Christmas wonderland in Copenhagen

Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen

If you are looking for a festive holiday, you won’t find anywhere that embraces Christmas quite like Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen.

For the rest of the year this 21-acre park is a pleasure garden with rides and amusements – but in winter it is transformed into one of Europe’s largest Christmas markets.

With more than 60 stalls, festive rides, millions of twinkling lights, reindeer and Santa himself in residence, the park has all you could need for a great pre-Christmas city break.

Stay in Nimb, the only hotel in Copenhagen with direct access into Tivoli Gardens. You don’t have to pay the park’s DKK95 (£11) daily entrance fee – the reception give you a wrist band that gets you free access to the rides too, saving another DKK199 (£22).

With its Moorish façade lit up at night by thousands of fairy lights, Nimb looks like a slightly kitsch etching from the world of CS Lewis. But don’t be fooled – inside is a luxurious, intimate boutique hotel. There are just 17 rooms and each one is different.

My room curved around the corner of the building and housed a large four-poster bed, a seating area with log fire and enormous bathrooms and dressing areas. All but one of the bedrooms looks outover Tivoli Gardens – mine was right next to the antique roller-coaster, with the quiet rattling (the windows are well insulated) of the carts whizzing past providing a pleasant reminder of my location.

Beyond Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen has much to offer. I wouldn’t bother with the shopping – there’s a wide array of international brands on offer, but the exchange rate means you’ll pay substantially more than if you had simply bought them at home.

No, the main attractions in Copenhagen are the restaurants – it’s fast becoming one of the world’s gastronomic hotspots. Noma (Noma.dk), the place to go for Nordic cuisine, was voted San Pellegrino’s Best Restaurant in the World in 2010, 2011 and 2012 and boasts two Michelin stars.

Dishes range from mahogany clam to wild duck with pear and kale. There are also 12 more Michelin-starred restaurants in and around Copenhagen, including Geranium and Kong Hans Kaelder.

Nimb’s dining options are more modest, but still excellent. The brasserie offers good food in a wonderful setting overlooking Tivoli Gardens. The menu consists of French classics, including a particularly delicious haunch of venison with loganberries and cabbage, and the breakfast is easily one of the best I’ve had.

Nimb costs from DKK2,000 (£224) per night for a double (including breakfast). Visit www.nimb.dk, or call 00 45 8870 0000.

Ragdale Hall in Leicestershire

The best British spas

The Dorchester Spa in London exudes “old-world glamour, but when it comes to treatments, it’s cutting-edge”, says Kate Hilpern in The Independent. It has nine sound-proofed treatment rooms and double suites for couples. Treatments cost from £70 (Dorchestercollection.com).

You can escape the city altogether at Chewton Glen in the New Forest. “One of the UK’s finest country house hotels”, it “boasts a glamorous yet friendly spa with some of the most luxurious treatments around.” Day guests are also welcome. Treatments cost from £25 (Chewtonglen.com).

For a more traditional spa, Champneys in Hertfordshire is the best option. This “exceptional boot camp” has “nutrition and exercise still at its heart”, but a multimillion-pound revamp means its relaxation facilities are “impressive too”, with “a fabulous Thalassotherapy pool”. Treatments from £15 (Champneys.com).

Ragdale Hall (pictured) in Leicestershire “has been described as the John Lewis of spas because it is of excellent quality, well priced and delivered by friendly, knowledgeable people”. The facilities are “vast and dazzling” and the food is “first-rate”. Treatments start from £18 (Ragdalehall.co.uk).

Celtic Manor in Newport in Wales is perhaps best known for its golfing breaks, but it also offers a “surprisingly tranquil spa, given the size of the hotel”. If you are stuck for what to go for, try their “stand-out treatment” – the Elemis Herbal Steam Temple – “which incorporates an exotic steam cleansing ritual”. Prices start from £44 for a treatment (Celtic-manor.com).

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