December 3, 2014

I don't know about you, but I just love this time of year. The crisp, clear evenings illuminated by the glow of fairy lights, and the tantalising scent of cinnamon and clove on the air can't help but get you in the festive mood. And it's not just about Christmas, either. There are plenty of other holidays and festivities celebrated around this time of winter, so everyone can get involved in the fun. And no one more so than the kids! As much as us adults get a kick out of the festive period, it's nothing compared to the sheer joy and excitement our children show. So why not plan a trip to the continent this season with your little ones (and even your not-so-little ones!) and get into the festive spirt at some of the best winter festivals for kids!

Cologne, Germany

By far, one of the best cities to visit in the run up to Christmas has got to be Cologne in Germany. As a country, Germany is renowned the world over for having some of the most beautiful festive traditions, and is actually the founder of the much-loved Christmas tree, dating back to the 16th century. Well, 500 years later, Cologne is still doing a fantastic job of upholding some of everyone's favourite traditions, with seven different markets and over 100 nativity scenes around the city.

Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market
Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market

Outside the cathedral, one of Cologne's most celebrated landmarks, is the impressive Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market, with 160 wooden pavilions selling all manner of festive and culinary delights, including spiced Aachener Printen biscuits, mulled wine and stollen. But for the kids, head over to the Village of St. Nicholas at the Rudolfplatz, where costumed characters from the Brothers Grimm tales parade through the streets. Or even better, visit the Christmas market at the Alter Markt in Cologne's old town, where the legendary Heinzelmännchen gnomes spread festive cheer. Your kids will also be able to enjoy a classic carousel and puppet shows, as well as visit the many toy stalls and Santa's grotto.

Vienna, Austria

No matter what time of year you visit, Vienna is a beautiful city, full of charm and fascinating things to do. But at Christmas time, it really comes into its own, all aglow with endless strings of fairy lights, and the festive scent of mulled wine on the air. Throughout the advent period, and into early next year, there will be plenty to keep adults entertained, and also some amazing activities for kids.

Vienna is simply stunning, all lit up for Christmas
Vienna is simply stunning, all lit up for Christmas

At the Winter Market on Riesenradplatz, your little ones can delight in carriage rides pulled by friendly ponies, driving around in miniature cars and jeeps, and discovering a fantasy land in a fairy tale grotto. And over at the Advent Market on Karlsplatz, there's no end of fun to be had! Your kids will love the chance to meet some of the unusual animals here, such as curly-coated pigs and llamas, and they can even let off some steam amongst the bales of straw. There are also stories being told and shows performed within some of the yurts around the market.

Brussels, Belgium

Brussels is a great city to pop over and visit, as it's a super quick two-hour drive from our Calais terminal, which means you can easily get there and back in a day. But then again, given the amount of fun you and your kids will be having at their Christmas market, you'll no doubt want to stay a little longer!

Enjoy the traditional fairground rides in Brussels this Christmas
Enjoy the traditional fairground rides in Brussels this Christmas

Amidst the plethora of stalls selling all manner of delectable Christmas treats, namely luxurious Belgian chocolates, there are loads of great activities to entertain your kids whilst you do a spot of Christmas shopping. Your little ones will have the time of their life showing off their skills on the beautiful ice rink on the Place de la Monnaie, or taking in the sight of all those twinkling lights from up on high with a ride on the ferris wheel. And for the really little ones, why not take them for a turn on the charming carousel.

There is no easier way to get to the continent than with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle this festive period. It takes just 35 minutes to cross the Channel, and you can then drive straight off and hit the road at our Calais terminal, which is ideally situated for exploring the rest of France, Beligium, Austria, Germany and beyond!

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