Summer In Europe: Top 10 Best Places For A Fabulous Vacation

Summer In Europe: Top 10 Best Places For A Fabulous Vacation

While planning for holidays during summer in Europe, most of the travelers prefer picking the famous spots rather than exploring the offbeat ones. In this way, many of the breathtaking destinations in Europe that offer unspoilt environs for perfect summer holidays are left unnoticed.

Hence, we’ve collated a list to bring some of the best offbeat destinations to your attention. Rest assured, these escapades will not only make your European summer holidays fun, but also fabulous.

10. Crete, Greece – Fill Your Life With Colours Of Crete

Home to some of the most relaxing and crystal clear beaches with emerald green waters, Crete is one of the most offbeat and best choices for a summer trip to Europe. Home to the gorgeous pink sand beaches, traditional villages, massive canyons, and much more, Crete is ought to be on the bucket list of every traveler.

Crete, Greece

 

Must Experience: Explore the ruins of the Palace of Knossos

Best Time To Visit: April to mid-October
Places To Visit: Samariá Gorge, Knossos, Elafonisi Island, Balos Beach, Spinalonga, and more.
Things To Do: Hiking at Samariá Gorge, caving at Psychro cave, swimming at Vai beach, shopping in local Agora, and more.

9. Porto, Portugal – This is Where You Find Solace

Located in the northwest Portugal, the coastal gem of Porto is one of the must see places in Europe in summer. Being the second largest city in Portugal, Porto is one city which is world-renowned for its port wine and enjoys the credit of having inspired the country to coin its name, Portugal. From beaches and the colorful building to its rich history, Porto is indeed a magical city with a buzzing nightlife.

Porto, Portugal

 

Must Experience: Take a ride over the double-decker bridge of Dom Luís I Bridge

Best Time To Visit: April to September
Places To Visit: Palácio da Bolsa, Church of São Francisco, Livraria Lello, Clérigos Church, Estádio do Dragão, and more.
Things To Do: Sightsee in Porto in a double-decker bus, go wine tasting, and hiking in Douro, explore the art & architecture at Serralves, and more.

8. Paphos, Cyprus – Get Ready To Absorb Vitamin Sea

For those who seek to bask under sun, flaunt that tan, and relax to the core, must get going to Paphos, the ultimate beach destination to visit during summer season in Europe.Located on the southwest coast of Cyprus, soft sandy beaches, tilted palm trees, and famous limestone cliffs, are the major crowd pullers in Paphos. Also, make sure you don’t go back from Paphos without experiencing a ride on the catamaran cruise.

Paphos, Cyprus

 

Must Experience: Don’t miss out on exploring the colorful mosaics at House of Dionysos, the protected Roman Villa of 2nd century.

Best Time To Visit: April to October
Places To Visit: Coral Bay, Kato Paphos Archaeological Park, Tombs of the Kings, Paphos Castle, Saranta Kolones, and more.
Things To Do: Explore the ruins of Roman era at Kato Paphos Archaeological Park, horse riding at Eagle Mountain Ranch, spot wild sea turtles at Lara Bay Turtle Conservation Station, and more.

7. Isle of Skye, Scotland – Perfect Place To Make Peace With Nature

Majestic mountains and high-rising cliffs are the highlights of Isle of Skye, the much famed and the second largest of all islands in Scotland. Located in the archipelago of Inner Hebrides, Isle of Skye is also known for its medieval castles, picture-perfect fishing villages, and the best nightlife in Europe summer. True to its name, Isle of Skye is indeed a place that can make anyone feel dreamy and enchanted.

Isle of Skye, Scotland

 

Must Experience: Stand on the edge of the westernmost Neist Point.

Best Time To Visit: May to September
Places To Visit: Dunvegan Castle, The Storr, Quiraing, Colbost, Armadale Castle, Fairy Pools, and more.
Things To Do: Hiking at the Storr, hike the Quiraing, fishing in Dunvegan, nature walking and hiking at Fairy Pools, and more.

6. Bergen, Norway – Meet Copenhagen’s Doppleganger With A View

You heard that right! Home to glistening glaciers and fjords, Bergen is the second largest city in Norway which never fails to impress the travelers with its small town-like charm. With its roots dating back to the age of the Vikings, Bergen is a perfect mix of 900 years old culture and modern-day lifestyle. Filled with museums, art galleries, restaurants, pubs, and craft shops, Bergen is indeed a bustling city that keeps everyone glued to its charm.

