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Best European Winter Festivals in 2010 - October to December

Updated on August 22, 2011

Blackpool Illuminations

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Papa Joe with his GoldWingA decorated Tram
Papa Joe with his GoldWing
Papa Joe with his GoldWing
A decorated Tram
A decorated Tram

As Winter Approaches

One seaside resort stays open at the end of the Summer season for a spectacular event. The town is Blackpool, on the Fylde Coast, Lancashire, England and the event is the Blackpool Illuminations. The dates for 2010 are 3rd September to 7th November. This annual Festival of Light was founded in 1879 and first switched on in September of that year.This event is affectionately known as "The Lights". They run for 36 days each year, and are the greatest free light show on earth. They are 6 miles (10 kms) long and use over 500,000 bulbs, the electricity bill amounts to £60,000, and the cost of staging this free event is currently £1.8 million. 8 million visitors will enjoy the display which stretches from Star Gate at the south end of the town, to Bispham in the north.With the outbreak of the First World War, there were no further displays until 1925. The Illuminations were ready to be switched on in 1939 but the outbreak of the Second World War again interrupted the annual display. Most visitors drive through the Illuminations by car, coach or bus. There are several open top trams, and horse-drawn landau you can choose to travel in. Don't miss the displays at the cliffs from the north shore to Bispham which contain forty large tableaux holding more than 5,000 square metres in surface area. There is a pedestrian walkway running the length of of the tableaux displays which are set back from the promenade beyond the tramway

Each year the opening night of the Illuminations, The Big Switch On, held in a specially erected BBC2 arena, with a celebrity pulling the switch to turn on the 6 miles of lights. In past years some internationally known celebrities switched the "Lights" on. Among them are the following:

1937 Prince George, Duke of Kent

1949 Dame Anna Neagle

1953 George Formby

1959 Jayne Mansfield (i was there for this one, as a youngster!)

1964 Gracie Fields

1979 Kermit the Frog and the Muppets

1988 Andrew Lloyd Webber & Sarah Brightman

1993 Status Quo

1994 Shirley Bassey

1995 The Bee Gees

2000 Westlife

2004 Gerri Haliwell

On the last night of the "Lights" there is an end of season fireworks spectacular, with a Rock Music Concert. See my other hub on European Festivals in August and September for details of the GoldWing bikers light display on the first Saturday night of the Illuminations, it's awesome!

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Gate to PontarlierA tasting tableThe poet and the green fairy
Gate to Pontarlier
Gate to Pontarlier
A tasting table
A tasting table
The poet and the green fairy
The poet and the green fairy
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More of the the Winter Selection

This unusual event is Les Absinthiades. It's held over a 3 day period from 1st to 3rd October in Pontarlier, France, the historic Absinthe capital, which is at an altitude of 837 meters. You will need a tolerance for strong drink and an understanding of some French for this one, as during your discovery of this mythical drink, there will be conferences, exhibitions, a visit to the distillery, and tastings of a variety of apertifs that have a base of Absinthe, a distilled spirit containing green anise and fennel, with a high alcohol content of between 45 and 75%.. CHEERS!

The next event on the Winter calender is the World Championship of Basque Pelote, (known as Jai-Alai in USA) This is the 16th edition that will be held in Pau/Oloron-Sainte-Marie/Lescar France between the 1st and 10th October. More than 550 contestants from 22 nations will be taking part, and it will be an ideal opportunity to discover all the facets of this spectacular sport. Basque pelota was an official Olympic sport once, in the 1900 Paris games, and featured as a demonstation sport in 1924, 1968 and 1992. The International Federation of Basque Pelota has standardised the different varieties into 4 modalities and 14 disciplines, this is in order to allow championships to an International level, and allows participants from around the world to play to the same rules.

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The MatterhornThe Halfpipe
The Matterhorn
The Matterhorn
The Halfpipe
The Halfpipe

Ice Sculptures

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Now for some snow and ice

The seventh LG Snowboard FIS World Cup is due to be held in Snowparc Alialin, Saas-Fee, Switzerland, from the 1st to 5th November. Every year there are spectacular displays here, with a wonderful panorama among the 13 peaks that reach upwards of 4,000 meters.Here, you will see riders from all over the world will show their skills in the halfpipe. Just watching the competitions in these magnificent surroundings is half the fun. According to the promoters, there will be side events this year provided again by Roxy by Quicksilver, in what promises to be a really cool evening. Wrap up warm, it gets very cold up there!


