Favorite places to spend Thanksgiving in Europe

by Elizabeth Jones
Stripes Europe

Back in the States, Thanksgiving was probably filled with watching the Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Parade and shouting matches as the family cycled through countless football games. Plates overflowed with turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie, which usually resulted in a self-inflicted food coma. You may have even set the alarm for 3 a.m. to battle your way through Black Friday.

Now that you’re stationed overseas, you’ve come to the realization that this Thanksgiving may not be as easily filled with all of your favorite holiday traditions. Which means this is the perfect chance to create new Thanksgiving traditions and memories. Swap football games and parades for once-in-a-lifetime strolls through ancient cities, enchanting castles, wine festivals and mesmerizing fall foliage. The great thing about traveling Europe in late November is that it’s during the low season. Which means most tourists have left and the locals are back at work. This time of year is perfect to have family and friends from the U.S. fly over to explore with you.

Traditional Thanksgiving

Recreate a feel for a more traditional Thanksgiving by making a trip to any of these places known for their spectacular fall colors and highly desired comfort foods.

Southern Germany

The southern part of Germany is one of the most charming places in the country. Since cold winter weather hasn’t hit just yet, spend the holiday in the great outdoors hiking the Alps and embracing the colors of autumn throughout Alpine forests. Neuschwanstein castle is found in this part of Germany and is one of the most remarkable sights to see year round. However, during the Thanksgiving holiday, the castle is truly stunning as trees shimmer pops of red, yellow and orange.
During this time of year, there are also endless wine festivals to choose from, where you can drink fine wines derived from Bavarian wineries. Thanksgiving coincides with the first weekend of Advent, which means holiday markets spring to life over the holiday weekend. Christmas markets are a wonderful family event with something for everyone to enjoy during Thanksgiving. You can find all sorts of German delicacies from bratwursts, currywurst, spätzle (the German version of macaroni and cheese), and so many delicious, warm desserts that are sure to satisfy your craving for comfort foods during this Thanksgiving holiday.

For a guaranteed traditional Thanksgiving meal without the hassle, spend the holiday at Edelweiss Lodge and Resort in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. There will be a massive Thanksgiving dinner for guests who RSVP. The holiday weekend will be filled with fun activities such as trips to Christmas markets, sightseeing tours to enchanting castles and exhilarating ski and snowboarding trips.

Bruges, Belgium

Travel back in time by visiting the medieval city of Bruges. Throughout the city you’ll find endless photo ops that will make for one-of-a-kind Thanksgiving holiday family photos. In November, the city’s buildings will be covered in vines showcasing the mesmerizing autumn foliage. Take a boat ride down the canals found throughout the city and see the beautiful fall colors reflecting in the water. Try some famous Belgian chocolate either as a tasty candy bar or warm hot cocoa. Either way, you won’t be disappointed.

Prague, Czech Republic

Prague is a must-visit for everyone exploring Europe. However, the prime time to visit this extraordinary city is in the fall. The weather during late November offers many beautiful, fall days and the narrow streets are significantly less crowded of tourists making it easier to explore the city. The best views of Prague can be seen at the top of Castle Hill where you can look down upon the autumn glow painting the city with radiant auburn and bronze colors. A trip to Prague isn’t complete without indulging in a warm Trdelník, a cinnamon sugar, breaded pastry that is stuffed with your choice of Nutella, whipped cream, fruit or even ice cream.

Non-traditional Thanksgiving

Instead of seeking a traditional Thanksgiving, you may just want to take advantage of this holiday for the time off from work. Get your suitcase ready and head out to these amazing destinations where very few people can say they’ve spent Thanksgiving.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Spend your holiday with a beach vacation along the Adriatic Coast. The weather will still be warm lingering around the low 60s, but the crowds will have dispersed. Prices are significantly lower during this time of year compared to the summer. Splash around some of the world’s most magnificent beaches without pushing your way through hordes of tourists. Venture out for a hike in the mountains outside the city of Dubrovnik for a view of Mother Nature’s most stunning work.

Mallorca, Spain

Skip the sizzling summer heat and crazy tourist season by taking your beach vacation in November. The cost of traveling to and within Mallorca during late November is much cheaper than the summer. Your days will typically be sunny with the temperature sitting around the high 60s. The island of Mallorca is home to countless beaches, mountain ranges and picturesque Spanish towns. You may even get a hint of the Thanksgiving holiday feeling by eating tapas. Tapas are an array of Spanish savory dishes that are meant to be shared as an appetizer or snack amongst family and friends. Some of the most loved factors of Thanksgiving are the food and being surrounded by your favorite people. Very few countries combine food and camaraderie like Spain does with their tapas. 

Norway

If basking in warm weather in November feels odd to you, then take a trip to Norway where temperatures hover around 30 degrees. Although a bit colder, visiting Norway this time of year is worth the breathtaking scenery you’ll encounter. The country is also known to be one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights. From late autumn until the early spring, the lights are said to be the most dazzling. Visit during the Thanksgiving holiday for a spectacular show and of one of the most coveted bucket-list experiences.

Indulging in all of the traditional foods back home, the intensity of Black Friday shopping and the ongoing football games may be limited this time around, but it doesn’t have to put a damper on your holiday. Thanksgiving is a time to be shared with loved ones reflecting on all that you’re thankful for. Whether you spend it in a more traditional setting or in an uncommon place, you won’t be disappointed in the variety of fall destinations Europe has to offer.

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