I'm an international student from Asia and only recently arrived London. Now as we have a long Christmas break, I'd like to plan for a solo trip outside UK, and I really need your advice.
In short, I am mostly interested in places with a nice medieval/renaissance feeling to them, like with good preservation of historical architecture or culture. Bonus points if they are not too popular in winter times . It would also help if many locals speak English, but not that necessary as I can bring some pictures/note cards to help me communicate.
I once had that romantic idea of visiting a snowy small town alone in a distant country. Is that realizable in any way? Do you think it would make a good holiday experience?
The most important thing to double-check before planning anything, is if you are allowed to travel on other countries under your passport or you may need some kind of visa.
If you are fine to go, in general of course it is realizable but your questions are a tad bit too general and depend on specifics. London is a great flights-hub and so you have tons of options. Do you have any specific destination or at least country on mind? Do you have budget or other restrictions? Do note that cities are not beach resorts and often they welcome many visitors on winter while Christmas period might be busy tourist season on many.
Well nothing specific really, and that's why it's difficult to decide where to go. 1-2 countries are fine, and I'm applying for Schengen visa so as long as it gets approved, I should be able to move freely in Schengen area, right?
So as the original post says, any place with good medieval culture preservation should do. Just like when I travelled in Japan, I looked for (less-known) ancient temples and small towns--villages even that were not as "developed" or modern as the rest of the country. The spiritual culture, the rituals they still perform were the most fascinating. But things are probably different in Europe so I need some general guidance. The tourism sites usually recommend well-known places that I feel somehow are not what I'm looking for.
Budget shouldn't be too big a problem, as I'm not interested in exquisite hotels and fancy meals, but the local culture and history.
[ Edit: Edited on 24-Oct-2014, at 10:07 by Lavennin ]
Have a look at Tallinn although may be a bit cold or snowy, but great medieval architecture.
A bit warmer is Florence. Then there's Rome, Venice, Budapest, Prague, Dubrovnik, or a whole lot of Europe has bits of nice medieval character so you could tour.
I will add Poland, Krakow is a very good option, plus the not so known yet Wroclaw.
Related to the Knights of St John, you could always check out Malta or/and Rhodes.
Btw, I see you mention 2 countries... How many days will you have available for this trip?
If you are from Asia, you will find Europe an interesting, diverse environment.
Yes, if you like snowy areas - go for the experience!
I suggest: Switzerland, northern Italy, southern Germany - basically, the Alps. But Norway, Iceland could also be options for you.
First: make sure you know what you want from a winter holiday.
If you want snow, then go for the "snowy countries", tall mountains. I'd advise you to book as soon as the first half of November. And for period, I's advise you early to mid-January, just after New Year. Prices tend to be lower during those periods.
I agree with Vintagerider for the Alps-region. Countries like Switzerland (Interlaken) and Northern Italy (Vienna, Sienna) are beautiful, in summer and winter. But you can also go to cities like, Munich or Prague.
I'm going to second Estonia (Tallinn) and Poland. The high Tatras in Slovakia or south of Poland can also give you the mountains and the snow, but are a little more off the beaten track then Switzerland. Salzburg is lovely too, and I hear they have really great Christmas markets although I can't speak from personal experience. How much time do you have and how long are you looking to spend in each place? Do you mind flying between places or are you planning on taking busses/trains between destinations?
Iceland would be really interesting and almost 24 hours of darkness, but it could be harder to move around there, so unless you plan on flying between destinations, it could be a challenge. You also should really rent a car outside of Reykjavik as public transport will only get you to the main towns, which doesn't sound like what you're looking for. It also doesn't feel particularly medieval. I have heard that they have very different (and unique) Christmas traditions though, and is absolutely beautiful.