In three-and-a-bit weeks, we’ll be tucking into Christmas dinners, munching mince pies and pondering whether there’s room for pud. Amazing that advent is almost here. But what about advent-ure? Well, with many of our most popular hostels staying open over the holiday period, there’s plenty of potential.
This edition, we bring you four of the festive best: our favourite short-break destinations for anyone keen to sneak in a quick getaway and make the very most of December. Plus, at the time of writing, all these fantastic hostels still have availability on the big day.
Whether you spend Christmas, Twixtmas and New Year at home or with us, let’s make this season sparkle.
Markets and mulled wine
Manchester city centre is home to not one, but nine Christmas markets this year. Once again, Albert Square is the focal point of festivities with its super-sized illuminated Santa and varied food and drink offering. New for this year, the Ice Village (near The Printworks) features an ice rink, ice cavern and ice bar. Elsewhere you’ll find chalets chock-full of crafts, stocking fillers and culinary delights from the continent. With so much appeal, it’s little wonder that Manchester is the most Instagrammed Christmas market in Europe.
Ice skating and atmosphere
Welcome to tinsel town. Millions of Christmas lights, expensively-decorated flagship stores, the prettiest of pop up ice rinks… is there anywhere more marvellous at this time of year? At just three tube stops from Knightsbridge, Earl’s Court makes a great base for visits to Hyde Park Winter Wonderland. It was brilliant last year, and this year’s offering looks every bit as magical. Plus, with the Natural History Museum’s beautiful ice rink and après skate bar close to our quiet townhouse, a stay at YHA London Earl’s Court is sure to get you in the mood for merriment.
York, the city built on chocolate, with its cobbled streets, independent boutiques, centuries-old buildings and rich history, makes for a really romantic winter break destination. Add to that the award-winning Victorian Christmas exhibition at York Castle Museum, Santa’s Sweet Adventure at York’s Chocolate Story, the Yuletide Village just off the famous Shambles, plus the ever-popular St Nicholas Fair, and there’s not much more a Christmas tourist could ask for.
If you’re ready for adventure in a ruggedly beautiful landscape this season, the glacial cliffs, crags and escarpments of the Brecon Beacons offer an easier alternative to wild Snowdonia. Boxing Day walkers will find a range of routes to satisfy all abilities, from low level strolls to serious challenges (especially in the snow) there’s something for everyone. And when the flakes fall, the slopes around Storey Arms offer top-notch tobogganing. Sledges at the ready? Let’s go.
Ramblers Festival of Winter Walks
Connecting with nature and the outdoors works wonders for both mental and physical health. But having no-one to walk with can be a real stumbling block. This year, the perennially popular Ramblers Festival of Winter Walks is back-but with an important twist.
Ramblers groups across the UK are offering a selection of free festive walks to give everyone the chance to enjoy the wonderful winter landscape in good company, and to make new friends at the time of year when many people can feel lonely or isolated.
For details of hundreds of free group walks taking place across the country between 21st December and 6th January, visit the Ramblers website.
A short film with huge heart
What would life be without adventure? Trips to climb hills, to put problems into perspective on mountains that’ve been around for millennia. The chance to blow away cobwebs and cares on the coast. Opportunities to try new things, stretch our legs and stretch ourselves. Wonderful. It’s what life is all about. Yet it’s all too easy to take for granted.
Not so for some. If you haven’t seen our film The Adventure Effect yet, please watch it. In six-and-a-half minutes, it shows just how profound the impact of adventure can be – especially for young people who otherwise miss out. We’re incredibly proud of it. We hope it moves you too.
YHA won the People’s Choice Award at the British Youth Travel Awards – thanks in no small part to the supporters who voted for us. We’re over the moon. A win like this helps put YHA on the map as a leading national charity for young people. So thank you.