Help us figure out where to celebrate NYE in Europe!
August 15, 2012 10:02 PM   Subscribe

Where to travel for Xmas/New Year's in Europe?

Hi guys, I wrote previously about going to SE Asia for Xmas/NYE, and now it looks like that's not happening since tickets for us (from the US) aren't dropping in price (it's $16-1900 at the moment!). So instead, we're looking into Europe which is much more reasonable since it's off season.
Any suggestions on where to go? We have about 12 days to spare, and are wondering if we can manage more than one place...
We've both already been to Paris so that's out. We'd prefer not to go somewhere TOO cold, but we're glad it's off-season enough that it shouldn't be crawling with tourists.
We like exploring old places and eating good food and taking photos.
Options at the moment are Portugal, Spain, Greece, Turkey, or Italy. We don't have too much money to spend so we're trying to make this as cheap as Europe can possibly be. We heard due to the economy Greece is cheaper than usual...
My only concern is that we plan to get there Xmas day and stay till NYE... are lots of places going to be closed on xmas day?
Also read on another thread that Marrakesh is amazing/cheap in winter? Any advice would be greatly appreciated, thank you!
posted by picarosado to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Italy would be lovely that time of year. I was once there in February, and it was chilly, but not frigid or anything. It's also best experienced in the off season, and it's one of the parts of Europe that definitely has a "season" and things get uncomfortably crowded/inconvenient/annoying in the summer.

You should plan for things in Italy to be closed, though I'm not sure exactly what and for how long. A friend of mine lived in Rome and was alone there at Christmas and said it was awful because everything shut down. Then again, I think she meant from a living situation perspective -- it was hard to grocery shop or run errands and she was lonely as a lot of people were out of town. I'm not sure it would impact you as tourists.

I was just in Turkey in late February/early March. It was colder than you'd think. I ended up staying in Istanbul and doing indoorsy things, lots of museums. I think if you guys are into exploring the countryside at all, Turkey is probably not a great idea.

I've heard great things about Portugal; it's definitely on my list of places in Europe to check out. No idea what the weather/temps are like, though.

I have a friend in Greece right now. He hasn't said that it's cheaper than usual on the ground as a tourist. But it seems like an unforgettable and amazing place to visit, so from hearing about it alone, I'd say go! I don't think it's any more expensive than usual, either. Be aware, though, that most of the ferries and tourist services to the islands are closed in the off season.
posted by Sara C. at 10:27 PM on August 15, 2012

Sorry to double post, but it just occurred to me.

In Turkey you will definitely have no problems with things being closed on Christmas. It's a very secular country compared to a lot of Western Europe, and predominantly Muslim. There's a significant Christian minority, but they are mainly Orthodox and thus do their Baby Jesus partying on January 6, long after you guys will have left town.

Also, despite it being too cold to want to do much beyond hang out in Istanbul, I did have a great time. It's not a bad place to visit in winter, at all. It's just that most people who want to visit Turkey want to go to the beach, mess around in boats, check out all the archaeological stuff out towards Ephesus, do some hiking, ride in hot air balloons, etc.
posted by Sara C. at 10:45 PM on August 15, 2012

It might be a little too cold for you, but somewhere in Germany or Austria could be perfect for you. Real Christmas markets are something everyone should experience once. Nuremberg has a famous market and is beautifully located.
posted by MighstAllCruckingFighty at 12:08 AM on August 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

I was in Greece over Christmastime about 10 years ago (left a few days before the actual day, so I can't give you advice on that) and it was awesome! Super cheap because it was the off season, and all the ruins were practically deserted. We got some amazing pictures and got to feel like we were the only people exploring these vast, ancient places. Everyone was really friendly (boy were restaurants glad to see us in some of the smaller places) and we got bonkers deals on all of our hotels. It was cold-ish (I believe it snowed a bit in Delphi) but nothing that a normal winter coat couldn't handle. I would recommend it in a heartbeat.
posted by Bella Sebastian at 12:37 AM on August 16, 2012

I'd avoid Catholic countries for Xmas - you'll find a lot closed and on Xmas Day itself almost nothing open. An acquaintance and her husband literally fed herself from a vending machine one Xmas Day in Barcelona as they had assumed something would be open.

At the other extreme to Marrakesh, depending on how tight your budget is, you could look at St Petersburg. Beautiful, snowy, not as bone chillingly cold as after the new year sets in. It is an expensive city to stay in but with some planning you might be able to find a deal (as a guide - this place is about $100 a night from the looks of it).. It will be Christmassy, but still open as the orthodox Christmas is in early Jan. You could then go on and spend new year in somewhere like Tallinn and/or Helsinki - Finland is connected by high speed train.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:43 AM on August 16, 2012

Right before Christmas: go to the Christmas markets in Germany. You'll have to do some research into where YOU want to go, but there are some that are supposed to be awesome and have been recommended on AskMe before. Though the name escapes me. You can also get these in Eastern France, along the border with Germany.

Christmas itself is kind of boring if you do not have a family or friends to take you in. Christmas in a country that is not predominantly/historically Christian/Catholic is a good suggestion. Someone above mentions Marrakesh as a place that will have life those days, but from Germany/France you have many many options including Turkey.

This year I'll be spending New Years Eve in Madeira, Portugal. It's known as one of the world's biggest fireworks celebrations, and everyone (but everyone) gets dressed up in gowns and tuxedos for the fireworks then goes out to dinners and drinks until the next morning. There are events at hotels, etc., so you don't have to come knowing people. It is a beauitful and hilly island with friendly people and a lot to do. The hotels are mostly 4 and 5 star but with so much space they are largely affordable. Buy airplane tickets early.
posted by whatzit at 3:32 AM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've enjoyed Christmastime in Brussels, Amsterdam, and London (all more than I did in Paris). None was especially cold, although I live in Connecticut. Also, photos of snowy Prague look gorgeous.
posted by troywestfield at 6:11 AM on August 16, 2012

My parents lived in Germany and the Christmas markets in Wurtzburg and surroundings were awesome!

Lots of guys dressed up as Santa, those huge Ricola Alpine horns, and mulled wine and hot wurst to nom while strolling around. Chilly, but the kind that makes you happy that you're drinking hot wine, have a coat and it's Christmas-time.

Lots of baroque stuff to look at, a palace, churches, etc.

Take the train to Frankfurt for other things, or just tool around Bavaria.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:35 AM on August 16, 2012

I spent Christmas week in Prague a few years ago and it was just gorgeous - the Christmas markets are lovely, the square is just beautiful, and midnight mass at the castle was really spectacular and moving (even for atheist me). My now-ex and I spent a lot of the week going to classical music concerts in old churches and it was a really memorable holiday.
posted by Neely O'Hara at 6:59 AM on August 16, 2012

Seconding Austria. I spent one Christmas holiday in Vienna, and the Christmas markets were really something. It is COLD though, but beautiful. If you can handle the snow, and like the idea of bundling up and drinking hot wine, then you should definitely consider that. The scenery is breathtaking.
posted by anoirmarie at 7:57 AM on August 16, 2012

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