I love Christmas and each year plan to visit somewhere Christmassy for the festive season. In today’s blog post I’m sharing some of my dream winter destinations for 2018! A few weeks ago I put it out there on Instagram that I wanted to go somewhere festive and asked you guys for recommendations – I got some amazing ideas back, so did some research on each of the spots and thought I would share them in case you too are planning a winter getaway this coming season!!
I actually used to know the city quite well and visited often during university. Whenever I travelled there I always found the city so grand and elegant, brimming with the most regal of architecture. I remember spending New Year’s there one year and it being totally magical. The city was filled with stalls service glühwein and festive treats and it was just wonderful. As it has been a very long time since I last visited I would love to head back over the festive period. I feel like Vienna is one of those cities not as spoken about and visited as other places, and just given the way trends come and go from places I think it’s going to have it’s moment in the limelight very soon.
Dates for the Christmas market: 17th November – 26th December 2018
Opening hours: Sun-Thu 10am – 9.30pm, Fri and Sat 10am – 10pm; 7th December 10am – 10pm, 24th December 10am – 6pm, 25th and 26th December 11am – 9.30pm
Key things to do? Visit the Mozart Museum and the Belvedere art gallery, admire the Stephansdom cathedral, take a horse and carriage ride around the city
Things to eat? Wiener schnitzel
This city has been high on my list for a few years now. It’s always nice to have beautiful places in your dreams to see one day and Prague looks like it is straight out of a fairytale. Although it looks like it would be gorgeous throughout the year, I do feel that in the beautiful winter months leading up to Christmas it would be extra spectacular. The way it sits above the river, with its many stunning bridges and the castle overlooking the town just look like a total dream. I don’t think I’ll be short of picturesque photos in Prague!
Dates for the Christmas market: 1st December – 6th January
Opening hours: 9am – 7pm on weekdays, 9am – 8pm on weekends
Key things to do? Cross Charles bridge, visit Golden Lane, take a selfie on the Lennon wall
Things to eat? Try Segedin goulash – a pork and sauerkraut stew served with dumplings
While I have visited Geneva (you can read my guide here) Zurich is yet to fill up my Instagram feed. Of course, along with the rest of the European cities, the Swiss don’t disappoint when it comes to Christmas markets! Zurich is said to have one of the biggest indoor Christmas markets in Europe set in their main train station, which is perfect for when the temperatures drop to those unbearably icy lows! If you’re a countryside lover you’re never too far from the stunning countryside in Switzerland – in fact, you could even take a day trip up to the Alps during your trip to the city. Better dig your skis out from the garage!
Dates for the Christmas market: 23rd November – 23rd December
Opening hours: Monday to Thursday – 16:00 to 21:00
Friday – 16:00 to 22:00
Saturday – 13:00 to 22:00
Sunday – 13:00 to 21:00
Key things to do? Visit the old town, enjoy a stroll along Lake Zurich, go shopping on Banhoffstrasse, take a day trip to the snowy alps
What to eat? Have a coffee and sweet treat from Sprüngli House Café
Another one of the gems you find in Austria is Salzburg. Home of the salt mines, which I myself visited a few years ago, Salzburg really is a special place (I actually came here on a school trip when I was studying A-level Music in senior school). Of course, as many of you know, Salzburg is home to the Sound of Music, where Maria sang “The Hills are Alive” – it was here that she danced in the beautiful Austrian mountains before she met the Von Trapps. The city is beautifully regal, full of turquoise copper domes and surrounded by mountains. Can you imagine this postcard perfect city in the winter, covered in a dusting of white snow and decorated with elegant christmas lights? If visiting a city like this couldn’t get you into the mood for Christmas, then I don’t know what could!
