Nov 28 2014

Christmas Shopping in Barcelona

The Christmas season has already begun by switching on the Christmas lights throughout Barcelona on November 21. The city is lit up in Christmas lights and a wonderful atmosphere. This is the perfect spot to go for some Christmas shopping. And which city could offer more Christmas shopping possibilities than Barcelona does?

We prepared a list and an overview to make it easier for you. Go for it and spend your money! :)

the shopping night barcelona

The Shopping Night Barcelona, 2012

Right in time for the Christmas season, Barcelona surprises you with the 5th edition of the TSNB – The Shopping Night Barcelona. On December 4, most of the shops, stores as well as bars and restaurants on Passeig de Gracia will be open til late, from 8pm to 1am. Don't miss this nice opportunity to go for a Shopping trip at night! 

What do you think about historic shopping in Barcelona? There are several places where history meets modern designer shops and boutiques. In the following we present you some very interesting places.

El Raval
There is no area in Barcelona which is that vibrant and authentic as the district El Raval. Here you can find besides drug dealers and prostitutes also designer boutiquets and nice restaurants. We recommend you Carrer de Taller where you will find several vintage shops.

La Rambla
Walking along the most famous shopping street of Barcelona, you will meet tourists as well as local people. On this street, you will find everything the heart desires. But remember that this street is always crowded. So, if you are looking for a cosy shopping trip you should choose another spot.

Barri Gòtic
In this area, there are souvenir shops for tourists as well as designer shops and boutiques. Besides that, you will find multiple places for a break like restaurants or cafes and in between times you can enter one of the churches to rest awhile.

fira de santa llucia

Fira de Santa Llúcia, Barcelona

El Born
This area is getting more and more popular especially at night. There are a lot of cafes, bars and restaurants in this district. And you won't find any shop twice. There are a lot of small shops selling handmade products such as clothes and acessoires. If you are looking for a unique souvenir, go for it! 

What could be a better place to go for some Christmas shopping than a Christmas market. As every year, the biggest Christmas market in Barcelona takes place in front of the cathedrale in Barri Gòtic. The market called Fira de Santa Llúcia  starts on November 28. Go for a romantic shopping trip under the starry sky!

In December, it might be possible that the weather isn't that nice. On a rainy and cold day, Barcelona still offers several shopping centers where you can go shopping without freezing and getting wet.

In the city center at Plaza Catalunya, you will find El Triangle – a big shopping center with multiple shops, boutiques as well as cafes and restaurants. At the harbour, there is Maremagnum, another nice shopping center with sea view. And if you are looking for something unusual which you can not find anywhere, go to El Corte Inglés. There you can find everything you are looking for!

Did we convince you that there is no better place on Earth to go for Christmas shopping than Barcelona? Book your trip to the city, and spend your money!

You haven't find an apartment yet? Do not worry, Habitat Apartments offers several nice places to stay. Have a look at the beautiful Paseo de Gracia A apartment below. It is directly located on the major shopping avenue of Barcelona and offers an amazing view of Casa Battló on the other side of the street.

Paseo-de-Gracia-A-apartment-barcelona-sofa

Paseo de Gracia A apartment, living area

 

© image The shopping night Barcelona: Palau Robert. Generalitat de Catalunya (flickr)

© image Fira de Santa Llúcia: Valerie Hinojosa (flickr)

 

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Nov 27 2014

Christmas shopping in Madrid

Madrid is a fantastic city for shopping during any season but during the Christmas period it really comes alive. Its large selection of international brands mixed with local boutiques are usually open until very late (normally 10 am to 10 pm).  Whether it is large shopping centers or quaint little market stalls you are looking for, you will be able to find anything that you desire such as: clothing, shoes, food, wines, souvenirs… in all different styles and at a range of prices.

Madrid Christmas Market

Plaza Mayor Christmas Market

El Corte Inglés is Spain's biggest and most impressive department chain. There is no other store that can rival El Corte Inglés for its convenience and sheer volume of products with most stores occupying at least 3 or 4 floors of a building.This year El Corte Inglés plans to host a 7 floor Christmas market in their store in Sol. Each floor will have a different theme in order to suit everyones needs and it is sure to be an event that is well worth a visit! 

Madrid's El Corte Inglés stores are located within metres of these metro stops:

·         Sol

·         Arguelles

·         Goya

·         Nuevos Ministerio

 

The Gran Via in Madrid is one of the main roads and has some fantastic shopping opportunities, so much so that the Calle Preciados is the area with the highest rent prices in the whole of Spain due to the vast number of pedestrians. The nearest Subway stations are: Gran Vía (lines 1 & 5), Callao (lines 3 & 5) and Plaza de España (lines 2, 3 and 10).

