Christmas shopping doesn't have to be a chore. Hop on a flight and make a holiday of it, visiting traditional Christmas markets, browsing designer boutiques and picking up delicious foodie surprises for an indulgent treat before the big day.
Whether you fancy a short trip to Europe to buy traditional gifts for your loved ones, or would like to explore somewhere exotic where you can soak up a new culture along the way, Christmas shopping can be an unforgettable experience when you know where to go.
We've picked some of our favourite cities for a Christmas shopping trip, starting with shopaholic's paradise New York (pictured above)...
The Christmas city from films, New York is one of the most magical places for a festive shopping break. From its Christmas markets (try Union Square Holiday Market or Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park), to its world-famous department stores - Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy's and Barneys - there's something for everyone in New York. Discover Brooklyn's boutiques with a stroll along Atlantic Avenue, before finding vintage housewares at Collier West, stylish men's threads at Hollander & Lexer and Middle Eastern delicacies at Sahadi's. Don't miss ice skating at The Rink at Rockefeller Center with the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree as a backdrop, or iconic song-and-dance extravaganza the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. Complete your weekend of shopping with a stay at luxury hotel The Knickerbocker from £225 per night for a double room.
Istanbul is an incredible destination for shopping - now more than ever given the strength of the pound against the Turkish lira. Christmas shoppers can buy jewellery, homeware, leather goods and textiles in the Grand Bazaar, while in the neighbouring Spice Bazaar, there is Turkish delight, nuts, spices, tea and Turkish coffee. Hit the back streets of Beyoglu for antiques and under-the-radar Turkish designers, or Istiklal Caddesi, the city's pedestrianized answer to Oxford Street, for the international high street brands, as well as the likes of Pasabahce (kitchenware), Mavi Jeans and department store Mudo. Atlasglobal offers return flights to Istanbul from Luton for as little as £129, including 25kg luggage, when you book by 20 November. Stay in Vault Karakoy, located in one of the city's hippest neighbourhoods, from €164 per night in a classic double room with breakfast.
Visit underrated Bologna, the capital of Italy's foodie region Emilia Romagna, for a festive shopping break with a difference. The Fiera di Natale market in the San Pietro Cathedral piazza and Antica Fiera di Santa Lucia market in the cloisters of Santa Maria dei Servi church are two of the best places to pick up gifts and treats in the city. For foodies, the Il Quadrilatero area offers parmesan from nearby Reggio Emilia, locally-produced balsamic vinegar, Parma ham and a range of preserves and sauces. World-renowned fashion brands La Perla and Furla were also born in Bologna and there are plenty of designer shops in the city, such as Max Mara and Dolce & Gabbana. Once you're shopped out, enjoy a hearty tagliatelle al ragu Bolognese in a cosy local restaurant and soak up the atmosphere with a stroll through the central squares. Homestay.com offers accommodation at a trendy loft apartment, just a short train ride from the centre of Bologna, complete with its own Jacuzzi, for just £22 per night.
For a truly traditional Christmas shopping break in Europe, head for Cologne, home to the finest German Christmas market of all, which is set on the banks of the Rhine River with the startling backdrop of the Cologne Cathedral. Throughout December, the German city transforms into a nostalgic winter wonderland, with seven markets offering unbeatable Christmas shopping. At the cathedral Christmas market, you'll find hundreds of wooden huts selling all sorts of craftsmanship, gifts, food and drink. Visitors can also enjoy outdoor ice skating, incredible baked fish, traditional gluwein and bratwurst. Full Circle Travel offers a three-night holiday to Cologne from £350 per person, including flights, accommodation at Steigenberger Grandhotel in a double/twin room and breakfast each morning, based on a 7 December departure.
Christmas is a lovely time of year to visit Reykjavik, when you can soak up the festive atmosphere and shop until late. Downtown has shops, cafes and the kitsch Little Christmas Shop for you to pick up handmade decorations and Icelandic folklore figurines. The annual Christmas market in Reykjavik's Ingólfstorg Square kicks off at the beginning of December and lasts until January. It takes the shape of a delightful Christmas village, complete with quaint log-houses, market-tents and snow-dusted Christmas trees. Also known as Yule Town, the charming market offers an abundance of gifts, traditional sweets, homemade wine and plenty of Christmas music. Just a short five-minute walk away, you can stay at the modern Kvosin Downtown Hotel, set on a pretty square close to the charming old town and the National Museum. Discover the World offers rooms from £134 per night based on two sharing on a B&B basis.
Top UK hotels for Christmas breaks
Best Christmas shopping breaks for 2015
This beautiful retreat on the shores of Loch Fyne is perfect for spending Christmas in an enchanting castle. Set amid some of Scotland’s most breathtaking scenery with magnificent wildlife, flora and fauna, Stonefield Castle offers two or three-night festive breaks. The Christmas package includes dinner, bed and breakfast, a five-course Christmas Day luncheon, Boxing Day brunch, a treasure hunt, the annual castle quiz, as well as a five-course Boxing Day tasting menu, and all the mulled wine and shortbread you can handle. Two nights cost £190 per person for guests arriving on 24 December and three nights cost £264 per guest, based on two people sharing.
