Vacationing in Europe in the winter takes familiar sights and changes them by adding a coating of snow and a snap in the air that can make even the most seasoned traveler see Europe with new eyes. For those travelers who are willing to brave the chilly European weather, the reward will be sights that simply cannot be experiences at any other time of the year. While the days are shorter in many places, the nights come alive and embrace the visitor in the local culture in ways that must be experienced at least during one trip to Europe.
The Christmas Markets – Germany & Austria
The Christmas Markets are a tradition in Germany and Austria that must be experienced by the wintertime European traveler. Most major cities will have several markets set up that may be open during the day, but the real time to experience these markets is at night. It is then that you are able to experience the fun and festivities with the locals. Food, drink, and shopping bring locals and visitors alike to the markets to enjoy the build-up to the winter holidays. Be sure to pack a camera and some extra suitcase room in order to bring home some of the finest handcrafted items available in Germany and Austria. Craftspeople from all over these countries come to the markets to sell their wares and the visitor will be hard pressed to pick the right pieces to bring home as gifts and reminders of their trip to the Markets.
Ice hotels – northern Scandinavia
A far cry from a traditional igloo, ice hotels offer the hardy traveler an experience of a lifetime – an entire hotel carved from ice and snow. Some ice hotels are re-crafted each year, making every visit different. Guests are treated to rooms carved out of ice and snow that are well stocked with warm, fur blankets to make sleeping cozy. Many offer ice bars, dog sled tours, and warm, local restaurants where guests can go to warm up. While it does take a hardy traveler to stand up to the challenge of an ice hotel, the beauty and uniqueness of this type of accommodation makes up for a few nights of sleeping in the cold.
Skiing in the Alps – Switzerland
For the skier or snowboarder, there is nothing like a winter trip to the Swiss Alps. In addition to world-class skiing and boarding, a winter trip to Switzerland offers the traveler more than just breath-taking views and days on the slopes. From picturesque views of villages and nature to delicious local cuisine, there is more to a Swiss ski trip than just skiing. Most skiers and boarders find staying at a resort allows them to take full advantage of the best of the slopes and the best of the culture by having everything close by for the visitor. Most resorts offer transportation to the local village for shopping and dining while others also offer spa services – just the thing to help knock the chill off after a day on the slopes. Resorts also take care of the details of your trip so all you have to do is arrive and get ready to spend your days shushing down some of the greatest ski trails in the world.
The Aurora Borealis – northern Norway, Sweden, and Finland
Northern Scandinavia affords visitors one of the greatest opportunities to see the Northern Lights in all their glory. While there is not guarantee that you will actually be able to witness the Lights, by booking a tour or a cruise, you will at least be able have other options for entertainment and experiences even if you don’t get to see the Aurora. Some locations offer icehouses with transparent ceilings for visitors to sleep in and possibly see the Lights at night. Many tour outfits in this area offer trips north to see the Lights then bring visitors back to a major city to continue their visit. A Northern Lights cruise offers all the amenities of a cruise with the chance to see the Lights from the water. For those who get to experience an once-in-a-lifetime encounter with the beauty of the Northern Lights, you will go home with memories that will live in your memory for a very long time.
Thermal Spas – all throughout Europe
European spa culture must be experienced by those travelers who enjoy pampering and relaxing in the beauty of nature. In the winter, the thermal spas that dot Europe allow visitors to take in the beauty of the European winter while enjoying the warmth of the natural thermal spas. Most of the spas offer world-class treatments and amenities as well as cuisine that would make any food lover sit up and take notice. After spending the day in the healing water of a natural thermal spa, guests are able to take advantage of other treatments for beauty and health before relaxing in a luxurious room or going to tour a local village. Spa culture in Europe is centered on using the natural elements to heal the body and relax the mind. By taking a winter spa vacation, visitors are able to take in the beauty of the European winter and take full advantage of healing power of the thermal spas.
While most people plan their visit to Europe in the summer months, by visiting in the winter, travelers are given the opportunity to see Europe in a different way and have experiences that are unique to the typical European summer vacation. Winter offers travelers many sights and experiences that are only lived by the locals. If you are looking for a memorable trip, then taking in a European Winter Wonderland just might fit the bill!