Christmas in Europe: Christmas 2005
As we learned filming our PBS European Christmas special, that's a jolly time to travel. Please share your feedback and tips for travelers heading to Europe for the holidays.
Starting the Holiday season in Europe
For more than 15 years, my husband and I have begusn our winter holiday season by goning to Europe the week after Thanksgiving. We love all of the Christmas markets. Innsbruck, and Vienna have beautiful, fun markets. This year we enjoyed the market at Edinburgh. Great stalls! There was one with tin wind-up toys that brought back memories of playing at my Grandparent's. They even had the monkey that bangs cymbals and the little trains that my husband remembers from his Grandmother's house. The atmosphere is relaxing and really puts us in the "hoildy" mood. Best way I know to start the season.
Charlotte, NC USA Sat 03/11/2006
The Holidays in Paris
My sister and I spent 6 wonderful days in Paris between Christmas and New Years. My comments:
Hotel - GRAND HOTEL LEVEQUE - 29 Rue Cler - 75007 Paris http://www.hotel-leveque.com/index.php
The Grand Hotel Leveque has an excellent location on Rue Cler a pedestrian market street in the 7th.
The goods: The location: Rue Cler, five minute walk to the Eiffel Tower, a five minute walk to Hôtel des Invalides, a five minute walk to the Seine and a 10 minute walk to the Champs Élysées. The price: the house offers reasonable rates. The staff: are friendly and helpful - especially the day and weekend staff. The bathroom was very nice with a great shower. The television had 2 English speaking channels - CNN and Sky News from Britain. And occasionally, we had an American movie on TV with an English soundtrack and French subtitles. The Metro: the Ecole Militaire station is a handy 2 minute walk.
The bads: Rooms are small - especially those not on the front. Rooms with a view of the courtyard - well, it is not a "courtyard" as you might imagine - it is a very small tiled area in the middle of the hotel. There is no view - though the "courtyard" does allow for a window in the room for a bit of air and light. There is a no eating policy.
Tour Guide - Sabine http://paris.authentique.free.fr/index.htm
Sabine is an excellent tour guide. She knows Paris and speaks perfect English. She is worth every cent of her fees. She will work with you to plan the right tour for you - whether within Paris or the France countryside.
Do NOT miss: the wonderful, Bouillon Chartier (7 Rue du Faubourg-Montmartre) - it's conveniently located near the Opéra Garnier and the Galeries Lafayette. This is an historic restaurant with great food and reasonable prices.
DO NOT GO: le Dome - near the Eiffel Tower. The waiters are rude. And they disrespect Americans. We were seated at the same time as two other couples - one French, the other ½ French and ½ American. When we all asked for water - they received a carafe of tap water (free) - while we received an expensive bottle of Evian water (it cost more than most wines). We never received the requested condiments for our meal. The ½ & ½ couple next to us paid with a Visa credit card (the French man's Visa) - yet when we tried to pay with a Visa card the waiters - who spoke English during the ordering process - now claimed to speak no English, but they did tell us that they would not accept our card. They mimed that the machine would not read it . yet the credit card reading machine looked exactly like the ones that waiters and other sales people had been using for days to take our card(s) all over the Paris. They refused to even try it and demanded cash. Then the icing on the cake . when they gave me my change they shorted me 2 Euros. This experience was unfortunately our last night (New Year's Eve) and after a delight time in Paris ... this left a back taste in our mouths.
The Bateaux Parisiens Seine cruise - give it a miss! This is the worst Seine cruise of all - they pack you into seats like a theater - and you can not move around. There is no outside seating option. They don't clean the windows - so, it's impossible to see anything. There is no food or drinks available.
The museum pass is expensive, but worth the savings in time not spent in lines. And is a plus to just stop in at a museum if you happen to be in the neighborhood.
The travel pass is worth the cost and not having to hassle with buying individual tickets or carts. The pass is definitely worth it if you go outside Paris to say Versailles.
Celebrating New Year's 2006 on the Champs Elysees was fun, but the expected fireworks - were non-existent.
San Ramon, CA USA Fri 03/03/2006
On a recent business trip to Holland, I flew into Brussels for 2 days of sightseeing before my meetings. As a middle age business woman who loves the quaint and the adventure of Europe, I found the Hotel Welcome a charming place. It was warm and friendly and I felt safe and well taken care of. It is close to the city center and within easy walking distance of many grand sights. I would recommed highly.
