This December, escape the UK and enjoy an alternative Christmas break with a trip to Japan's cultural capital, Kyoto.  The home of over 15 UNESCO world heritage sites is transformed over the holiday period into a twinkling haven for shopping and sight-seeing alike, and Kyoto Convention and Visitors Bureau (KCVB) has rounded up the city's highlights for a December break this year.

In Japan, Christmas Eve and Christmas day are not celebrated in the typical Western fashion, however, couples in Kyoto tend to head to their favourite restaurants for a special, romantic meal in the evening. The occasion has become a central event of the city's dating scene and evenings at leading hotels have become particularly popular at this time of year. Favourite spots for tables among loved-up pairs include the restaurants at the Hyatt Regency Kyoto, Noku Roxy, Suiran, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Kyoto and Kyoto Hotel Okura, besides others. The Hotel Granvia Kyoto has proven popular for celebratory feasts at Christmas in recent years and 2016 is bound to be no different, with its various restaurants offering set holiday menus and festive live performances – which have previously included gospel groups and balloon performers – for diners.

Shopping is another popular pastime during the Christmas holidays and it's easy to see why, with the stunning light displays and decorations that adorn the streets and shops at this time of year. The larger department stores in downtown Kyoto are particularly special to visit and take in the festive atmosphere, while the independent boutiques selling their hand-crafted gifts from the region are perfect for authentic Japanese shopping: visitors can pick up beautiful woven textiles, personalised wooden signs and traditional paper fans as gifts for loved-ones and when a break from strolling the pretty streets is needed, the traditional tea ceremonies in the city will restore and revive the most weary shoppers.