Christmas in Europe: 2006
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.
Christmas in London
I realize Christmas is over, but the decorations are bound to still be up! London is great for Christmas in New Years. Tons of free concerts, light shows, etc. The New Years fireworks over the Thames were phenomenal in 05/06 so hopefully they're planning on keeping the bar raised. Decorations on Oxford Street and in Trafalgar Square are always worth a peek!
Washington, D.C. USA Tue 12/26/2006
Well, I never been to Europe for The Winter Holidays, but in someday I would love go there, and going back after that. Had anough of how in this country (America) celebrate it now because its the commerilization of it.
Jessica A Bruno
Ridgewood, NJ USA Mon 12/25/2006
I just returned from Munich and the Christmas Markets are open on Sundays.
Edmonds, WA USA Thu 12/21/2006
Christmas in Germany... Plan to go to the Christmas Markets in the major cities. They close around 8 pm and of course closed on Sunday. They usally run the first weekend of Dec until the last Saturday before Christmas. This year we don't have any snow, just some cool weather. Be prepared for the unexpected rain or hail while in Germany. The markets are wonderful, and you can find many things you cannot find at any time during the year. Be on the look out for the house wine, it is always good.
Landstuhl, Germany Thu 12/21/2006
Christmas Day- Food? Suggestions?
Can anyone recommend something to do in Florence on Christmas Day (besides church)? We are staying at a hotel and didn't even entertain the idea that restaurants won't be open for this huge family holiday =( Any suggestions???
Houston, TX USA Thu 12/21/2006
As expats living over here, we have found ourselves stretching the holiday season by incorporating a lot of traditions. We mark St. Martin's day; then comes Thanksgiving; then we celebrate with our Dutch friends by celebrating Sinterklaas on 5 December. (Kids laugh when I always get rocks in my shoes.) Advent markets and advent candles are also now "our traditions". Christmas eve is celebrated with a special meal and the kids opening 1 present, and then comes a good old American style Christmas morning. Boxing day is the newest tradition: pot luck dinner at our house with friends. New years. 3 kings day ...then starts Carnival! It seems to never end! Almost makes you forget the unbelievably short days, grey skies, and cold cold temps! It is all very magical.
Europa Mon 12/18/2006
To Jennifer in FL: There are many places to stay in Dublin. The Merrion, Westbury, and Weston are nice but cost a pretty penny. The Bleeding Horse and the Market Bar are a couple of my favorites for a relaxing pint. Temple Bar is packed on the weekends! Have a good New Year! Cheers!
Dublin, Ireland Wed 12/13/2006
Italy Train Travel
My husband and I arrived in Rome on Christmas day and used that day as a travel day to get up to Venice. We did what AC suggests - booked our train tickets in advance at www.trenitalia.com. We got an amazing deal and it was very easy. We printed our tickets at the time we purchased them. We were happy to have our train reservation when we traveled from Cinque Terre to Rome on New Year's Eve day...the train was packed and we had to fight for our reserved seats.
Atlanta, GA USA Fri 12/08/2006
Again, book in advance at www.trenitalia.com and you'll get it all taken care of, and you have a chance for discounts (for example: a one-way Rome-Venice that normally costs close to 50 euros can be had for 29euros). You can either pick up the tickets at the station from one of teh machines or go with the new "ticketless" system.
berlin, germany Thu 12/07/2006
Italy Train Travel during Christmas
Ok- let me rephrase my question. Should I make reservations for the Eurostar trains before we leave for Europe or should we wait and do it at the ticket window if we are traveling on Dec. 24th and Dec. 26th? (ie: are the trains going to be booked up and full and leave us waiting in the station for hours trying just to get on a train)
Spring, Texas USA Wed 12/06/2006
Eurostar trains in Italy are all reserved. Best to reserve in advance for Eurostar since you can get significant discounts if you book far enough ahead (often 29euros for both domestic and international travel). Visit www.trenitalia.com
berlin, germany Wed 12/06/2006
Italy Train Travel during Christmas
I have a question: my fiance and I will be traveling Italy and Paris over the holidays. First of all, does anybody know if we should make train RESERVATIONS if we are traveling Eurostar on Dec. 24th and Dec. 26th? I was reading that since Italy's train system is so cheap it is sometimes hard to find seats in 2nd class. Also, we'll be in Paris for New Years. Where would be the best place to "ring in the New Year"??
Thanks for any advice!
editors note: Please Post All Questions to Traveler's Helpline
Spring, Texas USA Tue 12/05/2006
Christmas in Italy
I watched the Christmas special. The nativity at St. Peters in Rome was incredible. One thing in Italy I found very interesting was the game of round fruitcakes being thrown on tables; like shuffleboard. Merry Christmas!
