Being a Festive Freebird in Europe's
Great Christmas Cities!
This week we want to share a few of the wonderful Freebird Host locations around Europe; any one of which would warm the heart with festive spirit.
Berlin is a truly vibrant city with a rich history and the markets here are magical. Our lovely local host Stella has a lovely apartment in the city and is only delighted to share her best Berlin insights with you. You can also stay with host Thomas who is located just outside of Berlin but happy to show you what's what. We want to share some personal favourites, starting with Berliner Weihnachtszeit at Roten Rathaus. There are 3 markets located close by here. Ride the Ferris Wheel and treat yourself to a spectacular view of the yuletide scene below. Maybe have a gluhwein to fortify yourself for the wintry weather, but not before you try ice-skating in the open air. The stalls are decorated in the style of the early 1900's, you could be in a chocolate box scene. Winterwelt am Potsdamer Platz is another gem. You can sit on a tyre and slide down a snowy slope if you'd like a break from shopping. Weihnachtszauber at the Gendarmenmarkt is my all-time favourite in Berlin! Surrounded by impressive architecture it is especially famous for unique handmade products, art and Origami. There are live plays performed too which will get you into the Christmas spirit.
If you fancy somewhere a little warmer this time of year, give Madrid a whirl. Freebird hosts Elaine and Blanca Paloma are ready to welcome you to this fabulous city. Plaza Mayor has had a market for over 100 years. Buy handmade decorations, view the nativity scenes and sample such delights as Turron, and the sweet local liquor. Put on a wig or don a festive hat and ride the brightly lit carousel. Visit The Hovse, a palatial house in the chic Alonzo Martinez district, here you can buy artisan olive oils, jams and cheeses. The Mercado de Diseno is full of quirky designers with unique items to sell. You can even get a special doggy bed for your four-legged friend. For those with a sweet tooth, the Feria Dulces de Navidad is a must. Sample traditional candies and cookies from all over Spain. We recommend the hot chocolate with fresh churros to dunk. If you are looking for baby clothes, as only the Spanish can do them, then Mercadillo del Gato is a must. Great music here also and lots of gourmet treats. This city is marvelous at this time of year.
Brussels is known to have one of the best Christmas Markets in all of Europe and is the home of one of our friendly Freebird host, Joy. Brimming with charm and old world character, you feel as though you’re in a fairytale at Le Grand Place or De Grote Markt, the atmosphere is just wonderful. See the city lit up with a light-show here and at Place de la Bourse which gives the light shows of 5th Avenue in Manhattan a run for their money! Hop on the Ferris Wheel, or carousel and soak up the atmosphere! Remember, you’re on vacation! With wonderful architecture, shops, delicious local delicacies you can’t but be happy in your surroundings. After exploring the brightly cobbled streets, re-energise with a treat or two; artisan chocolates (divine), waffles (more locally known as gouffres); mulled wine; and local beer. Take your pick! For the best of festive, Brussels is hard to beat at this time of year.
Welcome to the wonderful town of Versailles, near Paris. Valérie lives here, home of one of the greatest palaces in the world. The relatively low number of tourists in December will make your time here extra special. Seat to the French Royals, the stunning palace is vast, not to mention the glorious gardens. Transport yourself back to the era of the Sun King and imagine living that life. Visit the Trianons, where Louis and Marie-Antoinette spent their days relaxing in such luxury. Versailles also has a wonderful Cathedral dating back to the 1700s, with the first stone laid by Louis XV. The wide streets and welcoming cafés where you can sip a cup of warm cocoa ooze a particular “je ne sais quoi”. Of course you are only down the road from the City of Light itself, Paris, where you can browse the classy Christmas market on the Champs Elysées and enjoy all the yuletide trappings of this majestic city. Parisian host Bernard has a lovely apartment near the centre.
Siena is one of the most beautiful cities in Italy, and a special place to visit at Christmas. Not far from Siena is our host Rosalba, nestled amongst the Tuscan Hills. The city puts on an array of very special events featuring art, music, and fine food, and the medieval market in the Piazza del Campo is stunning. Half of the square is dedicated to handcrafted decorations and the other half to food and wine. The best atmosphere is after the sunsets. Meander through the medieval streets and savour the atmosphere. The park beside the fortress, and the bus station, is transformed into a Christmas village, with a skating rink and lots more stalls selling gewgaws. Siena hosts a season of Italian Opera at the auditorium of Santo Stefano, with beautiful Christmas music. The city really lends itself to music and song, any time of year - not to be missed.
The temperate climate of Lisbon and festive atmosphere is ideal for you if you're looking for some warmth over Christmas. Dazzling decorations and fairy lights adorn the historic centre of the city. Our lovely host Paula is located in Estrela, home to the Estrela Basilica, a beautiful church which holds the tomb of Maria. Behind the tomb there is a room which hosts an extraordinary Christmas manger. The crib contains over 500 individually handcrafted figures of the Holy family adorning the manger. Celia our other Lisbon host, boasts an exceptional city property and is able to offer all kinds of additional services to ensure a wonderful Lisbon experience. In the Baixa which is located at the centre of the Praca do Comercio, stands a giant Christmas tree at 30m high, where thousands gather on the 31st of December each year to ring in the New Year. It is in this large square that you can purchase some delicious Portuguese pastries. A Christmas speciality known as the Three Kings is a must. It's a sweet round cake stuffed with raisins, candied fruit and nuts - yum!
While not as noted as other countries for Christmas markets, Ireland is a great place to visit as the festive season builds. Cork is a lively and vibrant city, ideal for all your Christmas shopping. Packed full of exciting boutiques and quirky gift shops, Cork is the ideal place to meet friends over a Christmas coffee or browse the famous “English Market”. Stay with our friendly hosts Marian or Philomena and enjoy the wonderful Christmas events the city has to offer. The GLOW Festival is a Christmas must where crowds have been wowed by Santa’s Workshop at Bishop Lucey Park, the Food Markets on the Grand Parade and the fantastic views of Cork from the Ferris Wheel.
Visit Dublin for a capital Christmas and visit the beautiful, ever changing Dublin Docklands for the annual Christmas Flea Market in The Point Village, beside the 3 Arena. Here you can browse over 100 stalls selling old and new Irish made goods that cannot be found on the high street. Stay with one of our hosts - Geraldine, Niav, Aileen or Katherina, who are here to welcome you as you visit all the sights of this bustling cheerful city, steeped in history and culture, and adorned in Christmas lights.
Be free as a bird!
The Freebird Club Team