 

If you are in Madrid to do some Christmas shopping you must visit the Christmas market in the Plaza Mayor. For many years it has been visited and loved by people of all ages who wander through the market browsing the huge variety of Christmas gifts and even Christmas trees! The hustle and bustle atmosphere and the Christmas spirit make this market truly special.

 

From December 5 to January 6 in Plaza de Cervantes in Alcalá de Henares there is a lovely Christmas market filled with roughly 30 wooden stalls surrounding an enormous Christmas tree. There is also a lovely Venetian carousel and an elevated train which gives this market a very warm and authentic Christmas atmosphere where one can browse a large selection of food and art products with a Christmas theme.

Furthermore, from December 21 to January 4 (except Christmas day and New years day) one can ride a touristic train which gives a tour of the old town and visits the university giving information about its history.

 

The famous flea market in El Rastro is known for its abundance of stalls that total more than 1000! The atmosphere of this magnificent place truly comes alive in the Christmas season when there is not a moment when it is not full of animation. Here you will be able to find almost anything that you can think of and it offers both new and second hand goods so is the perfect place to find gifts. El Rastro is near to the Ribera de Curtidores in a large block.

 

If any of these fantastic opportunities appeal to you then why not book a stay in Madrid and come and see them for yourself! If you plan to come and haven´t already sorted accomodation then take a look at Habitat Apartments which offers some lovely apartments at great prices. For example, below you can see the Castellana Deluxe Apartment which was desgined by a prestigious Spanish decorator and features a French billiards table.

Castellana Deluxe Madrid

Castellana Deluxe Apartment, Living Area

 

 

© image Plaza Mayor Christmas Market: daniel feher (flickr)

 

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Nov 20 2014

December in Rome – write your own Christmas story

Christmas season is on the agenda again. The weather is getting colder, and you spend more time at home lying on the couch watching movies: Harry Potter Part 1-7 II; Love Actually; How the Grinch Stole Christmas and so on. The TV guide offers you the best. But wouldn't it be nice to create your own movie – your own story?

Think about it: You are in Rome on your own looking for the love of your life – You are in Rome with your bestfriend spending the best time of your life -  You are in Rome with your partner, loving each other, fighting, almost splitting up, and at the end falling in love with each other even deeper than before – Or you are in Rome with the whole family; everyone is driving you crazy; you are fighting and laughing with each other; but in the end it's Christmas and you recognize that you love all of them… 

christmas lights rome
Christmas lights, Rome

Whatever your story is, you will find out in Rome. So, come to the city in December, experience the unique atmosphere and write your own story! We prepared a list for you with all the events coming to the city.

For example, your story could start at the Christmas Market at Piazza Navona. You are strolling along the wooden stalls forcing your way through the crowd. You are drinking mulled wine or hot chocolate, tasting delicious food, buying some small handmade Christmas gifts, when suddenly…Well, this is your part!

You spend your time in Rome doing some Christmas shopping. There are so many shopping opportunities in Italy's capital. Where can Christmas shopping be more fun than here? At Via del Corso you will find everything the heart desires and at Via dei Condotti you will swim in luxory: Prada, Gucci and more.

A romantic place to spend the first date or just a nice afternoon could be for example the Ice skating rink near Castell Sant' Angelo. Gliding over the ice or tripping and stumbling – getting closer and closer to each other. Later you can warm your frozen hands with a hot chocolate or mulled wine.

However, the whole city of Rome will be lit up like a Christmas tree. There will be Christmas lights throughout the city. One of the nicest things to do in Rome in December is strolling around the streets and soaking up the fantastic atmosphere. 

Another great thing in winter is that there are not so many tourists. You will see almost only local people in the streets, and you will recongnize that Rome does even seem to be a different city. There are no long queues in front of museums and sights. Public places are not that crowded anymore, and the most spoken language you hear will be Italian. So, it's your time now to visit all those nice places: Vatican museum, St. Peter's Basilica or maybe a museum. At MACRO, a museum for contemporary art, you will find an exhibition called Big Bambû until December 31. Go for it!

