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Where to go on holiday in December 2019 – Beach holidays, city breaks and events

The weather's getting colder and the days are getting shorter - so it's time to get away. Flee the freezing weather with a beach holiday in the Maldives or Canary Islands, party the year away in Edinburgh or Berlin - or simply enjoy the snow in Oslo.
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Best beach holidays in December

The Maldives

Average December temperature: 27°C

It doesn’t get more idyllic than this. The Maldives is a tiny nation consisting of 26 coral atolls scattered across the Indian Ocean – islands that are blessed with white, palm-fringed beaches and azure water. And even in December, temperatures there often hit 29°C. Bliss.

The archipelago’s coral reefs make it an excellent destination for snorkelling and scuba diving. And there are all sorts of other water-based activities on offer, from kayaking to yacht cruises. Or you could, you know, just lounge on a hammock and do absolutely nothing. The choice is yours! The downside is that the Maldives are a hefty distance away. You’re looking at around a 15-hour flight. But the good news is that there are plenty of bargains to be had. We found return flights from Dublin to Malé beginning at just €43 at the start of December.

Where to stay

There are some seriously luxurious accommodation options in the Maldives. It’s not uncommon for resorts to have their own private coral reef. Hurawahli Island Resort is the highest rated by travellers. This private island has 90 villas that open directly to the sea, and it’s even got a glass-domed underwater restaurant.

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Canary Islands, Spain

Average December temperature: 19°C

The Canary Islands are one of the closest places you can get to for a little sun and sand in December, at just four-and-a-half hours flying time. And flights are incredibly cheap, to boot. You can bag a return flight to Tenerife for as little as 71. With prices like that, why wouldn’t you want to ditch your winter coat and hit the beach?

The one caveat is that being volcanic islands, the Canary Islands tend to have black sand rather than the golden beaches you might be used to. That said, one of the most popular beaches in Tenerife is Playa de las Teresitas in Santa Cruz, which is covered in golden sand especially imported from the Sahara desert.

We picked Mount Teide in Tenerife as one of Spain’s ten must-see destinations.

Where to stay

Travellers have ranked the Iberostar Grand Mencey as the number one hotel in Tenerife, no doubt thanks to its stunning pool and very fancy spa, which even features a flotarium. The hotel even offers free shuttle buses to Playa de las Teresitas.

You can escape the grey on a weekend break to these sun-drenched destinations. Boost your winter rays on these short-haul getaways!

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Best city breaks in December

London, UK

Average December temperature: 6°C

London is an excellent place to soak up the festive vibes. From November, Oxford Street, Regent Street and Carnaby Street will be swathed in their traditional Christmas lights. And the South Bank will be taken over by the annual Winter Market. It’s why we named London as one of the best destinations for Christmas and New Year holidays.

But another reason why the city is a great December destination is that it offers truckloads of things to do even when the weather is against you. The world-class British Museum, Science Museum and Natural History Museum are perfect for escaping from the elements, and they’re all completely free as well. And you could always catch a West End show in the warm, like The Lion King, Mamma Mia or Wicked. Try the TKTS booth in Leicester Square for last-minute and discounted tickets.

Where to stay

Apartment hotels are becoming more and more popular – mixing the convenience of a hotel with the luxury of having a whole apartment to yourself, kitchen included. The Rosebery Aparthotel is in a great EC1 location, and this recently refurbished Victorian building looks immaculate.

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New York, USA

Average December temperature: 5°C

The absolute best thing about going to New York is the feeling that you’re walking around a movie set. And December is one of the best times to experience the city, when it’s all done up in its Christmas finery. Make sure to stop by Macy’s Herald Square to see its always spectacular Christmas window display. And keep an eye out for the giant piano that Tom Hanks played in Big, which was moved here after FAO Schwarz on Fifth Avenue closed down in 2015.

You also might want to follow in Audrey Hepburn’s footsteps by doing a little window shopping at Tiffany & Co. And since the opening of the Blue Box Café on the fourth floor of this Fifth Avenue jewellery store in 2017, you can now actually have breakfast at Tiffany’s.

If you’re worried about the expense of a New York trip, then fear not – here’s how to do the Big Apple on a budget.

Where to stay

If you’ve got cash to splash, however, then you could always stay in The Plaza, the hotel where Home Alone 2 was set. This stunning hotel has been a mainstay of the New York skyline since 1907 and has been featured in numerous films, including North by Northwest and Sleepless in Seattle.

