22 Cool Hidden Gems in Amsterdam: Secret Spots Not to Miss

Dive deeper into Amsterdam’s rich history and culture by visiting some of the hidden gems in Amsterdam!

These secret spots in Amsterdam are tucked away behind popular landmarks, away from the crowds.

So, if you have seen the famous attractions, such as the Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank House, and the Dam Square, you can still make the most out of your trip to the city by visiting some of the lesser-known spots that will let you connect deeper to Amsterdam

With that said, even if you have been in the city several times, or if you’re new here and you want to see rare spots, these are the places to look out for!

22 Hidden Gems in Amsterdam: Secret Spots Away From the Crowds

Hortus Botanicus

Sunset at the Hortus Botanicus, a clear glass greenhouse surrounded by trees.

A bit off the beaten path in Amsterdam, Hortus Botanicus is an underrated botanical garden you need to visit when you’re in the city.

It is situated along the river, which makes it a great walk. The garden is also one of the best spots in the city you can enjoy on rainy days, too!

So, if it’s raining in Amsterdam and you want to do something calm and relaxing, you should definitely visit this botanical garden! 

Original Picasso In Vondelpark

Vondelpark isn’t really an Amsterdam hidden gem, but a concrete sculpture in the park is one!

Located at the southern end of the park is an original Picasso art that was created in 1965 as part of an outdoor exhibition to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Vondelpark.

The structure is known as “Figure découpée l’Oiseau,” or The Bird. The structure was donated to the city by the artist after the exhibition. 

Symmetrical House

The house at Kloveniersburgwal 29 is known as the widest house in the city. It was built during a time when residents were taxed based on the width of their houses. Therefore, the wider the house, the wealthier the owner is!

Due to its width, it conceals the fact that is joined together by two adjoining symmetrical houses built by the Trip brothers. When the house was finished, the brothers’ coachman commented that he would be the happiest if he had a house even just as wide as the front door.

From there, the brothers complied and built a small house for him across the canal!

Mezrab

Do you want to listen to stories by random people? Mezrab is where you should go.

Storytelling nights are held every Wednesday and Friday, and they’re in English! So, you don’t have to worry about comprehension.

On some nights there are comedy and live music events that you shouldn’t miss as well!

You know what’s even better? The entrance here is free of charge, but there’s a donation jar (and you should definitely donate!) that helps the people behind the concept pay the rent. 

Noordermarkt

Aerial view of the Noordemarket with a large church-like building and smaller houses in the traditional Dutch style around it.

Located along Prinsengracht and on the edge of Jordaan, this is a lovely spot to spend your early mornings in and you’re ready for some shopping.

The area is known for its flea market and farmers market. On Mondays, don’t miss the textile market on Westerstraat, too!

The Maker Store

If you love shopping, it’s essential to shop locally when you’re in a foreign city. That’s why you need to visit The Maker Store!

Independent creators make all the products here in the city and you also get a chance to get some of the items personalized or made on the spot. The store is an excellent example of the city’s vibrant independent scene!

Tiny Hidden Houses

Along Westerstraat, you will notice that the numbers of the houses jump from 54 to 70, which is very curious.

You might want to wake a closer peek because the seven missing houses can be found in the crack between the houses; but now, they are in the form of mini houses!

So, make sure to look very closely. You don’t want to miss them! 

A Beautiful Mess

Have a meal in prison here at A Beautiful Mess: definitely a unique thing to do in Amsterdam!

The restaurant occupies what was formerly a prison called De Bijlmerbajes; today, it is home to several organizations, including the restaurant.

It is located in the prison’s old clothing repair section and you can really feel the prison-ish vibe here.

In fact, there are rows of old sewing stations you can see here still. It’s also a great place to go if you’re looking for fusion meals. 

Lighthouse

A white lighthouse with an orange roof and black room at the back of the lighthouse, shown on the water, a true hidden gem in Amsterdam.

The lighthouse on the former island in the Markermeer doesn’t only guide ships during the night, but if you look closely, you will notice that the lighthouse is horse-shaped.

It’s been a national monument since 1970, but still, a lot of people don’t really come here when they visit the city.

However, for those who are looking for hidden gems in Amsterdam and secret spots, then this is definitely one of the best places you could visit! 

Meneer Nieges

One of the best things to do in the city is to sit out by the water when the weather is nice.

It is challenging to find a spacious terrace in Amsterdam where you can lounge around, but the Meneer Nieges is the best place to start.

Another great thing about this is that it is located on the Western Islands, which means it’s out of the tourist route. Don’t worry, though; it’s still accessible. In fact, it’s only a ten-minute walk from the central station.

The terrace has a spacious terrace with picnic tables, deckchairs, and lounge beds where you can relax. 

NAP (Normaal Amsterdams Peil) Visitor Centre

There’s more to NAP than meets the eye!

Did you know you can see the city underwater through three glass tubes that show the sea level in various parts of the region?

It’s a real Amsterdam hidden gem that you shouldn’t miss when you’re here. 

Beth Haim Cemetery

Located at Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, the cemetery is the oldest Jewish cemetery here.

Most of the graves here below to Portuguese and Spanish Jews who fled the country in the 17th century. Some public figures are here, too, including Rabbi Menasseh Ben Israel, who was a collaborator of Rembrandt.

Aside from these graves, the ornate gravestones that feature beautiful symbolism and inscriptions in various languages are something you should keep an eye on as you stroll around.

Although it may sound creepy for some, the cemetery may give you a deeper insight into the lives of Dutch Jews in the 17th century. You will definitely experience the country’s culture and rich history just by walking the paths of the cemetery. 

Torensluis

Lights on the canal, with bicycles chained to the bridge, surrounded by traditional canal houses in Amsterdam at night.

Amsterdam has over 160 canals, and that means there are plenty of bridges here that connect places! The widest and oldest bridge is the Torensluis, which translates to Tower Lock.

The name was derived from the tower that stood on the site until it was demolished in the mid-19th century. You can still see its foundation today! But there’s more to it, though.

Look closely in the dungeon below and you can see barred windows and arched entrance to the prison cells that are located under the bridge. The area is now open to the public and is often used to host exhibitions and events. 

Nieuwendammerdijk

This is one of the most beautiful streets in the city, and it’s a great cycling route as well.

Consider the “roadside garden” on the street some kind of a phenomenon because with only one-square meter of fertile ground in front of an apartment, residents were able to create gardens of flowers, bushes, and trees.

Because of this, it has made the street one of the most beautiful cycling routes . Moreover, it is also the oldest street in this part of the city!

Aside from the gardens, there are beautiful houses here that date back from the 18th century that are a sight to behold. 

Amsteltuin

For a unique secret spot in Amsterdam, check out its cute vineyard—the Amsteltuin!

Although it’s not as exotic as a French vineyard, it is still a beautiful place. It’s perfect if you’re craving some vineyard feels while you’re in the city.

The owners are very welcoming and you get a fully-stocked picnic basket with delicious Dutch specialties and homemade wine. Explore the vineyard while you get just the right amount of buzz. 

Zootje Sculpture Garden

Just near De Plantage, follow the signs that will lead you to the Zootje Petit Zoo. However, this isn’t an ordinary zoo!

It has a hidden little sculpture garden that will give you a quirky experience. Just make sure to stay alert for the zombie or the dinosaur. 

Amsterdam Zuid

View of the buildings of the residential neighborhood of Amsterdam Zuid.

There are plenty of interesting houses in the city, but one of the most underrated ones is the Zevenlandenhuizen, which means “seven countries houses” on the Roemer Visscherstraat.

Seven houses that are next to each other, in which each house represents a specific architectural style from different European countries. The houses were built in 1974 and were designed by architect Tjeerd Kuipers. 

The Tea Rat

Located in a tiny alley off Spuistraat, you will find one of the smallest museums in the city, which is a teapot museum!

There are over a hundred teapots in a single room here and you can even dress up while you enjoy the collection. It’s perfect for tea and teacup lovers; this is heaven!

Even if you’re not a fan, it’s a curious place you should definitely check out while you’re here. 

Corrie Ten Boomhuis

The Anne Frank House is a popular place because it served as the house of Jewish stowaways; but there’s another one in Haarlem that far fewer people know about, the Corrie Ten Boomhuis.

Although this isn’t in the city anymore, it’s only 10 minutes by train!

The Ten Boom family hid behind a false wall in the house along with other members of the resistance. They were arrested and sent to concentration camps eventually, and it was only Corrie Ten Boom who survived.

Today, the house is now a museum that teaches about the Second World War and the Jewish faith. 

REM Eiland

Lit up building on the water where you can dine in Amsterdam, a secret spot!

For a unique Amsterdam experience, have a meal inside a water restaurant inside a renovated offshore platform!

It was originally owned by a group of pirate radio broadcasters who eventually abandoned it because they were raided by the Dutch government in 1964.

After decades, it was towed to the city’s Houthaven harbor and converted into a classy restaurant. 

Blijburg City Beach

Surprisingly, there are beaches in the city, and one of the classic beach experiences you can get is at Blijburg, a true Amsterdam hidden gem mostly enjoyed by locals.

The artificial peninsula has plenty of attractions and it also has a restaurant to accommodate beach-goers. 

Pancake Boat

Traditional dutch pancakes served with blueberries and mint leaves.

When you’re in the Netherlands, it’s important not to miss their Dutch pancakes!

You can have authentic Dutch pancakes in Amsterdam onboard the Pancake Boat, where you can have unlimited Dutch-style pancakes!

The trip starts in the city’s northern docklands then makes its way to the famous harbor of the city where you can marvel at the beautiful architecture while you eat your pancakes. 

***

Are you ready to dive deep into the rich culture of Amsterdam? These hidden gems will give you an entirely different perspective about the city that you won’t see at the most popular attractions here!

There’s more to the city than meets the eye; and if you’re up for it, visit these hidden gems and experience the city like never before. 

It is definitely going to be an eye-opening experience that you will cherish for the rest of your life. And even if it’s your first time in the city, make sure to allot some time to visit some of these hidden gems—you know you don’t want to miss them! 

Author Bio

Ask The Dutch Guy your go-to guide when it comes to The Netherlands! The goal of Ask The Dutch Guy is to showcase the beauty of The Netherlands and to inspire others to explore the country. Read more about Ask The Dutch Guy at https://askthedutchguy.com. Follow him on Facebook and Instagram.

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Lake District Itinerary: Your 2 Day Lake District Guide

Helvellyn summit looking down to Red Tarn in the Lake District

If you’re planning on visiting the Lake District and are looking for a 2 day Lake District itinerary, then keep reading to really see how you can have a fun-packed couple of days in Cumbria!

There really is something for everyone. And you’ll be booking your next break to get back as soon as you can!

Here’s how to spend a weekend in the Lake District!

Day One of Your Lake District Itinerary

Have breakfast in Keswick.

So where is the best place to start any good blog post on a guide for two days in the Lake District?

Well, with your stomach and making sure that it is filled and ready for the day ahead!

That’s certainly where we would begin any good adventure for the day ahead. And being local to Keswick, you really can’t find a better place for a choice of cafes and restaurants throughout the day.

This bustling tourist market town offers a wide variety of food, so you won’t be struggling for a new place to visit each day that you stay here.

The Merienda Café in Keswick is one of our favorites. We’ve been a few times now and each time we remember why it is that we keep coming back!

They have an excellent choice for breakfast and brunch to kick start your day. The Merienda cafe offers gluten-free and vegetarian options, so there is no fear that your needs won’t be accommodated while you’re here.

My personal favorite is the porridge, just because it’s a healthy and hearty meal, as well as a warm way to begin your day.

It’s sure to keep you going until dinner time and with the option of blueberries, honey, and banana to add to your breakfast: it’s just a great option.

They also do a mean full English, but they do it their own way. It’s a little unique, but it’s well worth trying. My mouth is just watering at the thought of it again now!

Take the scenic drive to Fleetwith Pike.

Being in the Lake District can cause you to get stumped with a million different possibilities for the day ahead. But that’s what we’re here for, and boy do we have a treat for you!

This is where we really begin the guide for two days in the Lake District. So once you’re in your car, head down the B5289 leaving Keswick as you head south.

It won’t be long until you will see the fells and mountains of the area all around you. Their slopes come right down to the roadside as you drive through the up and windy route that is Honister Pass.

It’s a view that has to be seen while on any Lake District itinerary, and so we just have to bring you this way to Buttermere!

You will pass Honister Slate mine on your left-hand side, and this is where we’ll be coming for some well-needed lunch.

But for now, you drive past this and begin the decline towards Buttermere itself. You will see some small lay-bys dotted around alongside the road and this is where you’ll want to be pulling up and parking.

View of rocky and grassy summit of a mountain the Lakes District, on a partly cloudy day.
Fleetwith Pike is on the left — which you’ll be climbing!

The start to Fleetwith Pike

Parked, backpacks on, boots tightened, and map at the ready, here we go! Begin your walk by following the road down to the base of Fleetwith Pike.

You’ll know what mountain it is when you can see a white cottage ahead of you on the road. When you see this, then you want to be looking on your left for a path leading off from the road.

Once you’ve located the path, head left and continue the easily-located path to the base of the ridge. From here, it’s a straightforward path that simply heads up.

There are no major complications here, just keep an eye on your footing and the easy scrambles as you make your way up this epic fell… and make sure that you take a moment or two to turn around!

Take in the views as you head up. So often we look in front of us, but at times like this, it is just as important to look behind too.

For us personally, the views from the top of Fleetwith Pike are some of the best in the whole of the Lake District. So for us to help guide you for two days in the Lake District, we only go on what we’ve witnessed and experienced, to get the best couple of days for you!

Celebrate at the summit of Fleetwith Pike.

When you reach the top of the mountain, you’ll be welcomed by a cairn and views that stretch for miles around you.

Towards the south-west is the famous Haystacks that holds some great memories and so much history in Cumbria too!

As well as this, the sight over Buttermere and the fells around towering down towards the lake are stunning.

I’m sure you can see this for yourself in the photo below — and when you’re there in person, I guarantee you it feels epic to be looking around you from the top!

A rock cairn overlooking green fells and small hills and a blue lake in the Lakes District
Fleetwith Pike is on the left — which you’ll be climbing!

But by now I’m sure you’ll be getting a little peckish. I mean, if you’re anything like us, you’ll be seriously hungry and ready for some lunch!

So let’s get moving again and get back for some food before our afternoon of cliff-hanging begins.

From the top of Fleetwith Pike, continue heading in the same direction as before over the top of the summit and locate a less distinct path here.

It will lead you down toward the Honister slate mine. When you get to a slight junction you will want to bear left here, and this will take you to lunch.

Fuel up on lunch at the Honister Slate Mine.

It is easy to find the Honister Slate Mine. When you see the building and car park in front of you, then you know that you have arrived.

Make your way through the car park and to the main entrance of the building. Once you’re inside, you will find the Sky Hi cafe that they have, and this is when you can go to town on ordering anything you like from the menu.

They have a good choice of food, and if you need warming through after your walk, then there are hot options available too. For us though, it was a hot day when we had been walking, so something cooler and lighter was needed.

Here you can take some time out and enjoy looking back through the photos of your walk so far. Even on a cloudy day in the Lakes, some of the views you can see will still amaze you. It will give added contrast to the skies and fells that you see too!

Once you’ve finished your lunch, it’s time to get those hard hats on and get onto the side of the rock face for more adventures!

Brave the heights on the Honister Via Ferrata.

To guide you through two days in the Lake District, we’d have to advise you to get booked in for this activity in advance!

Make sure that there are free spaces for the day that you’re going to be in this area of the Lake District. You can find more information about the whole experience on their website too.

When you’ve got yourself checked in then there will be a brief safety briefing for the activity ahead.

For those of you who haven’t done a via ferrata before, you’re going to be in for a treat. It’s something special for sure, and it’s not every day you have the option of climbing along the rock face of a mountain and hanging there watching the world go by!

If you have a fear of heights, this might not be the best choice for you, unless you’re ready to face that fear head-on. If so, then let’s do this together!

A group of four people climbing on iron ladders and railings (via ferrata) in order to ascend a cliff
Hazel and Zoe (truefreedomseekers) on the Via Ferrata in the Lake District

As you make your way through this activity for an hour or so, you’ll get to grips with feeling out of your comfort zone.

But you’re not alone — they have great guides for this in the Lake District. They go through the whole experience with you, along with a group of others just like you. So no need to fear, you’re always in good hands!

Simply jump in and absorb it all. It’s truly fun, and although my legs were well and truly shaking most of the time, I loved it. It’s something to look back on and smile, even laugh at how we were throughout the whole thing! Hazel even managed to split her trousers climbing up the metal ladders!

So it’s a great way to build some memories and feel truly free as you climb up the mountainside to the top for those seriously stunning views again.

Have some of the best fish and chips at the Old Keswickian.

When the via ferrata experience is completed and you’ve walked back to the slate mine, it’s time to get back to the car and head into Keswick for some serious fish and chips!

Head out of the slate mine and turn left onto the road, and go back to where you drove earlier this morning to get back to your car. Then you want to be heading back up the road and into Keswick.

A traditional high street in England with a man looking inside the restaurant that says "Old Keswickian" and has posters for fish and chips.
Some of the best fish and chips in Cumbria the Old Keswickian.

When you’ve parked up in the little town, simply head to the town center. Follow the crowds and it won’t be long until you smell the incredible smell that is fish and chips!

The Old Keswickian is located on the corner of the main high street. Now, it is entirely your choice to eat in or take out. There are benches dotted around the streets, so on a summer evening, it can be a great place to do some people watching too.

They really are some of the best fish and chips in Cumbria though, and you won’t be disappointed — I’m certain of it.

Head to the Castlerigg Stone circle.

Now how do you end a full packed guided first day in the Lake District? Well, even here, you can unwind and enjoy the slower pace. After all, you are on holiday!

So we couldn’t recommend heading to the east of the town and out into the countryside for a spectacular end to the day.

Castlerigg Stone Circle is a true hidden gem in the Lake District. There is so much history to the area, and once again, the views and aura of being in such a grand structure are worth the last slog up the hill to find it!

It’s about a half-hour walk from the center of Keswick, but when you’re there, you can simply sit down and enjoy simply just being there.

A circle of large stones casting a shadow in the late afternoon sunlight on Castlerigg in the Lake District.
A view from Castlerigg Stone Circle just outside of Keswick

Wait for the sun to go down for a true experience and see the stones glisten as the last of the day’s light hits them. Now that’s how you switch off and really enjoy being in the moment!

Day Two of Your Lake District Itinerary

Have breakfast at the Pooley Bridge tea rooms.

Welcome to day two of your weekend in the Lake District and day two of your guide!

We hope you’re ready for another big one…. and if you are, then you’re going to need a good breakfast to get that energy stored up!

We start day two at Pooley Bridge, which can be driven to from Keswick. It’s around a half-hour or so drive, and once you’re here and parked, then the day is ready for you.

The Granny Dowbekins Tearooms offer a great selection of breakfasts to get you started for the day — of course, you can enjoy a good cup of tea alongside this too!

Today, there is a bit more of a schedule to keep to because of the Ullswater Steamers, but more information about their landing times at each stop can be found on their website. So check them out to make sure you can fit everything in for your trip.

Take the Ullswater Steamer across the lake to start your walk up to Helvellyn.

Once on the Ullswater Steamer, you can take a seat for the beginning of the day and look over the side of the boat at the water beside you.

Take in the views across the other mountains and fells in the Lakes as you travel along the water to Glenridding.

A jetty point where you can disembark from the steamboat, with a white smaller boat visible, and some hills on the lake in the distance.
Glenridding jetty point on Ullswater in the Lakes

When the steamer pulls up at Glenridding jetty, hop off and head out through the car park and cross the road here too.

Head right at the road for a short period of time before detouring off left. This path starts to climb up through another car park and then out of Glenridding.

This, folks, is the path leading up to the third highest fell in the Lake District: Helvellyn.

Follow the clear and somewhat steep path in places as it climbs up the banks of Helvellyn. You might meet and join others on their walk too, but go at your own pace. There is no rush to climbing any mountain, so take your time, stop as often as you like, and simply enjoy being here!

As you near the famous gap in the wall, it isn’t much longer until you see the beauty that is Red Tarn in front of you. This main path guides you to the tarn on Helvellyn in the Lake District. 

To either side of this are the glorious ridges of Striding Edge and Swirral Edge: one to climb up to Helvellyn, and one to walk back down from the top. But first, let’s take a break for a well-earned lunch break.

Enjoy a tasty packed lunch on the fells.

You cannot go walking across the fells in the Lake District without having to take a packed lunch with you most of the time!

Now when it comes to packed lunches, we are the leaders. We make sure that we have enough food to feed an army! This is simply because we are constantly hungry and snacking is a big part of fell walking for us, to keep your energy up along with being healthy too.

Some of the best snacks and packed lunch ideas are fruit, nuts, cereal bars, energy bars, along with sandwiches or soup in a Thermos if it’s an especially cold day in Cumbria.

Always take enough water with you too so that you don’t get dehydrated. This is a must if you’re walking in the summer months for sure!

Something that you just have to have on you at all times when in the Lake District is Kendal mint cake.

It’s insanely nice and hits the spot as a real energy boost when you need it. You can pick it up in most local and larger stores around the Lakes, so there is no excuse to not try it out! You won’t regret it. Our two-day guide to the Lake District wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t give you some local food or snack advice!

So enjoy your packed lunch at the side of Red Tarn whilst looking up towards the ridges of Striding and Swirral Edge, knowing it will soon be your turn to take them on yourself!

Ascend Helvellyn via Striding Edge and come back via Swirral Edge.

Backpacks zipped back up and bellies full, it’s time to face the beast itself: Striding Edge and the final ascent to Helvellyn.

Take your time as you head up the ridge on the left of Red Tarn and truly enjoy the exhilarating climb to the top of this amazing mountain.

Helvellyn summit looking down to Red Tarn in the Lake District
Helvellyn summit looking down towards Red Tarn in the centre, Catstye Cam on the far left

From the top of Helvellyn, you’ll have insane views across the whole of the Lake District and beyond.

If you’re lucky enough to have the summit mostly to yourself, then enjoy walking to each and every edge of the plateau and take in the views from each side.

Get your camera or phone out and get some snaps! We do each time to make those memories easier to look back on, and to show others where we’ve been too. It also helps with our blog to show you what to expect too!

Head towards Swirral Edge on the northern side of Helvellyn and head down this ridge.

Part of the way back down you’ll see a detour path on the left. This heads towards Catstye Cam.

For your two-day guide to the Lake District, depending on how you’re feeling, you might want to take the detour up here. It’s worth it to see the sights looking back towards Helvellyn! But if you’re feeling a little worn out, just keep heading down back to Red Tarn.

From here, you follow the same path down which you came up. This is the easiest and most direct way back to Glenridding.

Have dinner at the Helvellyn Country Kitchen.

When you’ve hiked back down to Glenridding, it will be well and truly time for some good grub!

A great place to head for a hearty meal is the Helvellyn Country Kitchen. They have some great hot meals like burgers, along with chips, paninis, and salads if you’re after a healthier option.

For us, after a long day walking you can’t beat a good greasy dinner to finish the day off. But each to their own, so there are options for everyone here.

If you’re feeling particularly hungry — which, let’s be honest, you should be after the walk you’ve had! — then take a look at the Helvellyn Country Kitchens desserts and cakes.

You really can’t beat them to finish off any meal… and maybe a good local pint to wash it all down!

Head back to Pooley Bridge on the steamer.

After you’ve filled your stomach to the bursting point, head back towards the Ullswater Steamers and jump back on to head back to Pooley Bridge.

Check the timetable throughout the year to make sure you have plenty of time. Depending on the time of year, it depends when is the last steamer back to Pooley Bridge.