Bergen, Norway

 

Must Experience: Admire the Hanseatic buildings of Bergen at the Vågen harbour.

Best Time To Visit: May to July
Places To Visit: Bryggens Museum, Hanseatic Museum and Schøtstuene, Troldhaugen, Bergenhus Fortress, Lille Lungegårdsvannet, and more.
Things To Do: Go for nature walking and hiking at Fløyen, take the aerial tramway up till Ulriken mountain, explore the marine life at Bergen Aquarium, and more.

5. Brasov, Romania – A Place To Soak In The Good Vibes

Encircled by the Carpathian mountains on all sides, Brasov is a quaint little city located in the region of Transylvania. Serving as the best place for summer skiing in Europe, Brasov portrays world-class gothic architecture in all its churches and buildings. Surrounded by natural beauty all around, Brasov also serves as a perfect base for skydiving and trekking.

Brasov, Romania

 

Must Experience: Explore the council square of Piaţa Sfatului and the vibrant baroque buildings around.

Best Time To Visit: March to June & September to October
Places To Visit: Bran Castle, Biserica Neagră Church, Parcul Zoologic, St. Nicholas Church, and more.
Things To Do: Enjoy the cable-car ride at Tâmpa, skiing and snowboarding at Poiana Brașov, chill at the Smile Aqua Park, and more.

4. Zadar, Croatia – Discover An Architectural Gem

Enjoying a beautiful location on the Dalmatian Coast, Zadar is an unspoilt gem set in the heart of Croatia. Much famed for housing the historical Venetian and Roman ruins, you cannot help but fall in love with the architectural gem of Zadar. Also, it is a must to attend the Soundwave Festival in Tisno which is one of the best music festivals in Europe’s summer.

Zadar, Croatia

 

Must Experience: Explore the Plitvice Lakes National Park, one of the best European national parks & a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Best Time To Visit: June to September
Places To Visit: Church of St. Donatus, Krka National Park, Morske Orgulje, Ošljak Island, the Archaeological Museum, and more.
Things To Do: Skydiving, horse riding at Velika Plana Valley, Hiking at the Peak of Pag Island, Jeep Safari at Velebit Mountain, and more.

3. Giethoorn Village, Netherlands – Visit A Wonderland With No Roads

Get a boat in Giethoorn and you’re sorted. This marvellous village that has no roads,attracts thousands of travelers from all around the world. Encompassing of more than 180 bridges and endless canals, the magical land of Giethoorn Village works like a charm during summers in Europe.

Geithoorn, Netherlands

 

Must Experience: Enjoying boating on a Whisper boat that has silent electric motor.

Best Time To Visit: April to mid-October
Places To Visit: The Museum De Oude Aarde, Museum Het Olde Maat, Museum Gloria Maris, Arendshorst, and more.
Things To Do: Explore the Weerribben-Wieden National Park, canoe through the canals of Giethoorn, rent a bike and explore the cycling trails, and more.

2. Sicily, Italy – Explore The Canvas Of Your Dreams

One look at the landscape of Sicily will make you go weak in knees. Offering breathtaking views, Sicily is one of the largest and the most stunning islands in the Mediterranean. Going beyond the historical sites and shimmering beaches, you can never get enough of Sicily dreamlike environs during your summer vacations in Italy.

Sicily, Italy

 

Must Experience: You cannot come back without visiting the Valle dei Templi, an epitome of art and architecture.

Best Time To Visit: May to June & September to October
Places To Visit: Mount Etna, Cappella Palatina, Villa Romana del Casale, Palazzo dei Normanni, Cattedrale di Monreale, and more.
Things To Do: Skiing and hiking at Mount Etna, canyoning and rafting at Alcantara, snorkeling at Isola Bella, and more.

1. Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland – Experience Sheer Bliss. Period.

Home to the majestic and soaring Staubbach Falls, Lauterbrunnen is one destination that strikes a perfect balance between nature, adventure, love, and peace. Being one of the best adventure honeymoon destinations, Lauterbrunnen encompasses snow-bound mountains, rugged landscapes, rocky terrains, glaciers, valleys, and every other ingredient that will make your summer vacation in Switzerland an unforgettable experience.

Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

 

Must Experience: Experience skiing at the Jungfrau mountains, one of the highest summits in Switzerland.

Best Time To Visit: April to June
Places To Visit: Trümmelbach, Staubbach Falls, Mönch, Lauberhorn, Eiger Glacier, Männlichen, and more.
Things To Do: Enjoy panoramic views of Jungfrau and Mönch from Jungfraujoch observatory, dine at the revolving restaurant at Schilthorn, hiking at Kleine Scheidegg, cable car ride from Stechelberg to Schilthorn, and more.


A Vegetarian’s Guide To Europe: 6 Countries for Herbivores

So you’ve decided to travel through Europe this summer, but since you’re a vegetarian, you have concerns about the food. So many countries have meat dishes deeply embedded into their culture that you could easily assume – and most of the time you wouldn’t be far from the truth – how tricky it is for a veggie lover to find dishes they actually enjoy. But the old continent is constantly reinventing itself, even when it comes to food. So what are the best European destinations if you’re a vegetarian? Read our vegetarian’s guide to Europe!

Italy

The motherland of pizza and pasta has about 10% of the population declared as non-meat eaters. This brings a pretty good chance of finding great food and even though the restaurant you’ve just stepped in may not be specialised in vegetarian dishes only, it’s likely that your waiter will know how to properly take care of you.

Aperitivo is another authentic Italian experience, especially in the northern part of the country. It is only available late in the afternoons and for approximately 6 euros you can serve delicious cocktails with healthy snacks on the side. Fresh olives and cheese, onion rings, salads or chips will accompany your drinks, while you and your friends spend a relaxing time together.

Spain

When in Spain, it’s time for tapas! Same as with Italy’s aperitivo, tapas is an after-work day appetiser much enjoyed by the locals. A fresh glass of sangria accompanied by patatas bravas, tomato bread, olives or cheese plates is just something to get you started. Big cities have entire areas dedicated to this afternoon treat and it’s easy to understand why – it’s a perfect way to end a work day and get ready for dinner.

Spain boasts many other vegetarian-friendly dishes, as well. Tortilla española or the Spanish omelette is a classic delicacy. The eggs and potatoes make this dish both tasty and nourishing to keep you going until your next meal.

Worried about missing Spain’s authentic taste of paella just because you do not eat meat? Spaniards have taken care of this too, as vegetarian paella is easily reachable almost everywhere.

UK

Back in 2009, London was named Europe’s most vegetarian-friendly city by PETA. Today, the city is still one of the world’s greatest cultural melting pots. When so many cultures collide, food options widen, too. Expect high numbers of Indian, Malaysian, Thai, Pakistani or Turkish places to eat. London boasts plenty of meatless ethnic food.

Soho hosts a great number of vegetarian and vegan restaurants, including The Coach & Horses, the first vegan & vegetarian pub. This healthy lifestyle trend is highly promoted through the London community, as all restaurant menus and labels feature a green “V”. Great eats for both vegetarian and vegan foodies!

In my opinion, you can’t really compare the vegetarian culture in London to anywhere else in Europe. You can turn any corner and find a veggie-friendly cafe! I also love Brighton in England and Berlin, Germany. When it comes to restaurants and dishes, I would recommend The Mexican Bowl from Farmacy in London. Farmacy is a beautiful vegetarian restaurant in the heart of Notting Hill and everything on the menu is phenomenal. The Mexican Bowl is one of my favourites. The combination of coriander rice, guacamole, corn chips, tomatoes, frijoles and purple mash is to die for!

Be fearless with your eating! Always order something different and ask for the chef’s recommendations. This way you get to try the flavour combinations that are unique to the location. – Sassy, Naturally Sassy

France

When it comes to meat, France is the land of frog legs, snails and the famous boeuf bourguignon. But France is also the land of soft warm bread, old cheese and markets bursting with fresh vegetables.

Only 3% of the population is declared to be vegetarian, but as a non-meat eater visitor, it’s good to know that there are no less than 1,618 vegetarian restaurants throughout the country and 290 only in Paris! Those numbers look pretty good and they are increasing with every month that passes by, which makes it safe to say that France is definitely on its way to turning to vegetarianism.

