Tag Archives: Czech Republic

10 Destination Ideas for a Christmas Vacation in Europe

Europe is a popular travel destination and has a lot to offer.

However, if you are already fed up with the crowds in big European tourist centers, such as Paris, Berlin, Rome, Venice or Amsterdam, try going there in winter for a change, during the low season. Or just choose less popular, but still magnificent cities of

Or just choose less popular, but still magnificent cities of Central, Eastern and Northern Europe. In fact, Christmas is a great time to try something new, don’t you think? Here are ten less famous European destinations, which become just magical during the Christmas time.

Prague, Czech Republic

If you are not afraid of Prague’s chilly winters, you have a great chance to enjoy its famous Christmas markets, concerts, castles and underground restaurants. Even the most jaded travelers won’t be able to resist the charms of the city.

Prague is famous for its magnificent gothic architecture and unique folkloric traditions. You’ll also be glad to know that the prices in the capital of Czech Republic are very reasonable. So if you are a traveler on a budget, you shouldn’t be afraid to spend too much in this medieval city.

Innsbruck, Austria

While Innsbruck is undeservedly avoided by travelers during the summer season, in winter, this town on the Inn River becomes crowded with skiers and other winter sports lovers. Innsbruck is crowned with the Austrian Alps, offers numerous ski resorts, winter attractions and all-inclusive packages for the best Christmas vacation in the Old World.

Vienna, Austria

In Vienna, you’ll have a delightful old-fashioned Christmas, with the smell of mulled wine and hot chocolate. There will be magnificent holiday decorations on imperial architecture, ice skating rinks, and outdoor Christmas markets.

Don’t miss the Vienna Boy’s Choir performance. Or visit one the world’s most famous Viennese Christmas Balls. The capital of Austria really gives you an opportunity to make yourself feel like a 19th-century aristocrat, waltzing to the famous works of Johan Straus in a real imperial ballroom.

Budapest, Hungary

Couples skating hand-in-hand, families having fun, clouds of breath in the frosty air, you won’t find a more picture-perfect Christmas holiday anywhere other thanBudapest. The capital of Hungary boasts an enormous outdoor skating rink in the picturesque park Városligeti Műjégpálya.

And if you get cold, the numerous thermal baths of Budapest are at your service!

The city is also number one in the best affordable destinations in Europe list. This is another compelling reason to visit this beautiful city.

 

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Valkenburg, Netherlands

Christmas Shop in Amsterdam near the Flower Market By Tobias Niepel CC BY 2.0

Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe.

However, if you are looking for new impressions and one-of-a-kind Christmas gifts, Valkenburg is a place for you.

The city is home to the oldest and the largest subterranean Christmas market in Europe. It is located in a labyrinth of underground caves. Underneath the town, you will find sculptures, an 18th-century chapel, mural drawings of Roman times and even Santa himself. The market works from mid-November until just before Christmas. During these weeks, the whole town transforms into a glittering winter wonderland.

Riga, Latvia

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The popular Riga Christmas market in the Town Hall Square offers not just souvenirs, Christmas gifts, and locally crafted items, but also numerous interesting events for both children and adults.

In the heart of Latvia’s capital, you will find a carousel of wooden figures, riding ponies, and horse-drawn carriages. Children will also enjoy the animal corner, with live sheep and rabbits, and the cat house with habitats of local animal shelter. Of course, you shouldn’t miss an organ concert in the famous Riga Cathedral (Rīgas Doms), as it is a truly fabulous performance!

Tallinn, Estonia

The capital of Estonia is known for its Christmas spirit and the medieval Old Town, whuch is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The world’s first Christmas tree was set up in Tallinn in 1441. Nowadays, on Town Hall Square, you will find not only the famous tree but also numerous little huts selling their goods, handcrafters at work, snow sculptures, national foods and drinks and a mini-zoo.

Copenhagen, Denmark

For a fairytale European Christmas, you can’t choose a destination more magical than the hometown of Hans Christian Andersen.

Of course, you can visit the famous and always crowded monument of the Little Mermaid.

But forget about it for the rest of Christmas vacation and just enjoy your time in the capital of Denmark. Enjoy the fairy streets and houses of old Copenhagen. Enjoy the warm, cozy cafes with big windows and flurrying snow outside. 

And in the heart of the city, there is a Tivoli amusement park, which transforms into a really magical place around Christmas, with illuminations warming the heart and hot mulled wine warming the body.

Lapland, Finland

What is a Christmas without Santa? And where to look for Santa, if not at his house? You will probably be surprised to find that there is a place in the world where Santa Claus lives.

It is a small town of Rovaniemi in Finland, the official hometown of Santa. It is a wonderful place, and not only for children. For the new experience, you can choose to sleep in an igloo hotel or try fly fishing. If your budget is not limited, you can even go on a husky safari. A 2-hour ride will cost you around 150 euro, but it is definitely worth it. At the same time, your children can make cookies with Mrs. Claus or enroll in Elf School. Rovaniemi is a perfect destination for family Christmas vacation!

Reykjavik, Iceland

Although Reykjavik may be too cold and dark in winter, it is still worth visiting during Christmas time. The capital of Iceland offers its winter visitors not just the Yule Town Christmas market, filled with holiday decorations, treats, and gifts, but also unique holiday traditions, such as the 13 Yuletide Lads. And, of course, it’s your chance to see the northern lights, a marvelous natural phenomenon which you will not soon forget.

 

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10 Most Unique Christmas Traditions Around the World

Our planet is a multicultural place. That means that people around the world celebrate many different holidays at the end of the year, from Hanukkah to Kwanzaa, among many others.