This elegant country house hotel set on Cornwall’s pretty Roseland Peninsula overlooking a beach with idyllic sea views. During Christmas, you can enjoy peace, relaxation and fantastic food at The Nare, with a traditional Christmas luncheon, carols in the cocktail lounge and candlelit dinners following the midnight church service at Veryan Parish Church on Christmas Eve. Guests can enjoy log fires crackling in the grates, Cornish Afternoon cream teas with Chef's special Christmas cake and home-made mince pies everyday, as well as formal dinner dances. A four-day Christmas House Party package costs from £1,370 per person, from 23 to 27 December.
Set opposite the beach and fishermen’s huts on Suffolk’s Heritage Coast at Aldeburgh, the White Lion Hotel offers excellent Christmas breaks by the sea. Celebrations start as soon as you arrive at the hotel on Christmas Eve, with an indulgent afternoon tea under the glow of twinkling fairy lights of the Christmas tree. Christmas Day includes a bracing walk along the beach to build up an appetite for the sumptuous six-course lunch with all the trimmings. On Boxing Day, you can join in or watch the freezing North Sea for the town’s annual charity swim at 11am, before lunch and the afternoon free to explore the local area. The three-night festive package costs from £535 per person based on two sharing.
London's The Goring has partnered with the English National Ballet to invite Christmas lovers to stay at the hotel and enjoy the mesmerising Nutcracker ballet from the splendour of their own box. For an unforgettable Christmas break, you will also have the opportunity to meet a ballet dancer from the cast. Guests can indulge in mulled wine by the fire, a crisp walk around the garden and the hotel's decadent Christmas menus, including roast Norfolk turkey and Scottish beef Wellington on Christmas Day, and red leg partridge and glazed lobster omelette on Boxing Day. An overnight stay in a Belgravia Suite with breakfast and one box reservation (seats up to four) for the Nutcracker start from £2,042 per couple.
Head for Norfolk this Christmas and you can join the well-wishers at St Mary Magdelene to say 'Happy Christmas' to the Royal Family as they attend the Christmas service at Sandringham. Stay at country retreat Congham Hall Hotel from 24 to 27 December to indulge in afternoon tea and scones, carols around the Christmas tree, champagne cocktails and a six-course Christmas Day lunch, as well as board games, a walk on Hunstanton beach and Christmas Cluedo on Boxing Day, which brings the traditional board game to life! The Christmas Package costs from £1,295 per room based on two sharing and includes three nights' accommodation, all meals, drinks and featured entertainment.
For a traditional Christmas set in the idyllic splendour of the Lake District, Armathwaite Hall Hotel & Spa offers luxury, relaxation and plenty to keep you entertained during the festive period. With lavish decorations, the warmth of an open fire and delicious food, the spa hotel is a marvellous place for a Christmas getaway. Arrive on Christmas Eve to cocktails and canapés followed by a celebration dinner. On Christmas Day you can wake to a roaring log fire, gourmet breakfast and a festive glass of Bucks Fizz. Take a stroll around the grounds to work up an appetite or relax in the outdoor hot tub before the six-course Christmas Day feast. The Three Night Christmas Break costs from £875 per person, children under four years-old sharing with parents are free with meals charged as taken.
Get away from it all in Yorkshire at The Talbot in Malton. Warming log fires, traditional decorations and a gentle festive atmosphere in the country hotel create an unfussy, understated Christmas. Highlights of the break include Christmas Lunch in the Wentworth restaurant, traditional Yorkshire events and entertainment within easy reach of the hotel and the unusual chance to wander past the house that inspired Scrooge’s Counting House in A Christmas Carol. The hotel offers a flexible two-night package allowing you to choose which two nights (or more) you prefer to stay. Two-night Christmas packages cost from £695 and three-night packages from £920. Children under five stay free of charge when sharing parents' room, children 5 to 12 years-old £150.
Make this Christmas one to remember by hitting the Cotswolds and enjoying a whole host of activities along with traditional festivities in a beautiful setting. At newly opened The Fish, part of the 400-acre Farncombe Estate, you can experience quad biking, clay pigeon shooting and even Segway safaris on your Christmas break. Inside, there are roaring fires, carol singing, long walks, turkey and all the trimmings. The three-night Christmas package costs from £323 per person starting on Christmas Eve. There is delicious food, comfy chairs and large fire in restaurant and bar The Lodge, as well as a five-course Christmas lunch to enjoy.
Experience a festive escape the whole family will love at country house hotel Coworth Park in Ascot this Christmas. Story Time by the fire place for the children, transfers to the local church for midnight mass and a four-course Christmas lunch are some of the traditional experiences for guests, while Festive Champagne Afternoon Tea, a chocolate masterclass and wine tasting are ideal for those after something different. The three-night Christmas package starts from £475 per person per night in a Stable Superior room, based on two sharing.
Christmas at Galgorm Resort & Spa is a special experience, where you will be enchanted by the magic of one of Northern Ireland’s most beautiful hotels from the moment you arrive on Christmas Eve. Guests can meet Santa, indulge in festive cuisine and enjoy the luxury of being pampered during the Winter Wonderland break. On Christmas Eve, you can unwind in the Spa at Galgorm or spend time with the family in the new pool, before toasting chestnuts and marshmallows on the open fire. After a traditional Irish breakfast on Christmas Day, you will open presents by the tree, indulge in a five-course Christmas lunch and visit Santa in his grotto down by the river.