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Christmas

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angel

All this month on Hlavné, Františkánske and Hviezdoslavovo squares in Bratislava the wonder that is a Slovakian Christmas comes to life. Amid this magical cultural and festive atmosphere the most beautiful part of town rings with the sound of carols, smells of traditional foods, and smiles with the good humor of the season.

As you might expect in the heart of Europe, Bratislava’s Christmas markets are both a cliché, and a surprise each year. Seasonal events played out before the booths filled with handmade products of wood, ceramic, glass, textiles and more, put one in the mood for Saint Nicholas and the spiritual wholesomeness that is Christmas. Products created and offered by the Association of the Guild of Historical Crafts are a rare form of creative magic.

And the food, traditional or otherwise, simply adds a flavorful overtone to an already emotionally charged festival. Traditional gastronomy, principally cabbage soup with fish and fresh barbecued meats, are simple folk food, and simply delicious. Once the tummy is warmed with a hot meal, and the soul kindled with the Yule tide spirit, the honey cakes and lokše (baked potato pancakes) with Christmas mead help complete for visitors memories to last forever.

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If you’re intending on arriving just before Christmas then don’t miss the Christmas programs where theater performers tell the tales and stories of Christmas. Also be sure and take a ride on the Christmas tram that tours the city. The cable car all alight with a thousands of lights rides the roads of Old Town from 4 p.m. until 8 each night. Music festivals of every description including Jazz, Opera, Reggae, and a Theater Fest further embellish Bratislava’s famous Charity Christmas Bazaar too.

All during the weekends of advent, children from Bratislava, Brno, Vienna and Krakow carol the town with Christmas songs and present traditional customs. Picture yourself in Slovakia’s most picturesque setting, the chilly December air, a cup of warm wine or traditional mead in hand, the sounds of ages old Christmas carols signaling another memorable season about to pass – Bratislava is magic this time of year, a must on anybody’s “bucket list” of places to be during the holidays.

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warsaw

There’s a “Christmas Market Fever” all over Europe these days, and Warsaw doesn’t escape the bug. This city manages to fascinate every Christmas, with new, designer decorations adorning its main markets, streets bathed in light, and a coat of snow… the guaranteed “white Christmas” experience. Plus… the architecture in the old town, much rebuilt as a tribute to the city’s past and traditions, creates the perfect setting for a romantic Christmas. And Mamaison Hotel Le Regina Warsaw is fit for royalty, but with affordable luxury accommodation, and gourmet cuisine, guaranteed to make out of your Warsaw Christmas experience the memory of a lifetime.

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The Christmas markets of Warsaw kick off this weekend, on November 27, and are planned to last till December 23, 2015. The main market, at Plac Wilsona, is the most popular, as well as the most interesting of all. It’s highly touristy, so expect everything that comes with the “territory.” But unlike other traditional Christmas markets around Europe, this is an international event, with 24 exhibitors from Hungary, the Netherlands, Austria, Germany and so on. There will be, of course, enough exhibitors from Poland to satisfy your needs for local arts and crafts. The usual holiday treats, including aromatic mulled wine, are a given.

Another popular Christmas market takes place at Barbakan. It’s the perfect destination to shop for indigenous arts, crafts and handicrafts. More than an opportunity to buy Christmas gifts and decorations, this is also the place to see craftsmen showcasing their skills, traditional entertainment, and you can even meet the Vikings! Pastries, hot dishes, cold cuts with Polish traditional mulled wine are the promised treats. The program is designed to make happy visitors of all ages.

Barbakan

The Christmas Market in Ursynów is another favorite of the locals. It sells a range of regional products, artistic objects, authentic souvenirs, and Christmas decorations, as well as Christmas foods. There’s no market without mulled wine, so don’t worry about it. This market has many activities designed exclusively for children, but there’s a lot for adults too.

Still not convinced? Don’t take our world for it. Just check out the Top five European Christmas Markets recommendations by The Sun, to see Warsaw ranking among the best in Europe!

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    Christmas woman with stars

    There’s no other season more celebrated around the world than Winter, especially in December, when a great part of the world dresses up in Christmas lights, and cheers for the birth of Christ, the Savior. This is the season to give, to share positive feelings and thoughts, to help each-other, to rekindle broken relationships with family and friends, to forgive, and finally, to remember the values that truly matter, those values that make the essence of humanity, and make us whole.

    Christmas cheer.

    Mamaison Hotels and Residences have prepared a variety of packages to make your winter truly magical this year. First, the Winter Early Bird Breaks offer you 20% off when you book at least 30 days prior to arrival, and you stay in any Mamaison hotel that participates in this offer at least two nights, for a travel window starting with December 2, 2014 and ending March 31, 2015.

