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The Best Alternative Christmas Family Holidays

For most people, Christmas is a time of wonder and enchantment. It’s the perfect opportunity to regroup with friends and family and spend quality time together. You might picture staying at home, armed with Monopoly and Christmas TV but there’s always the great festive getaway instead.

Particularly if your dream of the perfect Christmas looks more like a scene from Eastenders, consider these alternative Christmas family holidays.

What better way to immerse yourself in the season than to head for spectacular Scandinavia – the home of Santa – or experience the hustle and bustle of the breathtaking German and French Christmas markets?

Take a European cruise

alternative christmas family holidays

P&O Ferries have a ten night Christmas cruise sailing from Southampton on December 19th to cities in Denmark, Norway and Holland. Relax at sea and take in the sights of Copenhagen and Tivoli Gardens, before visiting Oslo in Norway with its rich heritage – board a Viking ship or visit Vigeland Sculpture Park.

Then cruise along Norway’s Oslofjord, with its soaring mountains, before sailing to Amsterdam, the Venice of the north, with its laid back atmosphere, historic buildings, bars and cafés.

Finally, the cruise calls at Brugge, on the coast of Belgium, where you can explore the cobbled streets, canals, medieval architecture and the kids will think they are in heaven whilst sampling the delicious Belgian chocolate!

From £949, P&O Cruises

Escape the cold weather

If you want Christmas without the cold weather, then consider sailing off to the sunset with Fred Olsen on their Christmas & New Year Canaries Cruise, an escape from the winter weather and festive stress back home.

You’ll enjoy extended stays at sun-kissed islands, with time to indulge in hours of relaxation or rewarding exploration; and celebrate Christmas and the New Year in style. On board Black Watch, which will be festooned with traditional decorations for this cruise, you’ll feel full of festive spirit as you sail south, celebrating Christmas at sea with food, fun and themed entertainment.

The excitement continues with an overnight stay in Madeira on Boxing Day before seeing out 2019 in the Canaries. Make the most of Gran Canaria’s renowned winter warmth; and visit Tenerife for an extended stay to go stargazing at Mount Teide and be part of the island’s New Year Eve celebrations. Departure from Southampton, December 22nd.

From £2,099 per person, Fred Olsen Cruise Lines.

Experience a medieval style Christmas

Image: Ed Moskalenko

If cruises aren’t your thing, check out some cheap flights to the very affordable Tallinn, capital of Estonia. Rumour has it Tallinn is the home of the first-ever Christmas tree displayed in Europe. The first tree was erected in 1441 in the Town Hall Square and locals sang and danced around the tree.

Nowadays, the Christmas tree of Tallinn is still special because it is chosen each year through a contest that sees spruce trees all over Estonia competing for the honour. Tallinn’s Medieval Old Town takes on a particularly magical quality in winter as a fresh powdering of snow covers its rooftops, and candles create a warm, flickering glow on it’s cobblestone lanes.

The baroque architecture of the Old Town is so well preserved you may feel like you have travelled in time to medieval Europe. Activities are plentiful for the whole family, such as skating at the Old Town’s outdoor ice rink, shopping for hand made crafts and a steady supply of mulled wine from cafes and street vendors.

See the Visit Estonia website for more information.

Visit Santa

Image: Annika Thierfeld

It’s common knowledge that Santa lives in Lapland, so what better way to excite the kids than by going to see the real Santa instead of fake store Santa. Luckily Santa isn’t hard to find as he lives in the handily named Santa Claus Village (available to find on all good Sat Nav systems), which is an amusement park in the city of Rovaniemi on the Arctic Circle.

You can also witness the local culture first hand by meeting the Sámi – the indigenous people of Lapland where you can don a traditional leather or wool shawl, and head out in to the snow to join in the herding of sheep. In the town of Enontekiö, north-western Lapland you will have the chance to meet Dancer, Prancer, Dasher and co and ride a sleigh pulled along by real life reindeer.

With Lapland being so far north, there is a fantastic chance to see possibly the most spectacular show on Earth – the northern lights. And it’s free!

See the official Santa Claus Village website for more info. 

Discover a German market cruise

It’s become something of a UK tradition to visit a local pop-up German Christmas market but how about going straight to the source? Kids and grown ups alike will love the magic of Adventure Life’s 8 day Christmas Markets on the Rhine cruise.

You can visit some of Europe’s most renowned and elaborate Christmas markets, including Heidelberg, Cologne, and the world-famous Strasbourg Christmas market.

During the trip you can take optional excursions, such as hikes, wine tastings, and guided tours before weaving your way through the fabled Black Forest region as you make your way toward Basel, and conclude your holiday journey. Departures from Amsterdam include December 10th, 17th and 24th.

From $2,899, Adventure Life

From: Your Best Ever Christmas

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