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Forget Paris: the alternative Valentine’s Day guide

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Forget Paris! Venice? Too predictable. If you’re thinking of heading off with your beloved this Valentine’s Day, we’ve come up with some alternative romantic destinations. You’ll LOVE them!

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”BUDAPEST” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”22354″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]The River Danube divides the Hungarian capital into the hilly Buda district to the west and the flatter Pest in the east. The city is connected by the Széchenyi Chain Bridge and boasts plenty of romantic cityscapes, ideal for getting down on one knee and popping the big question: “Will we change our Facebook status to ‘In a relationship’?”

What to do:

Budapest is a very easy city to explore by foot. Start your day buying snacks or trinkets in Great Market Hall at the Pest end of Szabadság Bridge and then hop on a sightseeing bus to help you get your bearings. Some hop-on-hop-off bus tours even include a river cruise. Disembark at Margaret Island, a verdant parkland in the city, hire bikes or golf carts pimped to look like mini Rolls Royces and explore. You can even enjoy a thermal spa experience in the park itself! In the evening, throw on your ballgown or tux and enjoy a night at the Hungarian State Opera, which is housed in an impressive neo-Renaissance building.

Getting there:

There are direct flights from Dublin but you will have stopovers if flying from Cork and Shannon.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”LYON” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”22356″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Located in eastern France, Lyon is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has plenty to offer lovebirds looking to make memories. More importantly, the city will provide you with stunning backdrops with which to update your social media.

What to do:

Pay a visit to the magnificent Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière and you will be rewarded with stunning views from its vantage point over the city. Whilst there, you can dine at the Restaurant de Fourvière and survey all below from the giant panoramic bay windows. Go for romantic strolls around Place Bellecour, a large pedestrianised square in the Ainay district which has great shopping streets. What’s more romantic than a trip to Zara? Answer: nothing.

Getting there:

Aer Lingus, Ryanair, KLM and Lufthansa fly direct from Dublin. Flights also operate from Cork, Kerry, Shannon, Donegal and Knock but with stopovers.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”HAMBURG” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”22357″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Think canals, think Venice – but did you know that Hamburg has more canals than Venice and Amsterdam combined? I bet you did not. Regardless, Hamburg is a beautiful city with plenty of green spaces, diverse architecture and shopping.

What to do:

Pretend to be a giant at Miniatur Wunderland, the world’s largest model train exhibit, with 10 miles of track and over 260,000 figurines. Located in the Speicherstadt area of the city, a few hours will pass easily as you take in tiny replicas of Hamburg, the Alps, America and Scandinavia. If you’re visiting on a weekend, the Flohschanze market in the Sternschanze neighbourhood – Hamburg’s old meatpacking district – is a 30-minute walk away. Running from 8am to 4pm, there are hundreds of stalls for you to browse. Finish off your visit with a river tour of the Elbe leaving from Landungsbrücken, and take in one of the world’s busiest ports.

Getting there:

Fly direct to Hamburg from Dublin and from Cork and Shannon with stopovers.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”BOLOGNA” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”22358″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Located in Northern Italy’s Emilia-Romagna Region, Bologna is Europe’s oldest university town. The city famously gave the world Bolognese sauce, traditionally served with tagliatelle and lasagne. There is much to see and do in this beautiful city, which is perfect for lovers and food lovers.

What to do:

If you want to experience the best in Italian food and drink, a visit to food theme park FICO Eately World, has to be on your list. Set over two hectares of fields with over 40 restaurants, farming factories and up to 30 events and 50 classes per day, you’ll feel like an expert the next time you order a meat feast pizza on a Friday night from your local takeaway. A couple of hours exploring the grid of streets known as the Quadrilatero, packed with cafés and delis, is also recommended. Finally, if you’ve got a head for heights, climb to the top of one of the city’s two leaning towers, Torre degli Asinelli.

Getting there:

Direct flights operate from Dublin. Flights leaving from Cork, Knock or Shannon will have one or more stops.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”COPENHAGEN” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”22359″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Copenhagen is the capital of Denmark and the national concept of hygge, roughly translated as “cosy, charming or special” – perfect for a romantic weekend with your loved one. You won’t be able to cope(nhagen) with all it has to offer.

What to do:

After dark, head to Tivoli, a giant amusement park in the city where a winter theme continues until the end of February. Complete with snow, thousands of twinkling lights, rides, cafés and restaurants, your Valentine’s visit is guaranteed to feel festive. For a more alternative experience, head to Freetown Christiana, a car-free neighbourhood established in 1971 by a group of hippies. Browse galleries, organic restaurants and homemade houses and soak up the atmosphere. Finally, a trip to Copenhagen wouldn’t be complete without visiting the bronze statue of The Little Mermaid by the waterside at Langelinie promenade. Fun fact to casually drop into conversation and impress your lover: the statue was originally gifted to the city by brewer Carl Jacobsen of the Carlsberg breweries and is therefore probably the best bronze statue of a mermaid in the world. You can steal that joke too while you’re at it.

