7 Small French Towns That Could Star In A Hallmark Movie


In North America, Hallmark movies have become part of the Christmas tradition, a celebratory viewing of feel-good movies together with the whole family while snuggled on the couch, with Christmas decorations surrounding you. But what about those of us who want to travel over the holiday season, but would still like that warm feel-good feeling that small, Christmassy towns give you in the films?

If you find yourself in France, fret not, there are plenty of small, friendly towns and villages that give you that Christmas cheer and charm. I have selected some of my favorite places that give you a warm fuzzy feeling, with a quaintness that makes your heart soar, and doubly so around Christmas time.

Here are some not to be missed.

Amazing house near the small picturesque waterfall in Moret-sur-Loing.
Kiev.Victor / Shutterstock.com

1. Moret-sur-Loing

Picture yourself walking through medieval city gates, across an ancient bridge, looking down to an old watermill sitting in the middle of the river. Nearby are restaurants looking out over the river, and a main street decorated with pretty lights. Moret-sur-Loing lies on the perimeter of the Fontainebleau Forest and is picture perfect. If you ever wanted to send a Hallmark postcard from France, the view from the bridge at Moret-sur-Loing would certainly be on the front. Not surprising that the painter Sisley was inspired by the town, and you can follow in his footsteps on a private walking tour hitting all the scenic spots. 

Pro Tip: While walking along the Loing River will occupy you for a while, this is a small, if hugely quaint town, so why not combine it with nearby, and also rather pretty, but a bit more lively Fontainebleau?

Exterior of La Petite France, Strasbourg.
Ulrike Lemmin-Woolfrey

2. La Petite France, Strasbourg

Strasbourg is well known for its Christmas cheer, but when it comes to Hallmark movie-perfect settings, head straight to the old quarter by the river. La Petite France was, in the Middle Ages, the home of the tanners, because of its proximity to the river Ill. In those days, I am sure it was not a desirable place to be, with the tightly huddled houses, narrow lanes, tiny squares, and those smells. Today, Petite France is not just a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but at Christmastime, it is still the same as centuries ago, but much improved. Tightly packed half-timbered buildings, all a little crooked, tiny squares filled with huts and stalls and twinkling trees, and the smells lingering in the air are that of mulled wine, hot chocolate, sausages with sauerkraut, and plenty of sweet things. The river is now clean and gurgling through locks and a double-decker 17th-century dam. Add covered bridges, and the cutest houses on little peninsulas right in the river, and you have probably found the most Hallmark movie spot in France. I would never suggest that you don’t look at the whole of Strasbourg, it is so lovely, but La Petite France is where you could easily imagine a film crew capturing the utter prettiness and charm of this quarter. And, you have a good chance of it snowing at Christmas.

Pro Tip: To really soak up the romance of Petite France, stay at the Hotel & Spa Regent Petite France located in a 17th-century former watermill, and you will be right in the movie.

Produce and fruit stand in St-Germain-en-Laye.
Ulrike Lemmin-Woolfrey

3. Saint-Germain-en-Laye

Saint-Germain-en-Laye is a community just across the Seine from Paris. Perched high on a hill, with Paris stretching out below, not only are the views movie-appropriate but so is the small town. The marketplace of St-Germain-en-Laye is filled with a gorgeous selection of fresh food and produce stalls every Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday, and together with the narrow, cobbled streets that lead out to a grand castle and those views across Paris, are reason enough to love this community. But add the Christmas sparkle and the Christmas Village which has the backdrop of the chateau, and it gets very picturesque indeed. This is the place many choose to live in preference to central Paris, mostly because of the community, charm, and quaintness, all within a 20-minute RER A train ride of Paris.

Pro Tip: Sit with coffee and a croissant on the terrace of Café de l’Industrie, at the back of the market square, and watch the hustle and bustle, and you will see why this community is included. Everybody knows everybody else, stopping to chat, and then go about their daily business, and you can just imagine a Hallmark plot taking place here.

4. The Saint-Louis Quarter, Versailles

Versailles is beautiful at Christmas, but for that extra touch of charm, away from the rather grandiose palace, head to the Saint-Louis Quarter. Here you find no imposing grandeur, nor rugged medieval history, but the superbly quaint and charming “Carrés Saint-Louis.” A village within the small town of Versailles, so very different from the rest of the town. There are squares hemmed by tiny buildings, the ground floor usually housing an individual boutique, an art gallery, an artisan workshop, or a small café, and on the floor above, former living accommodations. All painted in beautiful colors, and too cute for words, these little buildings cover a few blocks. They surround picturesque squares where children play and old people sit and chat and were constructed under Louis XV as accommodation for a new market, still perfectly retaining their unique charm that would be a perfect setting for a Hallmark movie.

