When you imagine a city break your brain most likely conjures up the likes of Paris, Rome, Amsterdam or even New York.
But have you ever thought about a trip a little closer to home?
The North West boasts a number of magnificent cities and when I was offered the chance to stay overnight with my fiancee and two boys at a four-star hotel in Liverpool to see just what it had to offer this Christmas, I jumped at the chance.
I really like Liverpool city centre for it’s architectural diversity - a mix of the old and the new - and I love the Albert Dock, and this is where we would be based; at the plush waterfront four-star Pullman Hotel situated right next to the River Mersey and just a stone’s throw from Liverpool ONE.
Our weekend activities included a fun-packed itinerary, kicking off at St George’s Hall where the Dreamworks Lights display had just landed.
The giveaway that this stunning display had started was a giant Shrek on top of the iconic building, dominating Liverpool’s skyline.
With Christmas carols floating through the chilly winter air, it really did put us all in a festive mood
Once inside the famous old building we were met by hundreds of huge illuminated models of some of Dreamworks’ most-popular characters from films including Shrek, Kung Fu Panda and Madagascar.
These bad boys wouldn’t look out of place on the Las Vegas strip!
Just outside the Hall are Liverpool’s Christmas markets featuring more than 40 stalls selling arts, food and crafts from all over the world.
With Christmas carols floating through the chilly winter air, it really did put us all in a festive mood.
After a good mooch round the stalls and one gigantic bratwurst later, it was time to check into our hotel before heading out for dinner.
The rooms at The Pullman are superb and the views out over the Mersey spectacular - a great spot to be based for our Christmassy weekend.
Dinner was at the award-winning 60 Hope Street, a family owned and run restaurant and bistro spread across three floors in the Georgian quarter of Liverpool.
A beautiful building and an absolutely delicious meal set the four of us up nicely for a walk into town and our next destination, Bar Hutte, an Alpine-themed pop-up bar situated underneath Liverpool ONE’s giant Christmas tree.
One pilsner, a prosecco and two lemonades (for the boys) later, along with a game of festive ‘Heads Up’ in our own private booth, and we were done for the day, worn out but happy and just in time to avoid the happy-but-drunken warblings starting to emanate from the Christmas karaoke.
Day two kicked off with a delicious full-English breakfast at our hotel before we headed to see Father Christmas at Liverpool Town Hall.
My boys are 10 and 13 and took a bit of persuading to see the bearded one, but the selection box present as part of the entrance fee persuaded them.
The grotto in the basement of the town hall is open right up until Christmas and the perfect setting for the little ones to meet Santa. My boys, although a tad embarrassed, posed for a picture and had a bit of a chat with the big guy and then happily scoffed his gift.
Lunch had us heading back to the Albert Dock and the Pan American Club housed in the former Granada Studios building, once home to the iconic Richard and Judy This Morning show. Three courses later and we set off for the Ice Festival and our final activity of the weekend.
Situated at the Pier Head, in the shadow of the magnificent Liver Building, the Ice Festival comprises an ice rink, 50ft-long ice slide and a host of fairground rides, plus a cosy Apres Lodge where you can enjoy a little mulled wine or hot chocolate.
Now, I hadn’t skated for years but was quite the whizz as a youngster.
Not so much any more, admittedly, but at least I stayed upright (most of the time) while my youngsters tottered round the edge beaming from ear-to-ear.
An hour’s Christmas shopping at Liverpool ONE was the perfect climax to our brilliant weekend and we trudged back to the car totally worn out in typical city break fashion.
And we didn’t have to get a plane home either!
Dreamworks Lights, St George’s Hall - tickets £8
Ice Festival, Pier Head - Adults £8 and children aged 17 and under £6.
Santa’s Grotto at Liverpool Town Hall - tickets £7.50 (which includes a gift)
Pullman Hotel - rooms priced from £60
60 Hope Street - menu here
Pan American Club - menu here