    If you cannot book 30 day prior your arrival to the Mamaison hotel of your choice, you can still save 15% if you stay at least two nights, during the same travel window as above, with the second special offer: Winter Treats.

    mamaison winter

    More than mere places to spend the night after a day of exploring your favorite destinations, Mamaison Hotels and Residences are also places where you can get pampered, and where you can experience authentic local hospitality and cuisine. This is true at Christmas too, when you can dine in some of Mamaison’s classiest restaurants: Meat & More at Mamaison All-Suites Spa Hotel Pokrovka Moscow; La Perle Noire Restaurant and Lounge at Mamaison Hotel Andrassy Budapest; and at Restaurant Legend at Mamaison Business & Conference Hotel Imperial Ostrava.

    At Meat & More in Moscow, you and your party will enjoy exquisite menus, featuring tuna fillet in sesame seeds, ravioli with ricotta cheese, duck breast with carrot puree and more. The set price for the festive menu, which will be available from 18:00 on December 31, 2014, is 2,900 RUB. You can enjoy this offer regardless if you are a guest of the hotel or not. So plan a festive evening in Mamaison All-Suites Spa Hotel Pokrovka Moscow’s fine restaurant. If you want to enjoy Christmas dinner at Meat & More, you will need to order in advance. For this special holiday, the restaurant offers a whole roasted turkey with apple stuffing served with seasonal vegetables and fruit (4 kg) for 5900 RUB. Pre-order at least 5 days in advance, at +7 495 229-57-57.

    Christmas Turkey In Wooden Tray

    La Perle Noire Restaurant and Lounge, one of the finest restaurants in Budapest, the jewel of Mamaison Hotel Andrassy, serves creative European cuisine drawing upon French and Hungarian traditions. Their Christmas and New Year’s Eve menus this year will reflect their strengths, giving you a truly gourmet dining experience, at exceptional prices. The Christmas Menu will be available from December 20, to December 28, 2014, featuring: duck liver pudding with quince, piemont hazelnut and gold raisin; fish velouté with orange, marinated milt and in air bag baked pike-perch; veal ossobucco rilette; venison loin á la Stroganoff style with Annabelle potato and cornichon; crispy black cod fish fillet with chestnut, bergamia oiled quail egg and mushrooms; and homemade gerbeaud with pecan, elderberry jam and ras el hanout ice cream. The New Year menu, equally rewarding, features even more delicious treats, only available that special evening. See La Perle Noire’s menu page for prices.

    In Ostrava, restaurant Legend pays tribute to the traditional Czech cuisine. You will feel the authentic Czech Christmas atmosphere on Dcember 24, and 25, when the chef prepares a unique, special menu, full of surprises. January 1, 2015, is dedicated to celebrating the New Year, with a fresh menu, drawing upon the same Czech culinary traditions.

    Floating candles

    Last, but not least, is you want to spend time this season in Budapest, Mamaison Hotels & Residences have partnered with Inter Relocation to offer you the chance to win a luxury two-night stay at our Hotel Andrassy, including breakfast and a voucher for a fantastic dinner at La Perle Noire Restaurant, with a second prize of a voucher for dinner for two at La Perle Noire Restaurant. Simply enter by answering the following two simple questions and sending your answers via email to info@interrelo.com

    1. How large (in square meters) is the “Deluxe King with Bath” room type at the Mamaison Hotel Andrássy?
    2. In what year was Inter Relocation founded?

    We wish you a wonderful Christmas season, and a Happy New Year!

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    St. Stephen's Basilica

    Staring down at the ebony ribbon of water, seemingly endless to the horizon, two lovers stand entranced by ten thousand dancing lights. Transfixed as statues, looking out over the ever present Danube, the sight of couples on the Chain Bridge in the evening reveals just why Budapest is for lovers, and for magic moments, especially at Christmas, when the city shines even brighter, under the spell of the stars.

    Budapest in winter

    Budapest in winter. (Image © Horváth Botond – on Fotolia.com)

    More than a city blessed by the stars, Budapest is a city that knows how to celebrate light. This year Christmas will be cheerier than ever, with a wealth of activities all over the town, Christmas fairs and festivals that last from late November, till January next year.

    Mulled wine stall at the Christmas fair

    Mulled wine stall at the Christmas fair in Budapest, Hungary (Image © Annto – Fotolia.com)

    The Budapest Christmas Market at Vörösmarty tér is the most popular among the Christmas fairs in the city. Like most events this season, it kicks off November 28, 2014, and lasts till January 5, 2015. There are over 100 stands selling seasonal arts and crafts, souvenirs, toys, and Christmas culinary delights: lángos, kürtöskalács, töki pompos, and mulled wine. On the facade of the landmark Gerbeaud building the city exhibits a giant Advent calendar, which adds to the cheery atmosphere, as every day from December 1st and 23rd the calendar opens a new window, revealing the surprise hidden behind, with a spectacular show of lights and sound. While adults enjoy wine and chit-chat, kids can join in activities designed just for them: artisan hands-on classes, puppet shows, children’s concerts, and more.

