While beach breaks have their place, lake holidays can offer pretty much the same idyllic experience, without the sand in your sandwiches and the moisture sucking of saltwater in your hair. And yet, our default setting for a late summer’s holiday is to the coast. Well, let us tempt you away from the shores of Europe and on a journey inland to one of these dreamy lakeside holiday destinations.
Lake Orta, Italy
Arguably the Godfather of lakes in Europe, Italy’s lakes have something for everyone depending on budget and celebrity spotting requirements. While dangerously close to the throngs of tourists that descend upon Garda, Maggiore and Como, Lago d’Orta is still staying under the radar for the most part and it certainly boasts all the scenic and culinary delights of its bigger brothers. Just an hour’s drive from Milan, it’s too convenient a weekend break to ignore.
Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
Croatia joined the EU and the Euro this year and thus long-term fans of this rich, diverse and beautiful country began to twitch about the price of their Croatian beer going up. However, thanks to National Park rules, the stunning Plitvice Lakes will remain carefully protected from a stampede of tourists, eager to glance upon its aqua waters and impressive series of waterfalls; a truly unique sight.
Loch Awe, Scotland
credit: Dmitry Shakin
Before we get lost in continental Europe – a dangerously easy thing to do – let’s pop over to the British Isles to see what they have on offer. Loch Awe in Scotland is certainly competition for most on this list, with rolling hills in the background and crystal clear waters alongside which stand a collection of centuries-old castles and ruins.
Lake of Sainte-Croix, France
Man-made it may be, thanks to a purpose built dam back in the 1970s, but Sainte Croix makes up for its lack of natural origins with ridiculously pleasing views and bright blue waters in which you can swim, kayak and pedalo. While other French lakes like Annecy are forced to cope with high numbers of visitors all year round, you’ll find Sainte-Croix an almost secret sanctuary in September.
Lake Hévíz, Hungary
If you’re not convinced that European lake waters are warm enough to swim in, then Lake Hévíz is the lake for you. This is the largest thermal lake in Europe and is considered a “geological curiosity”, thanks to its waters which stay warm at 38.5 degrees celsius all year round. While still relatively small in size at just 12 acres, Lake Hévíz is only a short distance from the much bigger, slightly cooler but equally beautiful Lake Balaton.
Lake Bled, Slovenia
Slovenia is home to many of Europe’s hidden gems and Lake Bled has to be one of them, though it’s true that the secret of its beauty has long been out. With a fairytale-like church peaking through the trees on Bled Island, surrounded by the lake’s topaz blue water, you shouldn’t be put off visiting Lake Bled at any time of the year as it looks almost magical under a layer of winter snow. As it’s just twenty-two miles from Ljubljana airport, there’s very little stopping you from visiting Lake Bled and soon.
Lake Ohrid, Macedonia & Albania
credit: Hannes E.
Considered to be one of Europe’s oldest and deepest lakes and an UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979, Lake Ohrid has long been one of the go-to locations for lazy lakeside holidays for residents of Macedonia and Albania, the two countries it touches. While visitors now come from across the Balkans and further afield, there is still charm, beauty and most importantly peace and quiet to be found along the banks of these turquoise waters. Furthermore, on the Macedonian side you’re only a few miles away from Lake Prespa, which is rumoured to have its own lake monster… and it’s not the Loch Ness Monster on her summer holidays.
Lake Constance, Switzerland, Austria & Germany
credit: Genji A
It seems a little harsh to compile a list of the best lakes in Europe without a nod to Switzerland and Austria, two landlocked nations who make great strides to maximise the stunning potential of their freshwater lakes. Lake Constance happens to stretch across both country’s borders as well as into southern Germany. With the Alps watching over from most sides, it’s hard to sit on the banks of Lake Constance and not be impressed by the view.
