The Verse’s Alistair Weir gives us tips to sort alternative New Year’s plans.
New Year’s Eve; the yearly event usually celebrated with a disappointing night out in town or at a mate’s house party, mumbling your way through Auld Lang Syne. How about something different this year in Europe? If you dig around you can get last minute flights and still find cheap accommodation. Here’s three of the lesser known, and less costly, places you could head to for an alternative New Years. In the words of Jeremy from Peep Show ‘Not the Hootenanny! Never the Hootenanny! We’re better than that’.
While the below countries accept the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) for minor injuries, this isn’t a substitute for insurance. A common misconception is that insurance will cost a bomb or it can take days. But it isn’t as expensive as you would think and can be done in minutes the day before you fly, even on your phone on the way to the airport if you’re really stuck! A quick online search found travel and medical cover for a five-day trip to Croatia cost as little as £6. The cost of a pint compared with a few thousand pounds to fix a broken leg is a no-brainer.
Rent a log cabin in the Krivoklát Forest, Czech Republic
Live out the idyllic winter dream of cosying up in front of a log fire with your best knitted jumper on sipping something mulled as you look out on the snow falling. Nature lovers will be in their element in the vast UNESCO protected Krivoklát Forest, sitting a 45-minute drive west of Prague. The area boasts a medieval, 500-year-old dungeon and a 12th Century Disney style castle that dominates the skyline as it looks out across the town. Forest walks are aplenty here and you can explore before heading into the old market town for a glass of Czech beer. Since the location is so close to the capital, a day trip to Prague is certainly doable. The city is full of free and cheap ideas such as the checking out the Old Town Square and exploring the Royal Garden.
Remember your winter warmers here! Average temperatures at this time of year can reach -3 degrees. While you’ll be away from civilisation in the forest, take precautions when transiting through and visiting Prague. A popular tourist destination, pickpockets are rife here so take care of your belongings. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office warns of bogus policemen asking to see passports and money. If approached, don’t show your money or passport, but offer instead to go with them to the nearest police station.
Need somewhere slightly warmer and a street party? Avoiding the crowds and pricey accommodation of Barcelona but keeping the atmosphere, Cervera west of the city hosts its annual traditional Spanish street party, which of course wouldn’t be complete without the 12 grapes. If you need to get the blood pumping prior to the night’s shenanigans, Saint Silvester Road Races (usually 15km) are held across the country on 31 December. Sant Cugat del Vallès, a 45-minute train ride away from Barcelona, holds a 10km race which takes runners through the old town.
As is customary, Santa hats are usually required! If you don’t mind the crowds, on the night itself head to Plaça d’Espanya for the free fireworks and music show. For peace of mind, the metro runs all night in the city. In crowded areas stick with your friends and buy your own drinks; keep them covered and be cautious of being spiked. If you get into trouble in Spain, there is a dedicated English-speaking police line on +34 90 210 2112.
If you’re up early enough – or if you haven’t been to bed – start the new year off by joining crowds as they watch the sun rise over the lighthouse in Aplec del Sol Ixent, just north of the city. Or, if you need a very brisk wake-up, head to La Barceloneta beach to swim with hundreds of others in the sea, you’ll even get a mug of soup to warm up with afterwards! Alcohol and swimming don’t go together, so if you’re still feeling the effects from those glasses of Cava, be careful if heading in and pay attention to the lifeguards.
Croatia has now become the summer destination, but what about New Year’s Eve? Join over 70,000 people in the coastal city of Split for a huge street party and fireworks display. Head down to the waterfront for live music from the country’s musicians or dance over to Vo?ni Trg square where they’ll be hosting a Salsa Festival. The country remains relatively cheap, especially in the winter season so is a perfect budget short trip.
Walking around the city, fans of Game of Thrones will recognise the streets of ‘Dioklecijanova’ in the Roman Palace where scenes of ‘Meereen’ from the show were filmed. When hunger strikes, go in search of the national dish, fish stew “gregada” at the many restaurants in town. Be aware that the country takes drug offences seriously and if caught, may result in a fine or prison time. It is also illegal to sleep in public and can result in a fine if you’re caught, the fine also goes up if you’re snoring! So if the fruit brandy gets too much, be careful about where you lay your head.
There’s plenty of ways to get away from the traditional, and sometimes stale, New Year’s Eve parties at home, with three cheap, European alternatives to pick from here. Before you go, head to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office website for country-specific safety information and advice surrounding what to do in an emergency. Also check out the Travel Aware website, which has information on what to do before travelling abroad.