    Opening on the same date as the Budapest Christmas Market at Vörösmarty tér, the Christmas Fair by the Basilica is an equally enticing event that attracts thousands of tourists to the Hungarian capital. The ice rink at the heart of the Szent István tér is surrounded by arts and crafts stands, but also by food and drink vendors. You can come ice skating, or just come to buy something authentic to take a bit of Hungary back home with you. Don’t miss the seasonal culinary treats. The fair closes January 1, 2015.

    Marzipan stall on Christmas
    A newer festival, the Advent in Budapest takes place in Városháza Park between November 28, 2014 – January 5, 2015. Its purpose is well served: given the popularity of the two aforementioned fairs, this event aims to add a plus of cheer with cultural programmes for all ages. Live entertainment, including theater, concerts, workshops and Christmas-themed performances are scheduled daily.

    Last, but not least, don’t miss the WAMP Christmas Design and Gastro Fair on December 7, 2014, at Millenáris (Building B). This is a place to buy one-of-a-kind designer Christmas gifts, clothes and accessories, as well as fine Christmas treats: chocolates, truffles, cookies, jams, wines, spirits, and much more.

    From the cafes and bars along the promenade, to out of the way nooks and crannies, and finally amidst the rollicking nightlife of the notorious 7th District, Budapest will be dressed in light, to entice you to celebrate with the locals. Forget your worries for a while, and enjoy the power of the season: Christmas brings out the best in people.

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    Gingebread crib at Saint Matthew, Prague

    Christmas is a spectacular sight in Prague. Magnificent architecture gets dressed in a lace of shining lights; hundreds of Christmas trees sprout from nowhere lining up the imperial arteries, and even pedestrian alleys and markets; department-store window displays remind of the land of fairies and elves; and many other holiday attractions pop up around the city, spreading contagious cheer among locals and visitors.

    Christmas in Prague

    Christmas in Prague © Kajano, on Fotolia.com

    It’s a season of joy and excitement, a time when age barriers fall, and the city becomes a huge playground for all. Even onlookers who don’t believe in Santa Claus find themselves looking up at the skies gazing to see the magic sleight and its reindeers.

    You are greeted by colorful Christmas decorations at every step: some avantgarde, and using the latest technologies to woo and enthrall you; some artsy and chic, designed exclusively to make you want for more Christmas art; and finally, some traditional, to remind you of the local values, and the cultural past that shaped this holiday.

    From the lobbies of Mamaison Suite Hotel Pachtuv Palace, Mamaison Hotel Riverside, and Mamaison Residence Belgicka, all decorated in the spirit of the season, as you step out you can live your own Christmas story.

    Karlov Bridge in Prague

    Karlov Bridge in Prague © Sergii Figurnyi on Fotolia.com

    First time visitors to the city must never miss the jolly atmosphere of the main Christmas markets of Prague, where tourists and residents alike spend hours munching on gingerbread cookies and Trdelník, or destroy their healthy diets with a fatty piece of ham and one sip too many from the local svařák wine, which perfumes the air with aromas of cinnamon and star anise.

    If you want to avoid the crowds gathered around at the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square, where Prague’s largest Christmas markets display all kinds of Christmas goods for sale, walk to Havelská Market, the city centre’s permanent market, where you can shop like the locals, without needing to pay a season premium on your purchase, and the local Trdelník is as tasty as anywhere else too.

    Prague Christmas

    Prague Christmas © holublu6 on Fotolia.com

    Still, the true spirit of the Czech Christmas is better emphasized by the events organized at Toulcův Court in Prague – Hostivař. Here, the court and Baroque stables fill with almost a hundred craftsmen and retailers of traditional goods and old Czech snacks. Folklore and theater revive past traditions, Christmas nativity scenes, and local fairy tales. This is the place to learn how to make Christmas candles, greeting cards, decorations and even sweets. In other words, Toulcův Court is the ideal address to live an authentic Prague Christmas story, in an environment that educates and entertains.

    Gingebread crib at Saint Matthew, Prague

    Gingebread crib at Saint Matthew, Prague © PHB.cz on Fotolia.com

    Then, buzzing restaurants, boutiques and nightlife will draw you in with even more surprises: special dishes, Christmas cocktails, sales, and amazing offers you cannot refuse. For restaurants, make sure you make a reservation way ahead, because this is the season when the locals take to the city’s eateries by thousands, all so jolly and merry, celebrating every opportunity with passion and joie de vivre.

    Finally, when your spirit needs music to “wash away from the soul the dust of everyday life,” as Berthold Auerbach once said, you’ll find the heart of Prague beating in tune with God. Her beautiful churches, and even the Municipal House, open large doors, inviting the public to attend classical advent concerts and traditional Christmas carols. You’ll rarely need a programme to know what’s on: there’s always something going on during this season.