This is why it’s essential to check the planned timetable for the day in the Lake District for the steamers, and this goes for all the lakes as well as Ullswater. 

When you’ve got back to the car then jump in and let’s take a drive to the final stop-off point for the day: Aira Force.

It’s a relatively short drive to Aira Force. The parking for this is located at the north end of Ullswater, so just keep following the main road from Pooley Bridge until you see the signs to pull in.

Head towards the waterfall of Aira Force.

Park in the large parking lot, and then head towards the only way possible: the waterfall of Aira Force.

As you get closer to the waterfall, you’ll start to feel as though you’re in a fairytale! The woods get denser, and there are some lovely bridges and stone paths that lead over the streams below.

Aira Force waterfall in the Lake District

It’s possible to get utterly lost in time and lost in general whilst walking to the waterfall.

We have got lost here in a downpour, and when we finally made it back to the car we were in hysterics laughing at just how soaked we really were!

So rain or shine, it’s the perfect way to end a busy day climbing in the Lake District.

When you get to Aira Force, take a seat on the wall or stand and just become mesmerized by the water tumbling down. Let yourself drift into a calm place and reflect on the last two days in the Lake District.

I know for us, any adventure in the Lake District is special. So we hope you’ve enjoyed this Lake District itinerary, and truly got the most out of your weekend in the Lake District.

So that’s your fun-packed two-day guide to the Lake District from us!

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading and are ready to get your boots strapped on tight! Comment below for more information or your thoughts on the plan too. We’d love to hear from you. And if you need more resources, be sure to check our blog for more Lake District articles.

About the Authors

Two women, Hazel and Zoe, smiling and wearing glasses while visiting the Lake District of UK.

Hi, we’re Hazel and Zoe (True Freedom Seekers), who have a deep passion and interest in the Lake District of the UK. After visiting Cumbria over five years ago, we now make our way back to the Lakes at any time possible to enjoy more adventures while we’re there.

We regularly climb the Wainwrights and now blog on our journeys along the way. Along with information pages so you can get the best advice possible when you visit too.

You can follow us on Instagram, Facebook, or Medium

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One Week in Europe: 30 Ways to Plan a 7 Day Europe Trip

If you only have one week in Europe, you may be a bit intimidated when it comes time to deciding where exactly to go.

After all, there are countless possibilities: from exploring one country in depth to zipping around a couple of capitals as fast as you can, there are so many different ways to spend your one week Europe trip depending on the kind of traveler you are and what kind of sights you’re interesting in seeing.

I’ve broken down the best ways to spend 7 days in Europe with the help of well-traveled bloggers from around the world, sharing their favorite way of spending just one week in Europe.

From classic examples like Italy and Spain to one week itineraries for the Balkans and Central Europe’s capitals, here are 25 incredible ways to spend a one week in Europe itinerary!

One Week in Europe: Classic Itinerary Ideas

Classic Italy: Rome – Florence – Venice

A one-week road trip through Italy is on many people’s bucket list. The incredible views of Tuscany, mouth-watering food, and pristine history make it one of the best road trips in the world!

Rome to Florence and Florence to Venice are only 3-hour drives, and the route can also be done by train. 

Stop 1: Rome (3 days)

The eternal city of Rome is a traveler’s dream destination! With an incredible lifespan filled with rich history and delicious food, what’s not to love. 

Highlights:

  • Visiting the Colosseum and Roman Forum to appreciate the glory of Ancient Rome
  • Explore the history of Vatican City
  • Toss a coin or two into the Trevi Fountain to guarantee a return to Rome. 

Stop 2: Florence (3 days) 

Walking through beautiful architecture while snacking on homemade gelato is the perfect Florence day! 

Highlights:

  • Visit the impressive collection of museums in Florence – including the Uffizi Galleria 
  • Walk through the city to the Piazza del Michelangelo for panoramic views of the city
  • Enjoy live music throughout the many piazzas

Stop 3: Venice (2 days) 

The floating city of Venice is a breathtaking destination for all travelers.

Since there’s no driving in Venice, it’s the perfect time to drop off your rental car and use public transportation during your stay. 

Highlights:

  • Cross the iconic Rialto bridge with gondolas gliding underneath
  • Take a relaxing gondola ride through the small alleyways 
  • Enjoy cicchetti (Italian tapas) at a waterfront restaurant.

Explored by Pamela of the Directionally Challenged Traveler

Northern Italy: Venice – Verona – Milan

A one-week whirlwind trip through Northern Italy is the perfect way to experience a bit of Italy, without biting off more than you can chew with just one week in Europe.

Here’s how to structure a perfect one week Northern Italy itinerary!

Stop One: Venice (3 days)

Venice is a beautiful city with plenty of opportunities to just lose yourself in the backstreets.

There are some great family hotels in Venice making it the perfect base to start your travels.

Highlights:

  • Take a gondola ride through the canals to see Venice at its best.
  • See the glass being made in Murano, some of the most exquisite in the world.
  • Explore the history in the Doge’s Palace full of intrigue and culture.

Stop Two: Verona (2 days)

Verona is much less touristy than Venice but has a real charm.

It’s a place to see history, eat great food and soak up the history in this picturesque city that featured in Romeo and Juliet!

Highlights:

  • Take a trip to the Roman Arena which is older than the Colosseum.
  • Stand on Juliet’s balcony to imagine yourself in Shakespeare’s tale!
  • Climb to the top of the Lamberti Tower for spectacular rooftop views.

Stop Three: Milan (2 days)

Milan is a fantastic city to take in the culture, the shopping and the sights.

It is cosmopolitan Italy at its best!

Highlights:

  • Visit the Duomo di Milano – one of the largest cathedrals in Italy.
  • Shop until you stop at the Via Montenapoleone.
  • Immerse yourself at the Museo Nazionale Della Scienza e Della Tecnologia with all the creations of Leonardo da Vinci

Explored by Nichola of Globalmouse Travels

Classic Spain: Seville – Granada – Madrid

Spain is a beautiful destination that’s perfect for a first Europe trip.

If you only have one week in Europe and you want to see history, culture, and food: Spain is the destination!

 Stop One: Seville (2 days)

 Located in the southernmost region of Spain, Seville is a beautiful city that is easy to explore on foot.

It is filled with stunning historical buildings, traditional music and dance, and incredible food.

Highlights:

  • Visit the incredible Royal Alcázar of Seville
  • Experience music and dance at a flamenco show
  • Explore the Triana neighborhood and enjoy some of the best tapas in Seville

Stop Two: Granada (2 days)

Visiting the small city of Granada is like stepping back in time.

While many visitors simply stop for a day trip to the Alhambra, an overnight stay allows you to truly experience the heart of this historic city.

Highlights:

  • Visit the magnificent Alhambra Palace and gardens
  • Wander the historic Albaicin neighborhood
  • Visit the Granada Cathedral and the Royal Chapel, the final resting place of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand

Stop Three: Madrid (3 days)

The capital city of Spain, Madrid is filled with history, art, and wonderful food. Make sure to include a little of each during your visit!

Highlights:

  • Visit the Reina Sofia art museum to see Guernica, as well as the Prado if you have time
  • Take a tour of the Royal Palace (Palacio Real)
  • Walk around the beautiful Retiro Park

– Explored by Joanne of Sunsets and Roller Coasters

Beloved Italy: Rome – Florence – Pisa

There are so many wonderful destinations to spend one week in Italy, but perhaps the most classic is the combination of Rome, Florence, and Pisa, a tourist favorite.

Here’s how to tackle Italy if you have just a week in Europe!

Stop One: Rome (3 days)

Rome is the ultimate place to visit for ancient history, culture, and cuisine. It’s also home to many of Italy’s famous landmarks as well as plenty of hidden gems that will leave you in awe. 

Highlights:

  • Wandering the Colosseum, the biggest amphitheater of the Roman Empire
  • Admiring the beautiful fountains in Piazza Navona
  • Walking up the Spanish Steps and enjoying the view
  • Tossing a coin in the legendary Trevi Fountain
  • Seeing the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican Museums
  • Tasting the delicious local cuisine in the Trastevere neighborhood

Stop Two: Florence (3 days)

As the capital of Tuscany, Florence is filled with beautiful cathedrals, scenic bridges, and magnificent art. It also offers one of the most gorgeous sunset views of Italy!

Highlights:

  • Wandering the historical center with a gelato in hand
  • Climbing to the top of the iconic Duomo
  • Shopping for souvenirs on the scenic Ponte Vecchio
  • Watching a spectacular sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo
  • Seeing beautiful artwork in the Uffizi Gallery
  • Getting cultured in the museums of Palazzo Pitti

Stop Three: Pisa (1 day)

The charming town of Pisa is only an hour away by train from Florence, making it an easy day trip to take. It’s not only a great place to visit for architecture and food, but also for shopping!

Highlights:

  • Climbing up the iconic Leaning Tower of Pisa
  • Listening to the acoustics in the Pisa Baptistery
  • Exploring the stunning Pisa Cathedral
  • Admiring the artwork inside Palazzo Blu
  • Shopping at Corso Italia

-Explored by Jiayi of The Diary of a Nomad

Southern Spain: Seville – Malaga – Granada

If you want to stick to the south of Spain (Andalusia), then this alternate one week in Spain itinerary is a great choice.

Stop One: Seville (3 days)

Seville is a top highlight of Spain, with incredible Mudejar architecture, 25,000 orange trees, spectacular streets with buildings covered in orange and white, amazing food, and flamenco music on every corner!

Highlights:

  • Visit the palace of Real Alcazar, a Game of Thrones filming location
  • Stroll around the colorful streets of Santa Cruz neighborhood
  • Watch the sunset from the top of Las Setas

Stop Two: Malaga (2 days)

Malaga is the most popular, and the largest beach town of Andalusia, with beautiful beaches, colorful streets, and vibrant nightlife.

We can’t forget that it’s the birthplace of the famous artist Pablo Picasso! By bus, it takes 2.5 hours to arrive from Seville, so it’s an easy next stop:

Highlights:

  • Visit the Picasso Museum to learn more about the man behind the paintings
  • Explore the beautiful beaches of Malaga
  • Watch a sunset from the best viewpoint of the town, Mirador de Gibralfaro

Stop Three: Granada (2 days)

Granada is one of the most authentic towns to visit in Andalusia, and it’s just an hour and a half away from Malaga.

The Moors (Arabic) played a really important part in Andalusia’s history and unique architecture, an you can see that in Granada.

Granada is spectacular for its amazing views, authentic feel, and the many flamenco artists that are strolling around in Albaicin and stopping at each restaurant for a quick show.

Highlights:

  • Visit the spectacular Alhambra palace
  • Wander around in the Moorish neighborhood, the white-washed old town of Albaicin
  • Listen to flamenco artists while enjoying a delicious meal

– Explored by Helga of ShegoWandering

Mainland Greece: Athens – Meteora – Thessaloniki

A wonderful trip through Mainland Greece is the perfect one week in Europe trip, since you won’t have to deal with coordinating flights and ferries during a shorter trip.

This one week in Greece is the perfect primer to Greece and is easy to travel by car or train.

Stop One: Athens (3 days)

Athens, the capital of Greece, is a vibrant city rich in history, archaeological sites, museums, and amazing food that enjoys great weather all year round.

It has a wealth of archaeological sites like the Acropolis but also the Ancient Agora, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, and more.

Highlights:

  • Visit the Acropolis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Athens’ most popular attraction, as well as the Acropolis Museum and the Archaeological Museum of Athens to learn about Greece’s rich history.
  • Explore the street art on the streets of Athens
  • See the change of the guards on Syntagma Square

Stop Two: Meteora (2 days)

Meteora is another UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It is a place of unique natural beauty where you will find big rock formations with Greek Orthodox monasteries on top. 

Highlights:

  • Visting the 6 remaining monasteries
  • Watch the sunset from the top of the rocks
  • Hike one of the many paths around these unique rock formations

Stop Three: Thessaloniki (2 days)

Thessaloniki is the second-largest city in Greece built around the coastline of the Thermaic Gulf.

It is a lively city with great nightlife, food, and a lot of interesting historical sites.

Highlights:

  • Admire the view from Ano Poli
  • Check out the archaeological sites of the Roman Agora, the Rotonda, the Byzantine Baths, and the Arch of Galerius.
  • Visit the landmark of Thessaloniki, the White Tower on the waterfront

– Explored by Chrysoula of Athens & Beyond

Central Europe Sampler: Budapest – Vienna – Bratislava

Central Europe is a wonderful destination for travelers hoping to experience a few different countries in a single week in Europe.

The closely-linked capital cities of Vienna and Bratislava are just an hour apart, and Budapest isn’t far, either, making three European countries in one week not only doable but also downright pleasant.

Stop One: Budapest (3 days) 

A city of two halves divided by the Danube River, Budapest has so much to see and do. Budapest is a cosmopolitan city offering a wealth of culinary delights and a historical center with magnificent architecture.

Budapest also has the most thermal springs than any other capital in the world, so plenty of choice for bathing. 

Highlights:

  • Relax in the Szechenyi Thermal Baths, or the Palatinus Baths which is more suitable for families
  • Visit Buda Castle and Fisherman’s Bastion on Buda Hill
  • Explore the Jewish Quarter and the ‘Shoes on the Danube Bank’, a memorial to those killed during WW2

Stop Two: Vienna (3 days) 

Trains to Vienna (Wien Hauptbahnhof train station) depart from Budapest Keleti train station every hour and take around 2 hours 40 minutes, making this an easy next stop on a week in Europe itinerary.

Vienna is a romantic and magical city packed full of architectural masterpieces. If you like shopping and museums, Vienna has an abundance of both.

Highlights:

  • See Vienna’s magnificent Rathaus (City Hall) and Hofburg Palace
  • Visit Maria Theresia Garden, home to both the Natural History Museum & Vienna’s Art History Museum
  • Explore the beautiful Schönbrunn Palace & Children’s Museum

Stop Three: Bratislava (1 day) 

From Vienna, the train journey to Bratislava is just a little over an hour. It can be visited as a day trip or as an overnight.

Such an underrated city, Bratislava has something for everyone with its quirky historical old town and modern center, tightly packed with super trendy bars, cafes and eateries.

Highlights:

  • Visit the unique, white rectangular Bratislava Castle which overlooks the city
  • Wander around the old town and visiting the Church of St. Elizabeth (aka the Blue Church)
  • Walk over the River Danube via the UFO Bridge

– Explored by Gemma of Families Can Travel

Best of the UK: London — Lake District — Edinburgh

The UK is a compact and diverse country that is perfect for a first trip to Europe.

If you only have one week in Europe, you can easily visit both the English and Scottish capitals with a quick trip to the beautiful Lake District in between, all easily connected by train.

Stop One: London (4 days)

London, the capital city of England is brimming with history and royalty. From the many iconic landmarks to Red double decker buses to red telephone booths to black cabs, the city will make you fall in love with it.

Highlights:

  • Explore the royal city by taking a tour of the city and visiting Buckingham Palace and seeing the Change of Guard, Tower Bridge, London Eye, St. Paul’s Cathedral, iconic Big Ben, British museum and cruise on the Thames river.
  • Taking a day trip to Greenwich and visiting Royal Observatory and other landmarks like Queen’s House, Old Royal Naval College, National Maritime Museum. Could ride the Emirates Cable for a round trip from London.
  • Taking a day trip to Windsor Castle and Stonehenge.

Stop Two: Lake District (1 day)

Lake District, a national park in Cumbria, is known for its mesmerizing glacial lakes surrounded by mountains and lush greenery. It is a popular vacation spot to unwind and rejuvenate yourself.

Highlights:

  • Take a cruise on the Lake Windermere or Lake Ullswater
  • Hike or explore on an electric bike around Lake Windermere along the trails.
  • Check out Castlerigg Stone Circle, 5000 year old.

Stop Three: Edinburgh (2 days)

Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland is a vibrant city with beautiful landscape, cobblestone roads, window to the Scottish culture that will strike a chord in your heart. Checking out Edinburgh’s attractions will also let you enjoy its classical Scottish architecture. 

Highlights:

  • Walking the Royal Mile and shop for lambswool/cashmere, whiskey, and other souvenirs. Don’t forget to eat at the cafes on Royal Mile.
  • Visit the Edinburgh Castle perched atop the hill, Camera Obscura, Holyroodhouse Palace and Scottish Parliament all on the Royal Mile.
  • Hike Arthur’s seat for a panoramic view of city and take a Harry Potter tour. 

-Explored by Neha from Travelmelodies

Best of Ireland: Dublin – Cork – Galway

Ireland is the perfect introduction to Europe for first-timers to the continent. Friendly people, no language barrier for English speakers, beautiful landscapes: what’s not to love?

Plus, Ireland is small and compact so that if you only have one week in Europe, you can easily do Ireland justice without stressing.

Stop One: Dublin (3 Days)

Dublin is Ireland’s capital and largest city. Most importantly it’s the heart and soul of the country. The city offers something to see for every travel, incredible food and drink, and best of all, it’s easy to explore.

Highlights:

  • Learn about Ireland’s most famous export, Guinness, at the Guinness StoreHouse and Brewery
  • Trinity College and the Book of Kells
  • Explore Ireland’s tumultuous history at Dublin Castle

Stop Two: Cork (2 Days)

Welcome to the “Rebel City”. Cork is Ireland’s 2nd largest city and gateway to southern Ireland. The city has played a large role in the history of Ireland from confrontation with the British, to the setting off point for millions of Irish emigrants. Today it’s one of Ireland’s most dynamic cities offering tons to see and do.

Highlights:

  • Wander the English Market to sample some of the best Irish food in the country. 
  • Visit the 18th Century Gothic Revival St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral
  • Explore Fitzgerald Park and Cork Public Museum

Stop Three: Galway (2 Days)

Located on Ireland’s rugged west coast, Galway has been referred to as Europe’s “friendliest city.” More of a small town than a major city, Galway is a vibrant city thanks to a lively music and arts scene.  

Highlights:

  • Visit one of Europe’s youngest cathedrals, Galway Cathedral
  • See Galway from the water on a Galway Bay boat tour
  • See the last remaining parts of the old city medieval walls at the Spanish Arch

-Explored by Eric from Food and Drink Destinations

Best of France: Avignon – Lyon – Paris

These three French cities are connected via the high-speed TGV train, making this an easy one week in Europe itinerary.

Stop One: Avignon (2 days)

The cultural and historical heart of Provence, Avignon is a stunning city situated on the River Rhone.

From boutique shopping to dining in world-class restaurants, it offers a sophisticated city break.

Highlights:

  • Explore the UNESCO World Heritage city, with its intact ramparts and endless historical attractions
  • Visit Les Halles food market to shop for regional specialities and to watch food demonstrations
  • Take an interactive 3D tour (via histopad) of the Pope’s Palace.

Stop Two: Lyon (2 days)

Famous for food, Lyon is the ideal place to indulge your inner food critic.

Settle into the city’s cafes and restaurants to sample the region-specific specialities on offer. Then walk off your gluttony by touring the wealth of historical sights around the city!

Highlights:

  • Take a stroll through the streets of Presqu’île for stunning architecture and shopping
  • Go on a mural-spotting spree through the city, since Lyon takes street art to a whole other level!
  • Visit Vieux Lyon to take a step back in time and see how the city once was.

Stop Three: Paris (3 days)

Equally as alluring for lovers as it is for families, Paris is a destination with something for everyone.

From touring the city’s standout museums to people watching on a cafe terrace, the City of Lights is sure to dazzle every visitor.

Highlights:

  • Ride the elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower for dreamy Paris views
  • Walk through Montmartre and climbing up to the Sacré-Cœur
  • Take to the French art of flaneur and spend hours wandering the streets and gardens as you go

– Explored by Nadine of Le Long Weekend

Paris & French Riviera: Paris – Marseille – Nice

This France itinerary from Paris to Nice covers Paris, Marseille, and Nice, and it is excellent for sightseeing if you only have one week in Europe.

All the cities are well connected by direct trains, so you don’t need to take any flights, great for a short trip.

Stop One: Paris (3 days)

Paris is always a good idea, and there’s no better place to start this 1-week holiday than from the French capital.

If this is your first time in Paris, you will want to visit some of the city’s main sights, perhaps with a couple of leisure strolls around the most picturesque areas.

Highlights:

  • Climb up to the Eiffel Tower
  • Walk around Montmartre
  • Visit the Louvre Museum

Marseille (2 days)

Direct TGV trains leave Paris Gare de Lyon train station to Marseille. The train ride takes less than 3 hours, and it is very straightforward.

Marseille, in southern France, is the capital of the region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. It is one of the most important port cities in the Mediterranean Sea and an exciting place to visit for a couple of days. 

Highlights:

  • Stroll around the Old Port and visit the fish market, as well as the Le Panier neighborhood
  • Admire the magnificent views from Basilica Notre Dame de la Garde
  • Visit the MuCEM (Museum of Mediterranean Cultures)

Nice (2 days)

The last stop of this French trip is Nice.

Enjoy the sun and the glamour of this coastal city in the French Riviera famous for its baroque architecture and the iconic Promenade des Anglais.

Highlights:

  • Stroll around the Old Town
  • Admire the views from La Colline du Château
  • Walk the Promenade des Anglais, ice cream in hand

– Contributed by Elisa of World in Paris

Best of the Netherlands: Amsterdam – Rotterdam – Utrecht

The Netherlands is a compact country with so much more to offer than just Amsterdam!

If you only have one week in Europe, the Netherlands is a perfect destination as it’s compact, easy to travel by train, and very easy to navigate as a foreigner due to the friendliness of the people and the prevalence of English speakers.

Stop 1: Amsterdam (3 days)

Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands and known for its beautiful canals, 17th-century warehouses and excellent museums.

Highlights:

  • Admire world-class artworks from famous Dutch and international artists in the Rijksmuseum
  • Visit the house where Jewish diarist Anne Frank was hiding during WWII.
  • Learn about science at the interactive NEMO Science Museum (especially suitable for families planning a Dutch city trip with kids)

Stop 2: Rotterdam (2 days)

Rotterdam is the second-largest city in the Netherlands. The city is famous for its modern architecture such as the iconic Erasmus bridge, the Kubuswoningen (Cube Houses), and the colorful Market Hall as well as its maritime history.

Highlights:

  • Ascend to the top of the 185-meter-tall Euromast. On a clear day, you can look as far as the city of Antwerp in Belgium!
  • Learn about Dutch naval history at the Maritime Museum Rotterdam and stroll along the Old Harbor.
  • Take a boat tour and visit the Europoort, the largest harbor in Europe.

Stop 3: Utrecht (2 days)

Utrecht is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands and is often called a smaller (and better) version of Amsterdam. Its historic city center can easily be explored on foot, or do as the Dutch people do and hop on a bicycle.

Highlights:

  • Climb the Dom Tower and admire the view (you can see Rotterdam and Amsterdam on a sunny day).
  • Take a bus to nearby Castle De Haar, a beautiful historic castle surrounded by lovely gardens.
  • For those with kids, the Miffy museum is a must. Here your little ones can meet this famous children’s book character and walk around in 10 miniature worlds based on the Miffy books.

-Explored By Lotte from Beste voor Kids 

Scandinavian Sampler: Stockholm – Malmo – Copenhagen

For a quick trip of some of Scandinavia’s best cities, you can easily combine a trip to Sweden and Denmark with just one week in Europe, using Malmo as a connection point between the countries’ two capital cities.

Stop One: Stockholm (3 days)

Stockholm, Sweden’s vibrant capital, is a city built on a 14-island archipelago. It has a series of bridges and ferries to help visitors navigate the city and the waterfront of Stockholm is seemingly everywhere. The city is a must-visit capital in Scandinavia and home to fascinating history and a most-welcoming people.

