outside of its popular summer season.

Ibiza’s small local population swells about five times in summer, with the island boasting the usual beautiful delights of this part of Europe as well as allegedly ‘the best clubs in the universe’ (Ibiza is known as the home of dance music).

What to do in Ibiza in winter then? Travel guide suggestions:

Walking or hiking

We were based along Figueretas beach which is situated about 15 to 20 minutes (easy) walk from the main island ‘city centre’, cruise marina, shopping strips and the ‘old town’.

Cooper and I enjoy being able to walk everywhere in a town, and it is an activity that is free, can be done in most weather conditions (although we got lucky with sunny days), and regardless of what’s open.

In Ibiza the walking or hiking options are endless, with beachfront, villages, cliffs and green hills to explore.

Only thing to be mindful of in our experience, is while it was warm throughout the day, temperatures dropped quickly around 4pm which could be a problem if you are far from home and all of a sudden not dressed appropriately.

Ocean in Ibiza in winter, beautiful, with average weather in Ibiza during the day about 18 degrees

 

Creative exploration

It’s not a big stretch to imagine that a sun drenched Spanish island is pretty, and Ibiza certainly is.

From ocean to mountains, vineyards, cool street art, contemporary and old architecture blending as one, it’s a great destination for the modern content creator.

Photographers, videographers, writers and artists will find much inspiration, particularly as the light changes across the course of a day.

wall-ibiza in winter -travellivelearn-sarah-blinco

 

Boat rides and beaches

Unfortunately we just missed this option because of much being closed over Christmas, but there’s a number of day trips you can enjoy around Ibiza even in the winter.

That said, try to book in advance online as there is far less operating than between April and October.

A ferry to Formentera (the smallest of Spain’s Balearic islands in the Mediterranean Sea) for a chilled out day by the crystal clear blue is something that was recommended and I’ll make it happen next time!

Winter views of the beautiful marina in Ibiza, average weather in Ibiza during December is fine and sunny

 

Sant Antoni is the main clubbing area and includes the famous sunset strip where summertime ravers enjoy shows by the world’s coolest DJs as the sun sets over the Med.

Pretty much everything is closed in winter with only a few cafes and restaurants operating to cater for the boating crowd. But for the curious (like me), for €2 bus no. 3 from Avenue d’Isidor Macabich (a main street in Eivissa’s city centre) will get you to where all the action takes place.

In about 25 minutes you’ll be on the other side of the island and can spot locations of some of the famous dance music fun-hubs like Cafe del Mar and Cafe Mambo.

Further reading: Ibiza’s best beaches and some of the island’s secret beaches via The Guardian travel.

 

The long lazy lunch

While most up this way in the world are rugged-up at Christmastime, we enjoyed still, warm and sunny 18 degree days. Best to make the most of it then!

We thought the Chinese cuisine was delicious and well priced at Restaurant Taiwan along Figueretas beachfront. Just up a bit from there is Oferta, a little family-run hole-in-the-wall (almost) business that was actually open when nothing else was.

Their food was good, but don’t accidentally order the cheap local beer that turns out to be non-alcoholic – oops.

Next door to Oferta is a larger pub-like establishment, Bistro Magnus; and for a classy meal and cocktail with a view look up Cotton lounge bar, also positioned on the Figueretas waterfront.

Bondi at Sant Antoni is a cafe/bar/restaurant opposite the port, not too far from the bus station where we got off the no. 3 from the city centre.

The food was delicious with many nice vege options on the menu. Friendly service too. Finally, back over on the Sant Antoni side is a beachfront restaurant called Hostal la Torre – sadly we didn’t get to it but it was recommended for sunset gatherings and if it’s as pretty as its pictures it wouldn’t disappoint.

We also frequently bought some nice cheese, salami and inexpensive wine from local Spar supermarkets for beach picnics.

Along the main road Av D’Espanya there’s a few lovely bakeries where you can buy fresh baguettes and coffee to complete your DIY lazy long lunch experience.

Average weather in Ibiza in winter is perfect - even the sunsets are still perfect

 

Just breathe

Meditation, yoga, mindfulness under the sun or even sun bathing – it’s all possible here in winter.

During the day when there’s no breeze it’s really warm; perfect conditions to ‘just be’.

In fact, along the promenade where we were staying I noticed many individuals happily spending quiet time bathed in sunlight; no phones, relaxing, tuning into the sound of the waves, no distractions (except for the odd dog, but even they seemed blissfully content).

hotel-ibiza in winter -travellivelearn-sarah-blinco

 

Next time

When a little more is operating (April to October), I’d like to:

  • Visit the hip and happy Hippy market
  • Book a four hour party boat ferry that cruises around the island
  • Indulge in a winery tour
  • Hike over to the mystical rocky island of Es Vedra in the north west, reputedly the island’s most magnetic point and with an energy similar to that of the Pyramids. I’m actually sure I spotted this when we were flying out at the end of our trip, but we’ll be back…
  • Explore Sant Josep some more – I wanted to make my way over to a little village called Es Cubells which promises a quaint church on a cliff top and a couple of authentic local bars, but the bus wasn’t heading there during our festive stay.
  • Beach bars – the best on the island!

 

Getting around Ibiza

Organise hire of a bike, car or moped for an easier and independent look around the island’s main regions of Eivissa (central), Sant Josep de sa Talaia, Sant Antoni de Portmany, Sant Joan de Labritja and Santa Eularia des Riu.

There is an inexpensive bus service which you’ll need to study the map and website to navigate, and you need change to buy a ticket when boarding, but the service is clean and efficient. The no. 10 gets you to and from the airport to the city centre for €3.50 (single), otherwise a cab is about €15. There are many airport shuttle and pick-up services advertised online but they are totally overpriced so be careful not to be ripped off.

 

Other useful online Ibiza resources:

Ibiza Spotlight features lots of stories and tips for first time visitors on where to eat, travel, club, stay and spend your money.

Ibiza bus includes maps and timetables for the local service around the island.

Ibiza Tourism – official website.

Back to Ibiza in summer 😁