Merrie Olde England is at its merriest in the weeks before Christmas. Holiday markets are sprinkled throughout the city, as are Christmas trees and skating rinks (we recommend the ice in front of Somerset House, the grand Neoclassical palace, where Fortnum & Mason’s is in charge of nibbles). Hyde Park transforms into Winter Wonderland, with performances on ice from Cirque Berserk and Zippos Circus for the kids, and karaoke and cocktails for the grown-ups. Just across, at Hyde Park Corner, you’ll find The Lanesborough London, recently restored to its Regency-style grandeur—stay three nights and get the fourth night free.
Why go to Miami in December? Do we even need to explain? If you’re heading down for Art Basel, we hope you’ve already booked your hotel (if not, give us a shout—stat). Visit after December 10, when the craziness is over, and you can enjoy, in relative peace, all the art exhibits, restaurants and bars that scrambled to open in time for the party. (On our list: Mika Rottenberg at the newly renovated Bass Museum and Chris Ofili at the new ICA Miami.) Hotel rates have returned to earth, too: The Miami Beach Edition, Acqualina Resort and The Setai are all offering either 25% off or the fourth night free throughout the month.
The temperatures may be dropping back home, but summer is just getting started in South Africa. That's when the wholec country turns its gaze toward the beach, especially gorgeous Camps Bay, Cape Town's answer to South Beach and the home of the 12 Apostles hotel. Stay three nights and the fourth is on the house—use the extra time to explore the Cape Winelands area just outside of town. At the impossibly picturesque wine estate Babylonstoren, you can pick up a picnic basket with fresh-baked bread, cheeses and jams to enjoy in the garden, with a bottle of the house chenin blanc.
The foggy and damp December weather makes Venice somehow even more romantic than usual—and a visit this month is improved enormously by the overall absence of crowds. Imagine visiting St. Mark’s Basilica without jostling elbows, or enjoying a tiramisù at Caffè Florian without having to wait for a table. Don’t forget to take a boat to Murano to pick up some glass ornaments for the tree back home—you’ll have an additional jingle in your pocket thanks to the fourth-night free promotion at Bauer Il Palazzo, a family-run, 18th-century hotel on the Grand Canal.