Winter Holiday destinations in Europe
Some places in Europe look most natural in winter, such as the pretty little mountain town of Hallstatt. Isolated by a lake, this small Austrian town is overshadowed by the nearby Alps that resemble their true selves when they shine with white snow. But what makes Hallstatt so special is the combination of a majestic landscape and wonderfully picturesque alpine houses.
Hallstatt is also a very beautiful place in summer and spring, but in winter it becomes an unmissable destination.
Prague, Czech Republic:
There is no doubt that the city of Prague is one of the largest in Europe. So it is not surprising how crazy the Czech capital gets during the warmer months. The funny thing is that in winter Prague is just as attractive and has a fraction of the tourists. This city with old world grandeur, architecture and culture may even look more atmospheric with a light snow cover than under a blue sky.
Not to be forgotten is the city's famous European Christmas Market, where you can soak up the city's festive atmosphere with seasonal drinks such as hot mulled wine and the local grog.
Major capitals can be great to visit in winter, but so can their smaller, nicer siblings. Take the Estonian capital Tallinn, for example. Centered on a beautiful walled old town, this is the historic core of Tallinn that most tourists stick to. While the short summer brings better weather for outdoor sightseeing, it can't be compared to the way winter brings out the best in Tallinn's adorable cityscape.
The holidays are close and dear to the hearts of Austrians, so a visit to a major destination like Salzburg is a definite home run. This time of year is one of the busiest in the city, with parties and festivals left and right. All this builds on the sightseeing classics such as the Mirabell Palace, the Hohensalzburg Fortress and the Old Town with classical music floating through the air.
For starters, there are the Christmas markets in Salzburg, where you can treat yourself to traditional gingerbread and spiced mulled wine. Then there are the more unusual Austrian traditions associated with Christmas, such as the pagan institutions of Krampus and Perchten with scary demon-looking beasts.
Europe is best known for its Christmas markets, and if Germany is considered the best, the best of the best can be found in the city of Nuremberg. This Bavarian town is home to one of Germany's most famous Christmas markets and elevates a beautiful medieval old town into a dreamland.
In recent years, the city of Budapest has finally been recognized as the great destination it is. Part of what makes the Hungarian capital so endearing is the way it turns winter on its head. You might think that winter would limit the things to do in Budapest, but the city actually seems very suitable for the short winter days. Even a look at the beautiful, parliament-lit Parliament building will convince you.
Looking for something special to bring in the New Year? What about the effortlessly cool city of Barcelona ?! A real culture city, not only will you get to see this fantastic city, but you will also experience New Year's Eve in the Spanish way. That means getting together with the locals to watch the fireworks and joining the tradition of eating 12 grapes at midnight the next year.
For those excited about Christmas coming, why wait for Santa to come to you if you can go to him instead? By that I do not mean the North Pole, but rather the small town of Rovaniemi in Finnish Lapland. Just outside Rovaniemi you will find the Santa Claus Village, the official home of good old Saint Nick. Almost directly on the Arctic Circle, when you visit the village, you can meet Santa, get a special stamp in your passport and hang out with real reindeer. It's hard not to get swept up in this fairytale place.
Wintertime is an opportunity for many different activities, but one of the most enchanting is watching the Northern Lights dance through the air. For an excellent place to view this incredible phenomenon, somewhere like Abisko is hard to beat. Abisko, a small village in Swedish Lapland, is north of the Arctic Circle, so you can be sure that it will get terribly cold if you visit in winter.