Favorite places to spend Thanksgiving in Europe

Bavaria's Neuschwanstein Castle | Photo by Johannes Plenio
Bavaria's Neuschwanstein Castle | Photo by Johannes Plenio

Favorite places to spend Thanksgiving in Europe

by Elizabeth Jones
Stripes Europe

Back in the States, Thanksgiving for you 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. If you were really hardcore, you would 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. 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 in 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. Consider visiting these places during your Thanksgiving holiday:

Southern Germany

The southern part of Germany is one of the most charming places in the country. Since cold 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” (pasta made with fresh eggs) and so many delicious, warm desserts that are sure to satisfy your craving for comfort foods during this Thanksgiving holiday.

Bruges, Belgium

Travel back in time by visiting the medieval city of Bruges. 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 in the fall | Photo by yasonya 

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 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.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Spend your holiday in the Pearl of the Adriatic. During this time of year, you won’t have to battle the crazy amount of tourists Dubrovnik hosts during the sizzling summer months which gives you the chance to have a more intimate experience with the city. It may be too cold to jump in the water of the many beaches Dubrovnik has to offer, but you can still soak up warm, sunny days as you walk through the famous city walls, visit all the “Game of Thrones” sites, indulge in fantastic seafood and learn about the city’s history.

Mallorca, Spain

The island of Mallorca is home to countless beaches, mountain ranges and picturesque Spanish towns. You may even get a hint of the Thanksgiving as you eat all the tapas this island has to offer. Tapas are an array of foods to be shared as an appetizer or meal amongst family and friends. Very few countries combine food and camaraderie like Spain does with their tapas. 

Northern Lights in Lofoten Islands | Photo by Max Stoiber

Lofoten Islands, Norway

Visiting Norway promises breathtaking scenery no matter the time of the year. The Lofoten Islands are harder to reach than most places in Norway but are definitely worth the journey. The area is filled striking beauty thanks to jagged cliffs, deep blue waters, and quaint fishing villages. Visiting in the fall gives you a higher chance to witness one of nature’s greatest creations, the Northern Lights.

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. No matter where you spend it, you won’t be disappointed in the variety of fall destinations Europe has to offer. That alone is something to be very thankful for.


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