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Beautiful Christmas Food Markets in Italy

Bolzano Christmas Market

Italian Christmas markets are perfect for backpackers looking to experience the real Italy. With their strong family traditions and emphasis on nativity displays and beautifully sourced local food, mercatino di Natale’s capture the best of the festive season.

Come and explore the Alpine wonders of the Trentino Alto Adige region and witness what is surely the most beautiful festival of the year. Every Italian town and city will be hosting a Christmas market, from the romantic wonders of Verona to the passionate Christmas displays in fiery Naples.

Christmas is the perfect time to book a hostel in Italy and we’ve rounded up some of the best markets taking place this year.

Bolzano Christmas Market

Christmas Market Bolzano

What: Christkindlmarkt, Bolzano, Trento-Alto Adige (Italy)
When: 27 November 2014 to 6 January 2015

Why: Bolzano Christmas Market is situated in the north of Italy bordering Austria and Switzerland, and is best known for the beauty of its peaks. With the Dolomites providing a majestic backdrop, the food stalls will be in Piazza Walther surrounded by Christmas trees and fairy lights. Underneath the Christmas tree, a nativity play is accompanied by house shaped stalls selling mulled wine, dark chocolate and cinnamon walnut strudel.

Stay: Dorms are available at the nearby Ostello Di TRENTO (Hostel Trento) from €17.

Verona Christmas Market

VeroNatale Verona Christmas Market

What: VeroNatale, Verona, Veneto
When: 21 November 2014 to 28 December 2014

Why: Verona is one of the most beautiful towns in northern Italy and they host a German style market every year. It’s a festive meeting point for Italian culture and traditions, where the ancient entrance is illuminated with hundreds of lights extending across the town to the Roman Arena. Piazza dei Signori is the focal point of the “Christkindlmarkt” and there will be 60 stalls selling traditional nativity goods, gourmet treats and Christmas cakes.

Stay: Dorms are available at Sleep Easy Hostel Verona from €18.

Bologna Christmas Market

Bologna Christmas Market

What: Fiera di Natale, Bologna, Emilia-Romagna
When: 17 November 2014 to 31 December 2014

Why: Bologna’s Fiera di Natale is a glorious festive occasion in “La Rossa” and cloisters around the 12th-century San Pietro Cathedral. Situated in the medieval centre of Bologna, the Fiera di Natale has a mouthwatering reputation for cuisine. Sweet tooth travellers can enjoy Italian marzipan, chocolate and torrone, a local Christmas nougat made with nuts and honey.

Stay: Dorms are available at Centro Europa Uno from €17.

Rome Christmas Market

Piazza Navona Christmas Market

What: Piazza Navona Christmas Market, Rome, Lazio
When: December 1 2014 to January 6 2015

Why: Piazza Navona is one of the biggest Christmas markets in Italy and can found next to three fountains, Four Rivers, Fountains of Neptune and Fontana del Moro. A marvellous attraction for Romans and tourists alike; there is a gala atmosphere throughout the 100-year-old market and it’s a wonderful way to see Rome over Christmas.

Stay: Dorms are available at Star Rooms Hostel from €11.

Naples Christmas Market

Christmas Market Naples

What: Naples Christmas Market, Naples, Campania
When: Late November to Late December 2014

Why: Naples holds a traditional Christmas market close to Via San Gregorio Armeno, which is known locally as “Crib Street” (Via del Presepe) because of its wooden workshops. Over the Christmas period the street becomes a huge market selling thousands of nativity cribs, luxury chocolates and festive goodies.

Stay: Dorms are available at Hostel Mancini from €16.

Budget Places To Go Snowboarding In Europe

Snowboarding Alps

Snowboarding is never going to be a cheap vacation, but it needn’t cost a fortune. 2014/15 is shaping up to be an epic, snowy season and with more snow expected this winter, there has never been a better time to book a ski hostel. Snowboarding is amazing fun over winter.

This year should see plenty of fresh snow falling in the Alps and Eastern Europe and the weather conditions are predicted to be ‘fantastic’ by meteorologists.

Looking ahead we’ve rounded up some of the best budget snowboarding resorts in Europe, so even when funds are running low. There is now no excuse not to go!

