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A Guide to Krakow, Poland

*Covid-19 edit: this guide is purely for bookmarking purposes, please stay home as we help to Flatten the Curve*

Krakow is definitely one of the most amazing European cities that I’ve visited. This was my first time visiting Poland, and what an introduction it was. Krakow remains a perfect blend of the old and the modern with its fascinating history, sprawling metropolis, charming neighborhoods and world class cuisine, Krakow is truly a treasure.

With three days in Krakow, there’s plenty of time to explore the UNESCO World Heritage–listed Old Town, visit the city’s top museums, and see more of Poland’s historic sites and natural wonders. Here are some ideas on how to spend 72 wonderful hours in and around Krakow

Krakow Old Town

Start your city exploration in the Krakow Old Town – a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978. Follow our outline for a self-guided Krakow walking tour or join one of the Krakow sightseeing tours

Main Market Square

A stroll down Ulica Florianska (St. Florian’s Street) leads directly into the Krakow Main Market Square – one of the largest medieval squares in all of Europe. On the square are some of the city’s most historic sights. Link to Google Maps for sights on the Main Square.

 

St. Mary’s Basilica

Rising above the Main Market Square are the mis-matched towers of St. Mary’s Basilica.

Note: a ticket is required to climb the tower – and only a few people are allowed to climb it per hour – so purchase in advance if going to the top is on your list of Krakow things to do.

A ticket is also needed to enter the church to take photos. If you would simply like to enter to pray – and take a look around from the back of the church, you can enter through the door facing the square.

Town Hall Tower

The 230-foot-tall Town Hall Tower is all that remains of the Krakow Town Hall (the rest of the building was torn down in 1820), but an interesting fact about the tower is that it leans slightly, hence its nickname, “The Leaning Tower of Krakow.”

Another fun fact is that the basement of the tower was once a prison and torture chamber!

Krakow Cloth Hall

At the center of the square is the iconic Krakow Cloth Hall – a long, covered hall lined with vendors that dates to the 1300s. Goods, like spices and wax, were brought from the east and exchanged for local products, like textiles and salt from the mine.

Today, the shops sell traditional souvenirs such as Amber jewelry from the Baltic’s, lavender, handmade soaps, magnets etc. to passerby’s and tourists.

Rynek Underground

Below the Cloth Hall is the Rynek Underground – a fascinating museum detailing the history of the market and lengthy history of the city of Krakow. Opened in 2010, the museum incorporates the original excavated merchant stalls into hi-tech displays. Tip: Admission is free on Tuesdays.

Wawel Castle

 

Visiting the castle at the top of Wawel Hill tops the list of things to do in Krakow!

There is evidence of a castle on the hill dating to the 11th century. The castle was expanded and destroyed several times throughout history, resulting in an interesting blend of architectural styles. Today, the castle is a UNESCO Heritage Site and a museum.

Entrance to the grounds is free, but tickets are required to visit certain exhibits such as: The State Rooms, Royal Private Apartments, Crown Treasury, The Lost Wawel (I saw this room and it was VERY cool), Oriental Art, and The Dragon’s Den.

The Cathedral is free to visit, however, tickets are required for the underground tombs, the Bell Tower and Cathedral Museum.

Grab a Beer

Get a taste of Krakow’s buzzing craft beer scene at one of the many multitaps. Some popular suggestions for craft beer in Krakow’s Old Town:

Multi Qlti Tap, Viva La Pinta, House of Beer, Wielochmiel and Relaks Craft.

Interested in trying Polish vodka? You can get that at the craft beer bars, too! It’s cheap and pungent and is best used for its original purpose – to stay warm in the freezing winter months!

Jewish Quarter

Plac Nowy

Sometimes referred to as the Jewish Square, Plac Nowy is the market square in Kazimierz in the center of the Jewish quarter. Although it is slightly run down and fairly small for a market square, it remains very popular.