I spent four years living in the French Alps. At the time the health food craze had yet to hit the Alps like it had back home in Canada, but with good reason; what France lacked in terms of kombucha and plant based restaurants, it made up for in organic local vegetables at the weekly market. So while some vegans/vegetarians might be apprehensive about travelling through the world of cheese and bread, you can also be sure to find the most beautiful, fresh produce at most French Markets.

We’re not people that eat out much, but when we did, we always went to the same microbrewery in town, Le Bec Jaune. The food was fantastic, exactly what you wanted after a day of skiing. There were always a few good vegan options, including ice cream – and they changed the menu often to keep things interesting. They made a really good salad with chickpea tofu, shredded carrots + beets, spinach and brown rice with a tahini dressing. It was just done so well. I’d go back now just to eat there one more time. – Jodi, Happy Hearted Kitchen

Germany

Yes, it’s true! We all know that Oktoberfest could never make it without all that beer, pretzels and sausages, but you’d be surprised to discover that among all the meat, Germany is actually an amazing destination for vegetarians.

9% of the population, (that’s over 7 million people) is vegetarian, so finding amazing restaurants to cater to your dietary needs is not hard. Berlin is a great place to start with, as you’ll notice not only that restaurants here will go above and beyond to accommodate your requests, but there is a whole vegan & vegetarian trend going on here. Enjoy a casual veggie burger on-the-go or indulge in a refined dinner at Lucky Leek.

Being a vegetarian is not only a trend but also a healthy lifestyle choice. It’s high on the rise, as more and more people become aware of it. Dare to travel and be adventurous with your food when travelling through the best European destinations for vegetarians.

Greece

If you’ve watched “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”, where the son-in-law admits silently he is a vegetarian and is afterward offered lamb by the mother-in-law, you might think Greece is not for you – but don’t worry! While it’s true that Greeks can enjoy a good grill, but there are countless healthy and hearty vegetarian meals that will make you wonder how you could enjoy life without knowing that.

Greeks eat seasonally, which is why your salad will taste awesome. Go for the famous choriatiki salata (Greek salad) during the summer months to enjoy some incredibly fresh, ripe red tomatoes, or instead try salata lachano-carota (cabbage-carrot salad), marouli (lettuce salad) or hand-picked horta (wild greens). The extra virgin olive oil is included. You can also always choose your preferred way of Greek dining, which is based on getting a lot of mezedes (appetizers) and sharing them; spanakopita (spinach pie), tiropita (cheese pie), skordalia (garlic and potatoes spread), fava (fava peas puree), tzatziki (garlic and cucumber dip) or keftedes (fried fritters from zucchini, tomatoes, potatoes, etc). Last but not least, the vegetarian main courses vary from artichoke stew, chickpea soup, stuffed tomatoes, and peppers, to briam, similar to the French dish ratatouille. Just remember that Greece, a country whose national dish is fasolada (white bean soup), will not disappoint you!


7 Ways To Get Yourself Excited For Your Trip To Italy

Italy, one of the most popular travel destinations across the globe, and over time this hasn’t changed one bit. Why is that? Easy, it’s home to outrageously delicious food, unrivaled history and beautiful scenery along with much more, but why list them all and leave nothing to the imagination? It’s time to get excited.

Italy’s high season is in the summer, welcoming countless tourists from around the world. At that time of year, Italy is blazing hot so you can relax on stunning beaches, go hiking and enjoy a slice of the best pizza you’ll ever have. It’s perfection, really.

The only problem with booking Italy during this ever-so-perfect seasons, is that you need to do so in advance. That’s where the big questions comes in, how do you keep yourself excited about it every single day leading up to your flight?

That is also easy.

Here are 7 things you can do right now to get yourself as excited as possible about heading to Italy.

#1. Trip to Italy: Eat Pizza, Pasta and Gelato (but mostly pizza)

You, eating pizza like a boss.

If there’s one thing Italy is known for, it’s food. Some of our favourite everyday eats are delectable masterpieces of Italian cuisine. Sure, the pizza, pasta and gelato you get at home aren’t anywhere near the level you’ll get there, but you can find some awesome and authentic Italian restaurants in most major cities. If you’re feeling especially ambitious try making your own based on classic Italian recipes to really get in the mood.

#2. Trip to Italy: Watch All The Movies (or try to)

What being inspired looks like.
This could be an overwhelming task since there are so many great movies out there that take place in Italy. On the bright side though, this just means you can watch as many films as you want to get you ready to discover the beautiful country. So, what movies do we suggest you start with? It depends on who you are, so we compiled a mini list of our favourites.

