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It's that time of year again!! Christmastime and the holidays seem to sneak up every year and we know that amidst busy schedules and shopping sprees, some of us would love nothing more than to soak up a new city with our loved ones, experiencing the charm of a beloved destination. What could be better than combining the beauty and wonder of Christmastime and traveling with loved ones!? We want to share with you five different European Christmas Markets and a beautiful way to see multiple destinations in one trip!
First mentioned in the year 1628, the Nuremberg Christmas Market is considered one of the oldest markets to visit. The market takes place in the main city square with over 180 stalls filled with beautiful toys, trinkets and traditional Christmastime decor. What makes this market even more beautiful is that it is called the "little town of wood and cloth" as nothing is made cheaply or of plastic here! If you would like to experience the fullness of the opening of the Nuremberg Christmas Market, we suggest visiting the Friday before the first Sunday of Advent as a local girl always performs the Christkind, a beautiful prologue that begins the festivity at this charming and historical market.
Opening the Thursday before the first Sunday of Advent, this Christmas Market offers over 100 stalls of gifts and daily activities until January 1! Also known as one of the world's oldest Christmas Markets, this market was originally called the “Nikolaimarkt” -- a celebration of St. Nicholas Day and offered stalls full of shopping for the two weeks preceding St. Nicholas Day (Dec 6) and continued for two weeks after. In the centuries that followed, it quickly became the spot for not just Christmas Shopping, but also a host of other activities for children and adults alike! Every day Christmas Stories are read to children, Christmas tours are offered and people can be mesmerized by their Krampus parades! If you're visiting near the New Year, this Christmas Market also hosts a delightful New Years Eve celebration full of music, fireworks and dancing! We know you and your loved ones will find something to love at this festive market!
Budapest has not one, not two, but three delightful Christmas markets for whatever you and your loved ones are looking for. Looking for the historical site? Check out Völrösmarty Square where you will find over 100 stalls dedicated to crafts and Hungarian food specialities. If you're looking for a more unique spin on a Christmas market, complete with a skating rink, be sure to visit the Advent Feast at St. Stephen's Basilica. This market was recently voted as the best European Christmas Market in 2019 with its blend of tradition and technology as they showcase colorful short movies on the face of the Basilica. Lastly, if you're searching for a smaller, less touristy Christmas Market be sure to go to Fo Square for their Obuda Advent Fair. This one will be cozier and have more local traffic with an ice skating rink and stalls for shopping.
In any given year, there are at least 15-20 Christmas Markets, or Marché de Nöel, in Paris alone, with other pop ups that happen closer to the Christmas holiday. If you are looking for the biggest and brightest market, be sure to visit the La Magie de Noël in the Tuileries Garden, next the Louvre. We have personally visited this one and it is massive. A mix between a Christmas Carnival and craft fair, there are stalls full of delicious food and mulled wine next to amusement park like rides and a ferris wheel. You'll find plenty of opportunity for shopping as well, as local artisans and vendors set up stalls to sell their beautiful and homemade goods. There are many other beautiful markets to partake of as well, namely near any of the breathtaking landmarks of the city--Notre Dame, Sacré- Coeur, the Hôtel de Ville, and more. The Hôtel de Ville boasts of beautiful light shows projected on the side of the neo-Renaissance building with even a luge like tubing lane for children to slide down. So wherever you are in Paris this holiday season, there is sure to be a magical Marché de Nöel nearby!
Lastly, we wanted to share an Italian destination with you and knew it had to be Milan! Milan has a handful of delightful Christmas Markets with the most famous one being at the iconic Piazza Duomo. While it may be smaller than it's other European counterparts, these 60 wooden chalets offer homemade treats and gifts. While the Duomo offers the most picturesque of Christmas Markets the most famous is surprisingly hosted at the Sforza Castle for just three to four days beginning on the feast of Saint Ambrose (December 7) and continuing until the following Sunday. This market attracts thousands of visitors every year and sells handcrafted items, food and delicacies--an event you won't want to miss!
Want to see multiple destinations at once? consider a river cruise!
If you can't decide which Christmas Market to visit this year, we may have a solution! Every year, different cruise companies will offer a few different itineraries allowing you and your loved ones to visit a few different markets at once! Below you can see a few of our partners' cruise itineraries throughout Europe. While many of them open in November for cruising, we suggest waiting until near the start of the Advent Season, four Sundays before Christmas, as many more Christmas markets open at this time of year. This year, that falls on November 27 with some of the Christmas markets opening as early as Thanksgiving day!
Are you ready to make some unforgettable Christmas Memories? Let's start planning your Christmas Market tour of Europe!
Recently, I have been fortunate enough to go on two group vacations which brought up the age-old question of who pays for what and how do we keep track of the expenses. Fortunately, someone else has thought of this too and developed an app for phones, iOS and Android. If you haven’t tried one of these apps before, I recommend you give one a try for your next trip.
Splid and Splitwise are apps both designed to split up group expenses and track who paid and for what. Both have their advantages and are easy to set up for a group and use. Knowing who you are traveling with and how you want to split your expenses is an important decision to make before deciding which of the two apps we tried. Both can split expenses equally and by share, only one can do it by dollar amount.
My first experience using an app was tracking a 3-week trip in Italy with three travelers. Each of us downloaded the app, joined the group, and set up our account in the Splid app. Here is a image of the app with the group defines and a running total of balances.
We decided to share all our expenses equally. Meaning if we all ate a meal, or a taxi we shared it by the number of people eating or riding, and only one person paid. We added each expense to the app and indicated who paid and for how many and the app kept track each expense. We may have even been a little competitive about paying for it to see who could get ahead. See the image to the left after we’ve entered a few expenses.