As I have already told you, December in Rome is the local season. So what do you think about pretending to be one of the locals strolling through the festively decorated streets, visiting Nativity scenes in almost every church. There are also several holidays on the agenda in December. On December 8, 25 and 26, you will find several parades and processions in the streets. And the chance to see the pope is actually very high on those days. 

sant peter's square rome

The highlight of your Christmas story could take place at St.Peter's Square during the Pope's annual Christmas address at 12pm on December 25. The square will be crowded on this day, but you should definitely attend it if you are in Rome during Christmas. The tickets are always for free, but you have to reserve your tickets in advance. Even so, you should arrive early and maybe bring a hot cup of chocolate, tea or coffee to keep you warm St. Peter's Square, Rome                                                           during the waiting hours. 

Listening to the Pope's festive words about peace, Christmas and love, holding your dearest friends, person or family close to you and tell them how much you love them. Because this is what Christmas is about, isn't it? 
And after all, this might be also a nice end for your story…

Another end for you story could take place on New Year's eve, celebrating with your dearest people in the streets. There are multiple concerts and performances in the streets of Rome, all starting around 9.30pm. For example, the ponte Sant' Angelo is the perfect choice for classical music lovers. Listening to music by Vivaldi, Handel, Mozart ect. you can profess your love to your partner or just kiss your love tenderly at midnight. Or you are celebrating with your friends – having the best night of your life!

What do you think about this story? However, it's your turn now. Come to Rome in December, have a nice time in the city, and write your own Christmas story. It doesn't matter if it is going to be a drama, comedy or a romantic fairy tale. We are looking forward to hearing your story!

If you haven't found an apartment yet, have a look at Habitat Apartments. We offer several nice places to stay. Below, you see the Augustus apartment for up to 4 people.

augustus apartment

Augustus Apartment, bedroom

 

© image Christmas lights: Stefano Costantini (flickr)

© image St. Peter's Square: Chris Wary (flickr)

 

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Nov 18 2014

December in Amsterdam – the Top 10 “Christmas” activities

Have a holly, jolly Christmas – It's the best time of the year - I don't know if there will be snow – but have a cup of cheer - Have a holly, jolly Christmas – and when you walk down the street - say hello to friends you know – and everyone you meet! (Johnny Marks)

Are you already counting the days until Christmas? We can assure you the Christmas season is already knocking on our doors. There are only 36 days left. But for those who are still impatiently waiting for the holy day, we prepared a little bucket list for you. Come to Amsterdam, and follow the things to do on the list! We assure you, Santa Clause is coming soon!

We prepared our Top 10 activities and events to do in the Dutch capital in December and put them in a list. Have a look at all the details, and book your trip to the city!

christmas tree amsterdam

Christmas tree in front of the Central station, Amsterdam

1) What is the first word coming to your mind when you think about Christmas. If you are honest, you will say: gifts! Fortunately, Amsterdam offers you not only several possibilities for Christmas shopping but also most shops extend their opening hours to give you more time. There are also multiple Christmas markets in the city where you can find mulled wine and hot chocolate among other things. Go for it!

2) The second word coming to your mind when you think about the holy festival? Obviously, it is Christmas tree or Ice skating. However, you find both in the city. There is a large Christmas tree on Dam Square with about 40,000 lights. Its definitely a visit worth it. There are also several Ice skating spots in Amsterdam. You will find an ice skating rink at Museumplein with the Rijkmuseum as a backdrop, at Jaap Eden (outdoor and indoor rink) and at Leidseplein which will be transformed in a winter wonderland.

3) Christmas in Amsterdam means also that it's time for circus again! There are three circuses in the city during the holidays. The most traditional circus is the World Christmas Circus in Royal Theater Carré (December 18 until January 3). The Winter Circus Amsterdam takes place at the Arenapark (December 21 to January 4) and the Original Cuban Circus stays at Amsterdam RAI (December 26 to 30). All of them are events for the whole family!

4) There is nothing better to create the right Christmas atmosphere than a Christmas concert. Do you agree? The annual Paradiso's Christmas Matinee takes place on December 26. Don't miss this mix out of Fanfare St. Cecilia, Tango and more.

5) Opera and Ballet is something else that shouldn't be missing at all during the Christmas season. There are also several shows to see for you at the Dutch National Opera & Ballet: from Cinderella to La bohème. Go for it!

6) Right in time for the Christmas season, the Amsterdam Light Festival is on the agenda again transforming the city in an unique light show. Don't miss this fantastic event!

But not everything is about Christmas in December in Amsterdam. There are also some other nice events waiting for you.

7) What is the last thing coming to your mind when you think about Christmas? We have actually no idea. But we bet it could be 'tango' for example. Surprisingly, there is also the Amsterdam Tango Week coming to the city in December. The event will take place from December 27 to January 4. You will find several tango events in the city.