For the romantics: Eat Pray Love, Roman Holiday, Letters to Juliet, To Rome, With Love
For the action-crazed: The Italian Job, Casino Royale, The Tourist
For the thinkers: Angels & Demons, The Talented Mr. Ripley

#3. Trip to Italy: Listen to the Best Italian Music

No matter what kind of music you listen to, you’re bound to be entranced by the sounds of Italy. Incredible voices singing in one of the most romantic languages in the world will have you lost in a daze, day-dreaming no matter where you are. While you’re in Italy, you’ll still hear popular hits from across the globe, but you’ll also hear a variety of other music types like opera all the way to instrumental classical sounds.

Music is a big part of Italian culture so getting yourself familiar with some famous Italian artists will do you good. If you need a starting point, listen to Andrea Bocelli or Mina.

#4. Trip to Italy: Practice Your Pisa Poses On Another Building

You’ll realize when you get to the Leaning Tower of Pisa that it’s actually a lot harder to get creative with your poses. So, I suggest practicing on another building to get your moves down. Now I know what you’re thinking, that sounds kind of weird, but who cares? It’s fun and to be perfectly honest, it’ll get you incredibly excited to head to Pisa and actually see the real thing.

A lot of people spend most of their time just trying to capture the perfect photo and practicing before will save you a ton of time that you can later spend indulging the insatiable craving for pizza you’ll have developed. Being able to quickly snap your pose means that you’ll actually have time to take in your surroundings too.

#5. Trip to Italy: Make Hand Gestures a Part of Your Daily Life

If you’ve ever met anyone with an Italian background then you know hand gestures are basically part of the language. When you’re speaking with people in Italy, or simply just people watching, you quickly realize it’s almost as if it’s embedded in the culture or some sort of unspoken Italian rule. Eventually you learn, it really is the best way to communicate. When you start practicing your hand gestures you’ll find that they eventually come naturally and you’re friends might even catch on making it much more fun.

#6. Trip to Italy: Learn a Bit of Italian

You may have your hand gestures spot on, but you should still learn a bit of the language. This might seem daunting at first, but when you’re about to visit a new country it can take your excitement to a whole new level. Start small and download a few apps like Duolingo or grab a phrase book to get you started. Then sit back with a glass of wine or a slice of pizza and repeat the beautiful words in the Italian language. Magnifico!

#7. Trip to Italy: Learn All The History You Can (and be amazed)

Yes, history can be boring, but when it comes to Italian history, it’s a whole new world. From Pompeii, to Rome to Venice, Italy’s rich history is sure to keep you fascinated. Reading and learning about the history of the places you’ll see will get you even more excited to go. Visiting a country like Italy without any historical context can be a bit overwhelming, so pick up a book or two or watch a crash course on YouTube and prepare yourself for the wonders that await you.

Having a rough starting point twill help make everything you see and learn all make more sense. Ready to learn about Gladiators, the Italian Renaissance and much, much more? Why not start now?


St. John‘s Festival – where miracles happen

Have you ever heard about St. Johns’ festival? For your interest, it is also known as Midsummer Festival. There is no doubt – once in a lifetime, you must experience it! Baltic Tours team is more than sure that you will enjoy this magnificent event. To be honest, loads of our travellers are coming back for this festival again and again! IT’S INTRIGUING, isn’t it? Continue reading!

St. John‘s Festival

St. John‘s Festival

Who Celebrates?

The day of St. John’s or, also known as Midsummer Day, is one of the oldest and most joyful festival, which is more than widely popular among European countries including Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Scandinavian nations, Finland and some other countries. Immerse yourself into spectacular traditional summer festival!

St. John‘s Festival

St. John‘s Festival

When?

St. John’s day is being celebrated on the 24th of June. The festival has such a special and an extremely important meaning for people. This night is kept as the shortest night of the year, so that means that after that night, the day time is getting shorter and shorter. Also, during this night people believe nature to have magic powers. What is more, St. John’s day is an official day-off in most of the countries mentioned. So many reasons for people to celebrate this terrific day, so everyone start it on the eve of the 23rd.

Why is it so special?

