Every time I plan a trip to Europe for the winter I get the same questions.
“Why are you going in winter? Don’t you know how cold it will be?”
Despite the cold, winter is absolutely my favourite time of year to visit Europe.
Sure – travelling around Europe in summer has its advantages, but the beauty of a European winter definitely shouldn’t be dismissed. You’ll never forget the feeling of travelling around Europe in the cold – scurrying into cosy cafés to enjoy some hot drinks, as you watch everyone outside take in the wonderful European Christmas markets. It’s simply unforgettable. While there can sometimes be some limitations, it’s still undoubtedly an amazing experience.
There aren’t many things that are more magical to me than the European Christmas markets.
Many of the markets have beautifully iconic buildings as a backdrop. Try the Christmas markets outside Schloss Belvedere (Belvedere Palace) in Vienna, or in the square beside the beautiful Church of Our Lady before Týn in Prague. Wherever you go, the Christmas markets are a truly wonderful experience.
Make sure to enjoy a warm mug of mulled wine while you peruse the various Christmas stalls. Look out for special treats, trinkets and decorations that take your fancy, and maybe even buy a few!
Winter is an amazing time to soak up the atmosphere throughout all of Europe. There’s something really special about exploring in the cold before stopping to enjoy a nice, warm hot chocolate. While you definitely need to come prepared, the atmosphere throughout Europe in the wintertime is simply unmissable. Going once has dragged me back time and time again.
It’s very different to the summer vibe. Less tourists mean there’s more of a feeling of authenticity about the cities that you visit. In the winter months, you’re more likely to find yourself surrounded by locals enjoying the holiday season. For those of you who like to strike up a conversation and get to know people on your travels, this is a huge plus. For the rest of us shy travellers (yes, hello, pick me!), the atmosphere is just a lot more natural and easy-going than the chaotic hustle and bustle of the summer months (which has its own, albeit very different, charm).
After previously having experienced Europe only in winter, I was shocked at how packed everything was in the summer. Everyone had always said it was busy, but having been lucky enough to go to the Eiffel Tower on a night where there were only two people in the line before us, the summer crowds seemed like madness!
If you visit in the winter months (especially in January and February), the crowds and queues are significantly smaller. Lucky for you, this means you can spend less time waiting in queues and more time exploring!
While the days in winter can be short, once the sun sets over the cities, they transform into something even more enchanting (is this even possible?).
Many cities around Europe are decorated with a beautiful array of Christmas lights which line the streets and illuminate the cities.
If you’re struggling to decide where to go to see the holiday lights, I absolutely recommend checking out Vienna (Austria) or Copenhagen (Denmark). You’ll be greeted with an absolutely stunning display that will make your time in Europe even more special.
Ice skating is available around Europe throughout the winter, and it is one of my favourite activities for each town we visit. Among others, some of my favourite winter ice skating experiences have been at the Mozartplatz in Salzburg, and in front of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Seriously – don’t be discouraged from trying this even if you’re not big on ice skating. I’m the most uncoordinated girl around, but even if you’re not the best at it (like me!), it still makes for an amazingly fun addition to any trip. Once you’re done ice skating, don’t forget to grab a coffee or a hot chocolate from nearby cafés to warm yourselves up and get ready for your next adventure.
For those of us who don’t really get to experience snow, there’s something really exciting about all that thick powder sparkling slowly to the ground.
If you’re more accustomed to the snow and this isn’t particularly enticing to you, there’s always snow sports! Whether you’re participating or spectating, snow sports can add an extra element of excitement to your trip.
Being off-peak, winter is a great time to visit Europe if you’re trying to keep your costs down. Less demand for hotels, tours and flights means the price-tag will be smaller. You can often snap up really good deals in these winter months to keep the costs down!
Winter in Europe can be a really fantastic and memorable experience, if you come prepared. While I love the winter months, it does get really (really!) cold at times, especially throughout January and February. The days are shorter, and sometimes things that you want to do, like some of the tourist attractions, can be closed for the winter period. But, if you know all this in advance and plan ahead, you can be sure to have a really special holiday season that can’t be matched in terms of atmosphere. So if you’re reluctant to book that next European winter holiday because you’re scared of the weather – don’t fret! It’s a truly special time of year, but you won’t know until you check it out for yourselves.
Do you have a favourite time of year to visit Europe? Share your stories with me below!
November 13, 2015: Gunmen and suicide bombers carry out a series of terror attacks throughout…08 November 2016