If you have a penchant for rocking around the Christmas tree in a beautiful city lit up with festive glow and Christmas lights, this is the post for you. We’ve gathered ten of the best urban Christmas trees already shining brightly as this festive season begins. Which one would you like to go to first?
Rockerfeller Center, New York City, USA
Let’s kick off with a king of Christmas trees. Already up before Thanksgiving turkeys were on the table, the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center is almost as much of an institution as Christmas itself. With an ice skating rink at its foot and accompanying decorations as far as the eye can see, the Christmas tree at Rockefeller is a must see if you find yourself in New York at this time of year.
Trafalgar Square, London, UK
Creeping up behind NYC with its Christmas tree traditions, is London, a city full of beautiful trees. However, the Norwegian spruce that is donated to London by Norway in a tradition that began in 1947 is considered the city’s centrepiece. It will be revealed on 5th December and you can head there to enjoy carols being sung under the tree every evening from 9th – 22nd December 2013.
Galleries Lafayette, Paris, France
Arguably Paris‘s most famous Christmas tree is housed in the centre of the glamorous Galleries Lafayette department store. It has already been on show since early November and this year’s tree was a collaboration with watch brand Swatch, with time being the main theme. Suspended from the store’s famous art deco dome, the animated tree is decorated with pink flowers and a fairy tale village scene at its base. Stay for long enough to see the characters and tree come alive on the hour, every hour.
Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, Germany
Stood in front of the symbolic Brandenburg Gate, Berlin’s Christmas tree is uncomplicatedly decorated but still beautifully drenched in light. While the city is flooded with Christmas trees standing along the many miles of the city’s Christmas markets, the Christmas tree at Brandenburg Gate is where most people gather for quiet reflection during the holiday season, oh and for the not so quiet fireworks on New Year’s Eve.
Old Town Square, Prague, Czech Republic
One of Europe’s most popular spots for gothic winter wonderland scenes, the Christmas tree that stands in Prague‘s Old Town Square comes from the Krkonose Mountains in the north of the country and can be admired every night while you eat and drink treats from the Christmas market also held here.
Terreiro do Paço, Lisbon, Portugal
There’s not a pine needle in sight with Lisbon’s giant Christmas tree, a structure made out of metal and lights. Fireworks were set off as the tree was lit for the first time last weekend, but with giant red baubles and the sparkle of hundreds of fairy lights bouncing off the marble mosaic floor, Lisbon’s main town square will be lit up for the remainder of the festive season.
Floating Christmas Tree, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio de Janeiro got into the Guinness Book of Records with their giant floating Christmas tree, and every year in Brazil Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without it. Currently found floating on Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, the huge tree is lit up with over 3 million light bulbs and this year will also be moved to different locations in the city so as many people as possible can gawk at it.
Vatican City, Rome, Italy
Thousands of Catholics descend on the Vatican City in Rome for Christmas and the tree that stands in the centre of St Peter’s Square is considered one of the most beautiful in Italy. Traditionally the Vatican’s Christmas tree is donated by a region or city in Europe and this year, it’s – delightfully drolly – the turn of Bavaria, homeland of ex-Pope Benedict XVI. Decorations will feature both a Bavarian and a Neapolitan theme, as Naples has donated the Vatican’s nativity scene this year.
Martin Place, Sydney, Australia
Image from kidsizeliving
Despite soaring temperatures and bright blue skies, Australia doesn’t hold back with the Christmas decorations and Christmas has already arrived in the Central Business District in Sydney. This year’s tree in Martin Place is already shining brightly surrounded by Christmas lights and decorations. Just don’t expect anyone to be standing underneath it on Christmas Day, they’re all at the beach, including Santa.
West Palm Beach, Florida
Made with more than 650 tons of sand and standing at over 36 feet, in Florida, West Palm Beach’s sand Christmas tree is one of the area’s most popular attractions and while it may not see any snow it isn’t without lights or sparkle. A lighting ceremony will take place on the beach this evening, the 5th of December 2013. Click here to learn more.
Prince Bishop’s Shopping Centre, Durham, UK
credit: The Crystal Gazer
Every year Christmas prompts people to discuss how commercial and consumer-focused the festive season has become. Durham – an historic north English city – has erected a tree designed to highlight this issue as part of its recent Lumiere Festival. This 9 metre tall tree is made of discarded plastic shopping bags donated by members of the public and is the work of Spanish art collective Lutzinterruptus.
Which other cities have great Christmas trees or decorations? Feel free to share your recommendations and maybe your photos in the comments.