This Midsummer Festival connects all the people, who believe, that this shortest night of the year is as special, as the four elements – water, fire, earth and air! During this night, the air smells like freshly cut grass and bonfire smoke! Sounds spooky and mythical, right? From the pagan times till nowadays, this eve is transfused of culture and traditions, full of spells and magical atmosphere.

St. John‘s Festival

St. John‘s Festival

The most remarkable symbols of this St. John’s Festival are a big bonfire and the Fern Blossom. It would be a shame not to mention all revels and fun activities that make this summer night unforgettable. The traditions remaining the pagan times include singing folk songs and dancing until the sun set, telling tales, searching for the magic fern blossom at midnight, jumping over bonfires, greeting the rising midsummer’s sun and washing the face with a morning dew… Young girls float flower wreaths on the water of the river or lake. Just try to imagine this for a moment, can it be more charming?

What about the blossom?

Story tells that the fern shows its blossom only on this miraculous night, and those who will find it – will be lucky all their life! Maybe, you should try to find your own luck? Hit the road and visit magical Baltics, Fabulous Scandinavia, Poland and Russia! Midsummer festival is about to blow your mind away, so get ready to fill your luggage with unforgettable memories!

Explore Europe


The quirks of Finland’s saunas

Brave new world: the quirks of Finland’s saunas
To Finns, it is the most natural thing on the planet: disrobing, sweating it out naked in front of strangers in temperatures of 80°C, occasionally self-flagellating and, ideally, following up with a plunge into water only a fraction above freezing.

To the rest of the world, Finland’s tradition of sauna frequenting – the cornerstone of its culture – can take some getting used to. Yet embrace it every visitor should, in order to better understand this country.

Initial hurdles overcome, it soon becomes obvious why a trip to one of Finland’s saunas makes for a fantastic afternoon’s activity, and how it can take you, possibly spiritually and without a doubt geographically, to some very strange places.

Finlands sauna

A little sauna context
In a nation hemmed in by ice for much of the year, the sauna is a respite from the elements, but most crucially it’s a space to relax, contemplate and cleanse yourself.

Saunas have been integral to Finnish culture for hundreds of years; tradition dictates that it should be the first room completed in a new home, and they’re used for births, pre-marriage rituals and funeral preparations.

It’s even said that Finnish president Urho Kekkonen in the 1960s used his sauna for diplomatic negotiations with the USSR. To this day, Finns believe that when naked, all are equal in the steam.

Finish sauna

What to do as it gets steamy
Finland has three categories of sauna. The bog-standard sort, available in many hotel rooms the further north you head, uses an electrically heated stove to warm things up. Then there is the wood-heated stove sauna and – the Holy Grail – the smoke sauna. Both use a fire started with dried birch twigs to create the heat. With the former, the fire is lit within a stove and the burn is longer; with the latter, the fire burns openly within and aromatic birch smoke fills the room: more atmospheric, but a tad more hazardous.

All three kinds heat up stones onto which water is thrown periodically. There is no rule about when water should be chucked on – simply as and when you want steam – but it’s typically after the first release of löyly that the gentle beating of oneself (and sometimes of others) with a birch whisk known as a vasta is begun. Most traditional saunas also employ an official pesijätär (washer) who will scrub down willing customers afterwards. It’s all part of the detoxification process.

Thanks to the ingrained sauna culture throughout the country, seeing naked flesh is nothing new for Finns, so even in public saunas they’ll bare all (with the exception of mixed-sex complexes).

Do always come armed with a towel and swimming trunks, though, because outside the single-sex saunas there are often common areas where men and women mingle.

Finish sauna

Finland’s 4 best sauna experiences
The most authentic sauna adventure in Finland is likely to come when a local invites you to a sauna party: a sure sign they are warming towards you (pardon the pun). Most visitors make do with the public saunas, but trademark Scandinavian inventiveness ensures that this experience varies in some fascinating ways. Here are a few of the best places to turn up the heat in Finland:

1. Helsinki’s state-of-the-art saunas
Once Finland’s capital sported hundreds of public saunas: today, following decades of ailing attendance, sauna-going is again the in-thing. A couple of cool new saunas have opened up: Kulttuurisauna combines influences of Japanese and Roman bathing culture as well as Finnish, and Löyly Design Sauna is a colossal, contemporary take on Finnish wooden architecture that comes with a great bar-restaurant.

