Usually around this time of year I’ve just been (or I’m looking to go) on a cheeky winter getaway. A long weekend somewhere in Europe, to stroll around beautiful cobbled streets, sip hot chocolates and mulled wine, browse the Christmas markets, and enjoy seeing a city from a totally different perspective.
Although this year I’ve been unable to escape the oncoming British winter, it hasn’t stopped me from looking back at past trips and scribbling down ideas for winter breaks in years to come. I asked on my Instagram a few weeks ago for others to share their favourite winter destinations, and got a wonderful variety of answers. In this article, I’ve chosen a few of my own favourites, as well as some unique suggestions from friends and family…
Who can say no to a traditional Christmas market?! The history of Christmas markets goes back hundreds of years to the four weeks before Christmas, when market sellers would up the ante with seasonal produce, trinkets for gift exchanging, delicious food, and outdoor singing and dancing. Germany excels when it comes to putting on lavish Christmas displays, with their authentic open-air market stalls, Glühwein (hot mulled wine), stollen (fruit bread), gingerbread and Bratwürst. While you can find these things at almost any Christmas market around Europe nowadays, the treats are traditionally German delicacies and the first genuine Christmas market is thought to have been held in Dresden in the early 15th century.
There are multiple markets in Berlin, but the best are ‘Winterwelt’ at Potsdamer Platz, ‘Christmas Magic’ at Gendarmenmarkt, and the Royal Christmas Market at Charlottenburg Palace. Also, check out Stacey’s guide to Christmas Markets here!
One of the best cities in Europe for hosting epic Christmas displays is London with its Winter Wonderland! From November to January, this winter festival in Hyde Park boasts over 100 rides and attractions, from Santa Land to themed ice bars. This magical Christmas extravaganza is a must-visit for locals and tourists alike – I can’t believe I haven’t been yet! In fact, I haven’t been to London much at all so it would really feel like a holiday for me. I cannot wait to go there next year with a group of friends and soak it all up!
My first city break was to Budapest in February, and oh my goodness it was so cold!! It was there that I realised I really enjoyed a winter city break, as it was quieter, less expensive, and just totally different to what I expected – in a good way!
We were able to do all the usual touristy stuff, like going on a tour of the Parliament building, walking around Margaret Island, and getting the funicular up to Buda Castle and the Fisherman’s Bastion. What was unique about going during the winter, though, was that there was an ice rink outside Vajdahunyad Palace! During the summer the gardens are apparently beautiful and packed with families picnicking and basking in the sun – however I’d choose skating around next to the palace any day!
Read more about my trip to Budapest here.
If you’ve been following my blog (and Instagram) for a while now, you’ll know that Krakow is probably my favourite European city so far. It is the place where I felt most relaxed and at home during my 3 night stay, and I haven’t stopped recommending it to others ever since. The town is fairly small and quaint, with a beautiful market hall selling handmade trinkets and homegrown produce, a uniquely impressive castle overlooking the river, and the BEST dumplings I have ever tasted in my life. I would go back tomorrow purely to stock up on pierogi. A visit to Auschwitz is both easily accessible and hugely important (you MUST go, even though it’s terribly sad), and the Salt Mines are apparently a spectacular sight to see.
Check out my blog posts on Krakow here.
Ever heard of this little European country? It sits between France and Spain and is a great choice for a luxury skiing holiday at Pas de la Casa! Having visited Andorra myself in the summertime, the winding mountain passes are gorgeous and the shopping opportunities are plentiful as the entire country is duty-free! Andorran resorts are supposedly some of the best in Europe for beginner skiiers, so maybe one day I’ll try my hand at skiing (yep, I’ve never done it!) and enjoy the buzzing nightlife, which is much cheaper than resorts in the Alps.
An alternatively cheaper and more unique skiing destination is Bansko in Bulgaria, which was highly recommended by one of my best friends. I don’t know about you, but I’d never really thought of Bulgaria as a holiday destination at all, let alone for a skiing trip! The rugged mountain landscapes look absolutely incredible, and I hear the food there is also to die for. Worth looking into as a more budget-friendly option next winter!
When I asked on an Instagram poll a few weeks ago, I had lots of people suggesting a destination with a much warmer climate, to escape the cold and have one last summery getaway! There were plenty of suggestions, but to wrap up this post I thought I’d choose one of my own favourites: Marrakech, Morocco.
Just a 4 hour flight from the UK (costing less than £100 return), Marrakech is so close and accessible yet so culturally different. The climate is hot and dry – hello Sahara desert – so I can imagine visiting around Christmas time would be a welcome change from the rain and sleet we have here. Hotels are super affordable and often have swimming pools, the food is some of the best I’ve ever eaten, and there are loads of activities you can do in and around the city – see my page about my 3-week trip to Morocco last year to see what we got up to!
Any of these on your list? Or any more you think should be on mine? Let me know in the comments!
This was a guest blog written by Where’s Liv – so if you’ve enjoyed this, make sure you check out her blog!