In this week’s Photo Friday we are casting off and exploring some boats around the world where you may hang your hat. Everybody knows that a houseboat in Amsterdam is one of the best ways to enjoy this city if you like the canal life, with the water gently lapping beneath your hull and rocking you to sleep. But did you know that Paris also has a huge selection of boats docked along the banks of the Seine?
Next time you’re thinking of somewhere unusual to stay for your break, then maybe a spacious, luxurious houseboat is the answer.
Have a great weekend.
Zeeburg, Amsterdam. By Myra.
Bastille, Paris. By l’amiral.
Alapphuza, India. By BudgetHouseBoats.
Key West, Florida. By Sleep Afloat.
Westerpark, Amsterdam. By Myra.
Portsmouth, UK. By wendybarry.
Key Largo, Florida. By Chanoch.
In the heart of Edinburgh. By The Four Sisters Boatel.
One of the five best houseboats in the world, Amsterdam. By Hans.
La Defense, Paris. By Cathy & Fred.
Featured image by Jacob.
This one’s for every mum out there. A perfect Mothers’ Day with elastic hours, no expense spared and anything possible, because – at one time or another – our mums have pulled out all the stops for us!
Oh to be flung again. By Philippe Put.
Breakfast in Paris
Somewhere in the great big mystical book of mum’s sayings (right next to, ‘wear a hat, you lose 50% of your body heat through your head’) is, ‘breakfast’s the most important meal of the day.’ Prove you were listening for once in your life over croissant and coffee in Le Marais, Paris.
The oldest and, arguably, most beautiful Parisian quartier, Le Marais dates back to the 13th century but it’s best known for its tall, spindly 18th century buildings, narrow streets, tiny specialist shops (crowded window displays are de rigueur and make Faubourg St. Honoré minimalism look a bit ‘try too hard’) and the grandest of all Paris’s grand squares Le Place des Vosges.
But we’re going to pretend we’re lucky enough to live in Le Marais this morning so get ready to queue. The city’s best croissants are buttery, flaky and warm at Gerard Mulot’s magasin de Marais. These aren’t the poor imitations you find in supermarkets, they’re masterful and one is never enough. Buy four at least and then you’ll have some room for M. Mulot’s famous macarons which are almost – but not quite – too pretty to eat. Once you’ve stocked up choose a little café, order a grand crème and, if you’ve remembered the advice about the hat, sit outside and enjoy a perfect Parisian breakfast – it’s totally acceptable to eat your croissant with your coffee if the café doesn’t serve breakfast.
Marais, Paris. By scalleja.
Mid-morning in Murano
For every single, precious thing you ever broke. For all the times you left the red sock in with the white wash. For the perfume you spilled and the shoes you ruined and the pots you burned and the cars you pranged…..
You owe your mum big style.
The tiny Venetian island of Murano has been a byword for precious and breakable since the 13th century when the famous glassmakers proved too much of a fire hazard for Venice and were stowed out on the lagoon instead. Just a short sail from the city, Murano is enchanting (not a word we use lightly); brightly painted buildings, market boats, little waterways and tiny streets and of course the Murano Glass Factory and Museum.
‘Factory’ doesn’t really do justice to the artistry that makes Murano glass some of the costliest and most coveted in the world. To really appreciate the skill of the island’s artisans take a guided tour of the workshops (seeing glass blown never loses its appeal) and then wander slowly through the elegant, airy Palazzo Giustinian glass museum.
Unsurprisingly Venice is full of tourist shops selling hugely expensive Murano Glass. But take one of the little side streets and seek out the inimitable Murano Glass Beads, by far the sweetest piece of today to take home.
Murano canal. By ** Maurice **.
Snacks in San Sebastian
Along with the thing about breakfast and the headwear wisdom, mums have always had something to say about snacks. And our hips and thighs are grateful for the advice, but here’s one thing we learned ourselves; all snacks are not born equal.
Take your mum for a Pinxtos lunch in the beautiful Basque city of San Sebastian and change her mind about snacks forever. For the sake of simplicity we could compare Pinxtos to Tapas but the truth is they’re incomparable. Using the freshest ingredients, plenty of locally caught fish and the inimitable Basque flavours that account for San Sebastian’s inordinate number of Michelin Stars, Pinxtos are made to order as you stand at the bar, usually drinking a glass of Txakoli (the local sparkling white wine).
After lunch wander through San Sebastian old town, down to the waterfront and take a stroll along La Concha, the most beautiful city beach in Europe.
Pinxtos in San Sebastian. By Carnaval King 08.
Queen for the Afternoon
You can keep the castles and palaces when it comes to treating your mum like a Queen for the day there’s only one place fit for consideration, The Queen’s House, in the London borough of Greenwich.
