Posted: Dec 18, 2015
On the first day of Christmas, I know where I would be
If you had the pick of anywhere in the world to spend the festive season, where would you choose? And would that holiday jollity persuade you to go one step further and buy a home there? Here are a dozen places in the most beautiful locations around the world that will make your Christmas special – and just might tempt you into staying.
1. St Gallen, Switzerland
Home to the tallest Christmas tree in the world, St Gallen’s old town is traffic-free and the magnificent ancient abbey is its centrepiece. The locals hang 700 twinkling stars along the medieval streets and the festive market stalls offer gifts, crafts and gluhwein to the happy crowds. Apartments here start at £225,000 and houses around £655,000.
2. Christmas, Florida
You probably won’t find snowy streets or historic squares in this tiny Floridian township, but your Christmas cards will be franked with the ultimate postmark. If you are looking to take the family, then you are just 20 miles from Orlando’s theme parks. New-build properties at Lake Pickett start from £240,000.
3. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
For a seriously long festive season, it has to be Mexico. People start partying on December 12 and continue until Twelfth Night, or January 6. San Miguel de Allende is an attractive inland city with colonial and Spanish architecture. Its Christmas celebrations are second to none. The Feast of St Mary of Guadalupe starts nine days of Posadas – processions to recreate Joseph and Mary’s search to find lodgings. If you want to buy property here, a new development is marketing studios and cottages with an “old Mexico feel” from £100,000.
4. Aspen, Colorado
For skating, skiing and festive winter fun, Aspen, Colorado is the place to go. Residents take the celebrations very seriously and hold the Twelve Days of Aspen from December 20, where the emphasis is on entertainment. If you want your own ski-hole to hunker down in, you can pick up a basic condo for around £100,000.
Useful website: http://www.coloradohomefinder.com/
5. Munich, Germany
Munich is a famous for its Christmas markets. The Marianplatz, the ancient market place, is surrounded by the old and new town halls, featuring a well-loved glockenspiel with dancing figures. The Christkindlmarkt is held in this square and runs from the end of November until Christmas Eve. If you want to buy property in Munich, you might need deep pockets. One-bedroom flats in a high-rise start at around £300,000.
Useful website: http://www.engelvoelkers.com/en-de/munich/
6. Prague, Czech Republic
Snow isn’t guaranteed in Prague at Christmas, but if it comes, it adds to the magical atmosphere. The city’s cobbled alleyways and charming courtyards are dappled with light from steaming cafes and bars offering hot chocolate, mulled wine and grog to sustain you in your shopping endeavours. Nusle is a convenient location in Prague 4 and you can get a one-bedroom flat here for £80,000.
7. Barcelona, Spain
This Catalan city celebrates right up to January 6, which they call Three Kings Day. This is the day that children get most of their presents and when everybody parties. The Christmas lights have already been lit and they cover a distance of nearly 85km. Christmas markets can be found all over the city offering crafts, gifts, sweets and local specialities. You can get a central one-bed apartment in need of a little work for £80-100,000.
8. St Julian’s, Malta
The Maltese really go to town at Christmas. Nativity cribs can be found everywhere and people often go door to door visiting them. In fact, in Ghajnsielem, a life-size version of the crib scene is enacted. St Julian’s is popular with expats and you can buy a two-bedroom flat here from £200,000.
9. Tromso, Norway
The sun usually stays below the horizon for the whole of December in Tromso, giving the city an atmosphere very different from most other places on earth. But the Christmas lights sing out across the little streets and squares. Dogsled, sleigh rides and snowmobile trips can result in the spectacular sight of the Northern Lights. Inner city apartments fetch from £280 per sq ft.
10. Hamilton, New Zealand
If you have trouble waiting for Christmas Day to arrive, catch it early by spending the festive period in New Zealand. As the sun usually rises here way before it does in Europe, New Zealanders have a head start on opening their presents and celebrating. And the celebrations are more likely to be on the beach than indoors, so aim to have a barbie and a seasonal surf. Inland a little, Hamilton boasts the country’s biggest Christmas tree and it’s also an easy drive from the Hobbit Movie Set. If you want to move here, prices are up 9 per cent over the last three months so be prepared to dig deep.
11. Aix en Provence, France
This attractive university city has a traditional Christmas market and some added attractions in its nativity scenes – a Provencal woman with an armful of lavender and a man playing boules. The most unusual aspect of this region’s festivities, however, is its feasting. On Christmas Eve, locals enjoy Le Gros Souper (the big supper), a seven-course meal which includes dishes such as garlic and herb soup, and a puree of salt cod with garlic, olive oil and cream. After midnight mass, they tuck in to Les Treize Desserts. These include dishes involving dried fruits, fresh fruit and sweets and all the traditional ingredients are available at the market in the run-up to the big day. Property in this area is sought after and more expensive. How about a historic villa with an infinity pool and separate annex for £2.5m?
12. Strasbourg, France
This city is a curious mix of French and German, but that’s not surprising. It sits on the border and has, at times, been both. It claims to have held the very first European Christmas market, in 1570, and the tradition is still going strong. Hundreds of stalls, hundreds of lights and hundreds of events usher in the Christmas spirit, topped up with Alsatian eau de vie. The city’s central position makes it a natural hub in Europe, with great transport links. You can buy a good two-bedroom apartment in the city centre for about £280,000.
13. And a couple for good luck… Boston, USA
This historic city is compact and easy to navigate by foot and there’s a metro connecting the main areas. Across the river, Cambridge is famous for its two universities, Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The market hall is known as the cradle of liberty – it’s where the doctrine “no taxation without representation” was first established. It’s also the venue for a spectacular festive light show. A one-bed apartment here can cost around £480,000.
14. And finally… Quebec, Canada
Described as more European than Europe, more French than Paris, this city springs a surprise at Christmas by having a German market. Wooden kiosks line the streets, selling Christmas decorations, gingerbread, mulled wine and a chalet where children can listen to German fairy tales read aloud in French. Property prices here are lower than in the cities of western Canada. For £220,000 you can buy a two-storey, four-bed family home with a swimming pool.