Lake Saimaa, Finland
credit: Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho
The largest lake in Finland, Lake Saimaa is considered somewhat of a national treasure and when you see photos of perfectly still waters promising endless calm it’s easy to see why. Scattered with islands, the whole region offers all types of outdoor activities and there’s even a chance of seeing the sadly endangered Saimaa ringed seal.
But more importantly, what do you think? Have you ever found yourself floating in a different body of European water, thinking to yourself, “this has got to be the best lake in Europe and I won’t hear anyone say otherwise.” Please tell us which European lakes you think we’ve missed.
Featured image by grand Yann.
Baked turkey, stuffing, sautéed cabbage, roast potatoes. Nothing new here. For a lot of people that’s fine. Smell and memory are intimately linked, and this meal has a habit of bringing to mind good times, good Christmas pasts and belly-aching laughter. But many countries celebrate the festive season with exotic (to us) alternatives, and sometimes we want to mix it up and try something fresh. Add new memories. If you’re interested in making your Christmas dinner a bit more inspired, maybe the cultures of the world can enthuse you.
Image © Nina Matthews Photography
If you’re not completely ready to give up on turkey, try spicing it up a little. Morocco is a predominately Muslim country, but there are a lot of Christians here due to the country’s high number of French descendants, and the Arab influences have seriously altered the standard turkey dinner. Spices and herbs such as coriander, cayenne pepper and cinnamon – and turkey stuffing of sausage meat with chilli, almonds and honey – add an exotic twist to an age-old classic. Moroccan Christmas turkey is best served with chickpea salad with cumin vinaigrette, roasted sweet potatoes and Moroccan cabbage salad.
Moroccan spiced with chickpea salad © pcarpen
The main event of Austria’s 25th celebrations is carp fried with egg, lemon and breadcrumbs called Gerbackener Karpfen. This is traditionally eaten throughout an entire day of feasting and nibbling with the family; and comes with seasonal vegetables and Servietten-knodel (dumplings), while glugging glass after glass of Gluhwein (mulled wine). Like in many Germanic countries, in an Austrian home your sweet tooth is spoiled for choice with treats like Christmas sugar cookies, Krapfen (donuts) and the divine and incredibly unhealthy Sachertorte.
Gluhwein © gynti_46
In Italy the Christmas menu varies drastically from region to region. But if you’re trying to avoid chicken and poultry, tuck into the menu of the south. The first course or primo is a soup made of filled pasta, like tortellini or ravioli, boiled in a meat broth. For secondo on Christmas Eve, Italians enjoy a crispy meal of fried capitone eel cooked with juniper berries, rosemary and white wine. And for afters, lend a page from The Godfather. “Leave the gun, take the cannoli”.
Christmas Cannoli © Sarah Ross photography
If you‘re looking to make an event out of your Christmas meal that’s social, easy and fun then look no further than the Dutch tradition of gourmetten. This is a feast laid out at tables in The Netherlands along with all the equipment to cook it. Game meats, shellfish, pork and fresh vegetables are cut, marinated and served raw. A special gourmetten grill and a little frying pan are set up at the table for revellers to cook their own bite-sized portions as they munch through chunks of fresh bread dripping cheese and juicy pieces of venison, while drinking top quality Dutch beers and fruit juice. Don’t forget the cheese fondue, always a popular choice.
Image © Meindert Arnold Jacob
In typical Spanish fashion, Christmas dinner is served tapas-style for the family to pick at and enjoy. Similarly to the Dutch, in Spain they tend to make their meals an event filled with sharing, tasting and laughing. Christmas dinner is a fancier version of traditional tapas, and can include anything from lobster to venison or foie gras. You’ll very often find an assortment of shellfish, as well as white asparagus and pimiento de padron, a delicious, salty and slightly bitter type of green pepper prevalent in the north.
Oysters © Swamibu
Traditional turkey dinners remind many of us of special Christmas moments when we were young. But maybe the most important memories are the ones we haven’t made yet. From all of us at HouseTrip, we wish you a festive and scrumptious Christmas season.