Are you planning a European road trip this winter? I have set out below what in my view is the perfect festive adventure.
The first stop of our trip took us to the lovely Bavarian city of Munich and honestly, there’s no better time to visit Munich than in the run-up to Christmas. With its lively beer halls and the never-ending array of christmas markets, the Bavarian spirit gets you in the mood for the trip ahead.
Here a few recommendations to soak up the festive atmosphere and most importantly… fill your bellies!
The next day we drove into Austria where we stayed in a yoga resort that we had booked through Airbnb. If you’re following our route which I will detail below, you’ll be amazed by the beautiful selection of lakes along the way which includes, Eibsee, Plansee, and Blindsee. I’ve stayed at Plansee during the summer months and also visited Eibsee which were equally breathtaking.
If you’re fortunate enough to have better weather than we experienced, I would recommend staying at least 2 days here but for us, the constant rain meant that we decided to skip that part and head straight for Italy. The road trip took us first to Innsbruck where we stopped for some much-needed lunch and then to Mulchbach where our Airbnb for the next 4 days was located. This provided us with a good waypoint for exploring the famous Dolomites.
Lago Di Braies
One of Instagram’s most featured lakes, our arrival at Lago Di Braies certainly didn’t disappoint. I have visited the lakes previously yet seeing it covered in a white blanket was something special. I am amazed at how many people during both trips simply arrived at the boathouse took a few pictures and left. The walk around Lago Di Braies is beautiful and I would highly recommend you set aside a couple of hours to enjoy the scenery.
Alpe Di Suisse
This has to be my favourite place within the Dolomites and you can see why it has taken on the nickname ‘Movie Set Mountain’. You can take the ski lift up from Ortisei and then you will be in full view of the surrounding landscape. I’d recommend taking the path down as there are some fantastic viewpoints and picnic spots.
A few days later we came back here for some skiing lessons, although quite expensive the views definitely make up for it.
Seceda is the longest ski slope in Val Gardena and is placed above Ortisei Village. Seceda is well known for its dramatic size and shape and has attracted some of the worlds most famous skiers over the years. We initially came here just to see the views at the top of the slope.
As we reached the top we were left disappointed to be met with low cloud meaning our visibility was extremely poor. It did, however, make the perfect excuse for us to fill our bellies in the restaurant which served up some delicious food, especially the beef Goulash.
Once the cloud cleared, we could see why there was so much hype around the views of Seceda. If you walk up the slope to the left of the restaurant you can get to a great vantage point where I took the picture below.
Back to Austria / Germany
On our drive back through Austria, we decided we would head for Konigsee. We had a brief stop at lovely AirBnB in Zall am Zee, however, due to darkness drawing in, we never got a chance to explore the surrounding area. The next morning we decided to get up early and head for ‘The Kings Lake’.
I’ve been here twice and to be honest, it’s a place I could never get tired of visiting. The boat ride along the calm water, the local reindeer grazing in the foreground really makes Konigsee feel like a wintery paradise. This time we were even lucky enough to catch a trumpet ensemble which echoed through the valley. The boat ends at the St. Bartholomew church stop where you can wander around and get some food before taking the boat back.
In the summer you can take another boat which takes you to Obersee but in winter it’s closed due to dangerous conditions meaning I’ve missed it both times. Once we got back to the town we decided to walk to one of the viewing points where I took the picture below, just in time for sunset. (This took around 1 hour.)
A lake I once stumbled across a few years ago whilst visiting Hallstatt with some friends. The circular walk around the lake is beautiful especially during the winter months with the snow turning this place into a winter wonderland. The walk takes around 2 hours, so if you are visiting Hallstatt and want to get away from the tourists and into nature, visit here.
To Slovakia & Poland
The longest part of the road trip was the journey to Slovakia, I probably wouldn’t do this again and instead, stay one night in Vienna or maybe visit Bratislava for some rest and city wandering to break up the hours.
We ended up staying just past the border in Poland in an Airbnb where we spent Christmas. The next few days we would spend time relaxing and exploring part of the High Tatras mountains of Slovakia.
The rooftop of Slovakia and the second highest peak in the High Tatras. Unfortunately, as we got here around 11 am, the cable car to the very top was not available due to poor visibility although we still decided to take a cable car to Skalnaté Pleso hoping we could get a better view of the mountains. Luckily for us, part of the clouds cleared just as the cable car was returning.
If you want to visit here I’d suggest booking the cable car to Mt. Lomnický štít in advance as the tickets are sought-after and may be sold out even a few days before your planned trip
Another few places I’d recommend visiting are
Štrbské Pleso (great for winter sports)
Morskie Oko (A 3-4 hour hike in a real winter wonderland)
Before heading home I spent a few days in Krakow I stayed at X. It’s a fascinating city with beautiful architecture and very hospitable people. Make sure you visit the Market Square, the castle, cathedral, and the Jewish quarter and cemetery.
Some restaurants I’d recommend:
Bistro Bene by Tomasz Leśniak
Krakow is also an excellent base to use for excursions such as Auschwitz and Birkenau death camps and the salt mines. I spent a day doing the Auschwitz and Birkenau tours through a company called Krakville Tours which was quite a bit cheaper than what the hostel was offering me. The whole experience to Auschwitz was mindnumbing but something I think everyone should take time to visit, a part of history that should never have happened and a great warning to humanity.
Written By Samuel Rhys