Orangevale, CA USA Tue 02/28/2006
christmas in europe
I had a wonderful experience last Christmas in a family run hotel in Fiumicello, Italy. I've traveled to Italy in December for the last 10 years so I know that many hotels in my price range close for Christmas Day so employees can celebrate with their families. So before leaving the U.S., I was able to reserve a room for the 23rd, 24th and 25th of December in this squeaky clean hotel a friend told me about, near the beach and the Maratea train station. Only a 4 1/2 hour train ride from Rome, it's sandwiched between the beautiful little town of Maratea and the Tyrrhenian Sea. It's just a 15 minute walk to the beach and there's a mini mart for picnic food and a posh clothing store on the way. I picnicked on the beach and walked in the water and marveled at the zillion striped rocks. I watched kids playing soccer in the town square and drank red wine made preservative free by the boyfriend of the hotel owner's gracious daughter, Taracita. I wandered happily around the little town of Maratea on Christmas Day. There were bakeries and a few restaurants open. (Imagine?) Zio Pino's wife and children manage the hotel. The youngest son, Jose, was in charge while I was there. He made me a great cappucino every morning. Lucky for me, the entire Pino family was home for the holidays and incredibly accomodating. After 3 days of quiet here I was ready to tackle beautiful but noisy Rome. (Their e-mail address is email@example.com )
seattle, wa USA Sun 02/05/2006
Christmas in United Kingdom
Our family just spent the two weeks including Christmas in London, Edinburgh and York. Christmas seems to be more community oriented there than in the US, with Christmas Markets and carnivals everywhere. We spent Christmas in York and enjoyed how everyone was out shopping in the old town center the day before Christmas, but is seemed less desperate than here, w/ choirs in the streets, and much fewer shopping bags. We had Christmas dinner at the Monkbar Hotel, fun because of the crackers, hats, and surprise; however, the food was average only. The week between Christmas and New Years seems to be a vacation week for the Brits, as everyone seemed to be out and about. Museums were open, but 'sights' were shut down (Kensington Palace, Hampton Court, etc.) This was not a problem for us because we know London and were visiting with each other, but something to consider if this is a first visit to London. We had another wonderful European vacation, and I enjoyed missing the stress of Christmas in the States.
MA USA Sat 01/07/2006
Christmas in Malta
Just returned from almost 2 weeks in Malta over Christmas and New Year's. First time I've ever returned from the Christmas holidays with a tan....but hopefully not the last! I stayed at the 3 star Marina Hotel in Sliema, which for the money, is well situated on the seafron promenade and just down from the bus stop. For Christmas Eve, Christmas lunch, and New Year's, as in America, the prices for meals tend to be higher; though shop around and you may do OK. My friend and I dined at the Preluna Towers on Christmas day for lunch; it was about the equivalent of $36 USD for an all-you-can-eat buffet. The view over the island was terrific, it was nearly 70, and the food and service very good. Most hotels and restaurants will have special meals for these dates. Although Malta is a bit pricier to get to from the States (best connections seem to be thru London), the cost when you're there can be quite reasonable: even with the holiday supplement my hotel charged, my room was still only about $60/day...and you could find cheaper places if you look. Transport is via bus, which is a hoot!
River Forest, IL USA Fri 01/06/2006
Christmas and New Years in Garmisch
We just returned from Christmas and New Years in Garmisch. It was a wonderful fairytale scene. Everything was closed on Christmas, the 26th, and New Years Day, but open otherwise. We highly recommend the Eibsee Hotel at the foot of the Zugspitze, a bit pricey but worth every penny. They have packages which include breakfast and dinner as well as the use of their lift and ski slope. Their dinners are truly memorable. And we figure we drank at least 20 euros a day worth of coffee with our breakfast, so wherever you stay, if you are a coffee drinker, be sure to get your room with breakfast!