2. The ultra-traditional sauna, Tampere
Finland’s oldest in-use sauna is Rajaportti, a tradition-steeped spot west of central Tampere, on an isthmus between two lakes below a sylvan park. Built in 1906, the dinky place is frequented almost exclusively by Finns on a break from the daily grind, with the original traditional woodsmoke heating system still intact. There is no better insight into the nation’s sauna-going nuances than be gleaned than on the benches here.

3. The underground sauna, Herrankukkaro
The village of Herrankukkaro on the archipelago southwest of Turku is something of a sauna Mecca. Amongst its steamy boasts are the world’s smallest smoke sauna and the world’s largest underground smoke sauna. The latter is a cosy 124-person capacity hut with six levels of benches: part of a cute coast-flanking spa complex where you can take a dip in the sea afterwards.

4. Lapland’s strange saunas
The further you travel into Arctic climes, the more common these 80°C escapes become – and some Lapland’s offerings are pretty wacky. In the capital, Rovaniemi, a sauna raft called m/s Erkin Arkki emerges during their brief summertime to glide on the river nearby. Guests can dine under the midnight sun (or the northern lights, if their luck is in) on the deck, and take a dip in the chilly waters en route.

Also in Rovaniemi, the Arctic Snow Hotel sauna, open only between December and March, is – rather incredibly – constructed entirely from snow and ice. Further north at Ylläs ski resort you can be transported between-piste in the planet’s one-and-only sauna gondola.

But perhaps the most quintessential Finnish sauna experience lies in remote Kiilopää near Saariselkä. Recline in the woodsmoke sauna that sits at the end of a dead-end lane, then leap into an ice hole: that’s pretty much as Finnish as it gets.

Finish sauna


Magical Christmas in Europe

10 of the most magical Christmas markets in Europe.

Winter in Europe is a wonderful time to visit the beautiful Christmas markets.

Mulled wine, gingerbread, twinkling lights and snowflakes… it’s the most wonderful time of year to visit Europe.

Christmas market season is almost upon the northern hemisphere, where town centres will soon be transformed into hubs of yuletide cheer.

COLOGNE, GERMANY

1. COLOGNE, GERMANY
The mother of all German Christmas markets, Cologne’s is considered one of the largest in the world. You’ll find several different markets dotted throughout the city, all connected by a little train that transports visitors between them.

The largest sits in the shadows of Cologne Cathedral and boasts more than 160 stalls selling everything festive – from different flavours of gluhwein (mulled wine) to personalised Christmas snow globes.

STRASBOURG, FRANCE

2. STRASBOURG, FRANCE
Strasbourg, dubbed the Christmas capital of the world, has the largest and oldest Christmas market in France. Here you can buy one-of-a-kind gifts made from wood and glass, and eat your way around Strasbourg’s medieval streets, gorging on cake and gingerbread.

Don’t forget to warm up with a mug of steamy vin chaud – Strasbourg’s answer to mulled wine. The city’s location near the German and Swiss border means you can visit other famous markets nearby, such as those in Stuttgart, Germany and Basel, Switzerland.

SALZBURG, AUSTRIA

3. SALZBURG, AUSTRIA
This is what winter wonderland dreams are made of. Salzburg looks as though it was specially created and designed for the sole purpose of Christmas.

Sitting below an imposing Baroque cathedral, looked over by a medieval hilltop castle and squeezed between a medieval fortress, Salzburg’s old-worldy charm makes it an atmospheric venue for a charming Christmas market.

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC

4. PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
While there are lots of markets around town, the best is in the heart of Prague’s old town. Rows of decorated huts organised around a giant Christmas tree sell a mix of hand-crafted wooden toys, handmade jewellery, candles and crystals.

Be sure to try the medovina, a honey wine known as mead in English.

BREMEN, GERMANY

5. BREMEN, GERMANY
Bremen has two famous Christmas markets. The old Christmas market has more than 170 food and craft stalls and is considered to be one of the most beautiful Christmas markets in Germany.

You’ll also find the Schlachte Magic on the Weser river embankment. Though not your typical Christmas market, it is still a very magical one – the whole waterfront turns back the clock to become a medieval fair full of food, music, and shows which hark back to the jugglers and street entertainers of the Middle Ages.

TALLINN, ESTONIA

6. TALLINN, ESTONIA
As one of the prettiest and most picturesque Christmas markets in Europe, Tallinn’s medieval old town transforms into a true Christmas wonderland.