Pro Tip: Stay within Saint-Louis so as to not lose that Christmassy feeling and sleep in the small and utterly romantic Hotel Berry.

exterior of Dijon.
Ulrike Lemmin-Woolfrey

5. Dijon

Dijon has so many cutesy corners, crooked half-timbered houses, and small historic spots, that it is always a delight. But at Christmastime, all these special little corners are lit up, filled with market stalls, and turn into a Christmas wonderland. Especially the corner of Place Francois Rude, nearly too charming for words.

Place Darcy and Rue de la Liberté contain around 60 chalets selling beautiful arts and crafts and offering the best of Dijon’s famous cuisine, which is even better when sampled in winter. Who can beat a warming beef bourguignon? For that little bit of an extra special treat at Christmas, head to the truffle market held in the market hall.

The pretty market hall, designed by Monsieur Gustave Eiffel of tower fame, is one of the most iconic would-be Hallmark movie locations, with families doing their seasonal shopping, people meeting friends at the various stands over a glass of wine, and everything twinkling with pretty lights.

Pro Tip: For that old-world charm, stay at the Maison Philippe le Bon, which is a lovely hotel in the center, which has kept the old features of the house and enhanced them with modern touches. The restaurant is superb, too.

Reims Christmas decorations.
Ulrike Lemmin-Woolfrey

6. Reims

The capital of France’s Champagne region comes into its best at Christmas, with a Christmas market huddled around the ancient cathedral where France’s kings were crowned. Ignoring the rest of the city, however lovely and historic, and just strolling through the market, with its miniature train, Christmas trees everywhere, chalets full of mulled wine and warming food, and stalls of pretty Christmas decorations hand-crafted in the region, gets that warm fuzzy feeling going pretty quickly. Families are walking hand-in-hand, enjoying the miniature fairground and the large snow globe where Santa resides, and Christmas cheer is everywhere. What makes Reims stand out when it comes to potentially starring in a Hallmark movie, are the small champagne outlets that pop up throughout the market. Cozy little corners where you are provided with a warm blanket and a flute of champagne, and you can just visualize someone meeting up with the (future) love of their life.

Pro Tip: For a lovely, cozy meal after walking around the city, pop into the romantic L’Alambic for dinner.

The Place du Tertre with tables of cafe and the Sacre-Coeur in the morning, quarter Montmartre in Paris.
France kavalenkava / Shutterstock.com

7. Montmartre, Paris

Ask anybody, and most people will say that Montmartre is their favorite neighborhood in Paris. And the reason? Because it is a perfectly preserved village within a large city. Perched on the hill Butte Montmartre, it not only offers great views but is distinctly different and separate from the rest of Paris. At Christmas time, this village is prettier than ever. Even the carousel, which always stands at the bottom of the steep steps up to Sacre Coeur, looks prettier at Christmas if that is possible. But twinkling lights, stalls, and decorations enhance every feature of this neighborhood and if you cannot imagine a romantic girl-find-boy movie set right on Place du Tertre, the one with all the artists exhibiting their wares, then you don’t have a romantic bone in your body. On Place des Abbesses, the one with the gorgeous metro stop, a Christmas market takes over the square, and you can wander from there past the small shops and cafes and find yourself in movieland — quite literally, because this is where Amelie was filmed.Pro Tip: To soak up the atmosphere and run your own film edits in your head while watching life go on at Place du Tertre, sit in La Mer Catherine, one of the oldest restaurants in Montmartre, dating to 1793.

Visiting France at Christmas offers opportunities for other activities:



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5 Charming Towns In New Mexico That Could Be The Star Of A Hallmark Christmas Movie


Set in locations like Connecticut and Salt Lake City, most Hallmark Christmas movies feature winter wonderlands filled with snow scenes and halls decked to the fullest. While December snowfall is not guaranteed throughout the Land of Enchantment, when you visit any of these charming New Mexico towns this holiday season, you’re still sure to fall in love — not necessarily with a tall, dark, and handsome stranger — but with experiences you can only have in New Mexico.  