Padific Grove, CA USA Tue 01/03/2006
Christmas in Brussels
We wanted to spend our family holiday somewhere with great "Christmas" spirit, and so I decide to return to Brussels, Belgium, and what a great choice, not to mention Christmas vacation. We had the Silk Road Suite at the Welcome Hotel which faced the Christmas Market. We were able to taste all the goodies offered and look at the handcrafted items on sale in each booth...drink hot chocolate and watch ice skaters and children having fun on the carrousels. It was all perfect, and though the sky always remained threatening, it did not let loose upon our heads! The Welcome Hotel was as wonderful as always, accomodating, helpful, full of good cheer...the Suite was incredible - including the European Spa Shower and the Spa (jacuzzi) tub! Visiting neighboring cities by train was fun, as well as experiencing the smaller versions of the Brussels Christmas Market - Brussels out did the others... The Cathedrals were in their finest for the holiday, and absolutely beautiful!! I look forward to my next stay in Brussels, and as always, at the Welcome Hotel.
Jacksonville, Florida USA Tue 01/03/2006
Christmas in Europe
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to ETBD and to all fellow Travelers! My wife and I have just returned from a Danube Christmas cruise that started from Budapest(Dec.17) and ended in Prague(Dec 30.) Budapest money(25 Four-ints to the dollar) takes getting use to, use the bankomats for money, I recommend using local currency for all purchases, you get a better price...including the Central Market Hall...HAGGLE for the cheapest price then show what you are willing to pay in the currency...see if the price comes down even further! The Christmas markets were great...get a Gluvine Budapest cup as a remembrance and a "MUST GET" the round-circular pastry with any sweet seasoning topping that everyone is lining-up for! Shop for crystal...better prices than Prague! Walk away from the Vaci, follow the locals to the real shopping areas, mingle with the younger locals when you see them crowded around a certain bar or outside eatery stand. Bratislava, Slovakia was a shopping disappointment. The Christmas market was mostly eatery stands...if you like that kind of thing then you would be totally in HEAVEN! But I did find where the locals shop for very cheap prices. Again, I followed the crowds away from the city center and found a 3 story mall-type shopping center(I really do not remember where it was located...near Kamenne?) I can say prices were cheap...I tried to spend $40 splitting it with my wife, and had a hard time getting "RID" of it. A must see is to ride up to Burg Castle to see the city with the city skyline. It is a memorable sight. Vienna is our city! The Christmas markets are all over the city and are fantastic! Go to the Naschmarket at 8-9 in the morning for pastry and picnic lunch items! Do not miss the Freyung area market...unique crafts! Take the "D" tram to Nussdorf, go to Andechs for a beer, watch for the large painted sign on the left, the second to the last stop for tram. Get the gluvine with the yearly cup design(I have five different ones!) SALZBURG...go there! We have visited there five times and we still do not get enough of it. Please buy a painting from Igor the street painter...just ask around, people in town know him...tell him you are a friend of mine and "NANCY" he will love you! Go to the top of the castle and have a tourist lunch...your wife will not forget it! Go to the local market near and behind Getreidegasse. Get a local pastry! And finally, Prague! Prague's Christmas market is open after the 25th! We spent 5 days and four nights there, and did not see or do everything. Christmas-time is a special time to visit because everyone seems to be "In the Christmas Mood!" We stayed at a non-Rick Steves hotel, the Renaissance Hotel, Prague and loved it! It was close to the city center, the trams, metro, train station, and right next to the Airport Tram(cheap!) We ate morning buffet at the hotel, light lunch picnic with the cheap wine, and dinners with the off the path restaurants(Les Moules-"Mussels from Brussels" across from the Intercontinetal Hotel & Cervena Tabulka(Rick's suggestion.) Again, get lost away from from the tourist section, find the cheap winebar for 18Kc(75 cents!) Go to a tiny tea house(Rick's or your own find.) Take the metro to the mall(Andel & follow the locals) and ride the metro's escalators just for the ride! And finally, save some money(or extra suitcase!) for Prague's airport duty-free shops. We found some very good prices for crystal, food-stuffs, wine, and more. We had good weather for December 2005, but remember to WEAR a very good pair of waterproof boots/shoes(I WEAR only one pair of black, Merrill boots and my wife does the same...making sure they are over the ankle type black boot) and a warm, water-resistant coat. A hat, a scarf, and gloves are a must. And I wear black, water-resistant type, ski pants that wears for any occasion. Please do not wear American colorful clothes. It is our goal to fit in as an European, and not to be identified as an American. I feel by dressing European, it will enhance our travel experience. Happy travels to all!