1. Zakopane, Poland

Zakopane Poland

Why: Poland is fast becoming one of the top budget places to go snowboarding in Europe. Zakopane hugs the foot of the Tatra Mountains and stretches about 50 miles into Slovakia and has epic peaks reaching 8,200 feet. Great for beginners and intermediate snowboarders, the rural Polish town is a welcoming and accessible place and considerably cheaper than rival resorts in the Alps.

Where: South-West Poland – only a few hours by train from Krakow.

Stay: Dorms are available at Nowotarski from €17.

2. Krkonoše, Czech Republic

Krkonoše, Czech Republic

Why: The Krkonoše is the best known Czech mountain range and offers fantastic value for money. Situated on the border with Poland and Germany, the Czech snow resort is renowned for its cross-country skiing and ski tourism of all levels. One of its most popular slopes, Harrachov is also known for its ski-jumping competitions, including World Cups and World Championships. If you’re feeling adventurous and fancy a few beers you can always stay over in Prague en route.

Where: Northern Czech Republic  – only a few hours by train from Prague.

Stay: Dorms are available at Hotel Krakonoš from €20.

3. Bansko, Bulgaria

Bankso Bulgaria

Why: Situated at the foot of the Pirin mountain in south-west Bulgaria, Bansko is one of the most affordable snowboarding resorts in Europe. As the number one ski resort in Bulgaria, it offers excellent ski and snowboarding conditions and is the longest ski season of all Bulgarian ski resorts. The ski season in Bansko lasts from 15th December to 15 May.

Where: South-west Bulgaria, situated 6 km from nearby Razlog and 160 km from the capital Sofia.

Stay: Dorms are available at Balkan Jewel Resort from €7

4. Kopaonik, Serbia

Kopaonik, Serbia

WhyKopaonik, Serbia has everything for snowboarding fans on a budget. Super cheap with low cost beer and coffee is standard in this part of the world. The official ski area boasts of 23 lifts and a vertical drop of 821 metres, plus there’s also floodlit slopes for night skiing. Unknown to most European snowboarding fans, Kopaonik is a discerning choice for backpackers.

Where: Central Serbia mountain range, the nearest city is Brus.

Stay: Dorms are available at Montana from €11

Christmas in Buenos Aires on a Budget

Buenos Aires

Christmas marks the start of summer in Buenos Aires and it’s a glorious time to visit Argentina on your travels. Perfect for budget travellers and soaring with energy. There is no better way to see out the year than partying with local “porteños”. Buenos Aires—”fair winds” in Spanish is described as the Paris of South America, and thanks to a weak peso it attracts travellers from all over the world.

Situated on the Río de la Plata, one of the world’s largest estuaries, the Argentine capital is super hot over the holiday season with temperatures reaching up to 28 degrees. Summer in Argentina takes place from December to March, so you can spend Christmas wearing shorts and t-shirts instead of a winter jacket and mittens.

Christmas in Buenos Aires

Travellers wanting to escape the wintry chill of the northern hemisphere will find plenty of cheap places to stay in Buenos Aires on vacation. It’s a sophisticated and passionate place to celebrate Christmas and remarkably cheap too.

Christmas fireworks in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires Christmas Fireworks

The main festive celebration in Argentina takes place on Christmas Eve and the night plays out like New Year’s Eve. Lighting up the urban landscape with a riot of colour and noise, everyone likes to toast and kiss when BA’s skies alight with the fireworks at Christmas. It’s a boisterous and exciting way to celebrate Christmas, and adventurous travellers like to make their way to the Obelisco or a nearby park to see out the evening.

Christmas tango shows in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires Tango Christmas

Christmas Eve is the best time to experience a tango show in Buenos Aires. If you book a formal show in advance, you will receive a three course meal, tango display, wine and a DJ party lasting until the early hours. Most hostels in Buenos Aires will have a festive tango package in place for their guests. Otherwise depending on your neighbourhood you might get lucky and enjoy a spontaneous tango show in the street.

What to eat in Buenos Aires over Christmas

Nochebuena Buenos Aires

Christmas Eve in Buenos Aires is called “Nochebuena,” and for those not celebrating with a local family you can eat out in style instead. Most BA restaurants have live music, excellent wine pairings, and serve traditional European dishes that are only available one day of the year. Porteños dine on freshly cooked beef, red wine, salad, champagne (to be corked at midnight) and, of course, pan dulce. Navidad isn’t navidad without pan dulce, which is sweet bread coated with sugar.