Highlights:

  • Wander the streets of Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s perfectly-preserved medieval town center
  • Visit the Vasa Museum, an exhibit of a 17th-century Swedish warship that was recovered from the harbor fully intact
  • Check out the ABBA Museum and learn about the Eurovision Song Contest and the band that has become a Swedish national treasure 

Stop Two: Malmo (2 days)

Malmo is a diverse city in the southern region of Sweden. It’s geographically and culturally close to Denmark with historical ties to the nation, having been part of both kingdoms throughout the centuries. It’s a vibrant city with a young population due to the universities in the area.

Highlights:

  • Take a canal tour around the beautiful city of Malmo and its harbor
  • Visit the Malmo Saluhall, a hip street food hall in a rustic post-industrial building
  • Check out Malmo Castle, the city’s fortress and part of Malmo Museum

Stop Three: Copenhagen (2 days)

Copenhagen is an often-overlooked European capital that maintains a quiet and unassuming charm. It’s a perfect foodie destination and home to castles, canals, and an amusement park that inspired Walt Disney himself. 

Highlights:

  • Embark on a canal tour of Copenhagen to see the entire city from the water in under two hours
  • Try a New Nordic meal at any of the fabulous restaurants or Copenhagen street food areas
  • Visit Copenhagen’s famous amusement park, Tivoli Gardens, the second-oldest amusement park in the world.

-Explored by Derek & Mike of Everything Copenhagen

Best of Norway: Oslo – Flåm – Bergen

If you only have one week in Europe, the country of Norway is one of the most majestic places for a scenic vacation. Norway is a nature-lovers dream, filled with waterfalls, hikes, and stunning fjords. 

Stop One: Oslo (2-3 days)

Start your journey in the country’s capital city of Oslo. Plan to give yourself 2-3 days, as the city is filled with museums, the Nobel Peace Center, and the world-class sculpture park, Vigeland Sculpture Park. 

Highlights:

  • Visiting the Nobel Peace Center
  • Admiring the art in Vigeland Sculpture Park
  • Checking out the Fram Museum and the National Gallery

Stop Two: Flåm (2 days)

After a few days learning about Viking culture, art, and Scandinavian history, catch a train to Flåm, Norway. The tiny village in the heart of the fjords is serenely beautiful. Even the train ride to Flåm is known as one of the most scenic train rides in the world.

Take a cruise through the fjords, kayak or hike to a waterfall. To truly relax and take in nature, give yourself at least 2 days in Flåm before continuing on your journey to your final destination, Bergen. 

Highlights:

  • Admiring the views from the scenic Flåm Railway
  • Heading out onto the water on the Nærøyfjord Cruise
  • Seeing the gorgeous Brekkefossen waterfall

Stop Three: Bergen (2 days)

The coastal city is known as the gateway to the fjords. Give yourself 3 days in Bergen to explore Bryggen and its colorful row of wooden houses along the harbor, take the Ulriken cable car ride or take a funicular up Mount Fløyen. You can even hike between Ulriken and Mount Fløyen for stellar views of the harbor and its surrounding peaks.

Be sure to eat fresh fish from the Bergen Fish Market and take a short train ride to see the beautiful Fantoft Stave Church to round out your one-week itinerary in this incredible Scandinavian country. 

Highlights:

  • Take the scenic Ulriken Cable Car for incredible views
  • Soar above the city on the Mount Fløyen funicular
  • Marvel at the Fantoft Stave Church

-Explored by Melissa from Parenthood and Passports

One Week in Europe: Alternative Itinerary Ideas

Best of Benelux: Amsterdam – Brussels – Luxembourg City

Luxembourg City, Luxembourg

This European itinerary belongs to the classics: just in 7 days you will visit 3 countries and their capital cities.

It features the so-called Benelux countries Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

Stop One: Amsterdam (3 days)

Amsterdam is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe – with its maze of canals and step-gabled canal houses, the city attracts millions of tourists each year. The best way to discover Amsterdam is on foot.

Highlights:

  • Taking a boat tour of the canals – a UNESCO World Heritage site
  • Visiting the Rijksmuseum to admire Rembrandt’s masterpiece The Night Watch 
  • Stopping at Anne Frank House to learn the story behind the famous wartime diary and its author – the Jewish girl Anne Frank
  • Seeing the gorgeous tulip gardens at Keukenhof (open only from March – May)

Stop Two: Brussels (2 days)

Belgium’s capital is an amazing city where the lush architecture of the historical centre is juxtaposed to the modern buildings in the European Quarter. Brussels is also the capital of the European Union as the most EU-institutions are headquartered there.

Highlights:

  • Admiring the Grand Place with the Town Hall – a UNESCO World Heritage site
  • Binging on Belgian waffles, Belgian chocolate, Belgian fries and Belgian beer
  • Checking out the Atomium

Stop Three: Luxembourg City (2 days)

Luxembourg City is a cosmopolitan city with rich historical heritage. The city was founded in 963 and is a good example of medieval defensive European architecture. Luxembourg City is, after Brussels, the city with most EU-institutions in Europe.

Highlights:

  • Visiting Grund – the old town along the Alzette River with the Neumünster Abbey and the famous casemates – a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Relaxing at one of the cafés at Place d’Armes
  • Checking out on modern and contemporary art at Casino Luxembourg and at the Museum of Modern Art Grand-Duc Jean

-Explored by Daniela of Exploring the Netherlands

Beautiful Baltics: Tallinn – Riga – Vilnius

For travelers looking to visit three countries in Europe in a week, the Baltics are the perfect place to do so — and get off the beaten path in the meantime!

The three Baltic capitals are all beautiful and compact, and the short travel distance between them (and the easy bus connections) make it quite a perfect itinerary for a seasoned Europe traveler looking for a slightly different Europe trip.

Stop One: Tallinn (3 days)

Tallinn, Estonia is a beautiful cobble-stoned city that looks straight out of a fairy tale. It has a fascinating naval history to explore at the Maritime Museum. It’s also a delicious destination for those who want to try Nordic-style cuisine at much cheaper prices. 

Highlights:

  • Exploring Tallinn’s Old Town
  • Smelling the roses in Kadriorg Park
  • Seeing the best of Estonian art at the Kumu Museum

Stop Two: Riga (2 days)

Riga, Latvia is a fascinating destination for any lover of architecture from medieval to communist styles.

Its Old Town is full of charming statues like the one of the Bremen Town Musicians. It has some of the most beautiful Art Nouveau buildings in all Europe as well as a fabulous food market.

Highlights:

  • Visiting the many churches in Riga’s Old Town
  • Admiring the Art Nouveau designs on Albert Street and in the Art Museum Riga Bourse
  • Tasting the special Latvian drink known as Black Balsam

Stop Three: Vilnius (2 days)

Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania and the best place to learn about Lithuania’s rich history.

But it’s also a vibrant university city with an exciting youth culture and street art scene. It’s also a famous destination for riding hot air balloons!

Highlights:

  • Learning about Lithuania at the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania
  • Visiting the quirky independent community Uzupis
  • Tasting local delicacies like the potato dumplings known as zeppelin

-Explored by Stella Jane of Around the World in 24 Hours

Classic Poland: Warsaw – Wroclaw – Krakow

For an alternative way to spend one week in Europe, go a bit more off the beaten path and explore Poland.

A great budget destination, Poland is also incredibly rich with history, culture, and delicious food and nightlife.

Stop One: Warsaw (3 days)

Warsaw, the capital of Poland, is an incredibly special city.

Its history and style combine pre-war classic old town (that was completely ruined and rebuilt) and castles, sad memorials from Second World War and the Holocaust, post-war gray communist buildings, and modern streets with fun vibes, great shopping, and interesting Polish food.

Highlights:

  • Stroll the cobblestone streets of the old town of Warsaw
  • Watch the view from the Palace of Culture and Science
  • Visit the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews

Stop 2: Wroclaw (1 day)

Wroclaw is one of the most beautiful cities in Poland, and maybe in Europe.

The colorful houses, the Oder river, and the impressive cathedrals make you feel as if you are walking inside a 200-year-old painting!

Highlights:

  • Climb up the St. Elizabeth’s Church Tower to get an amazing view of the old town
  • Cross Tumski bridge (the Lovers’ bridge). If you are with your loved one, add your own lock to the bridge.
  • Follow the mini dwarf statues in between the city’s landmarks

Stop 3: Krakow (3 days)

Krakow is the second largest city in Warsaw and the historic capital of Poland (until 1596).

The city is an extensive cultural heritage, and the entire old town was declared a UNESCO world heritage site.  It is also a city of students and is renowned for its nightlife scene.

Highlights:

  • Visit the Wawel Royal Castle, the beautifully preserved 14th-century castle
  • Grab a beer at Rynek Główny – Europe’s largest medieval market square
  • Take a somber day trip to Auschwitz concentration camp to learn about Holocaust history.

Explored by Moshe of The Top Ten Traveler

Best of Bosnia: Sarajevo – Konjic – Mostar

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a beautiful country off the beaten path of Europe, and it’s a great place for a one week Europe trip for seasoned travelers.

While Bosnia and Herzegovina isn’t the easiest country in Europe to travel — language barriers and infrastructure issues are a concern — it may be one of the most rewarding, with kind-hearted people, fascinating (and at times tragic) history, and incredible landscapes. Here’s a Bosnia itinerary to follow:

Stop One: Sarajevo (3 days)

Sarajevo is Europe’s most multicultural city. The charming old town allows you to travel back to Ottoman times, but there is great Austro-Hungarian architecture too. With its scenic location in the hills there are a variety of things to do.  

Highlights:

  • Walking through the cobbled stone streets of the Bascarsija
  • Enjoying the Panorama views over Sarajevo from the Yellow fortress
  • Learning about the Bosnian civil war at the Tunnel museum and Galerija 11/07/95.

Stop Two: Konjic (1 day)

Konjic is a small town with a beautiful Ottoman bridge spanning the Neretva river. Recently it became more famous for being home to a secret nuclear bunker built by Tito. It also serves as a gateway to the spectacular natural beauty that surrounds the city.  

Highlights:

  • A visit to Tito’s bunker
  • Rafting over the Neretva river
  • Walking over the ancient Ottoman bridge.

Stop Three: Mostar (3 days)

Mostar is one of Bosnia’s most picturesque towns that is famous for its historic Ottoman old town from the 15th century. Although it was destroyed during the war everything was beautifully renovated, including its iconic bridge spanning the Neretva river. 

Highlights:

  • Watching the locals jump off the Stari Most bridge
  • Shopping for souvenirs in the old town
  • Visiting the Dervish monastery in Blagaj

-Explored by Ellis Veen of Backpack Adventures

Best of Czechia: Pilsen – Karlovy Vary – Prague

Most travelers to Czechia never make it past Prague, but if you want to see some of the best of this Central European gem, head a bit off the beaten path and explore cute other towns like Pilsen and Karlovy Vary.

Czechia’s small size makes it perfect for a leisurely one week in Europe, and here’s how to do it.

Stop One: Pilsen (2 days)

The beautiful Czech city of Pilsen is most well known for the beer derived from the destination. It’s located in the western Czech Republic and is wrapped in charming city parks hugging a medieval town center. 

Highlights:

  • Visit the Pilsner Urquell Brewery for a tour and tasting
  • Climb to the top of the Cathedral of Saint Bartholomew for a panoramic view of the city
  • Explore the old city and Pilsen’s Great Synagogue, the second-largest in Europe

Stop Two: Karlovy Vary (2 days)

Karlovy Vary is a picturesque spa town in West Bohemia. This Czech city has been a favorite of global celebrities and nobility since the early 19th century. The thermal springs have defined the city with visitors flocking to the spas that have emerged from them.

Highlights:

  • Hike to the many lookouts around the city of Karlovy Vary like the famous Diana’s Lookout
  • Book a spa treatment at one of the best thermal baths in Europe
  • Taste the waters from any of the hot springs fountains in the city’s colonnades

Stop Three: Prague (3 days)

The cultural center of the Czech Republic, Prague is a must-visit European capital. It’s one of the most beautiful cities in Europe with incredible architecture, art, history, and culture. It’s bisected by the Vltava River and has been a crucial trading center in Central Europe for hundreds of years.

Highlights:

  • Visit historic Prague Castle and the iconic Saint Vitus Cathedral
  • Walk across the famous Charles Bridge and admire the sculptures that line it
  • Wander Old Town Square and catch the hourly performance of Prague’s Astronomical Clock

-Explored by Derek & Mike of Robe Trotting

Best of Bulgaria: Sofia – Bansko – Melnik

Bulgaria is a beautiful and underrated part of Europe that travelers often miss, but that’s why it’s such a true hidden gem, a rare place where you can escape mass tourism in Europe.

This itinerary covers the capital, Sofia, as well as two small but quaint towns that are great for travelers looking for a less hectic one week in Europe itinerary.

Stop One: Sofia (3 days) 

Sofia is the country’s biggest city and the capital of Bulgaria.

The city has everything that you might wish for: cultural and historical heritage, amazing cuisine, exciting nightlife, plenty of parks and even its own mountain, Vitosha! 

Highlights:

  • Explore the ruins of the Roman city Serdika 
  • Visit Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sofia’s most iconic landmark
  • Go on a day trip to Plovdiv or the Seven Rila Lakes

Stop Two: Bansko (2 days)

The town of Bansko is one of the best places to visit in Bulgaria for hiking lovers and winter sports enthusiasts.

Located at the foot of Pirin Mountain, Bansko is famous for its distinctive architecture, stone houses, its wood-carving school, and the traditional Pirin songs as well as cuisine.

Highlights:

  • Hike in summer and ski or snowboard in winter 
  • Wander around the pretty Old Town 
  • Check out the oldest tree in Bulgaria, Baikushev’s pine (1,300 years old!) in Pirin National Park

Stop Three: Melnik (2 days)

Melnik is the smallest city in Bulgaria.

Situated among sand pyramids with bizarre forms, this little town attracts its visitors with its ancient houses and aromatic wines. The town is declared as a cultural-historical reserve. 

Highlights

  • Wine tasting along the Melnik Wine Route
  • Visit Rozhen Monastery 
  • Stop by the Kordopulov House

Explored by Bilyana of Owl Over The World 

Best of Portugal: Lisbon – Sintra – Porto

The best of Portugal can easily be seen in a week, meaning it’s a great introduction to Europe if you only have one week.

You’ll get to see the vibrant capital of Lisbon, the fairytale castles of Sintra, and the romantic azulejos of Porto all in an easy one week Europe trip.

Stop One: Lisbon (3 days)

Lisbon is one of the most vibrant cities in Portugal, filled with historical landmarks, museums, scenic lookout points, and charming neighborhoods. It’s also a fantastic destination for foodies and those looking for a buzzing nightlife scene.

Highlights:

  • Visiting the 11th-century São Jorge Castle.
  • Attending a Fado show to enjoy the soulful, most symbolic Portuguese music.
  • Exploring the important and unique National Tile Museum, housed in a 16th-century former convent.

Stop Two: Sintra (2 days)

Sintra is the queen city of beautiful palaces and castles, which gave it the title of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s also a great base for exploring the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park.

Highlights:

  • Admiring the colorful 19th-century Pena Palace – one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal.
  • Visiting the intriguing Convent of the Capuchos.
  • Living a fairytale at the dreamy Quinta da Regaleira palace.

Stop Three: Porto (2 days)

Sitting on the Douro River, Porto is a beautiful city perfect for travelers who love wine, good food, interesting landmarks and museums, and “wanderable” historic centers. It’s also a perfect base for exploring the Douro Valley.

Highlights:

  • Admiring the 18th-century Carmo Church and its stunning Azulejo tiles.
  • Getting lost in the maze of the narrow, colorful streets of the neighborhood of Ribeira.
  • Crossing the Luís I Bridge to Vila Nova de Gaia to visit some cellars and enjoy the best port wine tasting tours.

Explored by Or from My Path in the World 

East of the Iron Curtain: Berlin – Prague – Budapest

For history lovers, a one week Europe trip covering Berlin, Prague, and Budapest will allow you to visit 3 European capital cities in 3 different countries that were all formerly behind the Iron Curtain.

If you’re curious to see beautiful European cities while also learning more about the history of the 20th century, this is the perfect one week Europe itinerary for you.

Stop One: Berlin (2 days)

The quirky city of Berlin is unlike any other in Germany – and the world! Not only does it have buckets of history but there are plenty of alternative things to do in Berlin popular with young travellers and locals. 

Highlights

  • Learn about Berlin Wall history by visiting the Berlin Wall Museum and checking out the street art that now covers the remaining section
  • Explore quirky museums like the David Hasselhoff Museum!
  • Alternative nightlife – check out warehouse parties, discos in refurbished phone booths and friendly LGBTQ+ bars

Stop Two: Prague (2 days)

The capital of the Czech Republic is a fantastic place for history and architecture lovers especially those who love castles. Although it gets cold in the winter, you can warm up over hearty Czech cuisine and affordable Czech beer. 

Highlights

  • Drink in panoramic views of Prague from Vyšehrad viewpoint or Letna Park
  • Explore Prague Castle dating back to the 9th century 
  • Take photos at colourful and quirky John Lennon Wall

Stop Three: Budapest (2 days)

The beautiful city of Budapest is another one with classic architecture and history in abundance but also a quirky side and off-beat attractions. You can explore the best of both worlds during a 2 day Budapest itinerary.

Highlights

  • Soak in the famous Széchenyi Spa Baths
  • Catch the funicular up to Buda Castle and Fisherman’s Bastion on top of Buda Hill
  • Have a drink in quirky ruin bar, Simpla Kertz and others set inside refurbished buildings.

-Explored by Rose of Where Goes Rose

Mini Balkans Tour: Kotor – Dubrovnik – Mostar

The Balkans is a complex region covering 12 countries and numerous languages, currencies, and traditions. Transit between countries can be time-consuming, and a proper trip through the Balkans definitely requires more than just one week in Europe.

However, this mini Balkans itinerary with stops in Montenegro, Croatia, and Bosnia & Herzegovina takes advantage of a particularly beautiful corner of the Balkans where you can easily visit three Balkan countries in just 7 days in Europe.

Stop One: Kotor (2 days)

Kotor is an ancient port city in Montenegro on the Adriatic coast. The city is on the UNESCO world heritage list. Kotor is famous for its churches, walls and astounding views.

Highlights:

  • Wander through the old town with many beautiful buildings, narrow streets, restaurants, terraces, small shops, and unique squares.
  • Climb the over 1200 stairs towards the fort, towering over the city. The rewards are stunning views over Kotor and the Bay of Kotor.
  • Take a boat tour in the Bay of Kotor. For the views on Kotor and to visit the town of Perast and the island Our Lady of the Rocks.

Stop Two: Dubrovnik (3 days)

Dubrovnik is another beautiful port city on the Adriatic Sea in Croatia. It’s a famous, walled city with red-tiled roofed houses. Visitable in one day in Dubrovnik, but it’s more relaxed in 2 days.

Highlights:

  • Walk on the medieval walls, surrounding the old town of Dubrovnik. Admire the city and its buildings from above.
  • Wander through the old town with its Stradun (main) street and old buildings like the Onofrio fountain.
  • Go up Srd Mountain with a cable car to have a perfect view over Dubrovnik.

Stop Three: Mostar (2 day)

Mostar is a city in Bosnia and Herzegovina, famous because of the bridge Stari Most. The bridge was destroyed during the Bosnian-Croatian war and rebuilt in the early 2000s.

Highlights:

  • Walk over Stari Most, the famous steep bridge. Admire it also from afar.
  • Take the Mostar Free Walking Tour, a walking tour with a local. Learn more about the city and its history.
  • Sit down at a terrace and try a Bosnian coffee.

-Explored by Cosette from KarsTravels

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One Day in Prague Itinerary (From Someone Who Lived There!)

Prague is a truly spectacular city that, personally, I could visit and revisit endlessly.

I spent six months living in Prague studying abroad, and even in those six months, I never found myself running out of places to explore or new hidden gems to uncover.

Returning to the city many years later, I fell in love with it all over again, re-dedicating myself to exploring and finding little hidden corners of the city to fall in love with, and eating as much Czech food as could possibly fill my stomach.

I’m hoping to convey my love to Prague for you in this quick one day Prague itinerary, helping you to see the city through the eyes of someone who lived there, loved it, and will always keep a piece of Prague in their heart.

I hope you enjoy this quick 1 day in Prague itinerary and that it helps you capture a piece of Prague for your own heart, too!

How This One Day in Prague Itinerary Is Structured

Astronomical clock in Prague surrounded by other old buildings with afternoon light shining on it.

This post is your one-stop guide to tackling the best of Prague in one day.

During my six months living in Prague, several friends came to visit, and I had the opportunity to show several visitors around the city in my days there!

As a result, I’ve figured out the best way to route a single day in Prague itinerary without missing any of the highlights, but still adding on a few of Prague’s hidden gems.

This one day in Prague game plan skips the tourist traps and brings you straight to the essential attractions, while also granting you an inside glance at one of of the prettiest cities in Europe and one of my favorite places on the planet.

This Prague mini-itinerary includes a few guided tours where it helps you save time or adds essential historic context, but for the most part, it leaves you free to roam around the city for independent exploration and fortuitous wanderings down beautiful streets.

Is 1 Day in Prague Enough?

The view of the famous Prague church from a high vantange point, people down in the square looking very small, with lots of red roof architecture and pastel building facades surrounding the church in the middle of the photo.

If you ask me, not quite…. but don’t despair just yet! One day in Prague is just the right amount of time to enjoy an introduction to the city and its main attractions.

With only a day in Prague, you won’t quite get a feel for the city outside of its most popular attractions, but it is definitely enough time to snap plenty of beautiful photographs, see the top attractions, and swear up and down that you’ll come back to Prague another day to spend more time in this beautiful, magical city.

On this 24 hour Prague itinerary, we’ll cover some important attractions — Prague Castle and the St. Vitus Cathedral, Charles Bridge, the Astronomical Clock, the Old Town — but we won’t quite get to everywhere. But we’ll do our best!

One Day in Prague Map

Your One Day Prague Itinerary

Morning: Kolaches, the Charles Bridge, & Prague Castle

Start the day with a tasty koláč.

Four different colorful kolache Czech pastries, with black, orange, yellow, and red jams, a great way to start a day in Prague.

Start your day bright and early so you have time to tackle this one day in Prague itinerary properly! I suggest getting a start at 8 AM if you want to be at the Charles Bridge by 10 AM for the tour. But first — breakfast!

If you’ve ever had a kolache in the Midwest or Texas, you may not have known it, but you were eating a traditional Czech pastry!

What is known is Czech as koláč (koláče in plural form) has been transliterated into English as kolache — I guess in default as plural because it’s pretty much impossible to eat just one!

Koláče in Czechia are lightly sweetened pastries similar to a small, handheld pie, consisting of dough baked with a sweet filling or either jam or poppy seeds (my favorite!).

You can find them all over the city, but my favorite are at the cute gingerbread shop Perníčkův sen in the Old Town.

While they specialize in gingerbreads, their other pastries are absolutely delicious as well, as it’s a great place to grab a Prague souvenir for a loved one!

Walk through Old Town to the Kafka Monument.

Bronze statue of a headless, armless man with a man with a hat sitting on top of his shoulders, with a city background behind the sculpture.

Prague is, rightly, proud of one of the city’s most famous writers, Franz Kafka.

As a matter of fact, you’ll find countless Kafka references all around the city, in the form of museums, placards, tongue-in-cheek statues, and more.

As you walk through the Old Town towards the base of the Charles Bridge down, you’ll notice a strange statue: a headless, armless giant man with a man (Franz Kafka) sitting on top of it.

Why a headless man? It’s a tribute to one of Kafka’s strangest and earliest works, “Description of a Struggle.”