However, with Christianity being followed by one-third of the global population, Christmas is celebrated by many nations and in many countries. Still, these Christmas traditions vary greatly, both from country to country and from continent to continent.

Here are our top 10 most exciting traditions from different countries:

The Philippines

The Philippines is the third largest Catholic nation in the world. No other country’s celebrations come even close to Philippine style celebrations. Filipinos have the longest celebration in the world, starting in September.

There are nine days of Christmas masses in a row, which have the name of Simbang Gabi. On the last day of Simbang Gabi, which is Christmas Eve, the mass service is actually called “Misa de Gallo.” That’s Spanish for “The rooster’s mass”.

And there are also festive of parols, star-shaped ornaments traditional to the country, which brighten the windows of the houses during the entire holiday season. These are the lights which reflect the Star of Bethlehem in design. Their name comes from the Spanish word “farol”, which means lantern.

In the Philippines, Merry Christmas is “Maligayang Pasko”. Try to remember this if you plan to spend the holiday season in this magnificent country!

Sweden

The Yule Log is the traditional Christmas in Sweden. It greatly differs from both European and American traditional celebrations. For example, instead of wood, the Swedish go with a goat. The Yule Goat, or the Julbok, isn’t a live animal. It is made almost entirely of straw and originates from mythology. The Swedes have adopted it as part of the modern Christmas tradition warmly. However, not everybody in Sweden is happy with this holiday symbol.

For example, the town of Gävle has set up a giant Julbok annually since 1966. Since that very same year, people in the town have tried to torch, kidnap or vandalize the symbol in one way or another. Over the half of the goats have fallen victim to what the town authorities call vandalism.

By the way, Merry Christmas in Swedish is “God Jul”. Memorize this congratulation, if you are going to celebrate Christmas in Sweden.

Australia

In Australia, the holiday season falls in the summer. In fact, these might be the hottest weeks in the whole year. So Christmas in Australia is more often characterized with electrical storms and brush fires than with snowstorms.

However, that doesn’t prevent Australians from getting into the Christmas spirit. One family from Canberra even broke a world record by decorating their property with 31 miles of lights.

Some Australians try to follow British traditions. In these families, you will surely see a roast turkey, a steamed pudding, and gingerbread on the Christmas dinner table. However, most people in Australia head towards beaches during Christmas for barbecues. Plum pudding with ice cream is also served traditionally, in an attempt to tolerate the Australian Christmas temperatures.

Finland

Finland is the perfect place for Christmas. Joulupukki, the Finnish Santa Claus, waits for visitors in Rovaniemi, the hometown of Santa in Lapland. However, Christmas in Finland is not all about snow, Santa, and reindeer.

There are several traditions, which you won’t find in any other place in the world.

For example, in South Finland, a formal ceremony takes place at noon, with reading the Declaration of Christmas Peace. With some changes, the document has been read annually since the 13th century. It states that the holiday “shall under aggravating circumstances be guilty and punished according to what the law and statutes prescribe for each and every offense separately”.

It means to never mess with Finnish Christmas! The declaration also wishes the inhabitants of the country a joyous Christmas holidays.

In Finland, people wish each other “Hyvää Joulua” on Christmas!

Czech Republic

In the Czech Republic, single girls and women perform an unusual ritual on Christmas to find out if they will get married next year or not. With her back to the house door, a woman throws a shoe over her shoulder. If the shoe lands with its heel towards the door, the woman will stay single. However, if the front of the shoe faces the door, she can start wedding preparations.

If you want to wish somebody Merry Christmas in the Czech Republic, you should say “Veselé Vánoce”!

 

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Slovakia

In Slovakia, during Christmas dinner, the head of the family takes a full spoon of Loksa (a traditional Christmas dish, made of bread, poppy seed filling and water), and throws it up onto the ceiling. There is a belief that the more that sticks to the ceiling, the richer that the family will be next year.

In Slovakia, Merry Christmas is “Veselé Vianoce”!

Ukraine

In Ukraine, Christmas is celebrated on January 7.

The traditional Christmas Eve dinner must contain 12 dishes, relating to the number of the Disciples of Christ.

Christmas dinner doesn’t start until the first star appears in the sky – it is a symbol of a Christmas Star, which showed the way to the Kings when Christ was born.

Also, on Christmas, people gather in groups and perform a unique Christmas performance, called vertep. It usually tells the story of Christmas, reminds the popular of national traditions or pays attention to the modern social problems. Traditionally, vertep includes Maria and Joseph with baby Jesus, Shepherds, which were first to greet the birth of Christ, Kings with presents for the Savior, an Angel, a demon, a Jew and a goat. People go from house to house, performing vertep, singing carols and wishing the hosts all the best in the new year.

In Ukraine, people congratulate each other, saying “Shchastlyvogo Rizdva” (Merry Christmas) or “Khrystos narodyvsya” (Christ was born).

Venezuela

In Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, people go to Mass on roller skates on Christmas morning! The local authorities even close the main city roads for this matter.

To wish Merry Christmas to somebody in Venezuela, say “Feliz Navidad”.

Ethiopia

In Ethiopia, people also celebrate Christmas on January 7th. People traditionally dress in white clothes on this day. Men also play ganna, a fast-paced game with sticks and wooden balls.

“Melkam Genna” is how they say Merry Christmas in Ethiopia.

Cuba

Every December, the Cuban city Remedios hosts the Parrandas festival. The city is divided into two halves, each building a sculpture from light bulbs. These sculptures then compete against each other. 

“Feliz Navidad” works for Cuba too, if you want to say “Merry Christmas”, as Spanish is country’s language as well.

 

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