The next event will take place in Station Square, Bruges, Belgium, between November 2010 and January 2011, the final date has yet to be arranged but is likely to be around December. This is the Snow and Ice Sculpture Festival.. Your visit will be a unique and interactive voyage into a world of ice and fantasy. Sculpted by up to 40 professional artists from no less than 300 tons of crystal clear ice, and 400 tons of pure snow. These icy masterpieces are preserved in a special 1,200 tent at -5 C. There will be an ice bar set up in the tent of mirrors providing hot drinks. Tickets are 11 adults, 9€ seniors & students, 7€ children 4-12 years. While here in Bruges you can shop and enjoy the holiday atmosphere at the Christmas Market in the heart of Bruges, or if you want to, you can skate on the ice rink on the market square.

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Designed by Beth Gilmore Designed by Beth GilmoreDesigned by Paul FinchDesigned by Sophie HarleyDesigned by Sophie Harley
Designed by Beth Gilmore
Designed by Beth Gilmore
Designed by Beth Gilmore
Designed by Beth Gilmore
Designed by Paul Finch
Designed by Paul Finch
Designed by Sophie Harley
Designed by Sophie Harley
Designed by Sophie Harley
Designed by Sophie Harley
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Now for something warmer

The Dazzle Jewellery Exhibition will be staged from 6th November 2010 until 8th January 2011 at the National Theatre in London, England. It's a chance to buy some fantastic designs in contemporary jewellery. It's the perfect place to pick up a seasonal gift for loved ones, or to treat yourself to something a bit extra special. The best and most creative designers, new and established, bring together all things shiny and sparkly, in this 2 month long jewellery extravaganza. If you are a hapless husband, or a baffled boyfriend, don't panic, there are a team of personal shoppers on hand to make helpful suggestions. On the plus side, there are some beautiful artworks on the walls of the Oliver foyer, most of which are for sale. Refreshments are available for those who find shopping hard going, and a prize draw to get everyone in a festive mood. Open every day from 10am-8pm Monday to Saturday, and 12noon-6pm on Sundays.The nearest tube station is Waterloo. Entrance is free.

While we are in London, England, there is the East London Design Show one of London's biggest design events, to be held at Shoreditch Town Hall. It commences on Thursday 2nd December and is open until Sunday 5th December. It will feature cutting edge design talents, exhibiting innovative designs and exclusive creations from a diverse range of products. Everything from ceramics to fashion and furniture will be on display, so you can expect to find a range of unique gift solutions for all ages. Whether you want fashion, accessories, prints and art, textiles, kids stuff or design statements, there's plenty to choose from. The show is child friendly too, kids are invited to get creative with designs of their own in a special creative area.Opening times vary, Thursday 2/12 6pm-9pm, Friday 3/12 12non-8pm, Saturday and Sunday 10am-6pm. Nearest tube stations Old Street, and Liverpool street. Tickets £4 adults, £2 concessions, Children under 16 years Free.

The last event not to miss while in London in December, is Musical extravaganza "War of the Worlds", on Sunday 12th December.This show is famous for being one the best selling musicals of all time. Having played to sold out arenas all over the UK in previous years, the show returns to London's O2 (off Millenium Way) It brings to life the H.G.Wells sci-fi thriller with spectacular live music, Theatrical effects, lighting and visuals.It features a new cast, a huge orchestra of talented musicians, and a 30 foot Martian fighting machine. Hear the unmistakeable voice of Richard Burton as his speech from the musical is combined with the music and sound effects to add to the ambience. A not to be missed unforgettable show.

Nearest Tube : North Greenwich. Tickets cost £42.50 - £60.00 to book call 08448471707 or check out the web.

There are many more Winter festivals, but at the time of writing I haven't got conformation of the dates. Not to be missed though is the Celtic Connections Winter Folk Music Festival, held in Glasgow, Scotland. This will most probably be held in January 2011.


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