It’s located right in front of the Spanish Synagogue in the heart of Jewish Prague — don’t worry, we’ll come back here later in the afternoon for even more sightseeing.

Admire the the Rudolfinum.

Gold-yellow symmetrical music house with two stories and tons of ornate detailing with a statue in front and green hedges and plants.

This stunning pale yellow music hall is home to the Prague Philharmonic. It’s one of my favorite buildings in Prague, a perfect example of the delicate, pastel 19th century architecture that defines the city.

We’ll just stop here briefly to admire the architecture and the views over the Vltava River — it’s onto our next stop on this Prague itinerary. Also while here, don’t miss the statue in tribute to Prague’s most famous composer, Antonín Dvořák.

Side note: If you’re a fan of modern sculpture, you can take a quick detour to the Jan Palach memorial, a two-part memorial featuring The House of Suicide and the House of the Mother of Suicide.

Jan Palach was a Czech student who lit himself on fire in Wenceslas Square to protest the Soviet’s violent repression of the peaceful Prague Spring reforms. His self-immolation shocked Czech society and led to several other such suicide protests in then-Czechoslovakia and other Soviet-occupied countries.

There is another more traditional memorial to Jan Palach and Jan Zajíc in front of the National Museum in Wenceslas Square, but personally, I like the abstract nature of this piece.

Walk across the Charles Bridge to Malá Strana.

Walking across the Charles Bridge towards Mala Strana and the Castle District, buildings with red roofs on the side and observation towers and a basilica dome in the background.

Stroll down Křižovnická to the Charles Bridge (Karlův most), where you’ll cross the bridge over the Vltava. This beautiful river bisects Prague into the Castle side and the Old Town side.

As you cross the Charles Bridge, admire the beauty of this bridge which was begun in the 14th-century (construction finished in the 15th century) and still stands today.

You’ll pass by many statues as you cross the bridge — 15 on each side, 30 in total — all replicas after being replaced due to theft and vandalism.

As you cross the bridge into Malá Strana (Lesser Town) and Hradčany (the Castle District), look back over the bridge to the Old Town — it’s a spectacular sight!

Note: Pickpockets love to lurk on Charles Bridge and other popular tourist destinations, so be sure to have a secure day bag to thwart would-be thieves.

Skip the money belt (you’re not fooling anyone) and opt for a secure bag instead. I’ve carried this PacSafe backpack to 30+ countries with me, and it’s my #1 travel companion. This chic, sleek backpack has double-interlocking zippers, slash-proof construction, and RFID blockers! Pick from one of seven colors — I have and love the classic black one!

Once you get to the other side of Charles Bridge, turn right and walk up U Lužického Semináře through the Lesser Town (Malá Strana), passing the beautiful Vojanovy sady park until the street turns into Klárov, then turning left once you hit the Old Castle Stairs (Staré zámecké schody).

Marvel at the majestic Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral.

Interior landscaped gardens of the Prague Castle, with statues, green low hedges, buildings with interesting tile work, and red roofed architecture.

Welcome to the Prague Castle complex!

The Prague Castle is the number one tourist attraction in all of Czechia, so you’ll definitely want to be strategic about your visit if you only have one day in Prague.

If you just show up at the Prague Castle in the middle of the day without a ticket pre-booked, expect to wait at least an hour, if not more — a lot more in summer, in fact.

I strongly suggest buying a skip-the-line ticket and tour online in advance, so that you can make the most of your time in Prague but also to fully understand the immense amount of history behind the Prague Castle.

While there is some signage and you won’t be totally lost at sea without a tour, having a guide to bring the story of the castle to life and imbue the sights with historical color amps up the experience times ten. Also, skipping the line like a VIP is pretty cool!

Book this skip-the-line tour online in advance!

The interior of a cathedral with stained glass and high arch ceilings with rows of pews

There are so many points of interest in the Prague Castle complex that I’d be doing you a disservice to try to describe them all briefly in this article, which is why I strongly suggest a tour.

If time is really limited and you can’t do a tour, make sure you visit the following main attractions: St. Vitus Cathedral (an absolute must), the Old Royal Palace, and the Story of Prague Castle permanent exhibit which details as much history as possible into a short exhibition.

The Golden Lane is also beautiful and infinitely Instagrammable — and as an added bonus for literature fans, #22 used to be the house of Franz Kafka’ s sister, and where Kafka wrote some of his works!

Afternoon: Lunch, A Walk in Petřín, & the Old Town

Grab lunch and beer at Strahov Monastery.

A view from the side of Strahov monastery, a white monastery with a red tiled roof and two towers, on the top of a small hill.

One of the coolest places to have a meal and a beer near Prague Castle is at Strahov Monastery, a nearly 900-year-old monastery!

While in my American mind, it’s a bit strange to equate monks and beer, in reality, monastery-brewed beer has a long tradition in Europe… and it’s delicious).

Klášterní Pivovar Strahov, the monastery brewery, serves over 25 beers brewed on the monastery premises as well as a selection of food.

Recommended dishes include beef tartare (Prague is famous for it!), goulash with bread dumplings (guláš s knedlícky), and pork schnitzel, but you can check their menu here.

Prices are reasonable given the location, about $10 USD per main dish, though of course, you can find some cheaper meals elsewhere in Prague. However, with only one day in Prague, why skimp?

An ornate library room with a pastel painted ceiling with lots of detailing and rows upon rows of books with wooden shelves and carved wood detail.

Insider Tip: If you have time, be sure to check out the Strahov Library!

A visit to the library (plus photography permission) is 200 CZK, about $9 USD, and it’s well worth it to see one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. An absolute must for bibliophiles. Check here for more details.

Scale up Petřín Tower’s 300 stairs.

View of Prague park and distinctive red tiled roofs from the double-helix staircase of Petrin Tower, between the steel geometrical bars.

For one of the most incredible views in Prague that’s just a little bit off the beaten path that most tourists trod, head to the lovely and underrated Petřín Park.

The walk up to Petřín Tower is a short walk from the monastery, but if you want to cut some corners on the way down, you can take the funicular down.

We’ll explore the park in more detail in a bit, but first, head straight to Petřín Tower. This cool observation tower measures 63.5 meters (208 feet) tall, but its placement on Petřín Hill means the views are even more extraordinary than its height would suggest!

Petřín Tower resembles the Eiffel Tower quite a bit, making it a fantastic photo spot, and the views from the top are spectacular… and well worth the 300 stairs you need to climb for the view. Note that there is no elevator. Admission is 150 CZK (about $7 USD).

Admire the statues and gardens in Petřín Park.

Sculptures of men on a set of stairs, the men appear to be torn or decaying with pieces missing from the sculptures

There a lot more to beautiful Petřín Park than just its tower, though! This park is home to some of Prague’s most beautiful gardens. I particularly love the Kinsky gardens, which is an English-style garden with a fantastic view.

Another interesting thing to see in the park is at the bottom of the hill, the Memorial to the Victims of Communism. This haunting memorial commemorates the losses of thousands of lives while Czechoslovakia was under Communist occupation as well as the hundreds of thousands who fled and emigrated.

The piece is particularly interesting when you start looking at it more closely.

“In the upper part of the memorial, you can see 7 persons walking on stairs. The first person seems to be all right, but one can clearly observe that the others are missing something of their anatomy, which should symbolize the suffering of the prisoners, their courage and resilience.”

Prague.eu

Grab a coffee at Café Savoy.

Cup of coffee in a cafe with lit up chandeliers and other lighting in background.

After all that walking around Petřín, it’s a good time to stop and rest those feet for a second in one of Prague’s most beautiful coffee shops.

There are a number of traditional Prague coffee houses to go to, but let’s stop at Café Savoy, a beautiful coffee shop whose wood-carved interior evokes the coffee houses of Vienna after which this café was modeled.

Prices are a little high, but it’s worth it for a coffee and perhaps a slice of cake in one of Prague’s prettiest, most nostalgic cafés.

Cross Legion Bridge.

View of Legion Bridge from the water with a view of some novelty water boats (such as swan boats) in the water. Prague Castle is in the background.

Legion Bridge (Most Legií in Czech) is another bridge connecting the two sides of Prague, and it’s great because it’ll give you a different perspective of the famous Charles Bridge!

Once you reach the other end of Legion Bridge, you’ll notice the beautiful National Theater (Národní divadlo), where you should stop for at least one or two photos!

Walk towards Wenceslas Square, where we’ll learn a bit about the history of this famous place in Prague.

Take in the history of Wenceslas Square.

The National Gallery building with a green dome on the rooftop and sculptures on either side, flowers in the foreground of the photo.

Wenceslas Square (Václavské náměstí in Czech) is one of the most important places in Prague’s history for a number of reasons, and it’s played a particularly pivotal role in the country’s history in the last century as a place for protest, resistance, and remembrance.

Wencenlas Square is truly massive, capable of holding at least a hundred thousand people (and it often has), which means it’s been the inflection point for several important historical events in Prague, such as the Prague Spring and the Velvet Revolution.

It was the site of Jan Palach’s historic self-immolation act of protest mentioned earlier in this article, and you’ll find a memorial to him in front of the National Museum, reopened in 2018 after nearly a decade of renovation.

You’ll also see the famous Statue of Saint Wenceslas in front of the museum, as well as several beautiful Art Nouveau buildings (Hotel Paříž and Hotel Evropa both come to mind) lining Wenceslas Square.

Stroll to the Old Town.

The Old Astronomical Clock with lots of painted detail and on the right side the Our Lady Before Tyn Church with two distinct spires, lots of pastel buildings around the square with cobblestone walkways.

Once you’ve checked out Wenceslas Square, you’ll want to stroll over to the Old Town… luckily, it’s quite a short and pretty walk.

I think the most beautiful way to enter the Old Town past the Mustek metro stop and through Melantrichova. I’m partial to this walk because it was my daily commute when living and studying in Prague, but I think it stands for itself!

Once you arrive in the Old Town, prepare to be amazed: this is one of the most spectacular Old Towns in all of Europe, and I’ve seen enough of them to feel confident making that claim!

Look immediately to your left once entering the Old Town to see one of my favorite buildings in Prague, Dům U Minuty (House at the Minute). This beautiful building dates back to the 15th century and is adorned with exquisitely detailed sgraffito work on the facade. It was also Franz Kafka’s home from 1889 to 1896!

And of course, you can’t miss the Astronomical Clock, which is mounted on the Old Town Hall (Staroměstská radnice). The clock dates back to 1410, making it the oldest still-operational astronomical clock in the world.

Be sure to ascend the tower at the Old Town Hall for stunning views over the Old Town. Save time by prebooking your ticket to the town hall’s observation tower — you can pick it up right at the 3rd floor where you can exchange a mobile voucher for a paper ticket.

Prebook your entrance tower ticket here!

Other places you must see while in the Old Town include the beautiful Church of Our Lady before Týn, with its two Gothic towers that soar 80 meters (260 feet) in the air. St. Nicholas Church is another church in the square, smaller and done in the Baroque style but no less lovely (and a frequent host of organ concerts!).

A few other points of interest in the Old Town Square include a branch of the National Gallery of Prague located in the lovely Kinsky Palace and the enormous Jan Hus monument in the center of the Square.

Arrive at the Jewish Museum.

Gravestones stacked up on top of each other in the Old Jewish Cemetery with greenery growing around it, a small building in the middle of the gravestone with a red roof.

Finally, hurry to the Jewish Museum! Try to arrive no later than 4:30 PM in order to properly have enough time to see this museum, which is more of a complex of buildings, before it closes at 6 PM.

The Jewish Museum consists of four synagogues (the Maisel, Pinkas, Spanish, and Klausen synagogues), the Old Jewish Cemetery, some archives and galleries, and more.

The museum contains over 40,000 exhibits of artifacts and objects related to Jewish life and history, so it can be a bit overwhelming to take in. If you have limited time, prioritize the beautiful Spanish Synagogue as well as the Old Jewish Cemetery, home to over 100,000 graves.

For three centuries, it was the only place Jews could be buried in the city, and it is the oldest existing Jewish burial ground in Europe.

For more information on Prague’s rich Jewish history, read here.

You can buy your tickets online here.

Evening: A Dazzling Dinner Cruise & Exploring Prague by Night

Dine with Vltava views.

Blue hour in Prague with lots of lights on in the city, reflecting in the water, you can see Charles Bridge, a watchtower, and distinctive Prague architecture in the skyline.

Once you’ve wandered all over Prague, you’re probably dying for a little time off your feet!

But if you don’t want the sightseeing to end, a dinner cruise on the Vltava River is a phenomenal way to end your one day in Prague.

You’ll get stellar views of the Castle District, the Old Town, Lesser Town, the waterfront, and more while toasting with a complimentary glass of prosecco and enjoying a traditional Czech meal to the sound of live music.

Dinner cruises last 3 hours, from 7 PM to 10 PM, and they arrive and depart by Čechův Bridge.

Tip: For a romantic option or a special occasion, be sure to request a window seat!

Book your dinner Vltava river cruise here!

Traveling with kids? You may prefer this medieval-themed dinner, which includes swordsmen and jugglers and all manner of performers… while adults can kick back and enjoy unlimited drinks! Book your medieval dinner here.

Walk over to the Dancing House.

The Dancing House building lit up at night: two buildings intertwined together with  a movement that makes them look like they're dancing, with light trails on the street in the foreground.

As your day in Prague draws to an end, make one final stop at the Dancing House (Tančící dům), also known as Fred and Ginger.

This whimsical architectural marvel is a collaboration between the Croatian-Czech architect Vlado Milunić and Canadian-American Frank Gehry.

At night, the beautiful building all lit up is even more lovely and magical!

Call it a night or continue exploring Prague nightlife.

A man's hands making a cocktail, which looks to be a whiskey old fashioned, with an orange peel garnish, in a dark bar.

By now, I certainly wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to call it quits and turn in for the night!

However, if you wish to keep the night going, I do have a few suggestions.

If you’d like to a see a quiet, hip side to the city, leave the Old Town and head to Vinohrady, my favorite neighborhood in Prague.

Manesova Bar & Books is a chic cigar bar with a cozy library feel and is a great place for a nightcap if you don’t mind a little smoky ambiance.

If it’s the summer time, join the locals at Riegrovy Sady beer garden. And finally, if you want to check out Czech wine (and you should!), Vínečko Wine Bar is a great place to grab a low-key glass of wine.

If you don’t mind going a little further afield, Holešovice is a super-fun neighborhood off the beaten path in Prague — check out Cross Club for a guaranteed fun night out.

Where to Stay for One Day in Prague

Pastel colored facades in the Old Town as seen through an old stone gate

For tourists, Prague 1 and 2 are the most popular districts. I personally prefer the area around Vinohrady and the Old Town, though some people may prefer to be closer to the Castle District (Malá Strana and Hradčany)

I’ve noted my top picks for each type of traveler – budget, boutique, and luxury travelers – to make the hard choice a little easier!

Budget | Czech Inn

Combining beautifully European architecture and budget prices, this hostel provides affordable luxury to their guests with a fun vibe.

Most of the interiors are designed by Olga Novotná, a beloved Czech designer, and she uses eclectic kinds of materials to create a cozy and warm feeling for guests in the common areas and rooms.

They have private rooms, apartments, shared rooms and premium dorm room, all with huge windows that allow natural lighting inside.

The best part of the hotel is the Czech Inn Bar, which is situated underneath the hotel. It’s a great place if you’re looking for a budget-friendly stay with a social vibe.

Check prices, availability, reviews, and more photos here.

Boutique | Le Palais Art Hotel

Want to feel like you’re staying in an art museum? That’s Le Palais in a nutshell. Upon entering its main hall, you will see a grand chandelier, matched by exquisite décor and furniture A lot of paintings are also on display in its hallways and rooms, which almost act as if a gallery.

Luxurious Ligne St. Barth toiletries are provided in their ensuite bathrooms. Some rooms even have a tub where you can soak after a long day of sight-seeing!

There’s also a wellness center and fitness center, and several other fantastic 4* amenities to make your stay in Prague both stylish and comfortable.

Check prices, availability, reviews, and more photos here.

Luxury | Aria Hotel Prague

This beautiful luxury hotel (which has a partner hotel in Budapest) offers 5-star amenities with a tasteful music theme. The rooms are all inspired by the different types of music like opera, jazz, and classical music. They also named each room after famous musicians and music personalities.  

The rooms have a classic, simple, and elegant style taken up a notch with velvet upholstered sofas and seating. The suite-type rooms also have a living area and kitchenette that easily helps you feel right at home.

Inside, Coda Restaurant has an art deco interior located on the rooftop terrace.

Check prices, availability, reviews, and more photos here.

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2 Days in Madrid: Itinerary for a Weekend in Madrid

Madrid is a fantastic city, full of life, food, and culture. Whereas most people in the world end up adoring Barcelona, I ended up head over heels for Madrid. Even in the peak season in Madrid, the tourists feel dispersed (as long as you’re not waiting in line for the Prado, but that’s another story…) and prices are reasonable.

The backbone of any good Madrid itinerary is picking a central and fantastic neighborhood. Since you only have 2 days in Madrid, you’re going to want to stay somewhere central.

If you’re trying to decide what neighborhood in Madrid to stay in, here’s my personal choice: Puerta del Sol. This neighborhood is the heart and soul of Madrid, and our Airbnb was right in the thick of it.

We took full advantage of our prime situation and dove into the Spanish style of life – eating, snacking, drinking, repeat. Oh, and I guess a bit of tourism squeezed in between bites of luxurious ham and gulps of fantastic Rioja. 

2 Day Madrid Itinerary: Day 1

Start at Puerta del Sol

Puerta del Sol is the neighborhood I recommend you stay in if you have only a short amount of time like 2 days in Madrid. But in case you’re staying elsewhere in the city, make your way over to Puerta del Sol to start your Madrid itinerary here.

This is one of the busiest and best-known squares in Madrid, and quite literally the center of the city, as all the main roads radiate outwards from this central point.

There are a few important points in Puerta del Sol: the Real Casa de Correos, an old post office that is now home to the President of Madrid’s Autonomous Community, the Kilometer 0 stone, the “Bear and the Strawberry Tree” statue, and the giant Tio Pepe advertisement that’s now part of Puerta del Sol’s skyline.

Have ham for breakfast at Museo del Jamón

Do I seem a bit ridiculous suggesting you start your 2 days in Madrid by shoving your face with ham? I’m sorry, but I simply must.

(If ham for breakfast is too much of an ask, I recommend a breakfast pastry at La Mallorquina in Puerta del Sol)

Museo de Jamón (Calle Mayor, 7) is truly a pork lovers’ dream, literally packed wall to wall with enormous cuts of ham in every shape and size. And it’s cheap. As in, I wonder how they even turn a profit cheap.

Museo del Jamon Sol Madrid

We got a heaping plate of four different kinds of ham and manchego cheese for less than 8 euros. A beer? 90 cents (and that’s not even the small caña size, which will only set you back 50 cents) AND it comes with a snack. While you could skip the caña of beer since it is technically breakfast, I say screw it – if you only have two days in Madrid, you may as well live them to the fullest. 

I loved Museo del Jámon so much that I went twice: once at night during the Madrid Pride festivities, when it was jam packed with drunken revelers taking a wise break to refuel before returning to the debauchery. We loved it so much we went back again less than 12 hours later for breakfast, where we each had an espresso and a croissant, ham, and cheese sandwich for less than 3 euros apiece.

Not a fan of ham? There are plenty of other great breakfast and brunch spots in Madrid.

(Note: True ham fiends may want to check out this ham & wine walking tour, offered a few times a week)

Location: Calle Mayor, 7

Visit the beautiful Almudena Cathedral

Just a short walk from the Royal Palace, you can’t miss the gorgeous Almudena Cathedral in the Madrid skyline.

Although this cathedral is considered young and relatively new, its beautiful look today belies a history of more than a century of problematic construction. You see, Francisco de Cubas originally wanted to construct a pantheon to honor the late Queen Maria in the second half of the 19th century, influenced by 18th century French Gothic design.

Even though the first stone was laid in 1879, following religious developments, the plans changed for the structure that was planned to be a pantheon to be a cathedral instead. Its crypts opened in 1911, but they were shut down because of the civil war that came on as a result of the Franco fascist regime. Decades after, it ran at a smaller capacity, until it was redesigned and then fully finished in 1993.

While it may be a new building in a city filled with older architecture, I still think it’s worth visiting for its interesting history and gorgeous look that blends into the more jam-packed Madrid cityscape in a beautiful fashion.

Location: Calle de Bailén, 10

Head to the Royal Palace for some culture

Now, pretend you didn’t just shove your face full of ham and beer at my behest and get some culture at the lovely Royal Palace, one of the most important places in all of Madrid (and Spain in general).

Madrid has stood long before it became the capital of Spain. Its original name was Magerit. The spot where the city’s fortress once stood is now where the Royal Palace stands today. Because the old fort burned down, King Philip V ordered a new palace to be built.

It was inspired by the Louvre and as a result of that inspiration, it also has sprawling grounds, gardens, and fountains. The palace has over 3,000 rooms, which include the Main Staircase, Throne Room, the Guards Room, and many more. It’s one of the most visited historic buildings in Spain, and for a very good reason!

Location: Calle de Bailén

Visit a real Egyptian temple in the middle of Madrid

The Temple of Debod is a true piece of Egyptian history in the heart of Madrid. However, unlike most Egyptian artifacts you can find in the West (cough British Museum cough), this temple was actually a gift from Egypt to the city of Madrid!

It was originally constructed in the 2nd century BC, by the orders of the Meroe King of Egypt. The temple was dedicated to the god Amun and goddess Isis, with gorgeous high reliefs carved into the stone.

Egypt gifted this temple to Madrid in the 20th century to protect the city of floods. It was disassembled from its original location and then rebuilt stone by stone when everything was transported. The temple opened to the public in 1972 and it’s been one of Cuartel de la Montaña’s biggest attractions ever since.

Walk back through the Plaza de España

With its massive monument to the legendary author Miguel de Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote, it’s hard to miss Plaza de España on your walk back towards Puerta del Sol, where your lunch stop is.

Near the Plaza, there are a few quick points of interest to note. First is one of the tallest buildings in the city, Torre de Madrid at 142 meters/466 feet tall, and Edificio España at 117 meters/384 feet. Combined with the statue of Miguel de Cervantes, it’s one of the most iconic photos of Madrid.

Another interesting building to note is the gorgeous House of Gallardo, dating back to 1911 and emblematic of the strong Art Nouveau movement that took place in Madrid around the turn of the century.

Have a lunch of vermouth and a few bites to eat at Mercado San Miguel

The covered marketplace of Mercado San Miguel is a great introduction to tapas. My favorite eats there were the sweet and savory toasts piled high with mozzarella or burrata, the olive and pickled vegetable skewers called bandarillas, and some delicious vermouth with orange and ice for a single euro fifty.

Olives, check. Pickled peppers, check. Self-control, not pictured.
Olives, check. Pickled peppers, check. Self-control, not pictured.

Don’t eat too much here, though – this Madrid itinerary has you scheduled for a dinner walking tour exploring the tapas scene of this city at 7 PM, so you’ll want to save your appetite for later.

Location: Plaza de San Miguel

Stroll La Latina

One of my favorite neighborhoods in Madrid is La Latina. The Basílica de San Francisco El Grande is one can’t-miss place in La Latina, and it provides an interesting contrast to the newness of the Almudena Cathedral near the Royal Palace. Dating back to 1760, the church is one of five Royal Basilicas of Madrid and has three chapels, including a beautiful painting by the famous Spanish artist Francisco De Goya.

Another interesting part of La Latina is the Mercado de la Cebada, which has become a major street art hub in Madrid. Both inside and on its outer walls, you’ll find countless murals featuring street art by a variety of different artists both Spanish and foreign.