What makes New Mexico so unique? The 47th state is a rich blend of the Pueblo, Hispanic, and Anglo cultures. While the state’s multicultural heritage is visible year-round, from a commitment to preserving the Navajo language to a state constitution that provides equal support for Spanish and English, it shines most brightly during the winter holidays. So regardless of your cultural background, when you celebrate the holidays in New Mexico, you’ll embrace traditions and foods that you won’t typically find elsewhere in the other 49 states (or in any of this year’s Hallmark movies).

Christmas In New Mexico

From celebrations to decorations to food, Christmas in New Mexico is unique.

While communities from coast to coast may celebrate Christmas with a pageant, procession, or nativity play, many New Mexicans commemorate the season with Las Posadas. Literally translated as “the inns,” Las Posadas commemorates Joseph and Mary’s search for lodging in Bethlehem. Using a lantern to light their way, a young couple leads a procession as they ask for a place to stay at multiple “inns.” Each inquiry is met with a denial, and the journey ends by celebrating Mass.

When it comes to holiday decorations, look for luminarias (“festival lights”) in lieu of electric strings of multi-colored Christmas lights. These little lanterns are made by folding down the sides of a small paper bag, adding a scoop of sand, and placing a lighted tea candle in the center. They certainly add an element of magical beauty to Christmas in New Mexico! In Northern New Mexico, luminarias are often called farolitos (“little lanterns”), so don’t let that confuse you!

Lastly, there is the food. While many Americans serve turkey or ham with an assortment of side dishes that loosely resemble a traditional Thanksgiving meal, New Mexicans often enjoy Christmas tamales, Christmas enchiladas (which feature both red and green sauce), and steaming bowls of the “chicken noodle soup alternative” posole. Instead of gingerbread men or decorated sugar cookies, look for biscochitos, crisp cookies flavored with anise and citrus and dusted with cinnamon sugar that have earned bragging rights as the state’s cookie.

And now back to the best New Mexico Christmas towns! 

Christmas in Taos, New Mexico
JHVEPhoto / Shutterstock.com

1. Taos

As the first snowflakes of the season start to drift into Taos, so does holiday magic start to fill the air. Kick off the holiday season with Lighting Ledoux and Bonfires on Bent Street. As you stroll through the streets illuminated by the soft glow of farolito lanterns and pinon-log bonfires, enjoy live music, delicious holiday foods, and warm beverages. 

Finish your Christmas shopping by supporting the merchants at John Dunn Shops, a pedestrian shopping district near the historic Taos Plaza, and find unique and handcrafted gifts at Taos Folk, a famous pop-up store with jewelry, home goods, apparel, and other goods for sale.

As Christmas Eve draws near, witness the moving way the Taos Pueblo embraces the winter season through ceremonial dances. You may wonder why Christmas, a Christian holiday brought to North America by Europeans, is celebrated by Native Americans. When the Spanish arrived in this area centuries ago, they worked hard to convert the indigenous people to Catholicism. As a result, today’s Pueblo people celebrate the holidays by pairing their tribal traditions with a drizzle of Spanish culture and a sprinkle of Catholic faith. The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center shares this detailed list of pueblo feast days for all 19 pueblos of New Mexico. Remember that when tribal members are singing and dancing, it is a form of prayer, so be sure you understand the appropriate etiquette before you go. 

Stay for even more magic between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve with the torchlight parades during which skiers guided by torchlight gracefully glide down the area’s ski resorts against a backdrop of colorful fireworks.

Pro Tip: Regardless of when you visit Taos, enjoy this self-guided walking tour that begins at the Taos Plaza and discover other great things to do outdoors or over a long weekend in Taos.

Canyon Road in Santa Fe at Christmas
Photo Credit: New Mexico TRUE

2. Santa Fe

About 90 minutes south of Taos, Santa Fe is another beautiful New Mexico town that pulls out all of the stops during the holidays. Get in the Christmas spirit the day after Thanksgiving with the Plaza Lighting Ceremony on the historic Santa Fe Plaza. Then return to the Plaza in mid-December to participate in Las Posadas. 

On the western edge of Museum Hill, the Santa Fe Botanical Garden is illuminated with thousands of lights during GLOW. And near the Plaza, the 150-year-old Gothic Loretto Chapel is filled with the sounds of Handel, Vivaldi, and traditional carols during its Baroque Christmas series.

If Santa Fe were a Hallmark Christmas movie location, the climax would surely occur during the Canyon Road Farolito Walk. While viewing holiday lights is a common Christmas Eve activity across the country, the Santa Fe version is truly breathtaking. As the sun sets on December 24, a section of Canyon Road and nearby streets are closed to traffic as pedestrians flood in to admire the soft glow of thousands of farolitos lining the sidewalks, stone walls, and flat adobe roofs before heading home or to church to continue their holiday festivities.