Market vendors line the outskirts of the square and sell their goods every morning at the market.

The building in the center of the square was originally used as a chicken slaughterhouse. Today it has a number windows from which vendors sell the traditional Polish snack, zapiekanka (a pizza baguette.)

Each vendor offers their own unique combination of toppings – and they are all cheap and filling, making for a great snack or dinner-on-the-go.

Wieliczka Salt Mine

The Wieliczka Salt Mine dates to the 13th century and was continuously used to mine table salt until 2007. Today, visiting the mine is one of the most popular Krakow day trips. There are a number of guided tours (in several languages), as well as a health spa.

The Tourist Route takes visitors down 800 steps into the mine and traverses multiple corridors that tell the history of the mine. Throughout the mine there are statues of Poland’s most famous residents – all made of rock salt – as well as four chapels.

The most impressive chapel, St. Kinga’s Chapel, is a cavernous space complete with bible stories carved along the walls – and an altar and chandeliers… all made of rock salt. Visiting the Wieliczka Salt Mine is one of the top things to do in Krakow, Poland.

Lake Zakrzowek

Spend an afternoon at Zakrzowek; an old stone quarry which was closed and filled with water. Zakrzowek offers a turquoise oasis almost right in the city center. It’s truly only about a 5-10 minute drive from the Jewish quarter, but you feel like you’re in the countryside once you get to the lake.

There are paths around the lake and hiking trails in a nearby park. You can even take scuba diving lessons here as the water is 30 meters deep and the school has permission for diving.

See a Live Jazz Show

I had the pleasure of seeing a jazz show on my birthday in Krakow! It was such a special, memorable experience. After traveling for such a long time, it had been a hot minute since I’d seen a jazz show, and it was so worth it.

Steps from the Old Town Square, underground you’ll find Harris Piano Jazz Bar. It is a truly lovely atmosphere in this underground cozy cellar. You can purchase food, snacks, drinks, or just hang out by candle light until the music starts.

Where to Eat

There are a TON of restaurants to choose from in Krakow of all different types of cuisine. I typically ate breakfast in the Jewish quarter every morning, as I loved wandering around the (less crowded) streets and having a bit of peace to start the day.

These 3 cafes boast traditional Jewish breakfast food, typical American style breakfasts, delicious tea and coffee, and let’s not forget croissants, pancakes, and crepes.

 

BreakfastHevre, Urban Coffee, Le Scandale

For lunch every day, I found myself in the Old Town as I was in between sight-seeing. I found one of these restaurant, Chimera, on Trip Advisor, and I can honestly say I don’t think I would have found it otherwise. It looks like a tiny diner from the outside.

Upstairs is a buffet-style serve yourself lunch. Downstairs is an actual cave that as you enter you feel like you’re stepping into a different world. They serve Polish/French cuisine, homemade soup, bread, and delicious local wine and beer. Such a fun way to break up your afternoon.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, Sissi is a cute outdoor patio tucked away from the Main Street. They serve fresh salads, charcuterie, cocktails, and local fish and other meat dishes.

LunchKolanko No 6, Chimera, Sissi

Dinner is always a hard meal for me if I only have 3 nights in a city. Trezo was the first dinner we had in Krakow and it did NOT disappoint.

Similar to Chimera with the style of food, but in a much more modern, upscale restaurant in the Jewish Quarter. There was live music and a lovely atmosphere to enjoy our first meal in Krakow.

For a more casual dinner, Hamsa served traditional Israeli cuisine – hummus, fresh pita, kebabs, you name it. It was all delicious.

DinnerTrezo, Ristorante Sant’Antico, Hamsa Mediterranean

Overall Krakow was such an amazing introduction to Eastern Europe – a part of the world I had never been to before! I hope that these suggestions and ideas will inspire you to arrange your own trip to Poland!