If you happen to be in La Latina on a Sunday, you shouldn’t miss El Rastro flea market, the largest open air market in all of Madrid. While a bit touristy, it’s great fun to browse and see if you can find something worth the treasure hunt.

Take a tapas walking tour

One of the best things to do in Madrid is mixing up delicious food and awesome history! Going for a tapas walking tour means the best of both worlds: you’ll discover old monuments and historic buildings from your guide’s local knowledge while stopping at 4 to 5 different tapas restaurants to try all the best food in Madrid along the way.

Tapas tastes include Iberian ham (aka the world famous jamón iberico), seafood paella, local Spanish cheeses, and several other surprises as well as a selection of red or white Spanish wine, beer, or soft drinks. For more information, check out tour details here.

2 Day Madrid Itinerary: Day 2

Eat churros con chocolate for breakfast

Yesterday it was ham for breakfast, now it’s churros!

There are many places churning delicious churros con chocolate all over Madrid, but the oldest and most famous is Chocolatería San Ginés.

churros in Sol, Madrid
Churros con chocolate, the breakfast of champions

The churros here are perfectly fried – crunchy on the outside, soft inside, without any taste of grease. They’re one of the best Spanish desserts, but they’re commonly eaten as a snack or even as breakfast!

Unlike their Mexican counterparts, these are not rolled in sugar and cinnamon; instead, you drown each bite in the cup of warm chocolate sauce. Pair with an espresso and you’ve got one hell of a sugar and caffeine rush – ready to take on day two of your Madrid itinerary.

Take in some art at Madrid’s most famous museum, Museo del Prado

Visiting Madrid without visiting the Prado is like going to London and not seeing Tower Bridge or Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower. Simply foolish, in my opinion.

However – the line at the Prado is one of the most insane lines that I’ve seen. I recommend booking a skip the line ticket and putting it at the beginning of your itinerary on day two in order to minimize the crowds that pack the museum after lunch. Simply book it online and present on your mobile (no need to print).

Considered one of the most prestigious museums in Spain, Museo del Prado boasts one of the largest art collections in the country. It’s one of the most visited tourist attractions mainly because its walls are lined with artistic masterpieces the likes of which are hard to find a worthwhile comparison to. It’s on par with the Louvre or the Met in terms of vastness and quality of art.

The Prado has over 8,000 paintings and over 700 sculptures in its possession, which come from different schools of art ranging from the 12th to the 20th century. Here you’ll find masterpieces like Velasquez’ Las Meninas and Goya’s Third of May. The Prado holds the largest collection of Spanish art in the world, and one of the best collections of European art in general. It’s a can’t-miss for any art fan.

Location: Paseo del Prado

Stroll through the majestic Retiro Park

Madrid’s take on Central Park, walking through the scenic Retiro Park with its manmade lake and Crystal Palace is an unmissable part of any Madrid itinerary.

Located in the heart of Madrid, El Retiro Park is the city’s green lung. It spans over 120 acres and includes dozens of thousands of trees. It’s one of the most popular recreational areas in the city. Here you’ll find several different gardens, each comprised of beautiful types of flowers. The park even has a centuries-old Mexican conifer, which is supposedly Madrid’s oldest tree.

The biggest highlight of the park is the Large Lake. You can rent a boat to take out onto the lake (the perfect place for selfies!) for 6 euros on weekdays and 8 euros on weekends. Make sure to visit the exhibitions at the Velasquez Palace and the Crystal Palace, made almost entirely of glass and a can’t-miss Instagram spot in Retiro Park.

Location: Plaza de la Independencia, 7

Walk the Gran Via of Madrid and stop for lunch

Madrid’s answer to Paris’ Champs-Elysees and NYC’s Broadway all rolled into one street, this is the hub of shopping and entertainment in the city. Strolling down this grand avenue is one of the best ways to take the pulse of the city of Madrid, and it’s electric any time of day or night.

Don’t miss the massive Telefónica Building, built in 1928 and an early example of the skyscraper craze that would later change the definition of city skylines worldwide.

There are also several cinemas, bars, and restaurants on this street, so I recommend stopping for lunch somewhere along the way. I recommend De María Gran Vía or La Sirena Verde, located at 72 and 62 Calle Gran Via respectively.

Check out the Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales

Literally translated to the Monastery of Barefoot Royals, this monastery a few short blocks away from Gran Via is definitely worth a small detour.

Photo credit; Zarateman [CC0], from Wikimedia Commons

Dating back to the 1500s, this monastery has an interesting and fascinating history. While many monasteries and convents are a bit austere, where the monks or nuns live in rather spartan conditions, this monastery is incredibly ornate. The reason for this is that the convent was primarily for young widowed women or noblewomen who never married — and therefore, for their dowries as well. The convent quickly became one of the richest convents in Europe, and you can see the splendor in the paintings and wall hangings that decorate the monastery to this day.

By the 20th century, the population of who lived in the convent changed dramatically, and rather than housing impossible-to-marry-off noblewomen, it ended up hosting primarily impoverished women. In the 1960s it became the museum that it is today.

The monastery is open daily from 10 AM to 2 PM and then again from 4 PM to 6:30 PM (except on Sundays, when it’s open from 10 AM to 3 PM), so be careful if you are visiting around lunch time.

Grab an espresso and people watch

One of the things you shouldn’t miss when in Madrid is the opportunity to simply people watch. There are countless cafés in the area around the monastery and Gran Via. The monastery is quite close to the Torres Barmejas where the flamenco show is, so I recommend not straying too far from this area.

Catch the nightly flamenco show at the Torres Barmejas

Flamenco is one of the most popular pieces of folklore and a truly unmissable Spanish experience. It’s an energetic and passionate dance and has its roots deep in Spanish history and culture.

There are countless venues where you can watch a flamenco show, but one of the most highly-rated in the city is the nightly 7 PM show at Torres Barmejas near the Gran Via of Madrid. The decors and motifs are a wonder to look at, inspired by the gorgeous Andalusian city of Granada and its majestic Alhambra Palace. The Spanish Moorish motifs and décor really add to the captivating atmosphere of the performance. The choreography and energy of the flamenco dance, including interesting finger and hand gestures, is one of the most unique aspects of the Spanish culture.

You can order dinner here, but in my opinion, it’s overpriced and not high quality enough to justify the expense – especially considering the plethora of amazing restaurants and tapas bars surrounding the venue. So, just order drinks or just take in the show and save your appetite for later. The show at Torres Barmejas is quite popular and often sells out, so I highly recommend booking your tickets in advance to be sure to see one of the best flamenco shows in Madrid.

Have dinner at one of Madrid’s many cervecerias and tapas bars

A good 75% of the reason why I decided I needed a month in Spain was to eat my way through all of the delicious tapas the country has to offer (the other 25% is wine and cider, obviously).

Food in Puerta del Sol Madrid
A media ración size of the ahi tuna – so perfect

I got a good head start on my goal in Puerta del Sol, where we ate at a few delicious restaurants. Lambuzo had delicious tapas and some great wine. As a huge Spanish wine fan, I went for the Ribera del Duero – so tasty! We loved the berenjas (fried eggplant with a dark, rich honey sauce), atún rojo (perfectly rare ahi tuna), and the croquetas de gambas (fried potato and shrimp croquettes).

Location: Calle de las Conchas, 9

My other favorite spot for dinner is La Carboneria. While it is in a touristic area, the food quality is so excellent that I literally ate there twice during my time in Madrid. What can I say – I was just that obsessed with their albóndigas a la casera (meatballs home-style – though I need to figure out who’s home it’s styled after and how I can move myself in there ASAP).

They also have the most perfectly cooked tortilla española I’ve had the pleasure of putting in my mouth. It was simplicity at its finest, a perfectly melting synthesis of potato and egg. It was gooey in the best way – not dry and set like less fresh tortilla españolas can be.

Don’t forget to order their delicious sangria!

Location: La Carboneria, Calle Coloreros 5

How to Spend One Day in Madrid: Your Perfect Mini-Itinerary

Madrid is one of the most vibrant cities in the world, and if you’ve allotted yourself only one day in Madrid, you’ve got your work cut out for you.

As the capital of Spain, Madrid is home to innumerable unique neighborhoods, countless dining opportunities, endless culture.

In a word, Madrid is inexhaustible, and you’ll always find more to do in this magical city.

But since you only have one day in Madrid, concessions must be made so that you see the best of what the city has to offer in a limited time. I’ve collected all my highlights of my many days in Madrid to create a perfect one day itinerary for you to follow.

How I Planned This One Day in Madrid Itinerary

Lit up arch with flowers in front in Madrid

Consider this post your plan of attack for seeing as much of Madrid in a day as you possibly can.

I’ve specifically created this post to have you traveling around Madrid as independently as possible without sacrificing the context and enrichment that the occasional paid experience can provide.

If planning your day in Madrid starts to stress you out, you could always book a full day Madrid sightseeing tour, but I personally always have a lot more fun when I mix and match fortuitous wandering, guided activities, and lots of walking while I’m sightseeing.

For this one day in Madrid itinerary, I nix hop-on, hop-off buses and guided city tours in exchange for long but purposeful walks through the city which make a point of seeing key architectural and historical gems.

I offset the potential lack of context by also opting for a handful of special tours and experiences, namely, a tour of the Palacio Real (the only way to see the interior) and a flamenco show in the evening.

Since time is limited, I also suggest skip-the-line tickets when they make sense to maximize your time and appreciation of the city.

I find that this is the way you’re best able to make the most of your time in Madrid while also not feeling like cattle being carted around from point A to point B!

One Day in Madrid Map

One Day in Madrid Itinerary

Morning: Breakfast, A Palace, & A Walk in the Park

Start your day the Spanish way with churros con chocolate.

Churros with a cup of coffee in Madrid
Churros con chocolate, the breakfast of champions

While to you and me, churros may be a dessert dish, in Spain, churros are a beloved breakfast treat, and nowhere sells more delicious churros than Chocolatería San Ginés.

Running for over a hundred years, this 24/7 achocolatería sells deliciously simple churros fried to perfection, served with coffee and lightly-sweetened chocolate.

Churros in Spain are a bit different than their Mexican counterparts: in Spain, they don’t use the cinnamon-sugar on the outside of the churro, making them a bit more savory (until you dip them in melted chocolate, at least!).

They’re also a bit thinner and more crispy, whereas the ones I’ve had in Mexico have been a little thicker and more custardy on the inside.

Head to the Royal Palace.

A symmetrical view of an ornate gray colored palace

A tour of Madrid’s Palacio Real is a must-do while you’re visiting the Spanish capital.

This is one of the top tourist attractions in Spain, so expect long lines. Beat the crowds by booking a skip-the-line ticket, which you can buy online here.

The palace is massive — as in, largest still-functional royal palace in Europe big, and this is a continent that likes its castles. We’re talking nearly 3,500 rooms big and 135,000 square meters of floor area (imagine those heating bills…).

I recommend going with a guided tour which helps you get an understanding of what you’re seeing and put the massive ostentation and wealth into perspective.

This tour is 2 hours and allows you early access privileges to beat the crowds. It covers all the best highlights of the Palacio Real: the Throne Room, Banquet Hall, Royal Apartments, exclusive artwork by the most famous artists in Spain, and time to walk around the beautiful Royal Gardens.

I’m not the biggest tour person, but I highly recommend this tour. I love having the opportunity to hear the royal stories which are able to bring this marvelous yet imposing palace to life.

Save time and book your skip-the-line ticket today

Marvel at the Catedral de la Almudena.

Side view of a beautiful European church with people walking around in front and a cloudy sky

Not far from Palacio Real is your next stop on this one day Madrid tour, Almudena Cathedral. To be precise, it’s the Catedral de Santa María La Real de La Almudena, which is quite a mouthful.

This cathedral blends Gothic and Neoclassical elements into a synthesis of beauty, yet it’s a surprisingly young cathedral.

The church took over a hundred years to be built, starting in 1883, yet didn’t finish construction until 1993, as its construction was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War and didn’t get picked up again until halfway through the 20th century.

The interior is a true marvel of architecture, showing its modernity with a variety of artistic styles on the interior, ranging from more traditional historical elements to those inspired by more modern elements. The ceiling of the nave is particularly interesting, more inspired by geometry than traditional Christian artistic elements.

Check out the happening Plaza Mayor.

A man on a horse statue and red buildings in the background

As with any great European capital, Madrid is home to several beautful plazas that are the heart of city life.

Plaza Mayor is nearly 500 years old located at the heart of what was once Old Madrid.

Skip the cafés, which are all a bit tourist-trappy, and just wander through and do some people watching as you pass.

Walk through Puerta del Sol.

Symmetical red building with a fountain in the center and pink flowers

Just a few blocks down the road from Plaza Mayor is yet another important square in Madrid, Puerta del Sol.

One thing you’ll notice as you walk through Puerta del Sol is the placard for Kilometer 0.

All the radial roads in Madrid emanate out from this central point, with address numbers closer to Kilometer 0 being smaller and getting larger as they make their way throughout the city.

It’s an interesting quirk of city planning, and while not incredibly interesting, it is cool to stand at the “center” of Madrid!

Stroll down Calle de Alcalá to Retiro Park.

Ornate white palace with a Spain flag and an empty road in front of it

This is one of the longest streets in Madrid, and it’s the best way to walk to your next destination, Puerta de Alcalá, which marks the beginning of Retiro Park.

On the way, you’ll get a chance to marvel at some of Madrid’s most beautiful architecture.

Stop and snap some photos at the Círculo de Bellas Artes as well as Palacio de Cibeles and its namesake fountain.

Wander through the magical Retiro Park.

A building with clear glass walls and yellow details next to a lake on a sunny day

Retiro Park is to Madrid what Central Park is to New York City: an seemingly neverending oasis of calm in the middle of a vibrant metropolis.

I largely urge you to put away your phone and your Madrid checklist for a bit and just enjoy strolling around the park and people-watching.

But, since you do only have a day in Madrid and this is your one chance to make the best of Retiro Park, make a point of seeing the Palacio de Cristal (the crystal palace, pictured above), the Estanque Grande del Retiro (artificial lake with a massive monument), and La Roseleda del Retiro (rose garden).

Afternoon: Lunch & Museum Hopping

Grab lunch near Retiro Park.

A bowl of red soup topped with meat and croutons at a Spanish restaurant.

A central location like Retiro Park would usually be full of tourist traps, but this is Spain, where bad food is nearly criminal.

There are a few places especially worth keeping an eye out for once you’ve finished your stroll through Retiro Park and are starting to feel the first grumblings of post-churro hunger.

If you’d like to try some Andalusian specialties, check out Lambuzo. Their salmorejo (chilled tomato soup which I love far more than gazpacho) is to die to for!

Another great place for traditional Spanish food is the lovely El Perro y la Galleta. I suggest you order mostly from the ‘entrantes’ and sample as much as you possibly can!

My favorites are the berenjas rebozadas (fried eggplant) and the croquetas de cocido (delicious bechamel and meat stuffed fried croquettes).

Get cultured at the Prado, Spain’s top musuem.

The front view of the famous Prado art museum with a statue in front, a must visit on your one day in Spain itinerary

I know that if you only have one day in Madrid, you don’t want to spend the entirety of it in a museum!

However, do please make an exception for the Prado, which is one of the world’s top art museums. It’d be like going to Paris and never seeing the Louvre.

Lines to enter the Prado are often quite long, and with only 24 hours in Madrid, you have super-limited time, so I strongly suggest buying a skip-the-line ticket so you can maximize your time — and skip waiting in a line that can often stretch around the block in the hot Spanish sun!

This museum contains art from the 12th century through the 19th century, and of particular note are its collections of paintings by Velazquez, El Greco (my favorite!), and Goya.

Beat the crowds and book your skip-the-line here.

Check out San Jerónimo el Real.

A stone and brick church with a tree in front and a grassy hill

This monastery dates back to the 1500s and has been remodeled beautifully, staying true to the original Neo-Gothic architecture while maintaining it for the ages.

At one point, this now-humble-looking church was once the official Royal Church of Madrid. Now, this stunning monastery overlooking the Prado from its vantage point on the hill is popular with tourists.

The interior is open from 8:30 AM to 1:30 PM and then from 5:30 PM to 8:30 PM; at all other times, you’ll have to admire it from the outside. Entrance is free.

Wander through the Botanic Garden.

View of a park with a fountain and roses in both background and foreground.

This beautiful Botanic Garden is well worth the affordable 4 euro entry price, and a short 30-minute stroll through the park would be time well spent on your one day in Madrid.

Home to over 5,000 different species of plants, there are 90,000 flowers and plants in the garden… not to mention 1,500 trees and literally a million more individual plants in the herbarium!

Most interesting is the greenhouse which has recreated a desert climate — one of the only places in Europe where you can actually experience a realistic desert.

Visit the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía.

Reflection of a traditional architecture building reflected by a modern building

If two museums in a day is pushing it for you, feel free to skip this one.

But if you’re a fan of Picasso, Dalí, Miró, and other famous Spanish modernists, you won’t want to miss this museum focusing on the country’s most innovative 20th-century artists.

If there’s one central piece you shouldn’t miss at this museum, it’s Picasso’s greatest work, Guernica, a tour-de-force of artistic social commentary against the evils of war.

It’s one of the most important paintings of the 20th century (if not all time) and must be seen in person to be believed.

Tip: Book your tickets to Reina Sofia online in advance to save time.

Evening: A Stroll Down Gran Via, Dinner & A Flamenco Show

Walk down La Gran Via.

A grand European boulevard with a building with an angel on top of the roof

Walk up the shady pedestrian street, Paseo del Prado, until you reach Fuente de Cibeles again.

This time, instead of taking Calle de Alcalá, wander down La Gran Via, the most famous boulevard in Madrid. Primarily composed of architecture influenced by Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements, you’ll see innumerable interesting buildings as you walk down the boulevard.

A few of the most iconic buildings you’ll walk past are the angel-topped Metropolis Hotel, the Torre de Madrid, and Edificio Grassy.

Stop for people-watching in Plaza de España.

A giant statue in the middle of the park with two skyscrapers around it.

Your stroll down Gran Via will end at yet another iconic Madrid building, Edificio España, another one of the tallest buildings in Madrid.

In front of it, you’ll find the large public space Plaza de España, a great place for people-watching!

Check out ancient history at Templo de Debod.

A few arches and a larger stone edifice that make up the Temple of Debod, an actual Egyptian temple in Madrid.

Finally, make your way over to the Templo de Debod, a reconstructed Egyptian temple in the middle of a public park!

The temple was gifted to Spain by Egypt in 1968 after the Aswan Dam was constructed, which put this temple and others at risk. It was rebuilt and opened to the public in 1972, and it is free for all to see.

It’s one of the few authentic pieces of Egyptian architecture that you can see (outside of, well, Egypt…) that’s not in a museum!

Cap off the night with dinner and a show.

A female flamenco dancer in a dark room swirling her scarf around artistically.

Finish your day in Madrid in the most epic way possible: a flamenco show at the legendery Torres Bermejas, one of the best places to see flamenco in Madrid.

Order some tapas and sangria while you watch talented performers bring the art of flamenco to life.

Flamenco is a unique blend of dance and theater, marked by nuanced hand and facial gestures, rhythmic tapping of the feet and castanets held in the hands, and utilization of the dress and scarf to create fluid, beautiful movements.

It’s a really beautiful art form you won’t see outside of Spain, so if you will only be in Madrid for one day, you really should make a point of seeing a performance!

Book your flamenco show tickets here!

Where to Stay If You Only Have One Day in Madrid

A view of a famous Madrid boulevard all lit up in pink and orange with sunset colors.

Boutique Luxury: For a chic boutique hotel in Madrid, look to Only YOU Boutique Hotel! With a central location that makes following this itinerary a breeze, a relaxing Thai-inspired spa center, a gorgeously decorated lobby, an outdoor lounge area, large rooms with high ceilings, and individualized rooms packed with personality, you won’t find much better for the price in Madrid.
>> Book online here.

Mid-Range with Views: Remember the beautiful Edificio España from our itinerary? Well, it turns out that the building is actually a hotel: Hotel Riu Plaza España! You can check out incredible views from any one of the 27 floors, sweeping over Gran Via, Parque Oeste, and Madrid’s skyline as far as the eye can see. Amenities include a 21st-floor outdoor pool, 27th floor terrace bar, and a 24/7 gym.
>> Book online here.

Budget: The chic but budget-friendly Hotel Regina is a fantastic budget-friendly option just 2 minutes away from Puerta del Sol, right in the heart of Madrid (making this itinerary super easy to follow to the T). Rooms are minimalist but stylish, with bold graphic designs and pops of color.
>> Book online here.

5 Things Not To Forget For a Trip to Madrid

A light-haired woman with a smartphone taking a photo of a famous Madrid landmark.

A secure daybag: While travel in Madrid is safe, pickpocketing is a major issue. Thwart would-be pickpocketers with a chic, sleek backpack with double-interlocking zippers, slash-proof construction, & RFID blockers! I’ve carried this PacSafe backpack to 30+ countries with me, and it’s my #1 travel companion.

Pick from one of seven colors — I have and love the classic black one! Despite all its security features, it’s really quite classic and stylish, without anything that screams “I’m a tourist, target me!”

Comfortable walking shoes: This one day in Madrid itinerary has you walking a lot — so you’re going to need the best possible shoes for your trip! I strongly recommend an ultra-comfortable walking sandal like these Birkenstocks, which mold to your foot for the most perfect custom fit imaginable.

You do have to wear them for a few days first to get that perfect contour, but once you do, you’ll never want to take them off. In fact, I literally mourn the day each year it gets too cold to keep wearing Birkenstocks, and one day I may just rock socks with sandals to keep Birkenstock season going just a little longer. I’ve had my pair of Gizeh sandals for 3 years and they are still fantastic.

Portable charger: As an electronics-addict, I’m always running out of juice while running around the city on my travels. Bring a portable charger to save yourself many headaches while traveling in Europe! Anker is a reliable brand and this portable charger is what I personally use.

Spain guidebook: While you may only have one day in Madrid, hopefully you have more time allotted for the rest of your time in Spain! If you do, be sure to snag a guidebook — while of course I love blogs, I also think guidebooks are essential for learning the basics of traveling a country, as they cover everything from tipping culture to common scams to useful phrases. I suggest this Fodor’s Spain travel guide as it was recently updated at the end of 2019 and is full of incredible Spain travel inspiration!

Travel insurance: No matter where you travel in the world, travel insurance is a necessity and should be factored into your trip budget. Trust me, you don’t want to have a second thought about seeking medical care abroad if something goes wrong on your trip. Travel insurance also covers you in case of trip cancellation, theft, baggage delays, and other emergencies. It’s a must-have in my opinion. I use and rely on World Nomads to keep me safe and insured throughout 60+ countries of travel!

The Perfect One Day in Toulon Itinerary: 12 Stops You Must Make

Toulon is mostly famous for its major naval base, and its talented rugby team. But more than that, it’s also a stunning city set on the French Riviera.

Often overlooked by tourists who prefer visiting Cannes or Nice, Toulon is a great place to explore if you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path destination on the Côte d’Azur.

There are many things to do in Toulon outside of the Old Town, but for this quick Toulon itinerary, the focus is on the attractions in the Vieux Toulon and the harbor area.

Your Toulon Itinerary At-A-Glance

Here is a quick list of the top 12 places to visit in Toulon we’ll cover on this one day in Toulon itinerary, in the order that we’ll see them.

  • Place de la Liberté
  • Kiosques à Livre
  • Opera House
  • Place Puget
  • Boat Sculpture
  • Rue Pierre Semard
  • Musée de la Marine
  • Harbor
  • Maison de la Photographie
  • Place Raimu
  • Cours Lafayette
  • Cathédrale Notre Dame de la Seds

Your Toulon Itinerary: Walking Tour of the City

Stop #1: Place de la Liberté

Place de la Liberté (Freedom Square) is by far the most beautiful square in Toulon.