Washington State, USA Sun 12/03/2006
Sledding, Christmas shopping in Switz
My second posting on the most fun I've EVER had in Europe_sledging in Switzerland. You rent these ancient rickety wooden sleds, take a train or bus several kilometers up a mountain, and then SLIDE down! Talk about a gas!!! In Zermatt, you buy a sledging pass and take the train that goes to the Gornergrat and get off one stop prior.Sleds are for rent (7 or 8 CHF) from a hut. You then sled down to the next stop-takes a 40ish lady with a 3 year-old in front of her 20 minutes, takes a 13 year old boy about 12', and the next train up is in 30'. There is a big snow-terrace and restaurant at the bottom, and you can go up and down all afternoon. I think the sled pass was 38 CHF, but we were there on a perfectly bright and sunny Valentine's Day, with the view of the MAtterhorn, and it was incredible. We also went in Grindelwald several times-you can actually do night sledding there- and in Arosa.If I could do anything I've done in Europe again, that would be the one best thing. Also, I very much enjoyed shopping the AFter Christmas ornament and textile sales at the big Swiss department stores-Manor and Globus especially. I aquired many unique and exquisite glass ornaments, and some beautiful table and bed linens. Manor also has THE BEST chocolate selection on the bottom floor-every kind and form imaginable.They also have a self-serve restaurant with excellent selection and prices(for Switzerland).
CAnandaigua, USA Tue 11/28/2006
We arrived in Frankfurt on Christmas day last year. The stores in the airport were open, as were the restaurants. Outside, most everything was closed, and the same on the 26th. Was difficult for us, as my luggage was lost, and it was very cold. But we had a great time anyway. The fares seem cheaper around then, too.
pacific grove, ca USA Tue 11/28/2006
Christmas in Paris
Last year my husband and I spent two weeks in Paris over the Christmas Holiday. We rented a 3 bed/2 bath apartment in the Oberkampf district with our son, daughter-in-law and 4 year old grandson joining us. It's a very inexpensive way to stay in Europe. 2 blocks away and twice weekly we tripped through a huge farmer's market buying chicken, the Christmas roast, cheeses, artisanal breads, organic produce AND our Christmas tree. Every morning we headed out to buy our pan chocolate, croissants, pan natural and The Herald Tribune to have with our freshly brewed French Roast. The Metro was just outside our apartment for zipping all over the city. Christmas Day was spent going to Notre-Dame (feeding the pigeons), walking the Seine, having lunch in a cozy cafe' in St. Germain (fabulous people watching) and visiting Shakespeare & Co. bookstore. Christmas Eve we walked the Champs-Elysees with it's boulevard sparkling with lights, ending at the Arc de Triomphe. Our 5 year old grandson loved the ornate ferris wheel and the ice skating rink set up in front of the Hotel de Ville. The Circ de Hiver (winter circus) was just around the corner from our apartment and was an absolute delight to ears and eyes. A must!! Lunch at The Clown Bar was a delicious treat . . . pig's cheeks in grainy mustard sauce, country pate', rich lentil soup washed down with a delicious Rhone Red. Very reasonably priced. The owner is quite the character and, of course, a former clown! This year we are spending Christmas in Barcelona!!
Napa, CA USA Mon 11/20/2006
I LOVE TO SPEND TIME WITH MY KIDS AND FAMILY ON THE CHRISTMAS DAY , WE GO OUT AND BUY TOYS FOR THE KIDS AND CLOTHES FOR THE ELDERS AND LUNCH OUT TOO . BUT SINCE I AM AN EXPORTERS OF INDIAN TEXTILES AND HANDICRAFTS/GIFTS ,THIS YEAR I WILL BE AT A CHRISTMAS MARKET IN EUROPE ,SO WILL MISS THEM ALL .
NEW DELHI , DELHI INDIA Sun 11/19/2006
Christmas in Munich
A few years ago, I spent Christmas in Munich. It was a wonderful experience, and probably one of my fondest Christmas memories. My friend I was traveling with and I arrived in Munich on Christmas Eve without a problem. We visited the wonderful Christmas market in Marienplatz. We then spent the holiday with German friends, so I can't speak to hotels and places being open on the holiday. Although we did walk around the city on Christmas Day and it was incredibly quiet. The weathr was quite cold, but living in Wisconsin my entire life, it wasn't much differnet from our winters. In any event, it was a remarkable experience spending a major holiday in another country. We saw a different side to Christmas and I think both us and the Germans took something away from the experience.