Europe Photography

A Photography Lover’s Guide to Zagreb, Croatia 

Have you ever visited a place that took you by surprise? We didn’t expect Zagreb to be so beautiful and photogenic, so we were totally blown away by the amazing photo spots we’ve discovered in Croatia’s capital city. Although Croatia is a very popular destination, most people opt to visit the Dalmatian coast instead of Zagreb. However, Zagreb is totally worth a visit, especially if you like photography. You might not find Instagrammable beaches or stunning waterfalls, but Zagreb offers so many attractions for history, culture and photography lovers. During our Zagreb weekend, we walked all over the old town and new town and put together this photo guide to highlight the best photo spots in Zagreb, Croatia. 

 Zagreb Cathedral  

There is no better place to start this photography guide than with a picture of Zagreb Cathedral (also known as the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary). The magnificent towers, golden statues and Neo-Gothic style are breathtaking. Don’t forget to have a look inside because the ornamented columns and interior of the church are quite impressive as well. 

St. Mark’s Church and Square 

St. Mark’s Church is another very famous landmark of Zagreb. This ancient church was renovated in Neo-Gothic style during the 19th century, and during that time, the unique and colorful roof tiles were added to the church. It’s definitely one of the best photo spots in Zagreb, and many times you’ll find here a beautiful bride posing against the backdrop of this unique church. 

Panoramic Viewpoint of Zagreb 

Just above Strossmayerovo šetalište (behind St Catherine’s Church), you’ll find a magnificent viewpoint that overlooks the whole area of Kaptol, where Zagreb market and the beautiful Zagreb cathedral are located. Admire the view, sit on one of the benches, add your own love lock to the fence and look for the famous mural, the Whale by Etien. 

Gradec Plateau and Strossmayer Promenade 

Just below the panoramic viewpoint, you’ll find a unique collection of street art. If you continue walking, you’ll get to the lovely Strossmayer Promenade. This is one of the most famous photo spots in Zagreb. Other than the decorated frames where you’ll be able to pose for an Instagram shot, there are also great viewpoints and artistic statues along the promenade.

Lotrščak Tower 

Lotrščak Tower is located in the middle of Strossmayer Promenade, and has an important historical significance. Every day at noona cannon is fired from its upper deck. You can either climb to the top of the tower to admire the view of Zagreb’s new town or just take a picture of the unique-looking tower from the promenade.  

Zagreb Green Horseshoe

After you’ve visited some of the best photo spots in Zagreb’s old town, it’s time to walk along Lenuci Horseshoe or Zagreb Green Horseshoe and photograph some of the beautiful parks, fountains and buildings along the way. Some of the photography spots worth mentioning are Park Zrinjevac, the Art Pavilion and Kralja Tomislav. 

The Croatian National Theatre 

One of the most impressive buildings along Zagreb Green Horseshoe is located in the Republic of Croatia Square. The theatre’s bright yellow color and Neo-Baroque style are remarkable, especially when photographed from a bit further away, so you also capture the groomed gardens around it.  

Antuna MihanovićaFrankopanska and Ilica Streets 

If you want to capture a photogenic picture of Zagreb’s trams against beautiful buildings, you’ll find many opportunities to take your shot while walking along these streets. 

Tkalčićeva Street 

Tkalčićeva Street is a great place to visit during the day or nighttime. This pedestrian street has numerous cafes, bars and artistic displays. It is always busy, day or night, and you can get great shots here every hour of the day.  

Zagreb 360° 

We don’t know about you, but we love drone shots. Although you are not allowed to fly a drone in Zagreb, the next best thing you can do is climb up to the Zagreb 360° viewing platform. This fabulous observation deck is located at Ilica 1a and from there you can get a bird’s eye view of Zagreb. After you get your money shot, you can order a drink and relax at the bar. 

There are many more sights and attractions to explore in Zagreb, but these ten spots were our favorite photography spots in the city. If you are planning a trip to Croatia, consider including a visit to the photogenic capital city in your itinerary! 

