Holiday season travel :-/
November 23, 2010 6:02 PM   Subscribe

Am hopefully taking time off the last week of December, where to go in Europe?

Hi everyone!
I'm hopefully getting time off this last week of December, and am looking to explore another country out of the UK. I've gone through some older threads, and this one was of particular interest.

Fun details:
- Am based in the UK
- Budget ~£500, can wing more if necessary
- Travelling alone
- I can't drive :-/
- Depart on the 24th/25th, return by 2nd Jan
- Concerned about ease of getting about via public transport, safety of person, interesting sights (historical, architectural, wildlife.)
- Am not interested in night life. Unless there's night photography abound.

Some places that I'd love to visit would be Naples, Italy. The pompeii ruins would be awesome to visit, though am not certain if it's available during that period.

Iceland is another choice, to see the northern lights. Have seen some advertisements on the tube, may be a nice experience.

Greece is tempting, but I've been there twice this year, not going back till next year :D

Am open to ideas. My hobby is photography, and I do a fair bit of travel in UK just visiting various towns and places.

posted by TrinsicWS to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: If you're into the Christmas season, London is insanely awesome this time of year. However, you're going to blow through your budget more quickly than you'd like to.

I would recommend Portugal and Spain. Warmer, travel for less, lots of great football matches, and a very relaxed tone this time of year (even for Portugal & Spain).
posted by bamassippi at 6:05 PM on November 23, 2010

Best answer: I'd suggest Brugge, in Belgium. It's beautiful, and I expect winter would provide great photographic opportunities. You can get there from the UK by train easily enough and, being so medieval it's more about walking and cycling than cars.

Also, really nice people in my experience.
posted by pompomtom at 6:16 PM on November 23, 2010

Best answer: Prague is a pretty fantastic place to wander around with a camera. It's safe, easy to navigate without a car, and it's reasonably cheap.
posted by foodgeek at 6:27 PM on November 23, 2010

Best answer: The movie In Bruges was set around Christmas, wasn't it? That's my only point of reference for Brugge but the city looked lovely.

Iceland is very photographable but only Reykjavik proper is easy to get around on your own without driving. There are loads of organized trips out of Reykjavik (day or overnight) at a variety of price points, though, including Northern Lights tours. Don't take a big bus tour though if you're planning on photographing the lights - when I went half the people on the bus were taking flash photos of the lights, either because they thought it will help or because they didn't know how to turn their flashes off. Very annoying.
posted by mskyle at 6:33 PM on November 23, 2010

Best answer: Brugge (Bruges) is incredible at Christmastime, I was there just after Christmas last year and had the most wonderful time. Brussels and Ghent were also awesome-- Belgium in general is beautiful, easy to get around, welcoming, and a LOT of the tourist stuff (museums, galleries, etc.) is >3 Euros to get in if you're under 25. Can't recommend it enough. Also, this time last year, the train system was running a Christmas shopping special that gave me 20 rides for about 12 Euros. Renting a bike is an easy way to get around but I did just fine on foot.
posted by WidgetAlley at 6:37 PM on November 23, 2010

Best answer: I was in Berlin from December 26th - January 1st way back in 1999 and it was amazing. It was just a weird coincidence that I had three friends (all from the US) who were living or in once case visiting there at that time and that determined where I was going, so it wasn't that I had been set on going to Berlin, but I LOVED it. I'd go back in a heart beat if I could even though my friends have all moved on. Lots of wonderful museums and cafes. Great Christmas decorations. It's a fun city to walk around in, but you also have the option of really great public transportation. If you arrive early enough on the 24th the Christmas market might still be open (I think a somewhat reduced version of the main one was still open on the 26th when I was there).

During that same trip my friend surprised me with train tickets to Prague. We spent 2 days there and it was lovely. It's like a fairy tale city and it snowed lightly the entire time that we were there.

Frankly all of your choices sound fun, but I had such a special time in Berlin, I thought that I'd throw it out there. Have fun.
posted by kaybdc at 7:13 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I was in Rome those exact dates 3 years ago. It was awesome because while everything was still open, the lines were very minimal as compared to normal. If you're into the Christmas spirit thing, I can't find Italian name for them now, but every Church in town has a nativity scene up, some of them rather elaborate. Phonetically, I think it's something along "cresipio" or "christipio", but my Google searching isn't helping.

Once in the city, I used the train, though I mostly just walked. I didn't have car and got along just fine. Their mass transit didn't seem to be as robust as London's, but it still more than got the job done when I needed it. Plus, they have short rail trips to Assisi & Florence if you so desire (that's where I went on day trips). In regards to spending money, Rome has a lot of nifty outdoor photography choices to save. I much prefer to just roam around European cities versus spending all my time indoors or on guided tours, and I got all the roaming around I wanted.

As far as safety, I did nothing to conceal being an American/foreigner and never felt at risk.

I'd also mention about it being cool there- it almost never snows, though it was close during my stay- but I think the temperatures were similar to my stay in London during Thanksgiving one year. Plus, it's a lot less damp in Rome which helped.
posted by jmd82 at 7:32 PM on November 23, 2010

Best answer: We wound up going to Amsterdam, which was wonderful, and not at all crowded. We even got a reasonably priced room with a canal view on pretty short notice. Amsterdam is a great walking city, and incredibly photogenic. The canal boats and barges were decorated for the holidays, and while it was cold, every few blocks there would be a tiny pub or cafe or bookstore or shop to stop in and warm up. On New Year's Eve there's a big celebration with fireworks in one of the squares. It was a great place to be.
posted by tula at 12:50 AM on November 24, 2010

Best answer: I am biased (I live here), but I came in here to suggest Amsterdam too. Plenty of things are open even on Christmas Day, so you can go to a cafe or to the Anne Frank house, for example. New Year's Eve is pretty extreme here - insane and insanely dangerous fireworks - but it's a lot of fun even if you stay indoors. Most museums are closed on 25 Dec and 1 Jan, but there are many other things to keep you occupied on those days.
posted by rubbish bin night at 5:40 AM on November 24, 2010

I just went to Iceland and £500 total budget is not going to cut it - its relatively expensive.
Flights £250
Accom at least £50 per night
Meals; £50 per day maybe less
Tours - all the day tours are expensive.
posted by mary8nne at 8:33 AM on November 24, 2010

Best answer: OK, so it's not Europe, but I had a great time in Marrakech post-Christmas/pre-New Year's Eve several years ago. It's relatively quick and inexpensive to get to from London, the accommodation can be done cheaply too, and the photo-opps are limitless. You won't be hamstrung by 'closed-for-Christmas-break' type headaches, for obvious reasons, and it's a very walkable city (although crossing the street is... hairy). I'd have said it's the perfect time of year to visit as far as the weather is concerned, too - it's a huge relief to escape the depths of the English winter for one thing, and for another I should imagine the place is unbearable in summer.
posted by HandfulOfDust at 12:02 PM on November 24, 2010

Response by poster: Hey everyone! That's a lot of suggestions, thank you so much! Going to spend a fair bit of time pouring over these options :D

@mary8nne: Iceland Air has a deal going on for 4days/£500 quid at the time of this writing, including hotel, flights and northern lights viewings :) Don't think they got a day tour thing in the package though :-/

@Handfulofdusk: That's a really good suggestion actually, Morocoo totally slipped of my mind! I've a few friends visit there earlier this year, seemed fantastic!

I've marked it as resolved - surely one of these choices will work out with my budget and schedule - but always, more ideas are welcome :)

Cheers all!
posted by TrinsicWS at 12:34 PM on November 24, 2010

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