As the ubiquitous red cups return, Michael Buble once more dominates the airways and the nation breathes a collective sigh of disappointment at the John Lewis advert, it’s time to acknowledge the return of the festive season. Free time is but a distant memory, as the passing weeks become a carousel of glitzy parties and Christmas dos. It’s enough to make anyone yearn for an escape… Here at BIRD, we’re big fans of the spontaneous weekend away – grabbing a bag and fleeing for the lights of distant cities or the quiet of countryside calm. Read on for our pick of the best wintry escapes…
Long mistaken as a city designed for bland bankers and insipid financial types, Zurich boasts a secret arty underbelly. Behind the perfectly kempt, efficient façade (this is Switzerland, after all), lies a labyrinth of secret bars and galleries frequented by local artists and musicians. During winter, the city sparkles with the light of the towering Swarovski crystal Christmas tree, market sellers dole out steaming glasses of Glühwein and the scent of rich, molten raclette drifts on the breeze above the frozen expanse of Lake Zurich. From your base at the pared-back, minimal-chic Marktgasse Hotel, head out to the lake for an icy wander, warming up on your return with devilishly good cocktails from the seriously stylish Baltho bar. This is winter at its best.
There are few spots more sublimely British than the quaint little villages of the Cotswolds. Spend your days hiking the rolling green hills, holing up a thatched roof pub when your hands turn to ice, thawing out with a roast by a roaring fire. Even in the rain – this is England, and rain will not stop play – there are puddles to be splashed in and sheltered woodlands to explore. Many a winter weekend could be lost to discovering the hidden hamlets of this English idyll.
Just 90 minutes from the UK lies the land of hygge. The word of the moment, without any direct English translation it conjures up feelings of warmth, cosiness, good company and contentment. The moment you step out of Copenhagen’s central station you’ll understand why this word is a national obsession: every street corner boasts a little bakery, churning out fragrant, sweet kanelsnaegl and traestemmen. The misted-up windows of the restaurants and bars in the vibrant meatpacking district are filled with friends and families enjoying candlelit meals; the paint box-hued buildings of Nyhavn are dusted with snow and the fairy-lit Tivoli Gardens ring with the sound of live music as the scent of gløgg hangs in the air. Escape to the grand Nimb Hotel, nestled within Tivoli itself, for a fairy tale hideaway from the cold.
You can’t mention a wintry escape without including a break in the mountains. Whether you’re a keen ski bunny or more interested in lengthy spa treatments, Le Grand Bellevue is the ultimate respite from grey London. Collect your skis from the hotel’s private ski concierge and head up to the surprisingly empty slopes for a morning of powdery fun. Legs aching, head back to the hotel to warm up with a treat from the gourmet hot chocolate menu (the decadent Black Beauty is our top pick) and soothe wind chapped skin with a pampering Bamford facial. For dinner, opt for Michelin-starred cuisine from LEONARD’s or indulge in an alpine feast at Le Petit Chalet. Say yes to the Toblerone Fondue – you’ll burn it off on the slopes in the morning.
Winter not your thing? Hate the cold? Rather dress up as an oven-ready turkey then step foot on a snow-dusted piste? Never fear. Winter is the perfect time to head to many tropical destinations – and nowhere is hotter right now (figuratively, and somewhat literally) than Sri Lanka. Boasting endless golden beaches, rolling surf, abundant wildlife, incredible cuisine (have you seen the queues outside Hoppers in Soho? Sri Lankan food is IT this year) and a smattering of spectacular hotels, Sri Lanka offers a unique proposition. Choose from colonial country living at Tea Trails, clifftop luxury at Cape Weligama or contemporary cool at Tri – and all an easy direct flight from the UK.