Even though we are still very much in the height of summer, it won’t be long before the weather starts turning colder once again, and the nights begin to draw in. Rather than treating this as a depressing thought, you should instead see it as an opportunity to book yourself an unforgettable winter getaway. And there are plenty of these in Europe. There are the places which are natural winter wonderlands, the cities, which quieten down during the winter months, and the quaint markets which start springing up in towns all over the continent. In this article, we are going to give you an overview of just some of the most magical winter destinations that Europe has to offer.
Though it is going to get mighty cold, there is still a great pleasure in strolling around the streets of the Danish capital with a steady stream of snow falling. And there are also plenty of cosy cafés which you can duck inside for a hot chocolate and pastry. Right at the top of the list of attractions is Tivoli, the second oldest amusement park in the world and arguably the most charming with its iconic Ferris wheel emerging up into the skyline.
In terms of magical winter destinations, you can’t get much better than the home of Father Christmas himself! Countless people head here on family snow holidays, so you need to make sure that you book with plenty of time to spare. Just a couple of the activities which you can enjoy during your time here include taking a ride on a reindeer-pulled sleigh or a husky safari.
The Christmas market in Bruges is world famous, and winter is certainly the time of the year when this stunningly beautiful city looks even more special. And when you are ready to go inside after a walk along the cobbled streets, you can visit one of the cities many chocolate shops for some tasty treats. If there is a more atmospheric place to take a horse-drawn carriage ride, we would love to hear about it! Don’t miss out on a trip up to the top of the Belfry, where the views of the frosty city are at their most spectacular.
Plitvice National Park, Croatia
While the places we have talked about so far are all relatively well-known, you may not have heard of Plitvice National Park. While it has fast become part of the growing Croatia tourist trail in the summer months, during the winter, it is still relatively unknown. The national park is full of lakes and waterfalls which freeze solid to spectacular effect. Wooden trails provide plenty of walking opportunities, and you can also spot wildlife including deer, wolves and wild boar.
Lake Bled, Slovenia
The only island in the entire country of Slovenia lies in the middle of Lake Bled, where an old church provides stunning views against the mountainous backdrop. Though it is bound to drop down to Eastern European levels of cold, you can warm yourself up at one of the city’s geothermal spas. If the lake isn’t frozen over, you can rent a boat to reach the island in the centre. If it is, you can always walk on one of the hiking trails up into the mountains, where the views are incredible.
With its castle up on the hilltop, Edinburgh provides something of a fairy-tale setting during the colder months of the year. Beneath the castle, you can enjoy some ice skating. And once you are ready to escape from the cold for a while, you can always head inside one of the traditional pubs complete with a roaring fireplace. If you time your vacation well, you can be here during the festival of Hogmanay, a three-day festival to celebrate the New Year. Expect to enjoy some candlelit concerts, fireworks, and street performers. And if you need an extra boost of warmth, a dram or two of whisky is bound to do the job!
Prague, Czech Republic
One of the best-preserved Medieval cities in the world, Prague certainly provides a stunning setting to spend your winter holiday. When the snow starts to dust over the red-roofed houses and cobblestone streets, you can fail but be inspired. And it certainly has one of the most incredible Christmas markets, where you can buy plenty of trinkets, food and drinks. There are plenty of old taverns which will provide you with some warming stews before you are ready to step back out once again.
A city which is starting to get more and more attention and popularity, Budapest is the kind of place which you can visit at any time during the year. But during the winter, the crowds will start to thin out, and you can enjoy a less busy visit. And when you need to warm up, this is the ideal time of year to soak in one of the city’s thermal baths. The ornate and elegant Széchenyi Spa is the one which tends to get the most photographed, but if you would like to visit one indoors, Gellert Baths has been likened to bathing in a cathedral. The city park lake transforms into a huge ice-skating rink when it freezes over, and there are plenty of fantastic indoor activities which you can enjoy such as visiting one of the city’s many museums. Otherwise, simply stroll around the streets, which are bathed in the brightness of thousands of fairy lights.
So far, we have only talked about destinations which are going to get very cold during the winter months. But it may be the case that you are looking for a bit of warmth. The southern Spanish region of Andalucia enjoys some mild temperatures during the winter months, and the prices are nice and cheap. A trip to Seville – with its spectacular cathedral and Alcazar Palace – is one of the highlights of travelling around this part of the world. And you should also go to enjoy the tapas culture of Granada first-hand, while giving yourself plenty of time to explore one of Europe’s most special buildings, the Alhambra.
If you are going to visit Count Dracula’s hometown, it makes sense that you do so when the weather starts to get chilly and snow covers the old castles. The medieval towns of Braşov and Sighişoara are worth taking a couple of days to explore properly, and the train links are good to some of the more remote destinations.
Many of Europe’s biggest cities are no-go zones during the summer – simply because of the huge number of tourists which flock to them. However, this is not such a problem if you visit Athens during the winter. You can enjoy the ancient heritage of the city and see some of its most popular attractions without having to worry about dodging around hundreds of tourists and escaping the intense heat of the summer.
As you can see, Europe has more than its fair share of incredible winter destinations, and these are just a few of the most special ones. We have tried to provide you with a wide range of different choices to suit all types of traveller. If you start your winter holiday planning now, this will give you something to look forward to.