Where to stay in Buenos Aires over Christmas

Art Factory Palermo Buenos Aires

  • Hostel Sol De Oro is a family run hostel located on Montserrat, which is a traditional old neighbourhood near San Telmo, La Boca, just two blocks from the metro station. Offering clean rooms and dorms with free Wi-Fi. The hostel is a welcoming experience for all first-travellers arriving in Buenos Aries. Dorms are available from €7.
  • Art Factory Palermo is a trendy youth hostel with a hipster sensibility. With its bohemian flair and Wi-Fi friendly rooms and dorms, the Palermo is a popular choice with international travellers. Dorms are available from €8.
  • La Taba Hostel is a charming old hostel in a refurbished house in central Buenos Aires, which has a beautiful terrace overlooking the city. Dorms are available from €9.
  • Garden House BA is a popular backpacker choice in San Telmo, La Boca and is a cultured way to visit the city. Exceptionally clean and with stylish rooms and dorms, its an excellent choice for travellers arriving Buenos Aires. Dorms are available from €8.

Looking Through the Tower Glass

Tower Bridge London Walkways Evening

Offering spectacular views from one of London’s most famous landmarks, the new West Walkway at Tower Bridge is made entirely out of glass. Brand new and extraordinarily gripping, especially if you have a fear of heights, the Walkways provide a heart pounding ride over the River Thames.

Tower Bridge London

Gasp and spy upon the famous red London buses and pedestrians striding over the Bridge while boats and ferries sail underneath it. Giving visitors panoramic views of the city, the Bridge’s glass walkways (the East Walkway will open at the start of December 2014) are a stunning feat of engineering.

New Glass Flooring Across Tower Bridge's High-Level Walkways

This is the most significant change to the Tower Bridge exhibition since it opened in 1982 and it makes for a spectacular thrill ride for anyone staying in London on vacation. See London like never before while staring through a glass walkway in Tower Bridge. Book your ticket now and stay close by in a stylish and affordable hostel.

Essential Facts

  • The glass floor measures 11m long and 1.8m wide.
  • Each panel weighs a massive 520kgs each and had to be supported by a carbon steel framework.
  • It took a team of 20 people, six weeks to complete the project.
  • You can now look straight down at the traffic, 42 feet below.

Where to stay near Tower Bridge

  • Wombat’s City Hostel London is only minutes away from Tower Bridge and is close to nearby Shoreditch and the Wilton Music Hall. Dorms are available from €27.
  • Safestay at Elephant and Castle is wonderfully located inside a renovated nineteenth century building in nearby Elephant and Castle and is only ten minutes away from Tower Bridge by tube. Dorms are available from €29.
  • FRESH @ The Steam Engine, Waterloo is a stylish, modern hostel situated close to Waterloo Station and is only a few minutes tube journey from Tower Bridge. Dorms are available from €29.

Best Christmas Markets in Belgium

Belgium Christmas Markets

Anyone taking a festive break to Belgium will experience some of the finest Christmas markets in Europe. Famous for its chocolate and beers, Belgium is one of Europe’s most popular winter destinations and the food on offer is absolutely gorgeous. As you’d expect from a gastronomic nation, top cities like Brussels and Bruge take their Christmas markets very seriously, with mussels, snails and croque dishes amongst the treats on offer – not to mention beers and chocolate.

Book a hostel in Belgium this winter and enjoy the beautiful Christmas markets the country has to offer.

Brussels Winter Wonders

Winter Wonders Brussels

Where: Brussels, Belgium
When: 28 November 2014 to 4 January 2015

Why: Every winter Brussels is transformed into a chocolate winter wonderland, and with its 240 wooden chalet stalls, many argue it’s Europe’s finest Christmas market and its call Winter Wonders. Inspiring visitors to buy traditional craft goods, the Brussels Christmas Market is famous for its Big Wheel and popular ice rink.

Stay: Dorms are available at Hostel Grand Place from €23 per night.

Bruge Christmas Market

Frankfurter Weihnachtsmarkt eröffnet

Where: Bruge, Belgium
When: 21 November 2014 to 2 January 2015

Why: Situated in the medieval Flemish town of Bruges, the historic Christmas market is always a romantic experience. Dominated by a huge ice rink, there are a number of smaller Christmas markets taking place across the city. The ice rink in the Market Square is the perfect way to build up an appetite for some warm waffles and rich hot chocolates, while the local beers will keep everyone happy.