Tallinn is also home to the Europe’s first public Christmas tree, and if you get tired of the shopping and drinking mulled wine, you can enjoy some outdoor ice skating in the heart of its old town.

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK

7. COPENHAGEN, DENMARK
Tivoli Gardens, Europe’s oldest amusement park, becomes adorned with thousands of lights and packed with hundreds of trees to host the city’s Christmas market. Frozen over, the park’s main lake also becomes an ice-skating rink.

The food and drink here is as much a draw as the atmosphere and arts and crafts on offer – particularly the glogg (spiced mulled wine) and hot apple dumplings.

VIENNA, AUSTRIA

8. VIENNA, AUSTRIA
The Christkindlmarkt on Rathausplatz starts earlier than most, in mid-November, and is one of the biggest Christmas markets in Europe.

Almost 200 stalls dominate the square, selling traditional decorations and hand-crafted gifts as well as scrumptious, melt-in-the-mouth Viennese pastries and Weihnachtspunsch (a spiced punch).

EDINBURGH, UK

9. EDINBURGH, UK
Christmas in Edinburgh sees Scotland’s capital wake from a post-summer Fringe Festival slumber with a series of events across the city centre. With a calendar of shows and performances, as well as an epic lights and music display, the arrival of its Christmas market on Princes Street marks the beginning of the city’s festive season, which culminates in the world-famous Hogmanay Street Party.

Wander around the market’s endless foodie stalls, pop-up bars and craft stands and be sure to take a ride on the Ferris wheel for epic views of Edinburgh Castle and the old town.

DRESDEN, GERMANY

10. DRESDEN, GERMANY
Christmas in Edinburgh sees Scotland’s capital wake from a post-summer Fringe Festival slumber with a series of events across the city centre. With a calendar of shows and performances, as well as an epic lights and music display, the arrival of its Christmas market on Princes Street marks the beginning of the city’s festive season, which culminates in the world-famous Hogmanay Street Party.

Wander around the market’s endless foodie stalls, pop-up bars and craft stands and be sure to take a ride on the Ferris wheel for epic views of Edinburgh Castle and the old town.

Dresden, Germany


6 must visit Christmas in Europe

Christmas comes but once a year and with it, Christmas trees, decorations, lavish food and, increasingly, Christmas markets! Originating from the late middle ages in Germany, Austria and neighbouring countries, these seasonal markets are home to festive food, nativity scenes, bright lights, and colourful crafts; which make the Christmas season all the merrier. Here is our hand-picked selection of our favourite Christmas markets across Europe.

1. STRASBOURG, FRANCE
27th November – 31st December
Winner of Best Christmas market two years running, the Strasbourg Christmas market is widely regarded as the largest and oldest Christmas market in France. Coupled with the beautiful architectural features of Strasbourg, the Christmas market looks rather magical.

STRASBOURG, FRANCE

2. LONDON HYDE PARK WINTER WONDERLAND
20th November – 3rd January
London’s Hyde Park really does turn into a Winter Wonderland throughout November and December with a wealth of Christmas stalls, selling a whole host of tasty treats and hand-crafted goods, not to mention the fun fair, circus and Magical Ice Kingdom.

LONDON HYDE PARK WINTER WONDERLAND

3. VIENNA, AUSTRIA
13th November – 26st December
Vienna’s Christmas market is one of the oldest lasting markets sitting before the magical Vienna Cathedral. A perfect setting for nostalgia, nativity and romance is complemented by the beautifully scented candles which add a wonderful aroma to the skies.

VIENNA, AUSTRIA

4. BOLOGNA, ITALY
17th November – 7th January
The Bologna Christmas market offers some of the most delicious seasonal treats from across the continent, quite fitting for a country with a passion for delicious food.

BOLOGNA, ITALY

5. BRUGES, BELGIUM
20th November – 3rd January
One of the most eye catching elements of the Bruges Christmas market is the ice rink which takes centre stage in the heart of the city. This is surrounded by market stalls and a number of delicatessens and gift shops.

BRUGES, BELGIUM

6. FRANKFURT, GERMANY
25th November – 22nd December
You cannot go through a list of top Christmas markets without mentioning at least one of the many Christmas markets that occur in Germany every year, this one in Frankfurt is one of the largest.

FRANKFURT, GERMANY


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