With all that wall-to-wall socialising and partying that tends to happen at Christmas, you may be itching for a getaway in the New Year. And what better time than January to finally start ticking off some of those beautiful cities from your bucket list? From the cobbled streets of Copenhagen – home to hygge and all things cosy – to the bright lights of Las Vegas, here are ten of the best city breaks in January to consider right now…
If you like the idea of seeing a different side to Italy (as opposed to the summertime version), January can be the best time to visit Rome. Temperatures tend to average around 8°C – which is significantly warmer than northern European cities – and the lack of crowds means you can soak up Rome’s ancient atmosphere at your own pace. You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to enjoying its history and architecture (pay a visit to the iconic Trevi Fountain, marvel at the Sistine Chapel and be sure to walk beside the Colosseum as the sun sets in the evening), and you’ll find that the pizza is among the best in Italy: try Pizza Florida or Pizzeria Romana al Taglio for steaming slices of this much-loved Italian dish.
Another destination that deserves a place among the best city breaks in January is Venice. Like Rome, Venice is best enjoyed without hoards of tourists, and it’s safe to say that the hot chocolate at Caffè Florian (a cafe that’s almost 300 years old) tastes most delicious when the weather is cold. Consider timing your visit for late January, as the Venice Carnevale takes place between the 23rd January and 9th February: hang out on Venice’s many bridges to watch the colourful boat parades sail along the water, and see if you can get tickets to one of the city’s masquerade balls. A gondola ride in January is especially romantic, with mist rising from the river and the winter sun illuminating the city’s sinking buildings in a soft, romantic light.
Lisbon is the perfect place if you’d like warmer weather than you’d be contending with at home, and if you’re particularly lucky, you’ll be able to explore the city all day with just a lightweight jacket for warmth. Enjoy Lisbon’s laidback pace and take your time as you meander through its winding, cobbled streets, keeping your eyes peeled for its numerous tile displays. Terracotta rooftops are strewn across this hilly city, and you’ll pass many wooden trams rattling their way through Lisbon’s districts – perfect if you fancy hitching a ride from place to place. This beautiful destination dips its toe into the ocean, so expect to sample fresh seafood to accompany bottles of Portuguese wine.
Another city that’s warm in January (compared to other regions in Europe) is Seville, making it the perfect time to visit a southern Spanish city that’s known for its flamenco, tapas and Moorish architecture. While away days in tranquil courtyards, explore the museums in Santa Cruz (the old Jewish quarter) and stroll along the banks of the Guadalquivir. Be sure to visit the cathedral at night (the wash of golden light up its walls makes it all the more beautiful after sunset) before visiting one Seville’s bars or ‘cervecerías’: nightlife in the city is excellent, and Calle Betis (the street running parallel to the river) is worth checking out for its flamenco bars and nightclubs.
Amsterdam is undoubtedly one of the best city breaks in January, particularly if you fancy a holiday with lots of sightseeing and attractions. Wrap up warmly and hire a bike to see the city (knowing that there’ll be far fewer tourists on the road than usual – perfect if you’re a little wobbly on two wheels), take a boat trip on the canal, and stroll through the atmospheric, wintry Vondelpark. If you fancy keeping snug inside instead, visit one of Amsterdam’s many museums, explore Anne Frank’s house or dive into the selection of independent boutiques in De Negen Straatjes – this shopping mecca is sandwiched between Leidsegracht and Raadhuisstraat.
Home of ‘hygge’, there’s nowhere better visit than Copenhagen if you fancy wrapping up warmly, slowing things down and enjoying a long, hearty meal beneath the soft flicker of candlelight. Visit Nyhavn to snap a photograph of the colourful houses (and walk down Magstræde for a truly instagram-worthy spot), and continue your way around the city as you sample a smorgasbord of Danish pastries. And, seeing as Denmark has the oldest monarchy in the world, there are plenty of fairytale castles and royal art treasures to unearth. Pay a visit to Rosenborg Castle and explore the hallways of a grand old building that has been home to many royal inhabitants in the past, marvelling at the life-size silver lions and the glistening crown jewels.
If you feel up to braving some truly wintry weather, how about heading to Iceland? Its capital city, Reykjavik, is becoming a fast favourite of holidaymakers, and that’s because there’s so much to see and do – while being so unlike anything else in Europe. From the vibrant old harbour (peppered with coffee shops and museums) to the towering Hallgrímskirkja church that soars into the sky, it’s certainly one of the best city breaks in January. The best thing about going at this time of year is that you’re boosting your chances of seeing the Northern Lights – they tend to be visible from late September to March – and there’s an incredible array of other natural splendours too if you fancy hiring a car to see them, including volcanoes, geysers, glaciers and lagoons.
New York City
How about wintry weather in a city with a totally different feel? New York is a fabulous destination to visit at any time of year, but January steals the show for the fact that throngs of tourists have left the city, and flights and hotels have become a whole lot cheaper. You’ll need waterproof boots and plenty of warm layers if you want to get around the city without your teeth chattering, but there are lots of things to do to take your mind off the chill. Grab tickets for a world-class Broadway show, be serenaded by the sounds of the Winter Jazzfest, and see if you can score a bargain in New York’s excellent shops and department stores during the January sales. And if you happen to be in New York for the 1st January? Make your way to Coney Island to dive into the sea with the locals – it’s an annual tradition for those brave enough to start the year with a dip in the water.
If you’ve always dreamed of mastering the poker table or trying your luck at a game of blackjack, a holiday to Las Vegas could be the perfect place to kickstart 2018. January falls in the city’s low season, meaning you’ll have your pick of hotels, restaurant tables and nightclubs, lapping up all the glitz and glamour you could possibly imagine. Call into the Mob Museum to learn about the likes of Bugsy Siegel, Frank Costello and Meyer Lanksy, browse the malls (making a point of checking out Caesar’s Palace – the gilded interior is so impressive) and be sure to be at the Bellagio Fountains after sunset to see Vegas’ water show at its best.
Finally, Dubai is a city break you should consider if it’s winter sunshine you’re after. Temperatures average around 24°C – more than warm enough for sitting outside for lunch, but cool enough to mean you can spend the day out and about doing plenty of sightseeing. See the tallest skyscraper in the world, the Burj Khalifa, and get a view of the city from the 134th floor before shopping ‘till you drop in Dubai’s mega malls. For an unforgettable experience, book yourself onto a desert safari and tear through the sand dunes, or have fun riding camels while the sun warms your skin. Dubai is also home to some truly lovely beaches, and boasts the number one water park in the whole of the Middle East and Europe – so it’s the perfect January holiday destination if you’re determined to spend some time in a swimming costume.
We think these are the best city breaks in January – what about you? Where will you be jetting off to?