Catch the boat at the London Eye and be a tourist on the Thames this afternoon. Whatever you think or feel about London there’s no doubt it has some of the world’s most spectacular, historic and just plain amazing buildings and the best way to see them is from the vantage point of the river as you sail towards Greenwich and 0° Longitude.
The 17th Century Queen’s House was designed by Inigo Jones. And everything from the mathematical precision of the Great Hall to the faultless spiral of the Tulip Staircase, the graceful, elegant proportions and the intelligent art collections, makes this our all-time favourite royal (sort of) residence. If it was for sale we’d definitely buy it for Mothers’ Day.
And the best sunset in the world
The perfect end to the perfect day would have to be on a beach somewhere warm watching the sun set while someone else makes dinner.
Captiva Island, South Florida has one of the longest shell beaches in the world (it’s just like sand unless you look closely) and overlooks the Gulf of Mexico. The water’s crystal clear, you sometimes spot shy manatee and the seafood is great and comes with a sunset – the best restaurant doesn’t take reservations so you just have to sit on the beach, enjoy the view and they’ll tell you when your table’s ready, what a hardship!
Here’s to our mum and your mum and all the mums who deserve more time and attention more often, Happy Mothers’ Day.
Florida sunset. By PenguinMan13.
Featured image by JB Moment in Time Photography.
Christmas is coming and the geese are getting fat, please put a penny aside… so you can escape the cold and enjoy the festive season in one of these sunnier spot.
Admittedly not a city for a bikini holiday over Christmas, Rome is one European city where sunshine and blue skies are more likely to be unwrapped on Christmas morning than many others. From the Pope’s tour of the Vatican on Christmas Day to ice skating at the Auditorium and Christmas markets in many of Rome’s piazzas, enjoy a traditional Christmas while wearing you most stylish pair of sunglasses and perhaps only one layer of thermals.
Campo dei Fiori – Image © Giulia Mulè
St. Peter’s Square at Christmas – Image © Bruce McAdam
Heading slightly further south we find ourselves in Cyprus, an island where temperatures rarely drop below 18° centigrade in December. Find yourself a spot near the beach for a special stroll along the sand on Christmas morning and explore nearby villages displaying Christmas traditions like hanging crucifixes that are wrapped in basil leaves and eating Christopsomo (Christ Bread), a special sweet bread the baking of which is considered sacred.
Image © disparkys
The predominantly Catholic island of Malta celebrates Christmas in the sun with traditional nativity scenes on display outside churches and houses. The celebrations take place on Christmas Eve, beginning with processions through many neighbourhoods and with most people going to Midnight Mass. In addition to traditional turkey which is often served in a casserole, Maltese festive food include a treacle ring desert and the interesting sounding chestnut and cocoa soup.
Image © Bob Jagendorf
Expect as many as 11 hours of sunshine in Marrakech during December and early January, although temperatures can dip tobelow 10° at night. Mix the hustle and bustle of Marrakech’s key sights like the market at Place Jamma El Fna and the dramatic looking Koutoubia Mosque with some valuable downtime relaxing in traditional Moroccan souks. With Morocco being a predominantly Muslim country you can easily avoid turkey and traditions but still treat yourself to a beautiful meal at one of Marrakech’s finest restaurants.
Image © le calmar
One of Europe’s worst kept secrets for winter suns, Lanzarote is one of the Spanish Canary Islands, which promise year long sun and temperatures warm enough to sunbathe in during December so you could easily spend Christmas Day on the beach here. Lanzarote is more than just a beach bum’s holiday destination; this volcanic island also offers great routes for hiking, cycling and burning off those extra Christmas calories which you can accrue eating local delicacies including Canarian tapas, freshly caught fish and Bienmesable, almond syrup, poured over ice cream.
Image © Paul Holloway
While Florida residents treasure December temperatures for being slightly cooler than the rest of the year, holidaymakers from around the world flock there because they are considerably warmer than other parts of the world during Christmas. For warm seas and a Christmas on the beach, head to the Gulf of Mexico. To experience a multicultural Christmas with a Latino flavour try out Miami and to make every child’s Christmas wish come true, stay in Orlando within striking distance of Disney World.
Image © SpreadTheMagic
Of all the destinations we have listed, Thailand is where you can be most confident of both sunshine and hot temperatures. You can definitely leave the thermals and in fact any full length trousers and T-shirts at home if you’re lucky or wise enough to fly to Thailand to spend Christmas on one of the country’s idyllic islands, in the exciting city of Bangkok or near a beach on the mainland. Locals do their best to help you celebrate Christmas with festive takes on their own fabulous food – turkey green curry, anyone? – and lots of festive cheer brought by Santa hats on the beach and fairy lights keeping you company as you enjoy late, lazy, warm Thai evenings.
Image © jeffgunn