Pro Tip: Read here for more magical experiences in Santa Fe during the holidays.

Christmas in Albuquerque
Photo Credit: Kristy Graybill

3. Albuquerque

While it doesn’t typically snow much in Albuquerque, the city’s historic Old Town would surely be the perfect setting for two soon-to-be lovers to meet at the start of a Hallmark Christmas movie. Dating back to the early 1700s, a picturesque gazebo stands in the middle of the Old Town Plaza, the epicenter of holiday festivities in the state’s largest city. Welcome the holiday season with the lighting of the Old Town Christmas tree. The streets are closed to traffic, giving visitors plenty of room to stroll through Old Town, admiring the luminarias and supporting the shops and restaurants.

Another delightful way to kick off the holiday season in Albuquerque is by attending the Twinkle Light Parade. Held annually on the first Saturday in December, hundreds of floats, trucks, cars, and even bicycles slowly roll through Historic Nob Hill aglow with lights. If you prefer to be the one in motion, then jump on an ABQ Ride bus at the convention center for a luminaria tour through Old Town and adjacent neighborhoods filled with soft, glowing lanterns.

Albuquerque’s BioPark Botanic Garden is a beautiful destination year-round, but it’s especially magical during the holidays when millions of dazzling lights, animated sculptures, and a music light show truly make it sparkle. Even better, this brilliant event is an important fundraiser, with proceeds from the River of Lights funding a variety of ABQ BioPark projects to help this jewel of a space shine for years to come.

4. Carlsbad

Located in the southeastern corner of New Mexico, you’re not likely to see snowfall in Carlsbad during the holidays. But you will experience a romantic holiday outing that’s unlike any other in the Land of Enchantment. By the river, homeowners spend hours lovingly transforming their backyards, boat docks, and islands into a floating Christmas parade known as Christmas on the Pecos. Bundle up with your cutest wool hat and matching striped scarf and climb aboard the Rudolph or Holly for an enchanting 40-minute ride past beautiful holiday displays that cast shimmering reflections that dance like sugar plum fairies in the calm water of the Pecos River.

Six boat tours a night depart from the Pecos River Village between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. Tickets are just under $20, with discounts offered to locals, children, and military service members. Both boats are accessible and you can indicate any accommodation needs when you purchase your tickets.

Luminarias organized in the shape of a Zia sun symbol
Photo Credit: New Mexico TRUE

5. Mesilla

About 15 minutes from Downtown Las Cruces, Mesilla is a small New Mexico town with a big past. Before the Stars and Stripes, the flags of four countries flew over this important stop on the Butterfield Overland Trail that connected St. Louis and San Francisco. Today the historic Mesilla Plaza at the center of town is surrounded by unique boutiques and delicious restaurants. And on Christmas Eve, thousands of luminarias fill the historic plaza while Christmas carols float on the high desert air and visitors stay warm with hot chocolate. 

These are my favorite shops in Old Town Mesilla — all of which are great places to finish your Christmas shopping (ideally before Christmas Eve) with unique and delicious gifts while supporting small businesses. And who knows, maybe you’ll bump into a Hallmark Christmas movie-like stranger who will change your life!

Pro Tip: If you love Mesilla, here are seven other charming small towns you’ll want to visit in Southern New Mexico.

Whether you visit a snowy destination in Northern New Mexico or a milder climate in the south, the holidays in New Mexico are filled with unique traditions, decorations, and foods that are sure to stoke your holiday spirit well into the new year.



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7 Quaint European Towns That Feel Like A Hallmark Christmas Movie


Travelling can really push you outside your comfort zone, especially when you are least expecting it. Finding a town where one feels at home, despite the distinct cultural differences, is a true reassurance and comfort to the soul. The streets may be crooked, the houses half-timbered, and the singsong of an unfamiliar language fills the air, but something stirs inside you. You could stay a while and settle into local life. Pinch yourself. Have you stepped onto the set of a Christmas movie? These 7 European towns are beyond quaint in appearance with the coziest of ambiances. 

Central street Grand Rue decorated and illuminated for Christmas celebrations in Colmar.
Boris Stroujko / Shutterstock.com

1. Colmar, France

Arriving in Colmar is like walking straight into a fairytale setting. This is true any time of the year. But during the Christmas season, under glowing lights, amidst intriguing market stalls and children singing carols from boats on the canal, it is truer than ever. 