 

Europe Guides

The Ultimate Guide to Ljubljana, Slovenia

Warning, within five minutes of stepping into Ljubljana’s historic city center, you will be completely under its charm. Its colorful, Baroque buildings radiating from the Ljubljanica River create a picturesque, fairytale city that whisks you to another time. And it’s that time machine feel that is the main attraction of Ljubljana.

A city of dragons, Ljubljana is said to be founded by Jason (of golden fleece fame), who came upon a dragon in a nearby lake and slaughtered it. Since then, the dragon has been intricately linked to the city. Now, the dragon stands as a proud protector of the city and its people. You’re never far from a dragon when exploring Ljubljana. A fun game to play is seeing how many dragons you can find.

As Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana is a city that’s safe to walk around. And Slovenians are very friendly people. Named the European Green Capital in 2016, Ljubljana is ahead of many European cities in its sustainability initiatives. It’s easy to find recycle receptacles in town. Don’t forget to bring your reusable water bottle to Ljubljana. There are drinking fountains throughout, too and that water tastes good! Though vehicle traffic has been greatly limited within the historic city center, you still need to watch out as many locals bike to work.

Top Sights in Ljubljana

One of the most wonderful things about Ljubljana is that you don’t need a map to get around. It’s compact that just by strolling around, you will find all the major attractions. The city is so inviting, that you’ll find yourself wondering down every street anyways. So, enjoy the thrill of stumbling upon something rather than planning the day. Here are some of the highlights of Ljubljana that you can look forward to experiencing.

Ljubljana Castle

One sight you can’t miss is Ljubljana Castle. It stands above the historic city center, a symbol of Ljubljana. This medieval fortress goes back to the 11th century, when it was the main defense of the city. Now it’s a museum showcasing Ljubljana through the ages as well as history of the castle.

There are two ways to get to the castle, walking or taking the funicular. If walking, there are several trails up the hill. They do get a little steep, but in less than 10 minutes you’ll be enjoying the views from the top. You can also take the funicular up for an additional cost to the admission to the castle. The ride is less than two minutes.

Prešeren Square

 

The heart of the city center is Prešeren Square. Its star attractions are the Baroque Church of the Anunciation (also known as the Pink Church) and the Triple Bridge. You can sum up the character and beauty of Ljubljana in this one square. It gets crowded as the day progresses.

Town Hall

This stunning building originates from the 15th century. The best way to see the inside of the Town Hall is via a free guided tour that must be booked in advance at the Ljubljana Tourist Center (just opposite the Triple Bridge).

In front stands the Robba Fountain, which is reminiscent of the Four Rivers Fountain in Rome. But for this fountain, it’s three men pouring water from jugs, each representing a river of the region.

Dragon Bridge

Flanked by four dragons, it’s easy to see how Dragon Bridge got its name.These dragons are synonymous with Ljubljana, making it the city’s most iconic site. This delicate bridge was built in the early 1900s.

Central Market

Every European city has at least one good market and Central Market in Ljubljana cannot be missed. It sprawls between several buildings and a square. On the weekends, the square is full of pop up stands offering freshly made food from every region in the world. The building lining the river features small cafes and souvenir stands. The lower level of the building opposite has fresh meats and dried nuts and fruits vendors. If you’re looking for some fresh food to take on a day trip, this is the place to be.

Another market is found near St. Nicholas’ Church. This market features some of the most beautiful and massive looking fruits and vegetables. The smell from the fresh produce overloads your senses and may make your mouth water.

St. Nicholas’s Church

Squeezed into the heart of the city, St. Nicholas’s Church (also known as Ljubljana Cathedral), with its burnt yellow towers, cannot be missed. A church has stood on this sight since the 13th century. Though the church is small, it’s still worth a visit inside to see the Baroque architecture.

Congress Square

Another popular meeting space is Congress Square. Surrounded by stunning buildings including the Ursuline Church of the Holy Trinity and the Slovenian Philharmonic (one of my favorite buildings), the square also features a small park. You can also see fragments of the ruins of a monastery that once stood on the site.

