Though summer may be more popular with the tourist set, winter is a fantastic time of year to see all the things Europe has to offer. As well as being much quieter during the off season, there are way more than a few interesting sights to see that can only be experienced when the thermometer starts hitting zero Celsius.
The Icehotel in Sweden is one of the few places in the world where you can fall asleep in a room entirely made of ice and lights. Don’t have time to make the trek all the way to Sweden? The company has smaller Icebars in major cities all over the world for an evening of chilled drinks.
But of course, the great outdoors remains a prime attraction for visitors. For those willing to brave a discomfort with heights, the Klein Matterhorn in the Alps features Europe’s highest gondola at 12,533 feet. Start off in Chamonix to trace the Alps all the way to the Italian border, and experience the region’s unique blend of French, Swiss and Italian culture. Even for the less adventurous, there’s still plenty of things to see on the beaten path. Central Europe’s Siberian winds create some spectacular frost formations, completely changing the character of its castles and Medieval city centres.
Europe isn’t all chill during the winter, though. Germany and Austria’s famous Christmas markets (or, Christkindlmarkt in German) are the perfect place to chase the cold wind away with a warm cup of gluehwein. It’s the perfect chance to sample traditional German street food and Christmas favourites, while picking up handicraft souvenirs. The best ones are probably in Cologne, but Vienna, Nuremberg and Munich have some great ones too, while Dresden features the oldest market as well as a Stollen Festival.
Winter has historically been a time of rancorous festivals to help lift spirits in the endless Northern cold, and modern times are no exception. The Feast of San Sebastiano in Sicily as well as Croatia’s February festivals are definitely worth a visit. Many countries in Western Europe, particularly ones with a strong national Church, will often have events on for Advent season. And, of course, New Years celebrations are always popular, no matter where you are on the continent. Edinburgh in particular is famous for its New Years party, known as Hogmanay.
Currently saving up for a trip around Europe? Why not consider the off season? As well as featuring some incredibly value for money in deals, it’s a great time to rent a car and explore all the wintery sights the continent has to offer.