The clocks have rolled back and the evenings are drawing in but there’s plenty to look forward to in Europe over the coming months. The following are 7 good reasons to pack your bags for an awesome break in Europe this winter.
It’s the warm crackle of a peat fire in a tiny pub in the West of Ireland. That roaring heat that brings your frozen hands and feet back to life after an afternoon on the slopes in Italy. It’s wrapping up against the cold to sip coffee at a café in Copenhagen’s Nyhavn harbour. The Danes love this feeling of cosiness so much that they have a word for it. They call it “hygge” and to them it means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people. It’s what winter across Europe is all about.
Famously elusive, the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) can be spotted over Northern Europe from late October until early March. If you’re serious about catching a glimpse of the laser-like spectacle, be prepared to travel outside of large cities, rent a car or take a specially organised tour. Nature’s most impressive light display is best viewed in locations with little or no artificial lighting, when conditions are cold, crisp and clear. Oslo, Stockholm or Inverness make for good bases, but as mentioned it’s worth venturing a bit further than the city limits to be in with a chance of seeing the greatest show on earth this winter.
Head to Europe’s Christmas markets this winter and prepare for enough mulled wine, woolly jumpers and wholesome good fun to rival every Christmas number one music video from the 1980s. Gorge on truffles in Brussels, quaff piping-hot Glogg in Copenhagen or take to the ice on the awesome-looking frozen canals of Amsterdam. From late November to early January, Europe’s Christmas Markets fully embrace all the cosiest traditions that go hand in hand with this time of year.
From late November to early spring, Europe’s mountains transform into snowy playgrounds for skiers and snowboarders. Forget Aspen and Whistler, some of the world’s most beautiful and challenging winter sports resorts can be found in Italy, France, Austria And Switzerland. Pack your snow gear and bring a healthy appetite – you’re going to need one for all that rich, melty fondue and all-night après-ski.
If the thought alone of winter sends shivers down your spine, give chattering teeth and Jack Frost the old heave-ho with a trip to warmer shores. Turn the season on its head and return to blue skies and summer vibes in Europe’s winter sun hotspots. Soak up that bright, glorious sunshine on the sandy beaches of Tenerife, wander the ancient sites of Malta or grab your surf-board and tackle some Atlantic breakers in Fuerteventura. The big plus: while most resorts are still basking in summertime temperatures, they’re much quieter, meaning you get to enjoy all the best bits of a sunshine break with none of the queues.
Along with spotting the Northern Lights, a night in the Ice Hotel is one of those special, once in a life-time experiences that only becomes possible during the winter months.
A new version of the hotel is built every year from fresh snow and ice in the village of Jukkasjärvi in northern Sweden. Inside, there’s an Ice Bar (constructed entirely of ice) as well as chairs and beds carved from ice cut from the banks of the frozen, neighbouring Torne River.
If you can’t make it all the way to Jukkasjärvi, check out the replica ICEBAR in Stockholm. It doesn’t offer ice fishing or husky sleighing but you can wrap up in a poncho, raise an icy glass and pretend to be an Eskimo in minus 7 degree temperatures.
Ten-Nine-Eight-Seven-Six-Five-Four-Three-Two-One: HAPPY NEW YEAR! When it comes to putting on a show for the biggest party night of the year, there are some European cities that do things just that little bit better than everywhere else. Edinburgh we’re looking at you. You too Berlin. And we haven’t forgotten about you, Paris. Ring in the New Year with spectacular fireworks and Hogmanay street parties in Edinburgh, dance the night away in Berlin and watch the Eiffel Tower fizzle into a million tiny sparks as the clock strikes midnight in Paris. The action awaits on December 31st.
- Fiona Hilliard