Best Christmas Shopping Breaks
Fancy combining your dreaded Christmas shopping with a fabulous city break this year? More inspiring than searching online and definitely more exciting than pounding your local pavements, a festive shopping getaway could be just what you need to get the season off to a jolly start. Just remember to check your baggage limits and fees before you start filling your bags.
Top spots for a Christmas shopping break
You cant beat a glass of mulled wine at a traditional market to warm chilly cockles - and tackle your Christmas shopping list in a merry haze. Berlin has an impressive 60 Christmas markets of varying styles and sizes, nestled in quaint side streets and dominating grand squares. Many have ice rinks, fairs, performances and parades to really get your festive juices flowing. You can buy anything from artisan-crafted Christmas tree decorations, nativity figures and wooden toys to artwork, candles and culinary specialities.
When you cant take any more Christmas spirit, theres Alexanderplatz for shopping centres, Friedrichstraße for department stores, Kurfürstendamm and Tauentzienstraße for exclusive names and popular chains, Mulackstraße and Alte Schönhauser for big brand and cult fashion, and Oranienstraße and Bergmannstraße for vintage foraging and cool boutiques.
Berlin is crammed with other city break essentials too: cool bars and clubs, top restaurants, culture, sights and a huge history.
You might also want to check out some of the citys autumn and winter events such as Berlin Erleuchtet (Illuminated) (October 7 - October 16), and the Berlin Jazz Festival (November 1 - November 6).
If you live in London then this probably isnt the dream Christmas shopping holiday destination, but for the rest of us the capital is a fantastic place to get some pre-yuletide revelry and retail action.
There are the big shopping meccas, if you can handle the hustle and bustle - Bond Street, Camden, Covent Garden, Kensington, Knightsbridge, Notting Hill, Oxford Street, Regents Street, Westfield shopping centres at Stratford and White City - as well as less central areas like Canary Wharf, Clapham, Crouch End, Greenwich, Hampstead, Islington, Muswell Hill... And alongside all those lovely shops theres an inexhaustible supply of restaurants, pubs, bars, clubs, theatres, galleries, museums and sights.
Events to look out for over the next few months include the Natural History Museum Ice Rink (October 27 - January 8), Raymond Briggs' Father Christmas at the Lyric (November 18 - December 24), and Hyde Park Winter Wonderland (November 18 - January 2).
With Show and Stay, you can sort your city centre hotel for optimum Christmas shopping and book tickets for a West End show to enjoy once youre all spent up.
Where do we start? Youve seen enough festive movies and Friends specials to know the Big Apple does Christmas to the max.
Its the classic Christmas shopping destination, with amazing shops, food and entertainment. Pleasant fall temperatures and rich autumn foliage mean November and early December is a lovely time to explore Manhattan and the other four boroughs that make up New York City.
Hop on the Staten Island Ferry, kick leaves around Central Park and sniff out Brooklyn Botanic Garden before whipping out your gift list and hitting Williamsburg in Brooklyn for vintage finds; Barneys on Madison Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, iconic toy store FAO Schwarz and Saks, all on Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale's of Third Avenue and Macy's Herald Square for super-size shopping; and SoHo, Greenwich and the East Village for uber-stylish stores and boho boutiques.
Theres also a familiar-sounding chain, and British Christmas shopping favourite, T J Maxx - which has three Manhattan stores.
When you and your credit card need a break, check out the ING New York City Marathon (November 5), Radio City Christmas Spectacular (November 21 - January 2), Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (November 25), George Balanchine's The Nutcracker at the New York City Ballet (November 25 - December 31) and the Rockefeller Centre Tree Lighting (November 30). Could it be any more Christmassy?
Paris and shopping go together like coffee and a croissant. Its got everything, from department stores and luxury designer brands to cool boutiques, flea markets and gourmet treats.
Fuel up in an atmospheric cafe and then hit the Golden Triangle (from Porte Maillot to George-V, avenue Montaigne and the Champs-Élysées) for the world's best collection of haute couture and ready-to-wear luxury fashion; Haussmann-Saint-Lazare-Opéra district for major department stores such as Galeries Lafayette; the Marais for more avant-garde fashion and beauty; So-Pi (south of Pigalle) for vintage and boho fashion and gifts; and classic shopping hot-spots like Palais-Royal, Montmartre and Rue de Passy. Youll also find numerous Christmas markets if your festive spirit levels are falling.
When you really cant buy any more, have a stroll along the Seine or around the Tuileries, near the Louvre. You could also take a peek at the Paris fashion exhibitions at the Musee Galliera (September 28 - January 26), Mozart at the Paris Opera (October 22 - November 13), rock concerts at venues across the city at Les Inrocks Volkswagen Festival (November 6 - 12), the Jazz Festival (November 8 - December 15), or try a spot of ice skating at the Patinoire des Cinq Continents, Champs-Elysées (November 16 - January 6).