Milwaukee, WI USA Sun 11/19/2006
X-Mas in Europe Special
I watched Rick's x-mas special on PBS last night. The sights and sounds of Europe at x-mas were marvelous! I expecially enjoyed Germany!
Seattle, WA USA Sun 11/19/2006
Ireland at New Year's
Any tips on where to stay in Dublin or Shannon, Ireland? We are flying after Christmas and staying through the new year. Also, any pubs we should check out along the way?? Thanks!
FL USA Fri 11/17/2006
I would be a bit cautious about flying in on Christmas Day. In many parts of Europe, Christmas Day itself tends to a family day and most stores and restaurants will be closed. The same goes on New Year's Day and often the 2nd.
Before making plane reservations, I'd contact the local hotels/hostels to inquire about what will and won't be open. You may be limited as to choice, but should be OK in the larger cities.
Scotland Fri 11/17/2006
Christmas in Zermatt '06
My wife and I will be in Zermatt Switzerland over Christmas 2006. This will be our honeymoon. Primarily a snowboarding trip but would love to get some insight in regards to off-beat non-tourist activities if anyone has any.
San Francisco, CA USA Thu 11/16/2006
Flying into Paris Christmas Day
I think it is a great idea for you to fly in on Christmas Day!In smaller cities, I think the towns roll up the sidewalks in christmas. However, if you plan to stay in a large hotel, or even small one, I would just inquire about meals for that day with whatever hotel you are planning to stay at... Also, you can perhaps find a group to have dinner with that day. Example might be a church or other group. I joined a yahoo group of lesbians in London so I can meet some people there when I go. Good luck!
Seattle, WA USA Thu 11/16/2006
Landing on Christmas Day?
I have a week off between Christmas and New Years. I'm looking at Paris (or any other place that is in the same price point).
It looks like I can land on the 24th for $1200 or the 25th for $900. I am planning on staying at a hostel or inexpensive hotel. Am I asking for alot of trouble by landing on the 25th and trying to get to the hostel and then find some amenities for food, etc? Is it worth the extra $300 to land on a day when things might be open?
Also, any suggestions for destinations are greatly appreciated. I am 36, single male, haven't travelled beyond Canada and Mexico as an adult.
I just feel like getting out of the country for a week and Europe seems to be calling.
Seattle, Wa USA Wed 11/15/2006
Welcome Hotel Brussels
I just came back from a European vacation and very wisely stayed at the Wlecome Hotel...had a great time...the hotel was definately a highlight of our stay in Brussels...I highly recommend it...I wish we could have taken it with us to all the other places we visited.
Altadena, Califo USA Wed 11/15/2006
Amsterdam and Germany
Good to know Jessica! I have just heard it has not been "as cold" in those areas as some others. We get very cold winters here in Seattle as well! I still think my advice applies. I plan to bring very warm socks!
Seattle, WA USA Tue 11/14/2006
Christmas in Spain
Thanks Terry, it really does help to know that we'll be seeing at least a glance of the big celebrations. Can't wait. Thanks again.
USA Tue 11/14/2006
Madrid at Christmas
Judy, since no one anwered your question about when stores in Madrid start decorating for Xmas, I emailed my former foreign exchange student who lives in Madrid. Here is her response: "I am not sure of when Spanish stores start decorating. But it usually depends on every store. El Corte Inglés is one of the earliest because they do this huge decoration with huge toys and a lot of music. That decoration is in "la Puerta del Sol", the center of Madrid. I think around the last days of November they put all this light in the streets. People ussually decorated their houses on December...and we take it off after the 3 kings day." Hope this helps, Judy!
Bend, OR USA Mon 11/13/2006
St Martin's Day
In Germany and Austria, St Martin's day (November 11) is the beginning of the Carnival season and the Holiday season in general. We celebrated with a traditional meal of roast goose, red cabbage, and dumplings. In our neighborhood, it is also when the year's new wine is released. At the local wine tavern, there was a Priest from the parish church who blessed the new vintage. Really cool! Now I'm looking forward to 6 December when there is a parade in the neighborhood: St Nikolas will give candy to the good kids and Krampus (his monster sidekick) will chase the bad kids (and the pretty moms). I'll stand back and enjoy the show with my hands wrapped around a cup of hot spiced wine! Even though it gets dark at 4:00 and is bitterly cold, I love this time of year. Ho! Ho! Ho!
Vienna, Mon 11/13/2006
Germany/Amsterdam in winter
Being a Seattle native, i found Germany and Holland to be quite a bit colder than the PNW in winter. The ponds near the village i lived in (lived in central Germany for 3 years) froze sollid in the winter time. If you are going to be out at night at Christmas Markets, you will need a warm sweater, coat, hat and gloves. Wool socks are a must, too.