Colmar, situated in the Alsace region of France, celebrates Christmas with six markets full of regional gourmet delights and local artisanal creations. Colmar is the capital of Alsace Wine Country, so celebrate with Christmas cheer from Alsace, including a glass of steaming Alsatian mulled wine. It is tradition to decorate the Christmas trees in Alsace with gingerbread, so it is no surprise that a variety of gingerbread treats are available. Known for its gastronomic traditions, you’ll find foie gras, Munster cheese, and if you are a meat lover, the classic “choucroute” with plenty of meat and sauerkraut. 

Stroll the medieval center with its colorful, crooked half-timbered homes, and admire snowflakes and angels decorating shuttered facades. Does it get more picturesque than this? Maybe a little. With tresses built across the canal topped with red baubles and pine boughs, Colmar is the ultimate in festive atmosphere. 

Pro Tip: Don’t miss these two treats only available during the Christmas season: Bredele, Christmas biscuits which come in many flavors, and Manelas de Saint Nicolas, a yummy, buttery brioche in the shape of a little person!

Tourists walking in the Christmas market of Montepulciano in Tuscany.
Buffy1982 / Shutterstock.com

2. Montepulciano, Italy 

Montepulciano in Tuscany, Italy was just a name in a guidebook. After my visit, it remains my favorite hilltop medieval town in Tuscany. This beautiful, walled Italian town just south of Siena, is one of those special places that touched my heart. Could it have been the gorgeous views over the Val d’Orcia and Val di Chiana, the rolling, lush valleys that surround it? Could it have been the elegant squares or the Renaissance buildings? Perhaps it was the numerous wine cellars and tastings of the local Vino Nobile di Montepulciano that the town is known for and the pride with which it was shared. Perhaps it was the local Pecorino cheese drizzled with spectacular homemade honey. Maybe, it was more of a feeling. Something from another century, straight out of a movie. 

With a chill in the air, Montepulciano has a marvelous Christmas market right in the main piazza, Piazza Grande. Explore the wooden chalets bursting with local Tuscan goods and don’t miss Santa’s workshop set up in the Montepulciano Fortress.

Pro Tip: How about timing your visit with the traditional annual barrel rolling competition (Bravio delle Botti) on the last Sunday in August? This historical challenge between the eight districts of Montepulciano has been going on since the 14th century. I can’t imagine the excitement surrounding pushing 196-pound wine barrels uphill and the medieval costume parade. 

Visitors drink gluwein on a winter afternoon at the Christmas market, Rudesheim, Germany.
Steve Estvanik / Shutterstock.com

3. Rudesheim Am Rhein, Germany 

The village of Rudesheim am Rhein, known simply as Rudesheim, is beyond charming. Situated in Germany’s Rheingau wine region, just a short trip from Frankfurt, Rudesheim is also part of the UNESCO World Heritage Rhine Gorge. 

Rudesheim cascades down a hill towards the Rhine River, its steep cobbled streets lined with medieval half-timbered houses. In the heart of the Old Town, the narrow and picturesque Drosselgasse lane is filled with shops and restaurants. Accompanied by chiming church bells or an accordion tune, savor the local bratwurst and schnitzel along with a stein of beer or the local wine, Rheingauer Reisling. A trip to Rudesheim is not complete without sampling the local specialty coffee drink, Rudesheimer Kaffee. Locally distilled Asbach Uralt Brandy and whipped cream make this coffee cocktail unforgettable. 

In any season, take a ride on the Rudesheim Seilbahn, a cable car that takes you to the Niederwalddenkmal, a monument that commemorates the Unification of Germany. Be prepared to “ooh” and “ah”; the views over the surrounding vineyards, the town, and the Rhine River are magnificent. 

A trip to Rudesheim necessitates a boat cruise down the Rhine River to witness the impressive castles perched on hilltops that hold legends of the area.

Rudesheim is known for its Christmas market, which attracts vendors and guests from all over the world. With snow crunching underfoot, stroll through the 120 market stalls with a cup of steaming Gluhwein, hot mulled wine. It’s the perfect place to purchase that elusive Christmas gift. 

Pro Tip: Hotel Zur Rose, just a few minutes’ walk to the Old Town, is a lovely, welcoming hotel. 