Located in Upper Town, the place has a stunning fountain (Fontaine de la Fédération) which is a symbol of force and justice.

It also has its own version of the Statue of Liberty!

Behind the fountain is one of the most iconic buildings of Toulon, the Grand Hôtel. Built in 1870, this stunning building is now home to a theater.

Stop #2: Kiosque à Livres

Toulon is home to a couple of typical bookstands where you’ll find a large selection of rare books, old postcards, and even music albums.

It’s really typical of the city, so I think it’s a great place to visit as a tourist. You’ll be impressed by all the (very) old books and treasures of these shops. These bookstands are located on Rue Prosper Ferrero.

On your way to the kiosques, you will find Galeries Lafayettes, a great department store which offers French and european items at a reasonable price.

If you’re looking for quality French clothes, bags and accessories, I definitely recommend visiting this shop as an addition to this Toulon itinerary.

Stop #3: The Opera House

With its nearly 1,800 seats, the Opera of Toulon is the second-largest opera house in France.

Built in 1862, the opera house is one of the most beautiful buildings in Toulon.

I definitely recommend going to one of the performances held there just so you can see the interior of this amazing place!

Stop #4: Place Puget

Head to Place Puget where you can grab lunch or stop for coffee in one of the many restaurants and bars.

Here you’ll also see the Trois Dauphins fountain, a beautiful fountain covered in moss and leaves. It was built in 1782, and it is one of the most iconic fountains in Toulon.

Place Puget is always animated with life, and it really is a pleasant place to stop on your walking tour.

Stop #5: The Boat Sculpture

Located right in the center of old Toulon, the boat sculpture on Place Vatel is a stunning piece of art.

This huge sculpture, placed against a building, is quite unusual. Being 10 meters high, the sculpture is a replica of the frigate “La FLore” which was based in Toulon in the 18th century.

Don’t miss it when you visit the old town of Toulon!

Stop #6: Rue Pierre Semard

Rue Pierre Semard, also called Rue des Arts, is located in Le Petit Chicago.

This district gave Toulon a bad reputation for a long time. Indeed, ‘Chicago’ used to be the sailors’ favorite place to visit at night because of its many bars!

Today, Rue Pierre Semard is bustling with art galleries and artisan shops, and it has become one of the most pleasant streets of Toulon.

Right next to rue Pierre Semard, you’ll find the beautiful Place de l’Equerre.

Recently refurbished, Place de l’Equerre is home to some of the best bars in the city. During summer, there are often events and concerts held in this square.

Stop #7: Musée de la Marine

Located in the arsenal gatehouse, the Musée de la Marine displays French naval history from the 17th century to the present day.

You don’t need to be a history geek to enjoy your visit at the Musée de la Marine!

If you want to see some of the best artifacts about the French navy such as maps, model ships, and paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries, then you should definitely go to this museum.

The museum has a good selection of exhibits, and the entry fee is only 6.50 Euros for adults. This is a great stop for curious travelers who want to learn more about the city!

Stop #8: The Harbor

The harbor of Toulon is very popular for many reasons.

Here, you’ll find stunning boats, including fishing boats and naval ships, but also some of the best restaurants in town as well as cute souvenir shops.

Also, you’ll see the beautiful statue of the Genie de la Navigation, a sculpture from French artist Louis Joseph Daumas. The sculpture represents the exploration of the sea.

The harbor is also the starting point of the little tourist trains of Toulon that offer guided sightseeing tours around the city. The trains even go to the famous Mourillon Beach.

The tours offer bilingual commentary (in both French and English) and will give you the opportunity to see more than just the city center of Toulon.

Tickets for the trains are only 7 Euros for adults, and 4 Euros for children. During the tour, you can hop on and hop off whenever you want, so it’s great to use as transit in between stops on this Toulon itinerary in case you get tired of walking on foot.

Stop #9: Maison de la Photographie

If you’re a photography lover, then head to the Maison de la Photographie, located right in the city center.

Opened in 2002, the place offers different exhibits with pictures from local artists.

This place is not very well known by tourists, so if you like to travel off the beaten path, I definitely recommend a visit to the Maison de la Photographie!

Stop #10: Place Raimu

Place Raimu is famous for the statue of the card game between Raimu and Panisse. You can even sit at the table with them and take a picture!

Right behind this square, you will find a fantastic restaurant called Tables de la Fontaine.

With its top-quality food, friendly staff, and cozy atmosphere, this quirky little restaurant is definitely one of the best in Toulon. On top of that, they cater well to vegetarians and even bake their own bread.

Stop #11: Cours Lafayette

The iconic Cours Lafayette, where the Provencal market is held every morning, is full of colorful fruits and vegetables and is definitely a must-see if you’re visiting Toulon.

At the bottom of the market, right in front of the church, you’ll find a small stand called “La Cade à Dédé”. This stand sells cade, a French delicacy typical from Toulon.

As you go up the street on the market, you can also visit the many shops there. I highly recommend Oceane, a crystal and fossil shop located in the heart of Toulon.

It’s a beautiful little store where you can find unique gifts and souvenirs. Whether you want to buy crystals, seashells, or other mineral items, you’ll surely find something interesting to bring back from Toulon.

Stop #12: Cathédrale Notre Dame de la Seds

Finally, you can stop at the cathedral of Toulon, also called Notre Dame de la Seds. The cathedral is located close to the Cours Lafayette.

Construction of the cathedral began in the 11th century and finished in the 18th century. Today, it is a national monument.

The cathedral has a very interesting history and is home to some work of art notably a baroque retable made by Pierre Puget.

Final Words on Visiting Toulon

Toulon is definitely an underrated tourist destination, and I definitely recommend visiting it if you’re planning a trip to the French Riviera.

With its beautiful harbor, fabulous Mediterranean market, and historical buildings, you’ll have a great time exploring this town full of history.

If you want to spend a few more days in the city, you can also go to the local beach, hike the Mont Faron, or take a day trip to beautiful Porquerolles.

Pin This Toulon Itinerary!

About the Author

Camille is a jewelry maker and blogger over at Crafty Explorer. Dedicated to traveling sustainably, she has been roaming the world and living abroad for over 7 years. When she’s not traveling, you’ll find her hiking or reading a good book.

50 Best Places to Visit in Europe in Winter

Europe in winter is a magical place, and while you certainly can find several places for winter sun on the continent, this post is all about enjoying the festive side to Europe!

From traditional Christmas markets in Germany to dog sledding and Northern lights chasing in the Arctic, here are all the best places to go in Europe in winter!

Key Things to Pack for Europe in Winter

A good, waterproof parka

While Europe’s weather can vary dramatically in the winter, it’s best to prepare for the worst and risk being overdressed than the alternative. I am a huge fan of The North Face because they guarantee all their products for life and will fix or replace literally anything you send to them — which I’ve tested by sending in a much used-and-abused down jacket that was returned looking like new.

Their jackets aren’t exactly budget-friendly, but they’re a great investment if you’re looking for a winter coat that will last a lifetime. This is the parka I own and I’ll use it for life (unless North Face cuts me off for how badly I abuse my clothing).

Thermal layers

A good winter parka goes a long way, but unless you’re matching that down jacket with proper layers underneath, you won’t be maximizing your potential warmth.

Everyone raves about wool’s warmth-retaining properties but I can’t tolerate it – it makes me so itchy that I want to tear off all my skin. If you can stand wool, something like these merino wool leggings paired with a cashmere sweater layer will serve you very well.

Personally, I constantly wear these 32 Degrees thermal layers during European winters — I have about 5 tops that I rotate during the winter between laundry days. On bottom, I wear these fleece-lined leggings.

Waterproof boots and warm socks

I’ve never really felt like snow boots are entirely necessary unless you really are planning on spending a lot of time in deep snow, like if you’re staying in a cabin in the woods or spending a significant amount of time in Lapland or ski resorts around Europe.

When it comes to packing for winter in Europe, if your trip is mostly in the cities, you just need two things in your boots: they need to be waterproof and have good traction. I first bought a pair of Blondo waterproof leather boots in 2008 and still own and love them to this day.

Despite many years of abuse and New York winters, I only had to get them resoled once in the last nearly 10 years. I’ve worn these in every European winter and they’ve always held up great.

If you plan on doing a lot of hiking in the snow, you may want a proper snow boot. The Elsa snow boot by KEEN is waterproof, insulated, and looks super cozy, and comes highly recommended as one of my friend’s favorite hiking boot brands.

Finally, no matter how insulated your boots are, you need proper socks to match –  sad, thin cotton socks won’t do the trick. I bought these excellent Smartwool socks after hesitating because of the price, but I’m glad I did.

Although I generally hate wool, the skin on my feet is thick enough that I don’t mind wearing wool socks at all and can get all the lovely warm wool benefits without the itchiness.

Rome, Italy

Contributed by Kate of Our Escape Clause

The Eternal City is a delight at any time of year, but visiting Rome in winter means being treated to mild weather, very few crowds, and the chance to have some of Rome’s most iconic sights (almost) all to yourself.

With plenty of Christmas decor to see in the city in December and a truly endless list of things to do, you can’t go wrong with a winter trip in Rome.

While you’re there, be sure to:

  • See the nativity scene in front of St Peter’s Basilica. Not only does St. Peter’s Square boast a beautiful Christmas tree during the holiday season, it is also home to an absolutely stunning nativity each year that is carved out of sand!
  • Watch the sunrise over the Colosseum. There’s never a better time of year to get up for sunrise and stay out for sunset–the short winter days make it easy to see the city in its best light.
  • Stroll down Via Condotti. This avenue near the Spanish Steps is home to some of the best holiday decor in the city.
  • Eat all the artichokes. Rome is known for its artichokes! They start coming into season in November and really pick up steam in February, making them the perfect dish to try in late winter.
  • Wander Centro Storico and Trastevere. These two popular neighborhoods in Rome are at their best in winter, when the crowds clear out and Rome’s infamous heat dies off. Just be prepared for gray skies!

In addition, December visitors to Rome can enjoy a handful of Christmas markets in the city–but there are much better places to head in Europe in winter for markets! Rome’s charms in winter lie outside that classic holiday escape.

Trento, Italy

Contributed by Emily of London City Calling

The pretty little Alpine town of Trento sits quietly nestled within the Brenta Dolomites in the Trentino–Alto Adige region of northern Italy. While it may not be as well known as other cities in Italy, Trento is one of the countries real hidden gems, especially during the winter months.

There are so many reason’s you should visit Trento during the winter, from wandering down the quaint cobblestone streets looking up at the snow-covered mountains which peek out from behind the city’s Italian Renaissance architecture, to indulging on Tortel di Patate washed down with a warm mug of mulled wine at Trento’s traditional Christmas markets.

Here are a few things you have to do in Trento in winter:

  • Visit the main Trento Christmas Market in Piazza Fiera, a real-life winter wonderland with plenty of food and drinks traders, as well as stalls selling artisan products, Christmas decorations, gifts, and more.
  • Stop by Santa’s Grotto and write a letter to ‘Babbo Natal’ in Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore.
  • See the giant illuminated Christmas tree in Piazza Duomo.
  • Hop on the ‘Christmas train’ and take a ride around Trento’s historical center
  • Take a day trip into the Trentino region for outdoor winter activities such as skiing and tobogganing.

Lake Como, Italy

Contributed by Paula of Paula Pins the Planet

Lake Como is one of the most scenic destinations in Italy all year-round, but it’s during winter that the magic happens. The view of the lake nestled amongst the Alps covered in snow is an awe-inspiring sight.

It is not just the beauty of Lake Como in winter that makes it so special. Wintertime is considered low season, which means the prices are lower and it is less crowded.  

Just a short trip by train from Milan, Lake Como draws travelers from all over the world to enjoy the stunning lakeside villas with their colorful houses surrounded by the mountains. The diverse landscape gives ample choices for winter activities, and some that you cannot miss are: 

  • A ferry tour to visit the other amazing villages of Bellagio, Varena, and Menaggio 
  • Enjoy the breath-taking Christmas lights in the city of Como, giving the opportunity for a charming Christmas atmosphere. 
  • Christmas Markets can be found around the city of Como, and the opportunity to taste the local delicacies, like local cheese and wine. 
  • Enjoy the ski resorts: some of the most popular ones are Piani di Bobbio, Monte Sighinola, and Valchiavenna. 
  • Spoil yourself at a spa. Como offers many incredible options of luxury spas where you can warm up with a hot stone massage, followed by a jacuzzi overlooking the lake. 

Bolzano, Italy

Contributed by Linda of La Dolce Fit Vita

There is no better place in Europe during winter than to be right in the middle of the Dolomites. Surrounded by some of the most beautiful snowcapped mountains in the world, Bolzano is that perfect little Italian town that encompasses that all around fuzzy feeling you might be yearning for during Christmas.

Besides its adorable little Christmas Market, if you’re a fan of chocolate and wine then this is hands down the place for you… and I mean who isn’t a chocolate and wine fan?

Bolzano is home to the largest Loacker production facility- meaning you will see wafers and hot cocoa pretty much everywhere. Also, the town is right on ‘La Strada del Vino dell’Alto Adige.’ Translated, the Wine Road of South Tyrol. That means there are dozens of vineyards to explore. And guess what? Wine-tasting, even in winter, is a thing!

There are also a handful of outdoor activities to indulge in – skiing and snowboarding being the most popular. There are so many different ski slopes to pick from, each with different scenery or level of difficulty. Not a fan of winter sports? No sweat, you can head to QC Terme Dolomiti, one of the most luxurious spas in the entire region. And guess what, it’s three floors of relaxation and pools and only 45 euros for a day pass… gasp!

As you wander around the town you will find mulled wine on every corner and roasted chestnuts waiting for you every hundred meters or so. In being smaller than other European Christmas Markets, the overall feeling is much cozier. The area surrounding Bolzano is known for its wooden carvings so make sure to not leave without a handmade wooden Christmas ornament!

 As a recap:

  •  Go wine tasting on the Wine Road of South Tryol
  • Treat yourself to a chocolate tasting tour of Loacker products
  • Hit the slopes to ski or snowboard in the Dolomite mountains
  • Go to the spa at QC Terme Dolomiti
  • Wander the Christmas Market and shop for wood-carved souvenirs

 Can winter in Europe get better? Wine, chocolate, spas, snow, and Christmas… I think not!

Colmar, France

Contributed by Maartje of The Orange Backpack

Colmar in France is one of the best cities in Europe to visit in winter, especially during the holiday season. This charming town in the Alsace in northeastern France is at its most beautiful during the winter months of the year.

The picturesque streets with monumental houses will be decorated with lights and Christmas trees. The medieval setting with half-timbered houses the Alsace is known for will definitely get you in the holiday mood. There will be many Christmas markets to buy souvenirs or get some wintery food, although it’s not sure yet if there will be any in the winter of 2020.

The best things to do in Colmar:

  • Wander around the charming streets and spot the most colorful traditional houses, especially around the area of Petit Venise.
  • Visit one of the Christmas markets around town.
  •  Visit the Unterlinden Museum for medieval art or the Toy Museum to see the history of toys.
  •  Make some day trips to other Christmas markets in picturesque towns like Riquewirh and Ribeauvillé.

The best way to visit Colmar? Combine your visit with some other charming medieval towns for the perfect road trip in the Alsace. Especially Riquewirh, Ribeauvillé and Kaysersberg are definitely worth a visit and have the same colorful half-timbered house. 

Paris, France

Editor’s Choice

Paris is always a good idea: and in winter, that goes even more so!

From charming Seine-side strolls with views of the iconic Parisian art nouveau architecture to ice rinks in front of the Eiffel tower to Christmas Markets and festive lights everywhere you look, winter in Paris is a dream.

Here are the highlights of winter in Paris:

  • Visiting the massive La Defense Christmas Market, the largest in Paris
  • Shopping for books at the adorable and historic Shakespeare & Company – and heading up to the second floor to relax in the reading room
  • Visit the Galeries Lafayette department store for all sorts of Christmas pics
  • Stroll through the cities iconic covered passageways
  • Spend time in iconic museums like The Louvre and Musee D’Orsay

Strasbourg, France

Contributed by Elisa from France Bucket List

Strasbourg is one of the most beautiful cities to visit in France and a good destination to visit all year round, also in wintertime. Strasbourg, in eastern France, is the capital city of the historical region of Alsace and also the capital city of the French region of Grand Est.

Strasbourg hosts one of the most famous Christmas markets in France, and also the oldest. It is also a good destination for sightseeing or a gastronomic trip so if you cannot make it to Strasbourg during the Christmas holidays there are still plenty of things to do around.

We recommend spending at least 2 days in Strasbourg – check out this Strasbourg itinerary to see the main sights. If you have more days available, consider a day trip to visit an Alsatian village or doing part of the Alsace wine route.

If you are visiting the city before or after the Christmas holidays, these are the top things to do in Strasbourg in the winter:

  • Visit Notre Dame de Strasbourg, one of the most beautiful Gothic cathedrals in France
  • Explore La Petite France (the tanneries neighborhood) the most picturesque area of Old Strasbourg
  • Visit the European neighborhood, home of European institutions like the European Court of Human Rights
  • Learn about the Alsatian wines, perhaps with a wine tasting tour
  • Try at least one of the popular winstubs – a type of traditional wine bar and restaurant-specific to Alsace. With a warm and rustic atmosphere and good local food, they are super cozy in the wintertime.

Lyon, France

Contributed by Stefan of Nomadic Boys

Lyon is our favorite place in France. It’s a city famous for being the gastronomic capital of France, it has a really picturesque old town and a gorgeous backdrop across the Presqu’île where the Rhône and Saône rivers converge. We also love Lyon’s gay scene, which is mainly spread across the northern side of the Presqu’île.

Lyon is also particularly special during the winter months when the city is bustling with Christmas markets and the iconic “Fête des Lumières” (Festival of Lights) takes place. The famous festival takes place over 4 nights in early December. As well as being one of the most exciting festivals in Lyon, it is the best light show in France.

During the days of the Light Festival, the entire city traditionally places a candle on their windowsill as a thank you to Mary (mother of Jesus) who was said to have spared the city from the plague when it was spreading across the country back in 1643.

During this time, an impressive light show also takes place every evening across the main sights in the Old Town and the Presqui’île as a nod to the Lumière Brothers who invented the early motion-picture camera and projector in Lyon, called the Cinématographe, or simply, the cinema!

The winter months are also super cozy in Lyon when people gather to dine out at the city’s renowned “bouchons” (restaurants) and drink lots of vin chaud (mulled wine) at the many Christmas markets.

  • Explore the Vieux Lyon (Old Town) and its unique Renaissance passageways called “traboules”
  • Climb up to the Fourvière Basilica for the best views of Lyon
  • Visit the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon: the largest fine art museum in France after the Louvr
  • Discover Lyon’s murals: there are around 100 large paintings around the city to spot
  • Pay homage to the Lumière brothers at the Institut Lumière

Andorra La Vella, Andorra

Contributed by Stephanie Craig of History Fangirl

Andorra La Vella, the tiny mountain capital of the micronation of Andorra, makes for a great day trip from Barcelona or as a point of entry to a fabulous Andorra winter getaway.

The country is a popular winter destination since there are so many specific winter activities in Andorra, from dog sledding to skiing in the fabled Pyrenees to winter mountaineering.

However, don’t skip spending some time in the capital, since there is at least enough to fill a day or two just in town. 

Andorra is also famous for its hearty, winter cuisine, so enjoy some fabulous local Catalonian dishes that will keep you fueled up while you explore. Make sure to spend time on the following:

  • Visit the December Christmas Market
  • Exploring the city’s Barri Antic (Old Quarter) on foot
  • See the famous Dali statue La Noblesse du temps (The Nobility of Time)
  • Shop for tax-free luxury goods
  • Warm-up at Caldea, Andorra la Vella’s mountain spa

Innsbruck, Austria

Contributed by Nadine of Le Long Weekend

An alpine city brimming with historical attractions, Innsbruck is much more than your usual ski town.

Spend the day on the slopes before sinking into a cosy restaurant to feast on Tyrolean dumplings, or skip the fields altogether and browse the charming streets of the old town instead.

You’ll find plenty of attractions to amuse both young and old, including the Swarovski Museum, Austrian Christmas markets, and the Imperial Palace. Here are a few of the best things to do in Innsbruck in Winter:

  • Take the Nordkette Cable Car for the best views in town. Even if you’re not skiing, you can ride the cable car to the top of the mountain where you’ll find sled rides for kids and a bar with a view for the adults.
  • Visit the Swarovski Crystal Worlds for an immersive experience into the world of these iconic crystals.
  • Shop at the Christmas markets. Austria really knows how to do Xmas in style, and the markets in Innsbruck are among the best. Fill up on punch and warming treats as you browse the stalls selling trinkets and winter woolies. The markets start in late November and run right through to early January in Innsbruck.
  • See the Golden Roof – completed in 1500 to mark the marriage between Emperor Maximilian I and Bianca Maria Sforza. The roof is adorned with over 2600 copper tiles, giving it a beautiful golden shimmer.
  • Wander the colorful Old Town with its curious buildings, gorgeous boutiques, and intricate architecture.

Vienna, Austria

Editor’s Choice

Emanating wintry charm from everywhere you look, Vienna in winter shines brighter than you could imagine.

From the Christmas markets and festive lighting scattered all around the city to the shops beautifully decorated and enticing you to enter, Christmas in Vienna is simply a magical time.

There’s no denying it’s one of the best cities to visit in Europe in winter! A few of the best things to do on a winter trip to Vienna include:

  • Visiting the Christmas Market in front of Schönbrunn Palace for its delicious spaetzle and garlic soup
  • See a show at the Spanish Riding School, where equestrians perform beautiful dressage shows
  • Window shop on the pricy yet beautiful Der Graben boulevard and take in all the beautiful Christmas lights
  • Take a fiaker (traditional horse and carriage ride) around Vienna’s historic city center
  • Eat all the lebkuchen (gingerbread) your stomach can take!

Salzburg, Austria

Contributed by Samantha from The Wandering Wanderluster

Salzburg is Austria’s fourth largest city. Located just 10km from the German border, Salzburg which literally means “Salt-Fortress”, is one of the country’s most beautiful cities and the second most visited. While the city is a delight to visit anytime of the year, a trip to Salzburg during the winter is especially magical and some may say it is the best time of year to go. 

Visitors are spoilt for choice for things to do during winter. With nature on the city’s doorstop there is a plethora of outdoor activities available, including a range of skiing options within a short distance of the city. 

The Altstadt (Old Town) district sparkles with fairy lights and glitzy trees in the month of December, and if it snows, you can take in the snow-covered roofs, Christmas lights and mountain views from one of Salzburg’s best viewpoints

Those staying within the city limits can enjoy multiple seasonal activities in the month of December including:

  • Visiting the Christmas Markets in the Altstadt 
  • Going ice-skating on Mozart Square
  • Listening to seasonal classical music concerts inside the Mirabell Palace
  • Checking out the Christmas Market at Hellbrunn Palace just outside Salzburg
  • Taking a magical trip to the birthplace of the Christmas Carol “Silent Night” in Oberndorf

If you would prefer to keep warm, Salzburg has many cozy cafes to enjoy a sweet treat and a hot chocolate, and a fair few churches and museums that are worth visiting, many of them linked to the famous Composer Mozart, who was born in Salzburg. In fact, you can even tour his birthplace, located in the Altstadt. 

Berlin, Germany

Editor’s Choice

Berlin is a fabulous winter destination in Europe.

Incredible Christmas markets, crisp winter weather, German and international food restaurants that are truly world-class, excellent museums: Berlin has everything you want in winter.