Dates for the Christmas market: 22nd November – 26th December
Opening times: Monday to Thursday – 10am to 8.30pm
Friday – 10am to 9pm
Key things to do ? Visit the salt mines, take the Sound of Music tour, hop on the funicular to the Hohensalzburg fortress, have a stroll around the Mirabell gardens
What to eat? Eat a Salzburger Nokerl, a sweet meringue-type dessert with a berry sauce
Now although we know Dubrovnik to be the place to visit predominantly during the summer for it’s magnificent blue waters, timeless old town and delicious food, I have heard it is a winter underdog. Not only are the streets of the old town much quieter and more relaxing to discover, but also because of its southern European location it never gets too cold. I’ve been told that they also have beautiful Christmas markets and are trying to push the city up the rankings as a great winter destination, so I wouldn’t dismiss this as a great option for somewhere festive to visit this year. I, myself, am planning to go next year, but should I be looking for a great winter destination in the future, I will definitely keep Dubrovnik in mind!
Dates for the Christmas market: 2nd December – 6th January
Opening times: 10am – 6pm
Key things to do? Take the cable car up to Mr Srd, circle the city walks, visit the Rector’s palace (if you love Game of Thrones), hop on a boat to one of the islands
What to eat? Seafood or their famous black risotto
I’m sure many of you wouldn’t know where Tallinn is in Europe… until I recently discovered it, I didn’t either! Tallinn is actually the capital of Estonia and looks like it’s straight out of a fairytale…. princes, princesses, the lot! I have not explored much into Eastern Europe, but the beauty of some of these cities is astounding. I can imagine in December it is a winter wonderland and it would be such a treat to plan a trip there in the lead up to Christmas. Their main square was one of the first cities in Europe to display a decorated Christmas tree all the way back in 1441. I’m not sure what sort of food you might expect, but I can imagine it’s delightfully warming, especially since the high in degrees celsius at that time of year is 0!! If you’re heading there in winter, definitely pack your warmest jacket and wrap up!
Dates for the Christmas market: 16th November – 7th January
Opening times: 10am – 7pm
Key things to do? Visit the pink Toompea castle, head to the Kradiorg park, don’t miss the stunning Alexander Nevsky cathedral
What to eat? Aspic, a dish served at Christmas made of pork jelly and veggies
I’ve never actually visited Germany (so terrible of me, I know!) but Cologne has been a city I’ve been meaning to head to around Christmas time for a while. It was one of the places a lot of you recommended on Instagram when I popped up the poll. It seems that the people of Cologne don’t joke when it comes to the festive period, they go all out, and the quaintness of the city acts as the perfect backdrop for this. Germans are the kings and the founders of the Christmas market, so if you have yet to visit Germany in the lead up to Dec 25th, get it on your list. Since I spent so much time in Austria those years ago during university I suppose Germany never came to mind to visit (which is no excuse, I just always used to end up in Austria instead!) Anyway Cologne was recommended to me quite a lot when I asked you guys for your favourite Christmas spots, so it’s a place I’ll be planning to visit in the coming years!
Dates for the Christmas market: 26th November – 23rd December
Opening times: Sunday – Wednesday: 11am – 9pm
Thursday – Friday: 11am – 10pm
Key things to do? Treat yourself at the chocolate museum, take a Rhine river cruise, visit Cologne cathedral
What to eat? Himmel un Ääd (heaven and earth), a warming dish of apples and potatoes
Iceland, where to start? Well, you probably won’t be visiting this unique island just for any Christmas festivities, but instead to admire it’s magnificent natural beauty that comes in all shapes and forms in Iceland. If you do happen to be there at Christmas, there is plenty of festive activity happening in the form of Christmas markets, ice-skating rinks and just general Christmas vibe since you will likely be surrounded by lots of fluffy, white snow!! However, along with the festive cheer in the capital, you can also hop in a car and visit some of the outstanding landscape that surrounds it. Suggestions of festive things to do include climbing a glacier, riding an Icelandic horse and spending an afternoon on snow mobile – I’m guessing your toes will need warming after all of that!
Dates for the Christmas market: 2nd – 23rd December
Opening times: 11am – 4pm
Key things to do? Ride an Icelandic horse, climb a glacier, go ice-skating
What to eat? Icelandic meat soup to warm you up!