I have lived in London for 11 years and have not once spent New Year’s Eve in London. Before I met my husband, my first New Year in the UK was spent with friends on the Isle of Wight and then the following year was spent with one of my best friends in Edinburgh. (Hogmanay in Edinburgh is brilliant fun, by the way!)
My husband and I choose to take a few days over New Year and go somewhere, generally, that we’ve never been before (New York being the exception to that rule). Here are three unusual places we spent New Year in that we loved.
Tallinn is Estonia’s capital city and has a beautiful, cobblestoned and utterly charming medieval Old Town. Some of the buildings date back to the 11th century and the style of architecture is know as Hanseatic. Over Christmas and New Year, the square in the Old Town is home to a Christmas market, complete with real reindeer!
Just a short walk from the Old Town, you’ll find a business centre, luxury hotels and shopping malls. The really surprising thing, for me, about Tallinn was the restaurants – we had superb food, and there are lots of restaurants on the Michelin food guide. For a medieval dining experience, check out Olde Hansa where you can feast on wild boar and leg of pork. If you’re looking for more of a fine dining experience, book a table at Tchaikovsky in the 5 star Hotel Telegraaf. Outside the Old Town, I recommend Neh which is where we spent New Year’s Eve. The food is seasonal and has a Nordic influence.
Tallinn is fairly small so it’s easy to get around without needing to hire a car. If you’re going for New Year, four days is plenty to see all there is to see.
Ljubljana is Slovenia’s capital and largest city, and the Old Town and New Town is divided by the Ljubljanica River. Along the river you will find many picturesque cafes, bars and restaurants.
Like Tallinn, it’s pretty easy to get around without needing transport. There are lots of art galleries, museums, shops and markets so there is lots to see and do. Take a walk up to Ljubljana castle to see panoramic views of the city.
Given Slovenia’s proximity to Italy (Ljubljana is less than a two and a half hour drive from Venice), many Slovenians speak Italian – as my husband is Italian, this was great for us! It also means there is a lot of Italian influence in their cuisine. Restaurants I would recommend are Spajza, which has a daily menu based on produce from the market, and for something a bit more fine dining try Valvas’or.
If you’re visiting during New Year, there is an outdoor ice-rink and stages dotted around the town which play live music in the evening.
Kraków is a city in the south of Poland near the border of the Czech Republic. We stayed in the charismatic Jewish quarter (Kazimierz), which is in walking distance to the medieval town centre. In the town centre is a beautiful Square that houses many beautiful buildings, including St Mary’s Basilica and a Renaissance cloth hall called the Sukiennice where you will find gift shops, restaurants and stalls.
Be sure to visit the gothic Wawel Castle, which dates back to the 1300’s. In the grounds of the castle is a cathedral, where Pope John Paul II was ordained as a priest.
If you have time, be sure to visit the Wieliczka Salt Mine, which was built in the 13th century and only stopped producing salt in 2007. There are four chapels, which were built by the miners and have been carved out of the rock salt.
For restaurants, I recommend Starka in the Jewish quarter which serves traditional Polish food (try the beetroot soup) and Cyrano de Bergerac, a delightful French restaurant down in a cellar where we spent New Year’s Eve and didn’t leave until 5am…it was that much fun!
Planning your New Year break? Check out my top tips for travelling on a budget.