Not-to-Miss Buildings

As I said, Ljubljana oozes incredible buildings. Some are complete works of art. Popular buildings to admire are the Parliament Building, with its sculptured entrance located across the Republic Square, and the exterior of the National University Library. A special shout out goes to the Art Nouveau buildings on Miklošičeva cesta near the Pink Church.

Ljubljana Sculptures

All around Ljubljana, with most close to the river, are bronze sculptures. Honestly, they are a bit weird, but they do make you pause and have a think. Most of these sculptures are the creative work of Jakov Brdar, a Slovenian sculpture. While wandering around town, keep a look out. Some are quite small and others are tucked in alleys.

Tivoli City Park

Less than a 10-minute stroll from the river is the sprawling and lovely Tivoli City Park, the largest park in Ljubljana. You can spend hours exploring this beautiful green space. Inside the park, you will also find the Tivoli Castle (a mansion), the Cekin Mansion which houses the Museum of Contemporary History of Slovenia, a large pond, rose garden, and countless sculptures.

Metelkova Mesto

After the classic beauty of the city center, Metelkova Mesto may be a shock. Full of graffiti and street art, this offbeat haven is a must visit. Walking around in daylight, you can appreciate all the different art (and some of it is truly stunning). In the evening, it’s a hopping joint. It may not be for everyone, but it’s still a place that should be seen.

Take Time to Just Walk Around Ljubljana

The best way to truly appreciate Ljubljana is walking around town. As the historical center is compact, you can cover a lot of ground quickly. However, you don’t end up covering much ground because every building begs inspection. Each new curve in the river provides a different perspective that must be admired.

Strolling along the cobblestone streets, you can appreciate the atmosphere of the city. There are tons of unique and quirky shops that are fun to either window shop or browse. It’s something you don’t expect from a town that feels of the past, but it’s just another reminder of how modern the city is too.

Don’t forget to take in the different view points of the river and city from the many bridges. Not only is each view different, but each bridge is unique too.

Where to Eat in Ljubljana

There are countless cafes and restaurant options in Ljubljana. Many of them are found along the river banks providing you with lovely views as a backdrop to your meal. Price ranges vary. My personal favorite was Ljubljanski Dvor, right on the banks of the river near the university. They have an extensive selection of handmade pizza and it is delicious! Even better, it’s one of the cheapest meals you’ll have (the small pizza is still pretty big, so come with an appetite). Next door, dessert awaits at the Romantika Gelateria. And who doesn’t love gelato?

If your lodging comes with a kitchen, there’s a small, but good grocery store located next to the Intercontinental Hotel near the train/bus station.

Day Trips from Ljubljana

Ljubljana makes for the perfect base for exploring other destinations in Slovenia. If you don’t want to do a road trip of your own, Slovenia has a great bus system that takes you to much of the highlights of the country. The fairytale beauty of Lake Bled is only a 1.5 hour bus ride away with Lake Bohinj just 20 minutes past Lake Bled. Both are fantastic day trips from Ljubljana.

You can also visit one or more of the many caves around Slovenia. My personal favorite is the Škocjan Caves with its other worldly Murmuring Water Cave. There are also the popular Postojna Caves, and in summer Predjama Castle, which is built into the mouth of a cave. Taking a break from nature, there’s the popular seaside city of Piran with its Italian influence.

If you do take the bus, regardless if you’re purchasing the ticket at the ticket booth at the bus station or on board the bus, tickets are cash only.

Getting to Ljubljana

If you’re already in Europe, the easiest way to Ljubljana is via bus or train. The train and bus stations (right next to each other) are an easy walking distance to the center of town (roughly 15 minutes to the Pink Church). So, you can either walk to your accommodation or take a short taxi ride.