Stay: Rooms are available at Hotel Jacobs Brugge from €44 per night.

Antwerp Christmas Market (Groenplaats)

Antwerp Christmas Market

Where: Antwerp, Belgium
When: 6 December 2014 to 4 January 2015

Why: Antwerp makes for a wonderful Belgian themed Christmas vacation and its open air market is situated in the heart of Belgium’s most stylish city. Filling the café-filled cobbled lanes with festive cheer, Groenplaats is overlooked by a huge medieval cathedral and has over 90 festival stalls offering delicious Belgium goodies, toys and nativity scenes.

Stay: Dorms are available at Antwerp Student Hostel from €24 per night.

Leuven Christmas Market

Leuven Christmas Market

Where: Leuven, Belgium
When: 11 December 2014 to 21 December 2014

Why: Monseigneur Ladeuzeplein and the Herbert Hooverplein provide the historic setting of the Leuven Christmas Market and visitors come in their droves to buy chocolate, flowers, candles and nativity lamps. Flanders is a wonderful region to experience Christmas and its fairytale town of Leuven is a joy to discover on foot.

Stay: Dorms are available at Cube Hostel from €23 per night.

Ghent Christmas Market

Ghent Christmas Market

Where: Ghent, Belgium
When: 5 December 2014 to 4 January 2015

Why: With its street entertainment and historic canals, the ‘Medieval Manhattan’ of Ghent is a superb place to explore over Christmas. Producing a gala atmosphere over the festive period. The Ghent Christmas Market has all the scenery of Bruges without nearly as many tourists.

Combining delightful boutique shops with 53 charming stalls selling pancakes, Gin, Gluhwein, candles and chocolate, the Ghent Christmas Market is just waiting to be discovered.

Stay: Dorms are available at Backstay Hostel Ghent from €19 per night

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City

Thanksgiving New York City

Thanksgiving is arguably bigger than Christmas for many Americans and marks the beginning of the holiday season in the United States. The harvest festival takes place on the last Thursday of November and is a wonderful opportunity to stuff yourself with turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie. New York City goes absolutely crazy on Thanksgiving and it’s a brilliant experience for hostel dwellers on vacation in the Big Apple.

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Winds Through New York City

One of the highlights for visitors to New York is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Every year, the Emmy Award winning tradition is seen by more than 2.5 million people in New York and 50 million worldwide. The city-wide celebration has been a tradition since 1924, making it one of the oldest Thanksgiving Day parades in the country.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Smurf

Famous for its giant cartoon floats and huge crowds, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a loud, colourful occasion full of marching brass bands playing Broadway themes and traditional medleys. More than 10,000 participants take place along a six-mile route from Central Park West to Herald Square, filling the streets of Manhattan with festive cheer.

Spiderman Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Are you planning on celebrating Turkey Day in New York City this November 27th?

Have you remembered to pack your camera?

If so, what should you prepare for?

  • Crowds – New York is always bustling with visitors and with an estimated 2.5 million in attendance it will be even more hectic than usual. If you you want a good spot at the parade, you’ll have to get up early and get into position around 7am.
  • Weather – November is a chilly month in NYC, but snow is unlikely. With temperatures ranging from 5 to 11 degrees, if you plan on standing around all day then you should definitely wrap up warm and bring a scarf, hat and a winter jacket.
  • Pick the best spot – Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade fans suggest picking a spot on the Upper West Side, since that’s where the parade begins and ends.

 Where to stay in New York?

  • Jazz On Amsterdam Avenue Hostel – Superbly located on Upper West Side Manhattan, this jazzy new hostel is perfect for travellers looking to explore the Big Apple on foot. Dorms available from €42.
  • Boutiques NYC – Situated between Central Park and Times Square. This funky NYC hostel is perfect for budget travellers looking to save a few bucks on their travels. Dorms available from €37.
  • NY Moore Hostel – Offering boutique dorms to stylish backpackers, this trendy Brooklyn hostel is situated in hipster friendly East Williamsburg. Dorms available from €40.
  • Hostelling International New York – With its comfy beds and rooms residing inside a historic castle style building on Amsterdam Avenue, the vibrant Manhattan hostel is a fine choice for backpackers in New York. Dorms available from €43.