Saint Antonin noble val village, Tarn, Midi-Pyrénées, Occitanie, France.
AWP76 / Shutterstock.com

4. Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val, France

Situated in the gorge of the Aveyron River and backed by the steep cliffs of Roc d’Anglars is the charming medieval town of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val. With the church spire stretching towards the heavens, a maze of cobbled streets, and a lively Sunday morning market, you may think you have walked onto a movie set. And that you have. Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val was the setting for the 2014 movie The One Hundred-Foot Journey with Helen Mirren. The picturesque village depicted in the movie is just as delightful, or possibly more so, in real life. In 2016, the French voted Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val one of their top three favorite villages. In a country full of quaint towns, this is quite the honor. 

Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val is full of interesting facades and historic buildings. Don’t miss the oldest civil building in France, Maison Romane, which hails from 1120. Pop into the artisan shops and then stop by a cafe in the main square, Place de la Halle, and soak up the relaxed local vibe.

Pro Tip: Drive up to Roc d’Anglars for spectacular views over Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val and the Aveyron Valley.

St. James' Church, Shere, Surrey.
St. James Church (Photo Credit: Alison Avery / Shutterstock.com)

5. Shere, England

Nestled in the rolling Surrey Hills, just 35 miles from London, is the darling town of Shere. This small village with its thatched roof and timber frame cottages is picture-perfect. Take a walk along the well-marked trails of the Surrey Hills and nestle back in Shere for a soothing cup of tea and freshly baked scones at Hillly’s Tea Shop. Wander up the cobbled lane through the roofed gateway to Saint James Church (1190) with its striking spire and down Rectory Lane to the bubbling River Tillingbourne. It’s no wonder that charming Shere has been used as a location in countless movies, my favorite being The Holiday (2006). If you love traditional British pubs, stop by The White Horse, a former 15th-century farmhouse, where Cameron Diaz met up with Jude Law and the sparks of romance took off!

Pro Tip: With Christmas lights twinkling in the lead paned windows, snowflakes falling. Don’t miss Carols in the Shere Square on Christmas Eve.

Santa Llucia christmas market at night.
Alberto Zamorano / Shutterstock.com

6. Sitges, Spain

Sitges, a short 25-mile trip from Barcelona, is nicknamed the “Saint-Tropez” of Spain. Located on the Catalan coast, the swaying palms, narrow charming streets, 17 pristine beaches, and elegant architecture make it unforgettable. This Christmas movie setting mingles sandy beaches, glitz, bohemian flare from its long-standing artistic vibe, and old-world charm to create a unique experience. Sitges, one of the best-known LGBTQ+ travel destinations, is filled with rainbow-colored flags. Wander past white-washed buildings in the ancient core boasting artisanal shops and lively bars and restaurants. Spanish tapas and sangria anyone? How about a glass of local Malvasia de Sitges, a sweet dessert wine? Stroll along the pedestrian boulevard, Passeig Maritim, and marvel at the glittering Mediterranean Sea and the mild temperatures. Visit the Christmas market right in Sitges or take a short train ride to Barcelona and wander the 300 stalls of the Christmas market, Fira de Santa Llucia, dating back to 1786. Don a pair of ice skates and twirl around the rink in Plaza Catalunya in Barcelona or head to the small town of Vilanova il a Geltru and skate with the locals. 

Pro Tip: Don’t miss Mama’s Picanteria for a delicious combination of international flavors concocted by the creative chefs from their worldly travels. 

Cityscape and main square in Bruges (Belgium), Belfry Tower.
Silvan Bachmann / Shutterstock.com

7. Bruges, Belgium

Just the canals meandering through the medieval city of Bruges evoke a sense of romance and wonder but the “piece de resistance” is Grote Markt (Market Square). Grote Markt has been the beating heart of Bruges since 958. Stand before the impressive colorful-stepped facades and the 272-foot belfry tower with its carillon chiming a gentle tune and be immediately transported a few centuries back. Float along the canals under ancient stone bridges, admiring medieval buildings and spires at every turn. Bruges is the ultimate experience for curious souls. Search out the quiet squares, the oldest tavern from 1515, boutique chocolate-makers, some strong Belgian beer and you’ll be left feeling right at home. In December, the seasonal buzz is infectious. Shop windows glitter with Christmas lights and unique artisanal gifts while Grote Markt hosts a Christmas market including an ice-skating rink. And just to add to the ambience, tuck a blanket over your knees as you clip-clop down the cobbled streets in a horse-drawn carriage. 

Pro Tip: Climb up the 366 stairs of the belfry tower for panoramic and magnificent views. Can you see the windmills and the North Sea? The staircase gets quite narrow the higher you climb.



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