Splid, makes it easy to see each expense, who paid and what your share of the expense was. It works offline, when you have no cellphone/Wi-Fi service and when you connect it updates the group account. Each person in the defined group can add and review expenses as you go. Lastly, at the end of your trip it even suggests who everyone can pay to settle.
It features the ability to download a file that shows the groups running total to review your expenditures as you go or at the end. In our opinion it works best if you split items equally. It has a feature that allows you to split the expense by share, but to us it was confusing. For us, we were happy with splitting evenly, but that might not always work for every group. Which is why for my next trip, we tried a different app.
Splitwise, for my second trip was a breeze to use. Simply download it, invite users to a group and you are ready to start adding expenses. It allows each user to enter expenses, to track them, and updates as each user enters an expense. Splitwise has many of the same features, suggesting repayment, downloading, or texting them and reviewing who paid for what. The big benefit to using this app is it allows you to split items by dollar amount.
For some groups or trips, this feature alone would lend the group to using Splitwise. Life doesn’t always lend itself to splitting evenly and Splitwise takes this into account.
We hope during your next trip you get a chance to try one of the cost tracking/splitting apps.
READY TO PLAN YOUR NEXT ADVENTURE
Norwegian Cruise Line: The haven
Discover The Haven. Hidden away at the top of the ship is The Haven by Norwegian®, an exclusive enclave with our most luxurious and spacious accommodations. You have access to everything the ship has to offer plus the personal service of a concierge and 24-hour butler throughout your stay.
Princess Sky Suites
Introducing Princess Sky Suites: Relax in your two-bedroom, two-bathroom suite with a 1000-square-foot continuous balcony onboard Sky Princess, Enchanted Princess or the new Discovery Princess. Soak in the 270-degree panoramic views. Enjoy unparalleled VIP service from the moment you book with a pre-cruise concierge and a seamless curb-to-suite experience.
Tauck Down Under
Tauck added three new experiences Down Under for 2023: An exclusive reception and dinner in Christchurch at Riccarton House – a grand, restored 19th-century homestead…A special blend and bottle your own wine workshop at Jacob’s Creek Winery, Barossa Valley…A 3-night stay at Silky Oaks Lodge, the luxury eco-hideaway adjacent to the ancient Daintree Rainforest.
New Zealand & Australia
Because our seasons are opposite from the Southern Hemisphere, Australia and New Zealand are perfect destinations for a winter vacation. Enjoy the beauty of both of these countries, or spend time exploring the wonders of one.
Most famous for its beautiful mountain greenery and tropical beaches, Costa Rica also boasts of incredible ziplining adventures. February is right in the midst of the dry season here, and many people speak English, making it an easy getaway for adventurers!
With breathtaking beaches and tropical views, the Maldives are a romantic destination for any traveler looking for some private rest and relaxation. Spend your vacation gazing at beautiful coral reefs from glass-bottomed boats or relaxing in your own private overwater bungalow.
One of our most booked destinations, there is so much offered in Mexico. The food, the culture, the gorgeous white beaches--you'll have an incredible time! Journey through the underwater caves--cenotes, visit the ruins of ancient civilizations, or lounge by the pools with a drink in hand.
The Cook Islands & French Polynesia
One of the incredible perks of booking a trip to the Cook Islands is traveling off-the-beaten-path with fewer tourists to bump into. We recommend splitting your time between the larger Rarotonga island and Aitutaki to get a fuller experience of this breathtaking destination!
Other notable destinations: Tahiti and French Polynesia
With magnificent year-round weather, Malta is a wonderful destination. With Meditteranean scenery and history, there is so much to discover on this diverse island. Visit the north for a laid back experience in the countryside or on the beach, or the south for a more traditional experience of the island.
Feeling up for an adventure? Visit Alaska by cruise or stay in a cozy cabin for a relaxing, or thrill-seeking, vacation. Visit National Parks, cruise around the glaciers, or kayak in the freshwater lakes of our largest state.
Visiting castles, abbeys, and astonishing landmarks will be just the beginning of an adventure in Ireland. Expand your trip with tours of whiskey distilleries, feeding lambs on a farm, or enjoying an Irish breakfast at a quaint B&B. Cap it all off with some live music in a local pub for a memorable trip!
A lesser-known Mediterranean gem, Croatia exudes romance with its many pieces of European culture, medieval architecture and scenic landscape. Visit some historic port cities, get yourselves glammed up for a yacht party in the bay, and don't forget to visit the Plitvice Lakes with your loved ones!
Other notable destinations: Greece & Italy
Looking to travel without a passport? Hawaii is an obvious destination with multiple islands to discover--you won't want to leave! Relax on the beaches of Maui, discover the history of the Kingdom of Hawaii on Oahu, or hike through Waimea Canyon on Kauai. There is something for every type of traveler in these gorgeous islands.
Booking a winter vacation? Iceland can be a great winter destination with the spectacular Aurora Borealis, stunning waterfalls, and adorable puffins! Get cozy in a hot spring, hike to see some stunning scenery, and dine in the most charming Reykjavik, capital of Iceland.
The diversity of the Caribbean makes this a no-brainer destination, with islands of all different cultures and languages. Top of our list includes Barbados, Jamaica, and Antigua for a well-rounded scope of the Caribbean. Visit Barbados for some calypso music, rum, and British roots, Jamaica for a laid back atmosphere and delicious food and culture, or Antigua for the multitude of beaches and chic adults-only resorts.