Van Gogh’s Starry Night Bicycle Path

Van Gogh Starry Night Bicycle Path

Cycling in the Netherlands is more beautiful than ever before, thanks to Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde’s new cycle path. Illuminating with patterns based on Vincent van Gogh’s painting The Starry Night, the Nueuen surface is coated with special paint that uses energy gathered during the day to glow after dark.

Daan Roosegaarde Cycle Path

Glistening along a cycle path in Van Gogh’s local province of Noord Brabant, the kilometre-long trail illuminates in swirling patterns that reference his famous 1889 painting of a night-time scene. As a place where history and future meet, the Van Gogh-Roosegaarde cycle path provides cyclists with a beautiful route home through the Dutch countryside.

Starry Night Cycle Path Holland

Inspired by renewable energy, a nearby solar panel generates the power to illuminate the green surface and LEDs along the side of the path mean the path will remain partially lit in poor weather.

Van Gogh-Roosegaarde cycle path

Open to the public year-round for free, in Nuenen just east of Eindhoven, the Van Gogh-Roosegaarde cycle path is a tribute to the work of Studio Roosegaarde, a social design lab renowned for their explorations of art, public space, and technology. Their cycle path forms part of the Van Gogh cycle route that connects Vincent van Gogh heritage locations in his homeland of Noord Brabant.

Where to stay near Nuenen

  • Eindhoven is only a 25 minute cycle away from Nueuen and travellers can stay at the 3BE Backpackers Bed And Breakfast Eindhoven. Dorms are available from only €28 and the hostel is situated in the heart of Eindhoven and is perfect for exploring the city and wider region on foot, bike and public transport.

Thanksgiving Dinners in Europe: London, Paris and Rome

Thanksgiving Dinner Europe

Each year on the fourth Thursday in November, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving dinner and enjoy mountains of roast turkey, stuffing and delicious slices of pumpkin pie. Thanksgiving is not usually celebrated in Europe, but times are changing and it’s a great way to come round the table with friends. With thousands of US travellers and ex-pats residing in London, Paris and Rome, we’ve rounded up some of the best places to give thanks on November 27th, 2014.

London, England

Smoked Turkey Leg Thanksgiving

Porky’s BBQ

Serving up classic American BBQ dishes in three central locations across London, Porky’s BBQ are celebrating Thanksgiving with a three-course menu at £22: red pepper and corn chowder with corn bread, followed by smoked turkey leg with collard greens, mash and gravy, finished off with pumpkin pie.

Breakfast Club 

The Breakfast Club are serving Thanksgiving dinner at all of their London cafes on November 27th. To celebrate all things pilgrim, Pocahontas and pumpkins, a three-course menu will be offering spicy pumpkin soup, chilli and beer buttered Norfolk turkey (or roasted acorn squash and macaroni cheese), and warm pecan pie. Costs £25 per person (£10 deposit per head, remainder to be paid on the night).

House of Wolf

Situated in leafy Islington, the House of Wolf is a boutique gastro pub residing in one of London’s earliest listed music halls. With its vintage interiors providing a dapper setting for Thanksgiving, American visitors and locals can enjoy a simmering three-course meal for only £30.

Paris, France

Thanksgiving Paris

Offering locals an all-American barbecue experience, Blues-Bar-B-Q is perfect for ex-pats wanting to celebrate Thanksgiving in Paris. Serving rich, tasty and well-prepared cuisine all year round, the Franco–American BBQ joint is the only show in town on November 27th.

Breakfast in America

Serving traditional American turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes in an intimate, homely US restaurant, BIA is a patriotic choice for ex-pats and curious locals. Perfect for travellers wanting to sample their first ever Thanksgiving meal, it’s considered a ‘home away from home’ for Americans in Paris.

Harry’s New York Bar

Frequented by the likes of Hemmingway, Sartre and Blondin, this classic American bar in Paris is a vintage place to celebrate Thanksgiving. Undeniably romantic and evoking the glamour of pre-war Paris, Harry’s New York Bar is cool, stylish and serves a smokin’ hot turkey every November.

Rome, Italy

Thanksgiving Rome

Vivi Bistrot

Situated in the green parklands of Villa Pamphili, the Italian bistro is in a gorgeous setting to celebrate Thanksgiving. In keeping with tradition, Vivi Bistrot will be serving pumpkin soup, stuffed turkey, green beans, potato puree and warm salad, followed by a choice of chocolate brownies or pumpkin pie.

