Prague at Christmas time

10 Best winter city breaks

With the days getting shorter and gloomy weather a permanent fixture, it’s safe to say winter is well and truly here to stay. What better tonic to the onset of hibernation season than a fun-filled city break? Whether you’re dreaming of a snow-frosted sojourn or a far-flung getaway, we’ve rounded up 10 of our favourite destinations for an unforgettable winter escape.

York – Middletons Hotel

For a weekend break that really packs in the charm, York is head and shoulders above the rest. Set right in the heart of the city, just a stone’s throw from the mighty River Ouse, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better base than Middletons Hotel. This elegant bolthole, spread across six Grade II listed buildings, houses a flurry of pared-back rooms awash with pretty pastel-hued interiors, all arranged around a lovely courtyard. The dining here is top-notch too, with a menu of hearty British classics served in the cosy lounge, along with a tempting array of homemade coffee and cakes. Fully sated, spend chilly days exploring the city’s myriad of historical offerings – from the rip-roaring Jorvik Viking Centre to the Gothic-style York Minster or browse for one-of-a-kind souvenirs in the cobbled streets of acclaimed shopping district The Shambles. Don’t leave without sampling a fruit-loaded Fat Rascal in Betty’s Tea Rooms, a local institution.

York Minster, York. iStock/credit: ChrisHepburn

Bath – MGallery Francis Hotel

Promising postcard-perfect scenery at every turn, historic Bath is one of the UK’s finest cities for a memorable winter break. Just like the city itself, boutique bolthole MGallery Francis Hotel is positively dripping in prestige. Step through the doors of this traditional stone-clad townhouse and you’ll be met with a suite of beautifully-decorated rooms, a cosy lounge bar and a delightful bistro decked out in feature wallpaper, velvet furnishings and gilded window panes. With its central Queen Square location, you won’t have far to go to experience the city’s best-loved sights. Warm your cockles in the ancient Roman baths before shopping till you drop along the esplanade or soaking up the creative genius of one of literature’s finest at the Jane Austen Centre.

Pulteney Bridge, Bath. iStock/credit: valdisskudre

London – Sunborn London

There’s no place quite like London in the winter – all twinkling festive lights, old-world pubs ablaze with roaring fires and landmarks laced with the glimmer of the first frost. At Sunborn London, you can enjoy the city in all its glory from a unique vantage point – a luxurious superyacht set in the heart of the Docklands. Climb aboard and you’ll be whisked away on a journey like no other, from the sumptuous guest rooms stacked with crisp linens and luxury amenities to the incredible dining room overlooking the O2 and Victoria Dock. You won’t want to miss the elegant afternoon tea, piled high with neatly-trimmed sandwiches, crumbly scones topped with clotted cream and a choice of beautifully-presented pastries. When you’re ready to disembark, London’s patchwork of iconic sights – from Big Ben to Buckingham Palace and St Paul’s to The Shard – are just a tube ride away.

Image: Sunborn London

Dubai – Grand Hyatt Dubai

For a total escape from the reality of a rain-sodden British winter, Grand Hyatt Dubai is a prime choice. Promising sun, sea and sky-scraper studded cityscapes, this sparkling, five-star stunner is sure to banish those pesky winter blues. Boasting three temperature-controlled outdoor pools, an indoor pool with underwater speakers, a swish spa and 13 incredible restaurants, you’ll feel like you’ve hit the holiday jackpot. Stretch out on a shaded lounger as you soak up some trademark Dubai sun, drink in hand, slip away to the Ahasees Spa & Club for a unique pampering experience using healing scientific methods or shop for designer clobber at the world-famous Dubai Mall, just 10 kilometres away. Later, dine-around in style at the hotel’s crop of award-winning eateries, from Italian-style Andiamo! To Arabian themed Awtar.

Image: Grand Hyatt Dubai hotel.

Venice – Hotel Aquarius

With its network of sparkling waterways, Gothic palaces and romantic Renaissance architecture, Venice is the creme-de-la-creme of city break destinations. Skip the summer crowds and enjoy your pick of the city’s finest attractions with a winter stay at Hotel Aquarius Venice. Inspired by its aquatic surroundings, this water-themed hotel certainly doesn’t skimp on style. Designed to feel like an underwater kingdom, expect elegant glass furnishings, soothing guest rooms dressed in coastal hues and ceilings adorned with sparkling Murano chandeliers. With such elegant theming, you could enjoy all the perks of Venice without having to set foot outside the hotel. But if you do fancy exploring, make your way to the hotel’s sublime secret garden where a gondola will be waiting to whisk you across the city to the likes of St Mark’s Basilica, Piazza San Marco and Doge’s Palace.

