A Bohemian Winter in Vilnius
The capital of Lithuania is a winter wonderland. The snow, the red rooftops, the cobblestone streets and the small but cute Christmas markets make it a wonderful choice for your winter break in Europe.
Vilnius has an entire neighbourhood made by artists and declared an independent republic in 1997. This is the Uzupis neighbourhood, famous among artists for its bohemian vibe. Make sure you soak up the atmosphere by checking out its street art, visiting a few art galleries and walking along the Paupio street to read the republic’s constitution which is fixed on a wall.
Another beautiful neighbourhood is the former Jewish Quarter. Enjoy a coffee in one of the little cafes situated on picturesque cobblestone streets to recharge your energy.
The city used to be protected with a wall with 9 entrances. The Gate of Dawn is the last remaining gate from these entrances. It is 500 years old and even today it is a major attraction in the city. There is a chapel with a painting of Virgin Mary believed to be a miracle worker, the “Vilnius Madonna”.
To see the finest architecture in Vilnius, go along the Pilies street (here you can also buy cute souvenirs) which will guide you up to the ruins of Gediminas Castle. The castle dates back to 1400 and its remaining upper tower is located on a hill from where you can enjoy the beautiful view of the city.
There are two Christmas markets in Vilnius, one in Town Hall Square and one in Cathedral Square. The latter is the most festive one, there are 50 stalls with seasonal products, a beautiful Christmas tree and even a Christmas Train.
Tip: Head to the Old Town for the best bars and to meet the locals. Make sure you taste Cepelinai – a traditional dish with grated potato dumplings stuffed with mince and served with sour cream.
A Nordic Christmas in Copenhagen
A winter break in the hometown of Hans Christian Andersen sounds like a good option for the holidays. You can start by visiting Nyhavn (New Port) where the oldest houses from Copenhagen are. Moreover, Hans Christian Andresen used to live here, in houses number 18, 20 and 67.
Another attraction tied to Hans Christian Andersen is the Little Mermaid statue located in the harbour. The statue was a gift to the city from a local brewer, Carl Jacobsen, who had seen the ballet performance of the Little Mermaid. He was so inspired by the tale that he decided to give a statue of the mermaid as a gift to the city. Nowadays this is Denmark’s most photographed and visited landmark.
At Christmas time, the port is filled with stalls as this is one of Copenhagen’s main areas. From the market, you can buy Christmas goodies and Danish specialities prepared this time of the year. You can also taste Christmas food in the cafes and restaurants in Nyhavn.
Another Christmas Market is taking place at the world-renowned Tivoli Park. This park is not just an amusement park, it also hosts concerts, musicals and ballet performances. At winter, the magic of Christmas takes over the park. There are Christmas rides, booths with food, drinks & decorations, but most importantly, you can meet Santa Claus.
The best place to see the whole city is from Rundertaarn, a 17th-century old astronomical tower. The Round Tower is the oldest functioning astronomical observatory in Europe. Go up on the spiral walk and get a nice view of old Copenhagen.
Tip: Head to Kronborg Castle, Shakespeare’s inspiration for Hamlet, and participate at the Royal Christmas Market.
A Festive Getaway to Stockholm
The capital of Sweden is spread across 14 islands on Lake Malaren and into the Baltic Sea. The “Venice of North” is definitely a cool destination for your winter break in Europe. Here, you’ll find plenty of snow, beautiful architecture, museums and, of course, lots of Christmassy vibes.
Watch the sunset at Norr Malarstrand. I am starting with this as I find it the most exciting. If you hike up to Norr Malarstrand, then you won’t just be watching the sunset over Malaren Lake. If you’re lucky, you might get to see the Northern Lights. This occasion is quite rare, but a city break plus the Northern Light sounds amazing. Make sure to bring warm drinks and dress in layers.
The worlds largest open-air museum is in Stockholm. Skansen recreates scenes from all over the country, presenting the lifestyle in historical Sweden. There will be houses, animals and so much more. This time of the year, there is a Christmas market and you can also experience Christmas in the houses and farmsteads.
Stockholm is known for its many museums. The Royal Palace is the home of 5 museums, not to mention, the Royal Apartments and the reception rooms you can visit. Moreover, the king still lives there and formal events are still happening in the building. Make sure to watch the changing of the guards.
The oldest town square in Stockholm is Stortorget. Here you can admire the beautiful architecture of the 16th-century houses. Moreover, a Christmas Market is organized here as also.
Tip: Buy a glass of mulled wine & some ginger snaps and soak up the atmosphere.
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