Highlander Pub Rome

Despite embracing a Scottish theme, the Highlander Pub Rome celebrates Thanksgiving in a boozy sports setting and is perfect if you want to enjoy a traditional sit down meal and watch some touchdowns at midnight.

The Perfect Bun

Offering an elegant take on American cuisine, The Perfect Bun will be celebrating Thanksgiving on November 27th. Always popular and only a brief walk from the nearby Pantheon. This is the sophisticated way to give thanks in Rome.

Get Your Skates On This Christmas! The World’s Best Ice Rinks

Ice Skating New York Central Park

Ice skating is a magical way to spend a pre-Christmas break in a new city. Celebrate the festive season in style and go skating while staying in a fabulously festive hostel. From the wonders of Central Park in New York to the snowy mountains of Oslo, there is no shortage of Christmas ice rinks this winter. Perfect as a Christmas treat with friends, you can do some last minute shopping, eat out and go ice skating underneath the stars.

Here are some of our favourites.

Patinoire de L’Hôtel de Ville

Patinoire de L’Hôtel de Ville

Where: Paris, France
When: 19 December 2014 to 1 March 2015

Why: Paris does Christmas extremely well and there is nowhere better in Europe to do a figure-8 than in the French capital. Situated opposite the nineteenth century City Hall, Patinoire de L’Hôtel de Ville is one of the most popular ice rinks in Paris and now is an essential part of the festive season. Undeniably grand and a good deal romantic, ice skating in Paris is a wonderful place to hold hands with friends.

Cost: €5 per person (Skate rental)

Stay: Dorms are available from €18 at the Peace & Love Hostel.

Skate at Somerset House

Skate at Somerset House

Where: London, England
When: 12 November 2014 to 11 January 2015

Why: Situated inside the eighteenth century courtyard, Skate at Somerset House is a popular choice for Londoners. Celebrate the festive season and enjoy a glass of champagne, creamy fondue or a delicious treat from Fortnum’s Lodge. Come nightfall, the outdoor ice rink becomes an international club lounge, elevating the London ice skating experience into something altogether more glamorous.

Cost: £8.80 to £14.55

Stay: Dorms are available from €28 at The Dictionary, Shoreditch.

Wiener Eistraum (Vienna Ice Dream)

Wiener Eistraum Vienna

Where: Vienna, Austria
When: 24 January 2015 to 8 March 2015

Why: The Austrian capital is magically transformed into a 6,000m² ice-skating area as a part of the Wiener Eistraum every winter. From late January, the City Hall Square (Rathausplatz) metamorphoses into a gigantic ice surface, making it perfect for ice skating fans. Attracting visitors from across Europe, the Vienna Ice Dream is a snowy paradise for visitors of all ages.

Cost: €6.50 per person (Skate rental)

Stay: Dorms are available from €13 at A&O Wien Stadthalle.

Wollman Rink at Central Park, New York

Wollman Rink Central Park

Where: New York City, United States
When: November 2014 to March 2015

Why: Ice skating is a New Yorker tradition and one of the highlights of the festive season. With its crisp winter air and romantic skyline, ice-skating in Central Park is like dancing through an urban fire forest. Get your Christmas skates on and enjoy the music, and take in the breathtaking surroundings of Central Park. From November through March skating is available in the southern end of the Central Park at Wollman Rink and in the northern end at Lasker Rink.

Cost: $5 to $11.25

Stay: Dorms are available from €43 at Hostelling International New York

Varosligeti Mujegpalya (Budapest Outdoor Ice Rink)

Budapest Outdoor Ice Rink

Where: Budapest, Hungary
When: November 2014 – March 2015

Why: Forming part of an enormous ice rink park in Varoliget Park, the Budapest Outdoor Ice Rink is the largest in Europe at 12,000sqm and is open from the end of October until March 2015. Unlike most other big city ice rinks, there are no sessions in Budapest, so you can stay on all day if you like.

Cost: HUF 1,500 on weekdays and HUF 2,000 on weekends.

Stay: Dorms are available from €6 at the Budapest Budget Hostel*

*20% discount for Membership Card holders (4 nights minimum) and 20% discount for 20 or more guests (2 nights minimum).