Victorville, CA USA Mon 11/13/2006
Hi Elizabeth, appreciated your comments about the weather in Amsterdam/Germany. The appropriate attire for this time of year is a challenge while not taking too much to haul around. Really looking forward to the PBS European Christmas special coming up next Saturday. Should be very informative. Sharon
Seattle, WA USA Mon 11/13/2006
spain's christmas season
after changing my travel dates a couple of times because of the price, i finally booked 2 tickets to madrid from miami including a 4 night stay at a very central and nice hotel for $1500 through expedia. we're leaving 11/28 comming back on 12/3 but i was wondering when do they start lighting up the city for christmas. is it like in the states from late november or am i going to miss the whole thing. please help. thanks.
USA Wed 11/08/2006
Cold in Germany? Amsterdam?
While we have not gone, yet (See our post below, the first in this year's forum) my understanding is that Germany and the Netherlands are very much like Seattle in the Winter...that is a very temperate climate. In western Washtingon State it very rarely snows, is wet, and not insanely cold. This is a generalization, and all bets are off! I have heard that the canals used to freeze in Amsterdam, and you could skate from town to town...but due to global warming, that has not happened for 10 years! In Seattle, we dress in layers. My suggestion is to bring a moderate coat, and long underwear and sweaters/sweatshirts! I also have bought a coat, just for this trip, that has an inner coat. Both the outside and inside coat can be worn by themselves, or zipped together and worn together. Good Luck!
Seattle, WA USA Tue 11/07/2006
How to pack for Rhine river cruise?
My husband and I will taking a crusie down the Rhine starting November 27th. Last year we went down the Danuble but left a bit later in December..it was FREEZING the whole time...this year we have better prepaired so we will be warm however I have been looking at the cities we are going to and most are sitting in the mid 50's during the day. Is it warmer in that region of the country or should we expect freezing cold like last year? We are going to Basel Switzerland, Kaiserberg and Strasbourg in France, Cologne, Heidelberg, Baden Baden and ending up in Amsterdam. I don't wanna pack my giant coat if I don't have to
Denver, CO USA Tue 11/07/2006
Visiting Europe at Christmas
My husband and I will be leaving November 27 to Copenhagen, then going out from there to see Austria, the Southern part of Germany, working our way back up through north of Amsterdam - know folks who have lived there and making recommendations to see the quaint Danish villages nearby. Our biggest challenge seems to be the most economical and quickest way(perhaps air or fast train) to major cities and then rent a car to surrounding areas we are interested in. We need to finalize our plans soon. In reading up on Europe, this time of year sounds like an awesome time to go.
Renton, WA USA Tue 11/07/2006
Christmas in Southern Europe
My family and I went to Italy and Greece for Christmas and New Year's last year and it was fantastic. We went to the Vatican for the Pope's blessing on Christmas day, and toured around a somewhat rainy Rome for a few days, although it was still very enjoyable. We also went over to Greece for New Year's and it was beautiful- about 70 degrees! It's a nice time to visit; I recommend it over the intense heat of the summer! Enjoy Christmas there!
Overland Park, KS USA Sun 11/05/2006
Our Christmas European Adventure
We (My partner Sherry and I) are going to Europe for CHristmas this December 2006. This will also be our first time in Europe at all! I am really very excited about our whole adventure. Planning it has been just as fun as going will be! Our intinerary is as follows:
Fly into Heathrow, London on December 14. Check into the Ed Lear Hotel at the Marble Arch, and stay for 4 nights. We have tickets for Les Miserables one night. We also want to visit the Old Bailey. (I am a law student.) we take the Eurostar Chunnel to Calais, pick up our rental car and drive to Amsterdam that Monday morning (the 18th.) We stay on a houseboat Achtegracht called the Friendship B&B. It is on a dead end canal. We stay for 3 nights, then drive to St. Goar, Germany for 2 nights with the Kurtz family. We drive, then, to Rothenburg for 3 nights, including Chrsitmas Eve and day. We are staying at the Pension Elke Rothenburg...the proprietor speaks no English, so I am looking forward to stretching my Deutsch legs a bit. Then we go to Baden-Baden and stay with the Peter Family at the Deutscher Kaiser for one night, just so we can go to the baths! This the day after Christmas. The next day we drive to Paris, drop off our car at Montparnasse, and stay at the Mercure in South Paris. Then we fly home on the 30th. We are very excited about this trip, and found a rental car from Auto-Europe for $250, by picking up and dropping off in France!
Seattle, WA USA Wed 11/01/2006
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