The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
The pandemic halted all travel for over a year, and left many itching to get back on a plane as soon as was viable. Now with travel slowly opening back up, I’ve rounded up the best places to visit over winter in Europe as a student (and also on a budget) from personal experience.
Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, is not the first place that someone would pick to go to in Europe. However, it is slowly gaining interest from guys wanting to have a Stag Do abroad due to the cheap cost to stay, drink and eat. Bratislava was the first place I travelled to once the pandemic restrictions were lifted, in November 2021 and it was extremely quiet for a city, possibly still due to the slow return to the travel that Europe is dealing with. The flight was just over 2 hours, from Birmingham International and multiple low-budget airlines, such as Ryanair and EasyJet do weekly flights to the capital. I went for 3 nights and four days, and this was more than enough time to explore what is on offer, such as Bratislava Castle, The Blue Church, the SNP Bridge and the numerous other churches and palaces. The food is what you would expect to get from a Eastern European country – potatoes, stews, dumplings, meat, pies and all absolutely delicious and hearty for a cold winter evening. And cold is definitely the right word! In November it was extremely windy and was bordering between 2-4 degrees, so wrap up warm and take up on the offer of mulled wine or the warm vodka drinks that are on sale everywhere.
Top tip: Visit the cafe Five Points, with their famous ‘selficinno’ which 3D prints your photo onto a cup of coffee. It was a new experience for me, and one I would highly recommend!
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, has become a new tourist hotspot for a European getaway over the last few years, again due to the offering of cheap hospitality. I went to Prague in February 2020, just before the pandemic hit and the whirlwind of red roofs, colourful buildings and cobbled streets has made me eager to return. I flew from London Luton, which was just under 2 hours, with a BA package which included apartment accommodation for less than £150, but EasyJet and Ryanair also fly too. There is so much to see in Prague, and the three nights and four days I went was just enough to see the highlights such as the Old Town Square, Charles Bridge, the Astronomical Clock, Prague Castle and the John Lennon Wall. Again, the food was some of the best I have had on a European trip and one of the things I would recommend is the garlic soup which comes in a hollowed out bread roll which they use as the bowl and is extremely filling and warming. Prague in winter is cold, however most restaurants and cafes have outdoor heaters and blankets to have whilst you eat your meal so this definitely helps. Like Bratislava, take a thick coat and gloves and a scarf, because it is needed, more so as Prague is near a river so the cold is accelerated by the water.
Top tip: Visit the Cloud 9 Sky Bar and Lounge which is located on the top floor of a Hilton Hotel and offers brilliant views and drinks, perfect for night or day. It can be a bit pricey however, so would be good for a special occasion, or just the one drink.
Budapest, Hungary isn’t one of the cheaper options, but has a lot to offer for a winter European getaway. I went here in March 2020 and arrived back into the UK the week lockdown was called so for a long time it was the last trip in my memory and still remains one of my favourites! I did an Expedia package for this one, but flew with EasyJet from London Luton. The Budapest city skyline is beautiful at night and one of the popular reasons for visiting, including seeing the castle both in the day and at night. There is also a wealth of street art, the Budapest Parliament building, Fisherman’s Bastion, the Szechenyi Chain Bridge and still to this day one of my most favourite activities, the Szechenyi Thermal Baths which are perfect for a winter break as the outdoor pool goes up to a relaxing 36 degrees. I went early in the morning to beat the crowds, but you can stay for as long as you want, and at the weekends they also do a night time party with a DJ. Also, one of my favourite dishes to have which is in offer in Budapest is a Chimney cake, which is sort of like a spiral doughnut which is filled with a variety of toppings ranging from hot fruit, to cream and chocolate. Again, a perfect dish for warming up after all the walking around! It was slightly warmer in March than it would be to go in early winter, but the temperature definitely dramatically dropped in the evening and night time so it is still thick coat weather.
Top tip: Visit the ‘Museum of Selfies’ if taking photos with wacky backgrounds and a giant adult ball pit and bar is your thing. I stumbled upon this on my first night and really enjoyed the light hearted experience!
I visited Vienna, Austria in November 2021, shortly after the Bratislava trip and found it another inspiring place to visit in winter. The flight is just over 2 hours, with Ryanair and EasyJet providing these, however it only takes an hour on the train from Bratislava, and this is what I did. Although Vienna was definitely the most expensive option out of all of those presented above, it is a notable mention. The stunning architecture and vast array of designer shops makes it a perfect place to go for a European Christmas shopping trip. The city has a lot to offer including the most recognisable Schonbrunn Palace, the Kunsthistorisches Museum, the Hofburg and the Belvedere Museum. It has cafes galore to stop off at and get a bite to eat and a warm, toasty coffee to keep you fuelled throughout the day.
Top tip: If you love bubble tea, head to Ichiban Tea, one of the most instagrammable places in the city, with dessert bubble tea combinations galore and a swing covered in fairy lights. If I had had more time, I would have drank the whole menu!
These a few of my favourite places to jet off to for a winter European break, which doesn’t ‘break’ the bank balance. Each of these countries has so much to offer in terms of food, attractions, shopping and architecture, the hardest question will be which one to go to first!