If arriving by plane, the Joze Pucnik Airport is 25km from Ljubljana. There is a bus service to the city center that runs every hour. Or, a taxi will run you about €35.

Ljubljana completely took me by surprise in the best possible way. It’s now one of my favorite cities in Europe, and one I cannot wait to go back and visit. Give yourself one to two days to leisurely explore the city because once you’re under its charm, you won’t want to leave.

 

Europe Outdoors

5 Winter Hotspots in Switzerland

A trip to Switzerland in winter is an incredible experience from spectacular alpine views to Christmas markets and fondue feasts. Explore the enchanting Old Towns and experience the Swiss train journeys that run through a winter wonderland from city to city. The soaring peaks of the Alps offer world-class skiing and other thrilling winter sports. Plan your itinerary around these five winter hotspots in Switzerland.

1. Zurich

Although much of the Zurich’s ancient Old Town has been lovingly preserved to resonate with pre-medieval history, the city embraces the contemporary with cultural centres in converted old factories and a riveting nightlife. Plan your trip to coincide with all the wonderful Christmas markets around the city open during the Advent period. Stroll the stalls and enjoy mulled wine with all the excited shoppers. Don a pair of skates and hit the ice on a temporary skating rink set up in the middle of the market or leave the city for authentic ice skating on a frozen natural lake. A ride on the Fondue Tram is a must-do. The tram leaves Bellevue and zips past the city’s most scenic sights while you’re served a savory cheese fondue and desserts.

2. Zermatt

The quaint mountain town of Zermatt is a popular ski resort in winter. Sitting at an elevation of around 1600 kilometers, the town is within view of the famed pyramid-shaped Matterhorn peak. Hotels, restaurants, and fashionable boutiques line the main street for a vibrant après-ski scene. The winter season brings the opening of public ice skating rinks in a car-free destination, and snowboarders and freestylers practice at Snowpark Zermatt aside hopeful Olympians. Skiiers can hone their skills on around 360 meters of pistes and make a possible crossover into some of Northern Italy’s ski regions from the Matterhorn glacier’s Theodul Pass.

3. Lucerne

The cozy and compact city of Lucerne is situated on the magnificent Lake Lucerne and surrounded by towering snow-capped peaks including Mount Titlis and Mount Pilatus. The River Reuss winds through the colorful façades of Old Town where you can have hot chocolate or mulled wine in a picture-postcard setting at a riverside café. The 14th-century Chapel Bridge crosses the River Reuss diagonally at the Water Tower to the north bank where you’ll find accommodations and restaurants. Visit the south bank to marvel at the Jesuit Church of Saint Francis Xavier with its iconic twin onion domes and marble stucco interior.

4. St Moritz

For a winter getaway filled with luxury, place the alpine village of St. Moritz at the top of your winter hotspot list. Located in the stunning Engadin Valley, the town has twice hosted the Winter Olympics with its famed bobsled run of all-natural ice and Olympic outdoor skating rink. For the unusual, you’ll want to experience White Turf horse racing, cricket, and polo on the frozen lakes. The areas of Corviglia, Diavolezza, and Corvatsch are the scene of pristine cross country ski trails. The après-ski lifestyle here is quite glamorous, so don’t be surprised to see a celebrity or two in town.

5. Swiss Mountains

Winter sports and the Swiss Mountains are practically inseparable and include an array of thrilling activities including skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing, ski gliding, snowshoeing, and more. Tourists and winter sports enthusiasts cram the resorts throughout the season for fun in a picture-perfect setting surrounded by the Alps. You’ll find a variety of resorts from cozy and affordable to posh and pricey. Some of the most popular are in St. Moritz, Zermatt, Davos, and Verbier. The resorts provide great facilities like cable cars and chair lifts. And if you’re new to skiing, no worries, you’ll find several ski schools throughout Switzerland.