Spikersuppa in Oslo

Spikersuppa Oslo

Where: Oslo, Norway
When: Nov 2014 to March 2015

Why: Ice skating in Oslo might seem like an everyday experience to Norwegians used to bitter, cold winters. But for travellers arriving in Olso it’s a charming experience and one that takes place opposite the National Theatre. Spikersuppa is free to use by everyone. Bring your own ice skates, or rent a pair from the pavilion next to the rink for NOK 100 per day.

Cost: Free

Stay: Dorms are available from €28 at the Anker Hostel. 

Traditional Christmas Markets in Europe

Prague Christmas Market

Across the cities of Europe, the season of Christmas markets is fast approaching and whether you like Glühwein or glögg, there are festive delights in every country. Traditional markets capture the joviality and warmth of Christmas and there is nowhere better to enjoy mulled wine with friends.

Even better, each country, has a Christmas market that reflects their own culture, so if you want to getaway over Christmas, choose a place that sells chocolate and wurst outdoors.

Edinburgh European Christmas Market

Edinburgh Christmas Market

Where: Edinburgh, Scotland
When: 21 November 2014 to 4th January 2015

Why: Stretching out alongside the Scott Monument and Princes Street Gardens, the Edinburgh European Christmas Market is a romantic experience and offers visitors unforgettable views of Edinburgh Castle, international street food and artisan chocolate stalls.

Buy: Edinburgh will get pretty cold over Christmas, so keep warm by drinking some mulled wine, or if you’re feeling especially brave, have a wee dram to keep your spirits up.

Stay: Dorms are available at The Hostel Edinburgh from only €14 a night.

Southbank Centre Christmas Market

Southbank Centre Christmas Market

Where: London, England
When:  11 November 2014 to 4 January 2015

Why: Situated on the River Thames, the popular festive market is a cosy and romantic experience for Londoners and has snug wooden chalets selling chocolate and mulled wine. Stretching along the river, you can wander past some of London’s most iconic landmarks and experience the best of the city while hanging out with friends.

Buy: If you’re feeling hungry and want to impress your friends then why not splash out on a lobster mac ‘n’ cheese?

Stay: Dorms are available at RestUp London from only €22 a night.

Strasbourg Christkindelsmärik

Strasbourg Christkindelsmärik

Where: Strasbourg, France
When: 24 November 2014 – 24 December 2014

WhyStrasbourg Christmas Market is the oldest in France and dates back to 1570. With its spectacular light displays, locally prepared food and half-timbered houses, the French festive market was voted the “Best Christmas Market in Europe” last year. Strasbourg takes the yuletide season very seriously and it’s a wonderful place to try some “vin chaud” (mulled wine), Christmas cakes, biscuits and gingerbread.

Buy: Strasbourg’s gingerbread is a seasonal treat, but if you want a local souvenir then buy a wooden stalk (the symbol of the city).

Stay: Rooms are available at Hotel Couvent Du Franciscain from only €41 a night.

Prague Christmas Markets

Prague Christmas Market 2014

Where: Prague, Czech Republic
When: 29 November 2014 – 11 January 2015

Why: Situated in the heart of Prague’s Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square, Prague’s Christmas markets offer some of Europe’s finest urban scenery. Prague is a beautiful city to explore on foot and their Christmas markets serve traditional Czech food such as barbecued pork, muffins, beer, mulled wine and mead.

Buy: Prague will be freezing over winter, so wrap up warm and down some of their legendary beer.

Stay: Dorms are available at Miss Sophie’s Hostel from only €11 a night.*

*5% discount for Membership Card holders (2 nights minimum) and 5% discount for 10 or more guests (2 nights minimum).

Krakow Christmas Market

Krakow Christmas Market 2014

Where: Krakow, Poland
When: 21 Nov 2014 – 22 Dec 2014

Why: If you’re looking for a ‘white Christmas’ then Krakow is the best place to go. Wonderfully located in the medieval old town, the Krakow Christmas market is a traditionally snowy and homely experience. The Rynek provides the setting for Krakow’s Christmas Market and is filled with festive wooden stalls offering pretzels, chocolate and roasted chestnuts.

Buy: The obwarzanki (Cracovian bagel) is a popular local choice over Christmas.

Stay: Dorms are available at Pink Panther’s Hostel from €9 a night.*

*10% discount for Membership Card holders

Munich Christkindlmarkt

Munich Christkindlmarkt

Where: Munich, Germany
When: 27 November 2014 – 24 December 2014

Why: Munich’s premiere festive event overflows from Marienplatz out towards the city’s famous cathedral and attracts thousands of visitors each year. Overseen by Munich’s tallest Christmas tree, the Christkindlmarkt is the largest and oldest of Christmas markets in Germany. Ringing with Alpine music and glistening with lights, attending the Munich Christmas Market is a wonderful way to explore Munich at its most festive.