Getting there:

Fly direct from Dublin and with one or more stopovers from Cork and Shannon.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”MORE IDEAS” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]

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All photos: public domain.

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Categories
Austria Europe France Germany Hungary

Christmas Markets in Europe

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Europe comes alive this time of the year, where they dust off the snow globes, unravel tinsel and switch on the fairy lights. Immerse yourself into the backdrop of your very own seasonal fairy-tale and visit some Christmas Markets that are just a short plane journey away. Here are some of our top picks that are certainly worth a visit this winter.

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Source: Croatia Week

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Strasbourg, France

[/vc_column_text][vc_separator type=”normal”][vc_column_text]Strasbourg is the champion of European Christmas markets, in fact it is commonly referred to as: “Strasbourg, the Capital of Christmas”. Better than that, it was voted by European Best Destinations 2015 as the best Christmas Market in Europe 2015 for the 2nd year running.

It is one of the oldest European Christmas market when it first popped up its stalls in 1570 and coined the name as Christkindelsmärik (market of the infant Jesus). So it is unsurprising that it is also the largest Christmas market in Europe boasting an impressive 300 stalls, extending across 12 areas of the city.

This market promises even the modern day Scrooge’s of the world to whistle along to the tune of the angelic carol singers.

When?

From 27th of November to 31st December 2015.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” angled_section=”no” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern” padding_top=”20″ padding_bottom=”50″ css_animation=”element_from_fade”][vc_column][image_with_text image=”19426″]

Source: Aachen Weihnachts Markt

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Aachen, Germany

[/vc_column_text][vc_separator type=”normal”][vc_column_text]Although Strasbourg practically invented Christmas markets in Europe, nobody quite does Christmas like the Germans. Touted as the Christmas City, Aachen Christmas Market attracts approximately 1.5 million visitors every year from all over the world, both young and old.  With a sprinkle of some magic dust, each year the squares and streets surrounding the Cathedral and the Aachen Town Hall are transformed into a winter wonderland. Wander the stalls, sample some Aachen Printen, a local gingerbread speciality in the nearby Christmas Village and wash it down with some fine mulled wine.

When?

From 20th of November to 23rd December 2015.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” angled_section=”no” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern” padding_top=”20″ padding_bottom=”50″ css_animation=”element_from_fade”][vc_column][image_with_text image=”19422″]

Source: Alphacom

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Vienna, Austria

[/vc_column_text][vc_separator type=”normal”][vc_column_text]Hear the sleigh bells ring and whisk yourself to the Viennese Christmas Markets. The main Christmas market takes place in front of City Hall where the little ones can learn how to make Christmas cookies and candles. The delicious aromas of signature festive punch, roasted chestnuts and other delicacies are sure to lure everyone into the seasonal joy.

Our very own director of consumer affairs, Conor Faughnan recommends trying the local Glühwein. This is a concoction of mulled white wine, a hint of cinnamon, sugar and spice and all things nice which is sure to prepare you for another round of stall gazing.

When?

From 13th of November to 26th December 2015.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” angled_section=”no” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern” padding_top=”20″ padding_bottom=”50″ css_animation=”element_from_fade”][vc_column][image_with_text image=”19423″]

Source: Gotohungary.com

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Budapest, Hungary

[/vc_column_text][vc_separator type=”normal”][vc_column_text]The Hungarian capital’s market is a popular choice for those who want to do a spot of shopping where they can purchase unique gifts and crafts. The main Christmas Market takes place in Vörösmarty Square where you can see the windows of Gerbeaud House transform into a giant Advent Calendar counting back the days until Christmas.

When?

From 28th of November to 31st December 2015.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” angled_section=”no” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern” padding_top=”20″ padding_bottom=”50″ css_animation=”element_from_fade”][vc_column][image_with_text image=”19425″]

Source: Christmas Markets

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Nuremberg, Germany

[/vc_column_text][vc_separator type=”normal”][vc_column_text]Enjoy a cup of hearty mulled wine to keep warm as you stroll through the traditional markets. Be sure to try the lauded Nuremberg gingerbread, Lebkuchen a local recipe that dates back 600 years. With over 180 stalls, you are sure to find the perfect gift for all your friends and family.

Visit St. Nicholas himself at Santa’s grotto located in the Children’s Christmas Market, which is sure to make a believer out of some sceptics.

When?

From 27th November to 24th December 2015.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” angled_section=”no” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern” padding_top=”20″ padding_bottom=”50″ css_animation=”element_from_fade”][vc_column][vc_column_text]

If we have swayed you to book a flight to any of the above listed destinations, be sure to purchase Travel Insurance to ensure you have a truly merry trip.

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