christmas in europe
August 7, 2010 12:39 PM   Subscribe

europe, winter, december -- two students looking for recs for somewhere to spend christmas eve (and several days before that).

Right now, it's tentatively Barcelona, but we'd appreciate other suggestions/info as well (within continental Europe, excluding Italy). I've done some googling, but the more data points the better.

We're looking for a place where:

1. We can find a good Christmas meal, preferably in the local tradition (I was trying to think of how we could join in on a local family's celebrations in the least obtrusive way, but it doesn't seem possible so a good meal would be the next best option)

2. It won't be hard to find food for the next couple of days after that, and

3. There's a decent amount of festive cheer. We're not religious, but can definitely appreciate light-ups and a good Christmas market!

I'll also be spending 12 days or so before the 24th alone, so I'm open to suggestions for how to spend those as well -- which cities have treated you well at that time of year? If it helps, I'd prioritize food, aesthetics, accessibility and safety over things like nightlife.

Thanks a lot in advance!
posted by swimmingly to Travel & Transportation (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I'll probably be including Prague and Vienna in the 12 days, which leaves enough room for about two more...
posted by swimmingly at 12:43 PM on August 7, 2010

Prauge treated me very well before Christmas last year. I highly recommend it.

Otherwise, you're welcome to come here for Christmas. We're in Cork, Ireland and we'd be delighted to feed you on Christmas Eve and Christmas, although we have a family obligation on Boxing Day. Ireland is lovely at Christmas but it's not, you know, Prague. Pubs are closed on Christmas Day, along with everything else, so we generally take the dog for a big walk if you'd like to join us. We come back home for a late lunch, too.

It's not a thrilling offer, but it's a very welcoming one!
posted by DarlingBri at 1:01 PM on August 7, 2010

Poland, where I live, has *great* Christmas markets - especially in Kraków - and while after Christmas things will be quiet for a few days, pre-Christmas is fabulous. I lived there for a month in early December 2005 and had an absolutely amazing time. Candles in the window, cozy cafés, smoked cheese with cranberry sauce...I go down there a lot during the year but the weeks before Christmas are my favorite. It's also far quieter - though still fun and busy - than the frenetic summer.

(I actually chose to go there for a training course over Budapest way back in 2005 because of this question right here on AskMe!)

Kraków is also dead easy to get to on the train from both Prague (about 7-9 hours, 0-1 changes) and Vienna (about the same, 0-1 changes). Budapest would also probably be great, but Kraków is probably quieter and stands a better chance of giving you a good time. L'viv, Ukraine has one of the longest Christmas breaks in the world, as the city's about half Greek Catholic and half Orthodox.

Perhaps you could make a little ring around the Carpathians: Prague-Vienna-Budapest-Lviv-Krakow? Krakow is linked to "Barcelona" (both Girona and Reus!) by Ryanair so you could tack that on at the end probably quite easily.

On preview (taking DarlingBri's idea and running with it), there's a place at my Christmas table for you and anyone else! I have no plans for the entire holiday (I'm a teacher, so I get heaps of time off then!) I live in Bydgoszcz, which is not that fabulous and way way way not Prague, but I'm an hour from Toruń (home of Copernicus!) and two/three hours from Gdańsk (Solidarity! Hanseatic League!). Witam! :)
posted by mdonley at 1:21 PM on August 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: DarlingBri and mdonley: I wouldn't want to impose, and I think I need to stay in the Spain area for logistical reasons anyway, but thank you both so much for the offer! I'm incredibly touched by your generosity.
posted by swimmingly at 9:13 AM on August 8, 2010

Best answer: I'd prioritize food, aesthetics, accessibility and safety over things like nightlife.

We are much the same and very much enjoyed the Christmas Markets of Munich, Salzburg, and Vienna in the days leading up to last Christmas. As I was advised in my AskMe prior to the trip, everything shut down everywhere after Christmas Eve. We spent the day exploring Vienna and the evening going to mass at St. Stephensdom - I know you said you're not religious, but at least walk inside and see it. We're not Catholic but the service was still pretty cool. After that we meandered back to the place we were staying at and had a delightful dinner at a Greek restaurant there.

We decided to use Christmas day as our driving day from Vienna to Geneva, and just stocked up on snacks at a gas station along the way. We also went out of our way to check out Steyr - a cool little town with really ancient medieval architecture still being utilized. Everything was closed right up, but it was neat to poke around a little bit. For those extra couple of days you have, I'd highly recommend Salzburg - very fun place to explore and eat your way through. Head up to the castle on the hill as your first order of business and get the lay of the land a bit before heading back into town for lunch.

DO NOT miss out on the erdbeerpunsch (fruit mulled wine) and kraskriener (cheese filled sausage) (sp? on both) at the Christmas markets in Vienna, and if you get to the ones in Munich, the potato pancake things are also a must. YUM.

Feel free to MeMail me if you have further logistical questions or anything. Pictures of our trip are here.
posted by allkindsoftime at 3:30 AM on August 9, 2010

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