You could easily spend a week enjoying all the best things to do in Berlin in winter, but my favorite winter highlights are:

  • Take a wintry stroll through Tiergarten up to the decorated tree at the Brandenburg Gate
  • Warm up checking out the museums of Museuminsel
  • Shop ’til you drop on Ku’damm and at KaDaWe
  • See the decorations at the Reichstag
  • Visit the adorable Christmas Market at Gendarmenmarkt

Frankfurt, Germany

Editor’s Choice

Frankfurt is thought of more as a layover city than as one of the most interesting cities to visit in Germany… but I beg to differ!

Frankfurt has an amazing international food scene, a beautifully reconstructed Old Town, excellent Christmas markets, phenomenal coffee shops, and so much more to enjoy in winter.

Here are a few highlights in Frankfurt in winter:

  • Have delicious ramen at Takumi which specializes in chicken-based broths
  • Warm up with spicy Ethiopian-Eritrean food at African Queen
  • Visit the enormous Frankfurt Christmas Market and drink Gluhwein and Dampfnudel until your heart can take no more
  • Hear a concert at the beautiful Frankfurter Dom
  • Check out the Gay Christmas Market (Pink Market) for an alternative festive market experience

Dresden, Germany

Contributed by Chris from Punta Cana Travel Blog

Dresden is a beautiful city in the German state of Saxony, located mid-way between Berlin and Prague.

While it is well-known and has its fair share of tourists, it’s usually not mentioned in the first place when talking about the German cities to visit. However, Dresden is absolutely worth visiting as it has one of the most beautiful and historic old towns and amazing scenery along the river Elbe. 

When visiting Dresden in winter, it’s a must to explore the famous Christmas market of the city, the Striezelmarkt. It’s one of the oldest Christmas markets in the world – dating back to 1434 – and features an abundance of local Christmas decorations (such as Schwibbogen, smoking men or nutcrackers) as well as various typical foods and drinks from Saxony, for example, gingerbread from nearby Pulsnitz or the famous Stollen, which is home to Dresden and has one of its origins in Saxony.

Besides the famous Striezelmarkt, there are numerous further Christmas markets in Dresden. While most of them are not worth mentioning, you should have a look at the medieval Christmas Market at Stallhof, a part of the former Royal Palace. It’s always an interesting spectacle to see and experience the various traditional costumes, individual decoration and charming atmosphere, all focusing on the medieval theme. This place is so much different than most Christmas markets in Germany.

As you should not come to Dresden just to visit the Christmas markets only, the following are my Top 5 for further activities in Dresden:

  • Walk through the historic Old Town and admire the beauty of the historic buildings
  • Visit the New Town with its art cafés, alternative bars, and international restaurants
  • Visit Panometer Dresden, a former gasometer with impressive 360-degree panorama installations, usually about Dresden’s history (perfect for a rainy day)
  • Take one of the two funiculars of Dresden to reach the best viewpoints of the city 
  • Take a day trip to Saxon Switzerland, an area with picturesque rock formations and stunning scenery 

Nuremberg, Germany

Editor’s Choice

If you’re looking for one of the best Christmas markets in Germany, you can’t miss Nuremberg! It’s one of Germany’s oldest and most traditional Christmas markets.

Besides the market, you can enjoy Bavarian cuisine, stroll along its charming bridges and waterways, admire half-timber and traditional architecture, and feel like you’ve stepped into a true winter wonderland.

  • Visit the Altstadt (Old Town) with its historic walls
  • See a show at the Staatstheater
  • Visit the amazing museum at the Albrecht-Dürer-Haus
  • Learn about Nuremberg’s dark role in the Holocaust at the Nuremberg Trial Courthouse and the Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds 

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Editor’s Choice

Canals, Christmas Markets, and stroopwaffels: these are what my EUrope in winter dreams are made of.

Any time in Amsterdam is guaranteed to be a good time, as long as you leave the touristy center, but Amsterdam in winter has even more charm.

While of course you have to see the scenic Canal Ring (Grachtengordel) area, there’s much more to Amsterdam than you’d think, so be sure to leave the center a bit and explore!

  • See the canals all lit up and twinkling during the Amsterdam Light Festival — even better on a boat tour!
  • Visit the Netherlands’ best art museum, the Rijksmuseum
  • Wander around the hip 9 Straatjes (9 Streets) neighborhood with its boutiques and cafes
  • Visit the Christmas market on Rembrandtplein
  • Try spicy Surinamese and Indonesian food in East Amsterdam (Oud-Oost) – I recommend Lalla Rookh for Surimnamese and Warung Sranang Makmur for Indonesian

Utrecht, Netherlands

Contributed by Lotte from Beste voor Kids 

Utrecht is the 4th largest city in the Netherlands and is located in the identically named province of Utrecht. It’s a great city to visit any time of year but winter is especially enchanting in this charming Dutch city. 

Utrecht was granted city rights in 1122 and has a beautiful medieval center with pretty canals, gorgeous old houses, and plenty of cozy cafes, restaurants, and bars.

As a Utrecht local it’s hard for me to narrow down the list of things to do as there are so many worthwhile places to visit in Utrecht… However, below you can find some of my favorite Utrecht highlights: 

  • The Old City Center: stroll around the lovely city center with Neude, St. Janskerkhof, and the pretty canals around de Oude Gracht.  
  • Visit the Miffy Museum: if you’re visiting Utrecht with kids this is a must-do in any season but in winter there is a special Christmas Theme so it’s even more fun to visit with your little ones.  
  • Ice skating at the Spoorwegmuseum: the Spoorwegmuseum is another great place to visit with kids or for anyone interested in the history of train travel in the Netherlands. During the Christmas Holiday, there is a special theme called Winter Station during which you can go ice-skating at the temporary ice rink! 
  • Climb the Dom Tower: enjoy a bird’s eye view from the tallest church tower in the Netherlands. This 112-meter-tall tower is a city icon and offers beautiful views of Utrecht city all the way to Amsterdam and Rotterdam! 
  • Go shopping at Hoog Catharijne: revamped Hoog Catharijne is an indoor shopping mall connecting Utrecht Central Station to Utrecht city center and is transformed into a winter wonderland during winter. Admire the Christmas decorations, shop for souvenirs or a Christmas outfit, or have a drink or lunch at one of the restaurants in the mall.  

Brussels, Belgium

Contributed by Sarah of CosmopoliClan

Right in the heart of Brussels, you’ll find its most eye-catching landmark: Grand Place. The interesting gothic City Hall, grand King’s House and stately guild houses adorned with the most intricate gold leaf details are a feast to the eyes any time of the year.

During the festive season, this magnificent place comes to life under a twinkling Christmas blanket. A trail of lights and wooden chalets connects this wonderful location with other enchanting sites that are part of the Brussels Christmas market.

And the wintry fun doesn’t have to end there: Around mid-February, the city hosts a spectacular light festival called Bright Brussels. It’s the perfect occasion to see some of the city’s classic sights with an interesting twist. 

Visiting Belgian’s capital in winter comes with an added bonus: Brussels’ central location also makes it the perfect starting point for winter escapes to other European cities.

  • Watch the captivating Sound and Light show at the Grand Place that takes place every night during the Christmas festivities.
  • Indulge in a fluffy waffle topped with Belgian’s legendary chocolate.
  • Let the Ferris wheel whisk you up for an unforgettable view over the twinkling city. You’ll find it at Vismet during the Brussels Christmas market.
  • Explore the city in a different light during the Bright Brussels Light Festival.
  • Visit the Royal Galleries and enjoy a hot chocolate at one of the city’s most enchanting locations.

Haarlem, Netherlands

Contributed by Manon of Visiting The Dutch Countryside

Haarlem is one of those Dutch cities that is charming, and when you add winter to the mix, you get a magical combination.

Admire its picturesque streets, explore the incredible museums, visit a Christmas market and so much more. Haarlem has everything you could wish for when visiting Europe in winter.

  • Visit the Christmas market in Haarlem: One of the Netherlands’ biggest Christmas markets takes place here. And not only will you find many tasty Dutch treats here, but there are more than 300 stalls to find your perfect Christmas presents. There are also performances, and there’s even a Christmas sing-a-long.
  • Go ice skating at Ijsbaan Haarlem: When you’re visiting The Netherlands in winter, ice skating is part of the deal. We love it. The ice rink is opened from September until March, and you can rent ice skates here.
  • Get cozy at the Jopenkerk brewery: This Dutch beer brewery is found in a beautiful church. So, not only can you taste some amazing Dutch craft beer here, but it’s also found in a beautiful surrounding.
  • Sit in front of the fireplace at Het Veerkwartier: Dutch winters can often be very windy, rainy, and chilly. This is the perfect place in Haarlem to visit when you want to warm up in front of the fireplace.
  • Admire incredible museums in Haarlem: Haarlem is filled with fantastic museums, think of the Teylers Museum, Frans Hals Museum, Corrie Ten Boom, Museum Haarlem and Museum van de Geest.

Zurich, Switzerland

Contributed by Smita of My Faulty Compass

Rich in culture and history, Zurich is a centuries-old city dripping with charm and beauty. A stunning lake and a lovely river along with snow-covered mountains surrounding it add to its stupendous charm.

Zurich in the winter is magical and beautiful with the holiday season transforming the city into an even more spectacular place!

Twinkling fairy lights adorning the streets, unique Christmas trees and markets, a multitude of Advent events and the enticing aromas of hot chocolate or fondue make it an unforgettable experience to spend winter in Zurich.

Here are some of the best things to do in Zurich in the winter,

  • Take a stroll around the old town of Zurich – Start at the famous shopping boulevard of Bahnhofstrasse and make your way to Niederdorf, the old town district situated next to the river.
  • Visit the Christmas markets – Zurich has many many Christmas markets and some of the best of them are at the train station (the largest covered market in Europe!), at Sechseläutenplatz and at Bahnhofstrasse (boasting a singing Christmas tree!).
  • Check out some Christmas events – Several popular events take place around the holiday season including the Lichterschwimmen floating candle event (candles placed into the river make for a beautiful sight) and the Samichlausschwimmen tradition (Santa’s swimming across the freezing cold river!).
  • Enjoy winter sports – Several ski slopes are located a very short distance from Zurich where you can enjoy skiing, tobogganing, or snowboarding.
  • Enjoy the Zurich lake – Take a stroll along the lake promenade or a ferry ride on the beautiful lake

London, England

Editor’s Choice

London in winter is a European dream: it’s gorgeous and festive, yet not so cold that you don’t want to do some sightseeing.

There are plenty of day trips to take to explore castles and other scenic English towns and cities in the area, but there’s also so much to do in London in winter that you can easily spend the entirety of your trip just exploring London.

After all, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life,” according to Samuel Johnson!

Here are my favorite winter things to do in London:

  • Check out the hip neighborhood of Shoreditch for its street art, cute cafes, and tasty food
  • Shop at the beautifully decorated Borough Market for Christmassy souvenirs
  • Have a tasty afternoon tea to escape from the cold and recharge for evening sightseeing
  • Check out the numerous Christmas Markets throughout the city
  • Have a traditional Sunday roast dinner at a local pub

Galway, Ireland

Contributed by Bruna of Maps ‘n Bags

Galway is the perfect place to visit in Europe winter to get into the Chrismas spirit!

As one of the world’s friendliest cities, Galway has a combo of Irish attractions and a relaxed atmosphere that you can’t afford to miss!

  • Walk down Quay Street to spot a wide variety of shops and venues, from vintage bookshops to traditional Irish pubs to colorful storefronts.
  • Visit the Christmas Market. Boasting over 50 wooden stalls that sprawl through the city center, which is one of the best places to stay in Galway, it’s a must-do. There you can watch the choirs or carol singing, indulge in European food, and feel slightly adventurous in the Big Wheel.
  • Breathe the fresh breeze of the sea and stroll along the Salthill promenade. It’s a 2km long path with peaceful views and, of course, many spots to savor some local seafood along the way.
  • Have a pint of Guinness (or a few) at Busker Browne’s Pub, a venue housed in a historic building in the Latin Quarter dating back to the 17th-century. This building used to be a meeting point for the tribes of Galway, a Dominican convent, and more.
  • Pay a visit to arguably the most important structure in Galway, the Spanish Arch. It’s the last surviving arch from the defenses of the city.

Kyiv, Ukraine

Contributed by Megan Starr of Megan & Aram

Kyiv is a gorgeous city to visit in winter and it has so much to offer during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday season. Do note that Ukraine celebrates the Ukrainian Orthodox Christmas in early January, and not in December if you are traveling there for the holidays.

The Ukrainian capital is teeming with lights and festive Christmas decorations and you’ll find small stalls throughout the city where you can purchase small trinkets or traditional food.

Here are some exciting (and cozy) things to do in Kyiv during winter:

  • Eat Varenyky: While you can indulge in this Ukrainian dumpling at any time of the year, it definitely tastes best during the colder months! While you can find varenyky almost everywhere throughout the city, SHO and O’Pana’s have some of the best and both restaurants are located in the city center.
  • Get Acquainted with Kyiv’s coffee scene: Kyiv has some incredible cafes and you will find some of Europe’s best third-wave coffee in the city. While Kyiv may be enduring sub-zero temperatures outside, the cafes are always cozy and warm. You can find several cafes worth visiting in Podil or you can opt for The Journalist right on Khreschatyk.
  • Head to the Opera: Kyiv is home to the Taras Shevchenko National Opera and Ballet Theatre of Ukraine and nothing is quite as festive and seasonal as enjoying a night at the opera during winter. The remarkable building dates back to 1901.
  • Hunt for Soviet Architecture: Kyiv is a city with an endangered Soviet architecture scene. And tracking down some of the obscure buildings is definitely one of the best things to do during winter while they look mysterious under the foggy, grey skies. Don’t miss the Salyut Hotel and Kyiv Crematorium, two masterpieces by Abraham Miletsky.
  • Take a day trip out of Kyiv: The city can be cold and alluring, but there are some fantastic day trips from Kyiv. Opt to head to Slavutych if you already have Chernobyl on your itinerary. The purpose-built city was constructed in 1988 by the Soviets for those who suffered tragedy at Chernobyl. Every neighborhood of Slavutych is different and was built by an architect from a different Soviet republic.

Visting Kyiv in winter is a great choice of travel plans and it is one of Europe’s best winter destinations if you love large cities with a lot to do.

Budapest, Hungary

Editor’s Choice

Budapest in winter is a dream — beautiful architecture bedecked in snow, Christmas Markets on seemingly ever corner, hearty food that matches the wintry weather, and tasty wines to indulge in when the sun goes down early.

Bathhouses offer a great escape from the cold, but outdoor activities like ice skating, Danube river cruises, and even caving under Budapest are all great winter activities as well.

Don’t miss beautiful sights like Fisherman’s Bastion, Buda Castle, the sights from Citadella, and Vajdahunyad Castle while you’re visiting Budapest in winter!

  • Take a steamy soak on a winter day in one of the thermal baths around Budapest — my favorite is Gellért, but I also love the outdoor baths at Széchenyi
  • Try a tasty kürtőskalács (chimney cake) at one of the many Christmas Markets around the city
  • Grab an espresso and a tasty slice of cake at one of third wave coffee shops like Espresso Embassy or at one of the pricy yet beautiful traditional coffee houses like New York Café and Central Café
  • Wander through the beautiful Central Market Hall, loading up on strudel and souvenirs
  • Do an incredible wine tasting experience with Taste Hungary

Prague, Czechia

Editor’s Choice

One of the most traditional choices for celebrating the winter in Europe is visiting Prague with its beautiful Central European architecture and adorable Christmas Markets.

The Old Town Square can get really crowded in the winter, with crowds moving slowly through the tiny winding roads, but if you veer off the beaten path a bit, you’ll find plenty of wonderful places to celebrate winter in Prague sans crowds.

Jiřího z Poděbrad, Náměstí Míru, the markets just to the left when you cross the Charles Bridge in Malá Strana, and the area around Palladium Shopping Mall are 4 of my favorite markets in the city: none are totally “offbeat” and unknown, but they won’t be nearly as crowded as the Old Town.

Of course, you can’t miss a winter visit to Prague Castle and its gorgeous St. Vitus Cathedral, a stroll down the dreamy Golden Lane, and just wandering the castle district of Prague and the beautiful architecture which marks every street.

Here are a few of my best recommendations for Prague — from someone who used to live there!

  • Have a tasty beer at the place where the first Pilsner Urquell was tapped at U Pinkasu — don’t miss their tasty food, either!
  • Eat tasty, heart-warming Czech food. My favorites are guláš s knedlíky (Czech-style goulash stew with handmade sliced bread dumplings), vepřo-knedlo–zelo (roast pork with cabbage and bread dumplings), and česnečka, a delicious garlicky broth laced with caraway seeds and topped with rye bread croutons.
  • Go ice skating in the cute square at Ovocný  Trh
  • Take a short cruise down an icy Vltava River
  • Take a sauna on the river in the pop-up Lázně na Lodi

Cesky Krumlov, Czechia

Contributed by Riana of Teaspoon of Adventure

Cesky Krumlov is one of the best places in Europe to visit in the winter. Cesky Krumlov is a small medieval town just a few hours south of Prague in the Czech Republic.

The entire town is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so you know it’s going to be beautiful! Many people visit Cesky Krumlov on a day trip but I suggest you spend a night or two to really appreciate the charm of the town and discover all it has to offer.

In the summer, Cesky Krumlov can get very crowded. It’s the most popular day trip from Prague! So one of the best reasons to come in the winter is that you can have the entire place to yourself. Visiting in the winter also ups the fairytale factor of this cobblestone covered little city when it’s blanketed in snow. 

5 things to do in Cesky Krumlov in the winter

  • Go on a free walking tour of the city and learn about its royal history
  • Visit the Cesky Krumlov Castle Tower complete with views over the entire city
  • Warm up in one of the many adorable cafes throughout town (Ideal Coffee comes recommended)
  • Stroll through the Castle Gardens that will hopefully be covered in snow
  • Shop at the charming Christmas Markets in the town square

Bratislava, Slovakia

Editor’s Choice

If you’re planning a winter trip through Central Europe, don’t miss the magic of Bratislava in winter. I’m sure this city is charming at any time of year, but in the winter, Bratislava just shimmers.

Compared with its more popular Central European neighboring capital cities – Prague, Vienna (just an hour away and a world apart), and Budapest, to name a few – Bratislava is an oasis of calm. Even the beloved Bratislava Christmas markets don’t do much to add chaos to Old Town, dispersing the tourists in smaller, more manageable numbers.

Whatever the reason, if you make Bratislava a priority – and you should – you’ll be delighted that you included this gorgeous Central European city to your winter in Europe itinerary

Here are the highlights of Bratislava in winter:

  • Admire the (hopefully) snow-capped Bratislava Castle grounds
  • Stroll the Danube and check out the quirky UFO Bridge
  • Warm up from the Bratislava winter with some comforting Slovak food at Bratislavský Meštiansky Pivovar.
  • Marvel at the baby blue Church of St. Elisabeth
  • Cozy up in an adorable café — I love St. Germain

Krakow, Poland

Contributed by Vanessa of Wanders Miles

As the second-largest city in Poland, Krakow has a fascinating history, unique architecture, hip art scene, delicious food, craft beer, and is great value for the money. This is the perfect recipe for a fabulous European city break.  

Krakow is a true delight for history buffs. Krakow Old Town one of the first-ever urban UNESCO World Heritage Sites dating back to the Middle Ages. Wawel Royal Castle located on the Vistula River majestically overlooks the city. Learn about the harrowing story of the Jewish population in WWII within the city or by taking a day trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau.  


One of the main highlights of visiting Krakow in December is feeling the festive vibes in the main market square, Rynek Glowny. The elegant horse-drawn carriage is a win for tourists and the huge Christmas tree displayed in front of St. Mary’s Basilica is a stunning sight to see. Visitors to the traditional Polish market will hear Christmas carols sung by performers and see the display of elaborate cribs (szopki) submitted for the contest which has been held at the start of December since the 19th century. 

You can’t visit without sampling traditional Polish dishes from smoked cheeses, grilled meats, and sweet gingerbreads. Christmas souvenirs, Polish pottery and jewellery from the folklore handicraft stalls are a great memory from your trip. If you fancy a sip of the good stuff, try the mulled wine (Grzaniec Galicyjski) or craft beers poured from the wooden barrels. 

You will also find beautiful classical performances at St. Peter and Paul’s Church and St. Mary’s Basilica, both fine examples of Polish Baroque architecture. 

  • Take a tour of Wawel Royal Castle 
  • Attend a concert at St. Joseph’s Church  
  • Walk over the Vistula River on the Bernatek Footbridge 
  • Learn about the Nazi occupation in Oskar Schindler Museum
  • Get creative in MOCAK (Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow

Warsaw, Poland

Contributed by Bec of Poland Travel Expert

Poland is fast becoming a hot destination for travellers and there is no better city to visit than Warsaw. It is a city that has a proud and extremely sad past but it is also one that is looking to the future.

Warsaw is a city that feels like home when you arrive and Warsaw in winter is a beautiful time to visit. If you are a family, a solo traveler or a couple there is so much to do in Warsaw.

Polish food is absolutely amazing and very filling. From zapikanka to pierogi there is something for everyone and all tastes. You can find so many little street stalls (you will find a favorite) or you can find a restaurant that has been around for years to enjoy a meal. 

If you love history, a visit to Warsaw is a must. There is so much to learn in the city about WWII and how the city was rebuilt after being nearly totally destroyed. From museums to wandering the Old Town the scars are everywhere. 

Here are a few things to do in Warsaw in winter.

  • Visit the traditional Christmas Markets in the Old Town
  • See the amazing Christmas light displays through the city
  • Try some Grzane Piwo (mulled beer)
  • Visit the Palace of Science and Culture (in the basement there is a ‘milkbar’, a traditional Polish kitchen)!
  • See a Chopin performance

Zagreb, Croatia

Contributed by Ciara from Wellness Travel Diaries

Zagreb, the beautiful capital of Croatia, is filled with stunning architecture influenced by Gothic and Austro-Hungarian styles.

During winter, this magnificent city hosts a spectacular Advent Christmas market throughout the entire town. This sensational market has been voted one of the best markets in Europe for three consecutive years according to European Best Destinations.  

With numerous holiday activities for families, couples, and solo excursions, it’s no wonder this winter destination is a traveler’s favorite city.

This magical market starts in late October and ends in January with a bustling list of winter activities to do.  Some of the best activities include:

  • Exploring the Christmassy wonderland at Ban Josip Jelačić Square
  • Taking a stroll at Zrinjevac Park
  • Walking through the semi-underground Advent Christmas tunnel
  • Visiting the Christmas market at European Square
  • Ice skating at Tomislav Square

These activities merely scratch the surface of all the things to do when visiting the Christmas markets in Zagreb, Croatia. The mood is set with festive wooden stalls charmingly decorated with fresh trimmings, and cheerful lights.

These stalls sell an abundance of goodies including mulled wine, traditional Croatian foods, and artisanal handcrafted items ranging from ornaments, scarfs, teas, and more.

On top of the breathtaking Christmas festivities, Zagreb does get cold during the winter months so I highly recommend packing layers and a winter coat for enjoying your strolls through the impressive holiday market.

Copenhagen, Denmark

Editor’s Choice

For a winter Europe destination that will impress you with its beauty, you can’t miss a trip to Copenhagen!

Whether it’s traversing its historic Danish Castles and Roskilde Cathedral, learning about the country’s Viking history, or walking around the charming streets of Copenhagen’s neighborhoods, there’s no denying Denmark is a charming place to spend winter: this is the country that introduced hygge to the world, after all!

