If you haven’t, I recommend that you experience winter in Europe at least once in your life! Winter usually starts mid-November and lasts till March. I’ve tried spending winter in countries like Japan and Korea but this was my first time to spend a few weeks in Europe to experience the season. It was definitely a love and hate relationship with the weather, especially when it’s raining and windy!
Caution: long post ahead but I promise it’s worth it!
When I was planning my trip, I had to consider that Eastern/Central Europe has colder temperature compared to the other areas (Western Europe). This influenced the type of clothes I should bring as well as the things I want to do or places I want to see. In my itinerary, I spent a good few days in France to visit some friends, spent new year in Belgium then went on a solo travel to eastern/central Europe. I had to go back to Paris since my roundtrip flight is there, but if you want to focus on eastern Europe then you can start either in Prague or in Budapest. In between and if you have more time, you can add Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia or spend more time in Austria (I would)!
Why Eastern Europe?
According to some sources, Eastern Europe is used to describe “all European countries previously ruled by the communist regime”, alluding to the “Iron Curtain” that separated the Western area to the Soviet-controlled Eastern Europe. The Eastern Bloc includes Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Russia, and Slovakia to name a few. (Source: http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org)
I personally wanted to visit because I wanted to see the castles, old city centers, ruins, and of course, taste the food!
The weather ranged from 7 to 2 degrees Celsius. The weather in Lille, France was mostly cloudy while it was raining in Belgium (it’s almost always raining in Belgium anyway). It was cloudy in Budapest, Vienna, and Prague with an average of 3-4 degrees Celsius.
What to pack:
When you’re only spending a few days in each country, it is best to pack light which is challenging especially for a winter trip! I do suggest you bring the following:
- 1 winter coat (waterproof if possible) – I thought I won’t be able to survive so I brought 3 coats, but turned out I used the waterproof coat most of the time! Just make sure it’s extra stylish for your OOTDs.
- 3-4 thermal wear top and bottom (warmers)– I am an Asian girl, used to wearing bikini or sleeveless top most of the time therefore even at 10 degrees I am already freezing! Note though, your body will also adjust to the weather. After 3-4 days, from 4 layers I was down to 2-3 layers of clothing!
- 1 pair of shoes (waterproof) – This will lessen the baggage space as well!
- 1-2 pair of jeans if you want to avoid washing it all the time! I realized (and based on first-hand experience) even if you don’t sweat a lot during winter your clothes can still get smelly if you don’t wash it after a few days.
- 2 basic tops- so you can just wash and wear
- 1 dress – just in case you are going out!
- Scarf, gloves, earmuffs, bonnet – the basics and must haves!
|Dec 26 – Jan 2||Lille, France|
|Dec 27||Brugges, Belgium (Daytrip)|
|Jan 1||Brussels, Belgium (Daytrip)|
|Jan 2-4||Budapest, Hungary|
|Jan 4-5||Vienna, Austria|
|Jan 5-8||Prague, Czech Republic|
|Jan 8-10||Paris, France|
I’m not a budget traveler, though don’t get me wrong, I can be when needed. In my age, I prefer to make sure my travels are more of a vacation versus a stress inducing trip. These are some travel tips I learned so far:
- Book hostels when you are only going to stay for 1-2 nights otherwise get a hotel or rent a private space/room/apartment. If you can find hostels that can give you a private space or room but still have a common area to meet fellow travelers then that will be a good choice.
- Bulk of your expenses is on transportation via flights or inter-country train, especially if you’re hopping from one country to another. City trains and metros are cheap. If you are staying long in one area, most countries in Europe have a 1 to 5 day pass.
- Tourist areas are easily accessible so you don’t need to really take a tour. This will save you money and you have all the time you want to roam around, get lost, and discover pretty small alleys, shops and cafes. I do recommend paying for tours that you really want to see like Opera or the Moulin Rouge show!
- Do get a travel insurance because you never know what can happen when you’re traveling.
The Total Cost of the Trip:
|Travel Insurance||PHP 2,495.1|
Breakdown of Itinerary:
These are the top reasons why you should visit each area. I will be sharing the detailed itinerary for each stopover in the next few posts!
