The New Year is upon us, which means (of course) that it's time to sort out your travel plans for 2023! We’ve rounded up what we think are the 23 best things to do this year for backpackers and casual travellers alike, from hiking up Arthur’s Seat in Scotland to eating in the world's oldest pizzeria in Italy. If you can tick off even a few of our tips, you're sure to have a memorable year...
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1. Sip on a stein at Munich’s Oktoberfest
If you love beer and a rambunctious party, then you need to add Oktoberfest to your bucket list for 2023. Held in Munich, this historic festival is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and the best place to embrace Bavarian culture (and its booze). Taking place from September 16th to October 3rd, the event is free - you just need to sort out accommodation and remember to book early as the city welcomes 6 million people across the festival.
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2. Marvel at the Berlin Christmas markets
Europe’s Christmas markets are the perfect excuse for a city break in the winter. Throughout the festive season there's a magical atmosphere throughout Berlin especially, with locals and tourists alike enjoying the stalls and activities. The most beautiful market in Berlin has to be Gendarmenmarkt which is known for its star-topped tents and fantastic vistas over the concert hall and famous churches. Sip on hot gluhwein (German mulled wine), indulge in bratwurst and treat yourself a Christmas trinket or two.
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3. Sing your heart out at a London music festival
It’s not summer unless you've got a music festival lined up. London hosts some of the best in Europe where huge international musicians take to the stage alongside more up-and-coming acts. From Wireless, BST Hyde Park, All Points East, SW4 and the iconic Reading Festival (just a few minutes outside of the capital) keep an eye out for the line-up for London’s summer festivals and see which peaks your interest - just make sure you move quickly to get tickets because these often sell out in under 48 hours.
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4. Drive Scotland's North Coast 500
Driving the North Coast 500 is an activity that should be on every adventure-seeker's travel bucket list. The incredible route stretches 500 miles from the 'Highland Capital', Inverness right around the edge of the northern-most Scotland, with hundreds of spectacular spots along the way. From world-famous natural sights like Loch Ness to hundreds of secret, hidden spots hardly anyone has visited before, there's a surprise round pretty much every bend. The route can take up to a couple of weeks if done properly, but if you've only got a few days try the stretch between Dornoch and Inverness.
5. Gawp at the ceilings in the Sistine Chapel
Never visited Vatican City? Home to the headquarters for the Roman Catholic Church and the smallest country in the world, the city-state is located on the East side of Rome, Italy. If you're visiting the Italian capital this year, make sure you fit in Vatican City and the magnificent Sistine Chapel (the official residence of the Pope). The ceilings and paintings inside the chapel are incredible, featuring pieces by Renaissance painters including Michelangelo’s iconic ceiling art 'The Creation of Adam'.
6. Cycle to the windmills in Bruges
Pack some Belgian charm into your travels for 2020 and head to Bruges. One of the best things to do in the medieval old town is cycling past the old windmills. Not far from the city centre, the windmills to visit are Koeleweimill, Nieuwe Papegaai, Sint-Janshuismill (the only one which is open to the public) and Bonne Chiere. Belgium has a rich mill history but these are the only remaining ones in Bruges. The mills look like something out of a fairytale.
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7. Climb to the Sacre Coeur in Paris
Standing high in the heart of the lively Montmartre neighbourhood is one of Paris’ shining stars. You can't miss the Sacre Coeur on your trip a la Paris, but for an extra thrill you can climb to the very top of the basilica. Here, you’ll be at one of the highest points in Paris, second only to the Eiffel Tower. Getting the views at the top of the Sacre Coeur will only set you back €6, but looking around the incredible, intricate interior and the view below is free. If your legs are tired from walking up through Montmartre (don't worry it happens to the best of us) there's a funicular that can take you back down the hill!
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8. Go paddle boarding in Croatia
Croatia, one of Europe's rising travel stars, is a hit for water sports. There are over a thousand islands in Croatia as well as some great seaside cities on the mainland to have a go at 'standing' on water. While paddle boarding can be a real challenge for newbies, it’s one of our favourite ways to take in the nature around you and have a real laugh while doing so. We'd recommend trying your hand in the crystal clear waters around Vis Island near Split, or on Dubrovnik beach.
9. Have a beer at the top of Carmel Bunkers, Barcelona
It’s not so much a secret now as it was a few years ago, but the Carmel Bunkers are still a real hidden gem to most regular tourists in Barcelona. Either take the bus or hike up to the top of the old anti-aircraft warfare base, where you’ll be rewarded with incredible views over Barcelona and the Balearic Sea. Be sure to grab a few beers on your way to get the real local experience - and try and make it for a Mediterranean sunset!
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10. Tuck in to natas at Lisbon’s first nata bakery
Lisbon’s oldest pastel de nata recipe dates back over 300 years, when the monks of Jeronimos Monastery created and sold them to tourists to ensure their survival. Pasteis de Belem is the oldest and most famous nata bakery in Lisbon, set up by the family who bought the recipe from the monks in 1837. Now, queues of people waiting for the best natas in Lisbon go well out of the shop door on a daily basis. Be prepared to wait for your delicious Portuguese custard tart, but just know that it’s totally worth it.
