Three unusual European New Year destinations

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, Estonia

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!

Tallinn Christmas market in the Old Town by day and by night.

Tallinn Christmas market in the Old Town by day and by night.

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.

Shopping in Tallinn's Old Town.

Shopping in Tallinn’s Old Town.

Ljubljana, Slovenia

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.

Cafes, bars and restauramts along the Ljubljanic river.

Cafes, bars and restauramts along the Ljubljanica river.

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.

Views from the Clock Tower at Ljubljana Castle.

Views from the Clock Tower at Ljubljana Castle.

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, Poland

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.

The Jewish quarter in Krakow.

The Jewish quarter in Krakow.

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.

Wawel Cathedral

Wawel Cathedral

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.

19 Comments

  1. October 15, 2015 / 3:44 pm

    These look like great suggestions. I have visited Krakow but never been to Slovenia or Estonia. I’ve heard great things about both. If I didn’t have plans already for NYE I’d consider it! Inspiring post nonetheless!

    • October 15, 2015 / 3:52 pm

      Thank you! Well, there’s always New Year 2016/17 🙂

  2. TraceyFaceUpBeauty
    October 15, 2015 / 5:55 pm

    Haha, we were the same. Lived in London but always spent New Year abroad. In our case we always celebrated in Paris – yes, creatures of habit! I’ve never been to one of the locations you feature here. My preferred choice between them would be Tallinn, Estonia. So festive looking :). Tx

    • October 15, 2015 / 6:13 pm

      Tallinn really is so charming – I highly recommend it! Have never thought of Paris for New Year… I bet the Eiffel Tower looks amazing on NYE!

  3. natalietanner
    October 16, 2015 / 3:15 pm

    What a great way to welcome a new year by exploring a new place! I LOVE this tradition!!! Wondering how I can start that for our family!!!

    • October 16, 2015 / 4:15 pm

      It is a great way to start a new year and surely wouldn’t take much convincing? 🙂

  4. October 16, 2015 / 4:31 pm

    I loved Krakow! I think that is a great choice for New Years. We spent a New Year in Warsaw but it was so cold. I’d definitely advise people to dress warm.

    • October 16, 2015 / 4:34 pm

      Good advice, Shobha – it was very cold! Layers, a warm coat, hat and gloves are definitely needed.

  5. October 16, 2015 / 8:21 pm

    I love these options for New Years Eve. I haven’t been to any of these destinations, but they are all on my list to visit!

    • October 16, 2015 / 8:59 pm

      Thanks for your comment Amber and I’m sure you’ll love them all 🙂

  6. October 17, 2015 / 1:53 am

    Great post! I think I would love to visit Tallinn during the holiday season. There’s something about it truly feeling like Christmas that makes the holidays even better 🙂

    • October 17, 2015 / 11:27 am

      Thanks Natasha and yes, Tallinn is the perfect little Christmas town! We loved it 🙂

  7. lavidaglobal
    October 18, 2015 / 1:34 am

    As you stated, 3 unusual cities that I suppose very few would consider. Estonia looks amazing and the reindeer… that’s the winner for me. I am having my first European Christmas this year in Salzburg. Maybe I will have to plan another one in the future.

    • October 18, 2015 / 11:04 am

      We’ve been to Salzburg for New Year too! It’s great :-). You should definitely try the famous Sachertorte from Hotel Sacher. Have a great time!

  8. October 20, 2015 / 7:58 pm

    I’ve wanted to go to Tallinn forever and it looks so beautiful in the snow in your pictures!! To be honest, the only big thing to do in London is watch the fireworks on Southbank which they now charge for and it is SO busy so probably not even worth it anymore 🙁

    • October 21, 2015 / 11:50 am

      Tallinn is gorgeous, and even more so in the snow! Glad to know I’m not missing out on much by never experiencing NYE in London!

  9. June
    December 4, 2015 / 2:31 pm

    Tallinn is very intriguing. The other destination that is always coming back to my mind is Dubrovnik, Croatia.

    • December 4, 2015 / 9:23 pm

      Not been to Croatia yet, June but I’d love to go

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