There are lots of great places to visit during the winter in Europe - where you will choose to go depends on what you want from you break. There may be a specific language that you’d like to practise, or learn, in which case your choice will be straightforward. If your travel plans are purely leisure-based though, your decision will depend on whether you’re looking for sun or snow, and (if you’re planning a trip in November or December) whether you want some festive cheer, or to avoid the chaos of Christmas! Whatever the case, here are several recommendations for some great winter travel destinations this year.
|Winter in Heidelberg|
For anyone who embraces all about Christmas, and who pines for those festive childhood Decembers, Heidelberg is a fantastic place to go to during November and December. With its fairytale castle, beautiful setting and pretty old town, there’s no better place to take in some Christmas markets and soak up a bit of festive cheer…and gluhwein! If you’re lucky you might even get some snowfall - not unusual for this part of Germany in the run up to Christmas.
|Christmas Market, Heidelberg, Germany|
2. Tenerife, Canary Islands
|Tenerife, Canary Islands|
If you like beaches and amazing summer views, you can do some winter escape to the Canary Islands. It's not obligatory for you to spend traditional winter holiday. So, anyone who hates the cold and whose sole requirement from a winter trip is that it takes them somewhere hot will find out that Tenerife is a great option. With average temperatures in November and December of around 15 º C, and plenty of sunshine to enjoy, it’ll provide a very welcoming respite from the grey days and frosty mornings. Tenerife is really well served by low-cost airlines, and budget accommodation is easy to find too, which means that it’s also a good destination for anyone who needs to travel on a shoestring.
|Tenerife, Canary Islands-the perfect place for a deserved break|
|The atmosphere in Tenerife's resort complex|
|Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain|
3. Turin, Italy
Turin hosted the Winter Olympics in 2006, which gives some indication of its first-class sporting and entertainment options at this time of the year. Obviously, it’s a great destination for ski and snowboard enthusiasts, but it also offers a really festive atmosphere in general. The lively Turin Christmas Market is held every year in the piazzas and gardens of Borgo Dora, within the Maglio and Ciliegi courtyards. Market stalls open every day, with music, theatre and activities for children too.
Castle of Valentino (Castello del Valentino), in the Valentino park, Turin, Italy
4. Lyon, France
As France’s gastronomic capital, Lyon is a great place to visit at any time of the year. If you visit around 8th December though, you’ll experience the awesome Fête des Lumières (festival of light), when every household places candles along the outsides of all the windows and Lyon’s finest buildings are illuminated with fantastic lights, shows and music. Lyon is also close to the slopes of the French Alps, which makes spending a few days skiing easy to incorporate into your trip.
Lion, France, Christmas time
If you’re after something a little bit different then definitely consider the Christmas market in Valkenburg, Netherlands. The whole market is housed in a cave lying underneath the city and visitors travel for miles to enjoy the atmospheric grotto-esque shopping experience. Wander the candle-lit labyrinth of passageways and caverns for gifts and decorations and make sure you also see the impressive mural carvings and sculptures also located there.Valkenburg Christmas Market: 18th November – 23rd December 2011
6. Hanging out with Santa in Lapland, Finland
Keep the kids happy and spend Christmas in Lapland in Finland. Instead of sitting at home and fighting the boredom, Lapland is a place where Christmas can truly be a fairytale experience. Ride husky or reindeer driven sleighs, try a snowmobile, snowshoe walk to your cosy log cabin and of course meet Santa in a personal one-to-one. Lapland is cheaper and easier to get to than ever before, so now there really is no excuse.
7. Barcelona – The Coolest Christmas Market
|Barcelona Christmas market, Spain|
The Catalan capital is often considered one of the coolest European cities and Christmas in Barcelona is no exception. The weather is still warm enough to walk comfortably around at night and the lively street artists on Las Ramblas add to the great atmosphere. The fun Santa Lucia market is located near the cathedral in the Gothic quarter in Barcelona and here you can buy local crafts, unusual gifts (including Caganer, a Catalan “pooping” statue) and the traditional Spanish Christmas sweet turron. If you plan your stay around the 28th December, you’ll be treated to the Spanish version of April Fool’s Day when the streets will be filled with music, artists and even livelier entertainment.
Santa Lucia Christmas Market: 1st – 24th December 2011 or 28th December 2011 for “Holy Innocents’ Day” (the Spanish version of April Fools Day).
8. Vienna, Austria
When it comes to crisp winter mornings and cosy cafes where you can shelter from the cold, Vienna is hard to beat. Largely because of what you’ll find in those cosy cafes! Vienna’s reputation as coffee and cake capital is richly deserved, and you’re eyes will most certainly be bigger than your belly when you select your slabs of gateau from the cabinet. If you can ever coax yourself out of the warm cake-havens though, you’ll be in for even more treats – Vienna’s architecture and history is amazing as the best of times, but when Christmas decorations are all around and you have ice rinks and Christmas markets to enjoy, Vienna will rapidly become your new favourite place.
|Vienna, Austria,The city offers many and different options for entertainment|
|Vienna, Austria, Christmas Market|
|The Ferris Wheel in Parter Park, this is one of the earliest ferris wheels in the world|
If you're a parson of the Christmas spirit, there are two more options here for a Christmas Market:
9. Prague, Czech Republic, The Old Town Square Christmas Market
The Old Town Square Christmas Market, Prague, Czech Republic
10. Dresden, Germany, Christmas Market
|Christmas Market of Dresden, Germany|