Charles J. Bruno
Spring Hill, Fl USA Mon 01/02/2006
German Christmas Markets
I just returned two weeks ago from a tour of the Christmas markets in Germany. What a beautiful time of year to see the towns and the countryside. Our tour started in Berlin and then continued south to Seiffen, Erfurt, Koln, Rudesheim and Frankfurt. The markets were wonderful and the food delicious. I can hardly wait to go again next year.
Woodbridge, VA USA Thu 12/15/2005
We also just got back from Copenhagen. The Christmas decorations are beautiful, and the ice rink in the Kongens Nytorv picturesque. The big candles and smudge pots in front of cafes and shops were cozy. And nothing beats those roasted almonds you can buy on the street!
Tivoli has pretty lights but the Christmas market there was a huge disappoinment. A lot of crummy tat you could find in any flea market here. Nyhavn's market didn't have much merchandise, but it was authentic-looking fun to hang out in, drinking glug and warming up near a fire.
Eating out is pricey there, but you can find lots of less expensive options. Our B&B had a takeout place on the ground floor that had lots of variety and was good and reasonable. We stumbed on a cafeteria in Roskilde that was amazing, I'd look for those ("Spis Hus") next time.
Our B&B hostess provided candles and insisted we light them for meals and in our own rooms. She had nice decorations up too. I see why the Scandinavians love candles, they do help the mood.
Denver, CO USA Wed 12/14/2005
Copenhagen Christmas p.s.
Also - there were many *free* and unforgettable holiday concerts in the beautiful churches. We also enjoyed going to services in the Marble Church, we couldn't understand a thing but the organ and singing were amazing, and it's just neat to see how locals celebrate the season.
Denver, CO USA Wed 12/14/2005
Copenhagen Christmas markets
I just returned from Copenhagen. There were two Christmas markets open at the time at Tivoli Gardens and in Nyhavn. Additional "theme markets" will open next weekend such as the Organic Foods market and other locations in the area. I was surprised by the mass-produced Santa Clauses and plastic items in comparison to the Christmas market in Prague (where I visited last year). Tivoli was fun and had gorgeous lights and Christmas decorations - and the rides and restaurants were all open, which was fun. Copenhagen was very pricey in general. Plan on $40 per person for a not-so-special dinner.
Rochester, NY USA Thu 12/08/2005
Europe after Christmas
Hi everybody! We saw the "Christmas Special" on television in Vancouver and loved every minute of it. We cried a little too since we are so far away from Europe right now (where I grew up for the first 40 years of my life). In December 2003, right after Christmas, my husband and I went back to Stuttgart/Germany to quietly celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary by visiting the small chapel where we had gotten married on December 30...almost like in a different life. It was such a special time of year: everywhere it was very quiet, even right in the city, the decorations and lights were still up, but otherwise the hustle and bustle of the Christmas markets was over. There is no "Boxing Day" either. We liked it that way! We caught a Mozart Opera and a symphony concert instead, both were part of the celebrations around "Silvester" (New Year's Eve). In Alsace where we went next, it was extremely cold during those first days in January. On many closed restaurant doors a sign said "conge annuel" (annual holiday), even some of the museums were closed or only open for a few hours, but here and there we still found places that were open and welcoming. Our hotel room in Riquewihr, looking out into snow drifts from behind thick walls, was very cozy. We seemed to be the only tourists in town! It felt like a very intimate experience of Europe in the middle of winter. We drove up to the battlegrounds of WWI, on top of the Vosges mountains, "Le Linge", and trudged around in snowy trenches while the sun was setting on Three King's Day, January 6, painting the sky all pink. We did not meet a living soul all day. Ice skaters on frozen ponds, and from chimneys, in small villages, the smoke was rising. It was a scene like in a Breughel painting. We were zipping around in a completely empty countryside, sitting comfy and warm in our rented Mercedes with heated seats!! What a life! I would not want to miss this trip for the world! As Rick Steves points out, in Europe the Christmas time lasts from late November to January 6. There is something like a special aura, a stillness, all through this time, all over the place, and you can feel it. Go and see for yourself! Dorothea
Vancouver , BC Canada Mon 12/05/2005
The Chritmas booths set up in Krakow main square were deligthful. People come out in all kinds of weather.