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Oslo, Norway

Average December temperature: -3°C

If you want a white Christmas, then Oslo is the place to head. And of course, snow means skiing, which is something of a national pastime for Norwegians. There are four ski resorts within an hour of Oslo – but if skiing all sounds a bit much, you could always try sledging instead. The Korketrekkeren toboggan run is an impressive two kilometres long, and even better, it’s free to use. If you don’t have your own sledge, you can hire one for 100–150 NOK per day – and once you get to the bottom, you can simply catch 16-minute tube train back up to the top.

To warm up afterwards, you can take advantage of Oslo’s amazingly numerous and ruthlessly hip coffee shops. Oslo-ites take their coffee seriously, and joints like Tim Wendelboe, Supreme Roastworks and Stockfleths compete to provide a top class cup of joe served by world-class baristas.

If coffee isn’t exciting enough for you, how about heading up to Svalbard to see the Northern Lights?

Where to stay

Travellers have rated Thon Hotel Rosenkrantz Oslo as the best hotel in the city, praising its lavish breakfast buffet and fantastic location right in the centre of the city.

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Berlin, Germany

Average December temperature: 1°C

Berlin is an awesome city to visit in December. Mostly thanks to the double whammy of its magical Christmas markets and phenomenal New Year’s Eve party at the Brandenburg Gate. (Two reasons why it takes pride of place on our list of the best Christmas and New Year holidays.) But it also has a fascinating history to explore, with some of the most interesting museums in Europe – the perfect places to warm up after a trip around the Christkindlmarkt.

The DDR Museum (open Monday to Sunday, 10am to 8pm, entry €9.80) features recreations of German homes during the days of communist East Germany (the DDR), along with quirky insights into daily life. For example, did you know that toddlers in the DDR underwent communal potty training?

The Allied Museum, on the other hand, tells the story from the viewpoint of the western powers, including the Berlin airlift and the tense decades of the Cold War (it’s open every day except Monday, from 10am to 6pm, and entry is free). It’s also the home of the real Checkpoint Charlie – the famous border-crossing hut was moved to the museum after reunification in 1990. The guard house that currently stands at the location of Checkpoint Charlie is a later copy.

Where to stay

Casa Camper Berlin is a fantastically stylish design hotel that’s conveniently located for Berlin’s museum district, otherwise known as museum island. The hotel’s standout feature is a a 24-hour buffet that’s free for all guests – perfect for midnight snacks.

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Best events and festivals in December

Hogmanay, Edinburgh, UK

When: December 30th to January 1st

Scotland does New Year in immense style, and Hogmanay in Edinburgh is particularly spectacular. The festivities kick off with a Torchlight Procession through the streets of the Old Town on December 30th, ending in a conflagration in Holyrood Park as wicker sculptures are set aflame. Then on New Year’s Eve itself, there’s a massive street party on Princes Street. Franz Ferdinand and Metronomy supply the music down in Princes Street Gardens. And on the morning after, partied-out revellers will participate in the traditional Loony Dook at South Queensferry, hurling themselves into the river beneath the Forth Bridge in various states of fancy dress. The perfect hangover cure.

Where to stay

If you’re looking to stay in style, the Destiny Scotland George IV Apartments are fancily furnished flats right next to the National Museum of Scotland, and but a stone’s throw from Edinburgh Castle. And they’re directly above The Elephant House Cafe, where J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter books.

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Amsterdam Light Festival, The Netherlands

When: November 29th to January 20th

What better way to banish the darkening days than with a festival of light? The seventh annual Amsterdam Light Festival will feature 30 artworks scattered across the city, all of which play with light in inventive ways. One uses reflection from the canals to turn a bridge into a giant eye; another looks like a ruined cathedral poking through the surface of the water. More than a dozen operators are providing canal tours of the artworks, and you can also book a walking guide to show you around. Or you could just wander of your own accord, admiring these strange additions to the Amsterdam night sky.

Where to stay

The top traveller-rated hotel in Amsterdam is Stout & Co., a ‘luxury bed and breakfast’ located in a former brewery. Each of the spacious rooms has a bedroom, bathroom, kitchenette and lounge, and it’s in a great location, right near the heart of the city.

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‘Tis the season to be jolly and there really is no better way to get into the festive spirit than to take yourself to one, or more, Christmas markets or fairs. Here’s our  guide to the Best Christmas Markets in Ireland.

Updated December 2018. Any prices are lowest estimated prices only at the time of publication and are subject to change and/or availability.

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