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Winter is upon us and we head north to find the most heart-warming destinations to spend our festive holidays. Here is a list of the wintry hotspots for vibrant night markets, feeding reindeers, exclusive Xmas shopping, romantic dinners by the fire, ice skating and plenty more to let all our senses have a truly festive time. Happy Holidays!
Le Beau-Rivage Palace
This former Palace on the Lausanne banks of the Lake Leman, better known as Lake Geneva, is the epitome of festive spirits. The beautiful hotel is the place for royalty and celebrities to come together and celebrate. The traditional interior is decked out in ornate elegance in December, whilst the gardens act as an evergreen winter wonderland with its very own ice skating rink and (blow-up) igloos to feast on festive canapés and warm drinks.
Lausanne is filled with warmth as splodges of joyful night markets and cheery shop windows brighten up city streets. The Light Festival runs through December and features massive chandeliers, lit up installations attached to high buildings and unique light displays criss-crossed around town to add to the festive spirit.
INFO: Winter Promotion at Beau-Rivage Palace until January 8, 2017 from Dhs 1,447 per room including breakfast and hot drink at the ice rink.www.brp.ch
Luxury Boutique Apartments
What better way to indulge in the festivities in the Dutch Capital than to enjoy them from your own canal house apartment? The award-wining Amsterdam Boutique Apartments are located in the middle of the Unesco ring of canals - in the midst of lit bridges and cobbled streets. The canal house is owned and managed by two Dutch hospitality pundits and the apartments are perfect for a couple or family stay. Or be bold and book the entire house and invite friends to join in on the festive times ahead – a private chef can be booked to create a family feast. When you’re lucky, the canal on your doorstep has frozen over and you can ice-skate from your front door to the ‘koek & zopie’ (cookies and warm drinks) stands en route or feast on local dishes in nearby cafes and head to the festive markets just a few archway bridges away. A favourite is the Haarlemmerplein market, which extends all the way through the Haarlemmerdijk and Haarlemmerstraat during the festive season. A feast for the eyes, and for sure the palette, the area is known for its broad collection of food shops, cafes and restaurants.
INFO: The Amsterdam Boutique Apartments are available for minimal three nights during the holidays. The private design suite for two is available from Dhs 1,276 per night. www.amsterdamboutiqueapartments.com
Heading to Paris for the holidays is the icing on the festive cake, having French fine-dining laden with beautifully curated menus and the most exclusive shopping all in one destination, is the this year’s wish list come true. Hotel Balzac, a former ‘folie’ on Paris’ most desirable pieces of land, was regarded by contemporaries as extraordinary and was built in an exotic style with a large central pavilion anchoring four attached apartments. Now, the beautifully curated five-star boutique hotel is home to many tourists. The location – walkable distance from the Golden Triangle - puts you at the very heart of this vibrant, stylish city subdued in festive spirit. Located just one block from Avenue des Champs-Élysées, the five-star Hotel Balzac is offering you the chance to enjoy a VIP Christmas getaway in the heart of Paris.
INFO: Festive Shopping package from Dhs 977until December 29 valid for a minimum stay of two nights and includes breakfast and La Vallee Village VIP card.
Visiting Rudolf, Blitzen, Dasher and Dancer might be high on your list but with a sure sighting of Santa himself it becomes our number one. The beautiful winter resort of Kakslauttanen in the northern region of Finland is the place to be for this magical season. Not only might you see the reindeers and elves, the Nortern Lights are expected to appear as well. And with the latest addition of Kelo-Glass Igloos featuring a private sauna, cosy fireplace, kitchenette to warm up the hot chocolates and room for six to sleep – this winter destination sure makes the holidays unforgettable. The half glass igloos, half pine cabins create a warm atmosphere to spend long winter evenings and you will feel comfortably warm amidst the beauty of the white winter wonderland. Santa’s home is not far and if you’re keen to explore a reindeer safari, cross-country skiing or husky sled ride can be part of your daily activities.
INFO: Kaklauttanen offers a special Christmas package for three nights from 23 December until 26 December; the Kelo-Glass Igloos can be booked for Dhs 3856, based on double occupancy. www.kakslauttanen.fi
UNITED KINGDOM, LONDON
The creative brainchild of Kit Kemp – interior designer and hotel owner - is located in South Kensington on the edge of the Museum Quarter. The V&A Museum, Museum of Science, Natural History Museum are nearby and have the most unique and quirky stocking fillers in their own museum shops. Or head over to the Royal Albert Hall for festive concerts, and don’t miss the festively decorated streets in classy Chelsea for its art scene and boutique festive shopping. It is behind the white painted Victorian townhouse façade where trompe d’oeil teapots, cups and saucers mingle on breakfast tables and lush dinners are served in the newly added conservatory, whilst being overlooked by stunning artefacts from around the globe and festive decorations adding to enhance the holiday spirit. Each room is themed according to a colour scheme, which gives a warm welcome to any resident traveller and adds to the festive feeling – even though the cheerful interior welcomes you year-round.
INFO: Number Sixteen has a warming winter offer of an overnight stay including continental breakfast and a glass of bubbly. Rooms are from Dhs 964 per room per night.
Hotel Hassler Roma
Located in the heart of Rome, overlooking the Spanish Steps, with a backdrop of the Colloseum and not far from the Trevi Fountain, Hotel Hassler has all the potential to be the most romantic New Year’s Eve venue to head into the New Year. The five star luxury hotel feels like a beautiful mix of a modern day five star hotel and a sophisticated uber-classy residence with wood panelled walls and marble bathrooms, which make sure you, act as ‘when in Rome’. Each of the restaurants offer special festive menus and on New Year’s Eve you can toast in 2017 on the 7th floor terrace overlooking Rome - most likely the best place to be that night of the year. The hotel also offers the most scrumptious brunch on New Year’s day – who wouldn’t want to start the first day of the New Year with seasonal and traditional specialties from Italy?
INFO: Hotel Hassler has several New Year’s Eve offers, ranging from Dhs 9867for three nights up to Dhs 14512, depending on your room or suite. www.hotelhasslerroma.com
Laura Brown is the founding partner of Lawrence Travel PR