Chocolate making at Choco Story Belgium

Head to Europe for your Christmas party preparations

There’s so much to do over Christmas, but even the busiest among will be able to fit in one of these quick trips across the pond before the 25th. We’ve picked out some of the best destinations to roll a last minute festive break and Christmas preparations all into one. Only have a day? Affordable wine from France is just 90 minutes away, while real Belgian chocolate can be reached with an overnight crossing. If you have a little longer, hit the road for a festive dash for unique gifts from Germany’s best Christmas markets. Whatever you need, you’re sure to find it all and more in one of our favourite festive cities.

Christmas drinks from Calais

vineyards in France
Image by Pascal POGGI

France produces some of the finest wines in the world, many of which can be found surprisingly close to our Calais port. If you can’t make it to the vineyards, Calais Wine Superstore on Rue Marcel Dorset is just five minutes’ drive from the ferry, where you can pick up a bottle of Chardonnay for as little as £1.49 and Cava for under £5. The English-speaking staff are especially knowledgeable on their wines, while there’s also a tasting room for you to sample some of their hundred-strong varieties before you buy (though do bear in mind that France has strict drink-drive limits.)

This type of excursion is common with travellers, so expect to have your car checked before you board your return crossing. While there’s no limit to the amount of alcohol you can bring home, you may face questions if you buy more than 90 litres of wine and 110 litres of beer. It’s also worth bearing in mind that French driving laws differ from the UK – read our guide to driving to France for more information.

Unique gifts and decorations from Cologne’s Christmas markets

decorations at the Christmas market in Cologne
Image by Daxis

Got someone tricky to buy a present for? Head to Christmas markets of Cologne in Germany – if local legend is to believed, each of them is guarded by ‘Heinzelmännchen’ gnomes that ensure that you can find something truly unique. The city’s largest market can be found near the striking Cathedral, which holds decorative ornaments, handmade nativity scenes and wonderfully crafted toys, along with delectable Lebkuchen gingerbread and other sweet treats like Stollen. As you browse the stalls, you’ll be treating to carol singing, and will have the option of sampling warming Glühwein – a delicious mulled wine, as well as tasty local delicacies like Kartoffelpuffer (a fried potato pancake) and Spätzle (a soft type of egg noodle).

Chocolate from Bruges

busy chocolate shop in Bruges
Image by Don Crowley

Bruges attracts thousands of visitors from across the world for its wonderful architecture, as well as its abundance of delicious chocolate. This Belgian city is obsessed with the sweet treat, so much so that they even have a museum, Choco-Story, that charts in the history of the sweet treat with interactive detail. Once you’ve worked up an appetite with a tour of the exhibits, head to the city’s plentiful chocolate shops to put all your learnings into practice. Many head to Dumon, Belgium’s award-winning chocolatier, yet the lesser known Olivier’s, on Sint-Amandsstraat is also must-visit if you’re particularly a fan of truffles and pralines.

Ready to go? Book a quick last-minute Christmas crossing now!

Featured image by Paulius Malinovskis.