I would argue that there are few places as magical as Europe at Christmas time…
Old cobblestone streets surrounded by romantically detailed architecture; mulled wine keeping your hands and tummy toasty while you peruse Christmas markets filled with artisanal food and crafts; old pubs heated by a fire to warm you up after a chilled walk in the freshly fallen snow… it all creates a completely surreal environment, like those in the movies, for anyone looking to feel the warmth of the holiday spirit.
That being said, it often seems as though certain areas of Europe tend to get a little more attention than others… Think of areas like Germany, Belgium, Poland, and the Czech Republic. Though completely beautiful and, no doubt, filled with some of the most spectacular Christmas markets, if you’re looking for a holiday destination that’s a little more off the ‘beaten path’, you should head over to the Baltics, and here’s why…
The streets look like the pages from your favourite Christmas storybook
Just look at these colours! Riga, Latvia is a beautiful place for colourful architecture, unique bars and restaurants, and a vibrant Old Town. Oh yeah, and this photo pictured here? It was taken in the middle of the afternoon in late November… notice the lack of crowds? No photoshopping is necessary here.
The fairytale feels are real
‘Scuse this Snow Princess while she promenades along a bridge to her private castle on the water… kidding obvs, but can you imagine?! This is Trakai Castle, located about an hour’s journey outside of Lithuania’s capital of Vilnius. Surrounded by a beautiful lake and a quiet, but charming town, it’s worth the visit outside the city.
Or how about this place? The Old Town of Tallinn in Estonia is one of the best-preserved medieval cities in all of Europe. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site — OH, and it happens to be surrounded by epic castle-esque city walls. How. Cool.
The churches are beautiful
Check out this amazing church located in Vilnius, Lithuania. As Vilnius was my home base for 6 months during a period of my Masters, I visited the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul frequently. I found it to be quiet, and absolutely stunning… detailed beyond belief and completely photogenic.
The Christmas Markets are epic, but not filled with crazy crowds
European Christmas markets are the best. They’re beautifully decorated, often located in romantic and historical Old Towns, and filled with delicious treats and beverages. They also make for the best Christmas gift and souvenir shopping, in my opinion. But, crazy crowds are never really a fun part of the experience. It can sometimes make it overwhelming or a bit frustrating… but I truly feel as though this part of Eastern Europe is still a hidden enough gem that the tourist crowds haven’t completely taken them over. We were able to wander freely around the markets, at any time of day, without having to ever wait in long line-ups or patiently shuffle through aisles like a herd of cattle. AMAZING.
You can literally walk in a winter wonderland…
I’ll warn you, you’ll need to wear plenty of layers, but how beautiful is this?!
I also realize I keep mentioning the lack of crowds, but seriously, how much more romantic and quaint is this when it's just you and your travel companion(s)?
The views are breathtaking
Each Baltic capital had amazing spots to overlook the Old Towns/city below, but my favourite was that from Tallinn. There’s just something so insanely festive and magical about combining the holiday spirit of Christmas with medieval architecture… don’t you agree?
I know I talked about this in my blog post dedicated to Vilnius, Lithuania, but this is so important, particularly for a time of year that can often leave people a little tight for cash. Whether it was accommodation, food, activities, or otherwise, we overall found the Baltics to be very affordable. When looking for a winter getaway in Europe, I really believe the Baltics offer it all and should not be overlooked!
But hey, that’s just my opinion and my experience… perhaps you should just go and see for yourself 🙂
Happy holidays, guys!