Venice. iStock/credit: Givaga

Lisbon – Corinthia Hotel

Splash out on a five-star stay at Corinthia Hotel Lisbon, a true luxury icon on the fringe of the city. Boasting a suite of elegantly-designed rooms and suites, a beautiful alfresco restaurant and stellar service on tap, there’s plenty of trademark Corinthia polish here. Spend culture-filled days climbing the city’s iconic seven hills, lined with tumbledown red-roof houses, stopping to sample custard-filled pastel de nata, and ticking off the city’s collection of architectural masterpieces, including the Jeronimos Monastery in nearby Belem. Or visit trendy LX Factory for a spot of hipster shopping and cocktail-sipping. Later, treat yourself to a few blissful hours at the hotel’s spa where you can make the most of the heated pool, Jacuzzi, sauna, steam room and sensory showers before indulging in a soul-soothing massage in one of 13 treatment rooms.

Lisbon at night. iStock/credit: moedas1

Windsor – Sir Christopher Wren Hotel & Spa

Make like HRH Queen Elizabeth II herself with a visit to the regal city of Windsor. With a scenic riverside location mere moments from the turrets of the Royal residence itself, Sir Christopher Wren Hotel & Spa affords you beautiful views over the Thames, timeless decor and a flurry of facilities, including a fabulous gym and spa area, designed to ensure you truly experience the royal treatment. After a day spent rubbing shoulders with royalty, embarking on a frosty walk through the sprawling grounds of Windsor Great Park or sipping signature beers at the Windsor & Eton Brewery, return to warm your cockles over an indulgent afternoon tea or romantic riverside dinner at the hotel’s upscale Brasserie. Don’t miss the legendary Bubbles & Jazz Sunday lunch – an unforgettable dining experience.

Old Windsor Bridge. iStock/credit: DurdenImages

Prague – Pentahotel Prague

The quintessential European winter city break destination, Prague sparkles with its line-up of spellbinding Gothic architecture, beautiful bridges and 17th-century Baroque churches. In stark contrast to its historic surroundings, at Pentahotel Prague you can experience the historic grandeur of The City of a Hundred Spires from a sleek, modern pad. Based right in the thick of the action, guests can look forward to an ultra-modern design blending function and fashion, a lively lounge showcasing a menu of stylish cocktails, mouthwatering burgers and addictive games and a handy gym for keeping up with your workouts. When you’re ready to explore, don your woollies and check off the city’s best sights with ease, from the crowd-pleasing Old Town Square to the ornate Astronomical Clock and the enchanting Prague Castle to the graffiti-covered Lennon Wall (a homage to Beatles frontman John Lennon).

Prague at Christmas. iStock/credit: emicristea

Brussels – Sofitel Brussels Europe

When you think of the must-have ingredients for a cosy winter city break, chances are Brussels ticks all the boxes. Hot chocolate on tap? Yep. Inviting bars? Absolutely. Incredible architecture? You’ve got it. Staying at the grand Sofitel Brussels Europe is a surefire recipe for success, with front-row access to the city’s finest attractions, including the hotel’s very own cocktail lounge and brasserie. Set on the bustling Place Jourdan, you can soak up the lively atmosphere outside, a mug of cocoa in hand, or amble along to the Grand Place for a spot of festive shopping. When it comes to culture, Cinquantenaire Park has more than its fair share of intriguing museums while evergreen Leopold Park is a show-stopping space to while away a few wintry hours.

Grand Place square in Brussels at dusk. GettyImages/credit: Alexander Spatari

Salzburg – Mercure Salzburg City

The hills are alive with the sound of rave reviews at Mercure Salzburg City, a sleek and stylish pad close to Salzburg’s enchanting city centre. This striking hotel beautifully contrasts with its historic surroundings – think clean lines, mirrored glass and ultra-modern design details. Set within striking distance of the city’s ever-festive Old Town, the palatial Mirabell Gardens, Mozart’s birthplace and hilltop Hohensalzburg Fortress, bundle up and make like the Von Trapp family with a day spent ticking off one magical landmark after the next (singing optional). Dining is the star of the show here, so be sure to return to Le Sel for a delicious blend of international and classic Austrian dishes.

Downtown Salzburg. GettyImages/credit: Copyright by Laszlo Szirtesi