11. Hike up Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh
There’s so much to see and do in Edinburgh, but on a trip to the Scottish capital be sure to prioritise some time to hike up Arthur’s Seat. It’s one of the absolute highlights of being in the city - breathing in fresh country air only a stone’s throw away from the centre whilst enjoying the best view over the city. There are a few different routes of different difficulties but one thing is certain, whichever path you choose you’ll have no regrets once you reach the pinnacle viewpoint.
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12. Ride the oldest wooden roller coaster in Europe
Tivoli Gardens is the second oldest working amusement park in the entire world, and it’s smack bang in the heart of Copenhagen. Here, you can ride the world’s oldest operating wooden roller coaster, Rutschebanen, where an operator still controls the ride with a brake (let's hope he's concentrating). We'd recommend heading to the park at night when it’s all lit up, making for the perfect photo op.
13. Tackle the Tour du Mont Blanc
Hikers and (mountain) bikers alike love this famous 170-kilometre route around the Mont-Blanc massif which passes through parts of Italy, Switzerland and France. The whole thing takes about 11 days to walk - but if you don't fancy those kind of blisters you can experience parts of the route starting from Les Contamines in France, Courmayeur in Italy or Champex in Switzerland. The views of the tallest mountain in Europe and surrounding areas are worth the challenge - and especially beautiful in late Spring to early Summer.
14. Visit Strahov Monastery in Prague
The real beer lovers among us will know that of all the beer-obsessed cities in Europe, Prague is the champion. Sit back and sip on the famous St. Norbert brews at one of the quirkiest bars in the city - within the compound of a monastery built in 1143. The Strahov Monastery Brewery is just a stone’s throw from Prague Castle, perched on Petrin Hill - so the views are beautiful even before you've had a tipple.
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15. Visit the Roman Baths
You may not be able to soak in it anymore, but the Roman Baths are one of the most historic sights in England and definitely deserving of a spot on your 2023 list. See the steam rising off the over 1 million litres of water that flow into the incredibly preserved bath remains, thought to have been constructed way back in 70AD, and pretend you're a Roman in a toga...
16. Have afternoon tea in London
Is there anything more quintessentially British than afternoon tea in London? Indulge like the King himself in a high tea complete with finger sandwiches, pastries, scones with jam & cream and a pot of delicious English breakfast tea. Check out the best affordable afternoon tea spots in London for inspiration.
17. Get lost exploring Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter
Arguably the most charming area in Barcelona, you could quite easily spend a whole day exploring the labyrinth-like Gothic Quarter. The medieval neighbourhood dates back to over 2,000 years ago, so while it’s beautiful to look at and full of great bars, clubs, restaurants and cafes, there is a dark history embedded in its walls. Get lost between the small, open squares, stumble across some of the city’s highlights like Placa Reial and Barcelona Cathedral, and enjoy some of the best tapas in Barcelona in a bustling little bar (El Xampanyet hits the spot every time).
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18. Feel like royalty inside Edinburgh Castle
A castle sitting on top of a rock in the centre of the Scottish capital - this one is for every history buff’s bucket list. Yes, it looks pretty spectacular from the outside - especially looking up at it from Princes Street Gardens - but to get the true majestic experience you simply have to go inside. From the Great Hall to the Royal Apartments to the Crown Jewels to Prisoners of War living quarters, everywhere you turn there’s more fascinating Scottish history to learn.
Watch our video on How to Spend 48 Hours in Edinburgh .
19. Island hop around Greece
A massive 6,000 islands make up the Greek Archipelago (though only 227 are actually inhabited) and you might think each one is more beautiful than the last. Tick off a few different islands in one trip and spend your summer in Greece, hopping from one to the other across azure seas by boat. Dance on the beach at Greece’s top party islands, and bask in the heat on the country’s more laid-back, relaxing sandy shores.
20. Eat at one of the world's oldest pizzerias
If you’re a true lover of Italian cuisine, paying a visit to the birthplace and capital of pizza in Naples (Napoli in Italy) should be high on your priority list for 2023. There are a few pizzerias in Naples which claim to be the oldest in the city, but L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele has a Michelin star - for pizza which costs just €5 - yes really. You can’t say no to that. Well, we can't anyway.
21. Climb up to Santa Barbara castle in Alicante
Another castle on a hill we hear you say? Yes, this one is a must for anyone spending time along the Costa Blanca in Spain. Start at the Concatedral de San Nicolás and wind your way up through the narrow streets of Alicante's picturesque old town, before tackling Mount Benacantil where Santa Barbara castle perches. There's a small fee to get inside, but the views down on the entire city and surrounding coastline from the parapets is very worth it.
22. Take in views over Tallinn's Old Town
Estonia's capital city is without doubt one of Europe's most underrated destinations. The people, the food, the medieval architecture and the views... it really should be on every traveller's bucket list. Walk up the winding cobbled streets in the Old Town until you reach one of the city's many viewpoints, overlooking Tallinn's green and terracotta rooftops and medieval spires.
23. Book a New Year's Eve getaway
Ever bit the bullet and booked a trip over New Year's Eve? Why not see in 2024 from another country? Think of it as an extra special Christmas present to yourself. Seeing how other countries welcome the new year is always fascinating, and there's always a buzz in big cities on December 31st. From fireworks and parties to charming local traditions and food, spending New Year's Eve abroad is guaranteed to be unforgettable.
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