A trip to Europe often sounds costly especially during peak season such as Christmas, but it doesn’t have to be! All you need are some research and planning, and this list will help you to pick the right city in Europe without hurting your wallet.
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Birmingham and Manchester, UK – Where Christmas markets seem to last forever
Only an hour train ride away from England’s capital is their second largest city, Birmingham. Stretching several streets, it is home to the largest Christmas market outside of Germany — you should definitely check it out when you’re in the UK. Birmingham seems to do everything huge. Their main shopping mall, named Bullring, is one of the biggest around. It is in the heart of the shopping district and one you should explore before sundown.
Something else that is pretty huge is … their hot dogs!
The other city worth checking out is Manchester. Although its Christmas market isn’t as expansive as that of Birmingham, it is spread across different pockets in the town so that you can conquer different types of Christmas markets in one city! It sure has a more homely feel amidst the Mancunian winter!
What’s a trip to Manchester without a sighting or tour of Old Trafford! Home to one of the biggest football clubs in the world, Manchester United, you might even consider catching an English Premier League match during your visit! The Christmas (and New Year) period is a traditionally hectic period for football clubs, with many games will be played in December. Book your tickets online in advance to get the best price!
Munich and Bayern, Germany – Visit a real-life fairytale
A fairytale Christmas destination for anyone travelling in Europe has to be the city of Munich in the heart of Bavaria. The birthplace of all Christmas markets, a vibrant and delightful festive market awaits in the weeks leading up to Christmas Eve. With a massive Christmas tree lighted by some 2,500 small lights erected by local firemen, the centrepiece of Munich’s Christmas market is there for all to see!
Even if you’re not keen on the bustling crowds that await at Christmas markets, Germany is still a must-visit place during Christmas. Germany is relatively cheaper compared to other Western European countries.
Visit Bayern for a different Christmas experience! Some 120 km southwest of Munich is Neuschwanstein Castle, which inspired the Sleeping Beauty castle in Disneyland. After you’ve made the 2-hour train journey and 30-minute bus ride to the castle, you will be greeted by the beautiful castle covered in white snow. What a fantastic sight to behold!
Visiting Europe on a budget can be rather tricky, but it is absolutely doable by saving up on your accommodation. Set up your base camp at the very affordable Euro Youth Hotel close to the centre of Munich. A hotel in name, it is more of a hostel and comes with one free beer per stay and a small spread of buffet breakfast daily. The occupants are generally sociable, and most of them will have a drink together in the bar area in the evening. Rest assured, the hostel is quiet at night as everyone when you retire to your room or bed at night.
Porto, Portugal – Affordable treats for a romantic trip
Porto is possibly the cheapest Western European city to travel to during Christmas, but that doesn’t mean their attractions are anything less than bigger cities. There are many free arts performances in Porto for both residents and tourists to enjoy! From a night ballet performance in front of Porto’s Christmas tree to jazz shows on Saturdays, Porto is perfect for you who appreciate arts and music. Looking for some activities with your loved ones? Bring them to ice-skate at Porto’s natural ice rings at Rotunda da Boavista. Besides the ice rink, there are carousels, small games and 5D-cinema in the square. Porto gives you several smaller markets across the city for you to explore, but this means you will get to explore every corner of Porto.
Photo Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 / Josep Renalias
Porto is also the place for couples (on a budget) looking for a romantic Christmas. There are many restaurants flanking the Duoro River to choose from. Order a bottle of Porto wine and cheese and enjoy the night light along the river. Have a sweet tooth? Check out the Nutella cafe or grab a scoop of gelato at Cremosi.
Prague, Czech Republic – Drink your way through the festive period
Prague is known for cheap and good beer, with their most famous probably being the Pilsner Urquell. For a few euros, you can look forward to a hearty main, with a signature side of potato dumplings, and a Pilsner to down it all. Stroll through the Christmas markets at the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square during a chilly autumn night to get the warm fuzzy Christmas feeling!
Prague is also famous for its astronomical clock mounted at the Old Town Hall. As the name suggests, the clock shows the position of the moon, the sun, the medieval time and the standard time. Statues of the Twelve Apostles will move as the hour changes. It is indeed a show by itself!
While you are here, you have to visit the magnificent Prague Castle, the largest coherent castle in the world. It has its very own Christmas market in front of St. George’s Basilica.
Budapest, Hungary – Thermal baths which warm your heart
An affordable yet comfortable 7-hour bus ride away from Prague, via Bratislava, is Hungary’s capital city Budapest. Aside from taking a tour of the elaborate Buda Castle on the Buda side of the Danube River, you must visit their Christmas Fair right in front of St. Stephen’s Basilica.
Rest your aching limbs at the Szechenyi Baths that has two large open-air thermal pools (be careful because they’re really hot!). While the walk from the indoor changing rooms to the thermal pools can be intimidatingly cold, it’s going to be worthwhile once you get yourself in hot water. If you prefer staying inside, there are over a dozen smaller indoor pools of varying temperature — choose the temperature that suits you the most!
Going on a trip to Europe during Christmas doesn’t have to break the bank! Save some bucks by opting for a cheaper accommodation and avoid fancy restaurants most of the time. Going there in big groups can help you save cost especially when if you decide to rent a car together. Time to make your Christmas trip to Europe come true!