Verona, NJ USA Mon 12/05/2005
christmas in europe
first of all i want to thank all of those who have sent me emails about the christmas markets in germany. second, i really, really enjoyed rick's european christmas now airing on PBS fundraisers, it is well worth your time to view the 1.5hr show
louisville, ky USA Sun 11/27/2005
Christmas Market in Dresden
We just returned from a trip to Eastern Europe that included a stop in Dresden on 11/24 (Thanksgiving). We were delighted to find the Christmas Market opened that day and runs thru 12/24. Our stop in Dresden was the highlight of our trip -- a great opportunity to feel like one of the locals (we didn't run into any American tourists). Also, the Frauenkirche Church has re-opened -- a must see in Dresden. We returned home from Prague on 11/26 and understand the Christmas Markets also opened over the weekend in Prague (the city was packed with tourists!). However, we really felt our stop n Dresden was special and highly recommend it.
Minneapolis, MN USA Sun 11/27/2005
Xmas in London
You are going to love London! Definitely check out Picadilly Circus but be prepared for crowds. We tried to get into Hamleys and it was just ridiculous. A cute little shopping street is Carnbary Street. There are lots of concerts -- St. Martins with the crypt below if you want a quick bite. If you want to see the Tower of London, try to get the advance purchase tickets because the lines are very long. And treat yourself to the London Eye. If you like history, check out the London Original Walks. They have a website but their flyers are all over. A fun excursion is Canterbury Cathedral. There are trains that leave out of Charring Cross. If you can get to York, that is also fun. There is just so much to do! If you can squeeze it in -- see a play. Have a great time!
Fl USA Wed 11/16/2005
Christmas in Salzburg
Pat: Last year we were in Salzburg for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I was surprised to see the Aldstadt full of people on Christmas Day. Even some of the stores were open. The atmosphere was festive and it was just a great day! I personally love Salzburg any time of year. We did go to Nurnburg for the Christmas markets and I liked that, too. Maybe you could base yourself in Munich and visit both places. Munich was fun as well.
USA Wed 11/16/2005
Christmas in Germany
Last year we traveled Christmas day to Germany. We stayed in Nuremburg, Dresden, Goerliz and Berlin. Three years ago, we Christmased in Baden-Baden and found both times that Christmas ends rather quickly after the holiday. Many things just plain close up. We found the markets over or just about over. New Years in Dresden was fabulous. We stood on the terrace overlooking the river while locals shot off fireworks everywhere. Christmas in Germany is family time. This year we are leaving for Germany on Dec. 14 and will catch all the markets while they are up and going. We will again go to Nuremberg but also Munich, Salzburg and anywhere else that catches our fancy. We are not buying a railpass this time. We are going to try the Bayern-Ticket. It is a ticket good for two to use inside the state of Bayern for one day and costs about 22 Euro. Rick's rail page will connect you to the DB webpage. It's explained there.
Murfreesboro, TN USA Mon 11/14/2005
Christmas in Bavaria
Garmisch is lovely at Christmas time. We were there 2 years ago and are going again this year, from Christmas to New Years.
Pacific Grove, CA USA Mon 11/14/2005
Xmas in London
My daughter and I will be in London for this Christmas and I would love to hear what others have experienced. I have never been to Europe and am looking forward to it very much.
Clovis, California USA Mon 11/14/2005
Christmas in Italy?
Thinking of going to Venice and may be there on Christmas Day. Any ideas of what will be open and what the crowds are like...? Thanks
vancouver, bc canada Mon 11/14/2005
christmas in europe
need some advice, will be traveling to frankfurt germany 12/13 for some christmas markets---where should i go? frankfurt was the cheapest airfare i could get, so i will hop on a train to somewhere else, say munich or some such place. after a few days in germany, it is on to rome to see the sights and sounds of the christmas there. any advice for that area? thanks in advance....
louisville, ky USA Sun 11/13/2005
Rome is amazing
Rome is amazing on new years. People set off fireworks in all sorts of dangerous ways and the city comes alive in a festive way when the clock strikes 12. Find a neighberhood restaurant and go late -- and stay late!
San Francisco, CA USA Sun 11/13/2005
Great idea for a new topic. We're heading off to Bavaria and Salzburg for a few days before Christmas. We were thinking of going to Nurenburg/Heidelburg, but were told by some German friends we could have just as charming a visit in Salzburg, with smaller crowds.
Anybody else with recent experience?
USA Sat 11/12/2005