Advice Europe Insider Tips

5 European Christmas Markets to Visit for Maximum Holiday Cheer

One of my favorite travel experiences is finding those traditional wooden huts that seemingly pop up out of nowhere in December and fill a city with holiday cheer.  Starting and ending my days at the Christmas markets promises the ultimate holiday cheer. The Christmas lights come on, music fills the air, and the smell of delicious treats lead you through the market. Despite cold temperatures, the Gemütlichkeit will keep you warm when visiting these 5 European Christmas markets.

Nuremberg, Germany 

For more than 700 years, Nuremberg has been the destination for Christmas markets.  It is the first market I visited and it’s first on my list for both of these reasons.  There’s a reason why famous places are, in fact, famous. Steeped in tradition, the Nuremberg Christmas market is opened by the Christkind, a local woman who is elected to serve the community for two years.  In addition to local specialties (my favorite is the Nuremberg sausage) and gifts, Nuremberg offers a unique opportunity to experience Christmas around the world through a smaller sister cities market with international offerings.  To warm up, you can take a class to learn how to make your own gingerbread.  

Bonus: If you can’t make it to Nuremberg this year, there are numerous sister city Christmas markets held all over the world.  

Salzburg, Austria 

Salzburg feels postcard perfect at any time of the year, but it really shines at Christmas time.  With Christmas markets on both sides of the Salzach River and flanking the castles and palaces, every Salzburg site will be dressed in holiday cheer.  From schnapps to handblown ornaments, from aromatic bath salts to soaps, from spices to flavored vinegars, you’re sure to find something for everyone on your Christmas list in Salzburg.  Whether you are standing in Residenzplatz or standing on the edge of Hohensalzburg Fortress, you can hear music celebrating the season from every corner of Salzburg.         

Bonus: Head to the chapel where Silent Night was first performed for a special performance on Christmas Eve.  

Prague, Czech Republic

With a towering Christmas tree, continuous musical performances, and the perfect medieval backdrop, it feels like Old Town Square was made to host the world’s Christmas party.  With stalls providing kielbasa, various types of potatoes, fresh trdelnik, and Pilsner to wash it down, the Prague Christmas market is my favorite meal in Prague. The Prague Christmas market is the perfect place to pick up more Christmas décor.  Smaller but equally magical Christmas markets can be found below the Charles Bridge in Mala Strana and at Prague Castle, for the ultimate fairytale experience.  

Bonus: Escape the crowds and see the Christmas market from above by taking the elevator to the top of the Astronomical Tower at Old City Hall.  

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany

Whether you make it to Rothenburg ob der Tauber for the Christmas markets or not, between Käthe Wohlfahrt and the Christmas museum, this medieval village can feel like Christmas all year round.  The entire town seems to celebrate the advent season with daily concerts, presentations by local bakers and chocolate makers, and various tours through the city and its landmarks.  Day trippers fill the cobblestoned streets throughout the day, so I recommended booking at least a night or two in Rothenburg ob der Tauber.  You’ll have the locals and the Christmas markets all to yourselves in the evenings.  

Bonus: Take advantage of the area’s wine tasting and send a few bottles home.  You can find beautiful wine glasses at the Christmas market to finish off the perfect Christmas gift.     

Montepulciano, Italy

We didn’t expect to find a Christmas market in Tuscany, but a late lunch reservation forced us to wander the hilly streets of Montepulciano.  As we emerged onto the Piazza Grande, Feliz Navidad blasted through the air.  Hosting a nativity scene, Santa’s workshop, and an ice rink, Montepulciano’s Christmas village is perfect for and everyone. A stroll up to the fortress reveals a Christmas food fair with plenty of vendors, tables, and places to play.  With local meats, cheeses, and plenty of handmade gifts, the Montepulciano Christmas market is a delicious stop on any Italian itinerary.      

Bonus: This market stays open until the Epiphany on January 6, so you can start in the north and make your way south for more holiday cheer after Christmas.


Feeling festive? You can also check out our favorite holiday posts here!

 

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