You’re probably caught up in the Christmas rush at the moment and finding that time is disappearing in a blur. Where did 2016 go? So, my suggestion is that you distract yourself from the mayhem and start planning your New Year adventures now.
For the last two years I’ve been exploring my way through Europe one long weekend at a time. As this year draws to a close I will have been to over 40 countries in the continent and want to share my recommendations for places you must see in 2017.
January – Vilnius, Lithuania
January is always a tight month for the budget so you need to go somewhere cheap but cheerful. I recommend Vilnius, Lithuania. If you’re like me and you’re just not ready for Christmas to be over yet, you’ll find yourself in your very own Winter Wonderland here
A few quick recommendations if you do decide to visit – Go to Trakai Castle, try the local food (highly recommend the sausages and dumplings!) and bring thermals as when I visited it was a bitter -17 degrees, so make sure you’re prepared for it!
I’ve written a full post on Lithuania if this takes your fancy, check it out.
February – Carnevale di Venezia
One of my most memorable trips was to Venice Carnival. The city comes alive with colour (yes, even more so than usual!) and it’s an experience you shouldn’t miss. The festival runs in February and ends on Shove Tuesday each year. If travel planning is a bit overwhelming for you then I suggest you check out Busabout as they run excellent 4 day tours to the festival and I thoroughly enjoyed my experience with them.
Make sure you join in with the festivities by buying a some confetti and celebrating in the street. Everywhere you turn there will be masks for sale but I suggest you get one from a shop if you want it to be slightly better quality.
March – Belfast, Northern Ireland
I completely fell head over heels in love with Giant’s Causeway when I visited earlier this year. Photographs just do not do this place justice! However, if you’re going to Giant’s Causeway you are probably also going to be spending some time in Belfast. I personally thought Belfast was an urban beauty and would definitely return in the near future. The Titanic museum was an extremely interesting way to spend a few hours and I’ve heard raving reviews about Crumlin Road Prison although I haven’t yet had the opportunity to visit myself (that just means I have to go back again!)
I can highly recommend the black cab tours as they are run by local cabbies and give you a personalised tour of the city, including the murals and Belfast’s recent dark history.
April – Sofia, Bulgaria
I loved Bulgaria so much I went twice in the space of a few weeks! Sofia is the capital and is the perfect base to explore the rest of the country. My personal highlight was a day trip to Rila Monastery (photographed below). This picturesque beauty is located in the mountains, just under 2 hours away from the city. I’ve written a list of things to see and do in Sofia if you do decide to visit.
May – Amalfi Coast, Italy
Pizza, sunshine, oh and more pizza. What’s not to love about Italy? Seriously, my stomach is rumbling just thinking about the Amalfi Coast. This beautiful 50km stretch of coastline runs along the southern edge of Italy’s Sorrentine Peninsula and is one not to miss. The Coast includes Pompeii, Naples, Sorrento and my personal favourite – Capri.
May is the ideal time to go as children are still at school and the beaches actually have space for you to sunbathe! My suggestion is that you try deep fried pizza in Naples (don’t judge, it tastes so good!) and drink homemade lemonade slushie in Capri.
June – Krakow, Poland
Krakow is such an interesting and beautiful city. You won’t be short of things to do over a weekend trip! The obvious choices are day trips to the Salt Mines and Auschwitz. Both trips take a day, which means you have the night time to … DRINK VODKA!
There is a tiny bar, simply named Wodka Cafe-Bar, in the town centre where they sell a ridiculous amount of flavoured vodkas for you to try. As you can see from this photo of us the next day with dark sunglasses – we certainly tried a lot of flavours!
July – Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is adorable in the summer months, just watch out for the mosquitoes! Popular with British Stag Do’s for being a cheap and cheerful place it can feel a bit like you’re on a permanent pub crawl – but you can escape this! After all, the drunken yobs don’t want to hike up the the television tower or take photographs from the castle, so you can easily shake them off as soon as you leave the main square.
The John Lennon Wall is fantastic and there is a brilliant John Lennon themed pub just around the corner, complete with red phone boxes and records hanging on the wall.
I recommend hiring a pedalo and taking an hour or so to see the city from the water.
August – Bath, England
Recently I have been thinking about exploring England a bit more and my first stop was to Bath. Talk about setting the bar really high – Bath is beautiful! I spent hours exploring The Roman Baths and could easily do it all over again. If you’re visiting London there are loads of organised day trips you can join or just hop on a train and explore on your own!
September – Munich, Germany
When I tell people Oktoberfest is in September I always get one person trying to be smart by telling me it’s in October – but the majority of the event isn’t! This 16-18 day festival runs from mid-September to the first weekend in October. It’s also something that should be on everyone’s bucket list!
I went by myself, so there are no excuses if you’re friends don’t want to go – you can easily go alone! I made so many friends and fully got in the swing of things by dressing up and singing along to the German songs (you have to learn Ein Prosit Der Gemulichkeit if you go!) I won’t lie, it isn’t the cheapest time to visit Munich but experiences are so much more important than money, right? Book early, have a plan and save up – you won’t regret it!
October – Transylvania, Romania
I can’t think of a better place to visit for Halloween than the home of Dracula. Romania is a fascinating and underrated country, not to mention extremely cheap. There are regular,
cheap flights to Romania from London – although it’s cheaper to fly to Bucharest then make your way via car/ bus to Transylvania rather than flying there directly. Once you’re there you don’t need a lot of money at all to enjoy yourself, which makes it the perfect place to visit in the run up to the festive months.
November – Lake Bled, Slovenia
I can honestly say, hand on heart, I have never seen anywhere as beautiful as Slovenia. Ljubljana is the quietest and cleanest capital city in Europe, it’s no wonder it’s won the Green Capital 2016 award. With how frequently I travel I am always looking for ways to save money and snag a bargain and I managed to get my flight to Slovenia for £1.45 + tax. Yes, you read that correctly, £1.45!! It’s my cheapest flight to date and I am still gobsmacked that I managed it. One day I will reveal my secret to getting this bargain, but for now make sure you book your flights and go! Tours to Lake Bled leave from Ljubljana several times a day, but if you really want to see the Slovenian countryside then hire a car and make your own way there. There are so many beautiful places to stop along the way!
December – Riga, Latvia
By December, the Christmas rush is well underway and you probably want to escape it all for a few days. Riga is the perfect destination to get away from all of this chaos. Latvia is a Baltic country so make sure you wrap up warmly as temperatures drop quickly as night closes in. If you’re looking for a nice Christmas market where you can get a mulled wine that isn’t ridiculously overpriced then look no further. Latvians are friendly, nothing is overly expensive and the city is just beautiful. Also, if you go in December there is a high chance you’ll get the White Christmas so many people crave….
Thanks for reading this post. Have you been to any of the above destinations? Are you planning on seeing any next year? Or do you suggest somewhere else? Let me know in the comments below…