Stopover #1: Lille, France
Lille, France is a small city situated at the northern tip of France. It is 40-50 minutes away from Paris by train while 1 to 2 hours away from Brussels, Belgium by car. I heard there’s also a train to Lille from London. People call it as the “Capital des Flandres” because of its Flemish roots which is evident in the architecture of the old city or also known as Le Vieux Lille.
Vieux Ville (Old Lille)
It shows the old town remnants from the 17th century with old buildings and paved streets. This is also where you can find the Old stock Exchange or also known as La Vieille Bourse, now it houses a flea market where you can buy trinkets, souvenirs, old postcards and the like! You can also visit Saint Maurice Church and Notre Dame de la Treille which is also in Old Lille. If you’re lucky you will find a Christmas market and theme part during the Christmas season! Don’t forget to eat raclette, le wesh, and visit Beerstro!
Stopover #2: Belgium
Belgium is part of Western Europe bordered by France, Netherlands, and Amsterdam. You can take a daytrip from Lille to Brussels or Brugges, which is only 1 to 2 hours away by car. It is composed of mostly Flemish community, and still French speaking.
Visit the old city center which is actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Marvel at the gothic architecture, pass by the Christmas market and try out the mulled hot wine and sausages (lots of it)!
From the center take a walk at the small alleys and get lost in the old city. Don’t forget to taste authentic Belgian waffle and buy Belgian chocolates!
It was raining when we went to Brussels for an overnight. We decided to celebrate New Year in friend’s apartment based in Brussels. Honestly, I didn’t see much but we did go to the old center. You will find the Christmas market, the grand palace and town hall. They say it’s almost always gloomy or raining in Belgium!
Stopover #3: Budapest, Hungary
From Lille, France I took a train to Paris and flew to Budapest via Air France. You can get cheap fares when you book early!
Probably my most favorite place in this trip aside from Prague! Budapest, the capital of Hungary, is one of the largest cities in the EU. It is divided into two and connected by bridges, one of which is the most popular, the Chain Bridge. It has castles, bathhouses, cafes, ruin pubs, and preserved old buildings. It also has one of the cheapest beers in Europe! The currency is Hungarian Foriant (HUF). Don’t forget to try the famous goulash and the chimney cake!
The Buda is on the west of the Danube river where you can find quaint neighborhood and the castle district while Pest is on the east side where you can find the Parliament, St. Stephen’s Basilica, bathhouses, and ruin pubs! They say when Buda goes to sleep, Pest awakens. I stayed in Pest side, everything is almost walking distance! There’s no old city center like in Belgium or Lille but everything is accessible!
Stopover #4: Vienna, Austria
From Budapest I took a train to Vienna. I barely had 24 hours in this place but I think I have to go back and explore the other areas! With the few hours that I had, I chose to visit the old city center which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site , the National Library which was amazing, and the Hundertwasser museum.
Vienna is way more laidback that Budapest. It has an artsy vibrant feel wherever you go. It is the capital and largest city of Austria. They do speak a German dialect. It’s known as the City of Music and also the hometown of Sigmun Freud. The city is influenced by the Medieval and Baroque period. More of this in my next post!
Stopover #5: Prague, Czech Republic
From Vienna, I took a train to Prague. Everything was just gorgeous from the old town center, the buildings and small alleys, and the food! By now, it’s obvious the first area I usually visit when traveling is the old center from there I go through small alleys and get lost. Aside from the Christmas market, go ahead and get a hot wine, the chimney cake, and climb up the Prague castle to get a good view of the whole city.
Prague or also know as Praha is the capital and largest city of Czech Republic. It has the influenced of the Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque eras. It houses the famous Charles Bridge, Astronomical clock, Prague Castle, Old Town Square, and the Dancing tower to name a few!
Stopover #6: Paris, France
From Prague, took a plane to Paris. This place is a favorite so I don’t mind going back. I stayed in Montmarte area and probably spent my time walking in the Eiffel tower area. I’ve always wanted to see the Moulin Rouge show but it was so expensive so I decided to watch the Lido Show instead. Thanks to KKday for booking the show! More about this in my next posts!
I will share the itinerary details for each destination and this will include the top things to do, things to eat, and the do’s and don’ts in the next posts.
For the meantime, do catch me in my daily musings or random travels in Instagram: @travelanyway. Ciao!