Buy: Glögg (spiced wine) will keep your feet and hands toasty while visiting this market.

Stay: Dorms are available at A&O München Hackerbrücke from €15 a night.*

15% discount for Membership Card holders (3 nights minimum).

Vienna Christkindlmarkt

Vienna Christkindlmarkt

Where: Vienna, Austria
When: 15 November 2014 – 24 December 2014

Why: The Viennese Christmas Market transforms Austria’s prettiest squares into a Winter Wonderland. Soaring with visitors and baking smells, the Rathausplatz becomes a magical fairytale land over Christmas. Surrounded by Alpine trees, the 150 wooden stands serve traditional Austrian sweets, chocolates and hot drinks.

Buy: Glühwein is sweet, warm mulled wine and is perfect for getting into the Christmas spirit.

Stay: Dorms are available at Hostel Hütteldorf from €12 a night.*

*10% discount for Membership Card holders (2 nights minimum) and 10% discount for 20 or more guests.

Swimming with Whales in Australia

Whale watching Ningaloo Reef

Australia is one of the best places in the world to go whale-swimming. Once mighty and feared, whales are now celebrated as one Earth’s natural wonders and travellers flock in big numbers to see them. Whales are highly intelligent and fragile creatures and it’s a genuine privilege to see one in the wild.

With its gorgeous climate and vivid coastal landscapes, Australia’s waters are home to 45 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises. Many are permanent residents, while many others, migrate from their summer feeding grounds in the Antarctic to the warmer Australian coast in winter.

The whale migration in Australia begins in late May and runs through till November, which is the official whale swimming season Down Under.

Whales Ningaloo Reef

Australia is a marine paradise for travellers and one of the best places to go whale-swimming is Mooloolaba, a surfer resort town 100km north of Brisbane. Situated in the Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, Mooloolaba is the best place to go swimming with whales in Australia.

Sunreef Mooloolaba Humpback Whales

Sunreef Mooloolaba offers a unique opportunity for visitors to swim alongside the ocean giants. Their whale swimming tours are overseen by local entrepreneur Dan Hart and it involves a large diving boat (maximum 20 participants) hovering a few kilometres off the coast looking for Humpbacks vaporised blow’s in the ocean. Once a whale is spotted, the captain moves within the regulated 100 metre distance, in order to protect the whale, turns off the engine and throws out a safety rope.

Humpback Whales

Only then can you jump in and it’s entirely up to the whales whether they want to get close to you. The creatures may approach you or just swim past regardless, that’s part of the experience. Usually they are nosy and like to say hello to their warm blooded friends. These beautiful mammals are fascinating to swim alongside, and for travellers who love outdoor experiences, whale-swimming off Australia’s Gold Coast is something you’ll never forget.

Sunreef Mooloolaba Whale Swimming Tour

  • Every day is different on the water, and every encounter is unique.
  • Each outing is a three-hour round trip
  • They cater for small groups (maximum 20)
  • They provide a full safety briefing on what to expect and guidelines
  • All wetsuits and snorkelling equipment is provided
  • They have access to a spotter plane to increase the likelihood of a whale encounter

Where to stay near Sunreef Mooloolaba

Nomads Noosa

Noosa is a popular surfing destination 35 minutes drive away from Sunreef Mooloolaba and it has a fantastic range of surfer hostels available. If you want to experience whale-swimming, surfing and the chilled out Oz lifestyle on vacation then Noosa is definitely the place for you.

Best places to stay in Noosa.

  • Nomads Noosa – Offering backpackers clean dorms and lush tropical gardens with direct access to a resort pool and sand volleyball court, the trendy hostel is the perfect place for first-time travellers arriving in Queensland. Dorms from €20.
  • Flashpackers Noosa – This new boutique hostel appeals to the modern ‘flashbacker’ and has a chilled out atmosphere with luxury Wi-Fi friendly rooms. Dorms from €24.
  • Nautilus Noosa Holiday Resort - Friendly, sports orientated and with a gorgeous swimming pool, this charming hostel offers affordable, resort style accommodation in two bedroom apartments. Rooms from €25.