Here are a few choice things to do in Copenhagen in winter:

  • Stroll the charming grounds and Christmas Markets of Tivoli Gardens amusement park, all lit up for the holiday season
  • Grab delicious Danish and international foods at Torvehallerne — grab some Mikkeler craft beer at the bottle shop here as well!
  • Snap fairytale-esque photos from the home neighborhood of Torvehallerne, Nyhavn, with its colorful houses on the canal
  • Take in the view from the Rundetaarn
  • Walk around the trendy and diverse Nørrebro neighborhood and stop for ramen at Ramen to Biiru

Aarhus, Denmark

Editor’s Choice

Denmark’s little-known second-city is rarely visited by tourists, but it’s a charming well-kept secret that more travelers should know!

Winter in Aarhus is a great time to come and explore the city as its easily accessible from Copenhagen by train yet it offers a totally different side to the country than Copenhagen does.

Here are a few things I recommend doing in Aarhus in winter:

  • Check out great works of art at ARoS Aarhus Art Museum
  • Walk around the Aarhus Ø district and see its most iconic buildings like The Iceberg: an emblem of Danish design
  • Learn about Danish history and culture at the Old Town Open Air Museum
  • Instagram your way through Aarhus’s most scenic street, Møllestien, as well as the photogenic Latin Quarter
  • Dine til you drop at Aarhus Street Food, a permanent indoor/outdoor street food market

Reykjavik, Iceland

Contributed by Amanda from A Dangerous Business

When it comes to winter destinations in Europe, a lot of people will immediately think of mulled wine and Christmas markets. But there’s another city removed from mainland Europe that you don’t want to forget: Reykjavik, Iceland.

Iceland is most popular during the summer months, when long days leave ample time for road trips and outdoor adventures. But winter in Iceland – and in Iceland’s capital city – can be just as great.

Reykjavik is the heart of Iceland. Not only is it the country’s capital, but it’s also where the majority of Iceland’s population lives. Even in the dark days of winter, Reykjavik is lively and makes for a great long weekend escape.

The top things to do in and around Reykjavik in winter include:

  • Cozy up with a coffee in one of Reykjavik’s trendy cafes.
  • Take the elevator to the top of Hallgrimskirkja to enjoy snowy views of Reykjavik and the surrounding landscape.
  • Spend a morning soaking at the Blue Lagoon. Yes, you can visit these thermal pools even in the winter time!
  • Go on a Northern Lights chasing tour to try to spot the aurora borealis dancing in the sky. The Lights are sometimes bright enough to see right in downtown Reykjavik.
  • Stay in Reykjavik for the city’s famous New Year’s Eve party, which includes bonfires and a massive fireworks display.

Reykjavik is also a great base for exploring Iceland’s natural wonders during the winter months. Day trips to see the geysers of the Golden Circle and the waterfalls along the South Coast run year-round, or you could get even more adventurous and go hiking on a glacier, or horseback riding in the snowy volcanic landscape.

Oslo, Norway

Contributed by Ella from Many More Maps

Oslo, the capital of Norway, is undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in Europe in winter. Known for its stunning setting overlooking the Oslo Fjord, you’ll be treated to spectacular winter scenery and scenic cruises during your trip here. 

For a great introduction to the city, plan to stay at least 2 days in Oslo. This will be enough time to hit up all its highlights, soak up its unique vibe and try some of Oslo’s totally unique and completely delicious food.

As one of the safest cities in Europe, you won’t need to worry about walking alone after dark in Oslo (and it gets dark very early in winter!).

What’s more, contrary to what you’ve probably heard, with a bit of advanced planning Oslo can easily be seen on a budget.

Purchase the Oslo pass to cover your transportation and museum entry tickets, and stay at the Smarthotel Oslo, where you can score a room for as cheap as €55 per night!

  • Sample the famous Norweigan meatballs at Kaffistova
  • Walk up to the roof of the Oslo Opera House for a free, only-in-Oslo experience.
  • Take a sauna right on the Oslo Fjord for one of the best sunset views in the city.
  • Marvel at the bizarre sculptures at the Vigeland Park.
  • Head to the Viking Ship Museum to see three reconstructed Viking ships that were found buried near Oslo.

Tromso, Norway

Editor’s Choice

How does going north of the Arctic Circle sound for winter in Europe?

With some days where the sun never rises above the horizon and freezing temperatures and snow nearly every day, it may sound a bit crazy. But trust me on this: Tromso doesn’t need sun to be beautiful in winter!

While you won’t find the traditional Europe in winter staples of Christmas markets and lit-up trees, you will find plenty of active adventure to get you out and about in Norway’s gorgeous arctic nature.

Here are a few incredible things to do in Tromso in winter:

  • Take a self-driving dog sled red with a team of enthusiastic huskies
  • Visit the Tromso Ice Domes, a scenic ice hotel rebuilt each year located about 90 minutes from Tromso city.
  • Go whale watching for orcas and other whales during whale season (November through January) if conditions permit
  • Visit a Sami reindeer camp and learn about the customs and lifestyles of the indigenous people of Sapmi (which settlers named Lapland)
  • Take an aurora minibus tour and chase the Northern lights — sometimes all the way into Finland!

Gothenburg, Sweden

Contributed by Roshni of The Wanderlust Within

As the second largest city in Sweden, Gothenburg, is perfect for a winter break. There are four amazing Christmas markets in Gothenburg all scattered across the city, and focusing on different themes.

The most traditional is at Kronhuset, the most modern one, that sells local designer goods is at Roda Sten Art centre, and the foodie focused Christmas market is in Haga.

However the most popular and largest Christmas market in Sweden is at Liseberg amusement park. Running for most of December, the attraction combines roller coasters with festive ice skating shows, over 80 Christmas stalls and Santa’s grotto.

The Christmas Markets sells everything from hand decorated baubles to traditional Swedish gingerbread, called Pepparkaka.

There is also a wonderful Swedish Christmas buffet dinner available (book well in advance), that serves all the local festive favorites such as pickled herring, saffron buns, cured salmon, and a long table full of chocolates and sweets known as a ‘gottebord’.

Top things to do in Gothenburg in winter include:

  • Explore the city on a Paddan canal cruise
  • Try the largest cinnamon rolls in Sweden at Cafe Husaren in Haga
  • Visit the free palm tree house and explore the tropical botanical gardens
  • Go ice skating at Liseberg theme park
  • Check out the singing Christmas tree, a choir arranged on a platform in the shape of a Christmas tree, performing all your favorites

Stockholm, Sweden

Editor’s Choice

From exploring the museums, stopping for coffee breaks and Swedish pastries, visiting Christmas markets, and enjoying scenic boat rides through canals, there are countless things to do in Stockholm during the winter season.

If you visit Stockholm in November or December, try to time your vacation around the Christmas markets. The Christmas lights and cheer somehow make the snowy, dark days feel a little brighter.

Here are the best things to do in Stockholm in winter:

  • Experience a genuine Stockholm winter by visiting the Christmas Market in the heart of the Old Town, Gamla Stan.
  • See an expertly preserved ship 17th century ship at the Vasa Museum
  • Eat your heart out at the indoor marketplaces: Hotorgshallen and Östermalms Saluhall
  • Spend a day at Centralbadet (Central Bath), a beautiful bathhouse with Art Nouveau décor, plenty of saunas, and several heated swimming pools to choose from.
  • Take a boat tour around Stockholm’s 14 islands

Abisko, Sweden

Editors Choice

While I’m sure Abisko, Sweden is a lovely place to visit at any time of year, it truly shines in winter.

You can see Northern lights dancing overhead almost literally every night, walk amongst frozen waterfalls in the national park, snowshoe across epic landscapes, and experience all the wonder of Lapland.

Here are my top picks for what to do in Abisko in winter:

  • Go Northern lights spotting with a guided tour or independently out on the frozen-over Torneträsk lake
  • Go dog sledding and cuddle some husky pups
  • Chase (frozen) waterfalls in Abisko National Park
  • Learn about the indigenous Sámi culture on a day tour
  • Visit the ICEHOTEL in Jukkasjärvi

Helsinki, Finland

Editor’s Choice

Helsinki in winter may not be the first choice that comes to mind for a winter in Europe, but keep an open mind and you’re sure to love the Finnish capital city in winter, even when the sun sets just after 2 PM!

From Christmas Markets in December to festivals all winter long, winter in Finland is all about getting cozy at cute cafes, sweating it out in saunas, enjoying tasty Nordic cuisine at trendy restaurants, and enjoying Helsinki’s architecture on strolls through the city.

Here are a few can’t-miss winter activities in Helsinki:

  • Drink some glögi (mulled wine) at one of the Christmas Markets in the city — the cutest is at Senate Square
  • Visit the snowy island fortress of Suomenlinna, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which you can access by a quick ferry from Helsinki
  • Visit during the Lux Festival in January to see Helsinki Cathedral all lit up beautifully
  • Take a traditional Finnish sauna at a public sauna house like the trendy Löyly — and jump into the icy Baltic Sea after, if you dare, like a true Finn!
  • Warm up indoors at the Old Market Hall and snack on all sorts of traditional treats

Rovaniemi, Finland

Contributed by Jordan of Inspired by Maps

Rovaniemi is the capital of Lapland, in northern Finland, is one of the best cities to visit in Europe in winter.

Not only is it renowned for being the home of the ‘real’ Santa Claus’, but there is husky-sled ridding, incredible museums, sauna’s and it is one of the best spots to see the Northern Lights from.

Rovaniemi is also surrounded by spectacular picturesque photography locations — including virtually infinite stretches of pristine Nordic forests and wilderness — all of which are even more stunning when blanketed in the winter snow. The Northern Lights perform in Lapland roughly 200 nights of the year-and can be observed from Rovaniemi every third night during the winter. 

While in Rovaniemi in winter, you should download the Aurora prediction app and head down to the Arktikum Park and Lake for an adequate chance to see the action when the app tells you. There is a little light pollution here, however, so a more reliable way to see the phenomena is to go out on a Northern Lights tour with expert guides who know how to expose Lapland’s beauty to tourists. 

Other than Northern Lights viewing, there are so many other things to do in Rovaniemi  on a European winter escape including:

  • Learn more about the nature, community and history of Lapland at the prestigious Arktikum Museum of Science.
  • Appreciate a genuine Finnish sauna experience, both in your hotel or one of the public saunas in the city.
  • Head out to the Santa Claus Village and cross over in the Arctic circle. 
  • Get your artistic fix at the Museum of Art in Rovaniemi or by exploring the modernist Rovaniemi Library, designed by the famous architect Alvar Aalto.
  • Feel the wind racing and get your heart pounding while embracing the chill of the wilderness on a husky sledding tour in the Lappish wilderness. 

Tallinn, Estonia

Editor’s Choice

Tallinn is one of my favorite places to be in Europe in winter, hands down! I have a huge crush on all things Estonia, and I think it’s one of the most underrated countries in Europe.

With a thriving hip scene in the trendy area of Kalamaja, trendy restaurants serving up beer pairings with new takes on Estonian cuisine, and tons of historic charm to add a refreshing context to the forward-focused city, Tallinn is Europe’s best kept winter secret.

Here are a few great things to do in Tallinn in winter:

  • Grab coffee at a cute local cafe — I like Kohvik August in the city center and pretty much anywhere in the Telliskivi Creative City area
  • Spend the dark afternoons in one of Tallinn’s many cool museums: my preferences are the KGB Museum, KUMU (art museum), and Seaplane Harbor Museum.
  • Eat tasty food and sip on local beer at the redesigned Balti Jaam market
  • Drink mulled wine and shop for hand-crafted souvenirs at Tallinn Christmas Market
  • Take in views of Tallinn from its three best viewpoints: Toompea Hill, Kohtuotsa, and Piiskopi.

Riga, Latvia

Editor’s Choice

Another little-traveled Baltic gem, Riga in Latvia doesn’t usually come to the forefront of people’s minds when thinking of where to spend winter in Europe, but I think that’s a huge mistake!

While yes, Riga is often frigid and dark in the winter, that just means that you have more excuses to indulge in delicious Latvian food and beer and check out cool museums around the city.

Here are a few picks of what to do in Riga in winter:

  • Stop for a cake and Instagrammable surroundings in the charming Café Parunasi in Riga’s Old Town
  • Climb to the top of St Peter’s Church for epic views of the Old Town
  • Visit Riga’s most iconic piece of architecture, House of the Blackheads
  • Take in sweeping views with a delicious drink at Skyline Bar
  • Warm up from the inside out by trying Riga’s signature liquor, black balsam, at any local bar

Moscow, Russia

Contributed by Lindsey Puls of Have Clothes, Will Travel 

Moscow in winter is simply magical and looks as though the city were plucked straight from a fairytale. There are many beautiful Christmas lights displays, as well as Christmas markets that begin in late November and run to the end of February.

The most famous Christmas market is held in Red Square. Here you can shop and marvel at the snow-covered St. Basil’s Cathedral and the Kremlin, with a mulled wine in hand.

Some more of the best things to do in Moscow, especially in winter, are:

  • Visiting a traditional Russian banya! In short, a banya is similar to a sauna. In the winter, you can cool off in between sessions by jumping in a snowbank or even a frozen lake!
  • Enjoying a show at the Bolshoi Theatre. This historic theatre holds some of the world’s best ballet and opera performances. If possible, I highly recommend seeing a ballet performance on the Historic Stage. And if you’re visiting at Christmastime – The Nutcracker ballet performance is, hands down, the best performance I’ve seen in my life.
  • Shopping at Izmailovksy Market: Izmailovsky Market is a year-round market that has the best prices on Russian souvenirs.
  • Touring the Moscow Metro. Moscow’s metro is considered one of the most beautiful in the world!
  • Exploring the Kremlin Armory. This is Moscow’s most famous museum and houses more than 4,000 exhibits – the collection of rare, ancient carriages of Russian rulers is not to be missed!

Tbilisi, Georgia

Contributed by Baia of Red Fedora Diary

Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, is one of the best cities to visit in Europe in winter because of its mild weather. It rarely snows here, so it’s perfect for those who’d like to explore warm places during winter break. Moreover, prices for accommodation drop during winter months, so you can easily find a cute Airbnb or a hotel room. 

The city is rich in history and shows the trace of Russian and Persian rulers in its narrow cobblestone streets. Therefore, it’s a perfect juxtaposition of old and new, with modern architecture backdropped with ancient fortresses, churches, Soviet brutalist architecture, and Art-Nouveau buildings. 

There are plenty of things to do in Tbilisi, so everyone can find something that suits their taste. However, the top experiences to have here are as follows: 

  • Climb the 4th-century Narikala Fortress for amazing views of the old town
  • Take a sulfur bath in Abanotubani to relax after a long day of exploration 
  • Learn more about the country in the National Museum and its Soviet occupation hall
  • Pay a visit to Jumah Mosque where Sunni and Shia Muslims pray together
  • Indulge in comfort food and taste Georgian cuisine

If you come here during Christmas or New Year, beautiful lights and decorations do adorn the city, while small Christmas Markets are scattered in the central parts of the city. Find them at Rose Relovultion Square and Orbeliani Street. 

Pin This Guide to Winter in Europe

21 Cool Things to Do In & Around Cardiff, Wales

Cardiff is the capital city of Wales and one of the largest cities in the UK. It’s also one of the easiest cities to get to from London, with direct train and road links.

In 2011, it was ranked 6th in the National Geographic’s list of alternative places to visit, which means it’s one of the most visited places in the UK, with over 25 million visitors each year. 

What’s nice about Cardiff is that it lives up to the hype. There are so many things to do in Cardiff, both inside and around the area. 

If you visit as part of a Wales road trip (which I highly recommend), it’s easy to park up your vehicle and explore the city for a couple of days. Once you’re done, you can add some of these alternative ideas to your itinerary. 

Things to Do in Cardiff Center

There are lots of things to do around Cardiff Center – here are five of our favorites

Visit Cardiff Castle

This spectacular castle is built on foundations dating from 50 AD. The city grew up around it and it’s been destroyed and reconstructed many times. But the latest reconstruction (mostly from the 1800s) is magnificent.

The interior is incredibly opulent – it was designed by the world’s richest man (at the time!) Make sure you buy tickets to visit the Arab room and the castle apartments — they’re breathtaking.

Go to St Fagan’s

St Fagans houses some of the oldest buildings in the city. Over 40 houses, gardens, and other buildings create a living museum, representing an old Iron Age village.

It’s brilliant for kids and adults of all ages and is a fantastic way to learn more about the history in the area.

Visit the National Museum

This is a great place to come should it rain. Side note: ALWAYS expect rain. It’s Wales!

This museum houses a huge collection of art (both modern and older), and some incredible depictions of the history of the area and the animals which wandered Wales- including woolly mammoths and dinosaurs! 

Visit Bute Park

This wonderful park is a haven in the city center. There are 130 acres of gardens and parkland, which once belonged to Cardiff Castle.

The river runs through it and there’s plenty of space to spread out, making it a wonderful place for walks, picnics, or sunny Saturday afternoons. 

Enjoy a coffee in Roald Dahl Plass

Named for the famous children’s author, this is a large square in central Cardiff.

It’s home to the Senedd (famous striking government building) and the Millennium Centre (home to many sports and artist performances).

The square itself often hosts open-air concerts and it’s a wonderful place for people-watching and soaking up the atmosphere of the city.  

Other Great Things to Do in Cardiff City

Visit Cardiff Bay

Cardiff Bay is actually 2 rivers, which form a large freshwater lake in the heart of the city. It used to be tidal, but now locks provide access for boats.

Years ago, the Bay was the hub of the city and was where the coal ships were loaded up. You can still wander around many of the docks and pier heads, which have mostly been regenerated and turned into smart bars and cafes. 

See the Norwegian Church

Whilst you’re in the area, don’t forget to visit the Norwegian Church Arts centre- a rescued wooden church which was rebuilt in 1992. Roald Dahl used to attend this church as a child, and it now is a venue for charity work and small concerts, conferences and art exhibitions. 

There are many other incredible and unique things to do in the centre of Wales- such as white water rafting!- but let’s focus on some things to do outside the city centre.

Visit the marvelous Caerphilly Castle

If you like castles you must visit the second largest castle in the UK. It’s impressively built and surrounded by artificial lakes, which aided in its defences. 

This isn’t the only thing that makes it famous though; it also has a leaning tower that has leaned 3 meters since 1648! Who needs to go to Pisa?

Check out Llandaff Cathedral

The heart of the Church of Wales, this is actually one of 2 cathedrals in Wales (the other is Roman Catholic).

You can walk around the Cathedral whenever there is no service on- it has some beautiful architecture, windows, and history to discover. 

See Castell Coch

Yep, it’s really called that (and yes, you can snicker). This Gothic castle is just outside Wales and was constructed by the Normans to control the trade route. 

The roof of the castle is totally at odds with many of the other UK castles- it looks more like something from one of the German fairytale castles! 

Check out Barry Island

Despite its name, this is no longer an island (although it used to be!).

This area is well-known for its beach and pleasure park, but it is possibly more famous as the home of Gavin and Stacey (from the hit BBC TV show)

Cross the Newport Transporter Bridge

This is possibly one of the coolest things in the entire area and I highly recommend everyone add it in when they’re planning a UK road trip.

It’s one of a handful of working transporter bridges in the world, and it’s a great way to take your car or camper across the River Usk. It can take 6 vehicles and 120 pedestrians – or if you’re feeling really brave, you can walk across the top. 

Opened in 1906, it is an electric-powered gondola that goes between two towers that are at a slightly terrifying height of 242 feet each. Definitely not one for those who have that fear of heights, but it is exciting and it’s a challenge to see how well you manage up there. For adults, it costs £2.75 and for children, it’s £1.75.

Best Things to Do Near Cardiff (Within a 60 Minute Drive)

Here are some other incredible places which are all within an hour of Cardiff:

Take the Brecon Mountain Railway

Trains are a fantastic way to explore the countryside, especially when it’s a steam train- it’s a great way to watch the world go by. 

This mountain railway travels through foothills of the Brecon Beacons, alongside Pontsticill reservoirs until it gets to Pant, just north of Merthy Tyfdil. The main station at Pant opens at 9:30 am, the last train leaves at 5pm or 4:15pm depending on the time of year from Pontsticill. Return Adult currently costs £13, children return costs £6.50 (15 and under). All children under 5 receive free entry

Delve into the National Showcaves

This is one of the most sizeable cave systems in Western Europe. The caves were uncovered about a century ago and inside are underground lakes, rivers and several breath-taking waterfalls. There are 4 different caves- you can even get married in one of them! 

 Also, for the kids, there is a dinosaur park with more than 200 life sized dinosaur models. Admission rates allow entry to all the attractions. It’s currently £14 for Adults and £9.50 for children aged 3-16. Children under 2 go free.

Wander through Tintern Abbey

This is one of the most well preserved monastic ruins in the country, despite the fact that it’s been decaying for nearly 500 years.

This beautiful abbey sits on the banks of the River Wye and was the second of its type to be built in Britain. It has become a haven for artists who want to draw, paint, or photograph it, as well as for history lovers and dog walkers. 

Stroll around Margam Park & Castle

Margam Country Park is perfect for a relaxing day around nature. There are wild deer and farm animals that you can pet, a train that goes around the park, a stunning castle, and vast amounts of grassy areas and open space. 

You can also visit the house at the center, go to the café, and also to the fishing lake. For the kids, there’s a children’s play area. Entry is free, although you need to pay for parking.

Visit the Big Pit National Coal Museum

The Big Pit is inside an old coal mine that was operational until 1980. Here, you can take one of the world-famous tours that go 300 feet underground and get to see and understand what life was like for those thousands of men who worked in the mines. A real-life miner accompanies you and shares stories of life in the pits.

There are also tours above ground that are multimedia and exhibitions. Entry to the Big Pit is free!

Hike up Pen y Fan in Brecon Beacons National Park

Pen y Fan is the highest point in South Wales. It’s a steep climb but worth the trek and the feeling of accomplishment after!

There are two routes you can take, either straight up and down or you can go the “horseshoe” route which is longer but possibly slightly easier. Be aware, the weather at the top of Pen y Fan is not often the same as below- so make sure you pack appropriately. 

Visit the stunning Saint Mary’s Priory

Known as Wales’ Westminster Abbey, this priory contains some of the most important medieval treasures in Britain.

There are more than 10 alabaster chest tombs and the 15th-century wooden sculpture, known as the tree of Jesse, which has been described as one of the finest medieval sculptures in the world.

Entry is free but donations are welcomed here.

Stroll through Dyffryn Gardens

Dyffryn Gardens are the beautiful grounds which surround a gorgeous Grade II listed house built in 1893-4. The gardens stretch for 55 acres and are open all year round.

They’re ornate, beautiful and peaceful — perfect for a wander and explore, or even a picnic if the weather is kind. 

Do go chasing waterfalls

There are some incredible waterfalls in this area, especially around the Brecon Beacons. One of the most famous is Aberdulais Falls which is now owned by the National Trust and is closer to Swansea than Cardiff, but can be reached within an hour

In the Brecon Beacons, there are a series of waterfalls called the waterfall walk. This incorporates Henrhyd Falls: the highest waterfall in the National Park, with a drop of 27m and the home of the bat cave in the 2012 movie The Dark Knight Rises. 

But, honestly, the most impressive waterfall is Sgwd yr Eira, which is the waterfall you can walk behind! It can be a little hard to find using sat-nav, but it’s well worth the effort and the walk to get there. 

So there you go — 21 incredible places to visit in and around Cardiff. Whether you can only visit for a day or have a week or more to explore, there’s plenty to see and do in Cardiff area, Wales.

About the Author

Kathryn Bird decided to get out of the rat race whilst she was still young enough to enjoy it. Together with her husband and cocker spaniel puppy Mac, she explores Europe by motorhome and motorbike, sharing her experiences on the award-winning travel blog Wandering Bird. In two years they have visited 19 countries and driven nearly 50,000 miles in their motorhome- not including the times they were lost!