8) Besides all the Christmas shopping and atmosphere you shouldn't miss the 10th edition of Art in Redlight. This event is hold from December 27 to 30 throughout all the halls of the historic Beurs Van Berlage. There will be a mix of artworks and performances from 150 selected artists. Buy your ticket soon!  

9) There is also an interesting exhibition called "Modern Times. Photography in the 20th century" at the Rijksmuseum. There will be 400 photographs demonstrating the technological and aesthetic developments in 20th-century photography. The exhibition can be visited daily from 9am to 5pm.

10) Besides Christmas, there is obviously another big holiday on the agenda: New Year's eve. What to do on New Year's eve in Amsterdam? Well, there is a list with all the parties in Amsterdam on New Year's eve. You just have to make a choice, and book it soon!

What do you think about our Top 10? Did we convince you? Come to Amsterdam, and enjoy a wonderful time in December! There is so much to experience in this city. Don't miss it, and book your trip soon! We assure you again, Santa Clause is coming soon!

If you are looking for a nice place to stay, have a look at Habitat Apartments. We offer several nice apartments as the Keizergracht 1 Apartment below. 

keizersgracht apartment

Keizersgracht 1 Apartment, bedroom

 

© image: Kitty Terwolbeck

 

 

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Nov 14 2014

December in Venice – dive deep in the city’s local life

The time of the crowded streets in Venice is over. The time when thousands of tourists were strolling through the small streets has gone. Winter has come to Venice, and has covered the city under a blanket of fog…

In December, you can visit the city under a lightly grayed sky when fog lingers through the canals creating a mysterious and eerie atmosphere. But it gives Venice also this kind of touch that makes the city so unique. The time has come for you to visit the city in a new way pretending to be one of the locals and to get to know the city besides sightseeing and tourist attractions. Come to Venice in December, and dive deep in the fog and the city's life!

What can be better on a foggy day than starting it with a cup of hot chocolate? After doing so, the day will definitely turn out well. Have a look at all the possible activities you can do in Venice in December.

christmas murano veniceChristmas baubles, Murano

December in Venice means also that there will be Pre-Christmas season in the city. This means again that the city will be lit up by Christmas lights and a large Christmas tree with about 20,000 lights in Piazzetta dei Leoncini. For a little stroll through the city, we recommend you St.Mark's Square where you find daily Christmas lighting from sunset to midnight. The arcades of this Square will be fully decorated with all kind of lights and snowflakes. It is definitely a walk worth it, and maybe even a bit of snow will catch you by surprise…

ICE SKATING
The Venetians love Ice Skating. From December to January 2015, the ice rink is set up in Campo San Polo and will be open every day. There is also a skate rental, where you can rent the skates if you don't bring your own. 

MURANO
What do you think about a short trip to Murano for a few hours? The island of the famous glassworks will be also decorated for the holy season. There you can marvel at a Christmas tree made out of glass, and maybe you will find some little Christmas presents for friends and family.

CHRISTMAS CONCERTS
What would be Venice in December without a lovely Classical concert? Fortunately, the city offers several nice events. You can attend events like Violins in Venice, La Traviata, Vivaldi and Opera and more. Dress a little bit up and feel like one of the Venetians sitting in the audience of a concert or opera! 

After a wonderful day strolling through the city like local people, there is only one thing missing – something to eat. And as we are not only looking for something to eat but for some special and delicious food, we recommend you the following two restaurants.

Dal Moro's 
At this place, you can get fresh Pasta to go. There are no tables and not even a toilet, but the `pasta they make is really good! You can choose the pasta and a sauce. Your plate will be cooked right in front of you, and you can watch the staff preparing your meal out of fresh ingredients. 

If you prefer a cosy dinner sitting in a nice restaurant, we recommend you Ristorante Beccafico Arte offering a Mediterrenaen Cuisine. This restaurant might be a little bit more expensive than others, but it offers also an excellent service and very delicious food and wine. Last but not least, there are even some tables overlooking the canal which makes the place even to a better spot.  

After the delicious dinner, there is nothing else to do than going home and fall in a food coma on your bed or sofa. If you are still looking for an aparment in Venice, Habitat Apartments offers you several places to stay. Below you can see the Bia Marcuola Apartment for up to 6 people.

bia marcuola apartment

Bia Marcuola Apartment, bedroom

 

© image: Juliette Gibert (flickr)

 

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